Our VOICE Statement on HB2

Our VOICE remains committed to our mission: “In the pursuit of a community that is free of sexual violence, Our VOICE serves all individuals in Buncombe County affected by sexual assault and abuse, through counseling, advocacy and education.” We believe that all people deserve to experience healthy sexuality and personal safety regardless of sex, gender identity or sexual identity.  We see sexual violence as a widespread public health threat with historical and cultural origins, rather than the isolated problem of a small margin of people. Sexual violence is one aspect of gender-based oppression and is inextricably linked to other forms of oppression. We also believe that sexual assault is a crime that is motivated by power and control of one over another.  We recognize that those with the least amount of power are more likely to experience sexual violence, yet less likely to seek out services.

As such, we would like to make clear our continued commitment to the transgender community, and all other marginalized communities, to provide services that will place victims of rape and sexual violence on the journey to becoming survivors.  Our VOICE would also like to make clear that we remain deeply committed to eliminating sexual violence in our communities by implementing strategies that address the root causes and social norms that contribute to sexual violence.  We will continue, among other things, to dismantle rape myths, conduct awareness events and focus on primary prevention education in our communities.

HB2 excludes individuals who identify as LGBTQ from legal protections, and does so while perpetuating rape myths.  A key argument for HB 2 was the prevention of sexual violence and the safe use of public bathrooms and locker rooms.  As a rape crisis and prevention center that has served the community since 1974, we are committed to and encourage community efforts to prevent sexual violence.  However, we cannot support prevention efforts that are based on misinformation, fear, and bigotry.

HB 2 perpetuates the myth that being transgender equates to being a sexual predator.  Just the opposite is in fact true:  transgender people are more likely to be victims of sexual violence as one in two transgender individuals have been sexually abused or assaulted sometime during their lives. Furthermore, sexual violence has been found to be higher in some subpopulations within the transgender community, such as youth, people of color, individuals living with disabilities, and homeless individuals.

We encourage you to share this with members in your community.  We encourage you to learn more about sexual violence and the transgender community. We encourage you to help create a community free of sexual violence for all individuals. To find out more on how you can get involved, visit our website atourvoicenc.org. If you or someone you care about could use support, please contact with us via our 24 hr. crisis line at 828-255-7576 or by coming to our office at 44 Merrimon Ave., Ste 1, Asheville, NC 28801.

To transgender individuals in our community impacted by sexual violence, Our VOICE would like to say to you that we believe you, it was not your fault and that you are not alone.  Our VOICE is a safe space where you can receive services without fear of discrimination. We will stand with you as you walk on your journey towards healing.

Sincerely,

Our VOICE, Inc. Board of Directors

Building Self-Resiliency in our Work with Sexual Assault Survivors

Self-care is so obvious a prescription for first-line crisis responders that it has become something of a cliché: before you can put the oxygen mask on your child, you must first apply it to yourself. The consequence for not giving yourself oxygen first is clear; unconscious, you won’t be any good to your child at all.

Self-care might be the obvious prescription for this line of work, but- as it turns out- it is not the most instinctive. Many of us were taught at an early age to always adopt a posture of service to others. After all, we didn’t gravitate toward advocating for or providing services to survivors of sexual violence because we are most concerned about ourselves. And for most of us the act of looking inward to assess our own needs can be downright uncomfortable, particularly if doing so has us revisit traumatic experiences.

Recently I had the opportunity to examine the impact of various mindfulness exercises in working with trauma survivors. I was fortunate to attend the Family Justice Center Conference in San Diego, where I explored a variety of subjects, from intervening with adults who have high Adverse Childhood Experience scores to introducing deep breathing techniques to children who are dis-regulated. After the conference, I participated in a two-day workshop in the Community Resiliency Model, which uses the language of bodily sensation and mindfulness as a sort of behavioral first aid for those who are operating outside their “resiliency zone,” a state in which we perform and act at our most optimal. 

In trying to synthesize all of this great information, my mind invariably travels back to how we can equip ourselves and each other with the self-care needed to sustain the work we do at Our VOICE. How can we give care to the care giver? How can we build resiliency as a network of people providing hope and support to victims of sexual violence? How can we place the oxygen mask to our collective face first?

At Our VOICE we strive to give attention to these questions in an intentional way, building resources through both staff and volunteers so that we can be a community of care operating in our “resiliency zone.”

As with the proverbial oxygen mask, it starts with our individual practice first. Inspired by the classes I have taken, I am developing my own mindfulness practice through meditating. I have learned a number of things about myself since starting this practice. Above all, I have learned that the muscle for emptying my mind is very, very weak. I live in my head too much, and I am many more times likely to tick down my “to do” list than I am to concentrate on my breathing. But I am trying. And I challenge each of you to find something that helps you feel centered throughout the day.

There’s no one correct prescription for self-care. Do yoga if it’s your thing. Walk in the woods with your dog. Enjoy time with a supportive friend. Get a massage. Use mindfulness apps like IChill (which describes the Community Resiliency Model and its techniques) or Stop, Breathe, & Think (a guided meditation app for beginners).
Do whatever to take care of yourself. If not for yourself, then for the volunteer who accompanies a victim to the hospital, for the educator who hears a child disclose sexual abuse, and for survivor of sexual assault who comes to Our VOICE for healing and hope.

 

–Val is the Program Director at Our VOICE.