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Project Speak Out December 11, 2011

Posted by Syd in Cool Stuff, Domestic Abuse, How To Help, Local Heroes.
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Last weekend, I had the pleasure of training with some of the women from Project Speak Out.  Project Speak Out is a new initiative run by four Asian-American domestic violence organizations in the New York City area, with a goal to reduce and prevent domestic violence.  The training was comprehensive and extremely well run  – I can’t say enough about the good work these people are doing.    In writing for our blog over the last several months, we’ve all had the opportunity to become aware of the unfortunate statistics about domestic violence in our respective states (or even countries) but the training with Project Speak Out also reminded me the additional hurdles the immigrant population faces, especially in the cases of domestic violence.    The four groups involved are:  Garden of Hope, the Korean American Family Service Center, the New  York Asian Women’s Center, and Sahki for South Asian Women.   These organizations offer a multitude of support services, including multilingual hotlines, economic empowerment programs, and youth programs.    I highly encourage you all to click over to each of their websites and learn more about the work they are doing, and make a donation if you can.    You can also follow the progress of Project Speak Out on their blog, as well as on facebook and twitter.

I intend to get involved locally in my own neighborhood, as we have a significant Asian population in my section of Queens, but if you are New York based, please consider getting involved with Project Speak Out, or getting involved with one of these groups.    Obviously, domestic violence is not something that affects one single culture or immigrant population, and of course, these services are open to anyone who needs them.

As always, if you know of any other organizations doing great work, let us know!   We’d love to write about them.


What did you learn in high school? September 28, 2011

Posted by Syd in Domestic Abuse, Education, Uncategorized.
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As mentioned (and sorry for the delay, folks!), Part II of the school coverage.  We would LOVE to hear about your experiences, too, so please feel free to comment!

So, I went to a great school in New York – the Bronx High School of Science.  It’s a specialized high school, with a heavy emphasis on math and science, and in a lot of ways, I found it more challenging than college.    (NYC based parents, I encourage you to check it out if you think it’s something your child would be interested in).  And in those 4 years, I took exactly 1 semester of Health, which was all that was required to graduate.  Health was that general class where you would learn about nutrition, general health, and sexual health, as I recall.  Our textbooks had the scary pictures of herpes, and I definitely remember giving a report on partial birth abortions. I do not remember covering relationships or emotional health.  Like many high schools, Bronx Science had a readily available number of guidance counselors, as well as a great teaching staff – but it’s not enough.  I do not blame Bronx Science – they were adhering to the New York requirements for the Regents diploma.  Here’s the problem – I graduated in 1997.  The requirements for graduation have not change significantly, and they have not changed as it relates to the Health requirement.

Domestic and dating violence is not a new phenomenon.  The problems that existed when I was that age still exist today.  Do we know more about them now due to the advent of the internet and other social media?  Absolutely.  While internet resources allow students to look up hotlines and outreach centers, it has also paved the way for cyber-bullying and sexting.

Is there hope?  Maybe.  There is legislation pending in New York and several other states to make  a dating/domestic violence curriculum mandatory for students in grades 7-12, although similar legislation failed in Maryland, Oregon, Oklahoma and Virginia.

Tell us about your experiences in high school, or tell us what is happening with your children.  There are several states that HAVE adopted acts similar to the Lindsay Ann Burke Act – but it is difficult to determine if the schools have implemented that curriculum.

Summer is almost over, and you know what that means. August 24, 2011

Posted by Syd in Education, How To Help.
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As Alicia wrote earlier, it’s getting to be that time. Back to school! If you’re a college student going away to school, you’ve probably started making your rounds at Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond for the essentials (flip flops, always, if you are living in the dorms) and high school students – just a few short weeks of summer left!

In light of the back to school season, I wanted to cover my experiences with the curriculum and support provided by my alma maters in regards to healthy relationships and perhaps more broadly, the well-being of the students.  I’ll be covering, in reverse chronological order:  University at Albany, Bronx High School of Science, and I.S. 227 – The Louis Armstrong Middle School.   As you’ll see, all my experiences are based in New York State, but we would love to hear more about other states and areas, so please let us know of your experiences below in the comments!  This first post on the subject will cover Albany, and then I’ll cover the others in future posts, discussing some of the issues that come along with the state-mandated curriculums.

SUNY Albany – Like many universities, SUNY Albany has a pretty substantial health and counseling center, providing a full range of services.  Specifically, they have the Sexual Assault Resource Center, with resources dedicated to Intimate Partner Abuse and Stalking.  While I encourage you to look at all the resources within those pages, please review the Coordinated Response to Stalking and Intimate Partner Abuse, How to Help (whether you are a student, parent, friend, or faculty/staff member), and additional resources.   I was very fortunate in my time at Albany as I never required these services, and obviously the hope is that the students don’t need them either, but I am impressed and relieved that there are these resources specifically dedicated to this.   During my time in Albany, I was also a part of the Middle Earth program, a program that provides telephone assistance (and now it looks to be offering online assistance as well), and it’s completely anonymous.  It was an extremely rewarding experience, so I highly recommend interested students to check it out to see if they would like to join, but also – any Albany students in crisis, please give them a call.  You don’t have to disclose anything you don’t want to, but they are there to help you in any way they can.

Let’s open it up in the comments – what did your schools offer?  Did you have resources like these?


Let’s Talk About Sexting, Baby. July 4, 2011

Posted by Syd in Uncategorized.
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I am probably showing my age by throwing a Salt-n-Pepa up there, but I can’t resist sometimes.  However, I am definitely showing my age when I say that sexting didn’t even exist when I was a kid.  We didn’t even have cell phones, for one thing.  Or the internet. While there are some universal issues teens will always deal with, no matter what generation, the advent of mobile technology and the internet certainly has added to the issues that teens have to deal with today.

So, “sexting”.  It’s defined as sending or receiving messages with sexual words or images.  In a survey conducted by the TV network and the Associated Press in 2009, it was found  that “29 percent (of young people 14 to 24) report receiving messages ‘with sexual words or images’ by text or on the Internet.” And “61 percent of those who have sent a naked photo or video of themselves have been pressured by someone else to do so at least once.”

So, let’s discuss some of the repercussions facing teens who are involved in sexting.  If a girl or guy is asked by their partner to send them a naked picture, they may feel pressured by the relationship to send the picture.  But, as we all know, once it’s out there, it’s out there.  Should the other person accidentally or deliberately send it on, what was intended to be private is now very public.    Which leads to the humiliation factor.  Very few teens, if any, would like their entire graduating class to know what they look like naked.  As we’ve talked about before, high school is hard enough to deal with without any additional drama and distress.  Finally, it’s illegal.  It is a federal crime to take, send, or have naked images of a minor.  It could land them on the sex offender registry.

So what can be done to prevent this from happening?

  • Teens need to be continually educated about healthy relationships.  Naked pictures are not required to prove love for another person.  They need to know it’s okay to say “No” to something they are not comfortable with.
  • Parents should keep an eye out for behaviors that might indicate their child might be involved in a sexting situation.  If they are the victim of leaked photos, their behavior may change drastically.  They may become sullen and withdrawn, eating habits and hygiene habits may change abruptly.  If this turns out to be the case, contact the proper authorities.
  • Encourage teens to be part of the solution, not the problem.  If they are forwarded a naked picture of a classmate (or a stranger), delete, delete, delete.  50% of teens who have received a sext have forwarded it on.  That number is far too high.
For further information, please click on over to MTV’s A Thin Line.  It is a campaign against sexting, cyberbullying, and digital dating abuse.
Let’s open it up in the comments, too.  Parents, do you have any stories from your local schools as to how they are handling these issues?  We’d love to hear more from all of you.

Where We Are Headed June 12, 2011

Posted by Syd in Education, Prevention, What We're Up To.
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Two months on, the media attention paid to Charlie Sheen has died down.  The producers of “Two and Half Men” have moved on.  The men and women of UnfollowCharlie are now also moving on, or rather, shifting our focus.  When we started this project, we knew we wanted to raise awareness about domestic violence.  We wanted to highlight great individuals and organizations, and we wanted to educate our readers about some of the truly disheartening statistics out there.  What we struggled with was a particular way to help – domestic violence – it’s a huge, global issue, and there are several aspects one can tackle.  While we wrote about/tweeted/linked to sites or stories we found, we needed to focus our energies.   Over discussions on how to do so,  Jenn raised an interesting point:

“ Boys are often taught to stifle their feelings and that comes out in bad ways in a relationship. I also think some men have mommy issues that they project onto their partner, and when it goes bad it goes really bad. There are a whole lot of codependency issues involved as well. My hope was that there was some sort of education for young boys that teaches them this is not okay, no matter what, and if you start to feel this way, you should do this.”

The wheels started to turn from there.  She’s right – children and adolescents are not being taught about domestic violence to any great degree.  They are learning from the relationships they see at home.  Kate has been doing an enormous amount of research on this topic – finding out where programs actually exist, how do they work, how they are funded.  She discovered that thankfully, work IS being done in this area, but it is not enough.  Schools face budget cuts on a regular basis, and funding does not exist for “non-essential” programs.

We believe this education IS essential.  Children and teens must be taught about healthy relationships.  They need to be able to recognize the signs of unhealthy or violent relationships, especially if they are raised in a violent home, otherwise these behaviors become normalized.

So – that’s where we’re headed.  Come with us!

How can you help?

First of all, we’re changing our name.  We need suggestions!  We’re opening this up to Facebook and Twitter, and we’re going to make it a friendly competition.  We need a positive, empowering name.  We’ve got some ideas we’re rolling around, but give us yours!  The contributor with the best suggestion will win a $100 donation to RAINN in their name.    We need it themed along our new goal, and can be an acronym.  The competition will end on July 16, 2011 at 11:59 EST.

Secondly –  Tell us what’s going on in your area.  What level of education exists in your local schools and communities?  How are the programs funded?

Third – please help us spread the word!  We’re on twitter, follow us here, and please join us on Facebook.

Please stay tuned for the new developments!

The Lindsay Ann Burke Act June 5, 2011

Posted by Syd in Uncategorized.
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In 2005, Lindsay Ann Burke was murdered by her boyfriend.  She had been in an abusive relationship for two years with this person, but like many victims, she did not recognize the warning signs.   She was 21.

Like many other teens, Lindsay did not receive education or guidance in school about abusive relationships.  She did not know how to recognize the warning signs.  Her family didn’t know how to either, as they did know of anyone in their community in an abusive situation. They knew that education is key to help adolescents and teens to recognize the signs of abuse in a relationship and how to protect themselves from dating violence, and pursued the passage of the Lindsay Anne Burke Act.

In 2007, the Lindsay Ann Burke Act was passed in Rhode Island.  The law requires the following:

1. Each school district to develop a dating violence policy to address incidents of dating violence that occur at school and inform parents of such policy

2. Each school district to provide dating violence training to administrators, teachers, nurses and mental health staff at the middle and high school levels

3. Each school district to teach an age-appropriate dating violence curriculum through health education classes every year in grades 7 through 12

4. Dating violence awareness trainings for parents are strongly recommended.

5. Verification of compliance with the Rhode Island Department of Education on an annual basis through the annual school health report

And in 2008, the National Association of Attorneys General passed a resolution supporting the Act and teen dating violence eduation in ALL states.

To read more about this and the Lindsay Ann Memorial Fund, please click here.

As always, if you or someone you know is a victim, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE or visit their website: www.ndvh.org

Teen victims can also call the National Teen Dating Violence Hotline: 1-866-331-9474 or visit their website at www.loveisrespect.org

Kelly Preston’s Statements, and an Update May 7, 2011

Posted by Syd in Uncategorized.

Yesterday, TMZ posted an interview with Kelly Preston, and she confirmed Charlie’s account of the bizarre accidental shooting.  If this is how the incident indeed happened, we apologize to everyone (Charlie included) for posting the misinformation about that incident, and I’ve added a comment to our original blog that addressed the timeline.  Thanks also to the commenter that provided the link(s).

Understand (as I said in the edited blog) that we would rather all of the situations he’s been accused of turn out not to be abuse.  Given the photographic evidence in one of the other cases, I don’t know how that would be possible, but we were never looking for things to accuse Charlie of – we were merely posting what had been posted multiple times over in various new sources.  As we did here, if new information turns up that disproves all of these other cases, then we will post an update, with our apologies.

However, I must emphasize that we would never want ANY woman to recant a story about abuse that DID happen.  We will be touching upon this subject in a future blog, but there are a myriad of reasons why abused women have recanted their stories, and we would never want anyone to think we want to silence them.  So many stories are NOT heard.

As we alluded to in our “About” section, we know that the name of this blog will change.  We never intended it to be “UnfollowCharlie” forever.  It really isn’t about Charlie Sheen anymore.  Over the last few weeks, we’ve been brainstorming about changes to this blog, and we’re very excited about some of the ideas we have, and we hope you will be too.

Why We Love Mick Foley April 12, 2011

Posted by Syd in Cool Stuff, Local Heroes, What We're Up To.
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Oh my goodness, where do we begin? In our “About” section, we mentioned that periodically we’d be writing about women who kick ass, but we will be updating that to include men because we simply must proclaim our admiration for Mick Foley.

If you are not a wrestling fan, you may not be super familiar with the name. Mick Foley is a professional wrestler, wrestling with all the major organisations – World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW),  the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), and most recently Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA).

He is known for his hardcore matches. Has he been hit in the face with a 2×4 covered in barbed wire?  Sure.

Has he taken a fall from the TOP of the cage during a cage match? Yes. 

Was it ever uncommon for him to spill thumbtacks all over the ring during a match, only to end up with dozens in his own skin? Nope.

So why are we writing about this guy?


Thank you, Zazzle March 18, 2011

Posted by Syd in What We're Up To.

The situation has been resolved:


The rest of merch will be online soon, but if you are of mind, please buy a shirt and support RAINN.

Thank you for getting the word out, everyone!

Troubles with our Merchandise March 18, 2011

Posted by Syd in What We're Up To.

So, I know I updated our last post recently with a quick “stay tuned”, as I hope it would be resolved relatively quickly, but no. Here’s why:

So, yesterday Zazzle pulled our UnfollowCharlie merch from the store, citing a copyright violation of sorts, which we really couldn’t figure out.  Initially, we thought perhaps it was the little bird?  It’s similar to the twitter bird.  But, no.  The design itself is below: