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Trigger Warning

The writing, imagery, and other forms of expression below may contain explicit descriptions of rape, sexual assault, relationship abuse and other forms of personal violation.

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Issue 8!

Since the beginning, MVMENT has been more than a publication. It has been a community of students, tackling personal issues of gender identity, sexuality and rape culture. Clear communication is an integral part of growing our community, and over the past seven issues, we have used the Letter from the Editor not only as an update for our readers, but also as a space for reflection. In many ways, we have grown with each iteration by expanding our content to include collections, music and pioneer pieces, focusing our last two issues on specific themes—reproductive rights, in the wake of Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and the transgender experience, as a reflection on the Department of Health and Human Services’ memo invalidating transgender individuals across the country—themes pertinent to our current climate, as well as releasing the MVMENT Blog for additional content and increasing our board from 17 students on one campus to a team of over 100 on more than 30 campuses across the country.

While I am proud of all we have accomplished, we must also address our shortcomings. With such rapid expansion came the challenge of orchestrating our team members spread across regions and timezones. As school started, we found ourselves losing some board members both to unavoidable personal circumstances and to the demands of daily high-school and college life. Influenza and norovirus spread through boarding school and college campuses, and many board members, myself included, were ill for the better part of a month. And while elements of this issue have been in the works for many months (like our first video project, which I’ll address later), the time since our last issue has drawn on too long.

Issue 8 brings exciting new angles and content. We took the chance with this issue to explore what it means to be an ally and how we can each play our part in combating the toxic culture we live in. MVMENT spoke to Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farms, to showcase real change beyond the high school and college level. True to our mission of continual improvement, I’m thrilled to announce that this issue includes the magazine’s first video project, in which a high school sophomore talks about their struggles with gender identity and societal expectations of “being a beautiful woman.” Incorporating video into our content has been a long-time goal of ours, and we envision that “Being a Beautiful Woman” will lay the groundwork for future exploratory video projects. Finally, this issue concludes with “Unraveled,” a multimedia project that explores an abusive relationship through music and photography.

MVMENT is undergoing a fundamental readjustment. As we approach a year since our first issue, we are taking time to come back to the core of what we strive to do: delivering quality, student-created content, empowering and educating. And with our continual push for change—revamping our application process, consolidating our board, and focusing on an efficient workflow across all teams in different locations—we are also taking the next month to regroup, recalibrate and deliver another quality issue by the end of March. For our ninth issue, however, we are planning on taking a different route. An issue highlighting our journey and process, a unique opportunity for readers to see the students behind MVMENT. Not only will it be a window into the intense process behind our issues, blog releases and social media posts, it will paint a portrait of our diverse board and staff and write a story of our successes and trying moments.

Growing responsibly is an important part of our mission. In the past few months, an increasing amount of work has fallen to a handful of individuals. Ensuring that we can reliably publish content is an important part of our mission as well, and through the process of restructuring and self-evaluating, we will be able to streamline our process and ensure that all of our issues reflect our best and most timely work.

Joining the MVMENT team is more than just about finding a role or title. It is about joining hands with students connected not by location, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, race or religion but rather by the pursuit of a better, more understanding society for students like us. If you want to find your place as part of the magazine, whether contributing content, joining the staff, spreading the word, or starting discussions on your own campus, we are excited to be adding an online application portal to our website to be available in the near future. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to keep up-to-date with our progress.

Now, more than ever, as the status of our fellow LGBT+ students is called into question, MVMENT recognizes the importance of strong bonds and strong alliances. The work we do is imperative for the safety, greater understanding and future of the communities on our campuses and in broader society. Issue 8 includes the stories of allies as they try to find their place in this effort; they strive to be a roadmap for all of us as we do our part in contributing to the fight against the toxic culture surrounding us. The call to be a supporter is not just for this magazine but for all those who read it and work behind the scenes for it, all those who need their stories told, their voices broadcasted, and all of those who believe, as I do, that now, more than ever, the work of students refusing to be silenced is the factor that will drive change in our societies.

Read. Engage. Discuss. The culture we live in can only survive in silence.

Yours truly,

Vinayak Kurup
Editor In Chief

Sexuality

lit. art

by Sophie Ulin

Emotions are like waves:
They roll in high
They drown you
And every once in a while
There’s a drought
So big and so vast that there is not enough water in the world
To make a wave.
My waves came in strong
At six I crushed hard on a counselor,

His awkward lankiness as he towered over me,
As I cried just to receive the attention I so desperately craved

At eight I fell in love,

Just another brown haired boy that everyone fell for,
But, I fell hard, and joined a book club just to be near him

At thirteen I hated his girlfriend because she “had” him

His Justin Bieber hairstyle bounced as he made his way through the halls
And that day in science, when his hand touched my leg– I swear, my heart stopped
At fifteen I thought I found my soulmate
He was the only boy that I could talk to for hours;
Our conversations, in the middle of nowhere, kept me awake and wanting more

At sixteen, and seventeen, and eighteen my heart was broken

My soulmate was no longer my soulmate,
And instead of loving me, he destroyed me
At nineteen, I was done
While secretly, or maybe not, desperately craving attention, love, something

At nineteen I began to discover

Discover what it means to be a woman

I began to feel confident

With my body, with my environment, but most importantly with my heart
I no longer felt the need to pretend to be this perfect girl

My voice will always be too loud, and I will always love too much

To be straight

But to always accept others when they are not, for it doesn’t matter

I always knew my sexuality, since that counselor at six years old
But with every new boy, my sexuality is reinforced

But why do I keep loving men who hurt me the most

To be okay with saying “No”

I now know that I do not owe anyone anything
Not the girl who asked for my math homework when she just didn’t have the time

But especially not the boys who expect something because of my clothing

Sexuality is not a set thing,
But what if it is to me
What if I fall on the end of the spectrum
The end that is boy crazy
What if my sexuality is clear
I don’t really know what this means,

To be clear and to understand every aspect of myself

But I’m trying.

I know that when I see a woman I can admire her beauty,

But not in the way I look at a man.

The way I see the veins in his arms,
Or the way a shirt fits him just right.
To me it is different; there is no doubt in my mind.
I don’t admire a woman’s ass in the way that is expected of a male
My sexuality is the same and yet ever changing,
My type is different with each new crush and partner
And maybe that’s okay.

Illustration by Sarah Libby

A Catholic School Education

other opinion

by Janalie Cobb

Illustration by Brooke Ripley

There’s a box in my memory filled with everything I learned in Catholic school. Somewhere in there, shoved between the prayer sheets and songbooks, stuck to the Bible verses and meaning of the Holy Trinity, is a concrete list of what it means to be a Catholic School Girl. A true Catholic School Girl does not yell, does not scream, does not take up space when she sits. She rests with legs crossed at the knee and hands folded in her lap. Her hair is either perfectly tied in a neat bun with a plaid hair tie or perfectly laid against her back with a plaid hair band. Her socks cover her ankles and her skirt goes below her knees. A Catholic School Girl must never show her shoulders or her stomach. If the outline of her bra is visible through her shirt, hell breaks loose. If you can see thigh, you can’t see God up high.

The most important thing, however, is not what you look like. It’s not the length of your hair or whether or not you’re wearing makeup. The most important thing is what you sound like—you should sound like silence.

Three Catholic schools. Five years. Five homeroom teachers. Each played their part in using a crucifix to carve the word silence onto the walls of the box in my memory. When it opens, the deafening sound of it runs you over. At age five, I brushed it off; I barely knew the definition of silence. At age eight, it confused me; how would I answer questions if I wasn’t supposed to speak? At age twelve, it threatened me; if you don’t remain invisible, you deserve what’s coming for you.

The justification was always the same—God did not intend for women to be seen. Jesus did not die on the cross to allow me to parade myself around the world. Each of my Catholic schools utilized their only weapon to its fullest extent: they distorted Catholicism. They contorted our spirituality to teach young girls that you must adhere to what God intended a woman to be to get into heaven. To pray to your patron saint meant being what a woman was supposed to be: virtuous, submissive, invisible.

Invisible. But my patron saint taught me otherwise; in finding her, I found my voice.

I chose my patron saint in seventh grade, ​Saint Josephine Bakhita​ from Sudan. She was canonized by the Catholic church in 2000, 63 years after her death on February 8, 1947. She suffered through slavery and injury and illness. From a very young age, Bakhita was scarred and branded by her mistress, a practice rampant across Sudan at the time. She was forced on her knees, her master gripping a whip in case she moved, as a maid drew designs on Bakhita’s back with flour before carving them out with a razor. She rubbed salt in the wounds to be sure they scarred. St. Josephine Bakhita was tortured, punished, and beaten to a pulp. She survived a life of punishment until finally being brought to Italy by the first kind master she had. The same master that left her with a convent when he travelled back to Sudan. That was where she was first introduced to God—in a convent in Italy after facing decades of brutality. Bakhita was eventually granted her freedom back from the Italian government.

Despite the numerous hardships she experienced, Josephine Bakhita found her way to God. Her God did not require her to be submissive or invisible. Her God was a God of opportunity and equality. He was the God who saved her from the horrors of slavery and allowed her the chance to use her voice, not hide it. She travelled to and from convents and schools, sharing her story with the Sisters and Brothers and preparing them for the charity work they would be doing across Africa. She used her powerful voice to effect change wherever she could. Josephine Bakhita was far from silent, and nothing near invisible.

When you choose your patron saint, their first name becomes your middle name. I proudly embrace Josephine as my new middle name and eagerly explain its significance. Catholicism, to Bakhita, never meant submission. She was not passive when she knew others were still suffering under the weight of shackles in Sudan. She refused to remain invisible to the world, and she succeeded.

I went to high school not knowing anything about world history. Catholic school didn’t teach me about the American Revolution or Jay Gatsby. I didn’t learn how many times Caesar was stabbed or what the Fibonacci sequence is. But the largest failure of all was that my schooling attempted to silence me and my female peers. In educating me on what it meant to be a good Catholic School Girl, on how to grow into a virtuous Catholic woman, my teachers taught me the power my voice can hold, how strong a woman can be when she doesn’t hide behind her religion, and instead takes control of it to empower herself and others.


Being A Beautiful Woman

This piece contains language and statements that might not be suitable for all viewers.
video

by Elizabeth Kostina

In “Being a Beautiful Woman,” MVMENT’s first video project, sophomore Sofia Etlin explores themes of gender identity in their everyday life. Shot by Elizabeth Kostina, we envision that this video project will serve as a gateway for integrating video into MVMENT, bringing an entirely new dimension to our content.

The viewpoints, statements, and opinions expressed in this video are those of Sofia Etlin and do not necessarily reflect those of MVMENT Magazine or any institution.

Don’t Look At Yourself Through Their Eyes

concept

by Velen Wu

“Don’t Look At Yourself Through Their Eyes” is a piece created in light of the increase pressure of looking thin and the rigid beauty standards that our society fosters. It’s an attempt to make people understand that words can and do translate into real effects on people. At the same time, it’s a call for change and empowerment; to see yourself not through the lenses that society imposes on people, but through your own to see what matters to you. Not anyone else.

Between God and Family

opinion other

by Anonymous

Throughout my childhood, I was always taught that being gay is wrong. I never felt like I needed to challenge this idea my parents forced onto me, until I discovered the word “ally.” For many, balancing family and sexuality is no simple feat. LGBTQ+ people are often forced to choose between their loved ones and their identity. Of course, my struggle to find a middle ground between the beliefs I grew up with and more progressive ideas absolutely does not compare to these difficulties. But finding the middle ground between family and support is something I still have to work on, something that will often hold back activists from showing the necessary support.

I haven’t read the Quran thoroughly enough to know whether it encourages Muslims like myself to support homosexuality. I’ve been told that giving support is wrong. But I have a feeling that sometimes, religious beliefs get tangled with cultural beliefs. Cultural beliefs can be primitive ideas that are passed down, like tradition, because the unknown seems scary and wrong. People use God as an excuse to justify hatred, but who the hell are they to know what God wants? If we’re going to assume what God wants, we should at least assume that he wants us to love one another, no matter sexuality. I do know for a fact that if I walked up to an Imam at a Mosque and asked them if being gay is wrong, I’d get a big fat “yes.” So do I believe being gay is wrong? Who should I listen to? Should I follow my own sense of right and wrong? Is it wrong to follow my own sense of right and wrong?

Some students at my high school started an organization that designed shirts and other merchandise to raise money for LGBTQ+ charities. I received a sticker from the group, a symbol of a peace sign hand with a pink heart between the upright fingers. It felt harmless; in my heart, I think I love and support people no matter their sexuality. But my mother didn’t understand that. To her, the concept of being an ally is synonymous with being gay. I explained that it was a symbol of my support for my friends who are in the LGBTQ+ community. I really felt like being an ally would be acceptable to my mother. I felt like she’d even get behind the idea and be an ally herself. And then when I told her, stopped speaking to me for two days. She told me I was going against the Quran. Eventually, I told her I lied about the meaning of the sticker to get a reaction from her. Only then was she relieved.

If my mother reacted the way she did because of a sticker, because I told her I support people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, I can’t begin to imagine how someone feels when they come out to people they love and then are rejected.

Though I grew up in a place like New York City, I didn’t know people who were queer, so I never heard about the struggles that came with being queer. The awareness that is spread to me via media is crucial to my beliefs. I’m only halfway into my freshman year of highschool, but I’ve learned so much because of my amazing, diverse community. Meeting so many people with so many different identities made me want to be an ally who shows support more than through the internet. I want to ask for people’s correct pronouns instead of assuming. I want to attend Gay Straight Association club meetings. I want to become a better ally, one step at a time.

All of these goals and thoughts came up because of a laptop sticker, a symbol that showed me that I don’t have to stick to the beliefs I was taught growing up. I can think and understand new ideas. Why? Because I have the power to do so—like everyone else. For me, being a straight female who doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about these things, it seems like not that big of an issue. When it comes to sexuality, I am privileged. It’s important that others recognize their privilege too. My parents still think identifying as anything other than heterosexual is wrong. Perhaps one day, I can change their minds about the LGBTQ+ community. I’ll set that as one of my goals as an ally.

Illustration by Chandler Littleford

Our Accessories

lit. art

by Molly Gun

Our keys are not just for starting our cars; they are for holding between our pointer and middle fingers as claws, ready to do damage if needed.

Our umbrellas are not just for protecting ourselves from the sprinkling rain; they are for jabbing and buying time and protecting ourselves against far worse menaces.

Our phones are not just for selfies and Instagram; they are for texting our concerned friends every time we go out alone, letting them know we are OK and telling them where we are the minute something doesn’t feel right. They are for the emergency alert setting.

Our rings not to complete our outfits or indicate our relationship status; they serve as an effective tool when needed for self-defense.

Our headphones aren’t for giving us the perfect background to our daily life; they are for strategically avoiding unwanted and disturbing attention.

Our handbags are not just for holding these things; they are for delivering damaging blows when needed.

Sabotage

concept

by Anya Mohindra-Green

In “messing up” my painting, I thought of the subject as a less-than-perfect, and yet therefore representing a more intriguing and genuine version of herself. Each individual detail of the clothing is not distinguishable, but a greater dimension movement and emotion, comes through. Through this painting, I hope to convey that being beautiful and valid doesn’t mean looking the way the world expects.

Why the Patriarchy Isn’t My Cup of Tea

opinion

by Anonymous

Illustration by Emily Kowallo

My mother married my father when she was nineteen. He was thirty-two. It was an arranged marriage, perhaps because my maternal grandfather didn’t think she could fend for herself in a “dog-eat-dog world,” even after she had completed her education.

My mother was sent off to her in-laws’ house and was forced to stop attending college with two years to go. My grandmother believed that school distracted my mother from her “housewife duties.” Meanwhile my father was off in America, living his best life. In Bengali culture, men are the head of the house. They do whatever they please; women do their “duties.” My mother was cooking and cleaning and being a good housewife for a husband who wasn’t even there. Eventually she tried to commit suicide. She won’t tell me how or why it happened, all I know is what I’ve overheard from my grandmother.

When they found her unconscious body, they also found that she was pregnant with me. I wonder if she would have wanted to stay unconscious if I had dragged her back out into hell. She tells me I’m the reason that she’s alive. After this incident, my father came to visit my mother. He told my mom he felt like a failure (which he was). He allowed my mother to go back home and she did, back to her mother, her siblings, nieces, and nephews. My mother and I moved to New York City in 2006 when I was one and a half, still an only child, to be with my father. We lived in small apartment in Queens, then the Bronx.

My father never transformed himself after what my mother tried to do. For years, I watched the cycle of arguments. I watched the arguments until I could not watch anymore. I watched until it got physical, so I picked up the phone and dialed 911. My father snatched the phone from my hands and threatened to leave forever. I told him to go. I told him no one liked him anyway. He always left, but he always came back.

I started tracking them. The most days they could go without arguing was a solid 13 days. When they weren’t arguing, they would pretend everything was perfect. It felt like a TV show with a lot of bad acting. My mom’s laughter sounded sweet and fake like Aunt Jemima’s Maple Syrup. It felt more bearable when they ​were ​fighting. They’d be good for two weeks, and then argue like hell for two weeks. Over and over and over. It would always be over seemingly stupid issues too. My father would wake up late in the afternoon, make his way into the kitchen and search for the tea. There is always supposed to be tea for him, but sometimes my mother forgets to make extra. He starts yelling. ​I expect there to be tea! What kind of wife are you? You can’t do this much for me? I make all the money, I should at least get some tea! Tea is chaos. Everytime I look into a cup of tea, I don’t see my reflection—I see my father’s angry face staring back at me instead.

My parents’ relationship is one I’ll never understand. I don’t know why my mother didn’t divorce him after her attempted suicide. Why didn’t anyone help her out of this relationship? Perhaps it was the toxic culture—the idea that being a divorcee is undesirable, especially when you have children. Perhaps it was because my mother gave up on the idea of love. It doesn’t matter; she’s forever caught in this cycle of arguments of tea and everything else.

I’ve had countless arguments with my father telling him that the world doesn’t revolve around him. I am told to shut up because “that’s disrespectful.” It might be, but I’ve gotten tired of having to listen to a person so arrogant and so negative. I’m fine when my father is asking me to do things fathers ask, but I hate it when he asks me to make lunch or dinner because I’m the oldest girl in the house.

My father’s patriarchal values have destroyed our relationship. My mother says that was bound to happen, that he always has to feel superior as a man. There have been many times where I was genuinely hurt by my father, but many when I was just angry. Angry that the world is like this, and angry that men ​and ​women feel it’s okay for the world to be like this. But anger makes me want to stand up, to advocate for change. Maybe one day, my anger will pull my mother and our whole family out of this cycle. Then, we’ll finally be able to have tea in peace.

by Avery Lavine


by Avery Lavine

Bystander Education and Intervention

other

Life was thriving on my street that night. Cars honking as they whizz by, rap music bumping from the building next door, and neighbors laughing on the busy streets. It was warm with that perfect balance of breeze. And yet I was shivering, seated on a dusty sky-blue beach chair listening to my seventeen-year-old sister share her experience of sexual assault. Her arms were crossed, eyes fixed on her feet; she couldn’t make out the words without a crack in her voice. A sober boy violated her incapacitated body at a party and she couldn’t come to terms with it.

Though I heard this story a year ago, I can remember every single detail of that night she told me as if it happened only a few hours ago. I must admit that I did not respond to her well. Frozen, choked-up, ears ringing, I wasn’t able to say “it’s not your fault,” or “I’m so sorry,” or “it’s okay to not be okay,” or “I’m here for you,” and “I love you.” Instead, I opened my mouth, and could voice nothing but silence silence.

I always thought of myself as someone who would know how to properly respond to these situations, but, in reality, I had no idea what to do. I, like countless of other teens, had no idea how to be an effective supporter of sexual assault victims. Many teens don’t have the necessary tools to effectively respond to sexual assault stories, a friend in an unhealthy relationship, or a rape joke at a lunch table. Because of this, schools become communities that normalize sexual violence. However, if students educated each other on how to stop being bystanders and become effective supporters, we could create a culture of intolerance for rape culture.

When students use their voice as the driving force at their school, changes can be made. Educate yourself and others on what it takes to be an effective supporter. We cannot tolerate passive support of sexual violence anymore. We are supposed to be the generation of people who make a difference in our world. In this day and age, people who are silent and passive will be left behind. So, it’s up to us, but it starts with you. In these moments when we must act, all it takes is one sentence, one action. Education can inspire countless number of bystander to intervene and disrupt the dangerous, cyclical societal norms in order to create a greater future for the generations to come.


A Sisterhood for Life: Becca Stevens and Her Rehabilitation Mission

pioneers

by Paul James

In 1994, Becca Stevens was getting in the car with her four-year-old son, Levi Hummon, when he pointed to the sign of a stripper in a catsuit and asked why the lady was smiling. Stevens points to this as the moment when she became serious about starting a women’s shelter; she knew one day her son would no longer ask that question because the commoditization of women would become normal. Stevens set out with three goals in mind: finding a house, building a board and raising money. Her husband, a Grammy-winning songwriter, had a community of people willing to help, and Stevens also went to her congregation at Vanderbilt University, where she served as an Episcopal priest. “Since the beginning, for more than twenty years, I have been so filled with joy at how generous people are. People want to hope with you, people want to work with you when you have an idea,” she says. While we often hear reports of abuse and get caught in negative news loops, Stevens said through it all, she was met with generosity and kindness.

After her father died at a young age, Stevens herself faced child abuse beginning at five years old. She felt connected to the women she served through her ministry and in shelters, connected by similar experiences of abuse and assault. But whereas Stevens managed to live a clean life, she saw many women without the support to do the same. After more than two decades of operation, the Thistle Farms program partners with dozens of other women’s organizations and employs more than 1,800 women across the world.

With a house and funding to get through the first year of operation, Stevens helped her first five women in 1997. “Then it was a communal vision that launched the rest of it; it was me in concert with other survivors. Little by little, we grew a pretty massive organization. But it wasn’t me and it wasn’t me dictating the vision,” she says. And after that, Thistle Farms began to respond anywhere it could be of help. “It was more, ‘Here’s another need. Let’s see if we can address this, let’s see what we can do in response to these women farmers in Rwanda who are survivors who want help. Here’s a group of survivors in Wisconsin who make soap. What can we do to help them?’” Now, there are 30 women at a time going through Thistle Farms’ two-year program with a further 60 in residence, working as part of the community. Even with its partnerships with other shelters, Thistle Farms still has more than a hundred women on the waiting list, all survivors who came to seek out help.

Stevens said it often takes these women time to realize they need the help. “It’s not one time that people have these ideas. They will think, ‘This is a bad day; I need to get some help.’ But then there’s nothing around, so they get in deeper and deeper, so it’s not a one-time thing.” When their realization that they need the support Thistle Farms can offer coincides with an opening in the program, Stevens says it works. More than 85 percent of the women go on to lead “full, clean and sober lives forever.” The process to get them to that point focuses around three major points: economic independence so that they don’t feel tied to abusive relationships for security, healing the trauma they have experienced and forging a powerful sisterhood. Stevens says this last part is really important, “They need friends for life who are going to walk with them when something bad happens, whom they can go to when something joyful happens and people will actually celebrate with them.” In addition to the therapeutic work, Thistle Farms also offers job training for the women and advocates for them when they need to navigate complicated legal or health insurance systems. If they have been living and working on the streets, Thistle Farms tries to have their records expunged, recognizing that they were forced into selling their bodies instead of their skills.

Sisterhood and support are lacking in the lives of these women up until that point. Stevens says the average progression is they are raped between 7 and 11 years old and hit the streets between 14 and 16. Thistle Farms has accepted women of a range of ages, from 18 to people in their 50s. Some of the women working in the community café are in their 20s, and some of the women in manufacturing, where they make candles or Becca’s personal favorite, healing oils, are in their 50s. “One of them said it was her first Christmas since she was twelve that she felt safe,” Stevens said.

There are more success stories all the time. Stevens described one, “She came up and said, ‘I just wanted to thank you. I’m on my way, I’ve done it.’ I said to her, ‘No, thank you. Because now you become one more beautiful, bright light. A woman who most folks had given up on, who lost her way in prison and who came out and you did the hard work.’ My favorite part of the work, and the reason I think I never burn out, is getting those days where somebody has done the hard, hard work, and now they’re reaping the great harvest.” The women at Thistle Farms remain involved in the community throughout their lives, a true and enduring sisterhood of survivors.

Stevens acknowledges that the program doesn’t always work, though. “It breaks your heart. And sometimes when women relapse, horrible things happen to them. Over the years, I’ve probably buried four women who have relapsed and been murdered.” Even in the trying times, she manages to hold on to her personal creed and continue helping all the women she can. “I grieve in that moment in community and then just keep doing the work. Keep doing the work. Whether you feel inspired, joyful or great grief, keep doing the work,” she says.

Those who do seek out help and join the program give back to the community and work to prevent their abuses from happening to others. If the women can accept the support and learn to trust their fellow survivors, which is often the most difficult part, they become part of a global Thistle Farms community. “A lot of the survivors go out and speak at schools. They talk about the signs of an abuser and what to do if this has happened to you,” Stevens says. “The gift is when our brokenness turns into compassion for others. So we take our story, and we fashion it into a story of hope as we serve others.”

More information about Becca can be found at http://www.beccastevens.org and at http://thistlefarms.org.

Thank You, Dad

other opinion

by Janalie Cobb

I’ve recently come to recognize all the things worth appreciating in my life. Despite constant bouts of illness, I wake up every day alive and breathing. Despite a childhood spent near the poverty line, having been born to parents who themselves grew up with nothing, I’ve been awarded an enormous amount of privilege. I’ve received a top-notch education, I’ve never faced hunger or homelessness, and I’ve always had a family to return to. Yet there’s one phrase, one concept, that mars every aspect of my life in some way and sends me spiralling back into a world of resentment and ungratefulness:

“Because you’re a girl.”

Most fathers tell their daughters that they can do anything. The world is their oyster, the sky’s the limit and every other clichéd adage about achieving their dreams imaginable. When I was young, however, my father told me I could not do whatever I set my mind to. He told me that, realistically, there will be things in life that I will never be able to accomplish. I will never be a professional football player. I will never play any kind of professional sports because, apparently, women’s sports do not qualify as true, “interesting” sports.

My father’s primary justification paved the way for many more statements he would make throughout my adolescence. Statements that would, with just a few words, set my aspirations on fire for a split second, burning my world view down to ashes as he returned to watching the news. Each argument we had about whether I could go out with my friends, what clothes I was allowed to wear, what makeup I could apply―they all followed the same vein, and they all will haunt me for as long as I live.

That’s not a thing a girl can do in this world.

It was never mentioned maliciously. He’s not a malicious person. He thought he was doing me a favor by making the harsh realities of femininity clear to me early. I grew up in a bubble of girlhood. Every step I took, no matter where I went, no matter what direction I set my sights, my movements and words and breaths were scarred by the stain of my two X chromosomes. From the moment I left the hospital, only a few days old, my father carried me in a sparkly pink birdcage, supposedly protecting me from the freedom I always craved.

In my house, I will forever be a little girl in need of guidance and protection, never allowed to grow up; I am trapped in my own personal Neverland, with an exit that can only be unlocked by masculinity. His explanation is always the same –– the world simply isn’t safe for young girls like me. Which, to his point, it ​isn’t​. 1 in 5 women will be raped at some point, compared to 1 in 71 men. 91% of all rape and sexual assault victims are women. On average, women globally make 60-75% of what men make. The world is not kind to women. The way to manage it, though, is not by sectioning us away in our towers, never to experience the wonders of the world: the joys of being a teenager, a young adult, a living human.

Perhaps that’s why I travel through life determined to be noticed. I wear heels daily so people can never claim they didn’t know I was in the room. I participate in speech clubs, debate clubs, clubs that require a presence and an attitude and a voice. I refuse to be forced into obedience in attempts to protect my safety. That will accomplish nothing. It will not change statistics. It will not prevent a nine-year-old girl, like the one I tutor, from being sexually assaulted sometime during her lifetime. Silence does not change the world.

I consistently find it difficult to be thankful for being a girl. I learned at eight years old that holding my keys between my knuckles is an effective way to fight off attackers. From an even younger age, I noticed the stares from older men as I walked down the streets of Chicago wearing my favorite jean skirt. But there is one thing I’m always appreciative of–– my father. In trying to keep me unassuming and unseen, you inadvertently helped me learn how powerful I can be. In trying to teach me to relegate myself to a life of house arrest, you showed me what a woman with true freedom can accomplish. So thank you, Dad. Truly, thank you.

Illustration by Avery Lavine

Looking at myself I don’t know what to say to her
She did this to herself.
Scanning the room for
Something sharp to cut me out of his arms.

He just asked me for some trust.
Told me this would be the best for both of us
Oh please let go of all your ropes and take me
Far away from all that makes you kind of crazy.
I don’t know why you keep on trying to break me
Because it won’t make you less of the monster you were destined to be.

Promise me you won’t go
If I untie these ropes.
Careful what you say, you might wake the beast.
At least he’d be true to you instead of confusing you
With all these I love yous,
And the what you’d lose.
Oh please let go of all your ropes and take me
Far away from all that makes you kind of crazy.
I don’t know why you keep on trying to break me
Because it won’t make you less of the monster you were destined to be

Unravel the lies, the hope, and the fear till there is nothing
Unravel the ropes that cover her skin till there is nothing
Unravel his words, her blood, and her tears till there is still nothing
Because that’s what you’ve become,
You are nothing.
And she is everything.