End Silence, End Violence

February 13, 2018


By Grace Nyikes
Love may be vulnerable, but it should never hurt. (Photo by Sydney Sims.)

Frozen. Stuck. Silent. I was swallowed by doubt and guilt. I’d laughed off the small things so now the major things were mine to bear. At least that’s what I told myself as the power slowly slipped from my hands into his.

The only thing worse than living my story is knowing that it is an entirely common one. My childhood certainly wasn’t sheltered, and I knew from a young age what violence was and the many forms it came in. I was well educated and well supported. I should have been immune. But it still happened to me. So let’s stop talking about what should happen and start talking about what does.

The statistics for teen dating violence are staggering. According to DoSomething.org, 1 in 3 young people will be in some form of an unhealthy romantic relationship. Of those, only 1/3 will confide in someone about their abuse. Taken together, this means not only that violence occurs at an alarming rate, but also that over half of these occurrences are silenced.

Teen dating violence is about more than statistics, though. It is a reality that many have lived and, unfortunately, many continue to live. Over the years, we have started to put faces and names to the numbers. There are people like Crystal Sanchez, who opened up about her story in the Huffington Post in 2016. There are organizations like Love Is Respect, which offfers resources and support for people experiencing dating violence. There are so many steps being taken in the right direction. But there is much work left to be done.

A crucial element to the conversation on teen dating violence is to acknowledge that it has no single story. Abuse does not fit neatly in a box. In 2017, Psychology Today offered a series of questions to help readers recognize whether or not they are in an unhealthy relationship. This list is by no means exhaustive, however. Abuse is felt—not defined.

In any relationship, platonic or romantic, it is important to know one’s boundaries. Even more significantly, it is important to know when one’s boundaries are being crossed. This is a simple thing to say—but a difficult reality to know. There can always be a “but.” We can always find a reason to see the good in someone. We can always find a way to make ourselves smaller in order to allow someone else to feel bigger.

For those of you reading who are all too familiar with the weight of the words above, I’ll leave you with this: there is so much more to come. Take a second. Take a breath. Then open your mouth and speak your truth. No matter how trapped you may feel, no one and nothing can take away your right to speak up and speak out. There are people on your side. There are people that can help.

There are more days for you. There are brighter days and better days. And most importantly, there will be a day where you wake up and realize that everything you ever needed to be free is inside of you.

In light and solidarity.

Grace Nyikes is a senior at Saint Louis University studying Entrepreneurship and Service Leadership, with an emphasis on using business as a catalyst for positive social change. 


 How to Recognize an Unhealthy Relationship When Stereotypical Warning Signs Aren’t Present

February 12, 2018

By Celia Searles

Dating as a teenager is arguably one of the most difficult things a young person will do. On top of the usual pressures of school, extracurriculars, and forming one’s individual identity, navigating an intimate relationship with another person can be confusing. Indeed, to do so leaves many young people questioning the quality of the relationships they’re in or the ones they’re pursuing. With recent national news focused on how well-known figures we looked up to have been involved in sexual misconduct, it’s even harder to discern what relationships in our own lives are healthy and which ones are not. Furthermore, today pornography remains one of the leading sexual educators for young people. Needles to say, due to factors like these, it seems even more difficult now than in the past for young people to effectively navigate intimate relationships in a manner that is safe and positive for both parties. That being said, it can be especially difficult to tell if you’re in an unhealthy relationship if stereotypical abuse signs aren’t present, especially on a daily basis. Rarely are things ever black and white; we most often exist in a moral grey area. Yet when discerning the health of relationship, these are some of the key things to look out for:

Does your partner…

…Discourage you from spending time with your other friends or disapprove of other friendships in your life?

…Withhold affection to manipulate you or get what they want?

…Act disinterested when you’re talking about something important to you or to the relationship?

…Get upset when you don’t want to be intimate or push your boundaries?

…Try to assert themselves as smarter or more knowledgeable than you?

…Refuse to compromise?

…Make you feel worse about yourself instead of better?

…Not reciprocate gifts or kind gestures on a routine basis?

…Not respect your answer when you say “no” to something?

…Try to control what you wear, what music you listen to, or how you spend your time?

…Not make time for you?

…Need constant reassurance that you still love them?

If some or all of these signs are present in your relationship, it may be a good idea to reconsider whether the positives aspects outweigh the negative warning signs. Consulting with a trusted family member or friend about your concerns is often an effective way to process the relationship. Abuse can be a heavy topic to discuss, but it’s a lot more common than one would think. Statistically, one in three young people be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, and only one third of those will talk to someone about it. But in order to discern the quality of your relationship and decide what the best next steps, talking to someone you trust, and who can give a fresh perspective, is essential.

Frequent arguments can be a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

You might look at this list and see a few points that seem to describe your relationship, but you may believe, overall, that it is not harmful or detrimental to your mental or physical health. In this case, talking to someone you trust and in order to examine the relationship with a critical, truthful eye is smart. Even if you decide to continue the relationship, recognizing what changes need to be made and what fundamental wrongs need to be righted is essential to putting yourself on the road to a healthier and more stable relationship with your current partner, or with a different one someday.

Dating relationships as an adolescent are difficult to navigate, and while they can bring great joy to a person’s life, they can also hurt someone or otherwise tear them down. A relationship should be a positive and freeing partnership between two people, where both parties are supportive, affectionate, and trusting. At the end of the day, if your relationship does not embody these qualities, there are more people out there who will treat you right and won’t make you compromise your happiness or who you are along the way.

Celia Searles is a freshman at Saint Louis University. She studies Journalism in the Department of Communication, serves as a writer and social media chair for Her Campus, and is involved in Greek life.


Breaking the Chain: Putting a Stop to Teen Dating Violence

February 5, 2018
By Aubra Ladd

Do you know a teenager who has ever experienced sexual, emotional, or physical violence in a relationship? Chances are that you do. Teen dating violence (TDV) is a pattern of abuse from a partner. It could take many different forms—it could be verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, or digital. Verbal abuse means derogatory words used to demean and belittle an individual, such as yelling, making threats, or mocking. Emotional abuse means the purposeful infliction of feelings of trauma—exposing one to anxiety, depression, and other mental health assaults. Physical abuse is to causing injury or harm to the body. Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity. And lastly, digital abuse is the use of technologies to bully, harass, intimidate, or expose a partner. Teen dating violence may include any of these—and often more than one. Under these circumstances, a relationship is toxic, and the partner who is being abused needs to remove themselves from the relationship. But often, they need help.


Although it is not widely spoken about, TDV is a growing epidemic. In fact, according to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, “Approximately 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner.” This means nearly one in five high school students in the United States are affected by this abuse. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance found “10% of high school students reported physical victimization and 10% reported sexual victimization from a dating partner in the 12 months before they were surveyed.” Clearly, more teenagers are being subdued by violence than many people imagine. While TDV is often stereotyped as a male being violent toward a female partner, it is important to note that women can be abusive, and that violence can be a problem in non-heterosexual relationships as well. Teen males are, however, more prone to violence than females. According to some scholars of adolescent violence, “Almost 32% of male adolescents engage in some form of violence towards their partners while violence from females is nearly half of that rate.” A 2017 CDC Report found that “Approximately 7% of women and 4% of men who ever experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner first experienced some form of partner violence by that partner before 18 years of age.” This statistic is important because it unveils how early in life violence can happen.


It is our responsibility to educate each other about TDV while also looking for signs of this abuse. Being able to tell the difference between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships could help save a loved one’s life—or your own. Although every relationship is different, and what is unhealthy in one may be the norm for another, there are some common signals of abuse. These include one partner excessively checking the other’s cell phone records and social media networks without permission, which can aid in digital abuse; one partner accusing another of wrongdoing based on their own jealousy or insecurity; one partner belittling the other and exacerbate that partner’s insecurities; a consistent and explosive temper; one partner attempting to isolate the other from family and friends; a partner causing the other physical pain; engaging in nonconsensual sex; and one partner pressuring the other to perform an act that they do not want to do.


If you or someone you know are experiencing TDV, there are resources to help. One is loveisrespect, the only dating abuse helpline for teens in the United States and its territories. To contact Loveisrespect, call 1-866-331-9474, chat online at loveisrespect.org, or text “loveis” to 22522. Together, we can break the chain of abuse and put a stop to TDV.

Aubra Ladd is a first-year student at Saint Louis University. She is an advocate for equal rights and a part of the “Leadership for Social Change” learning community.


Denim Day

April 27, 2017


In 1992, an 18-year-old girl stepped foot into her driving instructor’s vehicle in the small town of Muro Lucano, just 60 miles from Naples – anticipatory for the lesson and new as a student, she sat in the passenger seat and was driven to an isolated location. Though naïve during the first moments of the detour route her instructor took, the situation drastically escalated. Pulling the girl out of the car, he wrestled her out of one leg of her jeans, forcefully raping her.

Fast forward to that night: after the man made her drive home, she told her parents about the assault, who supported her to press charges. Fortunately, the perpetrator was arrested and prosecuted, but the rape conviction did not stop there as he appealed the sentence.

In 1998, the case advanced to the Italian Supreme Court, as written by denimdayinfo.org. But what was once thought as a deplorable crime against an innocent girl was flipped upside-down: she was pitted against the court who overturned the case, dismissing the assaulter.

How could this possibly be, though? How could the highest court not support a girl’s claim for being raped when the evidence was clearly laid out? – or was it really apparent? The Chief Judge argued that since the victim wore very tight jeans, she needed to help in the removal of them, thereby making it consensual sex, as reported by University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s “Campus for Awareness and Relationship Education” page. Still, this is no excuse for an overturn.

Amidst the background of “Denim Day,” we are all asked to make a social statement because there is no excuse for rape. On Wednesday, April 26, the community was asked to wear denim jeans in support of rape survivors. The first Denim Day event was organized in 1999 by Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles, which was led by Patti Giggans, as written by University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

From registering to wear jeans on Denim Day to locating events specific to the cause in your area or ordering a $5 Denim Day toolkit with ideas for events and engagement, the opportunities for participation are growing. According to denimdayinfo.org, as of today over 10 million participants have registered to rise up against not only the Italian Supreme Court ruling, but also rape cases that occur on college campuses, at work, etc.

In honor of Denim Day, senior Andy Lou writes “He/she is drunk  she/he wants/ought to get raped!” Though the 18-year-old girl was not drunk when she was victimized, nor was she under the influence of drugs, Lou’s statement highlights how rape is never okay, no matter what the conditions may be.

“The ruling by the Italian Supreme Court was not only stupid, but also very sad,” he said. “There are so many similar instances that occur, like if a girl or even guy got drunk – sometimes, the judges will try to pinpoint the problem on what the victim did wrong, but in reality, it should be the opposite. This kind of social injustice happens everywhere.”

How exactly can people’s voices be heard and social justice delivered? Of course, there is the classic donating to various charities to support sexual assault survivors and putting on events to raise awareness, giving a voice to the victims who were once voiceless, but Lou also explains that listening to those assaulted is a primary step in developing their confidence and stabilizing their mental health.

“Listening to a friend or someone you know and reassuring him/her that he/she didn’t do anything wrong is the first thing that should be done in order to help build the person back up,” he said. “Your appearance should not be related to what you deserve, or you looking beautiful does not mean that you want to have a sexual encounter. A lot of people have an ego of trying to ‘get somewhere,’ but we all have that hope that one day it will stop. We all can do something to help with this cause by promoting what’s right versus what is wrong.”

I am asking you to listen to those perpetrated and connect with the online movement first – visit the YWCA website or that of Denim Day’s; utilize hashtags, such as “#noexcuse” or “#denimday” to spread the word.

Smart Women, Smart Money

April 25, 2017

AdvocateLegislationJoin us in raising awareness about the issues that affect women’s long-term economic empowerment (the wage gap, paid sick and family leave, fair scheduling practices, educational access, and affordable child care) and how you can join YWCA in advocating for increased economic security for women.



Are you ready to take charge of your financial future? April, aka Financial Literacy Awareness Month, is the perfect month to start your journey to economic independence. Women are at higher risk for financial instability, but with the right planning women can achieve financial success and stability. Check out the following information to learn what women’s financial reality is, what small steps you can take to take control of your finances, and free or inexpensive local and national resources that can support you on your financial literacy journey. Also, don’t forget about our Smart Money Smart Women event April 29th! Sources: • https://www.wsj.com/articles/women-especially-are-failing-financial-literacy-1434129899 • https://www.annuity.org/financial-literacy/women/ • https://www.forbes.com/sites/jefflanders/2014/03/06/financial-literacy-the-key-to-every-womans-financial-stability/ • http://gogirlfinance.com/ • http://www.wife.org/

April 17, 2017

Why Women need to be financially literateTake Charge of YourChange Your Trajectory

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April is Financial Literacy Awareness Month

April 14, 2017

Blog 1 Thumbnail (002) MSW4.4. Equal Pay GraphicHow can we reduce the wage gap-To learn more...

Sexual Assault Impacts and Involves Men. Routinely, there are more sexual assault cases brought to the forefront involving women as the victims – after all, an estimated 17.7 million American women had experienced some form of sexual misconduct as of 1998 (whether attempted or completed), as reported by RAINN. However, we also routinely fail to acknowledge the prevalence of rape culture amongst males. According to 1in6.org, a sexual assault awareness website bringing to light the abusive sexual encounters males experience, “1 in 6 men have experienced abusive sexual experiences before age 18. And this is probably a low estimate, since it doesn’t include noncontact experiences, which can also have lasting negative effects.” The term “males” is spoken loosely as I have not yet crossed the line between race, ethnicity, or even sexual orientation and whether men are specifically targeted to a higher degree because they are not per say “of American descent,” do exhibit a darker skin tone, or love another man. As a sophomore at Saint Louis University, Rob McGrath is your typical Aviation and Flight Science major: he attends class, hangs out with friends; he even goes to parties, but one looming precedent he sees fit in changing on campus and the work force is incorporating the male voice within the sexual assault awareness campaign. “On campus and even at your job, there should be discussion groups talking about these topics, where we can all come together to talk about our experiences no matter our gender or background,” McGrath said. “Just knowing that there is someone else out there who has experienced what you have gone through can be comforting – usually people don’t want to go public announcing they were assaulted, so these safe spaces would be a good option.” One of the strongholds in raising awareness, engaging both men and women within the community, is through local participation, whether it be holding events or linking with organizations by promoting advocacy. On Monday, April 3 at 7 p.m., the YWCA in St. Louis held an event called “Hearing the Whispers and Roars,” an evening dedicated to readings and artwork from rape survivors. What was highlighted throughout was not only self-expression through language and personal interaction, but that which delved into multimedia platforms. Though never assaulted, McGrath’s photograph above captures the hardships he understands others have encountered. Half of his face is shown; the other side is not clearly seen. Whether you interpret it as a representation that sexual assault violence physically tears a person in two or that the survivor’s story only makes up a portion of who he/she is and not the whole, the analysis rests within the story of the victim and the steps being taken to lead to awareness. “I see sexual assault, especially for men, as very underreported,” McGrath said. “You think of men as masculine, so they probably don’t want to speak out because they would be embarrassed and very hurt. There’s so much we can try to do to help give them a voice, though.”

April 10, 2017

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Every 98 seconds, a person experiences sexual assault – while it is difficult for me to grapple with this statistic presented by RAINN as the notion of rape is far from my radar with pursuing Journalism and Biomedical Engineering at Saint Louis University, the harsh reality exemplifies that both young men and women alike are suffering daily from undesired sex. Yes, I have been objectified as passersby have cat-called at me while I was running, expecting some sort of acknowledgement; yes, my relationship I was in awhile back was not ideal. However, I consider myself lucky. I am close with some people today who are surviving rape victims, and the mental scarring still haunts them. What’s worse is that college campuses nationwide (nearly 100 as reported by writer Nick Anderson of the Washington Post, 2014) disclosed cases of rape violence as more of a PR problem rather than that of a civil rights and public safety issue. Although never assaulted, sophomore at Saint Louis University Fernanda Alvilez encompasses the ideal of ‘intersectionality.’ As a Latino woman, she houses both gender and racial minority classes. Studies have indicated that there was a disproportionate ratio of sexual assault attacks targeted at minority women, like Alvilez (Sabina, Cuevas & Schally, 2015). “Everyone, including guys and girls, should be aware of sexual assault because it does unfortunately occur on campuses, and this awareness can prevent us from being put into those situations,” she explained. Fortunately, sexual assault violence has fallen by more than half since 1993 as reported by RAINN, with every 1.6 per 1000 people as of 2015. Despite the improvements made, the number is still too high – certainly Alvilez mentions that “some situations are unavoidable,” such as being cat-called, but acknowledging the warning signs and advocating for awareness can help. Traditionally, many rape prevention programs and sexual assault crisis centers actively engage women as volunteer or staff members. In order to transform the societal issues, rape needs to be addressed as not only a “women’s issue,” but that which affects both genders. Men can practice healthier forms of masculinity and raise awareness by tabling events, handing out fliers, and the like, while the ladies also remain firm in their advocacy. Rape is not acceptable. Fernanda’s picture below states, ‘We are united in silence.’ We are voiceless only if we choose to be. Utilize your voice whether it is standing up for a friend, joining a campaign against sexual assault, or being aware of your surroundings. Our speech is the most powerful form of communication. -Meredyth Staunch

March 30, 2017


Preventing Sexual Violence

May 17, 2016

Preventing Sexual Violence: Community Call to Action


By: Stephanie Cook


As Sexual Assault Awareness Month comes to an end, it’s important to learn how to stay involved all year with preventing sexual violence. In this post we’ll provide some ways for you to join the movement!

Learn More

Educating yourself about sexual violence is one of the most important things you can do to help prevent it. We have provided a number of resources here, with descriptions for each:

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: This blog post of ours covers basic definitions, statistics, and impacts related to sexual violence

Myths about Sexual Violence: This web page discusses common myths associated with sexual violence and provides facts and explanations to prove them wrong

Consent: Refer to this article for information about consent in sexual interactions, including what consent is and what it looks like

 Sexual Rights: This chart is really helpful in listing and describing the inherent rights we have to our own bodies and sexual experiences

Supporting Survivors: Take a look at this article for things you can say and do to be there for a survivor of sexual violence

 Self-Care After Sexual Assault: This article can help those healing from sexual violence to come up with physical and emotional self-care strategies that work well for them

 Take Action

There are many ways to take action to prevent sexual violence! Below are a few suggestions:

Attend a Workshop:

Attending community education workshops about sexual violence can equip participants with the knowledge and skills to work toward ending this issue. Read the descriptions below for more information about workshops provided in the St. Louis area:

YWCA Metro St. Louis Women’s Resource Center: Provides community education about sexual assault and abuse, including risk-reduction and awareness training, professional education, psycho-educational groups, and off-site outreach services

YWCA Metro St. Louis Woman’s Place: Sexual violence often occurs within intimate partnerships. Woman’s Place provides workshops to educate family and friends, as well as professionals, about how to effectively support survivors of intimate partner violence

Safe Connections on Campus: Provides a space for college students to get involved with learning about and preventing sexual assault and intimate partner violence

Bridgeway Behavioral Health: Provides bystander intervention trainings in St. Charles County and Lincoln County to work toward strengthening community responses to sexual violence

 Use Social Media:

Throughout the year you can share information about sexual violence, such as the resources we have listed above, to your social media platforms. You can also share and participate in campaigns, pledges, and other activities. The following organizations have plenty of ways to stay involved. Learn more about what they do and follow them on social media to stay connected:

RAINN: The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network provides a number of statistics and social media posts that you can use to raise awareness about sexual violence and support survivors. They also suggest other ways to get involved, including advocating for effective policies impacting sexual violence survivors.

NO MORE: NO MORE raises awareness about sexual assault and intimate partner violence. They have created several public service announcements addressing these topics, which you can share on your social media sites. They also have pledges and week-long action events that you can participate in.


Another way to take action is to volunteer. The YWCA Metro St. Louis and several other organizations in the area offer volunteer opportunities to support survivors of sexual violence. Here are a few you can check out:

YWCA Metro St. Louis

Safe Connections

Bridgeway Behavioral Health

Crime Victim Advocacy Center

Provident Life Crisis Services

 What are Resources in My Community?

Survivors of sexual violence deserve our care and support. The YWCA Metro St. Louis and other organizations in the area provide services for individuals who have experienced sexual violence or who are concerned that someone they know may be experiencing it. Check out this list to learn more:

YWCA Metro St. Louis Women’s Resource Center: Provides crisis intervention, therapy, and advocacy for individuals who have experienced sexual assault or abuse

YWCA Metro St. Louis Woman’s Place: Provides drop-in support and advocacy for individuals who have experienced domestic abuse

Safe Connections: Provides crisis intervention, individual counseling, classes, and support groups for teens and adults who have experienced sexual assault or intimate partner violence

Bridgeway Behavioral Health: Provides individual and group counseling and crisis intervention services for survivors of sexual violence in St. Charles County and Lincoln County. Also provides substance abuse services

The YWCA Metro St. Louis has also compiled a list of other community resources in the area for individuals who have experienced sexual violence, such as legal and counseling services.

Thank you for joining the YWCA Metro St. Louis for Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April. We encourage you to share this information with those around you and keep in touch with us as we advocate for healthy relationships all year round.

Facebook: YWCA Metro St. Louis

Twitter: YWCA Metro St. Louis (@YWCASTL)

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