A comic I made for our "Get Crafty With Consent!" event demonstrating that consent is conscious.
For most of my life I went to an Orthodox Jewish day school which left me with only a basic understanding of sexual violence. All topics relating to sex were never discussed during most of my life and anything relating to the human body was dismissed as a vessel of G-d (note: that’s how I’ve been taught to write god in my schooling). The human body was masked under clothing that hid all resemblance of features and body parts in order to be Tznius (modest) and dress in the image appropriate for the children of G-d. Even wearing nail polish wasn't allowed!
Since sexuality and all ways of expressing oneself through clothing or style was never talked about or encouraged, I grew up oblivious to my body and the stigma surrounding such expression. Of course this is not true for everyone who went to my old school, but it was for me. Since previously sexuality and sexual violence were never talked about, I was quite clueless when I started coming to The Talk Project Peer Educator trainings at NCJW|LA last summer. Since then I have learned about sexual assault in depth, including the topics of sexual harassment, consent, rape, rape culture, and consent culture. I have also learned the many facts that debunk the myths and stereotypes about rape in our society. For example, it’s a myth to believe that rape could have been prevented if the victim was not wearing the clothing they chose to wear (i.e. a short skirt). However, this is not true--there is no excuse for rape and clothing is one’s personal expression. No one is ever asking to be raped.
This summer I was able to participate in the Jewish Federation’s Community Internship Program where I was placed with The Talk Project! During my internship I learned about all the elements of consent:
My fellow intern Peyton and I were able to plan and execute an event about the elements of consent that we called “Get Crafty with Consent!"
At our event we led a discussion about the elements of consent, sexual coercion, power dynamics, and statutory rape. When preparing for my presentation I learned about how to better present and make the audience feel comfortable. While I was originally nervous about presenting, by the time presentation time came I felt very prepared and capable of teaching others about consent. After the presentation everyone made art showcasing the different elements. This art will be shown at an open house at NCJW|LA to teach others about the importance of consent.
"Get Crafty with Consent" attendees pose with their art. Click the photo for more pictures.
This is a comic I made as an example to demonstrate that consent can be withdrawn. Even though the person in red originally agreed to go swimming, after a while the person expresses, "I do not want to swim anymore. My hands are getting wrinkly." The person in yellow says, "Okay, let's go dry off."
In addition to hosting the “Get Crafty With Consent!” event, as part of my internship I got to do phone banking for the first time. I called voters in Nevada to encourage them to call their Senator in opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act. Before the ACA, sexual assault survivors could be classified as having a pre-existing medical condition because of the medical attention they sought out after being assaulted, and they could be forced by their insurance provider to pay more. So because of the ACA, sexual assault survivors could be more likely to be able to afford insurance as they are less likely to have to pay the raised cost of those with pre- existing conditions. For the most part, everyone who answered the phone was nice, but at times some of the people thought I was there to survey them and they were not as courteous.
I also researched how to treat and care for sexual violence survivors. Since caring for survivors is so important, I have compiled multiple different posts for The Talk Project facebook page with resources for survivors and people wanting to learn how to be supportive. Click the images below for support resources:
My work with The Talk Project matters to me because I believe in equality and educating people on topics that are otherwise considered to be “sensitive” and are often avoided. I agree with The Talk Project's stated goals addressing that the conversation of sexual assault needs to be de-stigmatized, the cultural issues that enable sexual assault need to be talked about, and steps that can be taken to combat the occurrence of sexual assault need to be discussed so people can be more informed and empowered to fight against sexual violence and for the rights of all people. During the training sessions throughout this past year, I was able to meet many people who also share a passion for social justice and strive to educate others. A year ago I could not explain half of the information I know now--I have truly come a long way and learned a lot about the importance of learning about sexual violence and the need to spread that information to others. The Talk Project’s peer-to-peer sexual violence education initiative is an effective way to spread awareness of the sexual violence epidemic and the statistics that affect every and anyone.
After learning so much from my time with The Talk Project I 100% believe that it would be extremely beneficial for more Orthodox Jewish schools to host The Talk Project workshops in order to educate their students. It does not matter how religious someone is--everyone should be able to learn more about such an invisible epidemic. In Parashat Kedoshim god says: “you shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed.” I agree! But if you are never educated on how to recognize and intervene in a dangerous situation such as sexual violence, how will you know how to help? I think that the institutions that ignore sexual violence are leaving their students more vulnerable to their surroundings than if they were taught about the dangers of sexual violence. Ignoring and refusing to talk about such a widespread issue does nothing to “heal the world” (Tikkun Olam), and in fact moves society in the opposite direction. Schools that bring in The Talk Project allow their students to become more educated and aware of their surroundings, and in turn help create a whole new generation that is more cognizant of societal pressures and more likely to enlighten the generations before and after them.
Hannah Rubin is a rising junior at Milken Community High School. This summer she was a part of The Jewish Federation’s Community Internship Program where she was placed with NCJW|LA’s The Talk Project. Hannah has been involved with The Talk Project since the summer of 2016.