DJ Zeke Thomas reveals he was raped, stars in sexual assault prevention PSA

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Engaging new voices 2017

This article, with the ABC Video, was originally posted on Yahoo! News on April 25, 2017.

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DJ and producer Zeke Thomas is revealing publicly for the first time that he was raped twice.

“Being gay, being African-American, it’s definitely something that I never imagined would happen to me,” Thomas told ABC News’ Robin Roberts in an interview that aired today on “Good Morning America.”

Thomas, 28, the son of NBA legend Isiah Thomas, said he was raped for the first time at just 12 years old and then raped again in a separate incident last year.

“At first I didn’t realize what had happened, what had transpired. I knew that it was wrong, I knew that I did not want it. I did not seek it out,” he said of the incident at age 12. “I hadn’t let my family know until much later that this had happened.”

He added, “It was definitely hard for them to hear, and even more hard for them to hear that it happened again.”

Thomas described himself as “terrified” when he was raped again last year, saying, “I really felt that my manhood had been taken from me.”

He did not press charges in either instance of rape, explaining that he “just wasn’t ready” and did not want to be labeled a “victim.”

“If I could go back, there’s 100 percent I would press charges,” Thomas said. “If we could find…the assailant today, I would 100 percent press charges.”

Thomas is going public now about his past sexual abuse to help others. He appears in a new PSA released today by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Thomas is also an ambassador for the NSVRC, an organization dedicated to “preventing and responding to sexual violence through collaboration, sharing and creating resources, and promoting research,” according to its website.

“I want to give the voiceless a voice,” Thomas said. “The healing really begins with the voice. The healing begins with, this happened to me. I can get through it.”

In the U.S., over 19.5 million men are the victims of contact sexual violence, including rape, over the course of their lives, according to new data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“I’m encouraging more victims to come forward,” Thomas said of his newly public role, which also includes him undergoing training to speak to kids about sexual abuse.

It was Thomas’ own family and his focus on music that he credits with giving him strength and helping him on what he calls his “journey” toward recovery.

“They let me know they’re here for me and [said], ‘We’re gonna do everything in our power to help your through this journey,’” Thomas said of his family, whom he relied on along with seeking the help of therapists and doctors.

Thomas, a Detroit native, has collaborated with the likes of Lady Gaga, Jay Z, Pitbull and Diana Ross but it was his own music and lyrics that helped him in his recovery.

“Music has been very therapeutic to me, and writing the songs, and coming out with music to express the way I feel,” Thomas said.

Thomas’ latest single is titled “I’m Dealing With It” and includes the lyrics, “I’m not beggin’ for forgiveness — but tonight I’ve come undone … let my spirit leave this palace, I can’t find the strength to run.”

Thomas said the lyrics signify his road to empowerment.

“It was really through the process of, you know, I’m blaming myself, and I’m coming undone, and I’m trying to take my power back,” he said.

Click HERE for more from the NSVRC on what you can do to prevent sexual violence.

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Image: National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

When a murder is domestic violence, we forget about it

Moving beyond silence as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Broken and Shattered Glass PaneThis article, by Reneé Graham, appeared in The Boston Globe on April 16, 2017.

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On the day [April 10, 2017] Karen Smith  was murdered, at least three more women also died at the hand of a current or former intimate partner.

Yet only Smith’s death garnered national headlines because she was killed in a San Bernardino, Calif., school where she worked as a special education teacher. Her estranged husband also shot two of her students, one fatally, before taking his own life. If Smith had been slain in her home, it’s unlikely the story would have made it outside of the city’s borders.

Even the coverage the story received seemed to deflate slightly when it became apparent that this was not a rare school shooting, but a fatal occurrence that happens every day in America — domestic violence. A day after Smith’s death, some news outlets billed the crime as an “elementary school shooting” which, while accurate, blurred the larger story.

For all our talk about not normalizing aberrant behavior, we treat the murders of women by past and present intimate male partners as little more than a sad fact of life. When a gunman kills a stranger in public, it’s news; when he kills his wife or girlfriend, we overlook it.

These killings cross all racial and ethnic lines, economic levels, and geographic markers. Every 16 hours, a current or former husband or boyfriend shoots a woman to death. And that doesn’t take into account women who are stabbed, strangled, beaten to death, or run over by vehicles. (In Massachusetts, women who died in domestic violence incidents dropped from 13 in 2015 to 11 last year.)

When we think of mass shootings, we likely picture an armed unknown assailant in a mall, theater, school, or even a house of worship. Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control organization, found 54 percent of mass shooting incidents — those in which four or more people are killed — involved the murder of a current or former partner or family member. Children made up more than 40 percent of fatalities in mass shootings connected to domestic and family volence. There’s also an emerging pattern that men who commit mass shootings have histories as domestic abusers.

Domestic violence has turned the home front into a battlefield bloodier than those in wars. Between October 2001 and June 2012, nearly 6,500 American troops were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq; during that same period, more than 11,700 women died in acts of domestic violence, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Children are far more likely to die in their homes than in school shootings.

Somehow, these daily acts of terror are mostly ignored. There’s no public outrage, no media swarm, no urgent plan to combat domestic violence as an epidemic as devastating as opioids, though it has plagued cities and towns nationwide far longer.

As with every other pressing social issue, this situation will probably deteriorate further under the Trump administration. Already, published reports say some women who are undocumented aren’t pursuing protective orders against abusive partners, fearing they’ll be arrested by federal agents lurking outside of courthouses. Immigration advocates maintain that abusers also use threats of deportation to deter their victims from leaving or seeking help.

As an Alabama senator, Jeff Sessions voted against renewal of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013 when it expanded protections to undocumented immigrants, the LGBT community, and indigenous women on tribal lands. It easily passed, but now Sessions, as attorney general, oversees a law that he once said was not “sound.” With President Trump’s proposed cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department, both of which support anti-domestic-violence programs, some fear the safety of women will be even more compromised by a presidency that already seems hostile toward them.

Today domestic violence will claim three more women. Outside of their families and immediate communities, few will hear anything about their murders. If not for the crime’s location, Karen Smith would have died in relative obscurity, too. We can no longer behave as if murder is a terrible price a woman must pay if she can’t leave an abusive relationship or seeks security for her children. Their deaths deserve more than the indignity of our silence. With each life senselessly lost, that silence is complicity.

Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.

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Phoenix Alliance presents art workshop to release trauma

Finding Your Silver Lining Event in Idyllwild, CA on April 22, 2017

Members of the Phoenix Alliance
Julie Steiger (l) and Callie Wight (r) speaking about Finding Your Silver Lining Event

This article originally appeared in The Idyllwild Town Crier on April 20, 2017 and was posted by Marshall Smith.

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The Phoenix Alliance presents a participatory art experience to help attendees release attachment to an embedded painful memory or experience. It is held this month in support of sexual-assault awareness month. Organizers stress that the event is for all ages.

Facilitated by Callie Wight, registered nurse and Master of Arts in human development and psychology, Julie Steiger, Master of Science in social work and Bachelor of Science in psychology, and art therapist Karla Leopold, with support from Rev. Shelly Downes and Mary Morse, executive director of Spirit Mountain Retreat, the art therapy workshop is designed to help release deeply held trauma — to use art to get it out of the body and onto paper that will then be ceremonially shredded.

Art therapist Leopold’s career mission has been to use art as a cathartic process to heal others. She has helped guide many suffering from life-altering losses to work though their loss using art as the healing agent.

In the fall of 2005, Rosie O’Donnell’s foundation “For All Kids” asked Leopold to lead a team of California therapists to work in an evacuation camp in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with children traumatized by Hurricane Katrina. O’Donnell’s foundation fully funded the team’s work.

Those attending the “Finding Your Silver Lining” workshop will be offered the opportunity, with support from the facilitators, to write or draw on paper an attachment they would like to release. Participants then walk with their paper to a shredder and while shredding the paper, they visualize their attachment dissolving. Leopold references Joseph Campbell who stated, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”

After that, as a doorway to embracing a life without negative attachments, workshop participants create a piece of art that represents the feelings, sensations or visions of letting go of what does not serve them and being open to a “silver lining” of personal happiness and fulfillment.

“Trauma does not have to define you for the rest of your life,” said Wight, whose career focused on counseling women veterans suffering from sexual trauma.

Art from Finding Your Silver Lining Event
Art from Finding Your Silver Lining (Prelude Event 4/2/17)

“The process we’ll use at the workshop symbolizes renewal and rebirth — a new beginning,” said Steiger, whose background is in counseling and leading therapy groups.

 

Artwork created will be displayed at the workshop site with permission of participants, and subsequently at the Idyllwild Library. There has been discussion of using some or all of the workshop-created art in specially made quilts — much like the iconic AIDS Memorial Quilt, The Names Project.

The art created is primarily a process for releasing trauma. As Leopold notes, participants should leave their “art critic” somewhere else. “There is no right or wrong,” she said. “This creation is yours and yours alone.”

Wight notes that trauma, especially trauma associated with sexual assault, crosses all genders, age groups and socio-economic bases. “Sexual assault happens to women, men, boys, girls and elders,” said Wight. “It is not about sex, it is about power and domination over another.”

Wight and Steiger stressed that their organization, the Phoenix Alliance, is about moving forward from gender-based violence to structuring healthy relationships and healthy communication. “Love is never abusive,” said Wight.

The Phoenix Alliance is the successor to The Mountain Community Alliance Against Gender Violence.

“Finding Your Silver Lining” will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at the gazebo adjacent to Higher Ground Coffee Shop. Refreshments and all art materials will be provided.

All are welcome and there is no cost to attend.

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Reasons and ways to safely move beyond bystander to upstander.

This article, by Callie Wight, originally appeared in the Idyllwild Town Crier on April 13, 2017.

Nothing in this article is meant to be medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider.

Some information contained below is taken from:

Please! don’t turn away when I say that April is sexual assault awareness month. I know we prefer not to talk about it. Nevertheless, it’s still a major problem for women, men, children and even elders. It doesn’t go away just because we turn away.

Sexual assault affects not only survivors’ long-term emotional health but their health in general. Survivors report feeling depressed and anxious, worthless, damaged and often are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Survivors may self-medicate the enduring emotional pain with drugs and alcohol. Survivors often have higher incidence of chronic health problems such as asthma, arthritis, diabetes and hypertension.

Sadly, much sexual assault could have been prevented if bystanders had not turned away but instead had intervened to prevent or stop. Some call this bystander intervention being an “upstander”.

Even without professional training, we can all help to prevent, stop or reduce sexual assault by learning simple, safe and proven-effective bystander intervention techniques.

Read on!

The “bystander effect” is an odd reality where folks tend not to help in risky, especially interpersonal, situations. Instead, we ignore and walk away. One cause is simply because we don’t know what else to do.

Lucky us, public health advocates all across the globe have developed something called the “4 D’s” of bystander intervention: direct; distract; delegate; delay.

First, here are some overarching guidelines.

Do NOT put yourself at risk.

Do NOT make the situation worse.

Look for early warning signs of trouble, such as raised voices, pushing or shoving, cornering, trying to isolate a potential victim from the group and from help or witnesses, ganging up. If the potential victim is incapacitated or feeling too intimidated to help her/himself, these early signs can be solid indicators that nothing good is about to happen.

Intervene at the earliest point possible, preventing escalation. This is often the easiest moment in which to successfully change the dynamic.

Intervening does not necessarily mean confronting. Check out your options below.

Ask for help from others standing by. Group intervention may be safer than going solo. It is effective and the deterrent effect can be longer-lasting. It takes a village.

The 4 D’s:

Direct: Step up by stepping in to prevent or stop a problem. Remember the first guideline, though: do not put yourself or others around you at risk.

Delegate: There may be good reasons to not go direct. Seek help from someone with more authority to intervene.

Distract: Interrupting the situation without directly confronting the offender. This can be fun, even: “Hey, isn’t that your car? You’re getting a ticket”. Then spirit away the victim. Be creative.

DelayIf none of the above seems like a good idea then check in later with the victim. See if they need help, support, someone to talk to or to assist them to get professional help if needed.

Go beyond bystander; be an upstander!

Callie Wight, a member of the Phoenix Alliance, is a California state-licensed registered nurse with a Master of Arts in psychology.

Image: Pinterest (Crockett’s Classroom/Civil Rights Leaders)

Finding Your Silver Lining (Event)

Finding your Silver Lining. A creative experience.

Event Poster for Finding Your Silver Lining

Are you going to be in Idyllwild on Saturday, April 22, 2017? Stop by, visit us at the Gazebo near Higher Grounds Coffee Shop (in the heart of Idyllwild). You will be able to release an attachment to a memory that is causing you pain. Then you will be invited to create an expression of the Silver Lining you have found.

Tips for safely reaching out for support

Love is never abusive

Phone for help

Originally this was written and posted by advocate Lauren C., July 27, 2016, on “Hotline

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Being in a relationship should not mean you lose your right to privacy or your right to talk to whomever you like. But in an abusive relationship, an abusive person may isolate their partner from sources of support. This is often done by checking their partner’s call log and text history or denying their partner the right to a phone.

Reaching out for support when you’re in an abusive relationship is scary, especially if there are barriers to having a safe phone. If you are having trouble finding a safe way to communicate with others for support, below are some options to consider:

  • Semi-Safe Phone: If you do have a phone that you use but you are concerned your partner sees your messages or call history, you could selectively delete texts and phone calls. Also, you could clear your search history on a smartphone so your abusive partner cannot see what websites you have visited. Additionally, if you have a family member or friend you trust, you can work out a plan with them where you decide on a code word that you’ll text them when you need help. When that person receives that message containing the code word, they’ll know to take some agreed upon action to help you, like calling the police or picking you up at a certain location.
  • Trusted Loved One or Neighbor: If you do not have access to a safe phone, there may be someone you trust who will let you use their phone to safely call for support.
  • Phone Not Connected to Service Provider: Sometimes an abusive partner will cut off their partner’s cell service. Even if the phone doesn’t have service to make general calls, it will call 911. Keeping it charged and near you will give you a way to call 911 in an emergency. If you have a smartphone, you may also be able to use the internet on the phone by connecting to wifi. If your home doesn’t have wifi, going to your local library, community center or coffee shop could be a way for you to reach out for support online.
  • Internet: There are services such as Google Voice (only available in the U.S.) or Skype that allow you to call someone via the internet. Keep in mind that Google Voice doesn’t work for all 1-800 numbers, but Skype is able to connect with most of them. Facebook also allows you to call other users you are friends with using wifi.
  • Secret Phone: If it is safe for you to do so, consider getting a phone your abusive partner doesn’t know about. You could keep it at work, with a trusted friend or family member, or in another safe place your partner won’t have access to. There are affordable pay-as-you-go phones which you could purchase and add minutes to when you need them. Another option is Verizon Hopeline, which provides free, refurbished cell phones to survivors through local domestic abuse centers. Safelink is also an option for low-income individuals to receive free phones and minutes.
  • Community Phones: Local community centers and libraries may have pay phones or public phones you can use. If you live in an apartment complex with a business center, it may offer you a safe way to reach out. Online searches can help you locate pay phones in your area as well.

When you feel safe and ready to reach out for help, don’t forget that Hotline advocates are here to support you 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233, or you can chat live here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

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