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Supporting our Sisters

What could be better than celebrating our friendships with the women we love most? How about a getting dolled up with these women, and hitting the town for a fundraising fashion extravaganza!

That’s just what we did on Saturday, October 7, at the “Besties: Fashion for a Purpose” show! The Finishing School for Modern Women, along with Lucinda’s Old Town, and Charisma – Inner Beauty, arranged a fun evening to celebrate the influence of our “besties,” raising nearly $2000 for the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center through admission and raffle ticket sales for prizes from local businesses. The wine and desert after party at Lucinda’s was delicious, and Lucinda’s donated a hefty percentage of sales that evening to our cause.

Bestie Model Photos by the Talented Chelsea Reimers

The event, held in the Atrium of Hotel at Old Town, featured fabulous fall frocks and jewelry from Lucinda’s, crowned by gorgeous hairstyles and makeup by Charisma – Inner Beauty, modeled by pairs of real life best friends. Your Headmistress, was the Mistress of Ceremonies for the event! It was fun sharing with the audience, the fun facts the modeling besties told us. My favorite were the long-time besties that compared their friendship to the Thelma and Louise movie – without the part where they drive over the cliff!

Since I started the Finishing School, I’ve chosen WASAC to be my charity of choice. I am passionate about the service this nonprofit gives our community because, like ALMOST EVERY WOMAN I KNOW, I am a survivor of sexual assault. So many times. WASAC’s mission is to educate and provide resources to individuals and the community to “create a culture of intolerance for sexual violence and an atmosphere of healing for those impacted by it.” They support a 24/7 crisis call line, give legal and medical help, support counseling, individual therapy and much more. They do this on a very lean budget, with barely enough resources to provide the scope of services a city of our size must have. To learn more, volunteer or make a donation, go here.

With Harvey Weinstein in the news lately, this is on all of our minds. On Facebook, everywhere I look, my women friends, a surprising number of my men friends, have posted the #MeToo hashtag, admitting that they have been a sexually harassed or assaulted, in hopes of demonstrating how common this is. (Here’s the story of how actress Alyssa Milano started the movement.) Finally, the prevalence of this crime is coming to public attention, showing what women have always known. It is rampant.

I found out how common this crime is, while I was doing research for the Kick Ass self-defense class. The statistics are distributing. Every 90 seconds, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted. (Calculation based on 2012 National Crime Victimization Survey. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice) Every 90 seconds! Here’s another: One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. (The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 summary report) I think this is really much higher, because so few cases get reported. I know I didn’t report mine. I’m willing to bet you didn’t either.

The sad part to me is how normalized this behavior has been, and continues to be. It feels like it's gotten sneakier. But, nothing stays secret forever. Lies always come out. (I've learned this from years of watching One Life to Live and General Hospital soap operas.) Lately there are so many women coming forward, telling their story, that's there are just too many to blame the victim, or claim the accusations are false this time.

Many women don’t fully realize what sexual assault is, even though they’ve been a victim. According to the United States Department of Justice: Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. It’s important to know that sexual assault isn’t always rape. Unwanted sexual touching, or groping, is sexual assault too. Being able to escape being raped, it is still sexual assault. (FYI: Here’s more information on assault.) The most important thing to remember though is, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. EVER. NO MATTER WHAT.

I know this is hard to talk about. These are dirty little secrets, that hide in the dark, that fear and embarrassment keep from coming into the light, pretending it is normal, resolved to be part of women’s role in society. I know it is painful to think about – let alone talk about. It took me too many years to call “forced to have sex” by it’s true name, “rape.” The problem is, by not talking about it, by not sharing our stories, we allow this to continue – to happen to our daughters and granddaughters. If we can’t speak up for ourselves, can we speak up for them? So they don’t have to live with that feeling of vulnerability?

It is time to put a stop to this violence. We need to get as mad as hell and swear we’re not going to take it anymore! We must speak up. Voice our truths. Tell our stories. Teach young women – and men - that this won’t be part of our society. Never making false accusations, for any reason, understanding that this discredits true survivors. Just as importantly, we must stand up and support those who do speak up. Be a witness to their stories. Respecting their vulnerabilities and the strength it took to bring their truth into the light. Encouraging them to report the incident.

Because the more we do, the more women will come forward, bringing us together. Together we can do anything.

Much love,

Headmistress Jill

“The most common way people give up their power is thinking they don’t have any.”

-- Alice Walker

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