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In this edition, you'll read an exclusive interview with our founder, Libby Spears, in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, find the latest news stories and information about sexual assault, and discover interesting narratives to watch and listen to this October.
Last week, a 13-year-old's quote made it into the New York Times top comments of the week. Charlotte, a student, shared insightful thoughts about what schools can do to prevent sexual violence.
As students return to school, Title IX and its protections have been making news headlines. To quickly understand what Title IX means, check out this brief and helpful guide.
This week, a 3-month-old and 5-year-old girls were rescued in Denver in a sex trafficking crackdown.
Samantha Bee delivered a poignant message about how female sexual assault is rampant in every industry and on every continent...including Antartica.
Sexual assault doesn’t look like one thing—it permeates into the dark divides of our digital universe and there is growing concern of how new technology shapes the culture of youth sexual identity.
For most American teens, social media is where they live. And while adults are also on social media, their experience is wildly different.
Nancy Jo Sales, author of American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, has been studying the lives of American teens since the 1990s. In a recent interview, she said:
“What’s being expressed on social media has been percolating in our culture for decades. But I was really troubled by the sexual harassment of teenage girls. It’s something that happens online on a daily basis—sometimes an hourly basis. And it’s so common, it’s become a regular part of teen culture.”
Sexual assault and harassment don't reveal themselves as isolated incidents. They are often experienced at a very young age—the scale at which is made apparent with all of the #MeToo tweets and testimonies that are currently happening online, women and girls sharing their personal stories of sexual assault and harassment. What can we do about it? Check out this week's DO.
GOOD: #MeToo posts are flooding the internet and several women are speaking out to say they don't want to share their story on social media...and that is okay.
BAD: The mayor of Seattle resigned last month after multiple men came forward, accusing him of sexually abusing them when they were children.
Libby Spears, documentary filmmaker and founder of Nest Foundation, talks filmmaking, social justice, and empowering youth in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Since the story broke, how have you reflected on the Harvey Weinstein revelations?
These revelations have shown a clear abuse of power and it’s made me, like most people I know, think about my own experiences in different industries. I think that’s one of the most important points to underscore - that it’s not limited to Hollywood. We don’t have to look too far back to find similar stories that were brief flashpoints in the news then went away. And although I’m hopeful that this will be different, real and systemic change will only happen if we unpack root causes and address rape culture, victim-blaming, and systems of oppression.
As the head of an organization dedicated to ending all forms of sexual harm against children, it’s made me even more committed to developing practical and accessible tools for kids, teens, and adults.
In 2004, you formed Nest Foundation while making PLAYGROUND: The Child Sex Trade in America. What was the catalyst in creating a nonprofit organization?
When PLAYGROUND first came out, there was little to no reporting on child sex trafficking and I knew that our work wasn’t done with the film’s release. It became our mission to use the film and other tools that we have since developed to galvanize audiences to take action to address sex trafficking in their communities. Through Nest, we’ve been able to organize special events and training workshops and advocate for legislative changes that would serve to protect, not punish, victims of child sexual exploitation.
Since then, Nest has been able to stay dynamic and respond to changes in technology and the media landscape as it relates to and enables sexual exploitation - and we now focus on developing prevention materials. We’ve also expanded our mission since the film was released to address all forms of sexual harm against children. The response from students and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive and we make sure we listen to their most pressing concerns and adapt our materials to match their priorities. Because of this approach, our materials address sexting, consent, sexual harassment, sextortion, media culture, root causes, and a host of other interconnected topics. Child sexual exploitation and trafficking don’t occur in a vacuum, and it’s important that we cover multiple vulnerabilities to sexual harm in addition to trafficking.
We live in a culture where we are bombarded with sexually exploitative imagery, our newsfeed is filled with stories of sexual violence, and technology has given way to new forms of harassment. How does Nest prepare youth for that moment when someone wants to take that power over them?
One of the most important things we’ve learned to do as an organization is to give students safe and structured spaces to discuss their thoughts and concerns about sexual violence. We are constantly seeking and developing activities that give young people positive and empowering guides to navigate technology, relationships, and the media they encounter. Through these conversations and activities, young people are learning to identify invisible dynamics that are abusive or can lead to exploitation and harm.
It’s also vital that we empower educators, parents, and caregivers to act as safe adults so that if any child comes to them for support, they are able to respond immediately and in trauma-informed ways. To that end, we’re working with our partners to create innovative resources that not only impact students but also reach the adults in their lives.
Learn: Most parents aren't talking to their teens about sexual harassment - here are 6 ways parents can start now.
Get Involved: As the conditions for those needing medical care in Puerto Rico continue to decline, you can donate directly to help treatment efforts.
Listen: A new podcast series by the L.A. Times, Dirty John, tracks a domestically abusive relationship which can help listeners recognize instances of coercion.
In this edition, you'll hear from two advocates who were featured in the Netflix series The Keepers and are working to help victims of abuse. This newsletter also includes breaking news stories related to sexual violence prevention, features a highlight and lowlight for the month, and ends with three actions you can take this September.
- During Taylor Swift's recent lawsuit involving assault and battery, her testimony called out victim-blaming. While on the stand, Swift stated "I am not going to allow your client to make me feel it is in any way my fault, because it isn't."
- A new Lebanese drama that opens as a romantic comedy, shifts to uncover the practice of underage marriage. An op-ed in the Economist reviews the film and includes startling statistics about the prevalence of child marriage around the world.
- Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, victims were left vulnerable to sexual assault. Vox recently provided a guide that Hurricane Harvey evacuees can use to protect themselves.
- Victims of sexual violence are often women, and the best-selling authors of crime fiction for past decade have been women. The Atlantic breaks down why men are now pretending to be women to sell their books. For a deep-dive on the subject, check out the FAQ that international bestselling author Karin Slaughter has about sexual violence on her website.
- Almost half of all murdered women are killed by their romantic partners. To reduce that statistic, Muslim activists are leading a campaign to end grooming rings by focusing on eliminating misogyny.
Institutions that are trauma-informed implement rules and behaviors that recognize, understand and address the learning needs of children who have been impacted by trauma. Instead of condemning disruptive actions that children my make, educators instead will engage with students by not wondering "what's wrong with you?" and instead asking "what happened to you?"
Trauma-informed systems include seven key elements, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network:
- Screen routinely for trauma exposure and symptoms.
- Implement culturally appropriate, evidence-based assessments and treatments for traumatic stress and symptoms.
- Provide resources to children, families, and providers on trauma, its impact, and treatment options.
- Build on the strengths of children and families impacted by trauma.
- Address parent and caregiver trauma.
- Collaborate across child-serving systems to coordinate care.
- Support staff by minimizing and treating secondary traumatic stress, which can lead to burnout
The Fall 2017 roll-out of Nest's sexual violence prevention curriculum will now introduce trauma-informed responses for High School teachers who implement the lessons.
Years after the death of her high school teacher, Gemma Hoskins became an educator. Gemma, now in her 60s, recently decided to re-examine her teacher’s disappearance, which uncovered cases of systemic abuse at Seton Keough High School in Baltimore, Maryland.
Gemma Hoskins and Alan Horn, a longtime advocate against child abuse, have been working together along with one of Gemma's former classmates, Abbie Schaub, to bring justice to victims who suffered abuse from the now-deceased priest, Joseph Maskell. To learn more about the story, check out the Netflix series The Keepers and find an interview with Gemma Hoskins and Alan Horn below.
Gemma Hoskins (L) and her co-researcher/high school classmate, Abbie Schaub, on "The View"
"I'm using my 10 minutes of fame to talk about people who were hurt" - Gemma Hoskins
Allie Hock: What’s important for people to know about the work you’re doing now?
Alan Horn: People who are abused have to tell. Secrets have been the power-tools of predators for generations. The incidents of false reporting by young children about sexual abuse is less than 1%, it is non-existent. So, when someone like a 9-year-old child comes to you and says “I’ve been hurt by somebody,” you need to believe them.
Gemma Hoskins: There’s a group of people who have done the right thing and told somebody. There are some rogue survivors of abuse that happened at (Seton Keough High School) - they were screaming for help, but nobody helped them. Now, I hope that people will start to listen.
Gemma, since you were a student at Keough, can you walk me through the experience of your understanding changing with regards to fellow students at the school being abused?
GH: I knew nothing about what was happening. When I think that physically, the width of a door was all that was separating me when walking down the hall from girls being drugged and hypnotized, and their lives being threatened at gunpoint, it blows my mind. Most of us knew nothing about this abuse.
I only started to hear about it during the early 1990s during the Doe/Roe v. Maskell case. I received a letter in the mail from Jean’s family asking if anyone had been abused. I knew nothing about what happened. We all got on the phone and started talking to each other. I believed it was true because there was no way that somebody is going to put themselves out there in public if this didn’t happen. They (Jane Roe and Jane Doe) were 40 by then. Why would they come forward if it wasn’t true?
What would be helpful for both the victim and investigator during the aftermath and reporting of a crime?
AH: Victims just have to tell. I’m talking to people now who are saying things like “I thought it was a dream” or “I’ve spent my whole life trying to convince myself it didn’t happen.” or “I haven’t told my wife.” They need to know that people will believe them. I talked to a man yesterday who has been abused and one thing he said is that everybody in the church knew what was going on.
My comment, forgive me it is aggressive, is that the people who need to come forward are those who have been betrayed. Not the “bad Catholics” but the “good Catholics” who are disgusted about what has been done to their religion. There’s got to be priests, church managers, maintenance people, who are active and want to take their religion back and set this straight. This is not the entire Catholic faith, this is just a few bad apples. There are some good Catholics out there who need to come forward and tell us what they know.
GH: We aren’t attacking Catholics, we’re attacking the institutions that allowed this to happen. The people involved aren’t all bad either and they refuse to talk because they won’t want to lose their pensions. If I could talk to the Pope, he could tell the Bishop in Baltimore to do was is right and release (the records documenting claims of abuse against Maskell). Somebody get me in to talk to the Pope!
What can people do who want to help?
AH: If people want to join our cause, they send an email to Gemma. (Find Gemma's contact info here)
GH: We vet people and Alan puts them on a team and gives them something to do. We have lawyers, doctors, retired cops, people all over the world who are helping. And, if you’re a victim, what you can do is tell somebody.
AH: Just tell someone. Tell your mother, sister, brother. It doesn’t matter who you tell, but that’s the first step towards healing.
GH: (repeating) Tell somebody.
Alan Horn has been volunteering for the past ten years for an organization that is dedicated to ending child abuse, you can donate to their work here: Stop the Silence.
Scroll down to see the kind of content you'll receive in your inbox each month.
Write: Send a letter that urges more transparency from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, ask Archbishop Lori for justice for Sister Cathy Cesnik and the survivors of abuse. Attn: William E Lori, 320 Cathedral St. Baltimore, Maryland, 21201.
Read: Check out this list of resources that helps schools become trauma-informed
Sign: A resident of Houston started a petition to dedicate a day to furniture store owner "Mattress Mack".
This month you'll find recent news stories, take a look behind-the-scenes into Nest's operations, read heartwarming tweets, and gain a better understanding of a complicated concept.
- Recently MTV published a short and viral video that details how to end victim-blaming.
- Multiple sets of concerned parents have accused musician R. Kelly of holding their young adult daughters against their will in a "cult" at his home. Buzzfeed recently covered the allegations in a feature story that details instances of coercive behavior.
- Britain's advertising regulator recently introduced new rules banning advertisements that promote gender stereotypes, sexually objectify women, or promote unhealthy body images. As this comedian pointed out on Twitter, the U.S. could benefit from similar rules:
- Dallas County recently became the first-ever county in Texas to designate itself a "Human Rights County," an action which aims to systemically increase accountability in the face of abuse.
- Over 100 women have come forward with allegations of abuse that occurred during Doctor Larry Nassar's tenure with the U.S. Women's Gymnastics Olympic team and as a physician at Michigan State. One writer chronicles how Nassar's power as a physician exacerbated the alleged abuse.
- Almost half of all murdered women are killed by their romantic partners. To reduce domestic violence, the CDC emphasizes increasing bystander training, a topic which is covered in Nest's HS curriculum.
A mandatory reporter is a person who is legally required to ensure a report is made when abuse of vulnerable people (such as children, disabled persons, and senior citizens) is observed or suspected. In the U.S., members of law enforcement, government officials, medical professionals, and teachers are among those considered to be mandatory reporters.
The process for reporting varies based on the system in which a person will be reporting, but these are the general guidelines they follow:
- Express your belief that the person is telling the truth
- Avoid leading questions or strong reactions to what the person is telling you
- Unless the person has disclosed harm to self, do not call a parent or guardian before you report
- “Less is more.” Don’t ask for too many details, as this could re-traumatize and interfere with investigations
Typically, a mandatory reporter will document the indicators they witnessed, along with the date and time. They will write their report as soon as possible and notify the appropriate agency. In the U.S., the rules defining who qualifies as a mandatory reporter vary state-by-state.
BAD: In many states, communications with priests or other members of the clergy are considered privileged, therefore individuals are not lawfully bound to report abuse. An Emmy-nominated Netflix series, The Keepers, chronicles abuse that students suffered at a private Catholic school that persisted, unchecked, for decades.
Amy Kayon recently created and implemented programming at Portland State University, where she works as the Relationship & Sexual Violence Prevention Coordinator.
Three years ago, Nest members Libby Spears and Nishima Chudasama met Amy when they were piloting the first version of Nest's curriculum at a high school in Portland. Amy was quick to introduce changes (improvements) to the lesson plans and she now serves as Nest's curriculum advisor and teacher trainer.
Allie Hock: What work do you do with Nest Foundation?
AK: My role has evolved, I give input on the changes that I think should happen to the curriculum and I facilitate the “train the trainer program,” to make sure we are training facilitators in the way that best prepares them to teach the curriculum.
To me, it seems that there’s a great deal of changes made to the curriculum.
Yes, and honestly what I most appreciate about Nest is that we are able to iterate and improve constantly. We have to be fluid because, like the nature of exploitation, the landscape is morphing. Perpetrators revise their strategies as potential victims become more informed and so curriculum has to be evolutionary in order to remain current. They (Libby and Nishima) deeply understand and are committed to that.
What unique challenges does the sensitive nature of this content pose?
(Sexual exploitation) is a moving target. The other challenging thing that isn’t said but needs to be is: trafficking and youth exploitation are hot topics. Today they are buzzwords, the issues are fundable, everybody wants to say they are doing something about it. But, in this space, there isn’t a lot of self-reflection about how people are helping the youth that they are working with.
One example of this is that Nest initially focused on trafficking and exploitation. Then, they realized that the scope was too narrow. So, they zoomed the lens way back, which lets us talk about systems of oppression i.e. how does being a student of color affect your life/opportunities/access?
Tackling systematic areas of exploitation and seeing how the system is already rigged is a huge piece that many traditional trafficking orgs miss. Many want to do “response” or “prevention” but it is so narrowly focused that it doesn’t feel applicable to kids. By opening the curriculum up, students get relevancy which allows them to acquire some empathy, see vulnerabilities other youth are experiencing and ask “what can I do to contribute to the solution rather than the problem?”
What is one of the most powerful moments you’ve had working with educators involving the Nest Curriculum?
I would say what makes me want to do this work is seeing some of the teachers who were at the very first pilot show up to teacher trainings year-after-year. Those teachers have already been through the training, they don’t have to come, they’ve already taught this themselves. But, they keep coming back because they think they’ll learn something new. To me, that is a mark of a great program.
I’ll keep working with Nest as long as they want to keep working with me. I really love the work.
Also, I would add that right after President Trump was elected, funding shifts happened dramatically and drastically. Orgs like Nest took a hit, funds went to the ACLU. I want to be cognizant that we don’t swing the funding pendulum too far away from work like this. So my final statement if I could add one would be that funding this curriculum and this programming is vital because we are seeing a rollback in the education system on important things like anti-violence and exploitation. We need funders to step up and show that this is important to individuals and that we aren’t going to stop doing this work just because the federal government doesn’t find it important.
Be informed: Check to see who is considered a mandatory reporter in your state.
Test yourself: This quiz helps you determine how well you spot fake news.
Laugh: A game manufacturer known for stunts, Cards Against Humanity, recently launched a version of their game "for her" which is advertised as "the same as the original game, but is pink and costs $5 more."
In this edition, you’ll find recent news stories, hear from a student who presented at a prestigious national conference, and find resources that will get you directly involved in the current legislative process.
- Last week AMAZE released a short video, great for elementary students, about how young people can stay safe on the internet.
- NPR recently featured an indomitable doctor in Yemen, one of the toughest countries to live as a woman.
- Over a dozen women have filed lawsuits against Baylor University for mishandling their sexual assault claims against football players. The NCAA is now investigating the school to examine the legal benefits that athletes received amidst the 2014 sexual assault scandal.
- The White House marked its first public rebuke of China last week when declaring the nation one of the worst arbiters of human trafficking in the world. The Guardian has the full story.
- The University of California announced systemwide changes that will provide faster response time, greater transparency, and consistent handling of alleged sexual misconduct by faculty and staff.
This summer, the Nest team is working with academic advisors to make changes to the Nest curriculum. These lessons, which are taught to high school sophomores, will soon incorporate the root causes of sexual exploitation and include activities that help students identify systems of oppression.
We chose, in part, to introduce these concepts to students based on the sociopolitical development theory, which argues that the more young people have a sense of the social and political context in which they live, the greater their well-being will become.
If you’re looking for a deep dive on the subject matter, a graduate student at Vanderbilt wrote his thesis about youth sociopolitical development.
GOOD: Enter the mind of a high school boy who wants a relationship and understands consent.
BAD: Rep. Bill Brawley, a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, held a press conference announcing plans to introduce legislation that involved spending $50 million to address human trafficking in North Carolina. The bill dictated that the money was to be spent in only three counties and would be available for only two years. Local anti-human trafficking organizations vocalized that it is nearly impossible to responsibly spend such a large amount of money in a short amount of time. The bill had little input from local anti-human trafficking organizations and ultimately failed to advance past committee meetings.
Last week, Nest teamed up with Cloa G. and Jill DiCuffa, a student and teacher at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, along with Diana O'Connor, a librarian at the Irma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School, to present at the National Coalition for Girls’ Schools annual conference in Washington D.C.
You can read about the experience in an interview with Cloa below.
NEST: How did your panel at NCGS go? What did it consist of?
Cloa: It went really well. We did a lot of activities and the audience was really into it. For one activity, we put posters on a wall that had different issues like bullying, addiction, etc. Everyone was given sticky dots and if they felt connected to one of the issues, they stuck a dot to it. The one issue that had the most dots at the end was anxiety/depression, which I know a lot of people from my school suffer from, so that was an important issue for me as well.
What did you do to prepare for today?
I mostly reflected on having gone through the Nest curriculum and was thinking about how much more prepared I am if anything of these issues happened in my life.
About a year after I had gone through the curriculum, a family friend had an issue (related to this curriculum) come up. At the time, my mom didn’t realize how big of an issue it was but having gone through the curriculum I told my mom that we need to tell somebody. So, my mom called a hotline, the situation was dealt with, and ultimately our friend and their family was really grateful.
Do you think sexual exploitation prevention curriculum empowers students, girls especially?
I think that having this knowledge gives girls the confidence to know what to look out for and how to react in situations that may be dangerous. When they have that knowledge and know how to react, it gives them the power to be more confident to go through their lives and be a stronger leader.
What are some of the potential next steps for you and your role in preventing sexual violence and exploitation?
I really want to do more work to shine a light on this issue in Austin and do what I can to prevent people from getting into dangerous situations. I’m hoping to get started with a Nest club at my school this fall.
Teach: NPR put together a collection of Teen Sex-Ed Resources For Oh, Oh, Those Summer Nights.
Act: Here are 5 ways to make your voice heard regarding the new health care legislation before Congress returns next week.
Below, you’ll find discouraging AND encouraging news stories, hopefully have a laugh, and hear from a teacher who took on a project that met resounding success.
- A newspaper in Louisiana recently spent a week featuring stories about the lasting damage of child pornography. Their feature story broke down how the internet "puts predators tools in children's pockets" and another article described steps investigators take to combat their incidental trauma.
- "Please NEVER EVER compare yourself to images you see, many aren't real," a model recently pled to her Instagram followers, posting old, retouched photos of herself.
- Nicholas Kristof wrote a piece for the New York Times about girls who are attempting to raise (or establish, in some states) the minimum age for marriage: 11 Years Old, a Mom, and Pushed to Marry Her Rapist in Florida.
- The Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Austin, TX has been responding calmly and with humor to outrage that the theater is hosting women's only screenings of Wonder Woman
Last night, Portland high school students candidly discussed their concerns with local experts and policymakers in front of a packed audience at the Nest Student Forum. Check the Nest Facebook Page over the coming week to see photos of the students in action.
At the end of this month, the Nest team heads to Washington, D.C. to present to educators, advocates, authors, and other industry leaders at the National Coalition of Girls' Schools Conference. Nest's panel "Empowering Young Women as Leaders in the Fight Against Child Exploitation," will illuminate the clear connection between innovative learning, student empowerment, and leadership.
GOOD: McSweeney's hilariously skewered the nature and tone of nonprofit email efforts (this newsletter included!): My Mom Interned at a Nonprofit and Now All Her Emails Are Different.
BAD: A high school teacher in Portland wrote and distributed a three-page letter rejecting the concept of rape culture. His note was met with backlash from students, administrators, and members of the Portland community.
This month, we’re sharing an interview that Nest had with a groundbreaking teacher in Portland, Suzy Setterholm. Suzy was one of the first teachers to use the Nest Curriculum in her classroom and recently worked with some of her students to teach a portion of that 10th-grade curriculum to 8th graders.
NEST: Why did you choose to adapt sexual violence prevention curriculum for middle school students?
Suzy: It has been a goal of mine to take some aspect of (the Nest curriculum) to the middle school level because, ultimately, middle schoolers are just as vulnerable as high schoolers.
You worked with some of your students to adapt the Nest Curriculum and had them teach it at a local middle school. What was that process like?
I said to my class 'if you’re interested and want to get your "teach" on, I’m going to have a meeting after school tomorrow and whoever wants to be involved, great.' Nine students showed up and we decided on a topic (digital safety) based on what seemed most applicable to middle school students and what was possible to cover in an hour.
We met about six times and my students did their own research on stats as “food for thought” and we created a presentation, a custom-built competitive quiz (a kahoot), and planned a discussion activity. We chose a middle school that is near the high school so that we could walk over.
We only had one hour (for each of the three sessions) and the kids taught all of it. By the last session, I didn’t say a word. I just stood in the back of the room. It was so fantastic. My expectations for my students were high, and they met them.
Did anything surprise you about introducing this content to younger students?
During each session we taught, the middle schoolers were polled and at least one kid shared that they currently communicate with someone they don’t know. So, it seemed like we were sharing valuable info on a topic that is really timely for middle schoolers.
Also, when I was teaching in high school, sexting was a really important topic that came up. I could see my students giving each other knowing looks during that lesson, and the middle schoolers did the same.
Given how much effort that went into adapting this lesson, would you do it again?
The students who volunteered to do this are overachievers, so trying to find a time to get them all together was difficult. But, streamlining the Nest Curriculum worked because a lot of the lesson was 8th-grade friendly.
Right after we finished, my students and I talked about getting out in the fall and doing it again at some different middle schools because the experience was well received. It seemed like even the teachers at the middle school learned something.
Read: Wake Up To Politics is a daily e-newsletter that breaks down political news, and is written by a 14-year old in Missouri. The young journalist, Gabe Fleisher started the newsletter in fifth grade and his work was recently featured in the NYT.
Write: Ignite, a non-partisan org, created a workbook for students to practice their penmanship by rewriting the quotes of trailblazing women.
Below, you’ll find news highlights, read about a high school student who took a major step on an issue they care about, and discover content to add to your watchlist.
- Indiana University recently introduced a plan to screen incoming student-athletes and ban any students with a history of sexual or domestic violence from competing for the school.
- On April 20th, the Texas State Senate held a hearing to debate a bill that would make sexual violence prevention education mandatory in the state. Below, read about the hearing directly from those who testified.
- The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report in 2016 found that 68% of women don't identify with images they see in ads. To combat the problem, an agency in Denmark partnered with photographers and took 1,729 photos of real women then gave those photos to advertisers for free.
- Reed Morano, a cinematographer who worked on Beyonce's Lemonade, recently turned Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale into a critically-acclaimed television show. Read The Atlantic's take on why her story applies today.
At the Texas State Senate last month, members of the Nest team joined our friends, Deeds Not Words, and high school students from Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders to testify in support of Senate Bill 2039.
Dozens of students from Ann Richards School, Rangel YWLS, Skyline High School, and Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy also lobbied for the bill and submitted written testimonies. Check out the testimonies in the video below (click and scroll to 23:35).
At the end of this month, the Nest team is headed to Portland, Oregon to host the Nest Student Forum: Empowering Youth in the Face of Sexual Violence. A panel of students representing multiple schools in Portland and a panel of experts will discuss solutions to end child sexual exploitation and trafficking in Oregon. The event is on May 31st and is open to the public: RSVP here.
GOOD: Lauren Duca's weekly column in Teen Vogue, Thigh-High Politics, breaks down political news and provides concrete steps that activists can take.
BAD: Bill O'Reilly, who was recently ousted by Fox News after facing repeated claims of sexual harassment, is slated to receive a settlement that is nearly double the combined settlements of his accusers.
This month, we’re sharing an interview that Nest had with Eleanor, an 11th-grade student at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders in Austin, TX. Eleanor participated in the Nest Curriculum last year and wanted to get more involved.
In March, Deeds Not Words worked with Eleanor and students in several high schools to help them better understand bill-writing, lobbying and testifying in front of Congress.
Nest: What motivated you to go all the way to the legislature?
Eleanor: In general (the Nest Curriculum) was very shocking. I was very unhappy with the fact that I lived in the dark on this issue all my life. I knew instantly this was something I was passionate about and something that I wanted to make a change in. I knew that if any opportunity presented itself to do something, I was going to take it.
Deeds Not Words prepared you for the legislative experience. What was that training like?
It was awesome. Wendy Davis came to our school. We all went to a room (me and 20 other girls) and she told us what is involved in making a testimony, how the process works, and what to expect. Wendy explained this particular bill and said that when (the hearing) happens we need to be present and make sure that our voices are heard.
We found out on Wednesday morning (4/19) that the hearing the next day was happening. I’d been preparing myself psychologically because it could’ve happened at any time. The 24 hours after finding out I was thinking “I have 2 minutes to talk, what do I need to say?”
What was the hearing like?
It was intimate, the room was small but there were a lot of people. In front, there was a panel of people that you could tell were very important. It was intimidating but it was great because I felt like what I was doing mattered.
I felt pretty confident in my response and I feel like (the legislators) were really receptive. They heard our voices and when they spoke to us they weren’t being condescending. They were treating us like we were adults and that we were making a difference.
I know high school students get this question a lot, but what occupation interests you after graduation?
I’ve been planning to attend med school, so medicine. At the moment though, I’m kind of confused because I did not think politics was something that would interest me. Through this process (of preparing and testifying in front of Congress) I’m learning that I’m not totally opposed to politics. I would consider being a lobbyist because there is so much that goes on in the legislature that nobody knows about unless you’re involved in it.
Watch: Check out The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu.
Add to your calendar: 6pm PST on 5/31, live-stream the Student Forum discussion on the Nest Foundation Facebook Page.
Discover: 5 Calls is a website you can use to find phone numbers and talking points to contact legislators about issues that are important to you.
Below, you’ll find recent news stories, learn about steps being taken to prevent sexual exploitation, read an interview to better understand the office of an Attorney General, and find actions you can take to make a difference today.
- A law student spoke out last week against members of Georgia's House of Representatives as she fights a campus assault bill that will make it harder for students to report rape.
- An intimate, nuanced, and thoroughly reported story of a Nigerian girl's trafficking experience was published this week: The Desperate Journey of a Trafficked Girl.
- The Advertising Research Foundation recently gathered data proving that gender bias in advertising hurts businesses. Read the full article on Business Wire.
- This US First Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision that put the one of the Nest team's longstanding internal debates to rest. Long live the oxford comma!
Nest Foundation has been working with Wendy Davis' organization, Deeds Not Words, to identify and train Nest Curriculum high school alumni on how to effectively lobby their lawmakers. This month, our team will travel to Austin to join those students and testify in support of Senate Bill 2039, which advocates for the development of sexual abuse and trafficking prevention curriculum in Texas' public schools.
GOOD: Old, but good: this New York Post article from 2007 explains why parents should emphasize hard work over talent and the lessons have survived the past decade: How not to talk to your kids.
BAD: A professional working to end child sex trafficking recently had to call out problems with viral posts that give inaccurate advice about preventing human trafficking.
This month, we’re sharing an interview our team member Allie Hock had with an attorney working at the Texas Attorney General's office. Melissa Holman was on the Nest Student Forum panel of experts in Austin last November.
Nest: For someone like myself who doesn’t understand what work the office of the Attorney General does, how would you explain the role of the office?
Melissa: The work of an Attorney General’s office varies state by state. The section that I work in is specialized in sex and labor human trafficking. Our goal is to prosecute, seek justice and train local prosecutors to handle cases. I also conduct trainings with kids in and out of the foster system, law enforcement, school nurses, etc.
What surprises you about your job?
Working in this area with this subject matter, our cases are always surprising. No two cases are exactly alike, they all have different evidentiary, witness, and legal obstacles. Each case is a new challenge and we always have to be on our toes because these aren’t the most straightforward cases to bring to trial.
How often are you in the courtroom?
I’m usually in court a couple times a month.
What would you say to a 10th grade student who is interested in becoming an attorney?
I’d say keep law school in the back of your mind but don’t fixate on that when you choose a college major. In high school, you should focus on what is interesting to you because you can go to law school with any background whether that be science, math, liberal arts, etc.
What facts or topics did a student at the Nest Student Forum last year bring up that you hadn’t known before?
It is common for experts or people who work in the field to make comments like “trafficking can happen in good homes too.” When saying this, we are trying to help people understand that this is an issue that impacts all of us. One student (at the Nest Forum) said that speaking in those terms makes it seem like people should care more when a student from a stable home is affected than they do when a child existing on the margins is trafficked. I valued that comment because it is a valid criticism of the language that we sometimes use that makes it seem like there’s hierarchy of victims.
Call: If you live in Texas, call the members of the Education Committee (Senate Committee>Education Committee) and voice support for Senate Bill 2039. You can also call the Committee Clerk (512-463-0355) and urge her to schedule a Committee Hearing to review this bill.
Act: Community action is core to our work at Nest, and this year's Science March provides an opportunity to celebrate Earth Day and get involved in your city.
Share: If you like what you read, encourage a fellow activist to sign up for these curated monthly messages!
Hello! Below, you’ll find news highlights, learn about a compelling story, review a lesson you can use the day you read it, and find concrete steps to follow up on issues that you care about.
- A new report was released about how to care for teens after a sexual assault. It calls for physicians to be more involved in screening potential victims and for educators to offer guidance before an assault occurs.
- Women, racial minorities, and LGBT people are most likely to be victimized online. Now, a bot has been created to identify toxic commenters before their thoughts are posted.
- Activists on Twitter recently pointed out the impossibility of the term “mistress” being used to describe women who were slaves.
- A Christian writer published a piece this month about a visit she made to a place she was raised to condemn: Planned Parenthood.
Members from the Nest team are headed to Harvard next week to speak with students about the success and challenges that come with piloting a sexual violence prevention curriculum based on our documentary film Playground. Libby Spears, Nishima Chudasama, and Amy Kayon will share pieces of the curriculum they've implemented in High Schools in Oregon and Texas (which you can read more about in an interview with a student below!)
GOOD: Legislators in Texas introduced a bill to enact consent policies that make reporting sexual assault easier for victims. Full story here.
BAD: Legislators in Texas were non-committal last week about allocating funds to make improvements to the child welfare system that would protect sex trafficking victims. Out of the $1 billion that the Texas Department of Child and Family Services estimated would be needed, lawmakers proposed allotting only $325 million. Full story here.
This month, we’re sharing an interview we had with a 10th-grade student at the Irma Lerma Rangel School for Young Women Leaders in Dallas, TX. Joanna is a Nest Curriculum alumni and served as an emcee at a Nest Student Forum in Dallas last November.
Nest: Some people may think the Nest sexual violence prevention curriculum is too intense or mature for high school students. What would you say to them?
Joanna: High school students are already having sex, they’re already engaging in a lot of things that people don’t think are “okay”. I think that, in the end, if HS students already know about sex then they are mature enough to know about sexual exploitation.
What do you wish more people knew about safety online or the child sexual trafficking epidemic in the US?
The thing that I wish more people knew about child sex trafficking is that there are more people being affected than one would think. And it isn’t necessarily a choice for the victims….because who would choose a life or poverty, abuse, illness?
Why is it important for students to learn about these issues today?
I personally think that we like to brush issues under the rug and forget that they’re happening. We pretend everything is fine in this country and we blame other countries for our problems. It is important to remember that we’re just as capable of committing atrocities as other countries and that, domestically, we need to be able to combat multiple epidemics.
Check: Go through this online safety checklist for parents and students.
Read: UT-Austin completed an unprecedented study about domestic violence and sexual assault. Find the facts here.
Share: This monthly newsletter features relevant news links, compelling stories and occasional gifs! Share with a friend or co-conspirator today!