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Violence Prevention Project Assistant Reflects on Go Big Read

Go Big Read seeks responses to this year’s book from students, faculty, and staff. If you have something to share, contact gobigread@library.wisc.edu to learn more about guidelines and process. Thanks to Olivia Moore for responding from her perspective as Violence Prevention Project Assistant. 


*Trigger warning.*
In Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale for the Time
Being,” many heartbreaking issues in young Naoko’s life are explored.  Nao, a 16 year-old schoolgirl living in
Tokyo, documents her life in a diary. 
After Japan’s
devastating earthquake and tsunami, a Japanese-American
novelist named Ruth, finds a barnacle-encrusted freezer bag washed up on a
beach off the coast of British Columbia. 
Ruth opens the freezer bag to find Nao’s life inscribed in an old book,
along with a watch and some letters. We are taken into Nao’s world as Ruth
relives her life through the washed up diary.
In a few life-changing moments described in the diary, Nao
experienced a sexual assault perpetrated by some of her classmates.  These classmates videotaped the assault
and stole her underwear.  They then
posted both online, seeing what the highest bid for her underwear would
be.  Before Nao even had a chance
to begin healing from her traumatizing sexual assault, she was forced to relive
it over and over again in a public forum.
This
story in the book displays something that is far too common in our society:
re-victimization. This term refers to the experience of a survivor being
victimized or traumatized after the original trauma.
            
Not
all survivors of sexual assault experience re-victimization by watching how
much their underwear is being auctioned off for, or by seeing how many views
their sexual assault has gotten online. 
However, almost all survivors do have to endure countless rape jokes,
triggering images or scenes on TV and in movies, and degrading song lyrics on a
daily basis.  Re-victimization can
be experienced through the criminal justice system, friends, family, and social
media. 
With
the statistic currently at 1 in 4 women being sexually assaulted before they
graduate college, many of us feel helpless and overwhelmed.  What can you, merely 1 in 42,820
students at UW-Madison, do to help end the epidemic of sexual assault?  The answer may sound simpler than you
think: be a good person.  Most of
us are not the perpetrators initially victimizing someone, but we can all do
our part in ensuring survivors are not re-victimized.
Be
conscious of what you say, post online, or laugh at. It matters. With
statistics showing that sexual assault and dating violence affect countless
women in our society, a survivor or a loved one of a survivor will most likely
be negatively affected by what you post or say. If what you are about to say
could be emotionally traumatizing to a survivor, either do not say it or include
a trigger warning before you do. 
Soon, this will come as second nature.  When other people see you not laughing at a harmful rape
joke, or including a trigger warning before you post an article to Facebook,
that makes a statement about what is and is not acceptable today.
It is also extremely helpful to know the
resources that the campus and community provides.  If someone discloses to you, you will be prepared to help
them find the resources that are best for them.
If you do encounter someone saying something
hurtful, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion to them.  A famous quote from Martin Luther King
Jr. states, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the
silence of our friends.”  Will the
confrontation be awkward at first? Maybe. 
Will it be worth it? Definitely.
Help is available.  Click here  for a list of campus and community
resources.  
Olivia Moore
Violence Prevention
Project Assistant
EVOC: End Violence on
Campus
University Health Services

Olivia is a junior at
UW-Madison majoring in psychology, and getting certificates in entrepreneurship
and criminal justice.  She has
worked as the Violence Prevention Project Assistant at EVOC since her freshman
year.

The Domino Effect in A Tale for the Time Being

Although not directly established in this novel, one of the
themes that struck me while reading A
Tale for the Time Being
was the risk associated with losing a loved one to
suicide. Nao’s story turned out (we hope) for the better, but there are many
real-life stories that have not been so fortunate. As we saw throughout the
novel, Nao frequently connected her own feelings of suicide to those same
feelings she saw through her father’s actions. While it was tragic that her
father was depressed to the point of taking his own life, what seems even worse
is that his daughter followed his example and perceived suicide as the only way
out of her struggles.
While we normally work under the assumption of prevention,
we sometimes forget that even after the battle has been temporarily lost in the
wake of a death by suicide, there is still prevention work to be done.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), nearly 10%
of all suicides can be connected to the idea of the Domino Effect or “copy cat”
suicides1.  Suicides sensationalized
in the media have been connected to others that follow similar methods.  Similarly, and perhaps more important, is the
idea that those who have recently lost someone to suicide or any unexpected
death, may be at a higher risk for suicide if not given the proper support to
get through this emotional and traumatic time. Given that 85% of us will lose a
loved one to suicide, this seems too important of a connection to pass-over2.
                                                                                            
In this way, we all have a job to do. Suicide is 100%
preventable if the proper resources and support networks are in place. We need
to be proactive about asking friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and
strangers how they are really doing and be educated in the resources we can
direct them towards. On page 286, Nao’s mother acknowledges Nao’s father’s
attempt at suicide by saying, “Of course it was an accident […] Silly Papa! How
could you be so careless?” As long as we continue to watch and ask our friends
and family how they are really doing and provide the support they need in good
times and bad, we can break out of the denial that Nao’s mother is content to
follow and save a life.
Erin Breen
Vice President
ASK.LISTEN.SAVE.

Emotional Intelligence: Why discuss sensitive topics in an academic setting?

University Health Services

“All
learning has an emotional base.” – Plato

As
our campus community comes together to read Ruth Ozeki’s novel A Tale for
the Time Being
, readers may be taken aback by the themes of suicide,
trauma, and mental illness. Sensitive topics, such as suicide, can evoke a wide
range of emotions. These themes also bring up the questions, “What is the value
of discussing such sensitive topics in an academic setting?” and “How can they
happen in emotionally safe and meaningful ways?”

Emotional
intelligence refers to one’s ability to perceive, control, and evaluate
emotions. Building this intelligence is a crucial step in individual development.
Our feelings and emotions ultimately guide our thinking and actions, whether we
are aware of it or not. And, to get back to the question at hand, a key step in
developing emotional intelligence involves using emotions to promote thinking
and cognitive activity.

At
UW-Madison, we pride ourselves on providing a liberal arts education to our
students. The Wisconsin Idea promotes educational experiences both in and out
of the classroom. We hope that students leave our university with an
understanding of how their coursework is relevant to their lives and
communities. Emotional intelligence is an often undervalued aspect of a college
education that prepares people to navigate relationships and contribute to the
world around them.

Having
an open dialogue in an academic setting communicates to students that these
issues are important to both emotional and intellectual development. Talking
about mental illness helps reduce stigma and makes it clear that UW-Madison
respects the very real and diverse experiences students bring to the classroom.

If
conversations about trauma or suicide are happening in academic settings,
students need to know that instructors value their feelings and wellbeing. Instructors
can do this by providing a trigger warning before reading sensitive material.
Without a warning, students may feel bombarded with difficult memories or
emotions, especially if they have personally had traumatic experiences. Their
sole focus will be dealing with their own reaction to the material, which may
interfere with their ability to engage academically. Instructors can also help
create a safe space in the classroom by establishing
ground rules for discussion and stressing the importance of using respectful language
and listening practices.
Finally,
when discussing sensitive topics, instructors should know what resources exist
for any student who might feel triggered by the material. University Health
Services is available 24-hours a day if students need support processing their
emotions or have other mental health concerns. University faculty and staff can
also contact UHS at (608)265-5600, option 9 for after-hours mental health
crisis services.

For
a full list of mental health and suicide prevention resources, visit http://www.gobigread.wisc.edu/resources/HealthResources2013.pdf.

Valerie
Kowis
Suicide
Prevention Coordinator
University
Health Services