For this post, I decided to poke around the Longwood website to see what resources were offered for rape/sexual assault prevention, and found a great collection of scenarios with an explanation of if the situation qualified as assault. I think this is a really wonderful method of education, and my only real qualm is that this information requires a bit of digging. It would be really simple to add a link on the homepage with this information, and would greatly help victims access it quickly. It is also a bit difficult to find information about classes and on campus programs for self defense on the page.
One great step Longwood has taken is the addition of PHED course on self defense that, according to the instructor, is the first one to be offered at the University. Classes like this are beneficial because since we have to take a Physical Education class anyway as a goal requirement, this is an excellent way to incorporate awareness into every day life. I also discovered that there is a class offered at the Health and Fitness Center for rape prevention that I plan to attend and discuss in a later blog. No one can say Longwood isn’t taking steps in the right direction, however, a lot more could be done to ensure that students are actively fighting to prevent all kinds of sexual assault.
For example, I read about something called “Denim Day” that many colleges are participating in to stop victim blaming in the event of sexual assault, which is a very important aspect of prevention. I wasn’t able to find any evidence of Longwood participation, but this would be a good way of showing support for victims and raising awareness. Why denim, you ask? According to nsvrc.org, “In 1998, a teenage girl in Italy was raped by her driving instructor. He was tried and convicted and sentenced to jail, and his case went to the Supreme Court of Appeals in Rome. The court overturned the original ruling stating that because the victim wore very tight jeans she had to help remove them, thereby giving consent to have sex. The case made international headlines and the young woman’s jeans became a symbol of the many misconceptions still surrounding sexual violence, such as there is a ‘correct’ way for someone to respond during an assault and what someone wears can be an excuse for rape.”
Participation in this sort of event would be a really easy way for Longwood to continue to raise awareness. We recently had a speaker come talk about what people view as red lines, and how to express these boundaries. Unfortunately I was unable to attend due to a previous commitment, but from what I have heard, it was a very informative speech and helped many students feel comfortable expressing themselves, which is very important in preventing assault. Calling attention to boundaries and the need to respect them is key, and it is my hope that Longwood will continue to host speakers such as this.
RAINN: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. RAINN.org. 21 March 2012. <http://www.rainn.org/statistics>
National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Nsvrc.org. Web. 26 March 2012. <http://www.nsvrc.org/calendar/3883>
When it comes to Sexual Assault Awareness campaigns, I have found that many focus on tips to help a woman avoid finding herself in a situation where assault may occur. For example, this list comes from the RAINN website I cited in my previous post:
- Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way to get out of a bad situation.
- Try to avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.
- Walk with purpose. Even if you don’t know where you are going, act like you do.
- Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it probably isn’t the best place to be.
- Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags as this can make you appear more vulnerable.
- Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged and that you have cab money.
- Don’t allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know.
- Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are walking alone.
No doubt, this is useful information. I myself have used these tips and have found them to be worth knowing. However, I couldn’t help but notice a trend while looking at all these prevention campaigns. The focus is on how people can avoid becoming the victims of sexual assault, not on preventing people from actually performing assaults. It is a known fact that many assaults occur when the victim knows and trusts their attacker, whether it be their boyfriend, friend, etc. Avoiding isolated areas and not putting headphones in aren’t really useful in a situation like that.
Instead of campaigns focusing on not getting assaulted, there should be more geared toward not forcing sexual contact. According to the Journal of Forensic Nursing, a study conducted between 2000-2007, programs focusing on men not assaulting and being aware of what qualified as unwanted sexual contact proved highly effective. Many of the men who participated admitted to not being sure if certain situations qualified as assault, such as sexual contact with a person who was drunk while they were sober, etc. The Journal reported that those who participated in the study “demonstrated a decline in the likelihood of raping a woman and less acceptance of rape myths were demonstrated immediately post intervention, and the results were sustained at a seven month follow up.” These campaigns work.
While campaigns that focus on a woman avoiding circumstances where she may be approached by someone of questionable character mean well and do provide valuable information, they still can make the woman appear to be the instigator. Sadly, we live in a culture where many women are blamed for enticing their attacker with low cut clothing and flirtatious behavior, so the reasoning is that obviously she was asking for it. When a woman was attacked in my hometown while walking home at night, the general consensus was “Well that’s sad, but what did she expect?” I also overhear conversations around campus like this all the time, and it has to stop. Of course not everyone thinks like this, and I have no doubt that those who do only hold these beliefs because of a lack of education on the subject. With more focus on campaigns like sexualassaultvoices.com that chastise men not to be “that guy,” and inform people about the realities of sexual assault, I believe the campus would become a safer place.
Campaigns like this make scoring with a drunk girl shameful, not something to brag about to one’s friends, and as we all know, peer pressure is one of the greatest persuaders. If a potential assaulter’s friends view them with disgust instead of praise when they bring someone home who is in no condition to say no, the risks will greatly decrease, helping eliminate sexual assault on Longwood’s campus altogether.
For my next few posts, I have decided to go in an entirely new direction due to an unfortunate lack of research opportunities for my restaurant food donation. Instead, I will be focusing on the need for more sexual assault awareness and prevention programs around Longwood University. Sexual assault is a huge problem, and one that is very difficult to solve. While researching this topic online, I found that 54% of sexual assaults go unreported, making it the most unreported crime in America, while an overwhelming 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail for their crimes.
While Longwood does have information on its website about what constitutes a sexual assault, and has a zero tolerance policy for any instances of assault, it is hard to enforce these rules when most victims won’t report the crime. Even harder when there isn’t much of a crackdown on the offenders. Admittedly, the university doesn’t have many reports of sexual assault occurrences, so you may be wondering why there is a need for more programs when we are doing okay here. However, as this chart proves, reported cases doesn’t give a reliable number.
Unfortunately, I do know a person who was affected by this. While I won’t go into too much detail, I will say she did not report the assault because of the fear of being judged and told it was her fault. Also, because she thought the fact that she was at a party and had been drinking would somehow invalidate the assault, and that it meant she had asked for it. Sexual assault, no matter what the circumstances, is not the victim’s fault, and it is a necessity that people be informed of this. While talking to various people I know on campus, it was very surprising how many were unsure of what exactly is defined as a sexual assault, even though Longwood’s website includes that information. Also, a lot of people were unsure of how to report an incident, and seemed uncomfortable with the prospect of having to speak with police in the event of an assault.
It is my firm belief that while Longwood does offer several programs for defense and prevention, more needs to be done. Incorporating self defense classes into the Health & Fitness Center’s line up of free activities would be one great way to do this. This year, a Self Defense class was offered for the PHED requirement, and this is an excellent addition to Longwood’s class lineup. More campaigns like the highly successful Red Flag Campaign, and more speakers (such as the Red Line speaker) would also be hugely beneficial and an easy way to get knowledge out to the students.
RAINN: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. RAINN.org. 21 March 2012. <http://www.rainn.org/statistics>
Longwood University. Sexual Assault. Longwood.edu. 23 March 2012. <http://www.longwood.edu/health/sexualassault.htm>
For this post, I would like to go more in depth with the subject of welfare I covered in my last entry. If you guys are like me, you have heard all the fuss about welfare spending and how we need to do away with these high costs. And the complainers do have a point; welfare is expensive. In fact, according to CNS News, welfare cost each household $560 per month on 2009, and $638 in 2o1o. This same news source projects that “by 2014, annual spending on welfare programs will reach $1 trillion for the fiscal year.” Ouch. That is a lot of money that could be spent on bills, diapers for junior, or a fancy new wardrobe for yourself. Plus, let’s face it; nobody likes seeing where the government has taken money from their paycheck at the end of the week. It’s our money, and we want to spend it! However, we cannot forget about those in need and allow them to starve. Of course none of us want to see anyone go hungry, and if the taxes taken from our checks are going to help those in need, most would agree that it is worth it.
However, there could be a way to end this and put that huge amount of money toward some other cause. How? You guessed it–Restaurants donating left over food. If every restaurant in America donated their surplus food, that added to donations people give of their own free will, could greatly decrease the amount of federal funding for programs like Food Stamps and WIC. After all, if people are being fed 3 square meals a day at soup kitchens, the amount of money they need from these programs greatly decreases. Instead of worrying about paying for groceries, that money can go toward paying bills, buying a house, or numerous other things to help them get back on their feet. This leads again to less money being spent on programs like welfare, and more going toward solving other problems.
People need to encourage restaurants to donate food. If we show more support and patronage toward restaurants who donate, others will want to get in the game too. After all, without paying customers, even big chains won’t last long. Corporations rely on society to support them, and if more people refused to go to chains that refuse to help the community, these corporations wouldn’t last long. This is an issue that affect everyone, because in this economy, one day even you may fall upon hard times and need donated food to survive.
Now, you may be asking “Why should I care about restaurants donating food? It doesn’t affect me, and those who who can’t afford food get welfare. It doesn’t really matter.” Wrong-o! If my previous post wasn’t convincing enough, consider this: where does welfare come from? If you said your paycheck, you’re right. The government spends $191 billion annually on welfare for the poor, and that $191 billion is coming from you. If we had enough donated food to feed everyone, this number could greatly decrease, leaving more money for you to save up for that Lamborghini you have been wanting to buy. It is a win-win situation, really. Even though it really isn’t that much in the big picture, it still adds up to more money you get to keep. Besides, people complain all the time about how welfare should be lowered, and in my research all I found were articles complaining about how much money is spent on welfare benefits. However, as I discussed in my previous post, the requirements are plentiful, and many who need it don’t actually qualify. However, from the majority of opinions I have found, Americans don’t want to spend more of their hard earned paychecks on funding more food stamps. Where does that leave those who don’t qualify and are unable to find a job?
As of 2009, there are 50 million people in the United States who suffer from malnutrition, with that number growing steadily. That includes 1 child out of every 4 that are going hungry (Washington Post). According to Worldhunger.org, ”malnutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year–five million deaths. Undernutrition magnifies the effect of every disease, including measles and malaria. The estimated proportions of deaths in which undernutrition is an underlying cause are roughly similar for diarrhea (61%), malaria (57%), pneumonia (52%), and measles (45%).” Obviously, welfare just isn’t cutting it in the U.S., because 22.55 of the population in America have insufficient nutrition (Washington Post). We as a nation cannot just sit by and watch while people starve, and though many people do donate and make the effort to help, it isn’t enough.
This is where the restaurants come in. If every restaurant in the U.S. donated their surplus food, that added to donations from everyday people, it would have the potential to completely eradicate this problem. Funding for welfare would be unnecessary, and that money could be spent to solve other problems. Or, much to everyone’s delight I’m sure, that money could cease to be taken from each paycheck.
While researching for this blog, it occurred to me that many people may dismiss my argument because people unable to afford food are able to get food stamps and assistance so they can eat. Why should restaurants bother taking the time to donate if people can just have the government pay for groceries? I decided to find out how easy it is to get assistance. To be eligible for food stamps with just two people in a household, individuals must make less than $20,000 a year. For three or four people, you must make under $30,000 a year. There are also all kinds of other requirements, and many people who desperately need assistance don’t qualify, even though they can barely afford food for their families.
Now, I’ll admit I don’t really have a lot of experience paying bills or trying to support myself. I am a college student who lives with her parents for the time being, and admittedly my biggest responsibility for now is probably feeding our pets. But it seems to me like even if you make more than these specified amounts, with bills, living expenses, mortgage, etc etc; especially if you have kids, it may be difficult to pay for food and cover other costs. And even if you do qualify, for a family of 3 the most you will receive is $526 per month in the state of New York. This is a wonderful help to anyone struggling to make ends meet, but I can imagine even $526 could disappear very quickly when it comes to groceries. Especially in New York, where the cost of living is higher. And I mean healthy groceries. While I am at school I have to grocery shop on a budget, and it is incredibly hard to find healthy food that is affordable. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to find healthy options for three or more people with that budget. This is where food banks, soup kitchens, etc come in
However, soup kitchens rely completely on donations to stay running. If not enough food is donated, not everyone eats. I used to volunteer at a soup kitchen in Lynchburg, and there were many occasions when the fear that there would not be enough food to keep the place running was dominant. While doing research, I found a great list of companies that donate food that details the pounds of food donated each year by restaurants, and it added up to 8,758,500 lbs of food. And the amazing thing is, that amount is only from seven restaurant chains. Can you imagine if every restaurant chain in America was able to donate? I doubt soup kitchens would fear closing if on top of individual donations, companies donated these mass quantities of food.
And I’m not the first to question why all restaurants don’t do this. Far from it, in fact. There are numerous websites and petitions out there dedicated to helping restaurants donate, and making the process as easy as possible. I believe the problem is simply that not enough restaurants know just how easy it is. I was able to find one restaurant that claims they take the food left at the end of the dinner shift, cook it, then freeze and package it for weekly collections. This is a great idea that all restaurants could easily adopt. It would only take a few extra minutes, and the food could keep for a few days before it was served. By making information more readily available and publicized about this issue, I believe many restaurants would jump on board.
With hunger being such a huge problem in America, it is amazing how much food we throw away per year. According to the Integrated Waste Management Board, in the state of California alone about 1.5 million tons of surplus food is thrown away by restaurants each year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture determined that Americans throw away 25% of the food we make, equaling a whopping 96 billion pounds annually of food waste . Just think–if that food was donated instead of thrown away, our hunger problem could become basically nonexistent. Not only will it help those in need, but it is beneficial in other ways as well. Discarded food is a huge source of pollution, producing methane at an alarming rate as it decomposes in landfills. Less methane is good for everyone, and if all restaurants started donating instead of throwing food in the garbage, they would be helping themselves as well as others.
Most of this discarded food, like that at my summer job, is perfectly good and even unopened in many cases. There is absolutely no reason to choose throwing it away over giving it to those who could use it. It is not like restaurants will lose money over something that is going in the garbage anyway, and donating even earns these restaurants tax breaks. Not only do they not lose anything, they actually make money! It seems like a no brainer. Food donation is a tremendous financial benefit and helps the needy. Why then, do more restaurants not participate? The answer, I found, is mainly the fear of being sued. There is a small chance that someone could get sick from eating this donated food, giving them the opportunity to sue and end up hurting the companies that help. However, thanks to many states now instituting the Good Samaritan laws, restaurants will be released from liability in the event of a food bourne illness. The Food Donation Restauranteurs Guide I mentioned in my first blog also outlines how restaurants can be free from the fear of lawsuits if someone gets sick while eating donated food.
There are many organizations already dedicated to this cause, and numerous restaurants are taking great leaps in the right direction. Due to the simplicity of the contribution process and laws enacted to make donation accessible, it is completely possible to have all restaurants donating and helping solve both hunger and pollution problems.
This past summer while working for my employer, Barnes and Noble, I began training in the cafe portion of the store for the first time in my three year stint at the company. Aside from selling a plethora of drinks, this area also offers sandwiches, soups, pizza, and desserts. While being taught how to close up at the end of my first day, I was introduced to a “Waste Log,” on which all the food that expired the next day was to be recorded. After recording this information, I was told, we were to simply throw this unused food in the garbage. I was amazed at how much food was thrown away just on that first day: seven pizzas, five sandwiches, four gallons of milk, and eight dessert items. When I asked why this food was not put to good use and donated to a soup kitchen where it would have been eaten the next day, I was simply told it was “against store policy.” Sadly, I soon realized it was not uncommon for this much food or more to be discarded on any given night.
I find it upsetting that in a time of economic crisis where unemployment is prevalent and many families are struggling to provide basic necessities, that such wastefulness occurs within companies that have a great opportunity to help. The food that was thrown away throughout the summer was frozen and could have easily been given to soup kitchens that would have served the food the very next day, before it expired. Though I know many restaurants do donate the food they have left over at the end of the day, I began to question how many other corporations simply throw the food away because giving it to people in need is “against store policy.” Through a simple Google search, I was able to find a Food Donation Restauranteur’s Guide that outlines simple steps for restaurants to take in order to donate their leftover food. I believe many restaurants may not be aware of just how easy the process is, and by more of a push from their customers for them to help out through donations they will be glad to oblige. It is not only a great way to assist people, but also reflects wonderfully on the business and generates a great deal of positive publicity for them. By convincing more restaurants that they can and should donate food, a tremendous dent could made in the hunger problem that plagues the country.