On Rape Culture

Today I found out that a distant family friend was raped last month in Atlantic City. I found this out in the form of my father warning me not to celebrate my 21st birthday there.

If I shouldn’t celebrate my 21st birthday in Atlantic City, maybe I shouldn’t sit on benches either. Afterall, that’s what Jessica was doing when some man decided he was entitled to invade her body.

She was sitting on a bench. Waiting for her mother. At 8:00 in the morning- broad daylight. No scandalous clothes. No drugs or alcohol. No interest in this man. And certainly no interest in a lifetime of picking up broken pieces left with her after this nightmare of a morning in September.

Though I’ve never met Jessica personally, this news hit me hard. My heart broke for her and every single person in the world who has ever been through something similar. It forced me to wake up to the sickening reality that something like that can happen to me too. None of us are safe. We live in a society that allows rape to happen. Being a 20-year-old female college student, I am surrounded by stories like Jessica’s everyday. The harsh reality is that sexual assault is an ever present plague.

Here are some disturbing statistics from RAINN, the largest anti-sexual assault organization in the United States:

Every two minutes an American is sexually assaulted.

1 out of every 6 American women has been a victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

1 out of every 10 rape victims are male.

21% of transgender/queer college students have been sexually assaulted.

Out of 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators walk free.

I am overwhelmed by these statistics. Sexual assault in our country is happening at an alarming rate. So what do we do about it? I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure this out and so far this is what I’ve come up with:

VOTE.

We’ve all heard the story of Brock Turner at this point- a monster who walked away from a horrific rape and molestation with only six months of jail time. An open letter from his victim blew up the internet and people all over the world announced their disgust toward him. Turner received consequence from the public since his story went viral, but sadly most other rapists walk away free of  aftermath.

The 2016 presidential election is monumental for many reasons, one of the most overlooked being the fact that the next president will appoint four new Supreme Court justices. As citizens of  the United States, this decision will affect each and every one of us. If we want to eradicate the issue of sexual assault, we need to start by voting.

STOP BEING A BYSTANDER.

The most appalling detail about Jessica’s story is that out of everyone on the Atlantic City boardwalk that dreaded morning, not a single person stopped to help her. The bystander effect is a dangerous phenomenon. It promotes an unsafe environment. Step in and help your neighbor. Wouldn’t you want someone to do the same for you?

This concept trickles into how we treat sexual assault on a more personal scale. If your friends are joking about rape, intervene. If a friend of yours has been raped, help them. Be there. Encourage them to report it. When you turn a blind eye to sexual assault, you become one one of the biggest parts of the problem.

Lastly,

DON’T RAPE PEOPLE.

Here’s a simple concept: Be a good person. Treat others with respect. This is nothing more than a matter of human decency. Think about how your own words and actions leave an impact on the people around you.  Under no circumstance are you entitled to another person’s body without consent. Understand this concept and spread it like wildfire.

Next weekend I’ll celebrate my 21st birthday in a place that is not Atlantic City and hope that’s enough to save me from a fate like Jessica’s. I’ll hope I leave the weekend with a heart full of memories and not debilitating trauma. But most of all I’ll hope that when the time comes for my child to turn 21, we’ll live in a better world.

Review of The Spot

Seven months ago I ditched the whole “meat-eating” thing and dove into the wonderful world of vegetarianism. Though my body is thanking me, my wallet is not. Forget craving chicken nuggets and cheesesteaks – the hardest part of this whole adventure has been finding food that I can actually afford.

Dining out can be pricey, period. Throw some diet restrictions in there and you can kiss that dream goodbye. I’ve found it almost impossible to pay a reasonable bill at any of those “specialty” vegan or gluten-free restaurants, so I was pretty stoked when a co-worker told me about The Spot in Northfield.

Located inside The Shop on Tilton just outside of Atlantic City, The Spot is a local staple for both vegetarians and meat eaters. In 2012, it was launched by Jonathon Sands and Erin McGee with the intent of bringing creative dishes to a casual atmosphere. The Spot guarantees the use of fresh food, so no need to worry about paying $10 for a pizza you could have just bought from the freezer section of your local ShopRite.  However, if you’re a regular food consumer like me, you have probably developed some trust issues over the years. I mean Wendy’s slogan is “fresh never frozen,” but we all know that’s not the truth. I wanted to put The Spot’s “fresh food” guarantee to the test, so I stopped in for some lunch.

I walked in and sat myself. The restaurant was pretty empty, as most shore places are after Labor Day. It was empty, but not vacant. It still felt cozy. “Fix You” by Coldplay softly filled the room providing a coffee shop feel. I was really digging the atmosphere.

My young waitress was very friendly. I could tell she had a genuine knowledge of the food as I asked different questions about the menu. I decided to start my lunch off with a cup of dairy free cashew broccoli soup, per her recommendation. (Okay, I know what you’re thinking- Cashews and broccoli?) It’s a weird combination, I know. I was nervous too. But I had to find out if cashews were really these magic little tree nuts capable of producing a dairy-like substance- and they were. The soup was great. It resembled a thinner version of the typical cream of broccoli. But without the dairy, I still had room for my main dish.  

Choosing a main dish was hard, because the menu was overwhelming. Aside from the standard menu book, The Spot also has a specialty page of options that changes every single day. The first thing that stuck out me on this specialty page were the drinks.They had over 10 variations of fruity refreshments including cranberry acai lemonade, pineapple lemonade, thai tea, thai coffee, and even a nonalcoholic cucumber mojito, all at a standard $6. I was turned off by the price, until I saw the size of these things. All beverages are served in an enormous mason jar, big enough to last through a meal and the drive home. Sidenote: They do provide to-go cups. Plus, we all love to post artsy mason jar photos on Instagram.

I flipped through the menu about a dozen times, amazed at all of the unique dishes I had never before heard of. However, I kept going back to one dish in particular- the quinoa quesadillas. This is because a.) I love mexican food and b.) I cannot find quinoa at any other restaurant. As a committed vegetarian, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

The quesadillas totally lived up to my expectations. They encompassed the perfect cheese to quinoa ratio, mixed with juicy peppers and onions. Perhaps the best part of it all was the crispy black bean tortilla. The dish also came with side of sour cream and quinoa, all for $11.

If you’re not into the whole vegetarian-mexican thing, The Spot still has a lot of great options. Their menu includes burgers, wraps, salads, starters and an extensive list of entrees. Some of the more distinctive dishes include sweet potato wontons, thai chili wings, four cheese grilled cheese, and blueberry cream cheese wontons. They also serve breakfast until 11 a.m. and all day on Sundays.  I’m excited to go back and try their “banana fat boy french toast.”  Plus maybe this time I’ll have room to fit dessert, because their homemade cookies sound incredible.

The Spot is a perfect place to stop for a casual meal. You get the luxury of gourmet food, without having make reservations, dress up, or pay a ridiculous price. Their menu offers something for everyone. Plus you’re guaranteed to leave with enough leftovers for an entire meal. So if you’re looking for simple and cozy, you’ll have to stop by The Shop on Tilton.

 

New Jersey’s Best Kept Secret: Museums

In my last post, we discussed Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute and how it surprisingly fits into our college kid budget. I genuinely had a great experience there (click here to read all about it). So naturally, I began to wonder why I haven’t been visiting places like this my whole life. I mean if a facility as distinguished as the Franklin Institute offers $5.00 specials, other museums must be affordable too, right?

Well, I did some research…

It turns out, not only is New Jersey home to a variety of affordable museums, but we’re also home to a variety of FREE museums!!! And there’s nothing I love more than freedom dude. Okay, maybe that doesn’t really apply here (patriotic and inspirational post about freedom coming soon). But no worries, because I also love free stuff!

Below is a list of the top 10 museums within our state that are totally free of charge:

1. Zimmerli Art Museum– New Brunswick

Whether you’re an art fanatic or not, Zimmerli has something interesting to offer. Here, you can learn about various artists, eras, and genres. They also hold special live educational performances.

2. African American Heritage Museum– Hammonton

The African American Heritage has a fascinating and boisterous history. You can get in touch with this history through original works of art and various exhibits. There are many upcoming events being held this Spring.

3.  Atlantic City Art Center– Atlantic City

This particular art museum is unique because it’s right by the ocean. You can appreciate artwork in a peaceful environment at the beach. Does it get any better than that?

4.  Discovery Seashell Museum– Ocean City

THIS ONE SOUNDS FREAKIN’ AWESOME!!! You’re never too old to admire sea shells… And according to their website, all of the museum’s operators are certified divers who have traveled the world, collecting various sea shells (talk about a dream job). 10,000 kinds of sea shells can be found here, along with other marine organisms.

5.  Keyport Fire Museum– Keyport

Experience a timeline of artifacts from the firefighting industry, dating all the way back to the 19th century.

6.  The Old Monroe Schoolhouse– Monroe

This historic beauty was built way back in the 1800’s. It’s rare that you get to see a building this old that hasn’t been touched or renovated.

7.  Southern New Jersey All Sports Museum– Bridgeton

This museum encompasses all things sports in South Jersey. From records, to photos, to awards, to equipment, you can re-live some of the greatest moments in our sport history. Plus, the fact that all of these great moments took place just around the corner makes it pretty special.

8.  Meadowlands Museum– Rutherford

This museum is actually a farmhouse that was build in the 19th century. You can’t even say that isn’t badass.

9.  New Jersey Museum of Boating– Point Pleasant

Aside from some really cool boats, you can learn about a bunch of other marine-related things here. For instance, their current exhibition is centered on lighthouses. If you’re into the shore scene, this could be really cool place to learn about your favorite vacation spot.

10.  Maywood Station Museum– Maywood

Historical railroad lovers… or people who think trains are pretty dope, this one’s for you!

So, whether you’re into art, sports, history, boats, trains, fire???, or anything in between, there’s probably a museum for you. Above, are the links to each of their websites, where you can find information regarding hours of operation, directions, contact information, etc.

Museums are a great way to cure boredom without resorting to the ordinary, unexciting, and often expensive scenes. You can have fun with your friends or even by yourself, and learn something new without spending a dime. And don’t forget, these are only ten of the countless FREE museums in New Jersey!