Community

North Bay Women in Music Benefit for Verity

We are very excited to be one of two beneficiaries of an upcoming awesome weekend of music! Read more about this upcoming event online and buy your tickets here and get more information from the Facebook event! Read on for excerpts from an excellent article in the Press Democrat:

“From the #MeToo movement to the Women’s March to TIME magazine naming the Silence Breakers who spoke out against sexual assault and harassment “Person of the Year” for 2017, women are more in the forefront of public discussion and debate than ever.

One arena where women have gained an increasingly powerful voice is the music business. Contemporary singers Beyonce and Lorde, for example, have established an image of both strength and independence, following the tradition of pioneering women music stars like Carole King and Aretha Franklin.

Next weekend, the Rohnert Park-based North Bay Women in Music Collective will gather some of Northern California’s most respected longtime women musicians — including soul and blues singer Lydia Pense, guitarist Nina Gerber and boogie pianist Wendy DeWitt — for the inaugural Women in Music weekend.

The Women in Music weekend opens April 20 with the concert at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa, followed April 21 by a seminar and music showcase at Prairie Sun Recording in Cotati.

Money raised by the events will benefit Verity, a Santa Rosa community organization that provides services to victims of all forms of sexual violence regardless of gender or age, and to the Ron Martin Memorial Foundation to support music education, said the weekend’s organizer, Mandy Brooks of North Bay Women in Music Collective.”

Verity is so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful community that is passionate about ending sexual violence and exploitation! See you on 4/20!

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#DearSurvivor Campaign

Here at Verity, we serve hundreds of survivors every year and reach thousands through our outreach and education efforts. Some survivors choose to share their stories with us, and others simply silently make a note of our services. Not every survivor will want or need our services, but we still want to amplify the voices of people who have experienced sexual violence.

Every person who has experienced sexual abuse deserves to feel heard and valued, whether they identify as a survivor or a victim or don’t let it affect their identities. We want to hear from YOU — whether or not you have experienced sexual violence, exploitation, or trauma yourself. Sexual violence impacts our entire community, and we can all benefit from a safer world where we support and uplift each other with compassion and grace.

If you want to share some insight, advice, thoughts, histories, prayers, wishes, or any words with the Verity community, we would be honored to have you take part in our #DearSurvivor campaign for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We want to provide this platform for stories both from survivors and to survivors. Please click here to share.

Some examples so far:

“Your negative feelings are valid, but that doesn’t make them true. You are worthy and loved, just because you’re you.” – a survivor, victim, friend, child, sibling, relative, and future lawyer.

“You are strong. You are still you. None of this was your fault. You deserve happiness.” – a sibling, friend, and child.

“I was sexually assaulted by a stranger while I was hiking alone. No one was around. For me, the hardest part was admitting to myself what had actually happened and admitting I needed help. Then, once I finally became a client at Verity, I was worried that talking about what happened out loud was only making it worse. Slowly, the nightmares became less and I stopped having panic attacks when someone breathed or walked in a way that reminded me of him. For me, it was a slow process and I had to work hard, but I feel more like myself than ever thanks to Verity and the wonderful supportive people around me. ” – a survivor and former Verity client.

“just because i’m quiet doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. just because i ignore the subject so as to ensure that i keep my panic attacks about the night i was raped as quiet as possible, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. just because i don’t openly label myself as a survivor doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. it just means i need more time to heal. please allow space for me.” – a survivor, victim, resident of Sonoma County, sibling, partner, relative, friend, child, and student.

“Don’t let anyone take any more of you and your future than they already have. You are strong, you are brave, you will get through this. Keep moving forward, find your light again.” – a survivor, victim, and resident of Sonoma County. 

“This is not the beginning nor the end of your story. It is a page of a much, much larger and deeply important book.” – a current or former volunteer, a child, and a daughter of a survivor. 

“The fact that you are here – moving forward each day – proves your strength and resilience. I hear your story. I believe your story. I believe in you.” – a current or former volunteer, a resident of Sonoma County, a survivor, a victim, and a friend.

“Healing happens at your own pace. No one has the right to rush the healing process.” – a current or former volunteer, a resident of Sonoma County, a survivor, and an ally.

“You are so much more than what has happened to you. One day, you will pick yourself up. One day, you will feel joy and light again. And you are already OK, even if you don’t feel hope right now, I believe in you and I know your healing is possible.” – a survivor

 

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Screening of “The Rape of Recy Taylor” in Sebastopol

The Rape of Recy Taylor

A Benefit for Verity
Thu, Mar 29 7pm

To Purchase Tickets Click HERE

Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old black mother and sharecropper, was gang-raped by six white boys in 1944 Alabama. Common in Jim Crow South, few women spoke up in fear for their lives. Not Recy Taylor, who bravely identified her rapists. The NAACP sent its chief rape investigator Rosa Parks, who rallied support and triggered an unprecedented outcry for justice.

Our film exposes a legacy of physical abuse of black women and reveals Rosa Parks’ intimate role in Recy Taylor’s story. An attempted rape against Parks was but one inspiration for her ongoing work to find justice for countless women like Taylor. The 1955 bus boycott was an end result, not a beginning.

More and more women are now speaking up after rape. Our film tells the story of black women who spoke up when danger was greatest; it was their noble efforts to take back their bodies that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and movements that followed. The 2017 Global March by Women is linked to their courage. From sexual aggression on ’40s southern streets to today’s college campuses and to the threatened right to choose, it is control of women’s bodies that powered the movement in Recy Taylor’s day and fuels our outrage today.

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FREE Screening of the Mask You Live In

 

Come out to our free screening in Petaluma!

Join us on April 11th for a free screening of The Mask You Live In, a documentary on masculinity its effects on boys in America. Do you think American masculinity is harming our boys, men, and society at large? Do you want to learn about raising healthy and happy sons?

This documentary on the American “boy crisis” explains how to raise a healthier generation of men and features interviews with experts and academics. We will also be hosting a panel discussion with local experts after the film.

This screening will be co-hosted by the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women and Verity. We cannot end sexual violence or violence against women without bringing men into the conversation!

The screening will be held on April 11th at 7:00 PM at Boulevard 14 Cinemas in downtown Petaluma (200 C Street.) The event is free of charge and, in our opinions, appropriate for teenagers and preteens with guardian’s permission.

For more information, check out the event on Facebook or email info@ourverity!

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Strong Survival: Student Documentary Film takes on Human Trafficking in Sonoma County

Santa Rosa, CA – March 5, 2018 – In August of 2016, Sonoma County Junior Human Rights Commissioner Shynie Lu began directing the documentary Strong Survival on human trafficking in Sonoma County. The 30-minute film documents local survivor and activist Maya Babow’s experiences from the ages of 12 to 18, exploring the psychological and physical harm human trafficking has on victims. Strong Survival also features interviews with law enforcement members of the Sonoma County Human Trafficking Task Force and sexual assault victims’ advocate organization Verity. The film seeks to spread awareness of human trafficking as a pervasive problem in our own community, and educate young people on ways to protect themselves from traffickers.

“We need to better educate ourselves, learn how traffickers work, and stop the demand. If you can stop the demand, there is no need for supply,” says Babow. She is committed to transforming the trauma of her experience into healing and advocacy, giving presentations at schools and community events and offering her contact info to any young person who seeks help or feels unsafe. Every year, thousands of young women, children, and young men become human trafficking victims. According to Verity, the average age of victims entering human trafficking in Sonoma County is 12 to 14. “The goal of the film is to raise awareness of this highly under-discussed issue,” says director Lu. “We wish to educate not only the adults but also children and teenagers so that they can learn to protect themselves and each other.”

In addition to the film, Human Trafficking Committee members Olivia Kulawiak, Casey Dai and Annapurna Johnson have developed an informative brochure on human trafficking statistics and warning signs, in partnership with sexual assault victims’ advocate organization Verity. It is being distributed to all Sonoma County middle and high schools. As human trafficking can be a sensitive topic to navigate for educators and administrators, the Committee is offering schools a screening and presentation with Maya Babow for students. They can also distribute the film’s website and brochures to parents who can use them in discussion with young people.

The Human Trafficking Committee has been promoting the film at universities, student organizations, and humanitarian organizations in hopes of bringing wider attention to the devastating effects of human trafficking. To date, it has received more than 2000 views and has been screened by the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights, the Marin County Office of Education, Northwestern University, Wake Forest University, University of Williams & Mary and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. To watch the film, please visit www.strongsurvivalfilm.com.

The Junior Commission on Human Rights is a project of the Commission on Human Rights, an appointed advisory board to the County Board of Supervisors. The Junior Commission is intended to provide high school students with the opportunity to participate in advocacy, take an active role in the county government, provide education about human rights issues, and empower youth to make a positive impact on their communities.

For more information about the Junior Commission, visit the Commission on Human Rights website at http://www.sonomacountychr.org/ or follow them on Facebook.

Download their materials here:

Human Trafficking Statistics

Film Promotional Poster

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Black History Month and Sexual Violence

From CalCASA:

“The history of the rape crisis movement in the United States is also a history of the struggle of African American women against racism and sexism. During slavery, the rape of enslaved women by white men was common and legal. After slavery ended, sexual and physical violence, including murder, were used to terrorize and keep the Black population from gaining political or civil rights. The period of Reconstruction from 1865 to 1877, directly following the Civil War, when freed slaves were granted the right to vote and own property, was particularly violent. White mobs raped Black women and burned churches and homes. The Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1866 in Tennessee, was more organized. The Klan raped Black women, lynched Black men, and terrorized Black communities. Propaganda was spread that all Black men were potential rapists, all white women potential victims. The results and legacy of such hatred were vicious. Thousands of Black men were lynched between Emancipation and World War II, with the false charge of rape a common accusation. Rape laws made rape a capital offense only for a Black man found guilty of raping a white woman. The rape of a Black woman was not even considered a crime, even when it became officially illegal.

“Perhaps the first women in the United States to break the silence around rape were those African American women who testified before Congress following the Memphis Riot of May 1866, during which a number of Black women were gang-raped by a white mob. Their brave testimony has been well recorded.

“Sojourner Truth was the first woman to connect issues of Black oppression with women’s oppression in her legendary declaration, “Ain’t I a woman,” in her speech at the Women’s Rights Conference in Silver Lake, Indiana, challenging the lack of concern with Black issues by the white women present at the conference.

“The earliest efforts to systematically confront and organize against rape began in the 1870s when African American women, most notably Ida B. Wells, took leadership roles in organizing anti-lynching campaigns. The courage of these women in the face of hatred and violence is profoundly inspiring. Their efforts led to the formation of the Black Women’s Club movement in the late 1890s and laid the groundwork for the later establishment of a number of national organizations, such as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Although women continued individual acts of resistance throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the next wave of anti-rape activities began in the late 1960s and early 1970s on the heels of the civil rights and student movements.

“The involvement of other women of color accelerated in the mid-1970s. Organizing efforts brought national attention to the imprisonment for the murder of a number of women of color who defended themselves against the men who raped and assaulted them. The plight of Inez Garcia in 1974, Joanne Little in 1975, Yvonne Wanrow in 1976, and Dessie Woods in 1976, all victims of rape or assault who fought back, killed their assailants, and were imprisoned, brought the issue of rape into political organizations that had not historically focused on rape. Dessie Woods was eventually freed in 1981, after a long and difficult organizing effort.”

Read more about the history of rape crisis centers here, and learn about the invaluable work that Black women and non-Black women of color have contributed to the movement to end sexual violence.

If you want to learn more about how racism and sexual violence are intertwined, come see the documentary The Rape of Recy Taylor on March 29th at the Rialto Cinema in Sebastopol. Call our main office for more info at (707) 545-7270.

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On Action as Self-Care

So much has happened since the decades of abusive behavior by Harvey Weinstein were exposed, an endless stream of new revelations and disturbing discoveries followed by responses like the #MeToo movement.  Now we are talking more and more about the backlash, being asked will this go too far, what are the pitfalls.  The reality is, some people will always push back, no matter how well-meaning or properly handled things are, some people will never want to hear about it.  The real change has been that eyes are opened, something that can’t go back.  Instead of backlash, the real pitfall is exhaustion.

 

It just keeps coming.  We become overwhelmed and things that would have been a huge deal float by.  It’s shocking to see the level of coverage of the abuses suffered by female USA national team gymnasts.  Dozens and dozens of young female athletes were sexually assaulted under the guise of treatment for decades.  This would have been front page news for months in the past, young women we prize and idolize harmed by an adult responsible for caring for them.

 

It is genuinely horrifying. A popular concept among sexual assault advocates and in similarly taxing fields is self-care, the need to protect and replenish your reserves.  This can obviously be in peaceful, restful activities.  But action is its own self-care.  You can see this in the impact statements made in the USA gymnastics case, in Aly Raisman telling Larry Nassar, “You do realize now the women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time are now a force, and you are nothing.”

 

If the stream of headlines exhausts you, turns your stomach and causes you to avert your eyes, take care of yourself by taking action to care for others.  Verity, Sonoma County’s Rape Crisis Center, is waiting for you to volunteer.  You don’t have to be an expert or a lifer.  A few hours a week makes a difference.  Our prevention education department goes to middle and high schools all over the county and teaches youth about healthy relationships, consent, and online life.  Our board of directors is full of people from all walks of life.  That can be you, getting to these kids before it’s too late before everything is entrenched or out of your hands.  For six years I worked in Bronx Family Court as an attorney for abused and neglected children.  Family members stepped in to help no matter how much they already carried, social workers and advocates worked through the harrowing details of these kids lives and a lot of vulnerable young people were saved.  But even with all those stories of things getting better, on a different level, it was always too late.  Prevention education doesn’t leave the same images, the same stories as intervention work.  Its successes can be invisible, and that’s the goal, to take future headlines off the front page and replace them with the quieter, healthy lives that our children deserve.

 

~~~~~~~

Zach Neeley is Verity’s Prevention Education Specialist. Before being a Prevention Education Specialist, he was Verity’s Coaching Boys into Men Facilitator, where he worked with coaches and sports teams to promote healthy masculinity and end sexual violence among young athletes. You can email Zach at preventionspecialist@ourverity.org

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Join our Board of Directors!

Verity’s work would not be possible without the dedication and enthusiasm of our Board of Directors. As of January 2018, we have six available seats on our Board. If you are interested in amplifying the work that Verity does, helping fundraise, or improving our services, we want you on our Board!

You do not need to have any nonprofit or Board experience. Any reason you have to be interested in our organization is a reason why you are invaluable to our team.

To learn more about joining our Board of Directors, click here.

What are the commitments of being a Board Member?

Members of Verity’s Board of Directors are expected to attend the monthly Board meeting. The date and time of the meeting are dependent on members’ schedules; right now, the Board meets one Tuesday morning a month. Board members are also required to make a financial contribution once a year; the amount doesn’t matter! Even $5 a year helps us achieve our mission. The overall mission of the Board of Directors is to improve and guide the agency while making sure that the agency is reaching all the corners of our community and truly serving everyone who needs us.

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January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month!

Human trafficking is a violent act against humanity. Traffickers and purchasers of those who are victimized lack a conscience, remorse, or respect for the women, men, children, and youth who are victimized by the atrocities that occur when one is trafficked.  Each day in our Sonoma County community more victims are held hostage and so we take this month of January to honor those survivors of these crimes against humanity that have been dealt them. We use this time to heighten our community’s awareness that Verity and many community partners are committed to ending this crime and to seeing that both traffickers and purchasers are held accountable for what they have done to those they have victimized.

This year Sonoma County’s Human Trafficking Task Force is hosting film events and having billboards placed in strategic parts of our county to both heighten awareness and to bring forth discussion as to how we, as a community, can put an end to this vicious crime and support those survivors to reclaim their lives in dignity and with respect.

Did you know?

Verity  advocates have some important information about trafficking in our county to share with you:

  • Verity worked with over 40 human trafficking victims last year by providing crisis intervention, food, shelter, transportation, referrals and much more.
  • The average age for a victim be forced into the sex industry in Sonoma County is estimated to be between 12-14 years.
  • Victims are usually targeted based on vulnerability. Homelessness, experience in foster care, previous experiences of sexual or domestic violence, and younger age all play a factor in a victim’s susceptibility to being trafficked.
  • Perpetrators or “buyers” come from all walks of life and all sorts of backgrounds. Our advocates have seen engineers, bankers, brew-masters, jewelers, attorneys, photographers, marijuana growers, laborers, and others. We’ve seen married men, fathers, single men, and a son-in-law gifting purchased sex to his father-in-law.

 

See all of our graphics here.

 

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Verity’s office is closed from 12/23/17 – 1/1/18!

Verity’s office will be closed from 5 PM on Friday, December 22nd until Tuesday, January 2nd at 9 AM. 

While our staff will be taking the week off to rest and enjoy the holiday season with their loved ones, that does not mean we are not here for you. As always, our Crisis Line will be up and running, fully staffed by volunteers and staff members.

Whether you just need a person to listen to you or are having a crisis, we are here for you. Please do not hesitate to call. Our hotline is (707) 545-7273. We are here for you.

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About the Blog

Learn about what's new at Verity, announcements from our partner organizations, and ideas to help you get involved in fighting sexual violence.
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