Do(ing) it Like a Feminist

Post-Grad Girl living in a Post-Grad World.


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For Whom Is Silence Golden? An Open Letter to the Administration of HWS

College-sexual-assault

This is a two-part article. *Trigger Warning- viewer discretion is advised*

Upon reading the NY Times article “Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t”, we were reminded of the many stories we heard that went unnoticed at HWS. We relived a time where we fought tirelessly for reform and it was swept under the rug. We were furious and upset that the policies regarding sexual assault (NOT sexual misconduct) were still not being taken seriously.

This is our open letter to the administration who consider themselves “trailblazers” in sexual misconduct policy reform.

Part I

In my job as a case planner, they teach us to do a sanctuary check in order to express our emotions, identify a goal, and think of a person(s) who can assist us with that goal. Today, I am furious as hell. My goal for today is to make my voice heard on the misconduct of HWS’ policy, and all of you can help me by expressing yourselves as well. In 2011, the members of Women’s Collective and I connected with SAFER to have them review our sexual assault policies on campus. I created a photo campaign to assist with the push of the SAFER initiative. Robb Flowers sat with then co-leader of Women’s Collective, Josephina Ragon, to discuss the policies and fill out the proper forms for SAFER to review the guidelines of the misconduct policy. Now, in 2014, I think about that semester where we worked hard to achieve something only to have it fall by the wayside.

When I read the NY Times article, I thought about the countless stories I’d heard about students who were raped or sexually assaulted but were afraid to speak up about it because their assailant was in a Fraternity or Athletic team. I thought about the scenarios where the courageous survivors would stand up against their assailants in the misconduct hearings, only to be heard their assailants would be cleared (what does that even mean). I remembered the students who would be afraid to walk around campus because they didn’t want to be heckled or verbally abused by their peers.

When you think about these situations, what are you teaching your incoming students? When you live in a residential setting, you are vulnerable to the culture that enables peer pressure and “social suicide” (to quote Mean Girls). In 2010, during the Women’s Collective event Take Back the Night, President Gearan stood with us and spoke against the violence that students faced. He stated:

“We have the opportunity to have the ripple effect here. Everyone here can take these tiny ripples of hope and send it out to their friends and families and other people in other colleges. We are fortunate to have the leadership we have here with Women’s Collective. I’d like to take some hope from the obvious tragedies of our culture and part of it might be to send forth these ripples of hope in awareness and understanding and compassion and courage that we are all so privileged to hear tonight.”

Where does the ripple effect begin at HWS?

Some of my closest friends are survivors of rape and sexual assault. Some were afraid to talk about it. Some were brave like Anna and chose to stand up to their assailants. How can we talk about inclusive excellence if we aren’t protecting the very students who you’ve committed yourselves to educating? According to RAINN, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. There are over 2000 students at HWS. How many do you think have had their voices silenced?

In order for change to occur, you must begin to build from within. Establish mandatory trainings for staff and administration to attend on sexual assault. Build a well-trained, substantial committee that can hear sexual assault cases. Hire a SANE nurse for Hubbs Health Center. Renovate the Women’s Resource Center and finally open the hotline that students can call when something happens or they feel unsafe. Sexual Assault and Rape is a culture that will not go away quietly, but you have the power to minimize the conflict on our once-beloved campus.

Be the change YOU wish to see in the world. Or at least on your campus.

Gabrielle Perez, WS ‘12

Part II

I am a William Smith alumnae, and I am a survivor.

Every day of my life is like navigating through rapids going upstream; I slowly make progress but not without a few scrapes and bruises after I am hit by triggers and depression.

I still blame myself for what happened to me.

I am a survivor of molestation. While I was not raped or sexually assaulted during my times at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, it does not mean I do not know what it is like to be silenced. I have been silenced about my sexual assault for over ten years. That pain does not go away.

Anna trusted the administration at Hobart and William Smith. She thought she would receive justice for what happened to her. Instead, you silenced her.

You silenced her when you revealed her identity in an email. You silenced her when you trusted a committee with only 6 hours of training to deal with a case of gang rape. You silenced her when the committee implied that she was asking for it because of the way she was dancing. You silenced her when you questioned how drunk she was when she vomited four times on the way home from the hospital, hours after the assault occurred. You silenced her when you did not punish students for violating the no contact order.

You silenced her.

When I read the New York Times article on the morning of July 13th, I cried. I cried because it was triggering for me, and I cried for Anna. Anna did not deserve to be silenced, to be treated less than human. By silencing her, you violated her just like those football players.

And what would you do if that happened to your daughter? Michael Cragg, your daughter was a William Smith student. This could have easily been her. Would you have ignored the evidence and allowed your players to stay on your team then, even if a perfect season is in jeopardy? Mark Gearan, your daughter is in college right now. What if this happens to her when she is at school? Would you want the administration to handle her case in the same way Anna’s case was handled at Hobart and William Smith? Robert Flowers, you have a daughter. Are you just hoping things will change by the time she is in college?

I will leave those as rhetorical questions.

The semester before Anna was sexually assaulted, I had a meeting with Robert Flowers about a meme on the HWS Meme page on Facebook because a Hobart student posted a meme about a girl crying rape. Nothing was done. I was ignored. Looking back, did you even hear me Robb Flowers? Or were you just appeasing me with that meeting?

Did you listen to Josephina Ragon when she worked tirelessly on changing the sexual assault guidelines in the summer of 2011? Did you listen to the student concerns during the spring of 2011 when another case of sexual assault was brought to the student body’s attention?

Obviously you were not listening or Anna would not have been silenced.

Are you listening now?

It is pathetic that it takes an article in the New York Times to get your attention. And it is even more pathetic that you tried to defend your actions in an email.

Instead of defending your actions, you need to apologize, not only to Anna but to the other nameless survivors who have graduated from William Smith, or are still attending. 39 people messaged Anna the day the article was released about how they were assaulted and never reported it. 39 women who did not get the help they needed because they were too scared of being ostracized, labeled, and discriminated against by not only the administration but by their peers.

We are waiting for your apology.

Connie Mandeville, WS ‘12


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The Personal is Political: Life in Social Service

Hello fellow bloggers! It has been a long time (as usual), but the life of a case worker never rests! 

I have been working at my job for 8 months now and it has taught me a lot about myself as a professional and as a person in society. Working in the foster care system is no walk in the park; it tests your mind and your spirit every day, but I am lucky to have such a strong, stable team who push me to keep moving forward. Foster Care also teaches you a lot about the systemic issues that occur within our (NYC) society. So many people say the system is broken, and in some instances they may be right, but sometimes it isn’t. If there is anything I have learned about working in foster care, it is that despite the circumstances that may arise, we are in control of our future; WE can take responsibility for our actions and learn from them. 

There is such a thin line between the personal and the political, especially when it comes to direct work/social service. We work directly with families and often times we are taught not to step over the line into personal territory. Now this is true, as a case worker, it is pertinent not to pass the boundaries, but sometimes it’s hard not to let your personal feelings get the best of you. I have worked with some of the best kids who have been dealt a bad hand in life, but when you pour your heart and soul into working with them, your desire to protect and advocate for them comes into full effect. 

People can go back and forth about the systemic issues that are failing our kids, but in essence, the life of a social service worker isn’t easy. We devote so much of our time to helping reunify families and do right by them, but no one can truly understand how much effort goes into this job. I applaud all my case workers and social service workers every day for doing this type of work and not getting much recognition for it. I just want us all to remember: let us not become jaded from the downfalls we face, but to be proud of the successes we achieve. As Robyn Brown-Manning stated, we are precious care workers. If the work is sacred, then so are we. 

I am proud of the work I do despite the many challenges. Case workers are activists too, even if they don’t recognize it as such. Let’s continue to do the work. 

 


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Guess who’s back?

Hello Bloggers! I can not believe it’s been MONTHS since I last posted. SO much has happened to me (both personally and professionally) that I haven’t had a moment to reflect (it didn’t help that my laptop officially died in April).

So to play catch up, I would like to inform the world that I am now a Case Planner for Good Shepherd Services in the Family Foster Care unit. I can’t even believe how my life has played out in the past couple of months to lead me to this amazing career. I have been working at GSS for almost three months now and I must say it is truly a tedious but rewarding job. I help find youth permanency within the foster care system and have developed relationships with amazing kids and adolescents.

It’s funny to me when I think back on my time at HWS and how it’s helped mold me to where I am now. When I graduated, I wanted to be a hardcore activist, but I didn’t really know what that looked like. I thought by being engulfed in the feminist movement online that I would find my voice and become the next Audre Lorde, but there was a bigger plan for me. I now realize that I don’t have to try to get my foot in to the movement online, but rather become my own type of activist in a field where it needs advocating. It’s kind of ironic to be going from one spectrum of feminist activism when a part of me knew all along that I would be where I am now. I can truly say that it has been a blessing in disguise and all the waiting has paid off.

Now, as I move forth into this career of Family Foster Care, I know that my activism will not fade away because it is with me every day when I am talking with my kids or advocating for them in court. Isn’t life funny?

 


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Getting on the Healthy Grind

I haven’t really been posting much lately (due to the fact that my life is wack), but I thought I would share some things that have been going on recently.

I’ve gone healthy.

Oh yes, I thought it would never happen, but not that it has, I’m not really mad at it! The only hard thing is adjusting my cooking skills to suit the new changes. I’ve been chatting with my friends about their healthy habits and have been researching A LOT of new things to try. It actually started out when I got an infection and was trying to detox my body to get it out my system, and while I was doing this, I learned a lot about substituting foods for healthier ones. I even started drinking Soy Milk (my friends *cough, CARRIE, cough* drink Almond Milk and I want to try that too).

Eating healthier does have it’s ups and downs. I’m trying to cut sweets for the time being and have been fairly successful (I had a bite of my brother’s birthday cupcake =\ I can’t resist red velvet) and have substituted for fruits and Kale. LOTS OF KALE.

It’s been quite an interesting two weeks, and even my stepmother and brother are getting in the spirit!

I bought Joshua a Hip Hop dance game for his birthday, but I’m not going to lie, it was for me too. WORKOUT TIME!

In other news:

  • I visited my alma mater this past weekend and was presented with an award for my dedication to an organization I was involved in during my time at HWS. I had been thinking a lot about HWS and wanted to visit, and once I did, it was like the obsession with Geneva slowly faded away. I now realize that I wanted to go back to see if the legacy I left behind was in tact and my successors were doing a better job than I did, to which I can proudly say that they are.
  • Selfless relationships plug: Marcus and I have been together for 9 months to the day. For anyone who knows me, this is a big deal.
  • A few weeks ago, I reunited with Carrie and my good friend Katie for some Brooklyn Hijynx: Part Deux and there were cupcakes involved.

I can’t think of anything else, but surely there are more.

TTFN, bloggers.

 


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The Blessings in Disguise

My fellow bloggers! Today has been a wonderful day full of love, compassion, and understanding which has led to inspiration.

These past few months I have been getting much closer with certain people in my family and it has led me to really think about myself and what my future holds for me. When people ask me what I want to do with my life post-grad, I usually say the same things that associate with things I’ve done in college: feminism and media work, student affairs, feminist activism online, etc. but my life after college has done nothing related to that. Granted, I’ve maintained my presence online, but I’m talking on a larger scale.

Then, I think about what I’m doing while offline: spending time with my family, helping my brother with homework, giving my cousins advice on life, love, and menstruation, having adult conversations with my friends, supporting my older cousins with their new endeavors, etc… What I just came to realize is the blessings that have been placed right before my eyes which made me think about my independent study during college: teaching young people about the things that they may not get from their parents or guardians.

I titled this blog Do(ing) it like a Feminist because I believe that everything I do is feminist. Feminism is who I am and it’s the language I speak. When I’m spending time with my younger siblings/cousins, I’m having honest dialogue about growing up and reminding them to always ask questions because I never really had someone to do that for me as a kid.

Sometimes we don’t see the blessings right before our eyes, so once in a while, it’s good to step back and understand a new perspective.


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New Years Resolutions: Real or Not Real?

When I was younger, I used to make all types of resolutions that lasted about two weeks. As I got older, I came to realize that resolutions shouldn’t hold as much weight as they do. What ever happened to just promising to be a better version of yourself? On December 31st, out come the resolutions to have a better year than the last, lose weight, cut certain people off, etc. but in retrospect, what are we doing here?

To me, New Years is about being thankful for the year you had, good or bad. We all have our share of ups and downs, but it is what makes us who we are. We need the struggles in life to appreciate the successes. I had a good 2012, but it didn’t come without its share of problems. In 2013, my goal (not resolution) is to continue being myself. As I continue to go through the days, I will come across roadblocks, but they will help me grow as a person.

I’m not necessarily saying that all resolutions are bad, but if you want to rely on resolutions to go through the new year, then I suggest creating ones that are attainable and you can stay true to. Sometimes, creating resolutions that are beyond your reach will result in failure. After all, on December 31st, you will just want to re-do it again.

Happy New Year everyone!

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