“Start by Starting.” With Penny Bauder & Natalina Slaughter

At the end of the day, you can’t accomplish things without getting out there and trying. I had the idea to this for years before I summoned the courage to just try. I wasted time being scared and not doing, when I could have been trying and learning from my mistakes. I had the pleasure […]

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At the end of the day, you can’t accomplish things without getting out there and trying. I had the idea to this for years before I summoned the courage to just try. I wasted time being scared and not doing, when I could have been trying and learning from my mistakes.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Natalina Slaughter.

Natalina is a therapist, educator, and writer. She developed a skill for communicating hard truths at a young age, illustrating a children’s book on stillbirth and infant loss called No Smile Cookies Today while still in Elementary school herself. As a teenage leader and activist, she organized protests at her Catholic college preparatory school against outdated policies and former St. Paul Archbishop Nienstedt due to his homophobic and victim blaming comments. She first developed a passion for forensic psychology volunteering interviewing incarcerated women who had experienced domestic violence for possible commutation of sentences. This passion led her to focus her professional career on preventing violent crime as a sex offender treatment therapist and educator. Now in her twenties, she founded SlaughterHouse Education with the goal of providing much needed information on sexual violence prevention and other uncomfortable truths through videos, speeches, written works, and consultation. In the era of #MeToo and the wake of significant public figures being accused of sexual misconduct, the knowledge she provides is invaluable. She holds a B.A. in English with a minor in Women and Gender Studies, and an M.A. in Psychological Sciences with a focus on Clinical/Counseling Psychology. She lives in Minneapolis, MN with her cat Stella, and an impressive collection of skulls.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

Igrew up wanting to change the world. I can’t remember a time when that wasn’t on the agenda. When I was born, I was very sick. I was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and the doctors didn’t think I was going to make it. But I did. I think there’s a type of perspective that comes with knowing every day I wake up, is a day I didn’t expect to have. I feel as though I’m essentially living on bonus time, and the best way to show my gratitude for the doctors and nurses who saved my life is to do everything I can with it.

You are currently leading a social impact organization. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

Absolutely, our organization is trying to change the paradigm of how we view bad people and bad things in order to do real prevention work. In psychology there’s a concept called the Just World Theory; or as I typically refer to it, the Just World Fallacy. This states that good things happen to good people (because they are good) and bad things happen to bad people (because they are bad). This is a common idea in American culture, but it’s not real. Bad things happen to good people all the time, and the reasons behind someone committing a horrific act are always more complex than “they were bad”.

This fallacy is destructive and harmful because it creates a false sense of security, encourages us to blame victims, and prevents us from seeing the problem clearly enough to make real headway on curbing harmful behaviors. By providing education based in empirical research we are able to address these issues in a way that reflects reality and offers practical solutions.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

My heart is, and always will be, in sexual violence prevention.

My senior year of high school they brought in a speaker on sexual violence. It was this presentation called Not That Girl. I made it to the point where the speaker was talking about watching your drinks before I walked out. There was something about that phrase “Not That Girl” that kept ringing in my head over and over as I got up red faced and left the auditorium, trying to escape it. Still that phrase comes back to me years later, again filling my cheeks with blood and stomach with anger. Why?

Because the subtext is that “it’s going to happen to some girl, I just don’t want it to be me. As long as I’m not that girl, I’m fine. Because that girl doesn’t matter, at least not as much as I do”. I got up and left because I felt like we weren’t being taught to prevent sexual violence, we were being taught to pass it on to someone more vulnerable. The girl who is more drunk, more high, more scared, more traumatized… that girl. Her, not me.

I was, am, disgusted by that form of sexual violence prevention, and I wanted to do something better. I wanted to do something to actually help that girl. Because we all are that girl. There’s always a situation where you going to be the weakest, most vulnerable person in the room. I want to help create a society where that person gets to feel as safe as everyone else.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

For me, in order to start doing, I needed to stop overthinking. That’s what was holding me back, and what I think holds many people back. The problem for me was that I was terrified of not being perfect, or even more horrifying, of failing. I used to believe that if I can sit and think about the problem five million different ways there’s no way I will stumble or fail because I’ve already accounted for it in my head. But now I see that was just me being paralyzed in fear. I had to accept that I’m going to flub up and sound silly at times, I’m going to fail. However, I’m also going to learn from it and it’s going to be okay.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

The first thing I did, and I would recommend doing, is to speak with people in your social network who have relevant interests, expertise, and experiences. Something that can prevent people from taking any steps forward is thinking they need to figure it all out on their own. That’s not realistic, organizations are founded on cooperation between people.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Something I find interesting, and was certainly surprising, was that my work got the attention of 4chan (an anonymous forum well-known for hate speech and trolling) incredibly early. The first time one of my videos on Youtube broke 500 views, it was because someone linked it to 4chan over and over and encouraged people to watch it and send me gross comments. It was antisemitic and misogynistic stuff, nothing I haven’t dealt with before. I’m not saying this because I’m looking for sympathy, but because it had the complete opposite effect the trolls were hoping for. It was motivating and I had a lot of people tell me that was proof positive I was doing something right. 4chan trolls still do things like this, and to be honest I think it only helps me.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

I think I’ve made every technological mistake a human being can make. It’s resulted in some hilarious failures: audio and visual not aligning so dialogue looks like a bad English-dubbed kung-fu movie from the 70s, random blackouts, knocking the camera over so many times I should make a montage of it. My biggest lesson is not to take myself too seriously. I just laugh at myself when I do these fails and try do better next time.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

My biggest support is my partner Ashley Roller. Without her, none of this possible. We’ve been support for each other in many different ways over the years, and when I told her my idea of starting Slaughterhouse Education, she was immediately all in. She’s a genius, one of those people who instinctively knows things. She’s self-taught on more instruments than I can count, a fantastic editor and photographer, understands history and politics, is really everything anyone could hope for intellectually. She brings all of that to the table, and we have such a close trust and bond that we can have these really productive conversations without getting feelings hurt. I think in order to be successful you need to have people in your life who you can throw out your egos with and just focus on the creative process.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

As a graduate student, I created an educational video for medical school students debunking the Just World Fallacy and explaining how not to victim-blame trauma survivors seeking help. Empirically, the group of students who saw this video were significantly less likely to blame a hypothetical rape survivor in the Emergency Room than the group of students who were shown a different video about trauma and PTSD that didn’t talk about the harm of victim blaming. Many medical students who saw the experimental video I created left comments on how helpful it was and how this type of information would be useful on a broader scale. That’s a huge part of what pushed me forward, I want to keep creating more content to help survivors from being re-victimized by the people they trust to help them.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I’m going to answer this as what each of those groups of people could do to help, because I think they are quite different:

What communities can do is create redundant, parallel systems to the ones that currently exist for educating and supporting each other. Without solid local support systems, people fall through the cracks and don’t get what they need.

What society can do is throw out this idea we have about good things only happening to good people and bad things only happening to bad people. That societal myth does a lot of damage. Removing it and instead focusing on behaviors, which are both more concrete and more changeable than someone’s internal goodness, is more helpful.

Politicians can pass the Violence Against Women Act and ensure that it includes assistance for all peoples who experience sexual or gendered violence. VAWA is where a significant amount of funding for sexual violence prevention comes from. Right now that funding doesn’t exist because VAWA, which has passed with bipartisan starting in 1994, is no longer active. Ratifying the Equal Right Amendment may also help prevent things like this from happening in the future.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  • Start by Starting

At the end of the day, you can’t accomplish things without getting out there and trying. I had the idea to this for years before I summoned the courage to just try. I wasted time being scared and not doing, when I could have been trying and learning from my mistakes.

  • Find your People

Nothing gets done on an island of one. Without help and collaboration from other people, you start to get unsure, frustrated, and lost. I have accomplished exponentially more with one solid person on my team than I ever could have solo.

  • Stop Comparing

You are going to compare yourself to other people you perceive as doing similar things to you. Stop it. You absolutely should get a feel for the industry you want to go into, but enviably you will compare yourself (someone who is brand new and still has a lot to learn) to someone very established and who probably has a whole crew of people helping them. That can lead to a depression spiral that isn’t helpful. You are at different places in your life and career, and that’s okay.

  • Double-down on Yourself

When I was just starting, that negative voice in the back of my mind was constantly telling me to give up. That this is silly, no one wants to hear from me, it’s never going to make a difference, etc. What I did to counter it was to double-down on myself every time those thoughts popped into my head. I would think of reasons to believe in myself, why it’s not silly and how I can make a difference. I did that over and over until I really believed those things, and now that voice isn’t nearly as strong or annoying.

  • Choose Realistic Goals

Setting really high goals really quickly, or even just goals that aren’t concrete is again something that may set you up to feel depressed or like you want to give up. If I went into this thinking I was going to get a million Youtube subscribers in three months, I’d be pretty disappointed. I try to set small goals of things that actually matter to me, such as someone commenting that they learned something, which helps me track progress without getting down on myself.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would tell other young people that we need you, and now is the time to get in the game. It’s the younger generation that has to clean this all up and move us forward, that’s the position we are in. There’s this quote I love, “There’s no justice, there’s just us”. I’ve taken that to mean, there’s not going to be a Deus Ex Machina, no one is going to magically come down and fix the lead pipes in Flint, or end mass incarceration, or make sure ocelots don’t go extinct. Whatever it is you care the most about, you need to make that difference because someone needs to, it’s not going to happen otherwise.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Rupaul Charles, without a single doubt or question. Maybe this sounds silly to say about the most famous Drag Queen in the world, but Rupaul has been a maternal figure for me when I needed it the most. I actually thanked him in the acknowledgements of my Master’s thesis, because I feel like I wouldn’t have made it without him. When I feel down, or like I don’t know what to do, I go back and watch episodes of Rupaul’s Drag Race to get strength from the competitors and wisdom from Ru. The message always seems to be that no matter who you are, you have value and deserve to exist. I think that’s a message we all need to hear. I’d love to personally thank him for how much he’s positively impacted my life.

How can our readers follow you online?

I would encourage them to subscribe to the Slaughterhouse Education Youtube Channel where you can learn more about harmful behavior patterns and how to prevent them. We recently published a video on the Psychology of Narcissism which provides timely and practical information on this destructive behavior pattern.

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