No Means No
Kylene Spanbauer, Miss Wisconsin 2022
Certified Inclusion Ambassador
According to the Department of Justice, every 68 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. Kylene Spanbauer, Miss Wisconsin 2022, provides education and empowerment through her social impact initiative, No Means No: Sexual Assault Education. Kylene is a Certified Inclusion Ambassador and has received training for ACES, CPIS Crisis Intervention and De-escalation strategies, WCASA Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy School, and AMAZE for prevention educators. She discusses her initiative and work in communities to bring greater awareness to the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Kylene can be reached for more information and bookings at https://www.misswisconsin.com/miss-wisconsin-2022-kylene-spanbauer/
[Jaunty Guitar Music]
Mike: Welcome everybody. This is Avoiding the Addiction Affliction, a series brought to you by Westwords Consulting. I'm Mike McGowan. Every 68 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and every nine minutes, that victim is a child. And all too often alcohol or another drug is involved.
Well, today we're gonna talk about some of the work being done to reduce those numbers. My very special guest today is Kylene Spanbauer, Miss wisconsin 2022. Kyleen is a sexual assault prevention educator providing education and empowerment through her social impact initiative No Means No sexual assault education.
Kylene: Good morning, thank you so much for having me.
Mike: Well, I'm just so glad that you could join us. So let's start with this, tell us how as Miss Wisconsin you came to choose, because I know you guys get to choose your issues, I think, right?
Kylene: Yes, we do. We get to choose a platform or a service impact initiative that's really close to our hearts
Mike: Well, and so sexual assault education and victim advocacy, how come?.
Kylene: So, I actually became Miss Wisconsin in sort of an untraditional way. Our original Miss Wisconsin, Grace, who won the Miss Wisconsin competition and title in June, went on to compete at Miss America in December, and she became Miss America 2023.
I was her first runner up, and so as her first runner up, I accepted the role of Miss Wisconsin once she became Miss America, and I started working at a sexual assault counseling center in the fall, in August/September, sort of, and that was when I decided, when I became Miss Wisconsin, accepted that role, that I was going to change my service impact initiative, which was actually about mentorship previously, I was going to change it to sexual assault education because that is the work that I had started doing in the fall.
Mike: Wow. And, what made you start doing that work before you were named Miss Wisconsin?
Kylene: Yeah. Truth be told, I never thought I would end up in this line of work. I went to school hoping to work with individuals with disabilities, maybe do more adaptive play and recreational therapy.
And so in the fall when I had moved back home, I started looking at different jobs in the area and I saw that Reach Counseling, which is a sexual assault counseling center in Neenah, Wisconsin, I saw that they were hiring, and I looked into that position and I saw that it included public speaking and doing presentations with young people, and older people, and everyone in between. And then also being an advocate, and it really sparked my interest and it was one of the only positions that I applied for where I was like, wow, I think I really want this role, even though I don't know as much about it and don't have as much experience in it, I would love to learn about this area and work for this nonprofit.
And so when I got the job, I just knew that, you know, this was something that I wanted to take into my role as Miss Wisconsin now. And it's work that really inspires me and makes me feel really passionate.
Mike: Well, and you had just come out of college, right? You've, completed college, right?
Mike: And this is a huge issue on college campuses.
Kylene: Mm-hmm, it's a very big issue. And it was a big issue too at the University of Iowa where I went to school.
Mike: Well, I don't know if we can talk about the University of Iowa on a podcast that originates in Wisconsin, but you know.
Kylene: That's right!
Mike: Well talk about your community presentations that you do.
Kylene: Yes I would love to talk about them. So I do community presentations with Reach Counseling, but then it's also really neat that I also get to do presentations as Miss Wisconsin. And so there's a lot of crossover there. I've taken a lot of the material from Reach Counseling, I've been given permission to do so, and so I use a lot of that material and the education resources that we have there in the presentations I give is Ms. Wisconsin. So for young, especially high school age, we do talk about sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse. We talk about consent, what it is and what it is not, what the ages of consent are in the state of Wisconsin, because that really applies to young people especially.
We talk about sexting and Wisconsin's child pornography law and how those two things go hand in hand because that's a big issue we see in high schools as well. And then we also talk a little bit about grooming and different resources that they can use if they've been involved in a sexting situation, or if they ever need to talk to somebody else if they've ever been involved in a sexual abuse or sexual or harassment situation.
We also talk about all of those topics with the middle schoolers, just at a much slower pace so that we can really answer all the questions that they might have because they are a little younger. And then with really young people, especially little kids, we keep it very age appropriate and we talk about abuse just very briefly, how sometimes that can be hurting people on purpose. We talk about trusted adults that we can talk to, we talk about safe and unsafe touches and safe and unsafe secrets, and how if somebody is giving us an unsafe touch or wants us to keep an unsafe secret, we can go talk to different trusted adults, whether those are adults in our schools or adults outside of school as well.
Boy, that's a boat load, let's break it down a little bit.
Mike: When I talk, you know, cause I also am in a ton of schools and when I present, especially to middle school and high school students, those lines of differentiation, they don't oftentimes get, like they don't understand, right?
Kylene: Mm-hmm, yes..
Mike: Sometimes the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment, and when I describe a situation they'll misname assault as harassment. How do you break it apart for them?
Kylene: I'm a very visual learner, and so when I give presentations, I try to be very visual with students, especially young people, because I feel like that helps them understand and differentiate between different topics like that.
So for me, when I give presentations, I talk about sexual abuse first. I talk about how I think of it as this like umbrella term and there's different terms that fall under that. And so we describe and define sexual abuse as anything sexual, doing anything sexual against someone else without their consent.
And we talk about how it's not only wrong, but it's also against the law. And then there's different things that fall under that, like sexual harassment and sexual assault. And then when we break those two terms down, we talk about sexual assault as using sexual words or actions that make someone feel bad about their gender and how it doesn't always have to be about sexual things.
It can be about sexuality, it can be about gender, how you define yourself, how you see yourself. It can be things like cat calling, grabbing at someone, making inappropriate comments, especially in schools, we see that a lot in the hallway. It can lead into things like bullying and cyber bullying, and so we talk about all those different things.
And then when we talk about sexual assault, we define that as sexual contact or sexual intercourse without another person's consent. And then we break sexual contact, and intercourse, and consent down so they know exactly what those terms are as well.
So we really try to describe the differences between those two, and then give specific examples so that young people can differentiate, like you said, between them, because it can be a hard thing for them to do sometimes.
Mike: Well, and I don't, they don't oftentimes know what to do with that either, do they?
Kylene: Mm-hmm. No, they don't. And it's interesting too, when you give a presentation that a lot of the kids can become uncomfortable, and we do give trigger warnings, especially before we start them. You know, this may be an uncomfortable topic. It's okay to feel a little bit uncomfortable, especially when you're learning something new, but if you need to step out for a moment, if you need to put your head down, you can do those things. I mean, we're very lenient about that because we understand those things.
But also really trying to just be comfortable when having that conversation. I always try to give it more of a casual approach. I don't like to be super uppity and professional, especially with young people. I try to be casual about it, and I feel like that really sparks them to ask the questions that they need to, especially if they're not understanding something.
Mike: We hear all the time that victims are so reluctant to come forward. That's just so sad, how do we support victims and encourage them to come forward and then support them when they're actually talking about it?
Kylene: Yes. I'm really glad that you brought this up because we talk about this in the school presentations as well, how only about 10% of all people will report that they've been sexually abused or assaulted, which is a very, very low number, it's a very sad number. And we talk about why that is, how you know, young people especially might be scared in a situation, whether it's they're scared they won't be believed, they're scared that they could hurt their perpetrator that did that to them, and maybe they're in a relationship with that person, or they care about that person, or maybe they don't, but they're scared that that person will hurt them.
And so I think one way to really support victims and especially encourage them to report is to tell them that you believe them, that you're sorry that that happened to them, and to give them that choice and help them know all of their options. You can let them know that reporting is an option and it's one that they really should make, but again, it's something that can be their choice, right? They don't have to do that, no one's going to force them to do it.
Talk about what reporting might look like, how when you report, you might have to speak to law enforcement, but how they're trained to have, you know, victim empowerment, right? That they're not going to come at you and say that they don't believe you. They're just gonna ask you questions and make sure that you are in a safe situation and that they can get that situation, whatever it might be, to stop happening. And so I think especially to encourage more people to report, we also need to be having these conversations, talking about these things, especially in schools and especially to young people, especially if they experience these things later on in life.
And then also starting those conversations in the community. Whenever I have different events or appearances I go to, I really try to make a point to talk about my service impact initiative even just a little bit, especially with a trigger warning. Again, because some people aren't expecting that conversation when Miss Wisconsin comes to their event. But even talking about it briefly and saying that I'm here for them and that I can be an advocate for them if they're ever involved in a situation like that, I think those are a lot of things that can help us make that number higher, and I think that's something that people who are going to report should know..
Mike: You know, I certainly hope you're correct, and I think you are, with law enforcement believing them, but you mentioned sexting before.
Mike: So much of an adolescent's life is spent online.
Mike: Two things, I'll do this one first as a follow up, is sometimes when I read an article or I see a post about somebody being sexually assaulted, they are lept on almost immediately online. You're lying, you're making it up, you're just trying to get attention for yourself. So if their life is online, they're not necessarily believed online.
How do we get through to them that it's still important to report it even if those trolls, are trolling them, for lack of a better word.
Kylene: Right. Well, and like you said, especially with young people, they spend so much time online, and whenever I work with younger victims, I always tell them, you know, you can't control the actions or responses of other people. All you can control is your own.
And so I think it's really important to send out the message that whether you were drinking, under the influence, whether it's online or not, whether you actively made the choice to send sexual pictures to someone else, especially in a sexting situation, it's never your fault. And there's always someone that you can reach out to and talk to, and I always want to encourage those young people to do so. Even if people are coming at them and saying, we don't believe you, we think you're doing this for attention, still make those reports. There's always going to be somebody out there that's in your corner that wants to believe you, usually an advocate like myself that wants to help you through the situation.
And I think especially a good message for all young people is just to be kinder in general. I think if we can all be kinder online, we'll see that more people want to make those reports and step forward and talk about those things, those really hard and personal things, especially if other people are going to be kinder to them.
Mike: Kinder online, that would be a great anything slogan going forward.
Kylene: Right, right.
Mike: It always amazes me when somebody does something that seems so obvious like, don't take pictures and don't post, you know?
Mike: Compromising pictures and then they do it anyway. When I work with pro athletes, sometimes I'm like, don't hit send, and then they hit send anyway, and it's like, multiple messages, multiple times till they finally get through, right?
Mike: And you mentioned alcohol and drugs. I think the other thing that makes this hard, is it's not just alcohol and drugs, but sometimes it's family members that are doing the abuse.
Kylene: Yes, absolutely. And that's a really hard thing too, and that's why we try to talk to, especially younger kids in the elementary schools, in the middle schools too, that we identify trusted adults that can sometimes be at home or outside of school, but also ones in school in case they don't have that at home.
A lot of times we see that family members are the ones that abuse their own kids, whether that's sexual abuse or other forms of abuse. And so we try to let kids know that it doesn't matter who it is. And actually in our younger presentations we talk about the "protect yourself" rules and that's one of those rules. We learn safe and unsafe touches, shout-run-tell, which tells us what to do in case someone gives us an unsafe touch. We talk about telling an adult at all times, we talk about stranger safety, and then we talk about how it doesn't matter who it is. And when we talk about that rule, it doesn't matter who it is, we talk about family members, how family is supposed to care for you, keep you safe, and protect you, and if they're not, it's not okay and you can always talk to somebody else that you trust.
Mike: Do you have kids that won't say anything of course, during your large group presentation, but then come up and just want to tell you their story?
Kylene: Yes, absolutely. We always have kids that come up afterwards and disclose that information, which makes me sad, it disheartens me a little bit, but it also makes me happy a little bit because these kids have found that strength to come forward, and I like to think that it's because of the presentations that we do.
Again, we can't control the actions of other people, all we can do is control what we do. And so in situations like that, while it makes me sad that they have to report those things, I'm very happy that they trust me enough to tell me those things and that we've been able to create a safe space for them so that they can report those things and get those situations to stop.
Mike: You know, I think the language that we use is also sometimes course, and it blurs the line, right? What you allow yourself to be called. For instance, if I go into a school and I ask girls, even middle school girls on up, how many of you have been called the B-word by a friend? They all raised their hand and they all laugh, they think it's funny.
Mike: And I look, and none of the adult women, I would think that would include you, are laughing. It's not a word that your friends call you, is it?
Kylene: Mm-hmm, nope.
Mike: And so how do you get that across? Like how do you tell them, look, I don't allow it and here's how I don't allow it.
Kylene: Yes, and that's such a tricky subject to approach as well sometimes in the schools, because like you said, they think it's funny, they don't see anything wrong with being called a B-word or being called any other inappropriate slur, and I think that's why it's important to distinguish the difference like we talked about earlier, between sexual harassment and assault. Because when you're calling someone an inappropriate slur, especially about their gender, again, that is sexual harassment. And we make that very clear that that stuff is not okay, it's inappropriate, it is sexual harassment, and that it should not be something that they should be having to deal with, even if they think it's funny.
And from there, you know, once we say that this is wrong, this isn't okay, we try to talk about what can we say instead? Or what should we do if someone is saying this to them, you know, not just telling them it's wrong and then leaving it at that, but saying it's wrong, here's what we can do to combat that, or here's what you can do if this is happening to you.
And so from there we talk about healthy and unhealthy relationships, whether those are romantic, but also platonic as well, because sometimes you're in a platonic relationship, a friendship, and somebody else isn't treating you correctly or appropriately. And I see that a lot, especially, oh, with the middle schoolers that I meet with, they have so many problems with platonic relationships and I talk to them so much about what healthy and unhealthy relationships and friendships should look like. And so talking about how, you know, this is what a healthy relationship should look like, this is an unhealthy relationship, and how sexual harassment, and words like that, and inappropriate slurs are unhealthy. And if that happens to you, this is what you can do, this is how you can talk to your friend about these things, this is how you can talk to your romantic partner about these things, to make sure that it stops and that you don't have to deal with that anymore.
Mike: Are you also presenting on college campuses as well?
Kylene: At this moment, with Reach Counseling, I am not. As Miss Wisconsin, I've done a few college campus visits and I know that at Reach we are hoping to do that. We're opening up a campus advocate once again, we used to have that position in the past. I mean, REACH has been around since the seventies. And we've had that in the past and due to different changes with the pandemic, we had to pull it away for a while, but we're bringing it back now. And so once we have that campus advocate position as well, we're really hoping to get those college campus presentations happening again too.
And also I'm starting to take over a lot of our community outreach as well, and that'll be a change that I can't talk too much about right now, but it'll be happening in the next couple months. And so my hope in that new position, is to start having those presentations on college campuses again, because that is a big issue in college.
Mike: Well, and I wanna make sure we emphasize this too, in college campuses, especially, alcohol plays a huge role in this topic. And in high school it may also, but then you have the additional air in high school where they're not supposed to be drinking. So to talk about that, you get that, you get that, I'm gonna get in trouble if I mention what happened.
Mike: But in college you don't get in trouble necessarily for drinking.
Mike: But no still means no, even if you're drinking.
Kylene: Absolutely no means no whether you're drinking or under the influence of drugs or any other form of substance, whether you are in a relationship with somebody, whether you are dressed provocatively, it does not matter the situation.
If you have said no and your partner or whoever you're with does not respect that and they sexually assault you, sexually harass you, sexually abuse you, no means no and that is not okay and and it is never your fault. And I think that's something we really need to emphasize.
Especially when it comes to drinking too, whether you are of the legal age and you're drinking or you're underage, we always encourage young people that are under the age, if they've been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, to still report. Because the police, when you give that report, they do not care that you've been under the influence, they will ask you that question because they need to know those things, especially when they're filing those reports, but you're not gonna get in trouble for that. And we emphasize that, especially to high schoolers, that if you're under the influence, you will not get in trouble for that if you've been sexually assaulted or harassed.
Mike: It's just so, so sad. Well, if I can take a right hand turn here for a second, when you talk to kids, if I get this right, when you appear as Miss Wisconsin?
Mike: You gotta wear your garb, right?
Kylene: I do! I gotta wear the crown and the sash, I gotta look put together with the hair and the makeup.
Mike: And so, what do they ask you when you appear as Miss Wisconsin, what are some of the questions they ask you?
Kylene: I mean, it really varies. It depends on what kind of groups I'm speaking to, because I've been to all different kinds of appearances, to different festivals, to nursing homes and retirement communities, to schools. I mean, I've been all over the place and done a lot of different things as Miss Wisconsin.
I know usually with older populations, they wanna know more about me personally. They want to know a lot about my initiative, which I love to talk about. They always love hearing how I became Miss Wisconsin in the unique situation that formed with my friend, Grace. And so I get to talk about my friendship with her.
If I'm meeting with young people, they usually ask like, how do you keep that thing on your head? You know, you're so pretty, how can I look pretty like you, you know, it just varies depending on age, right? A lot of middle schoolers and high schoolers will always ask like, can I take a selfie with you? What's your Snapchat? I've gotten before, and especially if that's coming from a boy, I gotta be like, well, I'm in a relationship, so I'm not gonna give you my Snapchat, or even if I'm not, you know, in a relationship, you know, privacy.
Things like that, so it really varies depending on who I'm meeting with, but those are just a few of the questions I've gotten before, and I always love getting any form of question, like any of those, just because I think it shows that people really care when I come to different events, and they're always eager to know just anything about me and that makes me feel really special, it's a really cool thing.
Mike: Oh, I can just see a middle school boy coming up to you asking for your Snapchat, that takes me to the Sandlot and Squints with Wendy.
Kylene: Oh my gosh. A Wendy Peffercorn situation?
Kylene: Oh my gosh. I always laugh when it's a middle schooler too, like usually high schoolers don't do that, but it's always the middle schoolers that do, and it's like, oh, that's really sweet that you wanna ask for those things, very bold of them too. Usually I think it's cuz their friends dare them to do it, and I really appreciate them for, you know, having courage to do those things. But even if it was a boy or a girl, I don't give that stuff out for privacy reasons. So that's what I usually phrase it as, and then I try to talk to them about different things and change the subject real quick.
Mike: Well, you know, it's so interesting. I have to ask you, did you watch the Miss America pageant?
Kylene: I did! They live streamed it on pageantslive.com throughout the entire week that it goes on, because it's a week long event, they have different prelim nights, they have different things going on throughout the week, and then I watched finals night as well, so I saw every step of Grace's journey and it was so fun to watch all of those steps.
Mike: Who were you with when you watched it?
Kylene: Where was I?
Kylene: I was in my living room. Because I had to work the week that it happened, I wasn't able to take off work to go see her in person, they hosted it in Connecticut and I wasn't able to go out there, so I was in my living room, sitting on the floor in front of the TV, because I couldn't relax enough to sit on a couch like a normal person.
Mike: So, wait, so you're by yourself?
Kylene: No, I had family members with me. I've known Grace for a long time, and so my family was really excited when she became Miss Wisconsin and got to go to Miss America. So I think at least for the prelim nights, I had four or five family members, and then for the finals night we had a watch party and there was about 20 people in our living room.
Mike: So when they put the crown on her head and named her, I know you were probably excited for her, but how soon after did you go, oh wait, that means my life is about to change.
Kylene: Right. Well, you know, it's so funny that you ask this, because I get this asked all the time in interviews and I love talking about it, because when she was crowned Miss America, when it was announced that it was her, I mean, I lost my mind, I was crying, freaking out, and that moment was genuinely all about her and my excitement for her and having this new job promotion and having this wonderful thing happen. And it wasn't until a couple minutes later when my grandma came up to me and said, oh, congratulations, you're the new Miss Wisconsin, where I was like, oh my gosh, the board might ask me to be Miss Wisconsin now.
So it definitely was a couple minutes after she was crowned, but I feel like that's just really special too, because like that moment really did get to be all about her. And then, once the board had reached out to me, you know, it took about a week or so to kind of establish things and I had to check in with a lot of people at my work.
Kylene: Typically, Miss Wisconsin doesn't work full-time and I wanted to try to do my full-time job and also the full-time job of Miss Wisconsin and once we kind of had those things worked out, they announced it a couple weeks later, so.
Mike: Awesome. That is awesome. Obviously we're gonna put links to your Miss Wisconsin website on here so people can contact you about bookings for your initiative, but in getting to know you a little bit, you were on a scholarship to college? Kind of a unique one I think.
Mike: Talk about the uniqueness of your scholarship.
Kylene: I would love to, so this is maybe just another random fact about me, I'm a baton twirler, and I have been a baton twirler for about 20 years, I started when I was about three years old and it was sort of unintentionally. My mom actually wanted me to be a cheerleader, and none of the dance studios close to my house where I live would take girls as young as three, except for this baton and dance studio.
So I went there and joined like a combination class, a combo class we call it, which is tumbling, ton and dance, it's a combination of all of those things. And I ended up falling in love with baton twirling. So I became introduced actually to the Miss America organization when I was in high school. I knew that I wanted to twirl at a college someday, and they have a teen program, and I joined the team program so that I would have more performance opportunities, and that's how I got involved with all of this in the first place.
And then I, you know, competed and I auditioned at different colleges and my number one school has always been the University of Iowa because they offer a full ride scholarship for that position. And once I competed for that role, I was offered the role and I accepted it. And so I went to the University of Iowa to twirl with the Hawkeye Marching Band as the Golden Girl feature twirler.
So that's just a weird, like fun thing about me, I guess. And it's really neat to see, you know, once I moved back to Wisconsin, how baton twirling became my talent when I competed for Miss Wisconsin and now as Miss Wisconsin, at different local competitions, I get to twirl my talent and do my baton twirling routine all the time.
Mike: So, okay, now as Miss Wisconsin, can you go back to the University of Iowa ?
Kylene: I mean, I could! And to be honest, okay. I almost was gonna bring this up earlier when you mentioned Iowa and Wisconsin, I'm like, no, I won't. I'm actually not a Badger fan, I'm a Hawkeye through and through. I have been for years.
Kylene: I'm still a Wisconsinite through and through though, like I love the Brewers, I love the Packers, but the Badgers man, I just can't get behind it. And my friend Grace, who's Miss America, she's a student at UW Madison. And so her and I, we're really good friends and we have a little rivalry about all of that because I'm a Hawkeye and she's a Badger, so.
Mike: Well that is great. Well, I think we can tell by just what you've said, you're incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. I've watched you do your talk to a group of high school, middle school kids and they were just enthralled and it's such an important message to get across. 1 in every 68 seconds is ridiculous. It's just ridiculous, and the fact that, as you said, only 10% report is not healthy. Not healthy.
Mike: So thank you so much for joining us, anything we can do to support you, let us know. For those of you who are listening, the link to Kylene's website and bookings are on the end of this podcast. We always hope you're interested in what we have to say, and until we meet next time, please feel free to listen again. And until then, stay safe. And when you say no, it means no.
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