Consoling Through Counseling: Rebecca Lockwood

She sat in her petite office finishing up some last minute emails. Her mind prepared her for what she knew was waiting outside patiently, a girl, no more than 21 years old, on the brink of mental breakdown.

Rebecca Lockwood, the associate director and counselor for UMass Amherst’s Every Women’s Center, was all too familiar with this routine. She had listened to what seemed like countless cases of sexual assault, and offered her two cents to every victim.

Every day, Lockwood drives from her house in Palmer to the New Africa House on UMass Amherst’s campus to meet with grieving females who have been sexually assaulted.

“This is what comes with the job, I realized when I got into this business that it wasn’t for the faint of heart. I knew what I was getting myself into,” said Lockwood.

Lockwood, a graduate from the University of Connecticut in Psychology with a master’s degree from UMass Amherst, has been counseling for the Every Women’s Center since October 2001, and loves her job.

“I absolutely love it. It’s so rewarding to help people,” said Lockwood, “as a counselor, you need to be a stability for them, that shoulder they can lean on, a lot of times the counselor is the only person that the victim opens up to.”

Despite loving her role as a sexual assault counselor, Lockwood admits that her experiences with the victims do take a toll on her: “There have been times where I couldn’t sleep because of what I’ve heard or specific stories that a victim has told me. The worst part is seeing how distraught and depressed their countenances are, it hurts me to see someone hurting like that.”

Another obstacle that Lockwood faces in her daily life is coming to terms with letting her daughters explore the world. “It’s difficult being a mother of two daughters. I try not to be too smothering, but when you’re surrounded by sexual violence daily, it’s tough not to worry.”

Lockwood acknowledges that sexual assault and violence are prevalent in Amherst, even if few cases are brought to the forefront of the local news. She estimates that over 150 sexual assaults occur each year in Amherst alone.

That number is sharply different from the number UMass Amherst Police Chief Patrick Archbald reported this last year: “Last year UMass only had eight reported sexual assaults.”

The main reason for such a large differentiation in statistics is due to the fact that most sexual assault cases are not reported to authorities or to counselors such as Lockwood. According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, 54% of assaults are not reported police and 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.

Sexual violence often goes unreported for fear of physical and emotional safety, because the victim doesn’t feel comfortable reporting to the interviewer, and for the thought of disbelief or fabrication.

In the past few months alone, two major sexual violence cases have surfaced in Amherst. A girl was raped in her Southwest dormitory by four Pittsfield men. Shortly after, an Amherst College girl was sexually assaulted and subsequently mistreated by the school’s faculty and administration.

“Both of those instances were a warning to students to be aware of your surroundings and who you affiliate yourselves with,” said Lockwood, “what’s alarming is that these types of cases are occurring more often than people think.”

Since the two sexual assault cases have surfaced, residential hall security has gone up, with new student police cadets in every residential hall on weekends, and an increase in security cameras in both stairwells and elevators.

However, according to UMass Residence Security Director Jim Meade, “it is the student’s responsibility for their guests, they need to be aware of who they bring in. Sometimes you think you know someone, but you don’t really know what they are capable of.”

Lockwood believes that it takes tremendous courage for victims to step forward, but if more do so then sexual violence numbers will be lowered significantly.

There is something enlightening about speaking with sexual violence victims, and according to Lockwood she does not see herself stopping her career anytime soon.

“I am proud of the females I have seen and spoken with, they are fine young ladies with aspiring careers. In fact, I still am in contact with a number of them, it develops an unimaginable trust, not only for the victim, but for me as well.”

Lockwood wouldn’t have it any other way, which is why she will remain in her petite office, with welcoming arms, to all sexual assault victims on the verge of mental breakdown, until she loses her passion for helping others.

This, according to Lockwood, may never happen. “I don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon. The personal satisfaction and gain is too rewarding.”


Here are some images from my news package:


The New Africa House

The New Africa House

Sign of the New Africa House

Sign of the New Africa House









Everywoman's Center Sign/Rape Crisis Services Sign

Everywoman’s Center Sign/Rape Crisis Services Sign

Everywoman's Counselors Busy at Work

Everywoman’s Counselors Busy at Work









Work, work, work

Work, work, work










*Note: I was denied permission to photograph Lockwood during counseling


Top 5 Things To Do Before the World Ends

It is now December 3rd, 2012, and the human race has, according to the Mayan Calendar, just 18 days left to live. That’s right, the world is scheduled to end December 21st, and there is nothing we can do about it. So instead of drowning in sorrows and awaiting our impending doom, why not enjoy these last 18 days to the best of our ability? Personally, I choose not to believe the Mayans. However, on the off chance that their ominous prediction is correct, here are 5 things you should most definitely do within the next 18 days.

1. Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride- A truly unique experience that let’s you view the Earth from a different perspective with more freedom than any other aircraft provides. The winds choose where the destination will be. I have had the fortune to do this and, believe me, it is an incredible experience.

2. Send a Message in a Bottle- Write your thoughts down on a piece of paper. Let your mind wander wherever it pleases. Put it in a bottle, cap it, and send it out to sea. Share your hopes, dreams, and thoughts with the world.

3. Tell that Huge Crush How you Feel- You know the person that you find unbearably attractive.  It’s that guy in Biology that you simply can’t muster up the confidence to talk to or that girl in the improv club that makes you laugh uncontrollably. Talk to them. Be yourself. They aren’t any better than you. Ask them out on a date. Be rebellious and step out on a limb, you owe it to yourself.

4. Cook a Feast- Take the time to prepare a feast of a meal. Make a list of necessary ingredients and choose your all time favorite side dishes to go along with the entree. After the feast has been consumed, you should be so full that your stomach feels like it’s going to explode.

5. Make One More Trip- Doesn’t matter how near or far it is, just go somewhere with friends. Go to the city and hit up the bars, go to a mountain and ski, or go to an amusement park. It really doesn’t matter where you go. As long as you’re with friends you can make a good time.

The end of the world is allegedly upon us. I surely hope the Mayans prediction is inaccurate. However, we need to account for the fact that it could be correct. And certainly these are 5 things that you should do if the daunted end is near.


Where in the World is Wandering Earl?

Derek Earl Baron is a traveler that documents his never-ending journey in his online blog Wandering Earl. In 1999, ‘Earl’ departed from the United States to Southeast Asia for a three month post-graduation trip. That trip has yet to end.

The blog Wandering Earl began in 2009, after ten years of travel. Since 2009, Earl has captured the attention of travel enthusiasts everywhere. In fact, his blog has received so much attention that it was featured in TIME’s list of the Top 25 blogs of 2012.

What separates Earl from other aspiring travel bloggers is that his writing style is casual and conversational. When perusing through a blog post it feels like Earl is talking face to face with his readers. He is upfront and honest, which helps to maintain a trust with his readers, and he doesn’t sensationalize.

Another art of Earl’s is his storytelling. As one can imagine, stories are plentiful when travelling around the world, and how one transcribes those stories can be vital. In Earl’s most recent post, he talks about his less than ideal experience at the Taj Mahal (or rather, the bathroom of his hotel). Readers love a great story, and that is certainly something Earl delivers consistently.

Earl includes many photos in his blog posts which give readers a clue as to what different cultures are like. All of Earl’s photos are visually appealing and carefully plotted out; his photos have purpose.

As far as frequency of posts go, Earl usually posts once every few days. With all of the travelling that he does, it can be difficult to post daily. The length of his posts range depending on the topic. However, despite occasional lengthy posts, he still garners between 30-60 comments on a post. His most popular post about how he can afford his travels resulted in over 800 comments.

Earl is very similar to Nomadic Matt in that both are young travel bloggers with a consistent following. Like Nomadic Matt, Earl has written eBooks about how to travel efficiently and necessary supplies to bring along. Earl is even now allowing followers to travel along with him and experience first hand the trials and tribulations of being a permanent nomad.

Earl has visited 83 countries around the world so far and has been on the road since 1999. I emailed him with some questions but he has yet to get back to me. His blog is certainly on the rise. I am jealous of him, because what can be greater than travelling wherever you damn well please in the world for free and blogging about your experiences?

Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, and The Offspring: Tackling Sexual Assault in Songs

Everyone knows how prominent an issue sexual assault is. A very broad category that includes rape, child abuse, hate crimes, incest, sexual harassment and stalking, sexual assault is omnipresent in society today. Most we do not hear of or see, they fly under the radar, while others are reported to authorities.

Living in the society we do today, where media dominates, and celebrities practically tower over politicians, sexual assault receives strong publicity. So does music. Music has never been more powerful, as it keeps up with technology in the form of free Internet sites (Pandora, Grooveshark, Spotify). Sexual assault and music go hand in hand. Maybe victims listen to music as a way of trying to forget about the assault. Maybe music is associated directly with the assault. Whatever the case, music and sexual assaults are related. Often times lyrics of songs get lost in the rhythm and beat of the ballad, just as sexual assault victims voices get lost post-assault. Here are a few songs that demonstrate the connection between sexual assault and music.

Love The Way You Lie-Eminem and Rihanna

This was one of the most famous and popular songs of 2010. The song highlights a bad relationship in which the boyfriend is abusive. Lines such as “‘Where you going?’ ‘I’m leaving you.’ ‘No you ain’t, come back,'” and  “I laid hands on her, I never stoop so low again, I guess I don’t know my own strength,” lend themselves to the horror that is sexual assault. The video helps show the abusiveness and is a good depiction of sexual assault.

Janie’s Got A Gun- Aerosmith

This song isn’t quite as famous as the first, but the artist and the meaning behind the words certainly are. The song is about a girl who looks for revenge on her father after being abused by him as a child. Lines like “Janie’s got a gun. Her dog day’s just begun,” and “She said cause nobody believes me, gonna be the same,” really show the emotional difficulty that the girl is going to go through as well as her pain.

Only Women Bleed-Alice Cooper

Yet another song that tackles sexual assault is Alice Cooper’s Only Women Bleed. The song, which is about a woman in an abusive marriage, shows how sexual assault doesn’t just occur at young ages. The line “He lies right at you, you know you hate this game, he slaps you once in a while, and you live and love in pain” goes through the cycle of sexual assault. It tells of the actual experience (slapping) and the turmoil the victim must live in following the assault.

As you can see, sexual assault and music go hand in hand. These three songs are primary examples of how sexual assault develops and the aftermath of it. Sexual assault is an important issue in society today. It is present almost everywhere. With more songs like “Love The Way You Lie”, “Janie’s Got A Gun”, and “Only Women Bleed”, perhaps sexual assault will come to where it belongs, at the forefront of society’s issues.

Amherst College and UMass Amherst: Safely Unsafe?

Sexual assault and rape are widely controversial issues across the country. Seemingly every day a new case is in the news. In college environments, rape is not uncommon, despite cases rarely being surfaced. Even in Amherst sexual abuse cases have been occurring.

Recently, in the Amherst Student, an op-ed article ran about an Amherst College girl who was raped on campus and faced endless trauma. The girl faced troubles with Amherst College faculty and felt like “a prisoner”. The piece was so shocking that Amherst College decided to cancel its classes in order to hold sexual misconduct awareness events.

Sadly, that is not the only sexual abuse case recently discovered in Amherst. An article ran in the Daily Collegian at the end of October documenting the rape of a girl in the Southwest residential area. Four males came to her on campus dormitory and raped her. The girl reported the assault to authorities and an ongoing investigation is in the works.

It is shocking that rape and sexual abuse cases so ubiquitous in the news are happening so close to us. How often is this occurring on these campuses?

Here are some facts from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network that I am about to drop on you (brace yourselves, some are pretty eye opening):

  • 44% of rape victims are under the age of 18; 80% are under the age of 30
  • Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is being sexually assaulted
  • Each year, there are approximately 207, 754 victims of sexual assault
  • 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to police; 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail
  • About 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim

Those are some jaw dropping numbers. Universities need to find ways to prevent this from happening on their campuses. It simply isn’t acceptable. And if this continues occurring, parents will hesitate about sending their children to those universities. Safety should always be the first priority for universities, and that has seriously come into question at both Amherst College and UMass Amherst in the previous weeks.

Supportive Steps for Sexual Assault Victims

*Update: No more monkey posts, the Rhesus monkey lab on UMass’ campus does not take interviews so sadly I had to abandon my news package. However, fear not, I have found a new topic.

Many people get sexually assaulted each year. It changes lives forever. How victims cope with this assault and taking the right steps to recovery becomes vital. Here are three necessary step in dealing with sexual assault:

1. Go to a Hospital Within 24 Hours of the Act:
If one is sexually assaulted, they should go to a hospital emergency room within the next 24 hours. Each hospital has a specialized team to provide medical attention and counseling. They collect forensic evidence and support the terrified victims. This can be an emotionally settling experience for the victim and can help them to decide whether or not to pursue legal action.

2. Call an Assault Crisis Hotline: 

There are assault and rape crisis hotlines available for victims. These hotlines refer the victim to assault and rape centers. The centers offer free confidential information, support and referrals. Also, the internet can serve as a help to assault victims. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, is one of the most widely known hubs for helping assault victims.

3. After Seeking Medical Attention, Report to Authorities:

If a victim chooses to file a report with the police, they need to be upfront and honest. They can’t be afraid to reveal what happened to them, although that is a natural reaction to fabricate or hide something of that magnitude. Most sexual assaults are not reported to the police for that reason. Another reason assault cases are not reported is because the victim is thought of as a witness to the case and will therefore be scrutinized more in court, and the experience is something that not many want to rehash. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to tell authorities.

Sexual assault is a traumatizing experience for victims. It has life altering physical and mental effects. However, how one copes with sexual assault can be the difference from life or death.

Does Restricting Rhesus Monkey Calorie Intake Improve Life Expectancy?

The diet of the rhesus (say it five times fast and it sounds like Reese’s!) monkey, one of the human race’s closest relatives, is very unrestricted. The monkeys, which primarily reside in southeast Asia, feast on roots, fruit, seeds, bark, as well as insects and small animals. So what if that endless buffet suddenly became restricted?

Well the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has been conducting a study restricting them since 1987. The study, which restricted the daily calorie intake of adult male rhesus monkeys by about 30%, was intended to improve life expectancy in the monkeys. Scientists hope that studies on the monkeys will lead to new discoveries for human life expectancy. Only recently has it come to a conclusion.

Sorry to inform you guys that the study found that limiting the monkey diets do not yield a longer life span. This may not be all that shocking. What is shocking is that the finding was sharply different from a 2009 study at the University of Wisconsin, that found calorie restriction significantly lowered the life expectancy of rhesus monkeys. I’m not sure how both studies could have such drastically different results, but I trust the one that has been going on for multiple decades.

I can’t help but have a sympathetic response to such studies. Maybe it’s because I’m not a scientist or researcher that I don’t appreciate the study like I should, but I can’t how can they do that to these poor monkeys? I’m sure animal activists are outraged by such studies. How would you like to have your diet being significantly limited for the rest of your lifetime? I can’t imagine having my diet limited by 30%, even if there was a chance of my life expectancy improving. I honestly think I would starve. My question is this: it took over 25 years to finally figure out the results, in that time, how many rhesus monkeys were killed from starvation?

I’m sure if the study did yield positive results I would have a different response. Scientists still have high hopes for future human life expectancy, but it starts with rhesus monkey calorie restriction before we can do it to the human race, and it’s a shame these animals have to go through it.