Posted in Awards, Education, Events, Girl Power, In The News

Minnah Selected to Participate in the Elect Her Training Day

The following is a compilation of two articles written by Running Start and Her Campus.

Women make up half of the population, but less than one in four elected leaders are women. When women run, they win at the same rates as men – the problem is that there aren’t enough women running. 

We know now that countries led by women did better in the face of the pandemic. And though it may feel like progress is being made at home, despite a record number of female presidential candidates this election cycle, still none managed to clinch the nomination.  What’s more, the stakes are at an all-time high to use our voices to effect change–by showing up, by voting… but why not go a step further and become the ones actually doing the decision-making?

Research shows that engaging women in politics in high school and college is key to increasing the number of women in public office. More than 56% of Congresswomen got their start in student government. 

This is why for the first time ever Her Campus teamed up with Running Start, a nonpartisan nonprofit that empowers young women to get involved in politics and transform our world one elected female leader at a time, to launch a 360-degree movement to open college women’s eyes and ears to this possibility so they can start to shake things up.

Only 100 college women from across the globe were selected to participate. During the event held on October 30, 2020, these accomplished and impassioned women learned how to pinpoint the issues they are most passionate about, identify how they can best leverage their networks, and craft and workshop their “run for office elevator pitch,” all while hearing from majorly inspiring female politicians.  The pitches turned into a friendly competition, with the winner taking home a $500 grand prize. Minnah made it into the final round of the top nine candidates.

“I was honored to be selected to participate in the Elect Her program. The speakers were phenomenal, offering us helpful insight from their successes and failures running for a variety of different offices,” reflects Minnah Stein, Founder of EMPOWERU and SSAIS Advisory Board member. “My fellow participants were so inspirational. It was great to be surrounded by so many like-minded women who are driven to transform our communities, our country and our world through their actions.”

Posted in Education, Events, In The News

‘It Happened Here’: A Documentary About Sexual Assault on College Campuses Comes to FSU

I am excited to announce that I finally got approval from Florida State University (FSU) to hold a screening of the college sexual assault documentary It Happened Here. A great degree of effort has been made by the university to make FSU a top college, and it’s meeting this challenge with outstanding success. The approval to show It Happened Here is a sign that the school recognizes part of what makes a university great is how it takes care of its students. This screening is a big step in that direction.

Below is an article Her Campus FSU staff writer Hannah Masten wrote regarding tonight’s screening. You may read it here or on the Her Campus FSU website.

On Tuesday night, Oct. 8, at 7:30-9:30 pm, The Student Life Cinema and kNOw More are partnering up to present It Happened Here, a film about victims of sexual assault on college campuses. This powerful film highlights survivors that struggled to be understood or cared for by their universities. Ultimately, five college-aged women get personal and share their stories with hopes to create change on college campuses nationwide.

It Happened Here was directed by Lisa F. Jackson and produced by Marjorie Schwartz Nielsen who sat down with victims from large universities like Amherst, Uconn and Vanderbilt to learn about the extensive steps these women had to take for justice. These particular women they spoke to, have chosen to take their terrible circumstances and use them to not only make themselves stronger but help others do the same. One of the steps they took was to file a Clery, Title IX and civil lawsuit against UConn. They have also written newspapers and open letters and hosted events such as Take Back the Night and The Clothesline Project to create awareness and push universities to revise their policies.

In recent years, the subject of sexual assault and domestic violence has been in conversation more than ever. With significant movements like the “Me Too” movement and the revisions under the Title IX law, the U.S. has had no excuse but to face this horrific reality of how frequently these events occur. We can celebrate the progress that has been made but also move forward to build upon this progress. By bringing this documentary to FSU, the team at kNOw More intends to do just that.

Our team at kNOw More was created as a resource for students to help educate them on how to get help when they need it. One of the dedicated kNOw More members, Events Chair Minnah Stein, has put a lot of work into bringing It Happened Here to campus because of its educational value. In high school, Minnah realized that no one was preparing students on how to deal with this kind of violence in college. “I felt like all my friends and I were statistics and had no idea,” she explained. This frustration drove her to educate students in her county through the film It Happened Here. Now, she brings it to FSU for the same purpose. Minnah thinks it’s especially valuable because this documentary “focuses so much on the process: how to file a Title IX complaint, how to go to the police, how to approach your school and how your school should respond.” Because of this, she hopes it can educate a lot of students on how they can receive help when they need it.

Administrative chair Jenna Hurst added that “this conversation is something that’s not always talked about, many times women are swept under the rug or the allegations are mishandled and it’s important students know the proper reporting process and where they can find these resources.” It’s for this reason, following the showing of the documentary, kNOw More has put together a panel for FSU students to ask questions about how FSU specifically handles these events. All are welcome to attend the showing and the panel, or just the panel, that will begin at 8:45 pm. The panel will be comprised of a variety of viewpoints on the subject, such as Ryan Masotti from Beta Theta Pi, Hannah Llende from PRIDE, Ahmad Daraldik from SGA, Sarah Castillo from the Victim Advocate Program as well as Terri Brown, the FSU Chief of Police.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month so your attendance is a powerful way to get the month going in the right direction and learn more about how you can make a difference. Throughout the month, kNOw More will continue raising awareness through Healthy Relationships Week (October 21-25) and other events with partners such as SGA and Green Dot. You can also join them in support on Oct. 24 for Purple Thursday.

Check out the trailer here. And if you can’t make it to the showing, It Happened Here is also available on Netflix, Google Play, Amazon and iTunes.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual misconduct, FSU is here for you. You can file a report or speak to someone at any time, who can help both on and off-campus. For more information on these resources, visit kNOw More.

 

Posted in Education, Girl Power, In The News, Published Articles

Women in the film industry don’t lack ambition. They still lack opportunity.

In recognition of International Women’s Day today, I am posting my article that was published on the Women’s Media Center website on 3/1/19. You may view it on their website or here. This article is my second on this subject and  continues my look into gender inequality as it relates specifically to women in the film industry.

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It’s no secret that movies are marketed to audiences based on gender stereotypes. This is perhaps clearest in terms of action movies, which have historically been made by and for men. At some point, studios seemed to have determined women don’t want to see action movies — and that therefore women aren’t capable of writing or directing them, either.

In reality, women are just as capable as men of making and seeing any film, including action movies. Women demonstrated this desire with their response to the 2017 Marvel action movie Wonder Woman, which was made by women and starred women. The opening weekend’s audience was 50 percent female, and the film was a blockbuster hit, grossing $822 million at the box office.

Wonder Woman, however, is still an anomaly in Hollywood. Women have long been relegated to making smaller films that deal with “women’s issues.” One of the main reasons this happens is because men still have most of the decision-making power in Hollywood studios. As one female director told The Guardian, “90 percent of the time, the people who you pitch your idea to are male, and even though they might be very sympathetic, they do look at the world from a different perspective.”

So why do these men fail to support women? According to one 2015 study, 25 percent of men in positions of power in the film industry said they didn’t hire women to direct a big film because they thought those women had a “lack of ambition.” When the same study asked women directors about their ambition, half said they had a serious interest in working on larger-budgeted films. These male producers have let gender stereotypes persuade them that women aren’t capable of directing blockbusters before they even give women a chance to demonstrate their skills and willingness to do so.

It is also impossible to talk about the oppression of women in the film industry without also talking about beautyism and ageism. In general, studies show that people who are more attractive get better jobs, but for women, beauty can also hinder their professional progress.

“Once women get into managerial positions, positions of leadership, and positions of power, beauty becomes a liability because our stereotypes around beauty are that they’re incompatible with capability,” Professor Jaclyn Wong stated in a 2017 Daily Telegraph article. “So, if you’re too beautiful, maybe you’re not that competent.”

Additionally, the roles available to women in films dramatically decrease after the age of 40. As one actress told The Guardian, when her agent sent in a woman director for a job interview, the man interviewing her told the agent, “’Never send anyone again who I wouldn’t want to f*ck.'” Men, on the other hand, never seem to reach an age that renders them too old to make films. Take 88-year-old Clint Eastwood, for example, who was nominated for an Oscar as recently as 2015 and continues to direct and star in major movies.

This sexism in the film industry matters because, like it or not, so many of our cultural norms are dictated by the media we consume. Of course, no matter the industry, it’s still clear that women have to play by an unfair set of rules dictated by gender stereotypes, which are in turn compounded by other uncontrollable factors, like their beauty and youth.

What’s increasingly clear, however, is that the key to women proving that they are just as professionally capable as their male counterparts is making sure there are enough women in positions of professional power. Studies show that when women are in charge of movies, more women are hired to be in the film and to work on it. According to one study,“On films with at least one female director, women comprised 68 percent of writers. On films with exclusively male directors, women accounted for 8 percent of writers.”

Ultimately, the impact of representation in movies benefits so many more women than just those in the film industry. When more women are represented, little girls who watch that representation can imagine themselves taking on those roles one day. Hopefully this will create a movie industry — and, ideally, world — in which women are judged on their body of work, not on the gender of their body.

Posted in Education, Girl Power, In The News, Published Articles

From the Silent Film Era to the Era of Breaking the Silence: The History and Future of Women in Film

The Oscars are February 24th at 8:00PM EST. In conjunction with this highly anticipated annual event, I wrote the following article on the history and future of women in film that was published on the Women’s Media Center. As we celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s winners, let’s not forget the work that is still necessary to enable women to have an equal shot at success (and Oscars!) in the film industry.

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Thanks to the progress the #MeToo and Times Up movements have made in shining a light on the injustices women in the film industry face, I naively assumed that women would be better represented among this year’s award nominees. I assumed wrong.

This underrepresentation in awards season is ultimately unsurprising, though, given that women have a long been marginalized in the film industry — especially behind the scenes. According to the 2017 Women’s Media Center report “The Status of Women in the U.S. Media,” women made up just 17 percent of the behind-the-scenes film workforce between 2015-2016. Of the top 250 films made during this time, 96 percent had no women cinematographers, 92 percent had no women directors, 79 percent had no women editors, 77 percent had no women writers, 58 percent had no women executive producers, and 34 percent had no women producers.

This unfortunate reality, however, obscures the fact that women were actually present in, and crucial to, the film industry in its early days. When we think about the beginning of filmmaking, we often think first of the directors Georges Méliès and Al Christie, not to mention Thomas Edison, the inventor who made it all possible. But these men worked alongside a number of incredible women.

Take Alice Guy-Blaché, the first female filmmaker. She worked as a secretary until she saw Louis and Auguste Lumière’s Sortie d’usine, which transformed her and inspired her to start working for filmmakers as a writer in 1895. Within a few years, she was making her own movies, which spanned many different genres and featured famous actors from all over the world.  Unfortunately, Guy-Blaché’s career was irreparably damaged when her marriage ended in 1922, due to the extreme social stigma attached to divorce at the time. She unfortunately faded from the scene, becoming an all but forgotten footnote in film history.

Guy-Blaché paved the way for more women, however, who masterfully produced, directed, wrote, and acted in (and sometimes all four) their own movies. Take Mary Pickford, who co-founded United Artists with Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and D.W. Griffith in 1919. Together this team made box office hits like Pollyanna (1920), The Three Musketeers (1921), and Robin Hood (1923) and crucially shaped the business side of making films. Pickford went on to help establish the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927, and United Artists continues to produce films to this day under the name of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Unfortunately, women’s presence in the film industry started to diminish in the mid-1920s as the silent film era started to come to an end. The “talkies” were generally viewed by the industry as less of an art form — as silent films had been, and which made them acceptable for women to engage in — and more as a business, from which women were prohibited. Men increasingly gained power in the film industry and, in doing so, created a new hierarchy of roles in the industry: Most major jobs, like producing and writing, were seen as “male” jobs while others, like editing and production design, still were open to women.

While women have increasingly broken through these barriers over the years, their work has rarely been acknowledged in the form of industry awards. Between 1994 and 2018, only 12 percent of all Golden Globe nominees were women, and of those, only 8 percent won. Just last year, no women at all were nominated in the Globes’ Best Director category, and we can still count on one hand the number of women who have ever been nominated for the category (like Barbra Streisand, who was the first woman to win the Golden Globe for directing in 1984). Now, in 2019, women make up just 25 percent of the nominations in Oscar categories that are not gender-specific and there are no women nominees at all in categories including Best Director, Cinematography, and Film Editing.

To be clear, the problem with this lack of representation isn’t just that women aren’t winning awards for their work, but that women are not even given the opportunities to be in professional positions in which they could win awards for their work. Until women are given the opportunities to write, direct, and produce their own work — the kinds of opportunities they were originally given in this industry — nothing is going to change. Hopefully, therefore, criticism of the continued lack of representation during award seasons, as well as the larger international conversation surrounding women’s experiences in the film industry, will eventually inspire us to revitalize the legacy of Alice Guy-Blaché and her cohorts, and make the film industry one in which women creatives are equally represented.

Posted in Education, In The News, Safety, SSAIS

Speaking Up for Survivors in K-12 Schools

This article appeared on the Ms. magazine blog today. It was written by Stop Sexual Assault in Schools co-founder Joel Levin. It is a must-read for anyone who is concerned about the proposed Title IX changes and their affect on K-12 students. You may read the original article on the Ms. site or below. I encourage you to log on to the SSAIS website to learn more about the proposed Title IX changes, the devastating effects, and what you can do to help before The Department of Education’s comment period on the proposed Title IX regulations closes January 28.

As the parent of a high school sexual assault survivor, I’ve seen how pervasive sexual harassment and assault in our K-12 schools can shake entire communities. That’s why I’m sounding the alarm about the Trump administration’s attempt to roll back Title IX guidelines for sexual misconduct.

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National surveys show that most students will experience some form of sexual harassment during their elementary and secondary school years—yet most K-12 schools are not well-prepared to respond appropriately when they learn that a student has sexually harassed or assaulted a peer, or that a teacher sexually abused a student. The Department of Education’s proposed changes to Title IX regulations will only make the problem worse, increasing barriers for students and families reporting sexual harassment and confuse school officials who already lack clear guidance on how to respond appropriately.

Until now, the Department followed court precedence—defining sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ proposed changes, however, require schools to take action only when harassment is “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it denies a student access to the school’s educational program. (No guidance was offered as to what “severe” and “objectively offensive” harassment looks like in elementary, middle or high school.)

These new rules would force school districts to navigate competing definitions of sexual harassment from state law and existing district policies and complicate schools’ efforts to respond promptly and effectively to student complaints. This doesn’t just create obstacles for students and parents who want schools to take immediate action to remedy harassment—it allows schools to disregard sexual harassment complaints until they escalate to a subjective threshold, effectively empowering them to sweep inconvenient cases of harassment and assault under the rug indefinitely.

The proposed regulations also require schools to have “actual knowledge” of peer sexual harassment—meaning that misconduct must be reported to a Title IX Coordinator, teacher or unspecified school official who can take “corrective action.” That means that if a middle school student told a coach or school nurse that they were sexually assaulted by a peer, their administration would not be required to take Title IX action, because the “right” person wasn’t notified. Teachers would also have no authority to address a student’s report of sexual harassment by another teacher.

The new rules also reverse previous guidance that required schools to address the effects of off-campus sexual assault or cyber sexual harassment if and when they interfere with a student’s opportunity to an equal education—meaning that even if a student sexually assaulted by a peer at a friend’s house sees their assailant every day at school and endures taunts and threats from the perpetrator’s friends in person or electronically, the school could disregard the sexual harassment complaint because it didn’t take place on school grounds.

This creates potential complications in jurisdictions where all school staff are mandatory reporters. In these schools, the coach or nurse must notify either law enforcement or child welfare agency of possible child abuse, creating scenarios where the school does not officially recognize that sexual assault occurred, even while public safety organizations are put on notice of possible child endangerment.

Many K-12 students and parents complain that when they inform school officials about sexual harassment or assault, there’s no immediate response or action taken. Whereas previous guidance from the Department of Education recommended that schools complete their Title IX investigations within 60 days, the Trump administration’s new rules mandate only that such investigations be “reasonably prompt” and permit schools to postpone investigations until completion of “law enforcement activity,” which might extend for months. Meanwhile, as schools take no action, students reporting sexual harassment might continue to experience retaliation and other forms of revictimization that prevent them from keeping up academically and participating in school activities.

Although previous guidance considered mediation inappropriate, because it would likely retraumatize the reporting student, the Trump administration’s proposed Title IX changes would permit K-12 schools to resolve formal sexual harassment and assault complaints through alternative resolution procedures. Under the new rules, school officials could pressure a reporting student in elementary school to agree to an informal resolution, allowing a district to forgo its duty to conduct a Title IX investigation, and obligatory mediation could frighten young students from reporting sexual harassment by peers and school staff.

The Department of Education has attempted to justify these proposed changes to Title IX as clarifying regulations and saving schools money spent investigating complaints—insinuating that it is too burdensome and costly for schools to ensure students’ civil rights to an education free from sex discrimination, and that the solution is to make it easier for schools to deny and delay responding effectively. Yet even that excuse falls short. It’s not clear at all how much the proposed regulations would offer regulatory relief or cost savings, and schools would wrestle with untangling the new Title IX rules from state non-discrimination laws and existing district policies—which, for the most part are consistent with previous Title IX guidance. In the end, schools could still be sued for violating state non-discrimination statutes and tort laws.

Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration are taking precisely the wrong approach. The solution to K-12 schools mishandling sexual harassment complaints isn’t regulatory, but educational. The Department should offer school districts training and technical assistance, amplifying its 2001 guidance which addressed due process, freedom of speech, confidentiality and proactive measures as they apply to Title IX. Instead, they’re bailing administrators out of their responsibility to keep students safe in school.

It’s imperative that all school staff have training on fair and effective Title IX guidance so we can stop the cycle of sexual harassment and violence—in K-12 schools, colleges, the workplace and beyond.

The Department of Education’s comment period on the proposed Title IX regulations is open through January 28. Click here to learn more and speak up for survivors.

Joel Levin, Ph.D., is cofounder and Program Director of Stop Sexual Assault in Schools, a nonprofit addressing rampant K-12 sexual harassment and assault.

Posted in Girl Power, In The News, SSAIS

Bernice Sandler, “Godmother of Title IX,” Dies at 90

The following obituary written by Emily Langer appeared in the January 7, 2019, issue of The Washington Post. As a young woman who has benefited from the work of Dr. Sandler (and many others), I have to remind myself that while there is still so much work to be done, a great many strides have been made.

I am inspired by Dr. Sandler’s lifelong fight for equal rights for women, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart. I happily join other feminists of my generation who are continuing her work.

For my thoughts on the proposed changes to Title IX, watch the recent video I made for Stop Sexual Assault in Schools. To learn more about the devastating effects of these changes and what you can do to try to stop them, visit SSAIS.

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In 1969, her newly earned doctorate in hand, Bernice Sandler was hoping to land one of seven open teaching positions in her department at the University of Maryland. When she learned she had been considered for none of them, she asked a male colleague about the oversight. “Let’s face it,” was his reply. “You come on too strong for a woman.”

When she applied for another academic position, the hiring researcher remarked that he didn’t hire women because they too often stayed home with sick children. Later, an employment agency reviewed her résumé and dismissed her as “just a housewife who went back to school.”

Dr. Sandler had run head first into a problem that had only recently been given a name: sex discrimination. Knowing she was not alone, she embarked on a campaign that would change the culture on college campuses — and eventually the law with the passage in 1972 of Title IX, the landmark legislation that banned sex discrimination in federally funded educational institutions.

Dr. Sandler, who was widely celebrated as the godmother of Title IX, died Jan. 5 at her home in Washington. She was 90. The cause was cancer, said her daughter Deborah Sandler.

Trained in psychology and counseling, Dr. Sandler devoted decades of her life to documenting, analyzing and stopping the forms of discrimination — subtle and overt — that held women back academically and professionally in educational settings.

When she began her advocacy efforts, many university departments arbitrarily limited the number of women they would hire. Others hired no women at all. Some disqualified married women. Some colleges barred female students from chemistry and other departments that were deemed more suited for men.

Dr. Sandler investigated and found that there was no federal law prohibiting discrimination against women in educational fields. There was, however, an executive order signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson that prohibited sex discrimination by organizations with federal contracts.

“It was a genuine ‘Eureka’ moment,” she later recalled in an account of her work. “I actually shrieked aloud for I immediately realized that many universities and colleges had federal contracts, were therefore subject to the sex discrimination provisions of the Executive Order, and that the Order could be used to fight sex discrimination on American campuses.”

Dr. Sandler joined the Women’s Equity Action League and, as the one-member Federal Action Contract Compliance Committee, challenged 250 educational institutions for alleged sex discrimination. She also coordinated a letter-writing campaign that, by her account, “generated so much Congressional mail that the Departments of Labor, and Health, Education and Welfare had to assign several full-time personnel to handle the letters.”

According to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, where Dr. Sandler was inducted in 2013, her efforts led to the first federal investigation of sex discrimination on campuses.

She worked for a House subcommittee with oversight of the matter and for the Health, Education and Welfare Department as momentum grew, culminating with passage of Title IX. Its chief legislative champions included Rep. Edith Green (D-Ore.), Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.). Today, Title IX is widely known as the guarantor of equal access to collegiate athletics.

For decades after the law was passed, Dr. Sandler continued her activism for gender equality in the classroom. As a speaker and author, she sought to draw attention to what she and a fellow researcher, Roberta M. Hall, in a widely read 1982 academic paper termed the “chilly” classroom environment for women.

Female professors, she found, were more likely than male professors to be challenged on their credentials. Those with PhDs were not consistently addressed as “Dr.,” and students expected greater leniency from women when they failed to complete their assignments.

Female students, for their part, were more likely to receive an “uh-huh” from a professor when they participated in class, rather than the more engaged response that might greet a male student.

“When Title IX was passed I was quite naive,” Dr. Sandler said. “I thought all the problems of sex discrimination in education would be solved in one or two years at most. When two years passed, I increased my estimate to five years, then later to ten, then to fifty, and now I realize it will take many generations to solve all the problems.”

Bernice Resnick — she went by Bunny — was born in New York City on March 3, 1928. Her parents ran a women’s clothing store in New Jersey.

Sexist practices, she recalled, seemed practically part of the natural order of the world. “When I applied to college it was openly known that women needed higher grades and test scores in order to be accepted,” she recalled in a history of Title IX. “No one complained — it was just the way things were,”

She received a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College in 1948 and a master’s degree from the City College of New York in 1950, both in psychology, and a PhD in counseling from the University of Maryland in 1969.

Dr. Sandler spent two decades as the director of the Project on the Status and Education of Women at the Association of American Colleges until she stepped down in 1991. She later held associations with institutions including the Center for Women Policy Studies in Washington and was a sought-after witness in discrimination and sexual harassment cases. As an activist, she also highlighted the danger of rape on campuses.

Dr. Sandler’s marriage to Jerrold Sandler ended in divorce. Survivors include two daughters, Deborah Sandler of Martinez, Calif., and Emily Sanders of Los Angeles; and three grandchildren.

Later in her career, Dr. Sandler explored the “chilly” environment on campus that greeted minorities much as it greeted women. Interviewed in 1994 by the publication Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, she reflected on the rejection that sent her on a path of advocacy.

“I don’t think I would have noticed if they’d said you come on too strong,” she said. The problem was that phrase “too strong for a woman.”

Posted in Diller Tikkun Olam Award, Education, Girl Power, In The News, SSAIS

This Jewish Teen Is Revolutionizing the Way We Teach Kids About Consent

This article appears on the Kveller website and was written by Abby Sher. Thank you so much, Abby, for your work to help get the word out about this important topic. You may read the article on the Kveller website or here.

Minnah-Stein-Headshot-4-1200x800-1200x800Even before #MeToo became a viral hashtag, Minnah Stein — aged 14 at the time — was working to educate and empower younger generations about sexual assault and harassment.

As she says, “sexual assault and harassment don’t start in the workplace or in college. They begin much earlier. K-12 schools are breeding grounds for harassment and assault, and I want to stop this problem at the source.”

After hearing a report on NPR that 1 in 5 girls will be sexually assaulted while in college (as will 1 in 16 boys), Minnah was inspired to launch EMPOWERU, an initiative to educate students on consent, safety, and Title IX rights, which protect students from discrimination based on gender. More than 40,000 students and educators currently benefit from EMPOWERU’s programming, and EMPOWERU’s influence keeps expanding.

For this groundbreaking work, Minnah is a 2018 recipient of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards. We spoke with Minnah just after she graduated high school in Sarasota, Florida.

What is your favorite book?

My favorite book is Gone With the Wind. It is the most interesting feminist novel I have ever read. There are so many hidden references and allusions, every time I read it I get something new out of it.

Your favorite thing to do with a free afternoon?

I enjoy reading, hanging out with my friends, drawing, and playing my banjolele.

And how about school  — what’s your favorite subject?

My favorite subject is always history. We learn so much by studying what was done in the past.

Who would you say has had the greatest positive influence on your life?

The biggest positive influence in my life has been my mom. She has taught me from day one that no dream or goal is too big or unachievable if I put in the work, and that Tikkun Olam isn’t something we just learn about — it’s something we have to practice in our daily life.

And can you tell me about that first moment when you heard that report on NPR and decided you had to raise awareness about the statistics of sexual assault?

Sure. When I was 14, I heard an NPR story about the Red Zone, the time between Thanksgiving and Winter Break, when college students are the most at risk of being sexually assaulted. When I heard the statistics, I was shocked and appalled. I later learned that these statistics for college are equally rampant in high school and that the problem starts even younger. My friends and I would be heading off to college soon, yet no one was talking to us about this. I felt like, armed with these facts, I couldn’t stay silent. I had to do something. I wanted to educate students on the facts of the issue to help them stay safe.

What was your first big initiative and how did it go?

I had over 200 high school students in Sarasota County take the pledge against sexual assault. I got messages from some students taking the pledge who supported my work and encouraged me to continue it. Some students shared with me that they or a friend were a survivor, driving home the point that this problem is real, it happens in our communities, and it needs to be addressed if we are going to ever stop it.

Wow. And can you tell me more about EMPOWERU’s Title IX program?  How and what do you teach?

EMPOWERU works to empower students by starting an important discussion on the issue of sexual assault and harassment. I want to teach students the facts of the issue, what constitutes consent, rights under Title IX, and how to be a helpful bystander. With the #Metoo and Time’s Up movements, sexual assault and harassment in the workplace have become a national issue. That’s great progress and very necessary, but sexual assault and harassment don’t start in the workplace or in college. They begin much earlier. K-12 schools are breeding grounds for harassment and assault, and I want to stop this problem at the source. The way to do that is to start the conversation and present the facts. I work to get students, families, and schools working together to combat this problem. I also help promote #MeTooK12, which was created by the national nonprofit Stop Sexual Assault in Schools specifically for K-12 survivors, families, and advocates.

What would you say is the hardest part about doing this work?

Well, sexual assault and harassment aren’t easy subjects for most people to talk about. The hardest part of this work is starting the conversation and making people open to talking about sexual harassment and assault in K-12 schools.

The most rewarding?

The most rewarding part of the work I do has been seeing students engage with the material. When I was hosting screenings of It Happened Here — a documentary about sexual assault — students would ask all kinds of questions and get really interested in the subject. It was amazing to see these students get the education they need and deserve.

How do you balance this work with being a teenager and going to school?

I think the key way to balance being a teenager, going to school, and being an activist is making sure the things you commit to are things you are passionate about. I have a busy school schedule and workload, but I try to balance it with doing extracurriculars I am passionate about. It’s never something I have to do; it’s always something I feel compelled and driven to do.

And so, what’s next for the EMPOWERU campaign?

I partnered with the national non-profit Stop Sexual Assault in Schools a few years ago and helped produce the documentary “Sexual Harassment: Not in Our School!”  Using this educational video and support materials, I have developed an educational program for Sarasota County K-12 schools that will educate over 40,000 students, teachers, and administrators on the facts of the issue, what constitutes consent, rights under Title IX, how to file a complaint, what to do if a student comes to you and tells you they have been assaulted or harassed, and how to be a helpful bystander. I want to help other schools and organizations nationwide adopt this program. The video and support materials are free to anyone who wants them by logging on to www.ssais.org/video

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

If I had a superpower, I would want it to be the power to heal.

Sounds like you’re doing that already.

Posted in Diller Tikkun Olam Award, Events, In The News

The 2018 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards Ceremony

I can’t think of a better way to end my summer and kickstart my college career than by attending the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam retreat and awards ceremony. I had the pleasure of meeting 14 of the most amazing young Jewish leaders – not to mention Jackie and Dan Safier and the awesome Diller staff. The experience was life changing, and I can’t thank the Diller Family Foundation enough for creating this opportunity.

Here are some photos and a wonderful video that highlights the great works of all of the 2018 recipients.

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Posted in Awards, Diller Tikkun Olam Award, In The News, Safety, SSAIS, Volunteerism

Advocating Awareness

This article written by Shane Donglasan originally appeared in The Observer on July 30, 2018.
Minnah Stein has been nationally recognized for her work addressing sexual assault in Sarasota high schools.

189915_standard.jpegMinnah Stein is on a mission to educate Sarasota high school students about a difficult, yet pervasive topic. A 17-year-old recent graduate of Pine View School, Stein has been advocating to change the way sexual assault, consent and safety are discussed in schools.

In 2014, she heard a news story on NPR that reported one in five girls will be sexually assaulted in college, as will one in 16 boys, but that about 80% of those students would not report their assault. Stein realized the problem doesn’t begin in college campuses, but in elementary and middle schools.

“It really shocked and angered me because it’s such a pressing issue I wasn’t aware of,” Stein said.

A 2017 investigation by the Associated Press revealed 17,000 reports of sexual assaults committed by elementary, middle, and high school students against classmates between the fall of 2011 and spring of 2015. Stein decided to take action by creating EMPOWER U, a community-outreach organization aimed to teach students about sexual assault awareness and what constitutes consent.

“It was really important for me to address this problem early at its core so it won’t be a problem in the workplace or college,” she said.

Minnah Stein films her advocacy segment for the national educational video “Sexual Harassment: Not In Our School!”

Her first EMPOWER U initiative was a pledge drive organized in 2015. More than 200 Sarasota high schoolers throughout the county took a pledge to help keep their peers safe from sexual violence and to create an environment in which sexual assault survivors are supported. Wanting to do more, Stein developed a program to screen the documentary “It Happened Here” in each of Sarasota County’s high schools. The film follows sexual assault victims at college campuses who transformed their experiences into a springboard for change. But persuading the school district to screen the documentary was an uphill battle that took eight months of meetings with school officials and sexual assault experts. Her perseverance paid off and the program was able to reach more than 2,000 students.  Stein said she felt like it made a significant impact.

“The best part for me was always the questions students ask after they viewed the documentary,” she said. “You could just tell how engaged they were when they found out this was a problem, and they could do something about it.”

Stein’s commitment to this issue has earned her national recognition as one of 15 recipients of the 2018 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award. Sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation in San Francisco, the award honors Jewish teens around the country for their leadership and commitment to social good. Stein received $36,000 and will attend an awards ceremony on Aug. 20 in San Francisco. She plans to use the award towards her education and will attend Florida State University this fall with the goal of becoming a civil rights lawyer.

Her work with EMPOWER U is not over, however. She has spent her summer working on implementing a new sexual assault awareness program in Sarasota high schools through a partnership with Stop Sexual Assault in Schools, a national organization that advocates for K-12 students’ right to an education free from sexual harassment.

The program will involve screening “Sexual Harassment: Not in Our Schools!,” a video Stein helped produced. The video addresses gender discrimination and informs students about their Title IX rights, which legally protects them from discrimination, harassment or violence on the basis of gender in educational settings.

Her push has led the Sarasota County Schools’ Safe and Drug-Free Schools Advisory Committee to approve the program which has the potential to impact 40,000 students.

“My goal is not only to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault in K-12 schools but also to give educators and students the tools they can use to take action in their communities to make their schools safe places to learn for all students,” Stein said.

 

 

Posted in Awards, In The News

Shooting My Diller Tikkun Olam Award Recipient Video

Being named a recipient of the Diller Family Foundation’s Tikkun Olam Award still feels like a dream – a very good one! Last week our home was struck by lightning, but we didn’t let that stop us! As soon as we had electricity back on, local videographer Brad Bryan came to shoot my video segment. He did an amazing job, and so did Ben Youngerman with the Diller Foundation’s PR firm (who joined us via iPhone). He asked me insightful questions about the work I do to combat K-12 sexual harassment and assault by educating students.

I can’t wait to see the finished product. I will share it here on my blog when I can.

Brad Bryan Shooting Diller Video