Welcome Rachel!

February 28, 2014
Hey everyone! My name is Rachel Nowlain and I am the newest addition to the prevention team at Hope Alliance.
Growing up, I was exposed to a wide variety of examples of domestic violence. Often, my friends would come to me and tell me what was going on in their life, but there were no resources for DV victims in my small, rural county. In response to their outcries, my mother created a makeshift shelter at our house where my friends knew they were welcome and could feel safe anytime. Some of the friends we took in for a few days and some stayed for years. After being frustrated with the lack of resources and with the lack of understanding or care about the issue of domestic violence in my hometown, it is refreshing to be apart of a community that acknowledges that domestic violence and sexual assault exist and works to help survivors and prevent violence.
According to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, “Sexual violence prevention requires comprehensive, community-based initiatives that address the various systemic issues, attitudes, behaviors and norms that perpetuate sexual violence.”   At Hope Alliance, we visit schools in Williamson county and lead discussions with students on topics such as respect, power and control, needs and behaviors, conflict resolution, stereotypes, healthy relationships, and consent. We cover topics like these because we believe that developing a better understanding of ourselves and others will allow us to see everyone as a fellow human. When we do this, we are not de-valuing other individuals and it is less likely that we enact violence on one another. I have only been facilitating for a few weeks now, but I am excited to be a part of the team and I cannot wait to see what progress we make with our students this semester!

Wisdom, Wealth and Words

August 7, 2013

July, like too many months before it, turned out to be heavy on need and low on resources. With the 35 beds already filled at our emergency shelter with women and children fleeing potentially lethal situations at home, Hope Alliance had to help the additional 181 souls seeking shelter find a different safe place to stay. Each call on the hotline was another story of domestic or sexual violence from either a victim needing help or someone that loves a victim trying to find assistance.

With an expected reduction in funding due to the dreaded “sequester,” Hope Alliance is relying even more on the generosity of our community to provide the support that allows us to continue providing free services to victims and their families.

With so much need, how can one person or group help the situation? Each of us has the ability to help in some way, whether through our wisdom, our wealth, or our words.

Wisdom. Your life has led you on many paths that have taught you many lessons and introduced you to many people.  If your life’s journey has brought you an amazing network of people and information, please consider becoming a board or committee member.

Wealth. Not everyone has thousands of dollars to help close the funding gap caused by the sequester, but most can help in smaller ways. These smaller ways can have a huge impact on the women and children living in our shelter. For example, $100 buys a child a bike and helmet so they can be a kid while living in the shelter. $250 can buy groceries for the entire shelter for a week, which is a total 735 meals. $400 could give a woman and her children the deposit needed for an apartment where they can start a healthier, violence-free life.

Words. If you haven’t the network to be a board member or the extra funds to donate, please consider how much your words can make a difference in the efforts to end domestic and sexual violence. Words can be used in many ways. Speak out against domestic and sexual violence. Tell your friends, family and coworkers about the prevalence of these crimes in Central Texas. Explain the importance of prevention along with intervention.  Speak up if you know a victim that needs help. Sometimes just letting a person know there are resources out there is all he or she needs to take the major step of leaving an abusive home or telling someone about a sexual assault.  Your words can start a movement of change.

Together, we can bring the attention needed to end domestic and sexual violence.

Welcome Michelle!

August 1, 2013

Hi everyone! My name is Michelle Rowan, and I am excited to say that I am the new Structured Education Coordinator at Hope Alliance.

My interest in human rights began when I took a class called Modern Social Problems my freshman year in college. In the course we watched documentaries on various injustices and discussed societal influences. A few years later, my sister started volunteering with a human trafficking organization that taught girls about self-worth and positive self-image. My sister shared what she learned with me and I became increasingly interested in the cause. During my junior year, I took another course where we discussed injustices (focusing mainly on popular culture and societal views on women). This is when I realized that I wanted to focus my efforts on empowering and counseling women – especially those who had gone through life-changing events like human trafficking, sexual abuse, dealing with the sex industry, exploitation, etc.

Through research and experience I learned that one of my greatest passions is tackling and reducing rape culture. If you are not familiar with the term, rape culture is typically a situation or attitude in which the victim is blamed for the rape while the rapist is sympathized with, or at the very least their crime is downplayed.  Often, the victim is degraded publicly for what they were wearing, how much they were drinking, or how they were acting prior to the rape. The Steubenville, Ohio case is a prime example of this. I want to empower individuals so that they are not defined by any incident, but instead are able to prevail through tough situations and excel afterwards.

I believe that prevention education is so important, and I think that Hope Alliance is doing a great thing in Williamson County. If people are unaware or misinformed, they cannot help us work towards a violence-free community. It is important to inform individuals of all ages about the prevalence and seriousness of sexual violence. Educating youth on healthy attitudes, skills, and behaviors can be a great stepping stone to reducing violence. After all, children are the future!

I am most interested in stressing the importance of consent. Many people have been misinformed on what consent is, or perhaps they were never taught what it actually looks like. Below I have provided a very informative info graphic on consent. I look forward to the future here, and I am excited to get the school year started!

 

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Break the Box: Office Edition

July 22, 2013

Check out these awesome pictures our office staff created in support of TAASA’s Break the Box campaign! Try taking some time today to think of how YOU break the gender stereotypes box, or how you support those who do. 

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Prevention Power!

July 1, 2013
Happy summer from the Hope Alliance Prevention Team!
 
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This past June, the Prevention Team attended Partnering for Prevention, a statewide sexual violence prevention summit put on by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and the Texas Council on Family Violence. This three day event featured a variety of dynamic speakers sharing their particular prevention expertise to help those of us in the field create and deliver effective, engaging programs and resources that resonate with youth.
 
We really enjoyed the variety of perspectives and ideas presented. One of the most valuable tools to come out of our experience at the summit was the idea to incorporate more art and media-related activities into our prevention lessons. We were able to adapt activities from “Creative Action for Equality: a toolkit for change,” a brochure published by TCFV, and use them with students in our summer program this month. Our students enjoyed taking information they’d learned about gender stereotypes and applying them to advertising and media they saw every day. Students were able to create their own ads and signs in response to negative messages they identified. Using engaging approaches that incorporate elements of students’ lives and different learning styles can keep our lessons interesting and relatable, giving the concepts staying power even after the bell rings!
 
Bringing together prevention workers from all over the state provided us all with the opportunity to network, share advice, ask questions, and find out what’s going on in other areas of Texas. We are excited to continue working with both TAASA and TCFV to better our program and change the world! Three cheers for violence prevention y’all!

Nice to meet you!

May 20, 2013

Hello everyone, I hope you’re enjoying the arrival of these hot May days! I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself to you. I’m Julie Cushing, and I am the new Structured Education Coordinator with the Prevention Team here at Hope Alliance. I’m a native Austinite, with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a Master’s of Public Health from UT. I have experience with school-aged youth in both teaching and case management and I am really looking forward to taking my personal passions for social justice and equality and applying them in the classroom to help put an end to sexual violence.

I’m also a mom to a 12 year old son, so violence prevention education with students is especially relevant to me as I help usher a boy into manhood. I wanted to take a moment to talk about ways those of us with kids in our lives can incorporate “heavy” issues like consent and respect into our everyday interactions in age-appropriate ways. Fostering open communication about boundaries, bodies, and behavior can help us help kids establish lifelong healthy habits and keep us connected with children as they grow and start to tackle more complicated issues.

Current events unfortunately show us the importance of tackling these issues early and often, but starting the conversation doesn’t have to be scary! The Good Men Project has a great starter list of ways to guide kids of all ages in setting and respecting boundaries and developing an understanding of some of the issues that underlie sexual violence. Items on the list include ways to foster the development of empathy, avoid objectification of other people, and encourage kids to help stand up for others. The lessons here can help adults guide kids in getting to know themselves and their feelings and develop a positive sense of identity to make good choices. Check out the link for ways to help raise up the next generation of empowered youth!

 

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I look forward to working with all of you. Have a safe and happy Memorial Day!

-Julie Cushing, Structured Education Coordinator

No More Boxes!

April 2, 2013

This past month, TAASA (Texas Association Against Sexual Assault) launched a new media campaign called Break the Box. The goal of the campaign is to highlight the connection between gender stereotypes and sexual violence.

For those of you not as familiar with the prevention lingo, here is what that means: Society has created these invisible boxes of what a man or a lady should be like/look like/act like. Imagine I tell you to “be a man” or to “man up”- what does that look like? Imagine I tell you to “act like a lady”- what should you be doing; what should you not be doing? Now pretend you are not all of those things in that box and you want to step outside of it. Once you step outside of the box, are you treated fairly? Often, when someone steps outside of that box, there are many violent verbal and physical repercussions. As preventioneers, we want to communicate that its ok to be inside of the box if that is what you choose; but its also ok to be outside of the box! What is NOT ok is when we are criticized for being inside or outside of that box. YOU (not society) get to choose who you want to be! The all-encompassing point is, when we label someone as ‘other’ or ‘less than’ it is a lot easier to be violent towards others. When we all agree that being inside or outside of those boxes is totally OK, it’s a lot harder to be violent towards others.

To foster this conversation, TAASA will be featuring their video add in movie theaters in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. The 30 or 60 second adds shows several different examples of people breaking down that box that society tries to put us in. This past week, during my lesson on gender roles, I showed my students the campaign to ask their opinion. Some students mentioned that they wished they could hear what the people in the scenarios were thinking when others were ‘putting them in the boxes’ or that they wished they could see more of the story. Overall, they agreed that it would definitely spark conversations around what gender stereotypes meant. Big round of applause to TAASA for creating this amazing campaign that will help us put a stop to violence! 

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Gearing Up for 2013!

January 15, 2013

Happy January everyone! Can you believe we are already fifteen days into the New Year? With all of this excitement surrounding 2013, I would like to take a moment to look back at all the wonderful work that our Primary Prevention Team accomplished in 2012.

 In 2012, Corey Ann, Brooke, and I (MichaelElaine) reached almost two thousand participants with our violence prevention curriculum. That includes 425 elementary students, 632 middle school students, 584 high school participants, 4 college students, and 222 adults for a grand total of (drum roll)… 1,867 participants in Williamson County! As overwhelming as these numbers can be, knowing that we are moving towards a violence free community makes it all worthwhile.

We would not be able to do any of this without the relentless support and undying enthusiasm of the Hope Alliance staff, directors, volunteers, and surrounding communities. I want to say a big thank you to all of Williamson County. Your desire to help us create a violence free community is highly valued and appreciated.

Wow! What an amazing year 2012 was for the Primary Prevention Team. In 2013, our plan is to continue the facilitation of our Project Empowerment curriculum in Williamson County’s schools. Jessica Wilson (our new Sexual Violence Prevention Specialist) and I are so excited to get back out there. All I have to say is look out 2013- we have some mighty big plans for you!

MichaelElaine Stark

Structured Education Coordinator

Primary Prevention Team

New Team Member and the New Year

December 28, 2012

Hello friends, supporters and visitors!

Allow me to introduce myself as the newest member of the Hope Alliance team. My name is Jessica Wilson and I will be the new Primary Prevention Specialist. Yes, sadly this does mean we will all have to say goodbye to Corey Ann. She has been so amazing here in her time at Hope Alliance and I can’t wait to learn from her and continue her awesome work.

I graduated several years ago with a BA in Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, and high-tailed it to Austin as soon as I could.  More recently, I have been working with various non-profits including the National Dating Abuse Helpline where I am still employed as a (very) part-time advocate. I have always been drawn to the art of counseling, but I also highly value education. But which path should I take? Well now I don’t have to choose! Hope Alliance has a position that combines the two AND taps into my love for helping those experiencing crisis. Perfect fit! I am so excited to be a part of the incredible work Hope Alliance does on a daily basis. I have already learned SO much and I cannot wait to learn and experience even more.

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As we are all coming around to the new year of 2013, I want to pass on some words of encouragement. Society places so many stressors on us on a daily basis and these are only intensified by the new year with those resolutions everyone is intent on achieving (at least for the month of January). Let me share some suggestions with you. Maybe this year what you need is not to lose 10 lbs or to learn how to cook gourmet meals. Maybe this year, what you do need is to focus on the healthiness of your inner self. Since we can’t see it, it is often put on the backburner, but nothing is more important than to make sure that you are internally happy. How do you work towards this? It is quite a bit easier than you might think. Do things that make you feel better! Its time to de-stress! Pick up those hobbies again that used to make you happy. This could be anything from writing in a journal about your day and your feelings, to taking a nice long bubble bath, to reconnecting with old friends. When you are not healthy on the inside, it is extremely difficult (I may even go so far as to say impossible) to contribute to anything outside of yourself in a healthy way. This is something we like to define as self-care. And guess what, in the process of taking care of your inner self, you may just lose those sneaky 10 lbs anyways! So… MY new years resolution is to make sure that for at least 15 minutes every day, I am engaging in some form of self-care, and I invite you to join me!

Holiday Season in Full Swing!

December 13, 2012

Oh hello there! It’s been a while since we’ve posted something, and do you know what that means?

We’re working super hard all the time!!

It’s true. Check out this recap of goodness that has led us into the winter months:

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-Our Prevention Team taught 30 classes a week to students from 3rd-12th grade in Hutto, Florence, Granger, Taylor, and Georgetown.

-Our Outreach Team facilitated and attended coalition meetings across the county, set up a new satellite office in Liberty Hill, and solidified relationships in Hutto, Taylor, and Georgetown. Additionally they are running our Holiday Program.

-Our Counseling Team continued to see numerous clients throughout the week, and began providing counseling in Hutto and Liberty Hill as well. Our School Based Counselor maintains a full caseload in Taylor High School.

-Our Hotline Team answered hundreds of calls and provided relief, services, and support.

-Our Shelter Team created a safe and healing environment for victims of domestic violence to find hope and to create a new life.

Meanwhile our directors recruited and trained new volunteers, coordinated a Domestic Violence Awareness display, applied for and secured new grants and donations, and planned special “thank yous” for the deserving staff.

PHEW!

We are so grateful to be moving at this pace. While you celebrate the holidays, please send a little energy and love our way. We hope to keep growing and serving this county until there is an end to sexual and domestic violence.

Much love,
Corey Ann Seldon
Sexual Violence Prevention Specialist


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