Speak About It PALentines 2019
Happy Valentine’s month! Instead of celebrating sticky sweet corporate ideas of love and high fructose corn syrup (though you’ll definitely see us nibbling on quite a few VDay sweets in the office), we wanted to get to the core of what we think Valentine’s Day should really be about: Appreciating the friends and community that support you year round. This February we’re sending a little extra love out to three Speak About It Valentines in our community. We want to say a little “Lova ya!” to a Portland business, one organization and one individual who live the mission and make our work possible. Thanks PALentines!
Our last Speak About It PALentine is someone we’ve had a big ol’ organizational crush on for some time...the Restorative Justice Institute of Maine!
Eradicating sexual violence in our communities takes numerous stakeholders with numerous different areas of expertise. Since the emergence of #MeToo in 2017, even more folks across the nation have engaged in difficult conversations around sex and consent, especially about perpetrators, accountability, and community response to sexual harassment and assault. RJIM adds so much to this conversation in communities across Maine. Speak About It has wrestled with a number of complicated issues this past year, especially as an educational organization that works with every student in each classroom and audience. In our own work, we so often bump up against the limitations of our own knowledge and experience in this field.
That’s how we met RJIM. Last winter, we were seeking advice and insight, and a friend connected us with Ryun from the Restorative Justice Institute. Ryun has put countless hours into listening to our questions, and has become a great confidant and sounding board as we navigate how best to support survivors and work with our local community to build safer spaces. After every phone call or meeting, we leave learning something new, looking at a situation through a new lens, and feeling hopeful for the future. RJIM’s resources and knowledge have been hugely informative of how we think about sexual assault response, and we admire their work to ensure a more fair vision of justice and community change.
What exactly is Restorative Justice? According to the Centre for Justice and Reconciliation, Restorative Justice is “a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that allow all willing stakeholders to meet, although other approaches are available when that is impossible. This can lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities." Borrowing from many different cultural traditions as well as social science research, restorative justice centers the victim, while engaging in community-led solutions get at the root of violence and harm. RJIM has a number of great resources about Restorative and Transformative Justice on their website and we strongly encourage you check those out. We also recommend reading about the history of Restorative Justice practices in Native American communities, as much of the current practice is influenced by Native practices.
New this year, RJIM is launching a new survivor-led leadership council on justice and sexual violence. Participants will be paid for their time on the council and will learn about Restorative and Transformative Justice practices and be part of starting a new R/TJ program in Maine. Check out the full description here to learn more.
So RJIM, we love your brains, we admire your work, and we are so honored to share space with you here in Maine! Thanks PALentines!
Next up in our celebration of lovely local luminaries that we love….Devon Mulligan! As the Education Manager for the Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine (SARSSM), Devon works with thousands of students of all ages throughout Greater Portland. SARSSM has been a huge part of Speak About It’s growth, with their staff (including Devon) training our educators on sexual assault response and survivor advocacy each summer. However, Devon also leads many different programs with SARSSM throughout the year, “I might perform a puppet show about Personal Body Safety for Kindergartners, plan ways to support school staff and their students in the long and short term, or talk healthy relationships with folks in a retirement community,” she says, describing the breadth of SARSSM’s work.
Over the last few years, Devon has become a go-to resource in the local violence prevention community for Speak About It staff. Speak About It and SARSSM are both members of the Violence Prevention Network, and working alongside Devon in this coalition has been a joy. She brings not only expertise and empathy to the table, but a constant critical perspective, great questions that open up dialogue about mission and scope, and an amazing sense of humor that keeps our tough jobs a little less tough day-in and day-out.
We are always learning from Devon, and love that she is always down to talk it out and ask big questions. “There is no end to the learning our community members provide to each other and to me!” she says. Plus. she’s never afraid to bring up topics like feminism, consent, and gender: whether that’s professionally, with friends, at parties, or even on dates. “I aim to normalize conversations around the prevention of sexual violence; if I've got your ear, you'd better believe it's coming up! I don't think these conversations have to be scary or necessarily uncomfortable because there is something all of us can be doing to increase the safety of folks in our communities.” She’s a rock star, and we’d listen to her talk about this stuff all day!
Oronde and Devon worked very closely on co-founding Heart of Hospitality with other coalition members over the past year. Devon was integral in designing the curriculum for bars and nightlife venues, and has been the primary facilitator of the program alongside Oronde.
It has been a tough year, especially with issues of sexual violence in both local and national news. Devon has been an endless resource of insight and perspective, especially when Speak About It staff have difficult questions or need a sounding board for ideas or situations. She is always ready to show up and lend a hand, whether it's to provide an advocate at one of our shows or to help co-facilitate a workshop when we're down an educator. We are always so happy when she stops by the office, for minutes or hours, and even if we’re talking about heavy topics, we always find a way to still have fun. Also, let it be noted, she’s the best carpool driver in town, hands down.
Love ya Devon, so glad you’re our pal!
For our first PALentine, let us introduce you to Sisters Gourmet Deli!
Take one step into Sisters Gourmet Deli and you’ll recognize that this is a special place. Between the bright and energetic decor and friendly staff behind the counter, it is clear that this is a space where one is encouraged to open up and be whomever they want to be. Speak About It has been so lucky to benefit from Sisters’ neighborly attitude and generosity since they opened in 2016.
Here at Speak About we’re all about clear communication, and providing folks with the tools to express their needs and desires. You might wonder what a local sandwich shop and a consent education organization have in common. But we do share a lot of values!
Owner, Michaela McVetty, believes it is part of her role as a leader to empower young women to find and use their voices in a professional context. She hopes working at Sisters can be a place where the tools her employees learn blossom outwards into other aspects of their life.
This ethos is perfectly displayed by one employee or Sister, Courtney. Courtney is one of the driving forces behind Sisters, and has helped to keep the deli moving forward and growing as Michaela steps back to develop her own career.
“I never would have done this interview a year ago,” laughs Courtney. She sees Sisters Gourmet Deli as a unique place, so different from other jobs, especially other kitchens. She says working in a healthy environment like Sisters has helped her become more assertive and communicative, and more comfortable taking charge. Micaela has also created space for her to change and grow. “In other kitchens, I’d wonder, ‘whose bs will I have to deal with today or who is gonna slap my butt,’ but at the Deli, we genuinely like each other. I live with Emma, I just saw a movie with Jess. We become close, because we’re told what our expectations are, but then are given so much free reign over how to reach those goals, We work as a team, which brings us closer.”
It can be tough to have open and honest conversations in the workplace, but instilling that as a workplace value can help forge strong relationships between staff. “We’ve got a staff and a boss that won’t let you skate by if you’re not doing well,” says Courtney. “They will genuinely ask what you’re going through and how they can help.” Owner McVetty says that she feels like open communication and honest check ins are skills that must be practiced in work relationships, but translate so well to romantic ones too. A culture of consent isn’t niche. It can become a part of culture at large and inform how we treat each other more healthily across spheres of life.
We love working with Sisters and love that they strive to ensure a healthy work environment every day. (Also, we are very affirmative about their flatbread sammies, just sayin’.)
Speak About It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with high schools and colleges to educate, entertain, and empower students to create positive change within their communities, advocate for and practice healthy relationship habits, and prevent sexual violence.
Copyright 2016 Speak About It, Inc. Website by Alexandra Valleau