Unbelievable: A true story

Writing can be so hard. You have a million things that you want to say, things that you want to tell the world, but nothing comes for months and months. No inspiration and little motivation. In fact, this year, I’ve only written five blogs which sucks for me. But then, something happens… you have a moment of spark, something that kicks you straight outta bed and makes you run to your desk to write. My modern-day writers block was just cured, thanks to Netflix.

 

I could easily spend hours on end binge-watching all sorts on that platform, but it’s rare to watch something that is well made and important for the world. Netflix’s latest drama; Unbelievable is one of the best shows on there today (along with Delhi Crime which has a similar narrative, watch that too). It’s a real-life story based on the award winning journalism piece from Pro Publica and The Marshall Project which is super relevant and incredibly important to today’s current climate. A story that is far too common, a story that I share myself (read that here) and a story that made me cry silly ridiculously in my room after watching it all.

For anyone that wants to watch it, sorry for the spoilers. But also, if you’re not planning on watching it and you’re reading this now, I’m telling you to just watch it regardless.

 

The Story

The story starts with a young girl, Marie Adler, who is awoken in the night, raped repeatedly in her home and abused for hours. The guy leaves with little evidence and Marie is subjected to an awful few days in questioning, statement giving and suspicion from those around her following from her attack. The police involved were ill-trained, her support system was lacking, and she was made to believe that her story was not worthy of pursuing. Everyone doubted her which eventually flipped her life upside down due to charges of false reporting, joblessness, media reporting and social rejection. She took a plea deal and tried to forget about it all.

But a year later, and the rapist had committed five more attacks in the same way. He was caught and currently serves a 200+ year sentence thanks to a team led by two incredible women who worked relentlessly to seek justice for these survivors.

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What are the facts?

Violence against women is one of the only criminal statistics that gets higher every year. Violence against women has no race, no border, no age and no preferences. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women have experience physical/sexual violence at some point in their lives. Less than 40% seek help, and of those, less than 10% seek help from the police.

So, why don’t women report? This story highlights all the reasons why violence against women remains one of the most common and easiest crimes to get away with. Not only does every single system worldwide fail to support survivors but our social systems tend to preference male perpetrators, worrying about ruining their reputations and having a hard time believing that they’re capable of such things. Because of this, only 9% of all rapists will get prosecuted. Only 5% of cases lead to conviction, with 3% of rapists spending a full day in prison whilst the other 97% will walk free.

 

 

What can we take from this?

I’ve scrambled down five points that I believe every single person on this planet can reflect on from this story;

  1. Believe

At the centre of the violence is the shame and fear of not being believed. Societies around the world regard violence against women so low that when someone does speak out, they’re put on trial with their stories judged and dissected. That’s what it feels like anyway. Marie’s whole life was evaluated before the police even considered searching for her rapist. And it’s so rare that anyone would make this stuff up. In fact, men are more likely to be victims of a sexual assault themselves than to be falsely accused of committing one. We’re living in a global movement where people are feeling braver and stronger than ever with their stories, let’s believe survivors and stop treating them like the accused.

 2. Support 

Each time you must tell your story or think about the crime, the trauma is relived, and on days it feels endless. A moment, a smell, a touch in the wrong place, a feeling, and it sends you straight back to that moment, no matter how many years pass. There was one scene at the end where a survivor confronts her attacker in despair, she wants to know why he picked her because her life has never been the same which shows that violence is never an event that happens once. Going through an ordeal like this one, speaking out about it and living with the trauma that follows affects your whole life. It’s not easy. A good support system is crucial when healing and living through the processes of prosecution. Support those around you.

3. Share

As we’ve learned, most victims will never tell their stories fully, but for those that do, we must share and honour their stories. Their stories are examples of a society gone wrong and hold important lessons for our futures. Sharing and listening to survivors’ stories means that as a society, we’re taking their stories into account, we’re not dismissing them and we’re allowing others to feel safe to come forward with their own stories. In this case, the rapist was caught thanks to the sharing of other stories and multiple people coming forward.

 4. Fight

Most justice systems worldwide lack the services, training and support for those dealing with cases with women and violence. Creating more jobs for women in the justice system, training programs, and care support services for victims will enable the criminal process to be more effective, supportive and less distressing. Signing petitions, fighting for a more equal world and standing up for women will encourage and support everyone on the planet in multiple ways. 

5. Help

From catcalling in the street to rape and death; our stories, our perpetrators are almost always men. Yet, there are places around the world where a woman could be killed for declaring “I’ve been raped” whilst the rapist continues with his free life. Men need to be the main leaders of this fight because it’s men that are being failed at some point, in a society that leads them to believe they have privilege and control over someone else’s body on a scary scale that has been happening today and for years and years and years.

Call out the men around you who show any signs of mistreatment or abuse to the women in this world. Make the treatment of women an everyday healthy conversation with your sons, boyfriends and people. And if you can’t keep us safe, be brave enough to seek help. Here’s a brilliant TedTalk to listen to about this;

Jackson Katz: Violence against women — it’s a men’s issue

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“One in four women will be raped. Only 10% will report it. The other 90% will take refuge in silence. 50% of these be cause the perpetrator is a family member or someone they know. The other half think they won’t be believed. And they won’t be believed.” – Ines Hercovich

 

This story is just one in a million. The drama adaptation highlights everything that is important to understanding and creating a safer space for more than half of the world’s population. It’s hard to watch but I’m so glad it’s there for you all to see. I hope you take some time to watch and learn more about one of the longest running injustices to people on this planet.

Have a peaceful day and please get in touch if you ever need someone to listen;

Vanisha

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For anyone affected and to learn more, here’s some links below;

Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger: Our story of rape and reconciliation

https://www.rainn.org/

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/help-after-rape-and-sexual-assault/

https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/rape-sexual-assault-and-sexual-harassment

https://rapecrisis.org.uk/

http://thesurvivorstrust.org/

http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/299-fast-facts-statistics-on-violence-against-women-and-girls-.html

https://www.survivorsuk.org/

https://www.propublica.org/article/false-rape-accusations-an-unbelievable-story

International Women’s Day 2018

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day 2018 and this year we also celebrate The Year of the Woman. And we carry the movements of #TimesUp, #MeToo, #HeForShe and many others around our world as we see women capturing headlines and rising up, demanding for change. But why is this so important still? Why are we still fighting for change? And how are half the humans born on this planet still facing lives of inequality and injustice? These are questions we hear on a daily basis, so I hope, whoever and wherever you are, that this piece will bring you the knowledge, inspiration and the power to act now. Because the #TimeIsNow. Let’s #pressforprogress.

International Women’s Day is a day for everybody. Yes, everybody. It’s a day to look at our progress, our future and our current successes. And I don’t want to write a long-winded serious essay today so I’m just gonna give you guys a few facts, a list of women that are inspiring me today, and a lil empowerment for you all to take in.

I hear more often than ever the confused question of “but women are equal now?”. And, we have come a long way, it’s true. Thanks to the Pankhursts and tonnes of brave women who have been fighting for the last 100 years and since, well, forever, us women in the West are reasonably lucky. From the hills of Hollywood to the women in the workplace, women are finding their power and using their voice. But we are still not equal. And the women in the developing countries that exist around us are living in situations that we can’t even begin to imagine. Situations far from safety, far from luck, and even further from equality.

So, we fight on. And it’s not just women. For all you guys who are still reading but questioning your place in this global movement, this is for you too. For all the gender stereotypes, for equality for ALL genders, this is to smash that glass ceiling and bin the ideas around blue is for boys and crying is for girls. For everyone who identifies between the binary, this day is for you too. Because we all deserve a fair and equal chance in life filled with love, safety and opportunity.

A big problem surrounding gender inequality is poverty. Did you know that we can eradicate global poverty if we achieved these two words? Gender equality. Because poverty is sexist. 70% of the world poorest people are women. If we educated more girls, less girls would die at childbirth, less women would experience domestic abuse and violence, and more women would be able to push their family out of poverty, therefore breaking both cycles that threaten millions of people worldwide. The goal is 2030. Are you with me?

So, what are the facts? Why are we still fighting?

  • Because out of the millions of human trafficking victims, you’ll find 8 out of 10 of them are females.
  • Because women are more likely to be victims of rape and domestic violence than from cancer, war, car accidents and malaria. This blows my mind.
  • Because 250 million girls alive today were married before their 15th This is worse for girls as they are more likely to die from childbirth, more likely to be victims of abuse and violence and less likely to receive education than they’re male counterparts or if they were married 5 years later as adults.
  • Because in the US, women earn on average 78 cents for every man’s dollar.
  • Because we all know Ed Westwick, Donald Trump, Ben Affleck, Harvey Weinstein, Dustin Hoffman. These men of power, status and money have all had allegations of harassment, sexual assault and sexual’ misconduct made against them. And they’re just a few names! Imagine how many more there are, how many names we’ll never hear still.
  • Because half the world is female. Because it affects the most privileged white woman from the US, to the poorest Asian woman from the Philippines. That should be reason enough.

And here are my people of the year…

  • Gloria Allred. I actually had no idea who this woman was until a few weeks ago when I watched her documentary on Netflix (called Seeing Allred) and became in awe. She’s a modern-day heroine whose name is behind some of the biggest headlines of our year, yet her name is not celebrated or even well-known. Allred is a woman’s attorney in America, fighting especially on high profile cases that victimise and twist the rights of women. Cases against Weinstein, O.J Simpson and Donald Trump. She takes a lot of stick, but due to her own experiences and passion for justice, Allred fights on and is truly a force to be reckoned with.
  • Angelina Jolie. We all know her, we’ve all seen her movies but not everyone knows what she’s up to today. She’s my inspo in so many ways. Of course, she’s great in films, and we’ve all seen her grow and mature through them all, but her best work is the work she does for humanity. Jolie has used her fame and platform to do good, speak up and invest in those that need it the most. What a woman. She works for the UN, LSE, helps refugees, women and children, and has also directed the incredible movie First They Killed My Father, which you can also find on Netflix!
  • Nazra Akter is an advocate for women and worker’s rights in Bangladesh. She’s worked in sweatshops from the age of 13 and has experienced hardship, abuse and inequality in the workplace. So, she started a women’s union party and continues to fight every day for the safety and lives of women. Women like her make our t-shirts, socks and trousers. It’s time women and their work were given more recognition, respect and money than our clothes. Our fashion industry is full of sexism, inequality and absolute horrors. I’m currently researching and writing about it but you can start by signing this petition; https://act.careinternational.org.uk/letter_garment_factories
  • Me and you. We have the power and platform to be just as incredible as these three women (we could give it a good go anyway!). The world needs more activists and feminists. These shouldn’t be scary, demonised words. They are brave, bold and life-changing. Encourage it, encourage yourself and encourage everyone around you. Can we achieve gender equality by 2030? Not without me and you. Are you with me?

IWD 2018 is all about being brave, standing up for what’s right, becoming everyday activists and taking action into our own hands!

Whether you’re young, old, male, female, black, white and everything in between know that

you are valued

you are loved

you are worthy

you deserve respect

you deserve to be heard

you can change the future,

you can change lives and

you can start today.

Are YOU with me?

Have a great day. Go kick some ass. Let’s change the world.

Vanisha

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So, how can you join me? –

Sign a petition:

https://www.one.org/us/take-action/poverty-is-sexist/

https://act.careinternational.org.uk/letter_garment_factories

Listen:

Listen to women. Trust us. Believe us.

Speak out:

Whenever you see an injustice, a threat or any form of inequality, call it out and use your voice. And use your voice anyway! Show ya support. I wanna hear you not just today, but every day.

Support:

There are so many people and organisations that you can follow and support today. I’ll give ya these to start with…

– Mision Mexico

– Care International

– UN women

– Humanity Unified

Live out your activism:

Let the fight for equality go beyond just statuses and today. Make an effort to make it a real part of you. You’re a life-changer.

And support me!

I’ll be doing a fundraising event in April for March4women, follow me on social media to see how you can support that and keep up to date with me and my ramblings @vanishamay

** art by @thisisaliceskinner, check her out too!

Life beyond Misión México

Preparing young adults for life beyond Misión Mexico…

Our #1 goal at Misión Mexico is to provide the option of shelter and on-going education for all of the children that walk through our doors. We aim to help break the cycle of poverty that exists for 21.2 million children and adolescents in Mexico, by providing opportunity, chances and choices for our young people, which includes our final program, YTP. Our Youth Transition Program (YTP) focuses on supporting our young people at Misión Mexico through the transition into adulthood, independent living and higher education.

The focus is to empower these young people in a bid to break the cycle of poverty and abuse, and further create confident, competent young adults and positive role models who can successfully live independently.” – Luke, YTP Coordinator

A History of YTP

  1. Rewind back to 2014 when YTP was first piloted with our first female transition house! Four of our young ladies, aged 19-22 years old, moved into the house with our full-time YTP coordinator and mentor. With the support of the coordinator, our young adults develop skills such as independent and practical living, health and nutrition, positive role modelling, financial planning and budgeting, and practical support sourcing employment. Personal development is also a critical element of the program which aims to improve confidence, interpersonal and negotiation skills, and self-motivation.
  2. The next exciting branch of YTP was our youth cooking program and girls’ youth groups, which were implemented for our children aged 13 years and over. At this age, we begin the preparation phase which helps identify the strategies and actions necessary to develop their independent and life skills, whilst residing at our main refuge.
  3. 18 months later, the program extended to include our first male transition house and boys’ youth groups!
  4. After four years, 9 of our young adults have moved through our two transition houses and into independent living with 7 more currently living in our YTP today!

Why is YTP so important?

YTP brings opportunity and support for those first tricky years of adulthood as they leave our main family home at 18 years old. Some of you may be thinking that it’s kind of unnecessary and comparing it to your own lives, however life in Tapachula is extremely different and difficult, and our young adults would not have as many opportunities or choices if it wasn’t for Misión Mexico and programs such as YTP. YTP enables our young adults to have the opportunity to grow and reach their full potential, transitioning them to independent living whilst allowing them to continue with their higher education and offering multiple avenues and choices for their futures.

  • In developing, low-income countries, like Mexico, every additional year of education can increase a person’s future income by an average of 10%.
  • 6 million Mexican children and adolescents dropped out of school in 2012, to join the second largest child labour force in Latin America. These young people probably had very limed choices. This labour force includes children who have traded classrooms and pencils for their families, farming and crime. This labour force included some of our own children at Misión Mexico.
  • In 2012, 21.2 million children and adolescents in Mexico were living in poverty, with more than six million children aged 3-17 out of school. The lack of formal education in childhood often limits the available opportunities and choices in adulthood, which in turn continues the cycle of poverty and crime.

Where are they now?

We have seen some great successes with our young adults who have transitioned through YTP and into independent living! We’re excited to say that we’ve had our first ever female university graduate who quickly secured full-time employment and recently received her first promotion (amazing)! Whilst four are living independently whilst continuing with their higher education and university degrees. We’ve celebrated marriages, first homes, full-time employment, and a number of our YTP young adults are even putting their life skills to use whilst exploring the big wide world outside of Tapachula! YTP has truly been life-changing.

The Future of YTP

There are currently 20 young people living in the main Misión Mexico house in addition to the 6 young adults living in our two gendered transition houses. Over 70% of Misión Mexico youth are involved in some aspect of the YTP as our program starts from 13 years old. At this age, we begin the preparation phase which helps identify the strategies and actions necessary to develop their independent skills through cooking and small group classes. Currently 23% of the current household are over 18 years old and within the next three years, 58% of them will be over 18 years old which means that YTP is essential and growing rapidly!

Our goal at Misión México is to provide support, love, options and choice to all the children that come into our home. Not all our young adults choose the root of university, higher education or even YTP living, and instead choose to follow other paths beyond their lives at Mision Mexico. But, that’s what this is ultimately all about; choice.

YTP is one of our most vital and ever-expanding programs, and we wouldn’t be anywhere without your help. We are so grateful for the years of support, love and hope that you’ve shown to us and can’t wait to continue the journey for our next bunch of YTP-ers over the coming years!

Make some small choices today!

  • For as little as $10 per month you can become one of our Youth Transition Program Sponsors and help our young adults become the best they can be! You can email events@lovelifehope.com if you’re interested in becoming a YTP sponsors
  • Volunteer! We’re currently recruiting for April 2018 and onwards. So, if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to contact us via social media or apply at volunteer@lovelifehope.com!
  • Share this blog and our #YTPWednesdays campaigns via below…
  • You can follow and support our social media by clicking these links…
  • https://www.instagram.com/misionmexico/
  • https://twitter.com/mision_mexico
  • https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren

We can’t wait to meet you all!

Vanisha

With big help from Luke Owen, Melissa Biggerstaff and Founder, Pamela Skuse

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Reads and resources:

https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/kids-at-work-there-are-3-6-million-in-mexico/

http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/americas/2016/01/mexico-child-labour-perils-lost-education-160127055528295.html

https://probdes.iiec.unam.mx/en/revistas/v45n178/body/v45n178a5_1.php

Why should I give my money to charity?

“While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.”
― Chinua AchebeAnthills of the Savannah

So, a few days ago my friend showed me this…

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It’s been circulating the internet and people are obviously all riled up from it (including me!). Although it’s clearly from a credible source, and Facebook is rarely full of fake news, I thought I’d help put some things into perspective and try to justify it for all those who were so bothered by these stats (including me!). This might be a bit more ranty than usual but the whole thing has been driving me bonkers even if the statistics are completely made up. I did some research, I did some reading, and here are my 5 points explaining why these stats deserve more thought…

  1. Steve Jobs had a net worth of $10.2 billion. That’s 793 times more than Christian Aids CEO salary. Doesn’t make you question every time you buy a new £700 mobile phone though does it?
  2. Stockbrokers in the UK earn an average of £133,868 a year. So, put that into perspective when you think about how much the CEO of Oxfam should earn. The top dog of Oxfam who has a worldwide team who help support, manage and run the organisation that fights for equality and the reduction of poverty, actually gets paid less than a stockbroker from London.highc
  3. It might be surprising that Save the Children who work in 160 countries, have 160 offices with thousands of people working worldwide for them and for the millions of children that they help every day. So, although they are charities, they are also organisations who provide much needed jobs for people, who believe it or not, deserve to get paid for their extremely hard and much needed work. And it’s not easy, they don’t just spend all your money on themselves. That’s why people like me, who want to help change lives and work with these amazing charities too, must spend years in education followed by years of unpaid volunteering before my CV will even be looked at when applying for a lower-level paid job with UNICEF. Do you have to volunteer unpaid at EE for three years before working with Apple? Nah, yet here we are buying £15 chargers off a man who is getting paid £8.87 in that starting position, and questioning whether we’re gonna give £10 to the British Red Cross.
  4. Why are we even questioning about the money we give to charities? Of course, not every single penny is going to go directly in to the mouth of a hungry refugee child in South Sudan, unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. But when people are suffering even slightly, when even a penny from a pound might change someone’s life, why would we, us people in the western world who don’t question our £45 dress from Topshop, question donating cash to charity?
  5. And you know what? If you still have a problem with it, don’t give money. Go out and make a physical difference with your own hands. 

I know it seems like a lot of money, and to most of us, we’ll never earn £240,00 a year, but when you consider the facts, the work involved and compare it to other high-earning jobs then it’s not so shocking at all. In an ideal world, the pay gap wouldn’t be so outrageous, and charities wouldn’t even exist because no-one would be starving, or suffering with cancer. But here we are, with the world’s top 8 richest men earning more than half of the world’s earnings put together, and Wayne Rooney kicking his ball around whilst raking in £250,000 per week.

And although there are many arguments (some of which I question also) regarding the ethics of charities and how well their work is actually implemented, the chances are that unless you’re attempting to change things yourself, the only option left for you is to do nothing and not give. Not giving at all is much worse than giving a tenner and hoping that at least half of it goes to someone in need. If you’re having second thoughts, then do your research. Look in to the different charities, look in to where your money is best invested, and look in to how they actually aim to make a difference. You can keep that all in mind next time you’re giving your hard-earned cash to charities.

a useful link about how to give donations more wisely >>>> http://time.com/money/4118017/charity-donations-giving/

Rant over, deep breaths, go do some good in this world.

Thanks for reading!

Vanisha

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Follow me on IG @vanishamay