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This college's anti-rape campaign pulls no punches when it comes to the message: Don't rape.

There's no softening of an important message at this university.

This college's anti-rape campaign pulls no punches when it comes to the message: Don't rape.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison launched a new sexual assault awareness campaign this week and they're not wasting any words when it comes to making their point.

Here's a poster that's part of the campaign:


Poster by University of Wisconsin-Madison police department. Used with permission.

I mean, it seems pretty obvious: There's no consent without actual, you know, consent.

And yet it must not be so clear, given how often women are sexually assaulted, both in general and on college campuses. Furthermore, the National Institute of Justice statistics prove that rapists aren't just strange men who lurk in dark places: 9 out of 10 women assaulted on college campuses knew the perpetrator.

It's safe to conclude there's a lot of date and acquaintance rape being committed.

Hoping to educate those who aren't clear on exactly what consent is, the University of Wisconsin-Madison got right to the point.

The university's "Don't Be That Guy" campaign aims to clarify what qualifies as consent for sexual activity during alcohol use.

"We need people (young men, in particular) to know what consent is," Officer Marc Lovicott, spokesperson for the university's police department, told me. "We need them to know that consent is a clear 'yes' — not the absence of a 'no.'"

This isn't a new approach for the school.

Back in April 2015, I shared an email the school sent out following a sexual assault on campus. It struck me as notable because instead of following up the news with tips on how women can stay safe, the campus police department instead offered tips to avoid raping someone.

And they're continuing to send that message today, with posters like this:

Telling men how to avoid being rapists instead of telling women how to avoid rape should be a given, but it sure feels novel.

How many of us grew up hearing what girls and women could do to stay safe far more often than we heard anyone telling men all of the ways in which they might rape someone — and how to avoid them?

And while nobody is saying that we shouldn't take steps to keep ourselves safe in life, regardless of gender, putting the burden of preventing sexual assault on the victims is both ineffective and just plain wrong.

I asked Officer Lovicott what motivated the department to take this important step. He said they've been working on spreading information about sexual assault on campus for a while, most recently running a "Tell Us" campaign targeted toward sexual assault survivors. But they took it a step further by really listening to people's feedback:

"The campaign was successful and received positive feedback — but we heard from many who said, 'It's time to target the perpetrators.' And we agreed. We searched for a way to say 'don't rape,' and this what we came up with. We're directly targeting young men, talking about alcohol use and about consent, and we're saying 'don't be that guy.'"

The campaign is targeted specifically toward men.


To be clear, men can also be victims of rape. However, statistics show that women are victimized far more often and so the campaign has used that information to guide its focus. The National Institute of Justice notes that 1 in 6 women will be the victim of a completed or attempted rape during her life, versus 1 in 33 men.

Officer Lovicott realizes that some will take issue with this very clear message, but he's undeterred. "We know not everyone is going to like this campaign — specially, some men who feel that we're targeting them, " he told me.

"We've already heard from a handful who have called this campaign 'sexist.' We understand that — we're not going to win with everyone on this."

But this isn't about winning everyone. It's about educating and changing behavior and stopping rape, and the school is steadfast in their approach.

"[W]e believe this campaign addresses a core demographic — young men — who are responsible for the VAST majority of sexual assault cases," he said. "Something needs to be done about sexual assaults on our college campuses, and we believe this is a step in the right direction."

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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