Stand Up, Speak Out! Thanks, St. Joseph’s Brooklyn

Stand Up, Speak Out! Thanks, St. Joseph’s Brooklyn

I had the pleasure of speaking at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn on Monday. My first lecture was to the Freshmen and they were just a delightful audience. They participated fully, they laughed with me, they leaned in and listened when I was vulnerable. And many of them did not want to leave when it was over. And, this happens every single time I speak: several young women came up to me, asked to speak to me alone, and told me that they had been sexually assaulted and had never told anyone until now. I always feel a mix of intense feelings when this happens. I thank them for trusting me and having the courage to be open with me. I tell my contact at the school what they shared with me, so that we can get them help. It makes me really sad that they’ve been walking around with this shame and secret, all alone. And their stories fuel my passion to continue talking about sexual assault on college campuses. Their stories make me wonder how many more are out there, walking around with this shame, feeling all alone. There is a professor, David Lisak, who studied at Duke and taught at Harvard. He has published many, many articles about his studies of undetected rapists, assault, domestic violence. He has devoted his entire life to this subject. The article that I am referring to today is: “Repeat Rape And Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists.” He published this article when he was a professor at University of Massachusetts at Boston, and his co-writer/researcher was Paul Miller, a professor at...
Wait! A Former College President Who Implies It’s ‘Her’ Fault?

Wait! A Former College President Who Implies It’s ‘Her’ Fault?

I just read another article about a man being interviewed and “implying” that it’s a woman’s fault if she gets raped or there is an attempted rape. My blood is boiling. I understand that this is still an all too common thread in our culture’s conversations, especially by men in their 40s and up who work on college campuses. I understand it, but that does not make it any easier to “stomach”. This article was in the Huffington Post. But it doesn’t even really matter where it was. I’ve seen the articles in the NY Times, Yahoo News, and on CNN, and so on. We have to look at our language. Our language helps define our culture and our society. With any progressive movement, there were often lots of talks, lectures, and articles that lead up to and helped cause the positive changes. The women’s suffragette movement took a considerable amount of talking. There were many, many conversations and meetings among the abolitionists leading up to the Civil War. And I feel like we are in another war at the moment. Last week I read another article in Time about sexual assault for MEN in the military. I have spoken on bases about sexual assault. I know the statistics for women being assaulted, but I was not clear on how high the numbers were for men. Frankly, I am appalled. And horrified. I don’t understand sexual predators or serial rapists. I know that there are sick people in this world, but my brain cannot conceive of what’s been going on all over our country. I grew up feeling like...
Clery Center Training: Who Knew It Could Be So Inspiring?

Clery Center Training: Who Knew It Could Be So Inspiring?

Sometimes, I get really discouraged by the news. I often feel conflicted. Should I just meditate, go to yoga, read spiritual stuff and stay in my happy place? Or should I at least attempt to stay current with what’s going on in the world? My brain tends to focus on the negative. And the more I study about how our brains work, I realize that that’s how we survived as humans. We were hard-wired to focus on the “threats” in order to survive and continue our species. So I love it when I am able to choose to focus on the positive. Last week, I met many amazing people during the Clery Center Training in Edinboro, Pa. I met Abigail Boyer, the Assistant Executive Director for the Center, and I could see how committed she is to making a difference. It seems like there is a shooting on college campuses every week now. And the numbers are going up on the sexual assaults being reported. Since I speak about assault prevention and response, it seems overwhelming to see the numbers going up instead of down. And that is why I am so grateful that I attended this training. The Clery Center was founded because a student, Jeanne Clery, was brutally assaulted, then killed in her dorm room. Her parents became advocates for victims’ rights and for improving campus safety, education, and response. I sat with chiefs of police, heads of security, deans of students, professors, student activity leaders, and more, from all over the country. There is an army of people in higher education who are taking on the...
Why Our Culture Is Still a Rape Culture

Why Our Culture Is Still a Rape Culture

One more reason why our culture continues to be a rape culture: Last year, I attended a college conference with my agent. We were there to meet students and their advisers. The event was basically like speed dating but for college students and lecturers. Colleges come to pick what they want to bring back to their school. Since I am a comedic motivational speaker (I speak on avoiding addictions, sexual assault, and body image), my work is a good fit for orientations. My agent and I worked the booth together and we spoke with a lot of orientation directors. There was another “speaker” who worked the booth with us. This man is a professor at a university, where he teaches philosophy. He (let’s call him “Jeffrey”) went on and on about his religious views and how hard it was for him to eat Kosher where he lived. He seemed to enjoy complaining about how difficult things were for him. While I didn’t agree with all of his points of view, I did respect his devotion to his religion. I began to view him as a goofy, out-of-touch, clownish sort of “nutty professor” who seemed pretty harmless. On the second day, “Jeffrey” and I got into a conversation about sexual assault. He said, “Well, I just don’t believe those statistics of 1 out of every 4 females is assaulted on campuses. I think the number is over-inflated.” I said, “Oh really! I disagree. Every time I talk about my experiences of assault and molestation as a teen, and a college student, there is always someone else who says that they...
Sex Talk…Part 2

Sex Talk…Part 2

Let’s Talk About SEX…Again. In an earlier post, I wrote about when I first started speaking on college campuses it was about addictions: eating, drug, and alcohol. Later on, my agents had asked if could talk about sexual assaults too and I said: “If it will help anyone else, Yes.” It was a part of my story. And I knew that if I could save one student from half of the misery and suffering that I had been through, then it was all worth it. As I worked on my “new topic”, I had old feelings of shame come up, yet I continued to write and re-write the talk. I had lots of support as I geared up for my first “Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol Talk”. I was scared but excited to hopefully make a difference. What really surprised me though, was how everywhere I seemed to go, if I was open about what I was working on, and my “new” topic came up in the conversation, the other person would say: “Oh, yea, me too. That happened to me to, but I never told anybody”. Or “Oh, that happened to my mom, my brother, my cousin, my roommate, my sister, my girlfriend, my neighbor, and on and on and on.” It was everyone: boys, girls, men, women, gay and straight. Everywhere I went, I heard stories of assault on campuses. I could not believe it. I was shocked. The more I practiced my talk and got used to talking about sexual assault, the more that everyone around me seemed to be telling me about their experience. Now I...
Let’s Talk About Sex, Part 1

Let’s Talk About Sex, Part 1

Have you ever agreed to something, and then later think, what was I thinking? When I first began speaking on college campuses about addictions and dangerous behaviors, my topic was emotional eating and eating disorders. Later, my agents, Barbara and Peggy, asked if I could speak about alcohol and drugs. Sure. It was all a part of my story. I had made a commitment to share my experience, strength and hope wherever I could. I prayed every time before I went out on stage for the universe to guide me and to please help me reach at least one student. If I could save one student from half of the misery and suffering that I had been through, then it was all worth it. Some audiences and I connected better than others, but no matter how big (3,000) or small (28) the audience, every single time, the students would run down to the stage to touch me, talk to me, hug me, cry with me, thank me. I listened and validated their experiences. I got their contact info from them so I could to stay in touch. On several occasions, I followed up and alerted staff members about students who required extra attention. I took one student to a 12-step meeting on my way out of town. I shared resources like free online meetings and free podcasts for many recovering topics. I felt like I was the bridge. I was safe and warm and fuzzy and many students said they could talk to me, but they did not feel as comfortable talking to the counselors/nurses at their human services...