Honey: Stopping the Silence Around Sexual Assault

The Taylors_ToH

Co-Founders Taylor Jarman and Taylor Rippy Monson

Taylor Rippy Monson and Taylor Jarman are fed-up with the silence around sexual assault, and their organization Honey is working to change it one story at a time. Their site explains that, “Honey is an organization dedicated to stopping the silence on the subject of sexual assault. We seek to change the public attitude through victim advocacy, education, media campaigns, community activism and truth telling.”

The ladies are hosting a launch event on August 28th at Studio Elvn as a part of Salt Lake City’s Gallery Stroll, and I was fortunate enough to interview them to get some details on how it all started, plans for the future, and what to expect at Studio Elvn.

What’s the story behind Honey?

We’ve been friends for years, and a while back had briefly disclosed to one another that we were survivors of assault. It wasn’t until earlier this year that things really started to come to the surface, for both of us. There’s something about hearing the experience, the heartache, the despair, confusion, shame, come out of the mouth of somebody that you love. I think we heard one another and thought, “We can’t do nothing. We’re not the only ones.” 

We created Honey so that survivors and their loved ones could recognize that there is a safe place for them to be heard, loved, believed and supported. To be believed and received with love and open arms means everything, especially in a society rampant with victim-blaming. We’re not clinical professionals (though we hope to expand our team to include therapists and trauma responders in the future), but we know how much courage it takes to just say something. If we can be the website, the email address, the Skype account, the phone number somebody reaches to just say it out loud—to ask for help, to share their story—we’re happy.

h o n e y-logo (6)Tell me a little bit about truth-telling.

We support and encourage survivors of sexual violence to share their stories in whatever medium they choose, with the goal of shedding light on a dark and disregarded reality that pervades societies worldwide. There is something about learning of an individual’s personal and unique experience—whether being able to relate to them, or just recognizing that it’s happened to this individual, and that they’re one of millions of survivors of assault. That should be enough to get anyone fired up. Seeing a face with those words (the way we’ve set it up on our site) has a way of humanizing  survivors of such a horrific and prevalent crime. Audre Lorde hit it on the head when she said that “We’ve been taught that silence will save us, but it won’t.” We’re all about making noise.

What’s your vision for Honey in the future? Do you see any community partnerships on the horizon?

Absolutely! We hope to develop community partnerships and have several in the works right now. Salt Lake and the surrounding areas are such a powerful community—we’ve been blown away by how much love and support we’ve received locally. And many of our followers are outside of the state, even outside of the US, so we hope to develop partnerships in all different regions. We’re dreaming big!

Tell me about the upcoming event with gallery stroll.

On August 28th, we’re holding a launch event for Honey at Studio Elevn in downtown Salt Lake City from 6:00-10:00 pm. It will be a powerful evening, bringing more local awareness to the pervasiveness of sexual assault worldwide and sharing more about Honey’s future endeavors. We’ll also be launching a crowdfunding campaign, holding a silent auction, and premiering a video that we’ve been working on with some amazing humans at Ori Media. We seriously can’t wait.

Attend the event and don’t forget to follow Honey on Facebook & Instagram.

Yes, It Is Rape In Every Instance

Image from UCASA

Image from UCASA

Yesterday HB 74 went to committee at the Utah State Legislature. The bill, sponsored by Representative Angela Romero (D-Salt Lake City), would clarify consent laws to include language that protects people with disabilities from sexual assault, as well as anyone who is unconscious at the time of assault. The bill seems pretty cut and dry to anyone with a slight understanding of healthy sex and sexuality, but a few legislators voiced concern on some really unsettling grounds.

Why would anyone hesitate to pass this bill?

Well, because they want to have sex with their wife while she’s unconscious! (Which is rape, just so we’re clear.) “If an individual has sex with their wife while she is unconscious … a prosecutor could then charge that spouse with rape, theoretically,” said Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove. Yup, that’s exactly right, Mr. Greene. That husband should be charged with sexual assault, because he doesn’t have free rein over his wife’s body. Greene went on to question whether sex with an unconscious person is “rape in every instance.” 

Rep. Greene wasn’t the only offensive blowhard in the conversation, Representative LaVar Christensen (R-Draper) chalked the whole discussion up by saying, “It’s an uncomfortable discussion to even have.” Do you know what’s more uncomfortable than discussing sexual assault? Being sexually assaulted, which is why the bill is being proposed!

The State of Utah has a serious sexual assault problem that needs to be addressed. In Utah 1 in 3 women will experience sexual assault, and rape is the only category of violent crime that outpaces national averages in Utah.  We need HB74, and if it wasn’t clear before, the conversation yesterday crystallized the need.

Some closing points to remember:

1. You don’t own your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, intimate partner, etc.. You do not have the right to sexual access of your intimate partner whenever you see fit.

2. Consent is not a one-time transaction. Someone who has sex with you once doesn’t have to have sex with you again.

3. Consent is ongoing. You should receive verbal and physical cues from your sexual partner throughout your sexual interaction.

4. Consent to one sexual act does not mean consent to another (agreeing to penile vaginal contact doesn’t mean you have consent for penile anal contact).

5. We vote for these people. Remember their names during the election. Should these guys be in charge of decisions?

You can follow the bill here as it heads out of committee.

11 Ways to Support Survivors of Sexual Assault

supporting survivors

Don’t Touch People Without Asking

personal-space

I can’t believe that I have to say this, but seriously, don’t touch people without asking. It’s a straightforward and simple concept: respect the personal space of others. I’m bringing this up because a couple of nights ago a fellow student walked up to me and started massaging my shoulders. I found it completely off-putting. As she rubbed she said, “Don’t forget some self-care. You’re tense.” (Maybe it’s because you came up from behind and started massaging me without warning? Just a thought.) I laughed uncomfortably and explained that I’m not tense, but have a muscular build.

Then things turned for the worse.

Dude Bro in class decided that he should follow her lead. Mr. Dude Bro proceeds to walk up, grab my arm with both of his hands, and massage me from my shoulder down to my elbow. He told me I have nice deltoids, and I almost told him to fuck off.

The guy is huge. Imagine every guy you’ve ever seen chugging a protein shake before hitting up your local Gold’s Gym and there you have it. This same guy also followed me to my car the first week of class, announced to the entire room that he is single during his final presentation, and I watched  him follow another classmate to her car in our underground campus parking (I waited with another classmate to make sure she got home safe).

He’s an above average creep, and something tells me he’s not trying too hard.

My experience prompted this little reminder: STOP TOUCHING PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW. It is inappropriate. You don’t know if someone is a survivor of sexual or physical assault, and you risk triggering their experiences. Also keep in mind the power dynamics in a situation. Are you a large man putting your hands on a female? Are you a heterosexual man standing menacingly over a trans* woman of color?

We all need a reminder from time to time (I know I’ve touched one too many a shoulder thinking I’m being compassionate), so hopefully this serves as a reminder about personal space, and how you can respect it a little bit more.