Spotlight: Melody Chow

Melody is a recent graduate of our Primary Prevention & Education training. Read her take on the great work she is doing with SARC!

Teaching has always been a passion of mine. While studying as a film major in college, I mentored several students on media production and theory. It was a joy to watch them expand their worldview and creative expression, and heartening to know that I had a positive impact on their education.

When I heard that SARC has a prevention education branch, I jumped at the chance to get involved. Over these past few weeks, I’ve been training with Jenna Harper and several PSU graduate students to become an instructor in high schools. Our job will be to present lessons about healthy relationships, communication, pornography, and media. Subjects like oppression were particularly eye-opening to me; although I was incredibly aware of the patriarchal, white-centric society in which we live, I didn’t have the words to express those conditions in an articulate manner. This training has given me those words.MelodyNewsletterPhoto

The cultivation of perpetration begins in childhood. Children are surrounded by a culture that encourages female objectification and victim blaming. They are taught at a young age that it’s okay to kiss someone without their consent because it’s “romantic” and that coercion is a viable means of communication. As educators, we can interrupt his destructive messaging and discuss the “why” behind these misconceptions. As we spark those conversations, students can come to their own conclusions about what it means to be an equal partner in a relationship and how they can rethink rape culture.

My first day of teaching is coming up quick and I couldn’t be more excited (and a little nervous). The lessons we will teach are so vital, and I hope that the students will be able to take our words to heart and fight perpetration.

How do we hold Charlottesville in a larger context?

It has been almost three weeks since the white supremacist acts of terrorism in Charlottesville, VA. We are still angered, saddened, afraid, and exhausted, but not surprised. Mostly because events like Neo-Nazi marches in Virginia have been happening across the country, including in Oregon, for a long time.

Surprise at Charlottesville suggests that violent acts of racism, anti-Semitism, and islamophobia (just to name a few) are new in the United States. In reality, our history is filled with the stories of Emmett Till, Craig Anderson, Philando Castille, and so many more who deserve to be named.

These news stories are usually treated as horrifying individual incidents. As a culture, at first we react strongly, but after several weeks we grow ambivalent, especially if we think we are not personally affected. In reality, incidents of hatred and prejudice are all connected. Woven together, they create the larger fabric of our society. We cannot separate white supremacist attacks in Virginia from the 18 murders of transgender people over the last eight months. In the same way that we cannot separate the Portland MAX attack from the acts of sexual violence perpetrated every day in our country.

At their core, these actions dehumanize people who are usually already marginalized by our society. They inflate and protect the power of the perpetrators of violence. They reinforce the dynamics of power and control that have been at play since our nation’s founding, and before.

To those in our communities who continue to feel threatened by these events, we want to say that we hear you, and that we are here to support you.

Actively working against violence and bigotry should be a priority for every person. We all have the opportunity to influence change. To those who don’t feel like these issues impact them, we want to show you that they do. They impact your neighbors, community members, friends, and friends of friends. They impact children, who look towards adults to learn their self worth and how to interact with the world around them. They impact all of us in ways we cannot necessarily see or feel.

These stories don’t just happen on the news. Prejudices exist around us every day. The more we interrupt oppression in our daily lives, the more accountable we hold people in our communities to the value of humanity and the demand for universal human rights.

Taking action takes courage and humility. If you want to get involved but are not sure where to start, here are some suggestions how:

June Spotlight: Fair Housing Council Bus Tour

In May, SARC staff participated in the Fair Housing Council Bus Tour of Portland: Fasten Your Seat Belts…It’s Been A Bumpy Ride. Over the four-hour journey, the guides explore how Oregon’s history of social and political discrimination impacts our communities today. Oregon’s viciously racist history is often easy to ignore, especially when we do not have representations of our past confronting us regularly in our present.

The City of Vanport, aptly named for sitting neatly between Portland and Vancouver, led the Oregon in racial integration. Hastily constructed to house laborers flocking from other parts of the country to work in Oregon shipyards, Vanport was home to integrated schools, grocery stores, a fire department, a college, and more. Though imperfect, the Vanport community existed in stark contrast to the rest of the state, steeped in violent roots of social, cultural, and political racism.

On May 30, 1948, a flood decimated Vanport, displacing 40,000 people (40% of whom were black), while public officials remained largely unresponsive. The city was never reconstructed, and 40,000 people never went home. Today, tucked quietly off the road leading into what was formerly Vanport stands an information board about the cities history. And a golf course.

Those who ride the MAX to the Portland Expo Center may notice the beautiful traditional Japanese-inspired gates on the boarders of the parking lot. Many don’t see the gates at all. Some who do see the gates remain unaware of their purpose as a memorial for the over 3,600 Japanese Americans incarcerated in Portland’s concentration camp during World War II. Before the Expo Center, the land was used for animal corrals. Almost overnight, the corrals were turned into barracks, as Japanese families, children, and adults were forced into the camp. Portland became the first city to fully incarcerate its entire Japanese population, and boasted about its accomplishment nationally.

The list could go on and on with examples. The take-away is that for those with privilege, for many of us on that bus, and for many of us who do this work, it can still be too easy to be surprised, and can feel too comfortable to believe our history is not shaping our present.

Fair Housing Council battles the effects of that history daily. If you are interested in fighting housing discrimination in Portland, see what you can do to help.

Showing Up For Pride

June is Pride month for LGBTQIA+ communities and allies!

Vibrant celebrations, parades, dance parties, and rainbow tutus can be joyous celebrations of queer communities. At the same time, corporate sponsorships and commercial exploitation can often render large-scale Pride events void of the activism and resilience that started Pride in the first place. Events like the Stonewall Rebellion, often led by queer people of color responding to police brutality, raids of queer spaces, and general injustice and prejudice.

That injustice and prejudice continues through today. We honored the one-year anniversary of the Orlando Pulse attack. Every day at SARC we are aware that sexual violence against and within queer communities presents unique barriers to accessing services, healing, and justice.

The Center for Disease Control’s National Intimate Partner Sexual Violence Survey gathered data on sexual violence against LGBTQ individuals. Unsurprisingly, trans women of color experience higher rates of sexual violence, often as early as childhood. Similarly, bisexual women and men face alarmingly higher rates of sexual violence and intimate partner violence. These are just some findings that reflect the reality of sexual violence against queer individuals.

So while SARC celebrates Pride with joy and determined optimism, we also recognize the inequities queer communities face on a daily basis. As an agency, our staff and volunteers are both members and allies of these communities. Our services reflect that. We stand by LGBTQIA+ survivors every day, providing space that is welcoming, safe, and empowering.

If you or someone you know if seeking services following a sexual assault, call our support line, 503-640-5311, or visit our Services webpage.

Promoting Advocacy for Survivors – Senate Bill 795


Steps are being taken to ensure survivors of sexual violence are provided advocacy services when receiving medical attention following an assault.

On April 25th, Senate Bill 795 passed the Oregon Senate 29-0. The bill would oblige medical staff and law enforcement to contact an advocate when survivors of sexual assault seek medical services. The bill would reinforce best practices, allowing advocates to introduce their services to survivors, and giving survivors the choice to have an advocate present, or not.

The bill reads:

“Requires medical assessment provider or law enforcement officer to contact victim advocate and make reasonable efforts to ensure that victim advocate is present and available at medical facility.”

Seeking services following an assault or undergoing a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam can be extremely difficult. It takes incredible strength to go through a process that is often both emotionally and physically invasive. Victim advocates are trained to provide confidential emotional support, validation, information, and options to survivors, to help them navigate that experience.

In a culture where the importance of emotional welfare and trauma-informed response still struggles to gain widespread popularity and acceptance, laws like SB 795 are immensely important. While reactions like blame, shame, invalidation, and lack of support actually increase trauma for survivors, it should be no surprise that interfacing with empathetic, trauma-informed services can help mitigate the negative effects of trauma. Yet, advocacy response is still not standard, particularly outside of larger metro areas, such as Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties.

In Washington County, SARC has a growing community of volunteer advocates who are compassionate, kind, and ready to provide support and resources. Advocacy services similar to SARC exist throughout the state. Our work, together with many sexual assault and domestic violence agencies, continues to push for an end to sexual violence. Supporting bills such as SB 795 directly influences that mission.

So, what can you do?

Call your House Representatives and show your support for this bill. Ask them if they plan to vote “yes.” Let your elected representatives know how this bill impacts you or others.
Then call your Senators and thank them for voting “yes.”
Support the Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force, for helping create and promote legislation that supports survivors.

> Track the progress of SB 795

Contact your Oregon State House & Senate elected officials using the links below:
> Oregon State Representatives
> Oregon State Senators

Want to Become an advocate? Please see our application.

Photo credit: @Jasperdo, Flickr

Sexual Assault Does Not Happen In A Vacuum

Sexual Assault Does Not Happen In A Vacuum

This year continues to fly by as we head into April, and with so much going on locally and nationally, it’s not surprising things are moving quickly. This month, as we honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month and celebrate SARC’s 40th anniversary, we want to continue to voice our belief that the work we do around sexual assault cannot be treated as a vacuum issue, separate and unaffected by social and political dynamics.

The list of topics swirling around public discourse in our country seems endless, including immigration, climate change, environmentalism, sexism, sexual assault, systemic racism, transphobia, white supremacy, LGBTQIA rights, and much more. Part of doing work to end sexual violence means accepting that all of these issues interact with each other on multiple levels every minute of every day. That is because as people, we each experience and view the world through a kaleidoscope of unique identities and histories. Furthermore, the systems built around us, like government, healthcare, and capitalism, impact all of those identities differently.

SARC operates with the knowledge that sexual assault can happen to anyone, but that it does not happen to everyone equally. Research shows us over and over again that sexual assaults disproportionately occur against women, people of color, LGBTQIA individuals, undocumented immigrants, the elderly, people with disabilities, women in the military, the incarcerated, and people who struggle with financial or housing insecurity. Similarly, changes in local and federal legislation have the potential to disproportionately impact the same vulnerable populations.

Healthcare & Intersectionality

When it comes to prevention, SARC knows that education is key, as is access to resources. While prevention education helps stop would-be perpetrators from ever perpetrating in the first place, access to resources helps make individuals less vulnerable to exploitation and assault, since we know perpetrators often target those who are marginalized in society. Access to employment, culturally responsive healthcare, insurance, housing, schools, and other benefits increases one’s capacity to lead a safe and healthy life. Lately, a major issue regarding access to resources is health care coverage.

Nationally, threats to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) indicate threats to the wellbeing of our community members. Under the ACA, 30 million women gained copay-free access to preventative healthcare, including contraception, domestic violence screening and counseling, postpartum support services, depression screening, and more. Members of LGBTQIA communities were guaranteed protection from discrimination based on identity, orientation, or HIV status. The expansion of Medicaid in most states increased eligibility for coverage for millions more low-income households and individuals, although significant gaps still exist in gaining coverage for all people across income brackets.

As we advocate improving rather than rolling back our federal healthcare laws, we must also look to local government to guarantee protections. House Bill 2232 was recently introduced to the Oregon legislature to provide comprehensive reproductive health care for Oregonians. The bill requires insurers in the state to cover reproductive health services including contraception, STI screenings, prenatal care, and much more. It also protects against gender identity discrimination with language that would, for example, bar insurers from refusing to cover gynecological exams for transgender or gender-nonconforming individuals.

You can track HB 2232’s status here. While we wait for it to be debated and voted on, remember you have the power to reach out to your representatives! Having affordable access and autonomy to make health decisions about our bodies is part of the fight to end sexual violence. It sends the message that all bodies are equal, that bodies have rights, that our bodies are ours.

To learn more about how healthcare impacts women in Oregon specifically, check out the Women’s Foundation of Oregon’s intersectional analysis of the issue.

Healthcare is a great example of how current national issues tie directly to SARC’s work in ways that may not always be obvious. We want to celebrate intersectionality, and be conscious of the ways it influences our work. Recognizing our blindspots with humility and actively addressing them is the only way to make sure we are serving the needs of everyone who may need us.

Identities can be complex, but the bottom line is simple: sexual violence is inexcusable and preventable. The movement to end sexual violence is all of ours. We’ll work from different approaches and perspectives to address it, but we need your help.

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Lobbying to Protect VAWA

Lobbying to Protect VAWA

Among many notable national events since the assumption of power by the new White House administration, such as the recent immigration and refugee ban, the reinstatement and amplification of the global gag rule, threats to strip Sanctuary Cities and States of federal funding, also comes a threat to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Since its authorization in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has had an immense impact onFile_006 our country’s ability to address issues around sexual assault, intimate partner violence, domestic violence, and stalking. Thanks to continued bipartisan reauthorizations, countless numbers of services and resources for survivors across the country are made possible through VAWA. Eliminating or even reducing VAWA’s federal funds would directly reduce resources for and the safety of survivors.

To threaten VAWA funding is to threaten the lives of women and their families everywhere. With recent research showing that one million Oregon women and girls experience sexual or domestic violence, one of the highest rates in the nation, SARC’s work could not be more relevant.

VAWA helps fund a variety of SARC programs and services, including our 24 hour Support Line, providing in-person advocacy response and over-the-phone support to survivors in Washington County day and night. VAWA also funds our work with the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, implementing measures from the Prison Rape Elimination Act. SARC’s ability to provide on-going confidential Case Management and Mental Health services to survivors free of charge would be severely impacted, should VAWA be cut or diminished. Agencies like SARC not only provide resources and support to survivors, but also educate our communities on issues surrounding sexual violence. We provide training and education to local Law Enforcement agencies, medical professionals, high school students, and more, with the ultimate goal of reducing rates of sexual violence overall.

Beyond the human and moral imperative of VAWA funded resources, the economic benefit of these programs is substantial. Oregon may already be facing a $1.4 billion deficit, so the prospect of losing federal funding for our local services, thereby putting additional burdens on our state budget, will have a great negative impact. The current costs incurred by survivors as a result of rape is estimated to be a total of $127 billion dollars nationally, a number that would only rise should VAWA be stripped. In fact, another study cited in the same article estimated that VAWA funded programs save $14.8 billion in victimization costs, while the act itself only amounts for $1.6 billion in federal spending.

VAWA costs only $15.50 per woman in the US but saves $159 per woman in the US.

So what can you do? Use your voice, your hands, your influence! Use these links below to call and write your representatives to advocate for VAWA. Whenever possible show up in-person to let your elected representatives know that you feel this is critical funding to stand-up for.

Here are links for our House & Senate elected officials:

Oregon State Representatives
> Oregon State Senators
> U.S. State Representatives
> U.S. Senators

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