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A Safe Space

Women help girls in a #MeToo world



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"What if Mom is a single mom working several jobs to make ends meet? She may not have time to talk to her daughter," Smith says.

"If you look at the #MeToo movement, that term was coined over 10 years ago by Tarana Burke, a black woman who was largely ignored. For me, as a woman of color, it's great that so many women are finding their voice, but there's a sense of frustration at how it took a segment of mostly white women who are affluent to talk about it for it to be receiving the attention that it deserves."

Reports vary, but generally white women and Latinas experience more assault than black women, while Native American women endure the most abuse; and assault by a white man is the most common.

"I'm still reminded that women of color, indigenous, undocumented and poor women are systematically sexually and physically abused by law enforcement and incarceration systems who then evaluate themselves and find nothing wrong with their actions," said Smith.

Worsening the problem for all women, social media has made the world more dangerous than ever, especially for young women, and it is one of the hardest to combat. "As soon as the police or our advocates have figured out one new lure or app," says Quinn, "these guys come up with another one."

One example is Snapchat, "an app that teens love to use," Quinn says. Users can have their location "turned on," allowing friends and contacts to see where they are. Kids need to know that setting it "public" is risking trouble, Quinn says.

Social media has enabled traffickers to make easy contact with vulnerable girls. And once they target a young girl—promising her a fabulous career as a model—it may be hard for her to resist.

Even harder is for a girl once trafficked to get out. Tiburon's Shynie Lu, a recent graduate of Sonoma Academy, made a video as a project for the Sonoma County Junior Commission on Human Rights, called Strong Survival. In it, she interviews Maya Babow, who managed to escape from her traffickers after six years.

FACE TIME  One of the biggest challenges girls face is the negative impact of technology and social media, says G3’s Michelle Dale.
  • FACE TIME One of the biggest challenges girls face is the negative impact of technology and social media, says G3’s Michelle Dale.

"People ask, why didn't she leave sooner?" says Lu, "But when you hear her talk about the threats they made, how they would hurt her family, and about withholding food and water from her, she made it clear why she wasn't able to walk out." Now an ambassador for Shared Hope International in Marin, Lu helps inform high school students about the danger.

So once #MeToo drops off the radar, will perpetrators again find refuge in the surrounding silence?

Rates of sexual violence are declining, and continued outcry will certainly help, but empowering girls may not be enough to create the kind of change women rightfully demand. "I was a highly empowered teen," says Blalock, "an athlete, but I was raped."

Maybe change has to happen on the other end of the spectrum. As Babow says in the film, "We need to stop the demand. If you can stop the demand, there is no need for supply."

Futures Without Violence has started a nationwide program called Coaching Boys into Men, in which male athletic coaches are trained to lead workshops for their teams to deliver the message that is is manly to respect girls. But there do not seem to be many such programs currently in place in local schools.

"The onus is on society to see girls and women as equal, intelligent beings worthy of respect rather than objectifying them," said Blalock.

Instead of teaching girls not to get raped, we can teach boys not to rape—soon.


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