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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Please click below for a pdf version with all links needed for registration:

ZCenter SAAM Events 2022

*Standing Silent Witness at our Dempster Street location has been cancelled for 4/22/22, due to rain.

* Please note that the webinar for 4/20, Talking about Safety with Kids, has been cancelled.

 

 

 

Campus Sexual Harassment

Sexual violence affects millions around America. The problem with reporting is that though many women and men experience harassment, many are reluctant to notify officials because they worry they won’t be believed. It is important for schools to report accurately to encourage students to report sexual harassment and violence. 

Title IX legislation eliminates sex-based discrimination to ensure all students both female and male have access and quality education. It offers protection from athletics and admission to housing and sexual harassment. Every public school that receives federal funding is required to report this information. According to the American Association of University Women, “Yes. Title IX covers all forms of sexual harassment, and sexual violence is considered a form of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment under Title IX includes any unwelcome sexual conduct, such as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual violence refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent. Title IX also prohibits sex-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.”

According to RAINN sexual violence statistics, women age 18-24 are at higher risk of sexual violence; 13% of students experience rape or sexual assault; 21% of transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-confirming students have been sexually assaulted. Sexual harassment affects health. It can cause loss of appetite, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal thoughts. 

 

Ways anyone can work to end sexual violence on campus:

 

1. When someone you know is sexually assaulted or harassed, remember these three steps: believe, validate, and empower. I believe you can be the most powerful words that survivors hear. You can validate their trauma and pain with statements like “I’m so sorry this happened to you” or “You did nothing to deserve this.”  Empower the survivor to make their choice about next steps, giving them options such as a medical exam, a police report, or a visit to a rape crisis center.

2. Educate yourself on local resources and activism groups. RAINN can help you find your local rape crisis center. 

3. Consider joining the effort by volunteering for a hotline or activism events. You can sign up to be a volunteer at ZCenter here.

 4. Be an active bystander. Learn more here.

 

For more information, please see these important resources for statistics on sexual violence: 

Campus Sexual Violence, RAINN

Title IX, AAUW

 


Written by Denisse Ochoa, BA Sociology Candidate at University of Wisconsin-Parkside, ZCenter Outreach Intern 

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email info@zcenter.org.

LGBTQ+ Center Lake County: Community Partner Highlight

This month, we are proud to highlight the great work of one of our community partners, LGBTQ+ Center Lake County. This organization has collaborated with ZCenter on Pride events, a staff Safe Zone Training, and referrals for youth support, just to name a few of their great services. We are fortunate to have this agency in our community and we offer you here more information from a recent conversation with their Executive Director, Nikki Michele.

 

  1. Please share what your organization offers and how people can access your services.

Just like so many other organizations, we have had to pivot our services during the most recent Omicron wave. Currently we are running two virtual support groups (one for adults, one for youth), and a book club. We are working on setting up a parent support group (fill out a survey here). We also host two monthly social events: Queer Happy Hour on the 4th Thursday of the month, rotating venues around Lake County, and an LGBTea & Coffee on the first Wednesday morning of the month. We are also busy providing SafeZone trainings to a wide array of organizations around Lake County. We are looking forward to our second annual Lake County PrideFest, June 4th, in Waukegan. We also have a Discord server to serve as a virtual “drop in space.”

 

  1. Can you tell us about where you are located?

As a nonprofit that was established during COVID, we’ve had to delay getting a brick and mortar space. However, we have been strategizing an ideal location, and are currently considering one of the more eastern Lake County townships. They tend to be home to more marginalized communities (People of Color, low income, homeless) who have less access to services and transportation. Having a community center in eastern Lake County would make it easier to reach this vulnerable demographic. 

 

  1. During Black History Month, we often share statistics on how People of Color are more vulnerable to sexual assault (RAINN.org). Could you share how you reach out to People of Color who are also LGBTQ+? Also, how would you describe the unique experiences that you see for LGBTQ+ People of Color?

The LGBTQ+ Pride movement owes its very inception to Black trans women. QTBIPOC individuals have always been on the frontlines of the charge for equality. From Bayard Rustin in the Civil Rights movement, to activists like Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, and Stormé DeLarverie at the 1969 Stonewall riots, to the Black Lives Matter movement founders Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza, QTBIPOC people throughout history have driven enormous advancements in media, the arts, sports, activism, advocacy and politics, which have enhanced the lives of people everywhere. Despite these amazing triumphs, QTBIPOC consistently experience widespread discrimination and violence in every realm of society. AntiBlackness and anti-LGBTQ attitudes have created systems of oppression with real consequences: Black LGBTQ people face some of the highest risks of violence, workplace discrimination, homelessness, HIV and AIDS, and healthcare disparities and mistreatment in America. Moreover, women of color, who must also contend with sexism prevalent in our society, are even further impacted by these issues. In short, being a Black trans woman in America means you’re far more likely than most other people to experience serious roadblocks and harms, in the form of everything from extreme poverty to violent murder.

 

  1. For any readers who want to know more about how to be an ally for LGBTQ+ folks (and for People of Color), what do you recommend? Are there resources you can share?

I truly believe one of the most impactful things we can do is also one of the simplest: listen to marginalized people’s experiences. In the wake of George Floyd’s brutal street execution, I was personally challenged to follow Black social media content creators, keep my mouth shut and LISTEN. This simple act has begun rewiring my perceptions of the Black experience. Because we live in an inherently bigoted society that actively promotes cisgender heterosexual white men at the expense of all other groups, we have been imbibing societal discrimination and bias daily along with our tap water. We must intentionally push back against our hardwired mindsets. As we listen to others’ experiences, we gain valuable insight into their very humanity, which deepens our ability to empathize and, in turn, transforms us into effective advocates. So, my challenge to anyone seeking to do better is to seek out QTBIPOC content and amplify their invaluable contributions. 

 

  1. Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about your work for social justice and your services for the community?

I am very proud to be partnering with Mayor Taylor (Waukegan) to perform the audit with the Human Rights Campaign that will assign a score to Waukegan for its LGBTQ+ inclusivity and safety. Part of this effort has included making major changes within the Waukegan Police Department to address the decades-long bias and discrimination (of LGBTQ+ folks, and Black and Brown lives) that was all too prevalent. I’m thrilled to see the Lake County seat take a lead in this way, and hope it will put additional pressure on surrounding townships to follow suit.  

 

To learn more about LGBTQ+ Center Lake County, please visit their website: https://lgbtqcenterlakecounty.com/

 

Notes on acronyms and abbreviations used:

  • LGBTQ+: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual/Two-Spirit, Queer/Questioning, and Others. Also commonly used is LGBTQIA: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual/Two-Spirit, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual. Learn more at Seattle Pride.
  • BIPOC: Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Learn more at VOX.
  • QTBIPOC: Queer, Transgender, Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Learn more from UCLA and USC.

Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor.

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email info@zcenter.org.

Security in the LGBTQIA Community

Security is a term that evokes a sense of safety, more specifically in your home and the community surrounding you. As an individual, in a large complex world, wanting and needing this security is essential to survive. But how about if it is difficult to obtain? It may be hard to envision a form of freedom from danger if security threats to adolescents are presented by the government and local community. On the other hand, we do know that the feeling of safety is a crucial aspect in a child’s emotional and social development. The more abundant the safety feeling is, the easier it is for them to be able to explore and experience the world around them. It creates a safe space for one to learn and grasp what is encompassing them in the world.

 

Bill HB1570

On April 6, the citizens of the United States were informed of the first bill to outlaw gender- affirming treatment to minors in Arkansas. The Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act limits youth in receiving gender-changing services as it prohibits insurance from covering hospital bills, prevents medical professionals from seeing transitioning youth, and puts a restriction on all medications and surgeries until the age of 18. Any physician providing health services to a transitioning minor is seen as breaking the law and will face legal consequences in the state of Arkansas. Priya Krishnakumar, while presenting information from the Human Rights Campaign, states that approximately 33 states in America have introduced more than 117 bills to hinder transgender rights (Krishnakumar, 2021). We see spiraling restrictions on individual rights, which can become messy and a concern for the transgender community as well as their mental health. 

 

 

Looking into the future instead of the present

What does this mean for transgender Americans? The new legislation signifies a reverse effect as we lose the decades of fighting for equality with the new statutes devised. A majority of the legislation bills will unfortunately affect the transgender youth in America. The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020 confirms the concerns of high risk of suicide and ideation. “Nearly 15% of LGBTQ respondents attempted suicide in the past twelve months, including more than 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth” (The Trevor Project, 2021). With the alarming statistics present, this brings us back to the original question. What does that mean for transgender youth? As we are presented with the numbers, we as a society need to take a step back and ponder the concerns that may arise for the trans youth community. 

Society might be at a questionable standstill, debating on whether we will be helping these children or harming their development. As a community, let’s pay special attention to our blossoming children by reaffirming their thoughts, feelings, and autonomy. Let’s share a moment of togetherness to show collective understanding and support for our youth at this confusing time. By doing so, we are choosing as one to put the child’s needs and emotions on the front line rather than the rules and bills. The transgender youth in Arkansas are already facing concerning outcries; transgender youth feel depressed and demoralized that society does not allow them to be their true self.  As Nelson Mandela articulates, “Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear” (World Vision International, 2016). Similarly, we owe it to the youth to be emotionally available by hearing their concerns and protests. Join us as we come together as allies, support our youth, and build a safer world for them.

 


Written by Adella Moss, Intern, Northern Illinois University

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

References:

Cole, D. (2021, April 6). Arkansas becomes first state to outlaw gender-affirming treatment for trans youth. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/06/politics/arkansas-transgender-health-care-veto-override/index.html.

Jenco, M. (2019). Studies: Suicide attempts high among transgender teens, increasing among black teens. The Official NewMagazine of the American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.aappublications.org/news/aapnewsmag/2019/10/14/suicide101419.full.pdf.

Krishnakumar, P. (2021, April 15). This record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation would affect minors the most. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/15/politics/anti-transgender-legislation-2021/index.html.

Paley, A. (2020). The Trevor Project National Survey 2020. The Trevor Project – Saving Young LGBTQ Lives. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2020/?section=Suicide-Mental-Health.

Paley, A. (2021). The Trevor Project National Survey. The Trevor Project – Saving Young LGBTQ Lives. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2021/.

World Vision International. (2016). Partnership Key to Ending Violence Against Children. https://www.wvi.org/development/blogpost/partnership-key-ending-violence-against-children

 

LGBTQ+ Community and Coming Out: Information for Parents & Guardians

Oftentimes, parents and guardians can feel unsure of what to do and how to respond when their child expresses to them or “comes out” as someone who identifies within the LGBTQ+ community. This list of options is meant to serve as a guide for enabling conversation and growth to those findings themselves in this situation.

Prepare to do the work and educate yourself. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to be in a situation where you fully understand what your child is experiencing and know just how to respond and support them. Perhaps you feel as though you know nothing. It is okay to acknowledge to yourself and them that you are not sure what is going to happen next, but now is the time for you to put in the work and educate yourself to the best of your ability. This may include utilizing the internet, seeking support services through a network such as PFLAG, or even seeking advice from a friend who has experienced the same thing if your child is comfortable with you doing so. The important thing is that you are doing this work on behalf of them, and making sure they feel comfortable, safe, and respected is essential as they express this aspect of their identity to you. 

Actively listen. Your child is likely more nervous than you are as they initiate this conversation with you. Make sure you give them the space and support to express whatever they may be feeling by coming out. This may be something your child has rehearsed and given plenty of thought to, or it might not be at all. In this moment, as they are sharing things with you, practice active listening so that you are taking in what they are saying to you. This may or may not be the right time for you to ask them questions about this, but you can soak in the information they are giving you so that you hear their needs and can understand what can be done in your position to support them rather than interjecting over them with whatever it is you desire to respond with at that moment. There will be the time to express your own feelings, but make sure you are giving them the floor in this crucial moment first.

Respond intuitively. Your child coming out to you is likely something that is a big deal to them. Make sure you are in check with your body language, facial expressions, thoughts, emotions, and words. Altogether, those can impact your child whether you realize it or not. So stay in tune with these feelings so that you can provide the most welcoming environment for your kid and that they leave the conversation feeling supported.

Don’t focus on yourself. You may want to tell your child about a friend or family member within the LGBTQ+ community that you know, or you may even be in a position where you identify within the LGBTQ+ community and are ready to talk all about your own experiences and give advice. Take a breath and remember: baby steps. Unless your child is actively asking to hear this information, don’t turn the conversation towards yourself because that will only take away from the experience for your child.

Acknowledge that you are there as a resource. Your child might not feel comfortable following up with you consistently on this, and as hard as it is to hear- you are not entitled to updates either. However, what you can do is make sure your child knows you are there to confide in, talk with, and to provide support. After this, the ball is in their court and they can decide what to do. It will not help your child if you pressure them and pester for more details. Instead, that can hurt your relationship in such a crucial moment as your child has just opened up to you.

Don’t pressure them for a backstory or details. To elaborate upon the previous point, know that there are certain things that as a parent or guardian you don’t actually need to know. Perhaps your child feels like they want you to know about how they realized they identified within the LGBTQ+ community, but if they don’t want to share that information that is okay. You should never utilize the power dynamic over your child to force them into giving you information because that can set up extremely unhealthy situations for them in the future. In fact, your child may not even have an answer to the questions you want to ask them- that’s okay and you need to accept that as you care for your child, having all of the information possible does not make you automatically supportive and does not make them feel automatically loved. Rather, the continuous work you do to educate yourself and support them will be what makes your relationship positive.

Acknowledge the feelings and bravery needed to invite others to learn about your identity. This very well could be one of the hardest things your child is facing by coming out to you. Far too often those within the LGBTQ+ community are persecuted for their identity and even kicked out of their homes after coming out to loved ones. Your child may not know how you will react and may be aware of the negative consequences potentially facing them, yet they trust you enough to invite you into this aspect of their life. Respect them for that and know they are so brave to do so. This is not the moment to question your child, but to see how brave they are and to remind them of that.

Approach this as a learning process for your relationship. As mentioned above, prior to this moment you may feel as though you have no knowledge, all of the knowledge, or somewhere in between when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. It is completely acceptable to let your child know this. Let them know this will be a learning process for you, but that you are determined to do what it takes to learn specifically how to support them.

Know that you cannot compare yourself to other parents and guardians. It is worth mentioning that you may have seen the experiences other parents and guardians have had as they experienced similar situations. There is no one right way to go about this just as there is no one right way to go about parenting in general. Being honest with yourself and your child is what will make the difference for upholding a healthy relationship, so don’t compare yourself to others doing it “perfectly” because at the end of the day what needs to matter to you is your child’s health and safety, which fortunately you can enhance through your love and support.

Know what this means. This is a defining moment in your relationship. Your child may want you to be hands on or not, but as you educate yourself on the terminology and backstory of the LGBTQ+ community, educate yourself on the statistics as well. Acknowledge higher levels of sexual assault, increased suicide rates, and how the likelihood of being a victim of a crime increases for those within the LGBTQ+ community. This information is not meant to be something that scares you, but is meant as something to show how needed your support is. Places like ZCenter are doing the work for outreach and prevention education to end sexual violence, but the battle is ongoing, and in your role as a parent you can be there as a knowledgeable support system for your child to help them be aware of other support systems as well.

This guide is not necessarily foolproof in that you are guaranteed a perfect relationship with your child by following these tips. As any parent knows by now, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship with our children because of so many things that are out of our control. What you can do in this moment however, is control your response and give support so your child feels safe and sees you as the ally you are for them.


Written by Haley Wold, Intern, Lake Forest College

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

How to be an Ally to the LGBTQIA+ Community

Ally. What does that word really mean? By definition, we know that it’s one person, group, or nation united with another in a common purpose. France and England were allies in World War II, Katniss and Rue were allies in The Hunger Games, and today, there’s a larger discussion on being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. In this case, being an ally means that you don’t identify as part of the community yourself, but you support, unite, and advocate for them. Now, let’s pick apart each of these actions, emphasizing what being an ally truly means. 

Support is the foundation for being an ally to any community; you understand the issues they are facing, you empathize with them, and you take a position that is in line with what they advocate for. So how can we be the best supporters we can be? When it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s imperative that we educate ourselves on the struggles that they face and the history behind movements that have directly affected them. Do we know about Stonewall and the various Supreme Court Cases that have quite literally debated if members of the community are offered equal protection as cisgender, straight people? Have we informed ourselves of historical and present struggles that the community faces in other countries? Have we ever taken a look at feminist and queer activisms throughout time? Now, it’s understandable that each of these may not be completely accessible, which is why it’s equally as important to be able to talk with members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Listen to their stories, their struggles, and their feelings. Discuss what they want, what they hope to achieve. In order to form support, we must understand and educate ourselves first.

Unite is a way we can show our support. When we think of unity, we think of standing together. That’s exactly what this is, but how can we show unity? Here, we’re walking a fine line between solidarity and performance activism. In order to differentiate between the two, we must ask ourselves: are we doing this for the right reasons? Do we truly believe in and support this cause? If we are true allies, we will not hesitate to show our support, even when it may impact us directly. For example, let’s consider displaying our pronouns. This was originally done by non-cisgender people as a way to avoid being misgendered; however, it soon became a way to target and harm them. In order to combat this, allies also started putting pronouns in social media bios, in email signatures, and more in order to normalize the practice. When I added pronouns into my Instagram bio, a mutual had actually told me that I should remove them because it will “make people think you’re gay or trans or something.” Here, we see the issue of performance activism vs. unity. This friend had claimed to be a proud supporter of the LGBTQIA+, but they couldn’t even do this in fear of being mistaken for being gay or trans. As a result, they just emphasized what so many members of the community are scared of: that being who they are is something they should be ashamed of. This is just one example of how we can achieve unity. If we want to be good allies, we must prioritize the feelings of the community over how something might make us look.

Advocate is how we can combine both support and unity. Advocacy does involve activism, but it also means just being there for the community. It means being willing to listen, offer advice, and support people’s decisions. As someone who is always quick to rush to action, I often find myself needing to take a breath and listen. What you think is the best course of action may be something unthinkable for someone else. As allies, we might never be able to truly understand the struggles that the LGBTQIA+ community faces without directly experiencing them, which is what makes listening so important. We must be careful not to center issues around ourselves; respecting the wishes of the people we stand for is one of the most principal aspects of being an advocate. So how can we be allies to the LGBTQIA+ community? The answer lies in supporting, uniting, and advocating. As long as we are putting our utmost effort, compassion, and open-mindedness into what we do, we will be continuously working on how we can be the best allies we can be.

 

Below is a list of tips and ideas for how we can start becoming an LGBTQIA+ Ally. 

Continue to educate yourself and others.

Just like any other topic, there is always new information to be learned! It is important to know the different identities that people are a part of. The SafeZone Training presentation by LGBTQ+ Center Lake County is a great place to start to learn more terminology, vulnerability to sexual violence, solidarity, and allyship. We at ZCenter also offer training including this information as do many other agencies in different states and counties. Become familiar with your LGBTQIA+ Community partner near you. 

 

Allow space and be a listener. 

Have conversations, hear their stories, learn the history. Allowing space for another person to voice their hardships, experiences, challenges, and successes creates a foundation for not only further educating yourself but also being an ally to that person. 

 

Be inclusive. 

Use gender inclusive language. Introduce yourself with your pronouns. Use other’s preferred pronouns when they are given. Make sure that forms and surveys have gender inclusive language. When you make a mistake, calmly correct it and move on.

 

Be open minded. 

When someone walks into the same room as you, do not make assumptions about anything. Be open minded and start a conversation by introducing yourself with your pronouns to allow them to also share their pronouns. Assuming someone’s gender identity just by the way they dress, look, talk, walk, can lead to being closed minded and not allowing for conversation. 

 

Raise awareness.

Change your language no matter who you are around. Attend Pride events. Correct/Educate close friends or family members when appropriate. Listen to podcasts, shows, documentaries, movies, etc. surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community. 

 

June is Pride Month. Follow us on TikTok and Instagram for more information and ways to be an Ally! 

 


Written by Dana Drozek, Education and Outreach Specialist, and Vindhya Kalipi, Intern, University of Illinois.

 

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

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