Tag Archives: Raven Heroux

Texting and Driving: The New Drinking and Driving

By Raven Heroux, Editorial Intern

We’ve all heard about the dangers of drinking and driving, but did you know that texting and driving can be just as dangerous? How many times have you joked around with your friends about being unable to walk and text at the same time without bumping into others or tripping? If it’s difficult to walk and text it should be obvious that it is much more difficult to drive and text. Using a cell phone while driving, whether you are calling, talking, or texting, delays your reaction time the same amount as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit (University of Utah, 2009).

Driving is already hard enough when you’re new to being in the driver’s seat and on the road; adding distractions such as alcohol, phone calls, and/or texts does not make it any easier. Driving in bad weather (snow, rain, sleet, etc.) or in the dark creates especially challenging environments when all senses need to be fully alert. Although many teens believe that they are fully capable of staying alert when drinking and driving, or texting and driving, the number of accidents due to distractions is increasing (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Study and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Study, 2007).

The good news: The number of alcohol-related car crashes is decreasing.

The bad news: The number of young adult car crashes does not seem to be decreasing.

The problem: Texting and driving accidents are increasing, replacing the drinking-and-driving-related crashes.

Sitting in traffic is boring, yes, and maybe you “only text at stop lights,” but the temptation to answer a text while driving may be too much, and that’s where the problem lies. Even if you are the only one on the road, that doesn’t make it OK, because you can easily swerve off the road and get a little too friendly with a tree or telephone pole.

No one wants to listen to the “driving safety” speech parents and other adults give, but they need to. And this concern/article about texting isn’t your typical “be careful!” speech. This is a BIG problem—big enough to warrant a campaign, all in the name of texting and driving! Campaigns against drinking and driving have been around for many years, thanks to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), which has worked to stop drunk driving since the 1980s. MADD suggested a solution that’s become widespread: assign a “designated driver” if you want to drink heavily and/or find yourself unable to drive.

LIkewise, the new “Stop the Wrecks. Stop the Texts” campaign implores you to get a “designated texter”! If you are driving with a friend, there is no reason for you to be texting as well. Drinking and texting are two serious issues that young adults partake in while driving, and neither is safer than the other. With new distractions like cell phones, it is important to see the underlying message in both campaigns: Be safe!

According to a 2008 study at the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University, “Brain power used while driving decreases by 40% when a driver listens to conversation or music.” Forty percent—and your eyes are still on the road for this! Imagine NOT looking at the road. Your peripherals might be useful when trying to find your friends at lunch, but they aren’t going to be as useful when driving, whether you are looking at your phone or inebriated.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a hand-held or hands-free cell phone; distractions of any kind can decrease your reaction time, and sometimes, a fraction of a second is all that matters. According to the Ad Council campaign, Stop the Wrecks. Stop the Texts.: “Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field.”

Did You Know?

  1. Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashes, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes) (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—NHTSA, 2009).
  2. The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group. 16% of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving (NHTSA, 2009).
  3. 22% of teens who drive while distracted say it makes driving less boring (AAA and Seventeenmagazine, 2010).
  4. 21% of teens who drive while distracted say they’re used to being connected to people all the time (AAA and Seventeenmagazine, 2010).
  5. While more than 90% of teen drivers say they don’t drink and drive, 9 out of 10 say they’ve seen passengers distracting the driver, or drivers using cell phones (National Teen Driver Survey, 2006).
  6. A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver. (Virgina Tech Transportation Institute—VTTI, 2009).
  7. 36% of teens say they have been involved in a near-crash because of their own or someone else’s distracted driving (Pew Research Center, 2010).

Next time you try to text “C U in 5!” to your friend, make sure you’re actually going to see them.

Stop the Wrecks. Stop the Texts.has several websites that you can check out for more information, including Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and a campaign toolkit on their main site. Click to find out what you can do to spread the word!

Listening with your Eyes: Deafness is a Culture, Not a Disability

By Raven Heroux, Editorial Intern
Photo by Cindie Andrie

When you think of culture, what do you think of? Do you think of exotic meals, holiday traditions, and foreign languages? Most people may not know this, but Deaf people have a culture all their own! They are a community of people celebrating their diversity in the same way other people celebrate their cultural diversity.

Lowercase “d” in “deaf” is reserved for the medical condition, or the ability or inability to hear on the wide spectrum of hearing. Capital “D” in Deaf is used for those individuals who are immersed within the culture; their primary language is sign language; and they communicate, live, and celebrate their deafness with other Deaf individuals.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about Deaf people is that we all sign and don’t speak, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” explained Sarah Honigfeld, a Deaf senior at Northeastern University (NEU). “Some sign only; some sign and speak; and some are bilingual—they know more than just ASL (American Sign Language) and English. It is important to ask Deaf persons how they prefer to communicate, rather than making assumptions.”

Monique DuBois, a hearing junior at NEU majoring in interpreting, explained how some people see deafness as a disability, and why she disagrees:  “Disability implies you’re unable to do something. Deaf people are a minority, with a language and lifestyle.”

DuBois’ classmate, Nicolette Hagman, said, “Deaf people can do everything except hear. It’s not hindering you in anyway.”

I met both DuBois and Hagman at NEU’s ASL program event, Deaf Deaf World. “Deaf Deaf World provides opportunities for hearing ASL students to not only practice their ability to sign, but also to experience what it feels like to be a minority in a completely Deaf world,” Honigfeld explained. “We set up scenarios similar to what a Deaf person would experience in the hearing world, such as trying to understand important announcements done in sign, or trying to communicate with different people who use a language different from their own.”

Honigfeld grew up deaf and has been immersing herself in the Deaf community in recent years. “Often, people are shocked to find out that I am Deaf when they first meet me, since I can speak well and can understand people well by lip reading,” Honigfeld said. “I have to educate my peers and co-workers about what it means to be Deaf and how to interact with Deaf people, even though we are not all the same. I have to remind people to speak a little more slowly and face me when they talk, so I can see their lips.”

Their advice for teens?

“Get uncomfortable!” DuBois said.

Hagman added, “Approach people outside of your culture. In the long run, you’ll benefit.”

Honigfeld advised teen girls to: “just be yourself and to be confident in the choices you make. So many people doubted me and my abilities because I am Deaf, but I ignored their comments and went with my gut. The most important thing was that I was confident in myself and put my best work into each task that I did, each class I took, and each job I worked.”

Whether or not you know sign language, you can attend many different types of Deaf events. Northeastern’s American Sign Language program is a great resource for students in the Boston area. There are many websites around the world that can help you out, including the Online Deaf Web Directory, Deaf Linx, and DeafSpot .

If you are Deaf, and/or looking to become an interpreter, here are some great resources:

Know of any Deaf events in your area? Share them with us, in the comments section below!

“Kony 2012:” What About the Girls?

By Teen Voices Interns Kate Szumita, Raven Heroux, and Mary Gilcoine

Even if you don’t have a Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr account, you’ve probably heard something about the Kony 2012 campaign. Kony 2012, the campaign’s 30-minute film, has gone viral and created an unprecedented uproar in social media. The campaign was launched earlier this month by Invisible Children, a non-profit raising awareness of African armed conflict and the use of kidnapped children as rebel soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).  Simply stated, the mission of the Kony 2012 campaign is to make Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony famous enough that he will be captured and brought to trial.

Kony’s crimes are undeniably heinous. According to the campaign film Kony 2012, Kony has abducted more than 30,000 children over the course of 20 years, forcing young girls into sex slavery and young boys into warring as child soldiers. As advocates for teen girl empowerment, we’re deeply disturbed by the statistics about girls.

But we’re also disturbed by the lack of attention to girls and girls’ issues in the film. While it’s understandable that Jason Russell (co-founder of Invisible Children and creator of Kony 2012) seeks to hold the attention of the masses—a temperamental target audience that may shy away from stories that are too graphic or disturbing—we have to wonder: Where are the girls? Why is the film so silent about the stories of these girls? Russell mentions only in passing the atrocious sex crimes committed against young African women. It is astonishing and disappointing how much this film glosses over the extent of crimes committed.

So why has Invisible Children shaped the Kony 2012 to hold such a narrow perspective? The girls—and all the affected children—deserve a safe place to tell their stories, and to be heard.

It’s critical that a film and organization seeking to make “invisible children” visible should not render girls invisible and voiceless. In the past, the organization has showcased the struggles of African girls from war-torn areas. Among these girls is Grace, who was kidnapped and forced to become a sex slave. Soon after, Grace found out she was pregnant. Grace is celebrated for her strength as a survivor and her resilience in starting a new life.

Roseline has another amazing story of strength, when she was left to survive on her own after her parents were killed by the war.

While we wish that Russell had given voice to girls like Grace and Roseline, we also must give credit where credit is due. In many ways, the film is moving and inspirational and it’s clearly tapped a vein among many people. The Kony 2012 campaign has, if nothing else, proven the power and influence of social media on mass society. Despite heavy criticism from bloggers and other media, in a matter of weeks, Kony 2012 has undoubtedly grown from a film to a movement. Many well-intentioned social media consumers, including teens, are indeed making Joseph Kony famous.

But, to quote Spiderman’s uncle, “with great power comes great responsibility.” So the questions become: How can we use this film and the tool of social media wisely? How can we harness the momentum that’s building around the exploitation of all children to make the world safer? What changes would you like to see made in the world? And what actions are you willing to do to foster that change, even if there’s a personal cost?

Dear Society: Domestic Violence is Not Okay!

By Raven Heroux, Editorial Intern

Photo by Molly Hartigan, 21
Massachusetts

Did you watch the 54th Grammys this year? Perfect timing—February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. A mere three years ago, R&B artist Chris Brown, 19 at the time, got angry and beat his then-girlfriend Rihanna so badly she had to be hospitalized. At the time, a disturbing number of people, not only men, but also women and many teen girls, blamed Rihanna for the attack. WHAT?! Since when is this physical abuse okay?

Sadly, we, as a society, haven’t seemed to learned much in three years. Chris Brown was invited to perform again at the Grammys this year, as if he were a stellar role model. Clearly, not everyone believes Chris Brown was in the wrong. Take a look at this  sampling of tweets we found on BuzzFeed:

“I don’t know why Rihanna complained. Chris Brown could beat me anytime he wanted to.”

“I wish Chris Brown would punch me.”

“Dude, Chris Brown can punch me in the face as much as he wants to, just as long as he kisses it.J”

These nonchalant tweets worry us. Domestic violence is a serious issue. As activists committed to empowering girls, we hope to help society realize these insensitive tweets are not acceptable. And we want girls to know that even if you aren’t in a  dating relationship now, you need to know the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Here are some ways you can help:

1. Learn more about dating violence, its symptoms, and how common it is. According to Break the Cycle and the National Dating Abuse Helpline, “Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence—almost triple the national average.” Don’t know anyone who’s been a victim of dating violence? That’s because only 33 percent of teens in a violent relationship will ever tell someone about the abuse. Many girls find it easier to try to hide their bruises than to tell someone what’s happened or report the incident to the police because they are afraid they will be blamed. So if you suspect someone you know is in an abusive relationship, as a first step, you can help by creating a supportive listening environment.

2.  Watch for the warning signs of physical and sexual  abuse. According to HelpGuide some warning signs of physical and sexual abuse are: (1) Afraid or anxious to please his/her partner, (2) Frequent injuries caused by “accidents,” (3) Restricted from seeing family and friends, (4) Dresses in clothes designed to hide bruises or scars, such as long sleeves in summer or sunglasses indoors, and (5) Low self-esteem, even if s/he used to be confident.

3. Be aware that physical and sexual abuse aren’t the only types of domestic violence; verbal abuse hits just as hard. According to author Patricia Evans, the emotional pain of being put down constantly by a partner can lead to serious issues, including eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. Because emotional pain cannot be seen with the eye, it is harder to pick up on.

4. Show your support for dating violence victims. If you are worried about a friend and his or her relationship, try to talk with her in an open, nonjudgmental manner.  Help her confide in a trusted adult.  Don’t ignore symptoms when you see them—rather than simply watching the Grammys and ignoring Chris Brown’s past, write a letter to The Recording Academy protesting their decision to allow him to perform.

5. Educate the public. Take Back the Night, is an organization founded in 1975 to make the world a safer place for women of all ages. It aims to spread awareness about violence against women. Women should be able to walk alone, in daylight or after dark, and know that they are safe. Find a Take Back the Night event in your area and join the cause!

Society may think it’s all right to glorify and excuse Chris Brown’s abusive history, but as young women, we cannot allow this behavior to continue. Change starts with you, so make a difference in your own life and the lives of others! If you or someone you know is a victim of dating violence, don’t remain quiet! Speak out—ask someone for help, or talk to your friend or loved one who is experiencing this type of behavior and help them find the resources they need to stay safe.

Valentine’s Day: It’s Not Just for Couples!

By Raven Heroux, Editorial Intern

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and you know what that means: advertising overload for chocolate, heart-wielding teddy bears, and roses. While you may be stocking up on Valentine’s cards, candies, and red blouses, it’s important to remember what love is really all about!

Love isn’t just about finding your soul mate; it’s about taking the time to speak, listen, and care about those around you and share in that mutual caring and trust. Pay attention to the feelings and actions of not only your friends, but also yourself. Valentine’s Day can be a great way to celebrate life, love, and all the important people around you.

This month pay attention to ALL your loved ones: family, friends, crushes, and yourself.  Here are some ways you can show your love:

  • February 13-19 is Random Acts of Kindness Week Pay for the person behind you in line at Starbucks, babysit for free, or take all the change you can find in your house (under sofa cushions, behind your bureau, and in the bottom of your purse are hotspots) and give it to a homeless person down the street!
  • Write Love on Her Arms! The World Health Organization reports that one million people die every year from suicide. Participate in To Write Love On Her Arms to spread awareness and support those individuals struggling with depression, self-injury, and suicide.
  • Attend a local performance of The Vagina Monologues in support of V-Day, the global movement toward ending violence against women and girls.
  • Volunteer! Go to a soup kitchen, an animal shelter, a non-profit organization, or an after school program for kids.
  • Make dinner or dessert with friends or family. Working together to make a masterpiece dish (or disaster!) is a great way to bond, laugh, and learn the art of cooking or baking with the people you love.
  • Have a sleepover with your closest friends! Stay away from the love-obsessed media and get artsy instead. Teen Voices’ Artist of the Month contest is happening right now and we want your art.  Enter for a chance to win a full-scholarship to a summer art program in Boston! So grab your friends, paint, charcoal, pencils, a camera, or whatever you desire, and get creative!

Just remember that Valentine’s Day isn’t about who is dating whom; it’s about loving yourself and others!

Have great Valentine’s Day plans? Leave a comment below and share it with our other readers!