Quiet on Set: A reflection of Drake Bell’s story

“I often look back at that time and wonder how in the world did I survive?” – Drake Bell, Quiet on Set documentary.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. In honor of that, I wanted to do a blog post about the new documentary “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV” that highlights the extensive abuse child stars faced while working with Nickelodeon Studios in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. This documentary has taken social media by storm, prompting other Nick child stars to speak out against the abuse they faced in the industry. Claims from these actors range from emotional abuse, to physical violence, and to sexual assault.

In particular, Drake Bell (star of “Drake & Josh”) came forward with his story of sexual assault perpetrated by Bryan Peck – a dialogue coach hired to work with Nickelodeon actors. In 2003, Peck, 43 at the time, was arrested on 11 charges — including sodomy, lewd act upon a child 14 or 15 by a person 10 years older, and oral copulation by anesthesia or controlled substance.

How did it get to this point?

Shown in the documentary, Bell’s father was originally his manager and became uncomfortable about how much time Peck was spending time with his son. These feelings escalated so much that he went to production and told them. “I don’t see anything abnormal, but it just doesn’t — I don’t have a good feeling,’”

Bell’s father said he later backed away from being his son’s manager after feeling “ostracized,” and eventually, was pushed out of his son’s life. Because Drake Bell and his mother lived in Orange County, it seemed easier to stay at Peck’s home in L.A. when he had an audition.

Bryan Peck (Image from Us Magazine)

According to the documentary, spending time at Peck’s home wasn’t irregular for the kids of Nick. “All the parents loved him too. Everyone trusted Brian,” said Kyle Sullivan, who appeared on “The Amanda Show and “All That.”

“Your instinct is to give someone the benefit of the doubt if you’ve known them for that long, even in the face of this really bad sign,” said Sullivan. “This man, who is like trusted as basically a supervisor of kids, is not safe.”

Drake Bell also gave Peck the benefit of the doubt. He spent many nights at Peck’s – and then the first instance of rape happened.

Drake Bell (Image from KidsMusic)

“I was sleeping on the couch where I would usually sleep. I woke up to him — I opened my eyes, I woke up and he was sexually assaulting me. I froze and was in complete shock and had no idea what to do or how to react, and I have no idea how to get out of this situation,” Bell said. 15 at the time, he didn’t know what to do and it “became this secret” because he knew that if he stopped going to Peck’s, people would ask questions. Peck was “so apologetic,” saying it would never happen again.

“He figured out how to convince my mom and everyone around to, anytime I would have an audition or anytime I needed to work on dialogue or anything, I somehow ended up back at Brian’s house and it just got worse and worse and worse and worse. I was just trapped. I had no way out,” said Bell. “The abuse was extensive, and it got pretty brutal. I don’t know how to elaborate on that on

camera, really. Why don’t you think of the worst stuff that someone could do to somebody as a sexual assault, and then I’ll answer your question. I don’t know how else to put it.”

Bell didn’t immediately go to the police but says in the documentary that his girlfriend’s mother knew something was off after Peck called repeatedly one night when he was at their house. Peck’s attempts to contact Bell were so desperate that Peck ended up calling Bell’s girlfriend’s landline phone.

In August of 2003, Peck was finally arrested. At the time, no one at Nick knew who the victim was, and it remained that way until just a month ago (March of 2024). A few weeks after Peck’s arrest, Bell started filming “Drake & Josh” and loved his new role, but still “didn’t know how to process” the happiness and excitement of filming with the trauma he had experienced. “I think that led to a lot of self-destruction and a lot of self-loathing. I would try and just escape with alcohol abuse, substance abuse, really just anything to escape.”

Peck’s sentencing wasn’t until more than a year later in October 2004.

“I was hoping that the outcome would be that he goes to jail, he is there for a while and that he would never be able to work with kids again, which would in turn pretty much mean that you’re not gonna work in Hollywood, because very few productions don’t have a least one kid on the set,” said Bell. “That’s not what happened at all.”

The documentary details the letter of support Peck received – full of famous figures. The letters, partially read by a narrator, repeatedly expressed that Peck “must have been tempted or pushed beyond belief” in order to commit these crimes against a child.

A child.

In case this isn’t clear – children cannot “tempt” you into assaulting them. They are children.

Image from Deadline Article

“I looked at all of them and I just said, ‘How dare you?’ I said, ‘You will forever have the memory of sitting in this courtroom and defending this person. And I will forever have the memory of the person you’re defending violating me and doing unspeakable acts and crimes and that’s what I will remember.’” Bell said to the courtroom.

There were 41 letters written to the judge by friends, family and colleagues defending Peck’s character. Along with victim blaming a child, most shared how shocked they were by the allegations and most asked to give Peck probation.

In the end, Peck pleaded no contest to two charges of child sexual abuse. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender. After his release, Peck landed a job on Disney Channel’s “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.”

Bell’s adult life came with his share of legal troubles following. In 2021, Bell was arrested and pleaded guilty to charges of attempted child endangerment and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. He was sentenced to two years probation and 200 hours of community service. “I took responsibility for that, I did what was asked of me,” he said in the doc.

Many empirical studies have investigated a link between sexual victimization as a child and later sex offending or other delinquent behaviors. Although, sexually abusing others is a rare outcome of sexual victimization. In a study done in 2016 of more than 38,000 males, only 4% of them who were abused ended up becoming abusers themselves.

When reflecting on Drake Bell and who he is today it is important to remember that two things can be true at once: What happened to the child version of Bell was terrible, sad, and awful. With that, Bell grooming and exchanging inappropriate messages with minors is also terrible and he should still be held accountable for that.

At the end of the day, Drake Bell deserves justice for what Peck did to him, and it was brave of him to share his story on such a public platform.

I don’t want to conclude this by saying that child acting is all bad and should be avoided by caring parents. That’s not the case – in a healthy, uncorrupt environment, children can really thrive and start amazing careers in acting. I do want to conclude by giving warning signs of sexual abuse in children – knowing these things could dramatically change a child’s life.

Signs of child sexual abuse:

  • Sudden changes in behavior (becoming abnormally depressed, anxious, or angry).
  • Fear of being alone with a certain person.
  • Sudden, unexplained fears of certain places or kinds of people (such as all people with a particular feature or characteristic).
  • Fear of being touched.
  • Changes in quality of schoolwork or grades.
  • Discussions of secrets or withholding information about friends/family members.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Delinquency.
  • Self-mutilation or careless behaviors resulting in self-harm (in younger children, this can even look like soiling themselves so that they are “gross and untouchable”).
  • Excessive play or abnormal curiosity with their own private body parts.
  • Persistent sex play with friends, toys, or pets.
  • Difficulty of sleeping or fear of going to bed.
  • Frequent drawings that have sexual content.
  • Unusual, persistent, or developmentally inappropriate questioning about human sexuality

The signs of child sexual abuse can vary depending on the child’s developmental stage and the circumstances of the abuse, such as how frequent the abuse is, who is inflicting the abuse and what kind of abuse is happening.

When a child is sexually abused, they might not tell anyone about the abuse, for a variety of reasons. While there are sometimes signs and symptoms that may indicate sexual abuse has occurred, it is important to note that the presence of some of the signs does not confirm that sexual abuse has occurred. Some children might show many of the signs and others might show few or none at all.

“Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV” is available on the ID Channel, episodes will also stream on Max.

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

Written by Anniston Weber

Listen and Believe Us: Guest writer shares story of sexual assault

“They” say middle school is the worst. Puberty, big feelings, pimples, first heartbreaks, braces, peer pressure; all the typical things they think a middle schooler goes through. Sure, they suck, but what nobody talks about is how many kids in school are going through some form of abuse. The definition of abuse is to “treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.”

There are many different types of abuse:

  • Physical abuse.
  • Domestic Violence or Intimate Partner Violence.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Psychological or emotional abuse.
  • Financial or material abuse.
  • Human Trafficking.
  • Discriminatory abuse.
  • Organizational or institutional abuse.

Even though all of these are possible in schools, I’m going to share my experience about the sexual assault happening in school right now.

Photo by Taylor Flowe on Unsplash

I loved history class but what I didn’t love was sitting next to my ex-boyfriend. I knew that I didn’t have to sit next to him, but I was a people pleaser. We shared the same friends, and I didn’t want to end up alone. Even if we shared friends, it was obvious that they had a closer relationship with him. One day, the teacher gave us free time to work on whatever needed to get done. Still sitting next to each other, we were making small talk when he put his hand on my knee. I pushed it off. Then he put his hand high on my inner thigh near my bikini area. I kept pushing it off and he kept putting it back. This process continued to happen to the point where I began to make excuses to get up and avoid him. This went on for weeks. I ended up sick and started staying home from school more often because I wanted to avoid the situation.

It’s disgusting to expect a child to know how to process this type of situation and know how to protect themselves. I didn’t. I had a few friends who were helpful in supporting me, but they couldn’t stop the abuse. “He just liked you”, “It’s normal for kids to do that’, “I’m just playing around” and “It’s not that serious”. All these quotes are far too commonly said to victims. These things were said to me by people who I was told I could trust. If it weren’t for a teacher and my parents, it could have gotten way worse.

“Numerous studies suggest that sexual victimization in adolescence significantly increases the likelihood of sexual victimization in adulthood” says NSVRC.

I’m not even a few years past my first incident and I have already been revictimized. It is not because I didn’t know better this time or that I couldn’t stand up for myself. It happened because it started as a joke with just patting each other on the butt as we walked by. Even sports people do this to one another, it was consensual at this point, and it wasn’t a big deal, yet. The butt patting got to a full cupping. When it started to escalate and make me uncomfortable, I told this “friend” that I’d like it to stop because I was in fact uncomfortable. He would reply “it was just a joke”. I thought I was handling it well with what I learned from last time, but I was struggling still. It escalated to full violation of my inner butt-tocks area. My mom started to notice behavior changes in me and knew right away something serious was happening. Again, I was starting to get sick, this time I had more mental health issues on top of the physical sickness. I was missing school again. This time it was changing me. Why me, again?

We took this up the chain and all that the principal did was give a warning of suspension. Obviously, this guy found out I sought help and it got worse before it got “better”. He continued the sexual abuse more aggressively but now more out in the open. It was happening in the halls near teachers, as I went up the stairs in front of him, wherever he had the power to get away with it, it seemed to excite him. In the past, before my incident he accidentally brushed up against another girl’s breast and she complained to the principal, and he got suspended. This part is very difficult for me. I was screaming and crying for the adults at school to help protect me so I could learn. I had witnesses and proof. I had my parents backing me and trying to inform the school of the situation as well as how trauma works and it impacts people, especially young people like me. Nothing was done for me at the school when I was being violated and 

Photo by Ian Veenstra on Unsplash

ostracized for it! It only got “better” because I had to completely change my life to avoid being victimized over and over again.

You could be amazing friends. Your genders don’t matter; it could be girl with a girl, girl with a boy, boy with a girl, boy with a boy. You could be 7 feet tall. You could be “fat”. You could be black, white, purple, grey. You could be LGBTQ+. You could be unpopular or popular. You could be Christian, Catholic, Muslim, etc. You could be the perfect little cookie-cutter child. It doesn’t matter who you are. It can happen to you. Abuse does not discriminate.

One in 9 girls and One is 20 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault.

82% of all victims under 18 are female. Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault, says RAINN. The percentage of victimization goes up for individuals who are intellectually delayed, of minority races, and who identify as LGBTQ+. I want to remind you that these statistics are based on the individuals who actually made reports and does not include those who feel like they can’t speak up.

Photo by Tony Tran on Unsplash

Why are kids in school doing this to other kids? I believe that kids are learning this behavior from somewhere. It might be modeled by an adult in their life. Maybe they were assaulted at a young age. It might be social media and “Hollywood” glamorizing sexual assault. It might be lack of parenting or bad parenting and the kid is acting out in a highly inappropriate way. It might be a little or a lot of all the above!

How am I supposed to become a functioning adult if school is teaching kids like me that abuse is acceptable in school? My plea is that adults; rather you are a teacher, parent, counselor, librarian whatever, listen and believe us. We are already struggling with puberty, big feelings, pimples, first heartbreaks, braces, peer pressure; all the typical things they think a middle schooler goes through as I told you in the beginning. We do not need to struggle with this. Nobody deserves to be abused, especially kids.

In a perfect world this would’ve never happened. People would keep their hands to themselves as well as their comments. We don’t live in a perfect world so what I wish had happened is that the principal would have given my abusers suspension and moved classes from me instead of just the warning. I wish the principal would have been trauma informed enough, at least the second time I went in for help, to know that talking to me alone was only triggering my trauma. I wish that the principal was held to higher standards with his actions towards remedying this abuse rather than being “my school my rules”. I wish I was given resources that supported me, like an advocate with Options rather than having to figure it out myself.

You can be a voice for those who aren’t always able to use their own. I couldn’t use my voice at the time of my abuse, but I am healing. I hope that this blog brings awareness to what is the reality in our schools, in our lives.

Be the difference. Thank you so much for reading.

Written by an anonymous area high school student.

How can you protect your child from sexual assault?

There is no foolproof method in keeping your child safe from sexual assault, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risk. Such as:

  • Be involved in your child’s life. Show interest in what they do and how their daily lives look. Ask them how their lunch was, who their favorite teacher is, what games they’re playing, if they’re having fun. It is important to connect to show that you care.
  • Get to know the people in your child’s life. Choose caregivers carefully and know who your child is spending their time with.
  • Talk about viral stories in the media. Sexual violence is frequently covered by the news and portrayed in television shows. Talk to your child and ask questions about this coverage to start a conversation. Questions like, “Have you ever heard of this happening before?” or “What would you do if you were in this situation?” can signal to your child that these are important issues that they can talk about with you.
  • Teach your child about boundaries. Let your child know that no one has the right to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable — this includes hugs from grandparents or even tickling from mom or dad. It is important to let your child know that their body is their own. Just as importantly, remind your child that they do not have the right to touch someone else if that person does not want to be touched.
  • Don’t mince words when talking about bodies. It is important to use “real” language when teaching kids about their bodies. As in, they should know the actual names of their body parts. Giving something a “cutesy” name can diminish the seriousness of a disclosure. Teaching them the proper names gives them the opportunity to tell you exactly what is wrong.
  • Let them know they won’t get in trouble. Remind your child frequently that they will not get in trouble for talking to you, no matter what they need to say. When they do come to you, follow through on this promise and avoid punishing them for speaking up. Many perpetrators use secret-keeping or threats as a way of keeping children quiet about abuse.
  • Believe them, believe them, believe them. If a child ever discloses to you that they have been sexually assaulted – start by believing them. When someone knows that their voice will be heard and taken seriously, it gives them the courage to speak up when something isn’t right.

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

They Dared to Speak

Profiles in Courage and Advocacy for Survivors

March marks Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of women throughout history.

While we reflect on the progress made in various fields, it’s essential to spotlight the women who have been at the forefront of combating domestic violence and sexual assault. Their tireless efforts have not only raised awareness but also transformed policies, institutions, and societal attitudes. Let’s take a moment to recognize these remarkable leaders and their significant contributions.

Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke: Tarana Burke is a civil rights activist, community organizer, and the founder of the “Me Too” movement, which has become a global phenomenon in the fight against sexual harassment and assault. Born and raised in New York, Burke has dedicated her life to advocating for survivors and creating spaces for healing, empowerment, and social change. Burke first coined the phrase “Me Too” in 2006 as part of her work with survivors of sexual violence, particularly young women of color from marginalized communities. Through her experiences working with survivors, Burke recognized the need for a movement that centered on empathy, solidarity, and healing. The “Me Too” movement was born out of this vision, aiming to provide support and resources to survivors while challenging the culture of silence and shame that surrounds sexual violence. Although the movement gained widespread attention in 2017 when the #MeToo hashtag went viral on social media (following the Harvey Weinstein allegations), it was Burke’s years of grassroots activism that laid the foundation for its success. Burke’s leadership and advocacy have not only empowered survivors to speak out but also sparked a global conversation about the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in various sectors of society. Beyond her work with the “Me Too” movement, Burke is a passionate advocate for racial and gender justice. She emphasizes the intersectional nature of sexual violence, highlighting how race, class, gender identity, and other factors intersect to shape individuals’ experiences of oppression and marginalization. Burke’s activism seeks to address these intersecting forms of inequality while centering the voices and experiences of those most impacted by sexual violence. In addition to her advocacy work, Burke is also an author, speaker, and educator who travels the world sharing her story and empowering others to join the fight against sexual violence. She continues to work tirelessly to build a world where all individuals are free from the fear of harassment, assault, and abuse.

Marsha P. Johnson: Marsha P. Johnson was a prominent transgender activist and a pivotal figure in the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. While not exclusively focused on gender-based violence, Johnson’s advocacy for marginalized communities intersects with issues of domestic violence and sexual assault (since LGBTQ+ individuals experience higher rates of these types of violence). As a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance, she fought against discrimination and violence targeting LGBTQ+ individuals, including cases of domestic violence and sexual assault within the community. Johnson’s legacy continues to inspire activists advocating for the rights and safety of all individuals, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

Marsha P. Johnson
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: While renowned for her groundbreaking work in gender equality and women’s rights, Ruth Bader Ginsburg also played a crucial role in addressing issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. As a Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg authored significant opinions that expanded legal protections for survivors and enhanced accountability for perpetrators. Her jurisprudence helped shape policies addressing gender-based violence and provided a legal framework for advocacy efforts seeking justice for survivors.

Anita Hill: Anita Hill is an American attorney, academic, and civil rights activist known for her courageous testimony during the 1991 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. As a law professor at the time, Hill came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Thomas, her former supervisor at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Hill’s testimony brought national attention to the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace and sparked a public conversation about gender dynamics and power structures. Despite facing intense scrutiny and backlash, Hill remained steadfast in her commitment to truth and accountability. Although Thomas was ultimately confirmed to the Supreme Court, Hill’s bravery paved the way for greater awareness and advocacy around sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination. Her testimony prompted changes in workplace policies and attitudes, inspiring countless women to speak out against harassment and demand accountability from perpetrators and institutions. In the decades since the hearings, Hill has continued her work as a champion for gender equality and social justice. She has written extensively on issues of race, gender, and workplace discrimination, advocating for systemic reforms to address systemic inequalities.

Anita Hill
Angela Davis

Angela Davis: Angela Davis is a scholar, activist, and author whose work encompasses various social justice issues, including domestic violence and sexual assault. Through her writings and activism, Davis highlights the intersections of race, gender, and class in experiences of violence and oppression. She advocates for comprehensive approaches that address the root causes of violence while promoting community-based solutions and support systems for survivors. Davis’s contributions to feminist theory and anti-violence movements continue to inspire generations of activists.

Tina Tchen: Tina Tchen is a prominent attorney, advocate, and leader in the fight against sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination. With a distinguished career spanning law, public service, and activism, Tchen has dedicated her life to advancing women’s rights and equality in the workplace. Tchen gained national recognition during her tenure as Chief of Staff to former First Lady Michelle Obama, where she played a pivotal role in initiatives such as Let Girls Learn and the Reach Higher education campaign. However, it is her current role as President and CEO of TIME’S UP that has cemented her legacy as a trailblazer in the movement to end sexual harassment and promote workplace equity. Under Tchen’s leadership, TIME’S UP has emerged as a powerful force for change, providing resources, advocacy, and legal support to survivors of sexual misconduct while advocating for systemic reforms in workplaces across industries. Tchen has been instrumental in spearheading campaigns such as the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which offers subsidized legal support to individuals facing sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace. Through her work at TIME’S UP, Tchen has elevated the voices of survivors, held powerful institutions accountable for their actions, and helped catalyze a cultural shift towards greater transparency and accountability around issues of harassment and discrimination. Her tireless advocacy has led to concrete changes in workplace policies and practices, empowering individuals to come forward with their stories and demand justice. Beyond her work with TIME’S UP, Tchen continues to be a leading voice for gender equality, serving on numerous boards and advisory committees focused on women’s rights and social justice. Her commitment to amplifying marginalized voices and driving systemic change has earned her widespread admiration and respect within the advocacy community.

Tina Tchen

As we commemorate Women’s History Month, it is important to honor the trailblazing women who have dedicated their lives to ending domestic violence and sexual assault. Their courage, resilience, and unwavering commitment have transformed the landscape of advocacy, policy, and public discourse surrounding these critical issues.

By amplifying their voices and supporting their work, we can continue striving towards a world free from violence and oppression for all individuals, regardless of gender.

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

Written by Anniston Weber

The Clothes Don’t Tell the Story

Exhibit Shatters Myths About Sexual Assault

On March 25th, Options is kicking off Sexual Assault Awareness Month with an art exhibit in the Taylor Gallery at Fort Hays State University. This exhibit, called “What Were You Wearing,” aims to shatter the myth that sexual assault was caused by the clothing that a survivor was wearing.

Each time a victim of sexual assault or rape gets asked what they were wearing during the attack, it heartlessly implies that they were responsible for the assault and could have prevented it by wearing different clothes. This sort of victim blaming drives responsibility away from a perpetrator and puts it on the victim’s shoulders.

Rape is not caused by clothing. Rape is caused by rapists.

To fight against the myth that sexual assault could be prevented by the victim alone, an art exhibition displaying what victims wore during the assault was created. This exhibit gives viewers the survivors’ perspective about their sexual assault. Specifically, the exhibit asks those to view it to understand that sexual assault and rape are never because of what a person was wearing.

The Options “What Were You Wearing” exhibit also features audio alongside the story text. To listen to a survivor tell you their story, all you have to do is scan the QR code next to the outfit.

The FHSU exhibit will be open from March 25th to March 28th from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM.

This art installation features heavy themes and some of the the outfits feature stories with explicit language – so viewer discretion is advised. An advocate will be present during the open hours of the exhibit.

Throughout the month of April, Options will be hosting several more chances to see this art installation. Check back in with our social media for those dates!

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

Written by Anniston Weber

The law behind the diss track – diving into Megan’s Law

Above Image from Business Insider Article

“These hoes don’t be mad at Megan, these hoes mad at Megan’s Law”

Have you heard these rap lyrics floating around on your TikTok, Twitter (or X), or Instagram feed?

If you haven’t – that’s ok. We’ll explain all of the rap-world beef soon.

The “Megan’s Law” line comes from an artist called Megan Thee Stallion’s song “HISS.” This line, and specifically, the law mentioned within the track, is getting quite a lot of attention on social media.

Caution: the video and song features explicit language and imagery.

Image from Rolling Stone Article

But why?

Well, Megan Thee Stallion’s song is a diss track against another famed female artist, Nicki Minaj. Nicki Minaj’s husband, Kenneth Petty, made headlines in 2022 when he was sentenced to home detention and probation for failing to register as a sex offender in California. As required by law, Petty must register as such due to his 1995 attempted rape conviction.

Minaj’s brother, Jelani Maraj, was convicted of predatory sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl in 2017. Three years later, he was sentenced to 25 years to life.

Along with her direct, relational ties to people who have committed these crimes, Minaj has repeatedly supported offenders like Daniel Hernandez (Tekashi 6ix9ine) who opened for Minaj and Future on their NICKIHNDRXX tour. Hernandez pleaded guilty to three felony counts of “use of a child in a sexual performance” in 2015.

Shortly after “HISS” was released, Minaj teased and eventually released her own track, causing this musical fight to blow up across social media. Many speculate that the “Megan’s Law” line was directly calling out Minaj and her association with sex offenders and pedophiles.

As for that particular lyric used by Megan Thee Stallion – the passing of the federal version of Megan’s Law, cited in the first verse of her “HISS” single, was inspired by the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl in New Jersey in 1994.

And what, specifically, is Megan’s Law?

Megan’s Law is named in honor of Megan Kanka, who was raped and murdered in New Jersey in 1994. Unbeknownst to Megan Kanka and her family, they had been living across the street from a violent predator previously convicted of a sex offense against a child. Before the murder, Jesse Timmendequas had been convicted of assaulting two other children. Three years later, Timmendequas, Kanka’s neighbor, was finally convicted of Megan’s murder. In the wake of that tragedy, the Kankas sought to have local communities warned about sex offenders in the area.

In 1996, Megan’s Law, which is an amendment the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act of 1994, resulted in the federal mandating of “public disclosure of information about registered sex offenders when required to protect the public.” Megan’s Law also authorizes local law enforcement agencies to notify the public about sex offender registrants found to be posing a risk to public safety. Sex offender laws at the state level are also often referred to under the same name, though exact details of those laws may differ.

To this point, individual states decide what information will be made available and how it should be disseminated. Commonly included information in the release is the offender’s name, picture, address, incarceration date, and offense of conviction. The information is often displayed on free public websites (like Facebook), but can also be published in newspapers, distributed in pamphlets, or through various other means. For example, anyone can look at the California Megan’s Law website and see that 4,140 registered sex offenders are listed in San Bernadino County. With no more than a city or county search, you can find out what the offender looks like, their name, and their address.

Image from Wikipedia

At the federal level, Megan’s Law requires persons convicted of sex crimes against children to notify local law enforcement of any change of address or employment after release from custody (prison or psychiatric facility). The notification requirement may be imposed for a fixed period—usually at least ten years—or permanently. Some states may legislate registration for all sex crimes, even if no minors were involved. It is a felony in most jurisdictions to fail to register or fail to update information.

Over the years, many people have unsuccessfully challenged the law, which has grown to include a wider net of offenders who may or may not actually pose threats to the community at large. Proponents think the current laws help community members, parents, and law enforcement officers recognize potential threats to young children as well as to adults. While a 2008 study found that the law has no tangible impact on keeping offenders from offending, the strongest benefit of the list is the potential for community members to arm themselves with knowledge. 

Moving back to the diss line itself – Minaj is not directly responsible for the actions of her family and friends, but the influence she wields is clear. The choice to use her platform to further legitimize the sexual predators in her life sends a message of normalization to the millions of people who hold her in high regard. Megan’s diss track served to call Minaj out on this fact, and this is one of those situations where art is certainly imitating life.

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

Written by Anniston Weber

Stalking by Proxy

“Could you tell me if he got a new job?”

“Her birthday was at the bowling alley this year. Her friend let me know.”

“Do you think you could tell me where they live?”

In the realm of online interactions, the term “proxy stalking” has gained prominence, highlighting a digital threat that operates in the shadows of virtual spaces. January is Stalking Awareness Month, and it is important to highlight some of the lesser-known tactics abusers may use to perpetrate harm on their victims.

Proxy stalking refers to the act of using intermediaries or third parties to observe, monitor, or gather information about a person. Unlike direct stalking, where the perpetrator engages directly with the target, proxy stalking introduces a layer of separation, making it challenging for the victim to identify the source of surveillance.

The proxy stalker typically employs friends, acquaintances, or even hired individuals to keep tabs on the target as a sort of third-party observer. These intermediaries might follow the victim’s online activities, report back to the stalker, or even gather information offline. On occasion, these parties may be perpetuating harassment without any active encouragement from the stalker. Sometimes, friends and families may be under the illusion that the person they are proxy stalking for is the victim and they are doing them a service.

One of the more commonly recognized forms of stalking by proxy is the commissioning of private investigators to locate the victim and to monitor their movements. The engagement of private detective services allows the stalker indirect access to expensive and sophisticated means of surveillance.

Advanced surveillance tools, such as spyware, keyloggers, and other monitoring software, may be utilized to track the victim’s online interactions. This digital layer enhances the effectiveness of proxy stalking by providing real-time data.

Recognizing Signs of Proxy Stalking

Identifying proxy stalking can be challenging due to the indirect nature of the threat. However, certain signs may indicate that you are being observed through intermediaries:

  • Unexplained Information: If you come across personal details or information that you haven’t shared publicly, and it’s being referenced by acquaintances or strangers.
  • Unusual Interference in Relationships: If someone close to you suddenly exhibits a heightened interest in your relationships, regularly asks about your interactions, or tries to influence your connections.
  • Overly Detailed Knowledge: Friends or acquaintances who seem to possess an unusually detailed knowledge of your daily activities, routines, or plans, despite not having direct communication with you.
  • Intrusive Questions from Strangers: If strangers approach you with detailed knowledge about your life, activities, or relationships, it’s a red flag. This may suggest that someone is sharing your personal information without your consent.
  • Sudden Changes in Social Dynamics: If you notice abrupt shifts in your social circles, with certain individuals becoming unusually close or influential, it could be a result of proxy stalking. Pay attention to changes in your relationships and the dynamics within your friend groups.
  • Unwanted Involvement in Disputes: If you find yourself consistently caught up in disputes or conflicts that seem unrelated to your actions, it’s possible that someone is orchestrating these situations through proxy stalking.
  • Evidence of Offline Surveillance: Physical evidence, such as seeing the same unfamiliar person frequently in your vicinity or noticing signs of unauthorized access to your personal spaces, may indicate offline surveillance orchestrated through proxies.
  • Manipulative Messages or Interventions: If you receive messages or interventions from acquaintances that seem manipulative or coercive, encouraging specific actions or decisions, it could be a tactic employed by proxy stalkers.
  • Abnormal Online Monitoring: An increased awareness of your online activities by people who shouldn’t have such knowledge may indicate the involvement of proxy stalkers.
  • Pattern of Unwanted Attention: Recognize patterns of unwanted attention from different individuals. Take notice if you consistently experience unwarranted interest in your life from people who should not have access to certain information.
  • Feeling Constantly Watched or Monitored: Trust your instincts. If you consistently feel like you are being watched or monitored, even if you can’t pinpoint specific instances, it’s essential to take such feelings seriously and investigate further.

Protecting Yourself from Proxy Stalking

Secure Your Online Presence:

  • Regularly review and update privacy settings on social media platforms. Set your privacy settings to “friends only” or “private.”
  • Be cautious about accepting friend requests from unfamiliar individuals.
  • Limit the visibility of personal information to a trusted circle.

Educate Your Circle:

  • Inform friends and acquaintances about the importance of privacy and the potential risks of proxy stalking.
  • Encourage them to be cautious about sharing your personal information, online activities, or whereabouts with others.

Monitor Your Digital Footprint:

  • Regularly check for any unusual online activities or unfamiliar connections.
  • Be vigilant about the permissions granted to apps and review the list of devices accessing your accounts.

Employ Security Measures:

  • Use strong, unique passwords for your online accounts.
  • Enable two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security.

Stay Informed about Digital Threats:

  • Keep yourself updated on emerging digital threats and privacy concerns.
  • Educate yourself on the latest cybersecurity practices to protect against various forms of online surveillance. Be aware of products like Air Tags or location tracking devices/apps you may have.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Proxy stalking poses a unique set of challenges in the digital landscape, where the lines between online and offline interactions are increasingly blurred. By understanding the nature of this threat and implementing proactive measures, individuals can fortify their defenses against proxy stalking. Staying vigilant, securing online spaces, and fostering awareness within your digital circle are crucial steps in safeguarding your privacy in an interconnected world.

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

Written by Anniston Weber

Behind the Holiday Glow: Addressing Domestic Violence During the Holiday Season

When we think of the holiday season, most of us picture days full of festive lights, family gatherings, and gift-giving. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many people around the globe and within our own communities. As we celebrate our year, it is essential to address a darker reality that often accompanies: the increase in domestic violence cases.

On average, police interventions related to domestic violence rise by 20% in December, compared to other months of the year. And, one of the highest reported time periods for instances of domestic violence is New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. While the holidays are meant to be a time of joy and connection, various factors contribute to a surge in incidents of domestic violence. 

  • Financial Stress: Financial strain is a significant contributor to heightened tensions during the holidays. The pressure to buy gifts, host elaborate meals, and travel to be with family can lead to arguments over money. In households already grappling with financial difficulties, this stress can escalate into verbal or physical abuse.
  • Increased Substance Use: The holiday season often sees a rise in social events where alcohol and other substances are prevalent. For individuals already struggling with addiction issues, increased substance use can exacerbate violent tendencies. Substance abuse impairs judgment and self-control, making it a dangerous catalyst for domestic violence incidents.
  • Family Expectations and Tensions: The expectations associated with family gatherings during the holidays can create a breeding ground for tension. Whether it’s unmet expectations, unresolved family issues, or heightened emotions, these factors can contribute to arguments that escalate into violence.
  • Isolation and Loneliness: While the holidays are a time of togetherness for many, they can also amplify feelings of isolation for others. Individuals who feel lonely or excluded may experience heightened emotions, leading to conflicts within relationships. In some cases, this loneliness can exacerbate existing abusive dynamics.
  • Perceived Failures: The pressure to create a perfect holiday experience can lead to heightened stress and anxiety. Individuals who feel they are falling short of societal expectations may redirect their frustrations onto their partners or family members, resulting in abusive behavior.

While these are all potential reasons for the increase in cases, it is important to remember that abusers are still abusers – regardless of the stress they are under. These are explanations, not excuses for abusive behavior.

How to Keep Yourself Safe During the Holidays:

  • Plan Ahead: If you’re in a situation where you feel unsafe, consider creating a safety plan. This may involve identifying safe spaces in your home, having a bag packed with essentials ready to go, and establishing a code word or signal with a trusted friend or family member that indicates you need help.
  • Communicate Boundaries: Clearly communicate your boundaries and expectations with your partner or family members. Open and honest communication can help manage expectations and prevent misunderstandings that could escalate into violence.
  • Seek Support: Reach out to friends, family, or a support network if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Share your concerns and let them know how they can help. Sometimes, having a supportive person to talk to can make a significant difference.
  • Utilize Hotlines and Resources: Familiarize yourself with domestic violence hotlines and local resources. These organizations are equipped to provide guidance, support, and, if necessary, emergency intervention. Having this information readily available can be crucial in times of crisis. Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services has an 18-county service area in northwest Kansas – and we operate 24/7.
  • Know Your Exit Strategies: Identify exit strategies for different scenarios. Whether it’s leaving the house to seek refuge at a friend’s place or having a plan to call for help, knowing what steps to take can be crucial in ensuring your safety.
  • Educate Yourself on Legal Protections: Familiarize yourself with legal protections available to victims of domestic violence. This may include obtaining a restraining order or seeking legal assistance to ensure your safety and well-being.

The Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, but domestic violence doesn’t end even when the world is covered in holiday cheer. By understanding the contributing factors and taking proactive steps to prioritize safety, individuals can navigate the holidays with greater peace of mind. Remember that help is available, and no one deserves to live in fear. Reach out, seek support, and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and those you care about during this festive season.

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

Written by Anniston Weber

Danny Masterson Case: What to do when someone you know is being accused.

“Sometimes people we have loved and admired do horrible things. They might not do these things to us, and we only know who they were to us but that doesn’t mean they didn’t do the horrible things and to discredit the abused is a crime,” – Christina Ricci

There is no road map for navigating a relationship with someone you admired or respected doing something awful to another person.

On September 7, the That ’70s Show star, Danny Masterson, was sentenced by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo to 30 years to life in prison after he was convicted on two of three rape counts. He will be eligible for parole in 25 years.

Shortly after the guilty verdict, the judge in the case purportedly received over 50 letters asking for leniency in Danny’s sentence, two of which came from Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis (co-stars of Masterson from That ‘70s Show). These letters wound up surfacing online, with Ashton calling Danny a “role model,” while Mila described him as an “outstanding older brother figure.”

Christina Ricci (From Daily Mail Article)

Christina Ricci shared a statement on social media that many have taken to be a response to the Danny Masterson sentencing and the support letters written by Mila and Ashton. “People we know as ‘awesome guys’ can be predators and abusers. It’s tough to accept but we have to. If we say we support victims — women, children, men, boys — then we must be able to take this stance.”

Ricci said that she has had personal experience with some of these “awesome guys” and made a call to support victims of abuse.

“Unfortunately, I’ve known lots of ‘awesome guys’ who were lovely to me who have been proven to be abusers privately. I’ve also had personal experience with this. Believe victims. It’s not easy to come forward. It’s not easy to get a conviction,” she added in a second post.

The way we talk about sexual assault in our culture makes it hard to address a situation like this, because rapists are depicted as either faceless monsters with no redeeming characteristics—someone you’d never be friends with in the first place—or misunderstood “nice guys” who didn’t really do anything wrong.

This case and the aftermath with other public figures has unintentionally highlighted one of the most difficult parts of reporting and seeking justice for sexual abuse – that people want to believe the people they associate with over the victim. We (understandably) have a difficult time believing that people we know, admire, and respect can be capable of a crime like sexual assault. We, as a society, have this idea that since “they were perfectly nice to me” they wouldn’t be capable of harming someone else.

So what should you do if you find out your friend has been accused of abuse or perpetrated sexual violence?

Start by believing the survivor.

Often, the desire to protect our friends is overwhelming. But evidence shows that people rarely lie about abuse. Official reports to law enforcement that are made show that only approximately 2-10% are concluded to be false or unsupported, a rate no higher than any other accusation of crime and usually associated with extenuating circumstances such as a history of litigation abuse. This is comparable to the rate of other falsely reported crimes (like theft, kidnapping, etc.).

It is also important to note as well that of these reports, many are not “false” (as in factually proven not to have occurred) but rather “baseless” (unable to be substantiated by law enforcement according to relevant legal definitions), which accounts for the disparity in the percentage. It takes a lot to come forward about domestic violence and sexual abuse, so believing survivors is important. It is also, based on the data, the most logical place to begin.

Believing the survivor can go a long way.

Take time to process.

It can be hard to reconcile these two truths: how do you acknowledge that someone who’s had your back for years, who’s been a friend and an integrated part of your life, can also commit an atrocity?

Unfortunately, even people who are capable of wonderful things are also capable of violence. But, people who cause harm are often as good at finding allies as they are at finding and exploiting the vulnerability in a partner or family member.

Realizing that your friend or loved one is choosing harm can be very difficult emotionally. You will probably experience a large range of emotions including surprise, confusion, and anger – and sometimes all of it at once. Discovering that a friend is abusive or has committed sexual assault will fundamentally alter the way you see that person, and in that way, it is very similar to loss.

Sit with these feelings. Acknowledge them. Allow yourself to feel these feelings safely. This may mean speaking to someone else about it, but if you do, be mindful that you are not putting the survivor in jeopardy by speaking to a mutual friend who might repeat what you say to your friend, to the survivor, or to law enforcement. If you don’t have anyone you can speak to that isn’t a mutual or uninvolved with the situation in question, you can call a domestic violence or sexual assault hotline. Those numbers are for you, too. At Options, our hotline operates 24/7, so if you need to talk to someone about your experience, feel free to call.

Make a plan for moving forward.

This plan is going to vary depending on the specifics of the situation. Every domestic violence and sexual assault case is different, and what you do with this information needs to be handled very carefully so that everyone involved stays safe.

At this point, you might choose support the survivor. If the survivor is open to it, they may ask you for help finding resources, or for emotional support. There is most likely a reason they trusted you with this information if they disclosed to you directly. This means they see you as a safe person.

If you haven’t heard this information directly from the survivor, it may be appropriate to reach out. Be advised that the survivor may not be ready to talk about their situation, so do not pressure them for information. 

You might also have a conversation with your friend. This should only be done if it is safe for both you and the survivor to do so, and it should only ever be done with the consent of the survivor. Not getting the consent of the survivor could result in them being harmed further in retaliation, so this is crucially important. It can also be difficult to acknowledge this – but be aware of the fact that your friend may bend the truth of the situation to keep you “on their side.”

Remember that people who do good things are still capable of harm. 

You might know your friend as an amazing person who helps out in the community. They may be charming, kind, and charitable. It might come as a complete surprise that this person is abusive. Remember, everyone is capable of choosing harm. While it is absolutely possible to still have compassion and love for this person, those feelings should never cross the line into justification of abusive actions or minimization of the survivor’s struggle. Remember that causing harm in this way is always a choice. 

People who are good in public still sometimes choose violence in private. It’s common for unsafe people to intentionally foster a positive public reputation and groom allies as a way of isolating a survivor from potential help and to conceal the harm they’re doing.

Consider distancing yourself from this friend. 

Although change is possible, it’s very difficult and takes a lot of time, personal effort, and appropriate support from other people which balances compassion with accountability (rather than collusion or condemnation). If love alone were enough to “change” someone, then there would be far fewer survivors in this world and much less need for crisis intervention services.

The decision to change from someone who causes harm to others must come from the abusive individual alone, and it takes a lot of work and effort. Many individuals who choose harm do so as a pattern of behavior and will engage in this pattern again when opportunity with lack of sufficiently deterring consequences arises.

Strongly consider either distancing yourself from this person or establishing new boundaries and expectations in your friendship: choosing to remain in the friendship with no change at all in your dynamic would be taken as implicit permission for your friend to continue the harm.

Understand that you are not alone in this struggle. 

Domestic violence and sexual abuse are complicated issues with a lot of nuances, and they affect countless individuals. You are not alone, and you do not have to feel helpless in the fight to break the cycle of violence. To help end sexual violence, we must start with believing survivors – even when it is those we know committing the harm.

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

Written by Anniston Weber

Navigating the Digital Age: Protecting Teens from Cyberbullying and Cyberstalking

In today’s digital age, technology intertwines with every aspect of our lives. We exist in a virtual realm – with a large portion of our lives documented online. High school students are now navigating a new set of challenges that were virtually nonexistent a few decades ago – cyberbullying and cyberstalking. While the online world brings immense opportunities for learning and connection, it also poses serious threats to the mental and emotional well-being of teens. If not caught soon enough, there can be serious immediate repercussions as well as long-lasting side effects.

Cyberbullying and cyberstalking have rapidly become some of the most pressing issues affecting adolescents. In essence, cyberbullying refers to the act of using digital communication platforms to intentionally harm, threaten, or harass someone, usually repeatedly. Cyberstalking, on the other hand, involves persistent and unwanted online attention, often driven by malice or an intention to control.

The cloak of anonymity that the online world provides can embolden individuals to engage in behavior they might never consider in person. Teens can be particularly vulnerable targets due to their still-developing emotional coping mechanisms and the relentless nature of online interactions. The impacts of cyberbullying and cyberstalking can be devastating, leading to feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression, and even suicide. As parents and educators, it is crucial that we understand the signs and equip ourselves to protect teens.

Identifying whether a teenager is a victim of cyberbullying or cyberstalking can be challenging, as they might not always open up about their struggles. However, some common signs might indicate their involvement in such incidents:

  • Emotional Distress: Sudden changes in mood, irritability, anxiety, and withdrawal from friends and activities they once enjoyed.
  • Reluctance to Use Devices: Drastic avoidance of using computers, smartphones, or social media platforms.
  • Hesitancy to Attend School: A decline in academic performance or repeated attempts to skip school could be indicative of offline bullying stemming from online incidents.
  • Change in Social Patterns: Drifting away from friends, reluctance to interact with peers, and isolation from social gatherings.
  • Unusual Online Behavior: A sudden change in online behavior, such as abruptly deleting social media accounts or avoiding specific platforms.
Photo by Surface on Unsplash
Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash

Empowerment Through Education: Tips for Parents

In the digital age, the responsibility to protect children extends into the online realm as well. Here are some essential tips to help you safeguard your teens from cyberbullying and cyberstalking:

  • Open Communication: Create an environment where your teenager feels comfortable discussing their online experiences without fear of judgment. Regularly check in with them about their digital interactions.
  • Educate About Online Behavior: Teach your teens about appropriate online behavior, empathy, and the consequences of their actions. Help them understand the importance of treating others with respect, both offline and online.
  • Privacy Settings and Security: Familiarize yourself with the privacy settings of the platforms your teenager uses. Encourage them to keep their personal information private and use strong, unique passwords.
  • Stay Informed: Be aware of the apps, websites, and social media platforms your teenager uses. Stay informed about the latest trends in online behavior and technology.
  • Encourage Reporting: Let your teen know that they can always come to you if they experience any form of online harassment. Teach them to report abusive content or behavior on social media platforms.
  • Limit Screen Time: While technology is essential for various aspects of life, setting reasonable limits on screen time can help reduce the chances of exposure to negative online interactions.
  • Model Healthy Behavior: As a parent, you are a role model. Demonstrate responsible online behavior and digital etiquette to set a positive example for your teenager.

Navigating the Digital World: Tips for Teens

Teenagers themselves have a vital role to play in ensuring their own online safety. By adopting responsible online habits and knowing how to respond to cyberbullying and cyberstalking, they can better protect themselves:

  • Protect Personal Information: Be cautious about sharing personal details online. Avoid posting sensitive information, such as your home address, school name, or contact details, publicly.
  • Think Before You Post: Encourage your friends to think before posting or sharing content that might be hurtful to others. Remember, once something is online, it can spread quickly and be difficult to erase.
  • Online Etiquette: Treat others online as you would in person. Use respectful language and avoid engaging in arguments that can escalate quickly.
  • Report and Block: If you encounter cyberbullying or cyberstalking, report the behavior to the platform’s administrators and consider blocking the individuals involved.
  • Talk to a Trusted Adult: If you’re facing online harassment or bullying, don’t hesitate to talk to a parent, teacher, counselor, or another trusted adult who can offer guidance and support.
  • Document Evidence: If you’re a victim of cyberbullying or cyberstalking, take screenshots or save messages as evidence. This can be useful if you need to involve authorities or school administrators.
  • Maintain Balance: Balance your online activities with offline ones. Engage in hobbies, sports, and social activities that don’t involve screens.
Photo by Soroush on Unsplash

In the realm of cyberbullying and cyberstalking, prevention and intervention require a collaborative approach between parents, educators, teenagers, and online platforms. By staying vigilant, fostering open communication, and promoting responsible online behavior, we can create a safer digital environment for our high school students.

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

Written by Anniston Weber

Mark Your Calendars!

Join us on September 17th at 7 pm for an enlightening event featuring Russ Tuttle, founder of The Stop Trafficking Project. Hosted at Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center, this free event is open to adults aged 18 and above.

If the impactful Sound of Freedom film screening left you curious for more, don’t miss this opportunity to deepen your understanding of sex trafficking and online safety. Regardless of your background, profession, or location, we warmly invite you to join us and gain valuable insights.

Using “Therapy Language” to Abuse

Within the past week, social media has been ablaze with the story of actor Jonah Hill being put on blast for text messages his ex-girlfriend, Sarah Brady, shared on Instagram. Brady is a 25-year-old professional surfer, photographer, and activist who decided to share the texts with her Instagram followers after deciding that “keeping it to myself was causing more damage to my mental health than sharing it could ever do.”

In the texts, Hill is allegedly seen talking about how Brady needs to remove certain photos of herself from her social media page. And, that him asking her to do this was simply him setting “boundaries.” Below is a screenshot of the text messages shared on her Instagram story (be advised: explicit language is used).

I would specifically like to point out Brady’s note at the bottom of her Instagram story – the mentioning of the misuse of the term “boundaries.”

Brady is completely correct. In this text exchange, Hill is allegedly bringing up boundaries he has in his relationships. However, that isn’t what a boundary truly is. A boundary is something that you impose upon yourself – not other people. Boundaries are values and rules you set for your own behavior, not rules you can enforce on other people.

In the text above (and subsequent message exchanges), Hill is not setting boundaries. He is dictating the behavior and friendships of others. Dictating who a person sees, what the person does, what activities a person is allowed to do or isn’t allowed to do – those aren’t boundaries, they’re rules. What Hill has allegedly done in these messages is manipulate the person he is in a relationship with.

This misuse of the word boundaries is something we see a lot happening in abusive relationships, and the internet has coined this phenomenon as “weaponized therapy language.” As in, the abuser tries to rationalize and normalize their abusive behavior by using language used in therapy (such as “boundaries,” or “self-care,” or “gaslighting”). Abusers use this type of language under the guise of prioritizing their mental health, when in reality all they are doing is validating their selfish actions.

Also, in these texts, Hill is allegedly essentially saying that if Brady continues her job, that he will leave her. Sarah Brady is a surfer, social media influencer, and model. For her job, it’s pretty expected of her to post images of herself in her swimming gear. I mean, she’s surfing in her pictures – what does he expect her to wear? From my personal perspective, what she posts is honestly pretty modest anyway (but even if it wasn’t this is not the way to approach that conversation). Plus – Hill initially sought out a relationship with Brady by commenting on her Instagram selfies.  

Jonah Hill is a 39-year-old man. A 39-year-old man who is very famous and has a massive following. He is in a tremendous position of power over Brady (and almost anyone else he would get into a relationship with), and he was threatening to end their relationship over her occupation, her friends, and her personal life if she did not change every aspect of herself. He was (whether inadvertently or purposefully) using his influence and power over her to persuade her to do what he wanted to stay in the relationship with him.

If your partner is trying to control your life (that includes what you post on social media) then that is abusive behavior. If your partner constantly makes you feel intimidated, insecure, or guilty for aspects of your life, you could be in a controlling relationship. Guilt and shame are a tool abusers use to gain influence over their victim – which is exactly what Hill is allegedly attempting to do in these text exchanges.

A good partner in a loving, healthy relationship will not control or manipulate you. A good partner will bring their concerns to you and set boundaries for themselves – not shame and guilt you into doing their bidding. If you feel like you are experiencing being controlled in a relationship, please feel free to reach out to Options. We’re here for you.

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

Written by Anniston Weber