Today, the Mythbusters team got right to work at Haven, and split up into different teams upon arrival. Some people worked on organizing and planning for the Gala, Haven’s largest annual fundraising event, by making phone calls to donors, or making center pieces for the event. Others worked in the shelter, organizing supply closets and other organizational tasks. I spent most of the day in Haven’s resource room, where I had been working with others for the past few days to create a library system for Haven’s clients by organizing, labeling, shelving, and creating an inventory of books that residents can easily locate and use as resources during their stay.

After we had completed our tasks for the day, the Mythbusters group moved into the residence area of Haven, where we had a pizza party with the current residents. We ate, played board games with the children, and got to know some of the people living in the shelter. For me, the most exciting part of the day was when our group got to join the shelter’s children in interacting and playing with service dogs that were brought into the shelter for the afternoon.

Today was probably my favorite day of service, as I got to finish the project I had been working on for the past few days, and got to see the residents we had been working with and how our contributions could positively impact their lives in the shelter. As today was our last day working in the shelter, we were sad to leave, but thankful for all of the education and accommodations Haven has provided for us over the week.

A personal education & bonfire!

I signed on for this trip because, obviously, I have a passion and a stake in this cause, but also because of my personal desensitization towards the topic. It’s difficult to constantly have the same conversation in every class you take, every event you go to, every news piece you read. The constant cycle of outrage – enlightenment – motivation for action – discouragement from all the resistance diminishes in weight for me with every time it’s repeated. Heavy academic involvement, especially (I’m an A&S major, which means I talk about gender roles on a daily basis), both burns me out and induces me to talk about issues in abstract, theoretical terms that sometimes make me feel more nihilistic than motivated. So far, I think being on this trip has done a good deal of things to reduce this desensitization of mine.

First of all, kudos to Haven for being extraordinary. Waseh’s┬áprobably really lucky in his choice of shelter to go to – Haven has a new, big facility with many different kinds of services for victim of domestic violence and sexual assault, with prevention education on top of it, and through exposure to the shelter itself, we are able to see many different facets of solution. This ranges from emergency response to rape examination, counseling, legal advice, child care, crisis call, etc. In addition to all of these, they went to great length to ensure that we have education on top of volunteering, and talking to people doing actual social work, who are way more overexposed to this issue, really puts my privilege into perspective for me.

Another thing that I appreciate about this trip is the collective knowledge that my peers and Amy bring to the table. We have varying levels of exposure to the topic among people on our trip – ranging from knowing very little to having worked at a rape crisis hotline, and I found myself gaining a lot from everyone – either reinforcing things I already knew, challenging me to confront new notions, or informing me of alternative approach. I could especially see this during reflection last night, when we broke out into small groups and discuss different scenarios of sexual assault/ domestic violence and how we, as bystanders, could react. I value the input of Amy and Kaitlin, who have been in the field and could inform us of the ethical standards and guidelines among experts, as well as of everyone else who contribute on perspectives of friends and kin. There are definitely rooms for more contention, but I think we walked away more equipped to handle personal situations.

Last but not least: Bonfire! (Credit: Rachel!)

MythBusters: An unclear path towards prevention

The day began, bright and early, at Haven’s shelter for domestic and sexual violence, and the staff there quickly introduced us to a place that for many people is considered a home or “safe haven”. The education sessions so far have been insightful and piqued the interests of many peers on the trip. A myriad of information was thrown at us about power and control, gender norms, consent, etc., and all of it revealed how sexual assault is not as black and white as many perceive it to be. It’s not simply about explaining to men how to treat women properly, and it’s not simply about showing women how to protect themselves at all times. In a perfect world, everyone would be taught about these issues from a young age and they would learn to foster these ideas on prevention throughout their lives in order to form a safe and sexually aware community. Unfortunately, in the real world, most people are not introduced to these topics until it’s relevant to their lives.

The rest of the day was riddled with tasks helping around the shelter which ranged from cleaning playrooms to sorting resource rooms. However, the most fulfilling part of the day is seeing all the children in the shelter. They all seem so cheerful and bright, despite the situations they’ve been involved in. This also begs the question of what can be done to prevent this from happening. How can we prevent people from having to go through this pain?

The day ended with daily reflections, and today’s session included a documentary called Invisible War. It was frustrating to hear about the many accounts of sexual assault in the army, but it was even more frustrating to know how little help these people receive. My peers were focused on this topic and branched off of it for over an hour. It’s still unclear as to how prevention should truly be implemented especially with the lack of funding and lack of care in public education. All I can say is that I am thankful for Haven’s efforts to try and educate others on topics that are often overlooked, and I simply cannot wait to bring all of it back to share with the community. Stay tuned for more about our adventures at Haven!

You can’t sell your brother at the garage sale

Although still snowing outside, the Mythbusters team started their day with coffee and were able to get right into the work at HAVEN. The first half of the day was spent in creating a library system for the resource books available for the people living and working at HAVEN. And being the skillman/kirby library trained worker that I am, me and Emma got right into it. Organizing the books by the category ranging from “Sexual Assault” or “Divorce” to “Therapeutic Methods”. All the while we were both shocked and amused by some of the books, such as for a children’s book entitled “You can’t sell your brother at the garage sale”.

For the other half, before continuing with the library, two amazing educators who work in the community outreach programs, came and talked to us more about what they do, how they do it and why they do it. They target K-12 and then further university and professional level as well. But the idea of making the programs they do (K-12) systemic and sustainable had me falling head over heels for them!! It was exactly the type of solution I had hoped to see being implemented and here were people I could talk to about it! We learned more about primary vs secondary and tertiary programming while giving us things to think about while planning for reorientation. Which is what we did later at night!

After watching half of “The Invisible War”, a documentary on sexual assault in the US military, and then reflections, we broached the topic of reorientation and what we can do to stand out and make people remember our education and actions.

Shout out to Amy for being the best!