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FEAR Project Fundraiser

September 10th, 2006

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SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 9, 2006 – SEATTLE, WA I was in the theater booth with complete brain lock. The thoughts were bubbling in an emotional soup but my intellect was unable to capture them. Every time I put pen to paper the thoughts would escape me. So, instead, I watched all the volunteers working to set up for the fundraiser. We had a party to put on. (Left: ndCv performs)

Sarah, the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center technical director, in her matter-of-fact way shrugged from her side of the booth and said something like “you get up there, tell them you couldn’t do these five things without them and thank them for their support.”

With those sarcastically sage words I folded up the paper; it’s not like I was going to stand in front of people and read.

When I walked down to the main floor the volunteers had everything under control; I wasn’t needed. So I mingled, in essence, rehearsing with each conversation what I would say when I stood in front of the microphone.

Naomi, the Director of Harborview’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program, praised my take on sexual violence awareness; non-judgemental, intimate, and informative in a way that speaks to the post-assault relational experience and helps build empathy and understanding. (Right: Kasi helping set up.)

Another conversation about education and reaching middle-school students for, while statistically they are one of the most likely age groups to be abused, they aren’t raping, abusing, or manipulating…just yet. Getting FEAR media into the public schools as certified curriculum is a daunting task, but working with teachers to develop an experiential unit on sexual violence and healthy relationships would be a worthy accomplishment with long-term societal impact.

Then there was another conversation. Or more of a request. While discussing the portrait series projected on the screen, and what it was meant to say, a woman asked if I would take her portrait.

“Of course,” I said. (Above: Photographer Tim McGuire and his auction donation).

“It would mean a lot to me,” she replied and it was then I could see the tears building in her eyes. Subtle, but there.

I would like to say I was calm but the switch from the theoretical to reality flipped then. I already knew she had a ‘story’ but, seeing it there in that slightly embarrassed I’m-trying-not-to-cry smile, it was all brought home to me again. Sexual violence, while it can be physically painful in the moment, leaves lasting emotional scars.

We talked some more, me stumbling through sentences, but what I remember of the moment was her looking to her husband and saying something to the effect of “his patience, kindness and support has made all the difference.” (Right: Volunteer Sue opens the bar).

Later, as I stood before the microphone trying to keep my comments meaningful and succinct, I remembered this and all the other moments where communication, just simple talking, had started the healing for someone. It was one of those moments for me which started this project; I hadn’t known what to do in the face of disclosure but out of that instance came the first multimedia story.

Since then I have slowly been learning more about how sexual violence affects me and my community. In that search I have found others who either struggle with their own experience or the experience of others. It is a community unknown to itself until one person steps forward to say “it’s ok to talk.” That evening, at the fundraiser, we had all stepped forward. (Left: Volunteer Joseph serves up sushi).

The next step for the project is an upcoming rape trial. The victim, Abby, is returning in late October for a retrial (the most recent court date estimate); the first time was a hung jury of 11:1. This story will explore the affects the trial has on her and her community. It will also look at the process from forensic exam to arrest, evidence, and court proceedings. This story will provide both editorial content as well as educative media for professionals; while the project is asking for support now, we hope our media will lead us to be self-sustaining and capable of expanding our offerings and our outreach.

What this means for me in the short-term is less non profit administration and more documentary work. Interviews, ride-alongs, portraits, hours in the courtroom, and simply ‘hanging out’ with Abby, her friends, and her family. At all hours. Creating a portrait of someone’s life requires living parts of it and Abby, graciously, has agreed.

Afterwards will be days of post-production. For a professional firm that will only plug in the media components, to produce a 20 minute piece the cost is around $10,000 dollars. For us to complete an entire work the cost is about $20,000. This time I may have help from a volunteer NPR reporter
, but in the past it has been me volunteering my time and squeezing it in between my editorial and corporate clients. (Volunteers Mindy and Andreas).

I like to think I can do everything on my own, something which makes it difficult to ask for help. But this is where I need to ask: for this work to reach further, we need professional and financial help to finish the SANE story and Abby’s trial. So I’m going to ask: Please make a donation to help the project create dialog.

The fundraiser was an amazing first step. I didn’t really care about the evening’s numbers; I was happy that we had created a great environment for a party. There were more volunteers than I expected, more support from underwriters than I would have thought to ask for, and more cool silent auction donations that I had imagined. For our first fundraiser I’m extremely pleased. But maybe you want to know the numbers: with fewer than 100 people in attendance, and including our underwriters, we raised $10,632.

I think we put on a pretty great party, maybe not the raging dance-fests I’ve hosted before, but we had everything necessary:
• excellent music from Andy Seaver (ndCv) and DJ Jamison (follow the links for sample tunes!)
• sensational sushi from Rain (they’ve got this deep fried roll with avocado on it…)
• a fine choice of graciously discounted wine (personally arranged for us)
• donated beer courtesy of Georgetown Brewing
• silent auction items, largely personal donations, from artwork to massage, yoga, pilates, hair styling, sailing, boating, gym climbing, outdoor climbing, backcountry skiing, outdoor clothing, down clothing, dining, more dining…somewhere near 50 items.

The two rooms we booked may have felt a little spare however Kasi, a friend, volunteer, and executive director of the Austin Foundation, reminded me that for our first fundraiser, we did a good job. So I put my critical self to rest. (Left: Board member Rebecca Haas and volunteer Tom Scearce)

I want to thank all who contributed: volunteer, underwriter, donor, and attendee. That evening you helped create a community of awareness and dialog. (Right: Underwriter Rick Baroway with GSB Law)

If you were unable to attend, but would like to be a part of this, please go to the FEAR Donations page.

Thanks again to our underwriters:

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