Sexual Assault Survivors and Allies

Hope Gardner, a junior at Ithaca College, found herself spiraling downward after being sexually assaulted in 2018. She could hardly eat or sleep for days. But she soon turned her personal traumatic experience into a passionate cause: to change the conversation around sexual assault on the Ithaca College campus and in the wider Ithaca community.

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Sydney Muraoka, Hope Gardner, and Sobeida Rosa

Gardner, along with the support of colleagues and encouragement of friends, established IC Strike, a student organization that seeks justice for assault survivors and provides them with tangible support. The group is on a mission to empower assault victims and break the stigma around the issue.

“I was failed by the justice system and was feeling very helpless,” Gardner said in an interview about her inspiration for launching IC Strike. “I was frustrated by the lack of resources. I felt like I needed to find some sort of action that I could do in order to continue healing, so I approached a couple of friends with my idea for this organization and was immediately met with widespread support and interest from everyone I talked to.”

Gardner is president of IC Strike. Alongside Vice President Sydney Muraoka, and Treasurer Sobeida Rosa, she is building the organization by creating a network of survivors and allies. IC Strike carried out numerous programs and fundraisers in the fall 2019 semester. It sponsored a talk by Associate Professor Paula Ioanide on alternative forms of justice for survivors of assault. On December 11, it hosted an end of semester banquet to present funds and toiletries the group collected in support of the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County, an organization that aids sexual assault and domestic violence victims.

“My goal is that IC Strike will change the narrative on campus about sexual assault survivorship and allyship, helping survivors to regain a sense of agency,” Gardner explained. “My hope is that we will create a brave space where we can challenge the status quo, the stigma, and the belief that survivors need to be quiet about their experiences.”

Gardner believes that the space created by IC Strike can be helpful for survivors as they process the trauma of their assault.

“It can affect your self-image, your ability to be intimate, and how you live your day to day life,” she said. “I was barely able to eat or sleep for days. I found myself in a downward spiral due to PTSD, anxiety, depression. The effects of assault do not go away once the attack is over, and it’s vital that we offer support and resources for survivors, helping them however we can in adjusting to their new normal.”

For Muraoka, challenging the status quo includes reforming Ithaca College’s judicial system for handling sexual assault cases according to federal law. Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 protects students from sexual harassment and violence and requires schools to handle assault allegations.

Gardner commented that many students believe the judicial system at IC is severely lacking and in turn re-traumatizing for victims while yielding few positive results. This can be extremely damaging to students’ physical and mental health, she said.

“I know people who have had to switch out of courses that are vital to their majors because the person who assaulted them was in that same class,” she said. “Not feeling safe on campus can have an incredibly negative affect on survivors’ mental and physical well-being, as well as academic performance.”

Gardner and Muraoka are hopeful. They have confidence in Linda Koenig, Ithaca College’s Title IX coordinator, who they believe goes “above and beyond” for students. They are closely watching the administration’s actions to hire a new assistant director for Judicial Affairs, who chairs Conduct Review Boards for cases of alleged sexual misconduct and serves as a member of the Title IX SHARE Advisory Committee and Policy, Procedure, and Practice Committee.

“We need someone who knows Title IX and has proper training in areas such as dealing with victims of trauma, including sexual assaults and domestic violence,” said Muraoka. “We hope to help see things improve for students that come forward in the future.

Campus rape and domestic violence cases steadily increased from 2016, according to the Ithaca College Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report released in October. Reported rape cases on campus rose from eight in 2016 and 11 in 2017 to 13 in 2018.

A 2017 Campus Climate Research Study survey of students, faculty, and staff reported that 15 percent of respondents experienced “unwanted sexual conduct,” and 3 percent experienced “unwanted sexual contact” defined as rape, assault, or fondling.

Lara Hamburger, Campus Educator at the Advocacy Center, commended IC Strike’s work.

“Groups like IC Strike create space for survivors and allies to create meaningful change on their campus and beyond,” Hamburger said. “They create an environment where folks can speak out against violence while having a real impact on their community.”

She added: “While still a very new club at Ithaca College, IC Strike has already done great work. They’ve shown their solidarity to survivors in the community by organizing a toiletries drive for the Advocacy Center, and raised funds for our organization. Groups like these have great symbolic value as well. They serve to break the silence and isolation around these issues, and take a public stand so that their classmates and colleagues know that sexual violence won’t be tolerated on their campus.”

—By Meredith Nash

Meredith Nash is a senior Writing major at Ithaca College and an intern at The Sophie Fund

Our Community Is Working to Prevent Youth Bullying

More than 30 adults and young people joined members of the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force on November 19 in attending a Community Café on the topic of youth bullying.

A young woman opened the discussion at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center by sharing inspirational words based on her experiences with being bullied. She tasked all attendees with homework to put an end to bullying when it happens, and to listen to young people when they come to adults for help.

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The GIAC Navigators performed an original rap song “Stop Bullying” that encouraged attendees to find common ground.

The event included a short but powerful video posted on YouTube by Spokane, Washington, Public Schools that included interviews with youth of all ages about bullying.

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Participants then engaged in small-group conversations to share their own experiences, discuss existing resources and strategies, and offer ideas for bullying prevention. The information provided the attendees will be provided to the Task Force for consideration in its work.

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Representatives from more than two dozen local government agencies, community organizations, and local schools formed the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force earlier this year to explore the prevalence of youth, teen, and young adult bullying and strategies to combat it.

The Task Force plans further community cafe events throughout the county in 2020.

To learn how to participate in the Task Force’s work or inquire about future community cafe events, email thesophiefund2016@gmail.com

Bullying: We Need Your Voice

The Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force is launching a series of “community cafés,” starting with an event next Tuesday November 19 from 5:30 to 7 pm at the Greater Area Ithaca Center (GIAC) 301 West Court Street in Ithaca. The event is open to parents, students, professionals, educators, and all community members. Food and childcare will be provided.

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A community café is a facilitated conversation that is used to spark creative ideas and solutions to local issues or concerns and that provides resources around a topic. The Task Force is keen to connect with local families in the community to learn about their experiences and thoughts around the topic of bullying in Tompkins County.

Specifically, we seek to gauge the awareness of local resources within our community and help inform ourselves about the current strategies being used, and what new strategies might be needed to help our youth address this important topic with success within their daily lives. We will also be seeking what resources might be needed within Tompkins County to help provide better supports for the parents of youth who are struggling with bullying.

The Task Force intends to use the information gathered at this local event to inform the larger work of the Task Force, and also help ensure that our community partners are using our local resources to garner maximum impact. While it is not always possible to prevent every single episode of bullying, we are committed to working with our local families to create safe spaces for our youth, where conversations can be had with caring adults to help them address the issue of bullying, should it ever impact them or another child in their circles.

Earlier this year, representatives from more than two dozen local government agencies, community organizations, and local schools formed the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force to explore the prevalence of youth, teen, and young adult bullying and strategies to combat it.

We hope you will consider joining us for this very important conversation next Tuesday at GIAC. We look forward to working together to help make Tompkins County a bullying free zone for everyone! If you have any questions or need further information, please reach out to the Tompkins County Youth Services Department at (607) 274-5310.

—By Kate Shanks-Booth

Kate Shanks-Booth is the director of the Tompkins County Youth Services Department and a coordinator for the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force

Ithaca Cupcakes 2019: Special Awards

Contestants in the 4th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest on October 19 dished up spectacular entries—congratulations to these winners of Special Awards!

I Might be a Short Cake, But It Really Stacks Up Award

Madely Myers

I’ve FALLen For You Award

Natalie McCaskill-Myers

Pumpkiniest Award

Faith Heath

Un-Be-Leaf-Able Award

Monica Lee Cotto

Paws-itively Adorable Award

Kelsey Pipkin

Head Over Heels for the Chocolate Heart Award

Audrey Greene

It’s Early Gre(y)at

Veronica Fitzpatrick

It Takes Two To Mango Award

Mary Sever-Schoonmaker

Tea-Riffic! Award

Ashley Bacalso & Shiang Chin

Nonu Would Be Proud Award

Kyra O’Toole

Mint to Be Award

Violet Zoner

Berry Delicious Award

Erin Morris

Season’s Greetings Award

Miranda Crosley

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice Award

Rebacca Gray

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread Award

Tabitha Gray

It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Award

Hannah & Cheryl Stephenson

Most Attractive to Bees Award

Hallie Sims

madelymyersMadely Myers’s entry: strawberry and cream cheese cupcakes reflecting “sweet” Sophie

nataliemccaskillmyersNatalie McCaskill-Myers’s entry: pumpkin and spice cupcakes inpired by the Farmer’s Market

faithheathFaith Heath’s entry: pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and gold and black crystal sprinkles

monicaleecottoMonica Lee Cotto’s entry: banana cream cupcakes decorated with a chocolate gold feather

kelseypipkinKelsey Pipkin’s tiramisu expresso-flavored cupcakes decorated with kitty-themed lady finger biscuits

audreygreeneAudrey Greene’s entry: chocolate and raspberry cupcakes with a chocolate heart decoration

veronicafitzpatrickVeronica Fitzpatrick’s entry: Earl Grey cupcakes with a candied grapefruit peel, brandy snap, and edible flower petals

maryseverschoonmakerMary Sever-Schoonmaker’s entry: “Mango Wango Tango” ginger cupcakes with homemade mango curd with a white chocolate bubble bark garnish

ashleyshiangAshley Bacalso & Shiang Chin’s entry: Green tea cupcakes garnished with a matcha pocky stick

kyraotooleKyra O’Toole’s entry: dark chocolate cannoli cupcakes with Italian meringue frosting

violetzonerViolet Zoner’s entry: chocolate cupcakes with mint Oreo, Italian meringue frosting, and Oreo crumbles and candy melt drizzles

erinmorrisErin Morris’s entry: Blueberry bourbon homegrown basil cupcakes iced with blueberry buttercream frosting

mirandacrosleyMiranda Crosley’s entry: pumpkin cupcakes filled with spiced cranberry sauce topped with leaf-shaped pie crust decorations and a sugared cranberry

rebeccagrayRebacca Gray’s entry: chocolate lime and black pepper cupcakes with coconut lime frsoting

tabithagrayTabitha Gray’s entry: lemon mango cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting decorated with chocolate chips and lemon drops

hannahcherylHannah & Cheryl Stephenson’s entry: “Puff-kin Patch” spice cupcakes with cinnamon caramel ermine frosting and jack-o-lantern decorations

halliesimsHallie Sims’s entry: wild blackberry cardamom cupcakes and lemon blackberry cream frosting decorated with sugared blackberries and mint leaves (all of which seemed to delight Ithaca’s honey bee population!)

Ithaca Cupcakes 2019: Honorable Mention Awards

This year’s annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest set a record for entries—66 bakers created their magic and brought it down to the Bernie Milton Pavilion on Saturday October 19. The judges had an impossible task, but besides the top three winners they selected six bakers to receive Honorable Mention Awards. Bravo and thanks to all 66 contestants—you were amazing!

All Honorable Mention awardees were presented with $25 gift certificates from the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.

Honorable Mention

Active Minds at Ithaca High School

Rachel Allison

Akiko Cliteur

Kate Bagnell

Erica Brath

Heather Williams

7B584E0C-0F84-4436-AD61-E3BFB936284CActive Minds at Ithaca High School’s entry: Napoleon ice cream-themed cupcakes set in a classic cone with layers of vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate cake topped with homemade whipped cream and sprinkles.

ADA14739-ADFC-4EA3-963B-B03605AE43FDRachel Allison’s entry: Chocolate cupcakes filled with chocolate truffle and intense strawberry flavor, topped with a Nutella, raspberry and white chocolate buttercream swirl–and a pouring cup of chocolate sauce.

F80A9D81-A5A4-4862-B7D7-194B5E52B589Akiko Cliteur’s entry: Carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting accompanied by lemon flavored macarons with almond, cranberry, and pistachio toppings.

B5FA12AB-ED89-4E13-94BB-39D9EC4F4AD4Kate Bagnell’s entry: The “cookie-lover’s cupcakes” are chocolate chip cupcakes with cookie dough core, topped with chocolate fudge, buttercream frosting, and a mini chocolate chip sandwich cookie.

F967CB72-7C7D-4402-A394-15CC95948654Erica Brath’s entry: All-vegan chocolate stout cupcakes with whiskey buttercream icing and dark chocolate dragon decorations.

0496724F-77CE-48CE-A870-74CC19275F96Heather Williams’s entry: Spiced pumpkin cupcakes filled with cranberry compote with cranberry cheesecake frosting.