We all need to ask ourselves what we can do to prevent sexual violence
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CALCASA

Studies show that 1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Even if we aren't survivors ourselves, we all have acquaintances and loved ones affected by sexual assault or abuse.

Despite how often it occurs, sexual violence has never been something people talk about openly. Thankfully, the #MeToo movement has revealed how pervasive sexual violence is, and social media offers us a way to bring the uncomfortable subject into open, public discussions. So how do we continue these conversations in ways that propel us toward communities free from sexual violence?


By taking a stand and making #BoldMoves.

The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault just launched #BoldMoves, a public awareness campaign that provides tips and small actions we can use to prevent sexual assault by changing the way we think and act. These actions are "bold moves" because they ask us to do something we're not used to doing: act in small ways that challenge the conditions that allow sexual violence to occur.

What are some of these #BoldMoves? Here are a few places to start:

Be an "active bystander."

When you see someone being harassed, it can be hard to know how to respond in the moment. But you are the expert of your social and professional spaces, so you can imagine what an effective intervention looks like. Think ahead. Anticipate that you may have to step in sometimes, and prepare for it. Give yourself permission to interrupt people when they make others feel diminished. Practice strategies to diffuse uncomfortable situations, perhaps using humor or empathy. Rehearse the language and tone you might use to intervene. Be specific about behaviors you're witnessing and why they are problematic.

Be vocal on social.

There's a lot of problematic behavior online—don't contribute to it. Your social media is a reflection and extension of your values, almost like your personal "brand." How would people characterize your social media brand? Do people see you as a positive changemaker? Give yourself permission to use your platforms to advocate for change. The #BoldMoves website offers tips to engage online commenters in ways they'll actually hear and be receptive to, as well as ways to generate productive online conversations about ending sexual violence.

Be political.

The 1960s rallying cry "the personal is political" still holds true today. Make sure your political leaders know that ending sexual violence is important to you. Not enough money is being invested in rape prevention work at the government level, so ask those running for office where sexual assault is on their agenda. Ensuring that our laws and justice system meet the needs of various communities affected by sexual violence goes a long way toward ending sexual violence. Make your voice heard at the ballot box. Join rallies or help with political campaigns—your actions do make a difference.

Be a stereotype breaker.

Small, daily actions may not seem like they are directly related to ending sexual violence, but they are. Just because something seems like the norm, doesn't mean we should accept it as normal. Go out of your way to break gender and sexual stereotypes. For example, we live in a society where males tend to dominate in all social sectors. If you're a guy, become more aware of the expectation that men are supposed to "take control" of "important" tasks. Challenge that idea. Take on more "domestic" duties at home. Offer to send around the birthday card for a coworker. Volunteer to take notes for a group at school. Ask yourself, "Do I jump into the conversation in meetings without noticing whether others have had a chance to contribute and be valued?" Create space for everyone to be heard in meetings and spend more time listening. These small steps demonstrate ways to model shared power and responsibilities, and do not reassert the value of one gender over others.

Challenge yourself to make some other specific #BoldMoves as well:

  • Increase your knowledge. Thinking and reading more about this issue will help reshape how you think and act.
  • Interrogate yourself. We all have our own point of view, some of which is informed by our culture and some by aspects we may not even realize. For example, we carry a "gender lens" with us that shapes what we believe about gender-based violence. Ask yourself, "Where did I get these expectations about the way men, women or nonbinary folks should look or behave?"
  • Intervene when you hear a sexist comment, every time. Yes, be bold.
  • Start constructive conversations about sexist language and behavior with your friends.
  • Get involved in sexual violence prevention organizations in your area.
  • Spread the word on social. Share your ideas for #BoldMoves people can make and tag us. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Share the #BoldMoves campaign video. Use your social media as a tool to catapult social change forward.

It's up to all of us—not just survivors—to create a safer, more supportive environment for everyone. Challenge yourself to make small changes and start making #BoldMoves today.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Tod Perry

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