By Hanna Munin
    Whenever you are having a hard day and you need something to make you happier, a joke is something that can cheer you up. It can lighten up your day, it can make you smile. A joke can do all sorts of wonderful things for you. But what about when jokes start to become derogatory. Jokes about the LGBT community, about mental retardation, about beating your girlfriend: are those really funny? No! Why? These jokes are mocking communities in a way that they do not deserve to be. So when we are in a situation when someone says a derogatory joke, what are we supposed to do?
    First, let’s discuss what not to do. Yelling and getting in someone’s face about how the joke they made was wrong is not the way to go. It will probably just egg them on because they saw that it provoked you and their joke got a reaction, which was what their intent was. But on the other hand, we can’t be silent about it either. If we don’t speak up in some form, then they won’t know that what they did was offensive and they shouldn’t do it again.
    What needs to be done is a calm and simple explanation. You can simply tell your friend, “Hey, that’s not funny. I don’t think it’s funny to mock people like that. It’s not right for you to do that.” By saying this, you show your concern and compassion for the community your friend offended. Also, it is a simple response that everyone can grasp; it isn’t wordy, it isn’t harsh. However, we all know that sometimes people do not want to accept that others are right. So if the person who makes a derogatory joke does not accept or agree with your response, don’t get worked up about it. More likely than not, it did make an impression on them but they just do not want to admit it. Also, by advocating that it is not okay to make fun of people in this way, it shows other people that are around that you are a type of person that sticks up for others and they are sure to admire you. It also might provoke others to do the same thing you did the next time that they hear a derogatory joke.
    In conclusion, when the jokes aren’t funny anymore, it’s time to speak up in a way that is going to be effective in getting the point across. By standing up for what is right, you are setting an example and causing an uprise for kindness to prevail. Set an example for others and don’t be afraid to speak up. You never know how much someone might appreciate what you say.

Building a Group to Help

Posted: May 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Hanna Munin

When it comes to an abusive relationship, it is important to have a group of people you can rely on. When it is not safe yet to leave or if you are in the process of leaving an abusive partner, there needs to be a system in your life that can help you out no matter where you are. It is important to build a support system among your family and friends and among your place of work or school.
When building a support system for your home life, ask yourself the following questions: who is reliable and answers their phone in a timely manner? Who do I trust to support me and take care of me when I am in trouble? After you answer these questions, you can use the people that you came up with as your support system. When you select this group of friends and family members, let them know that you want them as a person to rely on. Work out a system that you can call them or text them in a time of trouble, and once you call them have a code word you can use so that they know to come and get you. The code word or sentence should be simple and secretive. For example, it could be something like “The cat’s in the bag”- this could mean that you need to be picked up from your house. Now that you have a support system for home, now it is time to plan one for work or school.
If you go to school with your abusive partner, it is important to find a way to stay away from them. Change your route from class to class and have friends by either side of you to walk with you so you are never alone. Something else that can help is moving your books from your locker to a friend’s locker so that your abusive partner isn’t waiting for you at your locker. If you work instead of going to school, find people you can trust to tell them about your situation. If your partner shows up at your place of work, have your support system help to have them taken out of your work place and also help support you when that happens. The people in your life are more than willing to help out in a time of need. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may surprise yourself and see that the friends you have may be better than you think they are.

If you think you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, visit safeplace.org or call the SafePlace hotline at 512-267-SAFE.

by Mary Alice Carnes, Community Relations Director, Theatre Action Project

 It can seem that the focus on bullying is new to some, but as we know it’s an issue that has been a discussion topic for as long as people have been, well, people. With the release of the new documentary Bully by Lee Hirsch, the topic is back in full force. Discussion groups are popping up everywhere the film plays.

The Theatre Action Project screening of Bully two weeks ago drew a sold out crowd and the event afforded a great opportunity for parents, school administrators and TAP staff to talk about the film and what is being done locally about the problem of bullying. Last year Anderson Cooper at CNN did a series of panel discussions to talk about bullying, with the results of a CNN Anderson Cooper 360 study being conducted with sociologist Robert Faris. Instead of the National Public Radio’s Fresh Air program on April 20, KUT FM Radio aired Teen Stories from Generation PRX. It was a full hour of teens sharing their stories about bullying from a teen perspective. To catch up with their stories, listen to their segments by visiting Teen Stories.

Even today as I drove to work at Theatre Action Project, NPR news ran a story on autism and bullying, Children with Autism are Often Targeted with Bullying. The story cites how children with autism can be special targets. Listen to this news piece to hear the journey of one autistic child’s experience. What bullying stories are you hearing? We’d love to hear from you, especially if you want to join the conversation about bullying with Theatre Action Project and the community.

By Hanna Munin

A lot of the time, it’s hard to define a teen relationship. There are relationships where two people go to the movies with each other and kiss each other goodnight, and there are people who spend a lot of time together and are “Facebook official”. However, there’s another type of quasi-relationship where two people only hook up and do not actually date. A lot of the times, teens want to do this because they simply do not have the time to be in a real relationship so want to experience the benefits of a relationship from someone. While these hook up relationships can be simple and carefree, there can also be some negative consequences from them as well.

    One consequence is a lack of respect for one another. In hook up relationships, it is easy to see one another as an object rather than an individual. Because you do not have real feelings for each other, it is safe to say that you are using one another to get what you want. While some people may try to justify these relationships saying that they are a close friendship, in a friendship, people respect each other and want to help them grow as a person. When it comes down to it, the qualities of a friendship do not apply to a hook up relationship.
    Another consequence of hook up relationships is that teens think that it will be just like the movies. There are lots of movies when the two people are in a simply hooking-up relationship and do not actually date, like in No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits. However, in both of these films, the same thing happens: they have fun at first, but then a conflict in the relationship happens and they start to develop feelings for each other and the relationship that they had once hoped for is no longer able to happen. That was not the intention that they had. In the movies, they end up being in a real relationship together and live happily ever after. Life is not like the movies. By putting yourself into relationships like these, while they are fun at first, in the end things will start to change and the relationship will become something that it did not start up to be. The bottom line is that these types of relationships are not healthy. In a healthy relationship, partners care for one another and want to put their partner on a pedestal for the whole world to see. In hook up relationships, this is not the case. So the next time you want to simply hook up with someone as a relationship, think about if it is something that you are willing to pay the consequences of.

By Hanna Munin

So lately, I have been obsessed with watching Saved by the Bell on Netflix. The character of Jessie Spano is constantly standing up and arguing gender roles in society. I felt that this was a fitting issue to talk about especially since Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a time to address the prevalence of gender roles. We have come to a new age where women are CEOs of companies and are working even throughout marriage. But gender roles are constantly seen in conversation and in the media today. For one, the whole storyline of a damsel in distress and needing to be saved (like in the Disney princess movies) insists that women are needy and need a man to defend them. This can relate back to domestic violence because if a male feels that he is superior to a woman in that he can defend her, that means that he can start to control her and manipulate her until she is isolated from the outside world and then the relationship would be considered abusive. So when we see these gender roles in our lives, what do we do about them?
    The ending of gender roles starts with you. All what it takes is for you to stop using them in conversation. Along with that, you can address to other individuals how the behavior of using gender roles is not okay. Even if it is something as little as, “a woman belongs in the kitchen”, a comment like that can lead an individual to thinking more and more gender roles and lead them to inappropriate and irrational behavior. Be a Jessie. Don’t be afraid to speak up that women are not objects to be lusted over or to be viewed in an inappropriate nature. Professional athletes are not macho-men who have a bird-size brain. Another way to help out is to not support songs that address gender roles. Speaking up about gender roles is an easy way to raise awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month that will benefit your community. Also, when you speak up it shows other people what you stand up for and how you stick for your values. Have a safe week and raise awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in your community!

By Hanna Munin

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and this year’s campaign is “It’s time to talk…about it!” This month is established to take to raise awareness about the prevalence of gender norms and sexual violence in our society today. While at first this month was only celebrated and brought to attention by women, now this month is an opportunity to include violence against men and also how men can prevent sexual violence from happening. So it’s time to talk…but about what exactly?
    It’s time to talk about healthy sexuality. This means discussing what it means to respect each other’s body. This means learning to be in an equal-parted relationship that is respectful and consensual and respecting boundaries. Also that means respecting sexual orientations. Not only respecting your own sexual orientation, but also respecting the sexual orientation of others. This means that you can take the opportunity to learn more about sexual orientation or stick up for people who are made fun of or bullied for their sexual orientation.
    It’s time to talk about gender norms. Gender norms are the expectations that genders are given. We see gender norms all the time in society. They are as simple as: “boys wear blue and girls wear pink”. But it isn’t with this simple gender role that we get in trouble, it’s when things start to escalate that the problems begin to start. Some gender norms that are troublesome are when it comes to how genders view body image and sexuality. For example, society expects women and men to look a certain way and places unrealistic pressure on people, this in turn affects how people view sexuality. Also, when it comes to sexualtiy, there is often a double standard. The double standard is unfair and not right. For example, it is often viewed “cool” or “experienced” for men to take part in sex, however for a woman she is often viewed as a “slut” or “cheap”.
    So what do we do about this? Take this month as an opportunity to be an example. Stop bullying others for their sexual orientation. Get rid of the gender roles. Not only can you do this, but you can also encourage others to do the same and explain to them how by acting in these ways, they are not respecting healthy sexuality.
    Something else you can do is participate in SafePlace’s Denim Day on April 25th. This event honors the fact that there is no excuse for rape and it is not justifiable. People wear denim to honor a girl in Italy who was a victim of rape and her court case was overturned because the court argued that she was wearing tight jeans that needed help to be taken off and therefore consented to the sex (read more here: http://www.SafePlace.org/DenimDay). So there’s lots to do to honor this month. Take part in the awareness! If you want to look further into what this month is about, check out the SAAM website here: http://www.nsvrc.org/saam

by Susie Gidseg, Managing Director, Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble ( repost from the TAP blog)

Changing Lives Youth Ensemble has the exciting opportunity to take five of our students to the National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence, put on by Futures Without Violence, in San Francisco, CA. Our students will be performing a 15 minute selection of their play, Outside the Box, to over 650 audience members from all over the US. This is an awesome opportunity for Changing Lives to be showcased on a national level and also for us to experience traveling together.
There is a lot that goes into traveling—but we know our students are ready for the challenge! From first time plane flights, to navigating the hills of San Francisco, to performing in new and exciting spaces, to exploring Chinatown– I am sure this will be a trip that we, and our students, will remember for a long time.

Stay tuned to find out how it all went! (The photo above of San Fran bound students was taken by Changing Lives-er Summor Elliott.)