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Veganism: A Dietary Stance Against Sexual Violence?

May 20, 2013


The food we eat varies based on a number of factors; seasonal availability, socioeconomic status, geography, religion, cultural upbringing, or based on our interests or lifestyles. As a vegan, I’ve decided to align my food choices with my morals.

Meat eating itself is culturally a very masculine act, and is as much a part of ‘being a man’ in the U.S as is competitiveness or aggression. Culturally conditioned macho and sexist behavior promotes rape culture, and meat eating no doubt plays a role in establishing one’s manliness, as meat eating is a sign of virility. Carol J. Adams wrote an entire book about the link between meat eating and sexism, titled The Sexual Politics of Meat, in which she discusses everything from the sexist language equating women to animals, to meat eating being a symbol of the patriarchal control of animals.

The production side of meat and animal products has an even more obvious and well documented tie to sexual violence. Farmworkers across the U.S, especially immigrants, are subjected to cruel working conditions and harsh abuses. While sexual violence happens on both crop and livestock operations, the worst of it emanates from work in slaughterhouses. The emotional dissonance required to be successful at killing sentient animals for a living comes with many dire consequences. In this article in Texas Observer, a worker recounts pigs – who are known to be more intelligent than the dogs many of us love and count as members of our families – that would “come up to nuzzle me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them. I can’t care.”

To deal with such trauma, workers turn to coping mechanisms such as drug and alcohol abuse, many develop PTSD, and they bring that violence home in the form of domestic and sexual violence. As Upton Sinclair wrote in The Jungle, “men who have to crack the heads of animals all day seem to get into the habit, and to practice on their friends, and even on their families”. Slaughterhouse employment has been found to increase total arrests, as well as arrests for rape, sex offenses, and other violent crimes in comparison with other comparable industries.

It’s not just meat production and consumption that is connected with sexual violence. The dairy industry – in addition to being thought the most cruel from an animal welfare perspective – is connected to sexual violence as well. Some say that consuming dairy is directly supporting rape culture, which I think is a little extreme, but I do agree that the torture we inflict on dairy cows is abhorrent; locking them up, artificially inseminating them, and immediately taking their calves away to be slaughtered for veal, all so we can consume their milk that was meant for their own babies. And the industry casually using the term “rape rack” to describe the restraining system they use to violently inseminate the cattle is desensitizing and makes light of issues of sexual violence.

People choose a vegan lifestyle for a myriad of different reasons; to take a stand against climate change and environmental destruction, to better their personal health, to support animal rights, or to support other causes they’re passionate about. Everyday we vote with our forks, and with our dollars, whether we’re aware of it or not.

If you’re interested in learning more about veganism, please check out or

By Piper, Edited by Garrett B, SVC Volunteers


Fleshing Out the Effects of Sexual Assault

June 21, 2012

by Rachel F., Sexual Violence Center Intern

As if being sexually assaulted isn’t enough, people also have to worry about their body image. In today’s society, we are bombarded by images of svelte, tanned models who happen to be blemish-free, adorned in the latest fashions. They cover every magazine, every billboard, and every city bus. It is almost impossible to escape the need of having to look picture-perfect all the time, but what happens when someone is sexually assaulted?

The assault can cause them to feel numb, disoriented, and disconnected from their body. Many people choose to wear loose, baggy clothing after an assault because they may feel as though no one will ever want them again, so why should they try to appear any other way? Other people may choose to dress extravagantly, in an attempt to cover up the damage that has been done.

Trauma is experienced not only in the mind, but in the body as well. There is more to it than just thinking about the assault; there is a physical aspect to sexual violence that causes many people to feel broken and contaminated afterwards. Taking control of someone else’s body can be a powerful way to destroy any sense of self-respect and dignity that was there before.

In order to be reconnected with the body, we need to take control of what was once ours, and let the healing process take over. It is possible to regain control of your body after a sexual assault, and one of the most important things to remember is to be patient with oneself, and with the loved ones around you. Being intimate with someone after an assault also takes time; many people feel as though they will never be able to be intimate with their loved ones again. Let your mind and body guide you through this difficult time, and try to ignore the messages that the media blatantly continues to shove in our faces. Love yourself for who you are, and what you have been through.

Find more support resources on The Survivor Manual and SVC’s website.

“We are all Miramonte!”

February 14, 2012

Excerpt from Alianza Latina en contra la Agresión Sexual (ALAS) position statement 2/10/2012, endorsed by the Sexual Violence Center

“Cultural competency is essential for all levels of sexual violence prevention. The recent travesty at Miramonte Elementary, a school nestled in a large Latin@ community, speaks loudly about our need to make this societal shift. The children of Miramonte Elementary and their families deserve healing through a community of practice approach based on credibility, intervention, response and support. These same standards of care and community engagement can be used to inform our primary prevention efforts, actions that prevent sexual violence from happening in the first place.

What happened in California will continue to happen in other states until we can truly understand the root causes of sexual violence against Latin@ communities. Like all sexual violence, the abuse of schoolchildren at Miramonte Elementary was caused by the predatory motives of individuals, preying on the vulnerability of their victims. To continue unchecked, however, sexual violence relies on cultural norms that mask perpetrators and enforce the silence and invisibility of victims. In the Miramonte case, these factors were further entrenched by anti-immigrant legislation and a history of cultural norms that support a position of ‘power over’ Latin@ communities. These factors combine to create devastating victimization:

• According to FBI statistics released last year, hate crimes against Latinos have steadily risen from 45 percent of crimes based on ethnicity committed against Latinos in 2003, to 67 percent of hate crimes committed against Latinos in 2010.
• According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), of those reported, 2,202,000 Latina women have been raped in their lifetime. 5,442,000 Latinas have experienced sexual violence, approximately 1 in 3.
• According to the UN, 70 percent of women attempting to cross the Arizona border are sexually exploited en route, and every year more than 20,000 Mexican children are victims of sex trafficking.
• According to a survey in 2010 by the Southern Poverty Law Center of 150 undocumented women immigrants employed in the food industry, intensified enforcement of immigration laws has made undocumented workers more vulnerable to workplace exploitation.

The Miramonte case is an example of how Latin@ children face additional risk factors to sexual victimization. It should also serve as a teaching point around the importance of being child advocates for early intervention when suspicions arise. While a pharmacy photo technician served as an active bystander by preventing further victimization, it took two decades for formal charges to be made, after students alerted school officials of questionable behavior of Mark Bernt. This delay in intervention powerfully illustrates just how vulnerable Latin@ children can be for abuse, re-victimization and undetected or dismissed abuse, factors of a code of silence that feeds a system of power imbalance in educational settings and in the larger society.”

The full position paper can be viewed here in English and Spanish.

Smoking A Little Weed Isn’t That Bad, Is It?

January 25, 2012

by Pamela Zeller, Executive Director, Sexual Violence Center

In the United States, the discussion continues as to whether or not marijuana is really harmful or should be classified along with other illegal drugs. These debates take place in living rooms, council chambers and university classrooms. It is quite privileged and civilized. What does not enter the discussion is what is happening in developing countries as a result of the drug trade to feed the insatiable appetite for illegal chemical substances in the U.S.

The drug trade has many casualties. “According to the United Nations, Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate, with more than 82 murders per 100,000 people last year. By comparison, Mexico, where more than 45,000 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderon deployed the military against the cartels there five years ago, has a murder rate of 18 per 100,000 and the US 4.8.” (

The other casualties of the drug trade are the thousands of children, women and men who are sexually assaulted when crossing over into the U.S., the “ticket price” from the drug cartels for safe passage. The drug cartels have evolved over the past ten years to a highly organized crime syndicate that also traffics in children and women for use as sex slaves in brothels, camps, pornography, street prostitution and pedophile rings.

So the next time you see someone light up, make sure to tell them to wash the blood off of their hands first.

Click here for more information and resources about sex trafficking.

Bystanders Can “Do Something”!

January 18, 2012

by Christina M., Sexual Violence Center Volunteer

Prevention is a mixed bag of tricks, from “reductionist” strategies for victims to preaching to would-be perpetrators to mandatory arrest laws. All these prevention strategies have had mixed and dubious results. But I’ve got to let the cat out of the bag. There’s a new prevention strategy that has some real power. It’s called Green Dot and it’s all focused on bystander action.

Bystander action is a fancy term for all the people who witness or have privy information into the lives of victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. For every person that is sexually assaulted, there are at least three “bystanders” to this crime: family, coworkers, friends, and even strangers in some cases. When your coworker comes to work with a black eye (and not from a bar fight), you are a bystander to sexual violence. When your child refuses to be babysat by the neighbor, you might be a bystander to the red flags of child sexual abuse. A red dot happens in the time it takes to raise one’s hand against a partner’s face. There is so such thing as neutrality. Not doing anything about it is just as good as encouragement.

Bystander action is not about policing people’s lives; rather, it’s about having a sense of shared responsibility and intolerance to violence. You cannot do everything, but everyone can do something. “Something” could mean educating yourself about the signs of child sexual abuse and encouraging your children to share with you if they don’t feel safe. “Something” could mean checking in with your friend about their new relationship. “Something” could mean watching out for your friends at a college party or club. “Something” could mean publicly expressing your beliefs about consensual sex!

If a red dot is every time that a moment of power-based personal violence occurs (an emotional and physical trauma), then a green dot is every time we prevent a red dot from occurring or intervene. Imagine where red dots are occurring in your community: everywhere. If we can eliminate red dots one green dot at a time, we can change the culture of sexual violence. If we all, as bystanders to a great number of lives, stand up with a word, action or belief of intolerance to violence, then haven’t we changed something about norms of violence? At the heart of it, green dots are all about changing social norms of violence and respect. No more will we stand neutrally and watch as our communities are silently destroyed by sexual violence.

The Sexual Violence Center is educating communities about Green Dot. Learn more here.

Working With Teens

January 11, 2012

by Cassie C., Sexual Violence Center Volunteer

Take a moment and think about a teen that you know. Research has shown that their social lives mean a great deal to pre-teens and teenagers, and their self-esteem is often dependent on the approval of their peers and adults. Sometimes it may feel like they make a big deal out of nothing. Just remember, what may seem like a trivial issue to you is not trivial to teens!

Now imagine that this young person has also dealt with a sexual assault. Knowing all of the different ways that sexual violence can affect a person, can you imagine how complex and painful dealing with an assault would be on top of raging hormones, developing brains and bodies, and overwhelming social structures?

Working with teens who are dealing with a sexual assault can bring on challenges of a different nature. Adolescents’ brains are not yet fully developed (usually not until ages 17-21), so it may be more challenging for them to think critically about their situation. Their social circles are essential to their lives, so be prepared to address ways for them to deal with social pressures and related stressors.

Depending on an adolescent’s childhood, home life, and/or social setting, it can be very difficult to get him/her/they to trust you enough to accept your help. It’s well worth your effort (beyond helping someone work through a sexual assault) – young people benefit when they have supportive adults to talk to outside of their families. Just remember, stay calm and be open – working with teens can be incredibly rewarding!

Here are some links to some great providers of free/low-cost services to teens in the Twin Cities:
Sexual Violence Center
West Suburban Teen Clinic
Annex Teen Clinic
Trans Youth Support Network
The Bridge for Youth

“Stalking Your Ex? There’s An App For That.”

January 4, 2012

by Shereen Reda, Prevention Program Coordinator, Sexual Violence Center

I don’t know about you, but I can’t seem to function without my phone or computer. I freak out when I can’t access my e-mail, or when a call is dropped, or the computer freezes. It says a lot about how much I (we all?) rely on technology to stay organized, keep in touch, and essentially, to make life easier. It also shows me how my (our?) expectations have changed. It’s no longer the standard for a website to take 30 seconds to load, to have a dial-up internet connection, to not own a cell phone or have an e-mail address. Knowledge grows, technologies diversify, products improve, and we get used to “the new normal”.

In essence, we become desensitized. It’s the nature of humanity, and perhaps of growth and progress. When something no longer has the same effect, or something faster/stronger/simpler/whatever is introduced, we move on and we don’t really think much about it, until one day, we look back and realize that something’s changed (what ever happened to video cassettes anyway?).

Here’s what scares me: what else have we just, consciously or unconsciously, come to accept as normal? There’s now an understanding that you can learn about any topic by going online; that you can track your location with the use of GPS; that your phone knows your family’s phone numbers better than you do; and that we store so much of our lives in our technologies that if that technology was somehow compromised, we’d be well, out of luck frankly.

I recently came across a parodied iPhone commercial (view it here), and it got me thinking. From what I’ve mentioned above, as technology diversifies, as we store more of ourselves into hardware and software, the personal risk and exposure increases. Things designed to connect us more don’t always make it clear who is connecting. I’m not meaning for this to perpetuate fear or anything. I think it’s just the reality of the situation, and as consumers and citizens, we should inform ourselves. Google your own name. See how easy it is to find out about someone. I looked myself up and found my full address, age, relatives of the same last name – just to name a few things, all available online…creepy.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month in the US. 1 in 4 stalking victims reported that some form of technology was used to stalk them. Some things you can do to protect yourself are to know your privacy settings, emergency phone numbers, state laws, and local resources. Click here for some more great information.

How much do you know about stalking? Take this quiz to find out – you might be surprised by the results.