JHF in the News
As you know, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And this year, Joyful Heart partnered with dozens of organizations, community-based programs and government officials to turn towards the issue of sexual assault in New York City with Denim Day.
Denim Day is an award-winning annual sexual violence prevention and education campaign started by our Los Angeles-based partner, Peace Over Violence. It grew out of a 1990s Italian Supreme Court case in which the Court’s decision overturned a rape conviction because the victim wore tight jeans. The judges reasoned the victim’s tight jeans meant that she had to have helped her assailant remove them, implying consent. People all over the world were outraged, and wearing jeans became an international symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes and myths surrounding sexual assault. Last year, more than 2.6 million people participated in Denim Day throughout the U.S.
This year is New York’s third year participating in Denim Day campaign and Joyful Heart is so proud to have joined the coalition. In addition to activities, workshops and programs happening throughout all five boroughs for youth and adults on Denim Day, we held a press conference on the steps of City Hall yesterday to kick off our coalition’s Denim Day events.
In addition to our Denim Day organizers the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, the St. Luke’s Roosevelt Crime Victims Treatment Center and Start Strong Bronx, we were joined by advocates, youth government officials and individuals who filled the steps of City Hall to bring the message to New york that there is no excuse and never an invitation to rape.
We’re sharing that message nationally too. Yesterday, Mariska penned an op-ed in the Huffington Post with Denim Day founder Patti Giggans. From their article:
The way our society thinks about rape and receives survivors is not only tragic, it’s dangerous. Fearing that they won’t be believed, survivors are less likely to report their rapes, which means rapists stay out of jail, which means they are free to rape again.
Denim Day is about coming together as a community that has no tolerance for sexual violence, a community that commits its resources—intellectual, financial, emotional—to responding differently to survivors and making their healing a priority.
To read the entire article, click here.
We and our partners are also sharing this message in social media (that would be #denimday, if you’re on Twitter) in hospitals and rape crisis programs, offices, schools and colleges throughout the country. Together, we can change these harmful victim-blaming attitudes about sexual violence. We can change the way we think about, respond to and support survivors of sexual assault.
If you are wearing denim today, please be sure you have registered your support on www.denimdayusa.org. We invite you to submit photos of yourself in your denim to firstname.lastname@example.org and share what you’re doing for Denim Day in the comments below.
As you may have seen from our Facebook or Twitter accounts, some members our national staff have traveled to Honolulu for a series of very exciting events in our westernmost hub. And as you likely know, Hawai‘i is Joyful Heart’s birthplace, so we are all thrilled and honored to be here doing this work.
One of the primary reasons for this trip was to launch the One Strong ‘Ohana campaign (‘ohana is Hawaiian for “family”).
One Strong ‘Ohana (or OSO as we refer to it internally) is the result of nearly three years of planning and coordination. I’ll share a brief recap of how we got to where we are today:
- In 2009, the Hawai‘i Children’s Trust Fund (HCTF) Coalition decided to embark on a statewide public awareness campaign designed to help prevent child abuse and neglect.
- Throughout 2010, Joyful Heart participated as a grantee in a planning cohort that helped shape the vision for what that campaign would look like. During that planning time, we proposed conducting statewide research about the issue to serve as a guide for any efforts and a baseline against which we could track our success.
- Later that year, Joyful Heart was invited by HCTF to be the organization’s non-profit partner for the campaign. Our agency’s scope included conducting research, supporting digital and social media efforts, providing creative development expertise and engaging media and community stakeholders to become a part of the campaign.
- In the spring of 2011, work began on branding and creative development with participation from organizations representing communities from across the state. The campaign theme was determined, a communication plan developed and work began in earnest on the elements of the campaign.
- By July of that year, Joyful Heart had secured strong commitments from our media partners: Hawaii News Now (a local television/news), COX Media Group Honolulu (the owner of four local FM and two local AM radio stations), the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (the largest daily newspaper in the state) and MidWeek (a weekly news magazine with the highest circulation in the state). During that month, we also released the results of our statewide study, “Perceptions of Child Abuse and Neglect in Hawai‘i.”
- Building on the momentum of the research release, we entered last fall focused on honing the creative materials, lining up corporate sponsors (including Jamba Juice, Whole Foods Market and Fun Factory) and preparing for our launch in January of 2012.
And that leads us to earlier this week, when after years of planning, we officially launched the One Strong ‘Ohana campaign!
On Tuesday, January 17th, over 100 individuals from all walks of life—non-profits and community organizations, local businesses, media and government officials—gathered for the unveiling of the One Strong ‘Ohana campaign. The Joyful Heart Foundation and our partners at the Hawai‘i Children’s Trust Fund coordinated the effort with the generous support of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, who hosted the event at their beautiful office in downtown Honolulu.
The press conference-style event commenced with welcoming remarks from Aileen Deese, Program Director of Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii and the Chairperson of the Hawai‘i Children’s Trust Fund’s Advisory Committee. Aileen commented on what a powerful message it was to have representatives from the government in attendance, including Lt. Governor Brian Schatz, Bruce Coppa, Chief of Staff to Governor Neil Abercrombie and the Director of the Department of Health, Loretta Fuddy.
We all know that the safety and wellbeing of our children is a priority in our society. But we also know that instances of child abuse and neglect do occur, and at far more alarming rates than many would imagine. In 2010 alone, there were 4,199 reports of child abuse and neglect throughout the state.
And while most Hawai‘i residents agree that child abuse and neglect are serious issues, all too often, public attention is only turned towards them when the media reports on a tragic child fatality at the hands of a parent or caretaker.
With this in mind, in 2009, the Hawai‘i Children’s Trust Fund Coalition decided to begin the process of producing the first statewide child abuse and neglect—or CAN as we often call it—prevention public awareness campaign.
I’d like to start by congratulating all of you on a tremendous achievement.
This is clearly a community effort that has brought together non-profit agencies, individuals, families, advocates, media, local business and government.
As a father of two young children, I’d like to express my thanks to you for your endless passion, dedication and commitment to this campaign, which creates a vision for Hawai‘i as a place where no child experiences abuse or neglect—and where families are supported by a strong and loving network of friends and family.
Child abuse and neglect is a tough issue to address. But I applaud you on your efforts to raise awareness and educate residents using a positive—and strengths-based approach.
The key idea that we are all one ‘ohana—and that we can all make a difference in strengthening families is inspirational and empowering for all of us who are invested in making Hawai‘i a better place for us to raise healthy and happy keiki.
Maile Zambuto, Joyful Heart’s Chief Executive Officer came to the podium to report on JHF’s research efforts that served to inform the campaign process. But first, she introduced a video message from a very special guest participant.
Maile then returned to share details of the report that inspired much of the campaign development process.
The headlines from our research are that, in terms of community concern, 80% of Hawaii residents think child abuse and neglect is a major problem in society.
We learned that child abuse is prevalent in our community. Nearly 40% of residents know a victim of child abuse and 9% disclosed being victimized themselves.
Around knowledge and perceptions, we found that two thirds of residents say it is difficult to identify the signs of abuse.
Nearly a third of residents expressed that they were reluctant to get involved because it was “none of their business.”
And we learned that the majority of residents would talk to a colleague, friend or family member about suspected abuse.
The research demonstrates we have a real opportunity with this campaign to educate the public and tap into the value system that is so much a part of our unique culture in Hawai‘i – that “we are all one ‘ohana”.
Maile then passed the mic to Randy Echito, the Executive Director of the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Maui and member of the HCTF Advisory Committee, who provided an overview of the campaign and unveiled the creative materials. These materials, produced for TV, radio and print, will allow us to reach nearly all adults in Hawai‘i by the end of the campaign with positive and practical messages about the protective factors that help parents and caregivers support each other to create nurturing homes and communities for children. Take a look at this PSA that will air on TV, thanks to the generous support of Hawaii News Now, throughout the campaign.
Throughout 2011, we worked with our creative team—AIDIA Studios—as well as dozens of grantees and community providers to develop the creative part of the public awareness campaign. We wanted to make sure it was hopeful, strengths-based and decidedly local. Here’s a look at some of the other campaign elements:
After unveiling the creative, Randy invited Tammy Kubo, Chairperson of the Hawai‘i Children’s Trust Fund Advisory Board, and Kata Issari, Hawai‘i Regional Director for Joyful Heart, up to extend our deepest gratitude to the many individuals and organizations responsible for the development and launch of the campaign. That list includes, but is not limited to:
- The Hawai‘i Children’s Trust Fund Advisory Board and Advisory Committee
- Members of the HCTF Coalition and grantees who participated in planning, research, focus group testing and implementation
- The Hawai‘i Community Foundation
- Bennet Group Strategic Communications
- AIDIA Studo
We’d also like to thank our generous media partners and corporate sponsors for committing their time and resources to the One Strong ‘Ohana campaign:
- Hawaii News Now
- COX Media Group
- Honolulu Star-Advertiser
- Jamba Juice Hawaii
- Whole Foods Market
- Fun Factory
Mahalo to you all for your commitment to Hawai‘i’s keiki (children).
Dear Joyful Heart Community,
Today is a very big day for Joyful Heart and we are so excited to share an update with you.
Mariska Hargitay, Joyful Heart’s founder and president and star of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, was on the TODAY Show yesterday morning to discuss a very important episode of SVU–one that addresses the often ignored effects of male sexual abuse. Basketball superstars Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony, as well as Mehcad Brooks (True Blood, Necessary Roughness) and Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years), guest starred to help share this important message.
While we know that women and girls represent the majority of sexual violence, we know that men are affected as well. They are victims of witnesses to violence. And while the vast majority of men are not perpetrators themselves, most perpetrators are men.
This episode is groundbreaking for SVU and for the movement to end violence. SVU has never told such a powerful story about the effects of sexual violence on men. It’s important to shine a light on this issue. Because men should not be relegated to sidelines as survivors of violence or supporters of the movement to end it. With this episode, in partnership with our friends at 1in6 and A CALL TO MEN, Joyful Heart is launching a new Engaging Men initiative.
We invite any man who is a survivor of an unwanted or abusive sexual experience to get the support and resources they need–and deserve–to heal. It’s estimated that one in six–19 million males in the United States–have had an unwanted or abusive sexual experience in childhood.
We also invite all men to be a part of the movement to end violence. Preventing and one day ending violence takes all members of our society and men play a crucial role in bringing us closer to a world without sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.
Yesterday, representatives from Joyful Heart, including myself, went to Albany to advocate for the expansion of New York State’s DNA Databank to include samples from all convicted offenders. Right now in New York, state law only allows for collection of DNA from offenders convicted in just 48% of all crimes.
We went up with a statewide coalition of advocates, law enforcement, survivors and policymakers. We met with representatives in both political parties in the Senate and Assembly, as well as members of the press.
We went with a simple message: pass all crimes DNA legislation.
We know how important DNA can be in bringing about justice for survivors of sexual assault, and how important justice can be in the healing process. Since New York’s DNA Databank was established in 1996, thousands of crimes—including 3,353 sexual assaults and 800 murders—have been solved using evidence in the Databank and many, many more have been prevented. Solving each one of these cases brings a measure of healing to survivors and their families.
At a press conference held at the Capitol and lead by Linda Fairstein, a national expert on criminal justice issues and Joyful Heart founding board member, two courageous survivors spoke about their experience waiting for the justice and living in fear. One of those survivors, Cassandra, lived through a horrific assault in her home in 2006. Though her attacker had been convicted of a low-level offense in 2003, it did not meet the threshold to compel him to give a DNA sample so he was able to go on to attack a half a dozen other innocent people with impunity before he was finally convicted of an assault which required him to submit DNA, linking him to the terrible acts of violence he inflicted on Cassandra and other victims.
He took more than my personal property and jewelry. He took my peace of mind and security of my own home, throwing off his bloody clothes with literally throngs of police, helicopters and dogs at his back. My peace of mind remained shattered for 14 long months until his arrest in October of 2007. The tragedy is that the horrors this man went on to commit against other innocent people during that 14 months never had to happen… He wasn’t in the DNA Databank, so he remained free.
We’re not asking a lot of our legislators. The DNA database has never been compromised. No information from it will be used except to match suspects to crime scenes. So many horrible crimes can be stopped before they happen if we take a DNA sample from everyone convicted of a crime… Just please, do it: pass this law.
Lawmakers listened to our message and the stories of Cassandra and other survivors yesterday. Coalitions of victims’ groups from throughout the state have put their support behind the bill, as have New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo. In a letter address to Majority Senator Leader Dean Skelos and Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, the Governor wrote:
Together we share the sober responsibility of keeping New Yorkers safe from harm and ensuring justice for all of us. No single tool has been more important than DNA in making certain that we discharge this responsibility fairly, swiftly and effectively…The time has come to say simply: Yes. We know what works. Now, let’s do what works.
We are hopeful that members of Senate and Assembly will pass this legislation and that the survivors and families of victims whose cases remained unsolved will not have to wait for the healing and justice this legislation would provide.
Mariska Hargitay, Joyful Heart’s founder and president, wanted to be with us but was unable to attend. She said in a statement, “I am proud to stand with survivors, advocates and members of the criminal justice community to support the expansion of the New York State DNA Databank to send a powerful message to survivors: ‘We hear you. You have suffered enough. Your healing—and pursuit of justice—are our priorities.’”
You can read more about this issue and our efforts in various news outlets, including The New York Times, the New York Post, the Times Union, and the New York Daily News. And be sure to check back here for how you can help our efforts.
Several of us at Joyful Heart had the honor and privilege of attending the Women’s eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st Century Annual Gala on Tuesday evening as guests of Mariska Hargitay, Joyful Heart’s President & Founder, and Maile Zambuto, our Executive Director, who was honored as one of the 21 Leaders.
Women’s eNews is a valuable source of information, not just for women, but for anyone who cares about the issues that affect women and, by extension, our entire society. In January, the online news source named Maile one of its 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. Maile was honored for her innovative and compassionate work helping victims of abuse. She stood in the company of 19 other women and one man who embody, as Women’s eNews put it, “the creativity, dedication, resourcefulness and commitment that it takes to improve the lives of women and girls.”
“The women’s movement is far from over and this room is such a testament to how strong and vibrant it is.”
–Susan King, Vice President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the evening’s emcee
For those of us that get to work with Maile, this recognition from the field came as no surprise. Under Maile’s leadership, Joyful Heart has served thousands of survivors of violence and abuse and reached hundreds of thousands more through public education and awareness initiatives using film, print and social media. The organization developed the Heal the Healers program, which aims to support and restore the professionals who serve survivors through education about both the effects of vicarious trauma and also sustainable self-care practices. Joyful Heart has also drawn national attention to the backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits in the United States.
Among the other 20 leaders honored was Pamela Shifman of Novo Foundation, who, as the director of Initiatives for Women and Girls, has shaped the Foundation’s work to empower the world’s most marginalized adolescent girls to be agents of change. There was also Robina Niaz, founder of the Turning Point for Women and Families, the first and only organization in New York city dedicated to addressing domestic violence in the Muslim community. Jimmie Briggs was the single male honoree of the evening, but a true testament to just how big and positive of a role men have in this movement. As a reporter, he visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he interviewed a girl who was gang raped twice in one day. He was so moved by this and other experiences witnessing rape and mutilation in war-torn countries that he founded the Man-Up Campaign with the mission to stop violence against women and girls worldwide through its network of young people.
Maile’s award was presented to her by news anchor and fellow advocate, Dan Rather. As she gave her acceptance speech to the packed room, she was surrounded by Mariska, many members of the staff of Joyful Heart and her husband, Jason. She shared:
I started in this work nearly twenty years ago for very personal reasons–searching for a way to make sense of all I had suffered and to find meaning in my experience as a survivor. And what I have found over time–I have settled into my work and dedicated myself to serve simply because it’s the right thing to do. I feel blessed every day to do this work and it is a privilege to do it with my team at Joyful Heart….
It’s evenings like this and rituals like this award that allow us to reflect on all we have accomplished, all who have come before us, our many teachers and mentors, all the suffering we have witnessed and the progress. This moment also inspires us to recommit ourselves to all that’s left to do in our collective movements. So tonight, I re-commit myself to a shared vision of ending violence against women and children–not in my lifetime, but I hold it out as what we will work toward every day.
Congratulations to Maile and all of the other honorees!