People with disabilities have always had a voice. We’re just teaching the world different ways to listen.
A disability victim services agency

Deaf woman with short hair signing

Russell and Myra Strand bring together community in AACs, UD event

March 12, 2020

AACs-UD Event - Group Photo

Russell and Myra Strand (back left) with Leigha Shoup (back center), AACs Deputy Director; Shelbe Brown (back right), Coordinator of Sexual Violence Prevention Education at the Brook Center at UD; and Shari Cooper (front), AACs consultant.

By Leigha Shoup, AACs Deputy Director

Myra Strand gestures at a chart that explains the differences between BDSM and abuseIn November 2019, the University of Dayton’s Brook Center’s Sexual Violence Prevention Education Department reached out to the Adult Advocacy Centers to discuss a possible collaboration. They had the idea to bring international speaker Russell Strand and trauma expert Myra Strand to campus for a day of education for both UD and the Montgomery County community. We were excited to be able to bring experts to the area and train staff, faculty, students, law enforcement, community partners and self-advocates.

On January 21, 2020, the Strands came to Dayton. The day was filled with workshops and presentations that covered a wide variety of topics, including law enforcement discussions about victims of crime, vicarious trauma and its impact, masculinity, creating culture change, building a supportive environment for survivors, and the impact of pornography and online safety through the victim services lens. Students and community members were able to learn more about victims of crime, how crime affects the disability community, and how we can work together to make a culture change for a better world. I interviewed one graduate student and one community member who attended the events that day. Their answers are below:

Shari Cooper
Community Member, Self-Advocate and AACs Consultant

Which elements of the event did you like the most?
The element I liked most was the presentation’s charts and videos. They were very person-first friendly as well as easy to follow.

Share something that really impacted you from the speakers.
I learned people with disabilities who are trying online dating are becoming victimized and are scared to report it to the authorities. Instead, many feel ashamed and see no other way than to do what the perpetrator says, which usually turns into blackmail, which leads them to give away their possessions or their dignity.

How would the information shared at the event be helpful to the disability community?
I think it would be helpful to the disability community to share awareness that sex is not a bad thing if you love someone and it’s consensual. As a person with a disability, I often think we as a community are taught to feel this way because of our disability. People with disabilities are people first, and sex is a part of life.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Presentations like this should be a session at all disability-related conferences.

Caleb Negron
Graduate Assistant for Sexual Violence Prevention Education at the University of Dayton

Russell Strand gestures toward a presentation slide that says Boys Will Be ... in the middle, surrounded by words like better, living, kind, unique, confident, seen, proud and compassionateWhich elements of the event did you like the most?
Both the informal and formal delivery of the content. Both Myra and Russell Strand took a creative approach with their slides and facilitation style to keep the audience engaged. They were also willing to share personal stories related to the content, and I personally find that to be a very powerful tool in getting your message across.

Tell me about the benefits students received from this event.
Status, work history and experience play a role in how students will perceive the speaker. When the students see and hear the incredible work Myra and Russell have done over many years, there is a weight of credibility and students are more likely to absorb what is said. All the content that was covered was very relevant, and it resonated with many students. From masculinity to the role of student leaders, and from pornography to shifting the culture, students were able to take something away, no matter where they are in their developmental journey. At the very least, they were introduced to the conversations.

Share something that really impacted you from the speakers.
The level of transparency, especially around masculinity conversation. As a man, I know it is very difficult to engage men in a very vulnerable and real conversation, especially since the dominant narrative is reinforced by many men and women. Watching Russell Strand share his story and views surrounding masculinity and how his perception changed over time was liberating. We are all victims of the gender script given to us at birth. Russell made it clear that it’s not too late to challenge that subconscious script and learn about who you want to be in this world.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Avoid complacency. Continue to be a life-long learner. Revisit past experience and question why you thought and behaved a certain way. Russell is a really cool old guy, but he continues to learn more about himself and the world around him. The more we know, the more we realize how much we don’t know.

Read more about Russell and Myra Strand on their website