Not OK PDX is a non-profit organization founded by Kelly Vaughn, Dani Verbus, Frankie Howell, and Jessica Rosengrant in Portland, Oregon. Coming from a variety of professional and academic backgrounds, they seek to create a support and healing network for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. On October 31, 2016, Not Ok PDX will be hosting their first fundraiser. They plan to host several more throughout November. The October 31 fundraiser will be held at Pop Tavern (825 N Killingsworth ST). To get some backstory on Not Ok PDX and their future plans, they agreed to reveal to readers what one can expect from this new and budding organization.
NixBeat: What inspired forming Not OK PDX?
Rosengrant – Oh man. That’s such a huge question. There are the personal reasons that we all became involved in this work, and then there are the numerous societal problems that lead to the need for this kind of work. Initially, this was Kelly’s project, and when we look back at what we wanted to do in the beginning, and compare it where we are now, we’ve added a lot of components. Kelly’s original idea of starting a support network for survivors is still very much at the center of what we’re doing though. Every one of us who has had a hand in forming this organization has also had personal experience with the things that we’re fighting against, and of course that helps to drive us forward. Once we started forming, we started hearing more and more stories from other survivors, and of course that is an inspiration as well. If you look at the statistics though, this is such a common experience for so many people.
Dani- There’s a huge need for more services catering to folks who have been affected by gender-based violence because it’s so prevalent. A recent report from the Women’s Foundation of Oregon found that over half our state’s female population has been subjected to some form of domestic or sexual violence. Oregon actually has a higher rate of this type of violence than the national average. So, yeah, it’s a huge problem and it really hits close to home. For me, becoming involved in an effort to fight this type of injustice helps quell the feelings of powerlessness and isolation often experienced by those of us who have been affected firsthand.
Rosengrant – And there is just so much silence surrounding it. Survivors are so often made to feel that they don’t have a voice, and that is not ok. They’re made to feel alone, and embarrassed; they’re made to feel as though they are to blame. I think, for me at least, combating that is one of my biggest inspirations.
NixBeat: What kind of services does Not OK PDX offer to the Portland community?
Rosengrant – We are just getting off the ground, so we won’t be offering services until January of 2017. But, when the time comes, we’ll be offering regular support groups to survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence and abuse and we’ll offer a program that will match trained advocates to survivors to as they navigate life after an attack—these folks will accompany survivors to the police station to report an attack, to court dates, to medical appointments, etc. It can be very scary to do that by yourself, and it is never a bad idea to have an extra set of eyes and ears when going through something that can be so traumatic.
Verbus – One of the first services we’ll be offering is a training program for bar staff on how to recognize and interrupt behaviors leading to sexual assault. It piggybacks on similar bystander-intervention programs that have been successful. We know alcohol consumption is a correlate to sexual assault; with some studies showing alcohol was involved in upwards of fifty percent of sexual assaults. It makes sense to have the folks who are serving it trained in this area. Everyone deserves to be able to have fun in a safe environment and we hope this training will aid in that.
Rosengrant – In the long term, we hope to have an emergency rental assistance fund for people who need to leave abusive domestic situations, regular legal clinics for people who need to seek the assistance of a lawyer, and, one of my personal favorites—social worker ride alongs with the officers who respond when there has been an attack; I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about the police inadvertently triggering, and intimidating survivors.
NixBeat: Not OK is registered as a nonprofit, what was the process like to attain this status?
Rosengrant –Theoretically, it’s just a lot of paperwork—you have to register with the Secretary of State, the Department of Justice, and the IRS… Realistically, it took a lot of discussion between the four of us. Even just coming up with a mission statement that succinctly explains what we’re about took weeks. We had to come up with our bylaws, which includes a lot of legal jargon that none of us is too familiar with, and of course none of this even includes program development or implementation. Fundraising is a whole different story, because we can’t do any of this if we don’t the money to get off the ground. We’ve been working on all of this since June of this year, and are just now seeing all of our plans and goals actually start to take shape.
NixBeat: What kind of reception has Not OK received from the Portland Community?
Rosengrant – It’s been overwhelming, but in the best way possible. We’ve been receiving messages from complete stranger who just want to tell us to keep up the good work, which I think helps motivate us. And the list of local businesses that have donated to us for our fundraisers keeps growing by the day. I keep saying that we couldn’t do any of this without the help of our community, and it’s true.
Verbus – It’s really great to know people care about what’s going on in our communities and are willing to help out. We’re able to donate our time and experience to this cause, but without the support of the community, Not OK would not exist.
Rosengrant-People have donated beautiful works of art for an art auction we’re holding in mid November, people have donated spaces for us to hold other fundraising events, people have donated their time and consultation services to us so we can figure out how to best move forward. The support that this community is giving us has just been really beautiful, and we couldn’t be more grateful for it.
NixBeat: I noticed that Kelly Vaughn posts on Facebook and Instagram about abuses experienced. What do you hope sharing these posts will accomplish?
Vaughn – My hope with those posts is that people will recognize the fact that the language and approach they use when talking to a survivor can be greatly triggering. Also, I want to raise awareness in general—these issues are not faceless, and the people affected by them have names.
NixBeat: What has the reaction been like to these posts?
Vaughn – The responses have been overwhelmingly supportive and positive. So many survivors have reached out to me with their own stories, and I will always encourage them to do so! Our voices need to be heard, because for so long we have been told to be quiet. Speaking out, when one is ready, can not only be therapeutic, but it can also serve as a beacon of hope for other survivors who are struggling. By coming forward, we have unity. With unity, we have healing. With healing comes the ability to love yourself and others again, and with all of that comes personal growth.
NixBeat: On October 31, there will be a fundraiser for Not OK. What does Not Ok have planned for the Fundraiser?
Rosengrant – So, we’ll actually be hosting fundraising events all through the month of November, but Halloween is going to be our first kickoff fundraising event, and we’re super excited about it. We’re hosting a Halloween dance party at Pop Tavern in North Portland—this is a bar that Kelly helped build, and the owner has been hugely supportive of our cause. We’ll have four awesome DJs, one of which will be Kelly, really cool raffle prizes from local businesses like Paxton Gate and Stonedware Company, and a costume contest, which will have a pretty sweet grand prize. We’re asking for a suggested donation of $5-$10 at the door, but people can give what they’re able—we’re not going to turn anyone away who wants to support us and learn about the work we’re doing. We’re also asking for an additional donation to enter the costume contest, and then of course we’ll be selling raffle tickets. I think it’s going to be pretty fun.
NixBeat: How much are you hoping to raise with the fundraiser and how will what you raise go to support Not OK PDX?
Rosengrant – Our fundraising goal for November is $5000, which is what we need to really get off the ground running. Of course, we don’t expect to raise that much on Halloween, but any percentage of that amount will be a good start. None of us is being paid for the work we’re doing, so 100% of what we raise will go directly to the costs associated with starting a nonprofit. This will help with administrative costs, supply costs, the costs of program development and implementation, etc. A lot of our expenses up until now have been coming out of our own pockets, and it’s becoming a little bit of a drain. I think we’re all happy to personally pay for things as we are able, but that’s not really a sustainable way of doing things.
NixBeat: Where would you like to see Not OK PDX go from here?
Rosengrant – Well, there are the programs I mentioned previously, and those are of course our main focus right now. When I look to the future of our organization though, I see big things. I’d love to see us become known for the services we provide in the Portland area, and I’d love to for us to be known as an innovative organization in terms of those services. We are certainly not the only organization in the area that provides services to survivors, but I think that there is a pretty big gap, and hopefully we can help fill it. Additionally, I think some of the approaches we take in terms of combating the issues we’re talking about, as a society, are pretty stale—I think there needs to be a fresh approach, and I’d like us to be very much involved in figuring out what that approach is.
Verbus – We are looking to connect with other agencies in the Portland area that are already providing services. We would like to learn from them about which populations they see falling through the cracks, and what services need to be expanded in order to meet service user needs. We’re meeting with the Executive Director of Bradley Angle next week and are really looking forward to learning from her expertise.
For more on Not OK PDX check out their Facebook and website or on Instagram @NotokPDX