When the Abuser is Female and the Victim is Male…

When a woman is accused of or arrested for domestic violence, many minds may go to one thought: she’s crazy. Unintentionally and subconsciously, this word often comes to mind. Why is that?


We have many myths and stereotypes about female perpetrators of violence and about male victims. We tend to chalk female violence up to the “crazy girlfriend” syndrome; we don’t see the perpetrator the same way we’d see a male perpetrator. We may not think about the abuse as a calculated, manipulated choice to maintain power and control in the relationship, even though that is what it is. It tends to seem more unexpected, more erratic, and even more shocking.

With TV shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, we depict women as the psycho-but-cute stalkers and laugh at the lengths they go to in order to get their love interest’s attention. Except it’s not funny; it’s harmful and scary. And don’t get me wrong; I think the writing is hilarious, but the premise is what’s problematic. If we made the main character a male in that show, all of a sudden it becomes “Oh my gosh that’s so creepy” but since it’s a quirky, cute girl, we find it amusing.

In reality, we should think of female perpetrators no differently than male perpetrators. Abuse is abuse, regardless of gender.

Take the case of actress Heather Locklear, for example. Or Emma Roberts.

In the same vein that we treat female perpetrators differently, we also treat male victims very differently. There are many harmful stereotypes that create a hostile culture of intense victim blaming, shame, and disbelief towards male victims of abuse.

There are attitudes that men should be able to “take care of themselves”, which roots back to our rigid gender roles we’ve embedded since the day they arrived in a little blue blanket. I have no doubt that many men and women alike can absolutely take care of themselves, but there is 100% nothing weak about acknowledging that you’re being abused or asking for help. And it is never the victim’s fault.

We hold these harmful stereotypes for men that ultimately silence many male survivors of both domestic violence and sexual assault. We need to hold space for all survivors to feel safe, believed, and supported. When Terry Crews came forward about being sexually assaulted, many people were shocked due to his stature and physique, assuming it couldn’t happen to a “guy like him”. But you can be the strongest, toughest, and most educated person and you’re still never at fault for being abused and deserve to be heard just like every other survivor.

We can begin to change the way we treat male victims and female perpetrators by shifting our language around gender roles and expectations. Instead of defining strength as not expressing emotion, we can define it as the opposite. In my opinion, it takes a lot more strength to open up and talk about your feelings and experiences than to hold it all inside. We can also challenge the harmful stereotypes about both men and women that we see in movies and TV, or in our everyday lives.

Do your part and stop the hurt.


Airline Employee Saves Teenage Girls from Possible Human Trafficking

“I wouldn’t let anything happen that I didn’t want,” says a teenage girl who was contacted by a man on Instagram who bought her and her friend first class, one-way tickets to New York from California to model and act in a music video for $2,000. The airline employee speaking with these girls knew something wasn’t quite right.

Denise Miracle, pictured below thanks to NBC News, saw all the signs pointing to a potential human trafficking situation. You can read more about what happened here. This employee used her instincts and training to identify a potentially exploitative situation, and we can only hope that all airline employees would do the same. All airline employees should be trained on how to spot human trafficking.

american airline employee

Denise Miracle with Deputy Todd Sanderson. Image credit to NBC News.

The obvious signs were: two unsupervised teenagers with no identification, small bags that Miracle described as looking “as if they were running away from home”, and flying first class with tickets they did not purchase, but rather those tickets were purchased by a man who claimed to offer them a job modeling and acting in a music video. The girls were also completely unaware that their tickets were only one-way. All of these signs mixed with Miracle’s gut instinct that something seemed off were enough for her to contact the authorities and refuse to let the girls board their flight. She truly could have saved their lives by doing so.

The promise of a modeling job in this situation is an example of one of the recruitment tactics traffickers use to lure youth into trafficking called fraud. They offer false promises, like a modeling job, and ultimately trap them into a life they did not expect or ask for.

It is not uncommon for the girls to think they would be in control and not “let” anything happen that they did not want to happen. Most victims and survivors of trafficking want to believe they are and always have been in control, because that was the first thing taken away from them. It’s natural for someone in that position to feel defensive or deny that they were ever in any danger because I think we would all like to believe we can take care of ourselves no matter what.

But what Deputy Todd Sanderson said to them was absolutely accurate: they could be the strongest and smartest and toughest people in the world, but once in that situation, they wouldn’t have had a choice as to what happened to them and it would not have been their fault.

It is so vital that we are teaching children at young ages how to spot these potentially harmful and exploitative people and situations. If we give teens the tools, they can recognize the red flags and hopefully protect themselves and their friends from being caught up in a situation before it is too late.

One of those tools is online safety; traffickers go where youth are, and where youth are the most are their social media accounts. We need to teach youth how to be safe on social media, and parents need to have ongoing conversations with their children about online safety.

Red flags to look out for online are: excessively complimenting them & offering to buy or send gifts, disregarding their boundaries, a significant age gap, attempting to isolate them from friends and family or insulting/putting down their friends and family, insisting on keeping them a secret, and like we saw in this situation, offering a job or a better life.

Traffickers also don’t always look like the stereotypical trafficker, as I mentioned in my previous post. They can be as young as high school students or as old as their grandparents. They know exactly what to say and how to say it to befriend and manipulate youth.

But the responsibility to prevent trafficking should not be on victims and their parents. We need to hold buyers more accountable because without the demand, there will be less supply. We need to teach youth that being a pimp or a trafficker is not cool or their only option if they are in that type of environment, and that bodies are not commodities that can be sold. We need to pair our risk reduction techniques and advice for youth and parents with stricter laws on human trafficking and exploitation to continue to keep our youth safe.

The Super Bowl Means it’s Time to Talk About Domestic Violence…Again.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The Super Bowl is upon us. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about domestic violence in the NFL.

Ezekiel Elliott, Roy Miller, Michael Bowie, Tramaine Brock, Will Parks, Ethan Westbrooks, Montee Ball, Johnny Manziel, Justin Cox, and many more have been accused, convicted, or charged with domestic violence over the past couple of years. Many were released from their team as a result.

“We’re going to show everyone that we’re going to take the hottest young Dallas Cowboy, the young star who’s risen all the way up to No. 2 on the list of merchandise sales to Tom Brady, and we’re going to take him down for six games just to show the world how serious we are about domestic violence.” said Roger Goodell about Ezekiel Elliott.

Many coaches and teams are taking a stand against these acts of violence. We have come a long way in the past few years since Ray Rice. If you noticed in the last two Super Bowls, there have been PSA’s about domestic and sexual violence from NO MORE. The NFL has taken a rapidly different response to domestic violence and it has been quite an improvement from the last few years. Before, it took physical evidence (like a video recording of someone getting knocked unconscious) for the NFL to take action. Now, accusations are enough to believe the victim and take action against the perpetrator.


This is a powerful shift in our attitudes about how we treat victims and survivors. This shift is due to the many conversations that campaigns like No More have begun about domestic and sexual violence.

Despite that long list of names of NFL players who have committed these acts of violence, most men are not violent. Many NFL players have started to use their voice to stand up against the violence and set a positive example for the youth that admire them. Nonviolent men need to continue to set these examples and have these conversations with younger men to show that violence is not a part of a healthy relationship and that one’s status as an athlete or celebrity does not permit or defend these acts.

When we all begin to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, believe survivors when they come forward, and be role models for healthy relationships in our own lives, we are contributing to an end to this abuse. Do your part and stop the hurt. And happy puppy bowl to those who don’t follow football!


Our Modern Day Slavery

As Human Trafficking Awareness Month comes to an end, I want to dedicate a post to talking about this international epidemic we face. Typically, when someone thinks about human trafficking, they either picture one of two things: people being sold in third world countries or trafficking people across the border. Although both of these things do happen, they are not what we’re talking about when we are talking about human trafficking in the US. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on sex trafficking, but I will definitely revisit the topic to discuss labor trafficking at a later date.

Human trafficking, when individuals are sold in exchange for something of value, happens right here in the United States. In your state, possibly even in your town or city. It happens to US citizens and non-US citizens. It’s happening right in front of us, and if it seems invisible, you may just not be looking hard enough. In fact, there is a spa down the street from where I am writing this post at my desk that has been shut down multiple times for trafficking and manages to reopen every time. In fact, just last year, three men were arrested in my town for facilitating a trafficking ring for over 20 years, exploiting young men with addiction and mental health issues.

These victims are the voiceless, the innocent, the silenced.

human trafficking

When you think of a pimp, you may envision a man wearing a purple suit, a big hat with a feather in it, gold chains, gold teeth, driving a souped up Cadillac. In reality, pimps and traffickers can look like just about any average person you cross on the street. They are men, women, teenagers, any race, any ethnicity, grandmothers, pastors, in the military, and the list goes on.

Pimps and traffickers are master manipulators. They know exactly what to say and how to say it to lure victims into “the life”. They will approach a teen who just ran away from home after being abused or molested and say, “I will give you a better life”. They promise to take care of them and offer them whatever it is that they are missing or lacking in their life. They will gain their trust and their love. Then, they will completely use it against them; they will manipulate, coerce, or force them into trafficking.

Another common misconception about human trafficking is that all victims are held against their will in some type of cage or locked up in some way. And if they aren’t somehow held against their will, then they can leave anytime they want. In many cases victims may not be physically held against their will, but that does not mean that they are free. That freedom that others assume they can easily obtain if they are “able” to walk away comes at a price, sometimes as steep as their life.

Traffickers seek to exploit individuals’ vulnerabilities: someone who has low self esteem, is lonely, is depressed, has family troubles, has a history of trauma, has a disability, is addicted to drugs or is experimenting with drugs, is seeking acceptance, is seeking love. Reading this right now, I’m sure you can name at least one person, if not more, in your life that has one of those vulnerabilities. Meaning, anyone is vulnerable, but in particular the most vulnerable are youth.

I could write about this issue for days, but for the sake of this being a relatively introductory post, I am going to end here with one final thought to leave you with. I titled this post “Our Modern Day Slavery” because that is exactly what human trafficking is. I hope that alarms you because it is extremely alarming. This is an emergency. And you can help to end it.

For more information on human trafficking and what you can do, please visit https://polarisproject.org/


Nassar’s Sentence: The Ultimate Olympic Win

Earlier this week, Larry Nassar, former sports physician was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after hundreds of girls and women came forward with allegations of sexual abuse over the past couple of decades.

larry nassar

There have been so many stories about sexual harassment and sexual assault in the media lately (see my previous post for my take on the media coverage of this) and with it an overwhelming sense of injustice. Well, we finally have some justice in the case of Larry Nassar. He sexually abused over 150 injured Olympic athletes for decades and although I wish we could take back all of the pain and suffering they endured, hopefully his sentencing gives back some of the power he took away from them.

“We, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing,” Raisman said.

One of the biggest themes we’ve heard about sexual abuse in major industries is the abuse of power. Sexual violence and any type of interpersonal violence is rooted in power and control. These are the two major motivators for these types of behaviors; the perpetrator consciously and intentionally abuses someone for the purpose of maintaining this power and control. It is not a misunderstanding, an innocent mistake, or a reactive behavior. It is on purpose and it is a choice.

Powerful figures have been using their status and entitlement to abuse, assault, blackmail, manipulate, and dominate their victims. In this case of girls that were in many ways very literally vulnerable, he used his authority as their doctor to take advantage of them.

It is unfortunate when systems of power also protect those who perpetrate this abuse. We have heard far too many stories (ie: The Hunting Grounds, It Happened Here, Spotlight) of universities, faith institutions, Hollywood, and other large institutions dismissing allegations, denying victims’ rights, and silencing survivors. This is not uncommon but many institutions are doing their part in taking sexual violence seriously and doing all they can to protect those who need protecting: the survivors, not the perpetrators.

A wonderful chain reaction of the #MeToo movement has been a push for companies, large and small, all over the country to enforce stronger policies on sexual harassment in the workplace. Hopefully, we can see even more support for these strong policies against sexual violence in major sports leagues, universities, faith communities, and elsewhere.

Another wonderful chain reaction of the #MeToo movement has been an increase in survivors sharing their stories; 156 girls and women testified against Larry Nassar. 156. One hundred fifty six. 156! That is an incredible form of bravery. That is a bravery that is not going to go away. If anything, that bravery is reverberating throughout the world to support other survivors to FINALLY hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. No more silence.

If you have ever experienced sexual abuse, it is not your fault and you are not alone. Justice looks different for every survivor, but know that you have the right to feel safe wherever you are. And at least in this case, we won something even greater than a gold medal. Keep on fighting, survivors. I’m with you.


More Reports, More Awareness

With all of the recent reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the media lately, you almost can’t read the news without hearing about yet another celebrity, politician, or public figure committing these acts of violence and abuse.

So far, there’s been Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Senator Al Franken, Danny Masterson, Russel Simmons, and Dustin Hoffman, to name just a few accused of sexual misconduct in the past few months.

Time Magazine recently named Person of the Year to the “Silence Breakers”, the victims and survivors of these acts who have come forward. This year, the #MeToo movement created a ripple effect of disclosures and shared experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault. This movement highlights the fact that these acts of abuse and violence are not uncommon or few and far in between.


Much of the conversation around #MeToo and the reports of sexual misconduct coming out revolve around the comparison between sexual harassment behaviors and sexual assault. Many people feel as though these two behaviors should not be lumped together, and that sexual harassment is not as big of a deal as sexual assault. This belief, however, is a part of the problem.

Sexual harassment is violating and harmful all on its own. If we ignore it, though, it can and often does escalate into sexual violence. For example: someone who catcalls others probably believes those people should be treated like objects, but are never told that this is harmful since it is so common and normalized. Now they go from catcalling to grabbing or groping, yet no one tells them this is harmful because it “happens all the time”. So, next time, they take it a step further and assault someone because they feel entitled since they view these people as objects in the first place.

I’m not saying that everyone who catcalls is going to sexually assault others, of course. This is also not to say that in the eyes of the law we should view lewd comments and rape as the same crime. Regardless of the severity of the accusations these celebrities and public figures face, all of these actions are harmful. Some may be viewed as more harmful than others, but they are all still harmful nonetheless.

However, there is a connection between sexual harassment and sexual assault. Like with Harvey Weinstein, for example. If people took sexual harassment as seriously as sexual assault when he was initially harassing many of the women that came forward, then maybe those survivors who were victimized by him could have been helped long before his actions escalated to sexual violence. We need to hold individuals accountable from the moment we see behaviors that objectify, demean, or otherwise oppress a group of people. Our words and our beliefs often become our attitudes and actions.

More reports of sexual harassment or sexual assault do not necessarily mean it’s happening any more than it was previously. It means that victims feel safer reporting or talking about it. It also means there is an increased awareness on what these issues really look like. A more fine-tuned definition of these behaviors help victims and survivors actually identify what happened to them and holds the space for them to come forward.

ALL survivors deserve to be heard, believed, and supported.


Halloween Don’ts

Happy Domestic Violence Awareness Month! As DVAM comes to an end, I want to dedicate a post to everyone’s favorite day of the month: Halloween.

Halloween is an awesome opportunity to make a fool of ourselves and dress as our favorite  food items, Game of Thrones characters, or “laundry” (that last one is my favorite). Unfortunately, it is also a time that is sometimes used to poke fun at sensitive and important issues such as abuse.

Costumes such as the ones depicted above are not funny or being used to raise awareness about these very serious and dangerous acts of violence. Rather, they are used to poke fun at, demean, and dismiss domestic and sexual violence. This is not okay.

Domestic and sexual violence are issues that affect individuals and communities everywhere. When we contribute to a culture that continues to joke about, dismiss, deny, or reject the abuse through costumes like this, we are further silencing survivors rather than supporting them.

This Halloween, be critical of costumes that contribute to this culture of violence. Some individuals use costumes as an opportunity to take a stand against issues, or to raise awareness about them. Engage in conversations about why domestic violence and sexual assault are issues we should take seriously. And remember that no one’s costume is an invitation for unwanted sexual attention or behavior. No one ever asks or deserves to be abused or assaulted in any way.

I hope you all have a fun, and most importantly safe, Halloween! Always remember to do your part to stop the hurt.


The Courtroom Doesn’t Always Have the Final Say

“If a judge finds me innocent, then there should be no reason why the university should take any unfair or unjust action against me,” he said. 

A USC student who was arrested for sexual assault’s case was dismissed after a judge ruled video footage from earlier in the night as consent. The case was dismissed regardless of the fact that the victim was intoxicated and admitted to the hospital shortly after, where she was deemed “nearly unconscious when she arrived,”  and her roommate described her as “passed out” when she saw his naked body on top of hers. It was dismissed regardless of the fact that consent can be withdrawn at any time (the video footage was taken long before any sexual contact began) and footage of individuals interacting with each other does not equal consent to sexual activity.

The judge in this case may have ruled this encounter consensual, but USC’s Title IX Coordinator and office are continuing their investigation for a reason. And regardless of their ultimate decision, let’s get one thing clear: innocence is not guaranteed by way of case dismissal. Far too many cases of domestic abuse and sexual assault are thrown out, dismissed, or result in a not-guilty verdict, but that does not mean the abuse or assault did not occur. Yes, some individuals are falsely accused and are hopefully -rightfully- expunged of their accusation when such a case goes to trial. And it’s terrible when this happens. But this is rare. Very rare. As rare as mostly every other crime where false accusations are made. About 2-8% of cases.

In opposition to the disturbing lyrics of Robin Thicke, consent cannot be blurred. Consent is actually very simple. If someone is impaired, unconscious, passed out, or any other variation of the sort: consent is not possible. The judge ruling consent from the footage makes a lot of sense for someone who does not understand how consent works. Because they see a person flirting, making sexual gestures, and inviting someone over. Therefore, they are obviously consenting to sex, right? Wrong.

She is completely 100% entitled to not consent at any time. Even if she flirted all night. Even if she suggested she wanted to do something previously. Even if she invited him over. None of that gives him the right to do something sexually to her; only her enthusiastic, willing, and sober consent in that moment does and not a moment sooner.

As victim blaming is rampant in our culture, some might say, “she was asking for it” or, “she deserves it” or, “she shouldn’t have gotten that drunk”. Our society loves to slut-shame individuals who choose to engage in partying behaviors on their own time. Yes, there is more risk involved when there is alcohol/drug consumption. But that in no way means that someone ever deserves or asks to be sexually assaulted. There is something seriously wrong if our mindset when we see a drunk person is ‘have sex with this person’ instead of ‘help this person’. I would like to believe, and statistics show, that most of us fall into the latter category.

Then why is so much of our focus on how the victim was behaving, but no one stopped to think about why the perpetrator chose to engage in sexual activity with her when she was too drunk to stand up? Why didn’t her friend say, ‘let me make you sure get home safe’ instead of watching her drunkenly walk off with someone she just met? As bystanders, we have a responsibility to help others when we know something is not quite right. There are many, many ways to help and we always want to assure we are not putting ourselves at risk of danger or harm by doing so, either. But in reality, the accountability should be on the perpetrator alone, not the bystanders and certainly not the victims.

See What He Does With Passed-Out Girl


All in all, there are systems in place that are sometimes flawed, sometimes broken and sometimes do not offer justice where it is needed. Whether you are convicted and found guilty or not, the courtroom is not the only place where justice lives. It’s on us to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions and support survivors.


Taylor Swift, I Stand With You

Recently, the story of Taylor Swift’s sexual assault has come into light. To recap, at a meet-and-greet before one of her concerts in 2013, Taylor Swift was posing for a photo with a radio DJ, David Mueller, when he reached under her skirt and groped her. What happened next really doesn’t even matter, because whether she told anyone or not, it still happened and that cannot be invalidated. Period.


She did, however, tell someone. She told her mother and other people on her team. That alone is brave and should be commended. It is not easy to disclose that you have been violated in any way, particularly when you live in such a public eye. Taylor wanted to keep this incident quiet, as many victims do, and therefore did not report it to the police. This is not an uncommon reaction. Many survivors of sexual assault do not report what happened to them to authorities. Some feel embarrassment, shame, fear, denial, or confusion. Some need time to cope with their experience before deciding if or how they wish to take action. It is a grueling process for many survivors to endure, so many often choose not to endure it at all.

But when Mueller sued Taylor for slander two years later, suggesting she fabricated the story with the intentions of getting him fired, Taylor stood her ground and counter-sued for assault. “Swift countersued Mueller for the symbolic amount of $1. The singer, who spoke to The Guardian in 2014 about embracing feminism, is seeking Mueller’s recognition of responsibility as ‘an example to other women who may resist publicly reliving similar outrageous and humiliating acts.’ She pledged to donate any financial reward from the trial to charities supporting survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence.”

Unfortunately, many survivors face the blame and disbelief that Taylor is experiencing. Many do not have physical evidence to prove that their assault occurred, but that does not mean that it didn’t occur. It is so rare for someone to lie about being sexually assaulted. Yet, many victims are accused of fabricating or exaggerating, which only minimizes, denies, and invalidates their experience. And then we wonder why this crime is so under-reported.

So, thank you, Taylor. Thank you for having the courage to speak up about what happened to you, and for doing so with the intention of being the voice for the voiceless.

My hope during this trial is for the continuation of the outflow of support for Taylor with an added understanding of what some victims and survivors may experience. We still have many minimizing and demeaning beliefs about survivors of sexual assault; about how they are to blame, about how they should react, about how they should feel, about how they should report, and the list goes on. Hopefully, the more education we have about these issues, the more we will believe and support survivors.

As the trend on social media states, #StayStrongTaylor and all of the survivors out there. I stand with you.


Consent IS Sexy

Although I mentioned in my last post that I do not watch reality TV, I am mentioning it yet again because I found this so, so interesting! In this season’s The Bachelorette, a contestant asks the bachelorette, Rachel, for a kiss on his one-on-one time with her. You can see the quick clip here. Even the title of the article uses the term ‘awkward’, painting consent in a totally negative turn-off kind of light. So, I wonder: what is wrong with asking for consent?!


As an educator, I go out into schools and talk to kids in middle and high school about consent and sexual assault. We talk about what consent means, when someone cannot give their consent, and its undeniable importance. We acknowledge that without it, you risk a sexual assault. We discuss ways you can ask for consent and address the fact that it doesn’t have to be “awkward” or a “mood killer”, but rather quite the opposite. We are giving them the tools to be able to enter any future sexual encounters safely and responsibly.

So, when I saw this clip from The Bachelorette, I wanted to scream at the screen – mainly, Rachel – for dissing this man’s attempt at being respectful in asking for consent. Her response of, “No one has ever asked me before, they just do it,” is exactly what is wrong with the culture we live in.

Consent is not just simply a look or a wink or a flash of a smile; it’s a conversation, and a necessary one at that. We cannot assume what someone else wants and we are not mind readers. A smile can mean a lot of different things. A wink could be flirtation, not necessarily Morse code for “kiss me.” Passion does not equal “just doing it” without checking in with that person first. On the other hand, consent does not have to be a complete awkward mood-killer. It’s also about reading people’s body language and gauging their interest. Most importantly, if you are unsure of their body language or if they are interested or not: ask them! Which is exactly what Frederick did, and got insulted for it. The surest way to know if someone is interested is to ask. But it’s also important to remember that even if someone does not say ‘no’, that does not mean they are saying ‘yes’.

This post is not to pick on Rachel (sorry, Rachel!) because it’s not at all surprising that she has this expectation of her suitors. We are inundated with this faux passion in the media we consume in movies like [insert almost any popular romance movie title] where persistence and refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer are mistaken for romance. Or, where grabbing someone and kissing them is mistaken for passion. Let’s follow the lead of the consent-askers and consent-respecters, like Kristoff and Anna from Frozen:

Kristoff: “I could kiss you! I could. I mean, I’d like to. I. May I? We me? I mean, may we? Wait, what?”

Anna: (Smile.) “We may.”

anna kristoff frozen