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Takeaways from EVAWI and MASOC/MATSA Conferences

This spring MNCASA was able to provide a travel scholarship opportunity to send advocates to one of two conferences, End Violence Against Women International conference (EVAWI) or MASOC For A World Free of Sexual Harm by Youth and Massachusetts Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers Joint Conference (MASOC/MATSA). Below are some takeaways from a few attendees.


EVAWI 2018 –Heidi at Sexual Assault Services

Thinking about my takeaways from the conference, I feel that learning how to reach the children and help them to become healthy adults is one of the most important prevention tools we have.  There are great programs out there.  Glen Lipson and Rick Phillips had a great break-out titled “Compassion in Action: Helping students to respond appropriately when they learn about sexual assault and bullying”.

With access to social media and internet constantly children are exposed to so much.  Many are getting constant stimulation from video games and porn, 5 and 6 year olds are sexting, there is no break from bullying because it continues beyond the school ground to social media and texts or apps like snap chat.  Our children are not getting the personal contact through direct person to person communication they need.  Parents and caregivers need to focus on face to face time with kids.

Safe School Ambassadors is an evidence based, field tested program that engages, equips, and empowers student bystanders to reduce bullying and other forms of treatment.  Through this program students are nominated by teachers who have been identified as socially influential, loyal or speak up on behalf of others, and are outgoing.  These students then decide if they want to go through a 2 day training where they are given the tools to step in and help their peers, lead, educate, and assist in changing the school atmosphere.

We HAVE TO reach our youth!! “ It is easier to grow and develop healthy, strong, and empowered children than it is to fix broken adults”  “ Our kids are waiting for us to give them the tools to become leaders and use their voices”  Safety is about relationships!!!!

Information can be found at:  http://community-matters.org/programs-and-services/safe-school-ambassadors

EVAWI 201-Kim at The Refuge Network

There were some helpful break out sessions and there were some not so helpful.  The not so helpful ones were just because we were pretty much already doing what they were promoting or training about so it was not new or helpful to me.

My favorite break out was on Thursday morning and it was, Self-care in high intensity work.  It was very informative and entertaining (the speakers were wonderful and brought humor into a not so funny subject.) There was a lot from that break out session that I will be implementing into my offices and staff to hopefully keep all 3 of my offices calm and less stressful to be sure my advocates are client focused and able to avoid burn out.  I think it is very important to have the same staff as long as possible for our clients and for the collaborative partners we work with.  They stated that a, strong belly laugh, is as effective as an hour work out in the gym.  I was really happy with this as I hate working out!  HAHAHA

The other break out session I really got a lot out of was the sex trafficking session, He enslaved me – don’t add to my pain – reducing gender bias and richer outcomes in human sex trafficking survivor interviews. I felt this break out was important for the co-chair position I hold on the sex trafficking committee in Isanti county.  The information was helpful as it stated things to be sure to do, like having all resources available for victims readily available and in a book before working with victims as we know that if they don’t have that quickly then they will most likely go right back to their pimps, johns, etc. quicker.  The other thing I felt we should have in place is to have our prosecutors, LE and advocates know the language used by and around sex trafficked victims.  I will be reaching out to different organizations in Minnesota and to the speaker of this training to get this information.  This helps the victims know that we understand where they are at that moment and that we are actively listening when working with them.  We will also be sending all of our advocates to as many sex trafficking trainings as we can as this training stated that advocacy is one of the most important components for working with unwilling/difficult victims and all the collaborative partners.  We need to remember that the sex trafficked victim does not see themselves as a “victim” as they have been told over and over by their pimp, john, etc. that it is their choice to live this life and that it is all their fault.

I look forward to bringing this information to my team and the counties I work in.

EVAWI 2018 -Sadie at Canvas Health

The most influential breakout session I attended was Peep Behind the Curtain – Porn and its Impact on Intimate Partner Violence. The topic of pornography has been growing in popularity recently. From a prevention standpoint, I believe there is ample opportunity to start these conversations with youth. Varying organizations are already implementing porn literacy programs targeted at youth. In February, the NY Times posted a great article on a porn literacy program in Boston. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/07/magazine/teenagers-learning-online-porn-literacy-sex-education.html

Teaching youth the realities of the porn industry, the differences between healthy and unhealthy sexual behavior, healthy body image, safe sex practices (the list goes on) is pivotal for their developing brains. Youth need to learn to be critical viewers of media, especially when it comes to pornography. This presentation was exceptional at highlighting how these topics are not learned through porn. Plus it used humor to lighten the mood, which I always appreciate.

Some organizations have taken another route and focused on pornography impacting the neurobiology of the brain, which they then claim leads to sex addiction. This can be problematic in the fact that it teaches youth that viewing pornography is shameful and can have serious mental health consequences. Sex addiction is not even diagnosable and is more often self-diagnosed and related to other underlying mental health conditions.  These organizations twist research to scare youth and typically have underlying anti-masturbation objectives.

Rather than using fear mongering methods, this presentation stated the facts. Pornography often includes violence against women, it focuses solely on male pleasure and there is not often depiction of contraceptive use. In addition to a lack of comprehensive sex education in schools, pornography is often a source for youth to learn about sexual health and behavior. This combination ultimately leads to violence against women, LGBTQ people and creates a culture in which toxic sexual behavior is normalized.


MASOC/MATSA 2018 -Logan at Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center

At the MASOC/MATSA Conference, I gained a variety of new prevention tools and curricula that I plan to implement into my groups and other programming. Specifically, in a training offered by Jane Fleishman, we learned about Circles of Sexuality as a curriculum to teach comprehensive sexuality education to youth. This curriculum is perfect because it is able to be adapted however professionals choose based on the population they are serving and it looks at sexuality in a truly holistic way through different “circles”: sensuality, intimacy, sexual identity, sexual health and reproduction, and sexualization. This curriculum will aid in my prevention efforts because I can talk about commercial sexual exploitation through the lens of a sexuality education curriculum.

In another workshop titled “Race, Privilege, Power and Relevance to Prevention,” I learned ways that I can address race and power imbalances related to race in prevention efforts. Cordelia Anderson and Maia Christopher explained how historically, there has been more focus on sexism and gendered power imbalances without recognition of racial power imbalances. Working within the Native community especially, finding ways to incorporate this discussion into my prevention efforts was invaluable.

For more information about cultural competence for sexual violence sector professionals, you can visit www.robertswright.ca.

MASOC/MATSA 2018 Pamela at CLUES

Being able to attend the MASOC conference was very beneficial because I gained a lot of important knowledge to better serve survivors of sexual assault. I learned more about how relevant culture is when working with sex offenders and also victims of sexual assault. This conference gave me the opportunity to examine culture, oppression and privilege and how it impacts the work that we do and the people we serve. Being able to participate in different workshops and gain a better understanding of what being culturally competent really means, will enhance my ability to provide effective services across different cultures. I look forward to next year’s conference and the workshops they will have available for attendees.