Category Archives: Sexual Assault Awareness

Sexual Assault (Smartphone) App

On 13 July 2011, Vice President Joe Biden, The White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a challenge: “Apps Against Abuse” (here’s the press release). The purpose is to provide an incentive for industry to develop “an easy-to-use application that provides a targeted way for young women to designate trusted friends, allies, or emergency contacts and provide a means for checking-in with these individuals in real-time, particularly in at-risk situations. The winning application will also provide quick access to resources and information on sexual assault and teen dating violence, as well as where to go for help.”

I’m in strong support for this action in that there is an immediate need to both raise awareness of sexual violence as well as provide the resources and means to actively prevent or stop it. Both are very empowering things to do. As a staff member of the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center this is one of my primary functions in advocating and providing support for the campus community. Yet as I cast my support the creation of such an app I see trouble from a broader perspective.

As I read the article I realized that the conversation STILL employs the antiquated and limited concept that “sexual violence is something that only men do to women.” Although it’s difficult to know exact statistics this has always been true for the majority of sexual violence. Still, a man is not immune to sexual violence or relationship abuse even if he is heterosexual. Framing the social dysfunction of “sexual violence” in such a way is inappropriately both heterosexist and genderist (or gender conformacist). First, I define heterosexism as the belief that opposite-sex sexuality/relationships is the superior and only valid sexuality. This excludes same-sex sexuality/relationships from the conversation. Second, I define genderism/gender conformacism as the belief that gender conformance is the superior and only valid gender identity and form of expression. Gender conformance is the limiting, binary concept that female-bodied persons must predominantly express femininity while male-bodied persons must predominantly express masculinity. The gendersim inherent to the conversation excludes people whose gender identity and/or expression is not gender conforming. Therefore, the dialogues occurring at the highest level of our government about sexual violence fail to recognize our whole community. As a consequence victims/survivors of sexual violence in LGBTQ relationships as well as heterosexual males are left out and their experiences are denied recognition.

Another area of concern: WHO would this “app” affect? Specifically, WHO has a Smartphone?… those with economic class privilege who can afford one. Also, will the app be accessible for persons with varying physical or mental abilities (audio, visual, or perceptual) or who don’t speak fluent English? Although it certainly could and I hope it will, I doubt it. So although this app is intended to reduce sexual violence on college campuses it has the unintended impact of only targeting a limited, privileged proportion of campus communities.

Lastly and perhaps most important: How does this app challenge our culture’s victim-blaming belief that the responsibility of preventing and stopping sexual violence lies with potential victims/survivors? IT DOESN’T. In no way will this app address the fact that perpetrators of sexual violence are 100% at fault for their crimes. This app joins the vast majority of efforts to end sexual violence that are focused on potential victims/survivors as opposed to potential perpetrators. As such it has the effect of reinforcing the false idea that survivors of sexual violence are at fault for their own victimization.

It probably seems like I hate this “Apps Against Abuse” challenge but like I said before, I’m in support of it. However, I strongly oppose its heterosexist, genderist, and victim-blaming foundations as well as its potential inaccessibility based on socioeconomic status, physical or mental ability, and language. When the rhetoric of sexual violence and the application of practices to end it are not intentionally inclusive of all affected groups we fail to legitimize the experience of those excluded groups. Lacking legitimacy from one’s own government and society is tantamount to dehumanization and reinforces systems of supremacy and oppression. From my experience, creating a program or project that is focused on ENGAGING PEOPLE AS POTENTIAL PERPETRATORS of sexual violence is rarely undertaken because it is very, very difficult. For one, implementation of such action requires a level of skill and charisma that is difficult to develop. More so, interacting with participants who are potential victims/survivors might seem easier than interacting with participants who are potential perpetrators. Consider this: If you advertised your program or project that focuses on potential perpetrators of sexual violence who would be open and willing to actively engage?! Self-identifying as a potential rapist is a psychologically scary and painful thing to do. Being told one is a potential rapist will cause most people to shut down immediately. To see the face of violence in the mirror is not something many people are willing to do. Yet understanding one’s social position in a victim-blaming, patriarchal, rape culture is, in my opinion, the first step we have to take in working to end sexual violence.

Creating this smartphone app is a good idea but it’s just the easy, safe action for the government to push for. Yet in lieu of everything else I’ve considered here it’s just another expression of our governments disinterest in creating foundational, socially just change.


by Dustin Neff
Graduate AssistantEquity & Social Justice Educator
Margaret Sloss Women’s Center –Iowa State University
203 Sloss House
Ames, IA 50011
P 515-294-4154

Rethinking “marital duties”

There’s a bit of a warning that goes off in my mind when I see, printed on the “page” from the old textbook that this is, in fact, an excerpt from a textbook from the 60’s – which is why it pictures a woman from the 1800’s :), but for the sake of discussion, I’m choosing to ignore it.  So let’s break down all of the lies that are contained in such a short segment.

1.  Women are expected to only couple with men, and then it must be within the “sanctity” of marriage.  False.  Women, you should be with whomever fulfills you emotionally, mentally, and sexually; man or woman make no difference.  And get married if it’s what you like, and don’t if it isn’t.

2.  “If you need to apply face-cream or hair-rollers wait until he is asleep as this can be shocking to a man last thing at night.”  No my dears, you apply that face cream and (if you still wear them) hair-rollers and you let your partner see it!  If you live together, you ought to be able to be comfortable in your own home – makeup free and lounging in sweat pants if you so choose.

3.  “When it comes to the possibility of intimate relations with your husband it is important to remember your marriage vows and in particular your commitment to obey them.”  Absolutely and utterly false!  If your partner (man, woman, married or no) wants to have sex and you don’t – don’t.  Sexual assault can and does occur within intimate and married relationships.  You should never have to engage in “intimate relations” because you vowed to “obey”.  You should only engage in intimate relations when you are actively and positively consenting.

4.  “A man’s satisfaction is more important than a woman’s.”  FALSE!  This is absolutely untrue.  Women, you need some satisfaction.  My suggestion: figure out what gives you pleasure and then share the good news!  Your partner should be just as intent on your pleasure as they are on their own and vice-versa.

5.  “Should your husband suggest any more of the unusual practices be obedient and uncomplaining but register any reluctance by remaining silent.”  Again, this is false.  If a particular position or act makes you uncomfortable, the last thing you should do is remain silent.  Silence is not consent for your partner to continue, but saying “No” makes it clear that you are not giving consent.  Husband or wife or partner, if one person isn’t into it, you cannot do it.  And if you begin a new “practice” and decide, midway through you don’t like it, you absolutely have the right to say stop and your partner absolutely has the responsibility to do that.

6. “Arise shortly before…to make his tea.”  He knows where the tea is and he can turn on the stove.  🙂 Your sleep is just as important as your partners.

Though this “extract” is silly, the information contained within it is dangerous.  It perpetuates very real expectations of a marital relationship and promotes marital rape, which is as illegal as rape by a stranger.  You should never have to fear your most intimate partner, and if you do there are people who want to help.  If you have any questions about what constitutes sexual assault within a marriage or in general, please contact:

ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support)
515-292-5378 (515-29ALERT)


Margaret Sloss Women’s Center

It’s time…to show your support

Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.  Help bring awareness to the resources that exist to serve survivors by taking two minutes to update your profile picture via your social media outlet of choice.

How do we stand united against Sexual Assault?  It’s simple:

1.  Find a camera.

2. Grab a clock (grandfather, alarm, digital, or wall – all are acceptable).

3. Hold the clock.

4. Take your picture.

5. Post it to all of your social media sites April 5, 2011.

Take the time to get involved and show support.

After you’ve posted your picture, take two minutes to learn a fact about sexual assault.  Here’s a free fact: It is never the victim’s fault in cases of sexual assault or violence.  Rape is about power and control, not about the way someone’s dressed.  The greatest thing you can do for someone who tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted is believe them.

Here are some great resources for information about sexual assault.  Get informed:

Iowa State University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy

ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support)

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

During April, ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter & Support), The Margaret Sloss Women’s Center, and a number of Iowa State University departments and student organizations will be joining with people throughout the state and the nation to increase the public’s attention on Sexual Assault. This is an opportunity to highlight the efforts of individuals and agencies that provide rape crisis intervention and prevention services while offering support to sexual assault survivors, victims and their families. This year’s theme is “Preventing Sexual Violence on College Campuses.”

Sexual violence is a crime of epidemic proportions. It affects everyone. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (

  • Every 2 minutes someone is sexual assaulted in the US.
  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted.
  • College age women are 4 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.
  • In 2007, there were 248,300 victims of sexual assault.
  • 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.

SAAM raises awareness of sexual violence through special events while highlighting sexual violence as a major public health issue and reinforces the need for prevention efforts.  Local activities to raise awareness of sexual violence include:

“Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Film Showing

Friday, April 1, Sloss House, 2 – 5 p.m.\

Join us at the Sloss House to watch “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and discuss plot points as well as ways we can work to end sexual violence.

Get a Magnet off an ISU PD Vehicle

Monday, April 4, 12:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., South Lawn of Parks Library

Friday, April 8, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Fire Station 2 Welch Ave.

Stop by to peel a magnet or two off an ISU PD vehicle as a reminder to get a yes and of local resources.

Teal Ribbon Distribution

Monday, April 11, Memorial Union booth, 11 – 2 p.m.

Wednesday, April 13, Memorial Union booth, 11 – 2 p.m.

Vagina Warriors will be distributing ribbons. Stop by, take one, and show your support to stop sexual violence on our campus.

T-shirt Designing for The Clothesline Project

Thursday, April 14, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., Sloss House

Design t-shirts that will be displayed in the Clothesline Project, that address the issue of sexual violence to educate the public.

The Clothesline Project

Thursday, April 14, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., West Lawn of the Sloss House
The Clothesline Project is a visual display of t-shirts addressing the issue of violence against women. T-shirts have been designed by survivors and families/friends of survivors. The project focuses on providing healing for survivors of violence, educating the public about issues of violence, and encouraging individual action to prevent violence. Participants will have the opportunity to create a shirt of their own during the event at the Sloss House.

These Hands Don’t Hurt

Thursday, April 14, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., West Lawn of the Sloss House

This is a visual support of non-violence by imprinting your hand on a large canvas representing your commitment to not commit acts of violence against others. Make the pledge to end violence against men, women, and children. The completed banner will represent the people who are supporting the movement against violence. Coordinated by Alpha Kappa Lambda.

Rice Krispie Treat® Bake Sale

Thursday, April 14, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., West Lawn of the Sloss House

Alpha Kappa Lambda will be selling Rice Krispie Treats®. All sales will be donated to ACCESS.

“heARTs for Art” Exhibition

Saturday, April 16, Ames Public Library

Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support invites crime survivors to participate in the “heARTs for art” exhibitition on April 16, 2011 at the Ames Public Library.

SAAM on Display

Monday, April 18 – Friday, April 22, Memorial Union Display Case

Find more information on the events, read about how sexual assault impacts our community, and where to find local resources at the Memorial Union display case.

Self-Defense Workshop

Monday, April 18, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.,
The Hapkido Club will teach lessons on how to avoid hazardous situations and what to do if you can’t. The lessons are very interactive. Students will leave the event with an understanding of basic self-defense techniques.

Take Time on Tuesday: Sexist Comments to Sexual Assault

Tuesday, April 19, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m., Sloss House

Sexist Comments to Sexual Assault: How we can make a difference in violence against women. Violence against women impacts us all. Though it can be an intimidating topic, change can start with the “small” stuff. We’ll be discussing ways that we can step-in and speak-out against violence against women in all its forms. Additionally, we’ll share resources and ideas about how to provide support to a friend who has been sexually assaulted and/or who is at-risk in a violent relationship.

Take Back the Night Rally & March

Wednesday, April 20, Rally beginning at 6:00 p.m., Iowa State Memorial Union West Terrace

March beginning at approximately 6:45 p.m., Around campus and campustown

Take Back the Night is an internationally recognized event with rich history, occurring worldwide since the 1970’s. The annual Take Back the Night rally and march at Iowa State University is organized with the purpose of unifying women, men, and children in an awareness of violence against women, children and families. You are invited to join us at the rally and march to take a stand against violence and make the night safe for everyone.

Take Back the Night: Taking the Stage to Reflect and Express Open Mic

Wednesday, April 20, Open Mic begins at 7:30 p.m., UDCC Room 136

To celebrate taking back the night we are hosting an open mic event for the community to share stories, poems, and music.

Asian Pacific American Film Showing: Struggles with Sexual Assault

Thursday, April 21, 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa is sponsoring a film and discussion that touch on the topic of the struggles with sexual assault within the Asian Pacific American community.

For more information on Sexual Assault Awareness Month, contact the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center at 515/294-4154 between 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, confidential help through Sexual Assault Support Services,  is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week at 515-29-ALERT (515-292-5378).

Events are supported by the Sexual Misconduct Education Committee: Alpha Kappa Lambda, ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support), Department of Residence, Greek Affairs, ISU Department of Public Safety, Margaret Sloss Women’s Center, Sexual Assault Response Team, Student Counseling Services and Students 2 Students

The Earthquake Aftermath: Haiti

The story of the women of Haiti is one filled with heartbreak.  These women no longer have homes or support systems and face assaults on a regular basis.  Because of the horrific experiences these women have had to endure, Eve Ensler has chosen Haiti as the spotlight campaign for The Vagina Monologues ({2011}).

Please consider showing your support by attending the show in the M-Shop (February 10th @ 5:30p, February 11th @ 6 and 9p), purchasing a chocolate vagina (for sale in the Sloss House), or making an outright donation to our campaign.

10% of all funds will benefit the women of Haiti.  The remaining 90% will be donated to ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support) so they can continue to provide invaluable services to the survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Here is more information about the services offered by ACCESS:

All services provided by ACCESS are free and confidential.  To learn more about their services or to set up an appointment with an advocate, call (515) 292-5378.

  • 24-hour Crisis Line: Listening, support, information and advocacy
  • Shelter: Safe, temporary housing for women and their children.
  • Children’s Programs: Counseling, advocacy, outings, and play groups.
  • Individual Counseling: Short-term counseling to adult survivors of child sexual abuse, sexual assault, or domestic violence or dating violence.
  • Support Groups: Support groups for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and children who have experienced or witnessed family violence.
  • Advocacy: Support, information and referrals for clients working with the legal, medical, or social service systems.
  • Community Education: Educational programming to schools, community groups, organizations and agencies.
  • Crisis Response Services
  • SART (Story County Sexual Assault Response Team): Crisis support and on-going advocacy.
  • Call 29-ALERT (292-5378) to speak with an ACCESS volunteer about your options.

Please contact the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center with any questions about the V-Day Campaign. 515-294-4154 or

The Vagina Monologues!

Well friends, we are officially in V-Season!  The Iowa State ({2011}) V-Day campaign to end violence against women is in full swing.  For those of you unfamiliar with The Vagina Monologues, do we have a treat for you!

Here’s a sneak peak from the playwright herself, Eve Ensler:

Since 1996, The Vagina Monologues have been shocking and delighting audiences across the globe.  The Vagina Warriors at Iowa State are proud to perform this year’s show.  For the past month, we have been talking about vaginas, creating paper vaginas, selling chocolate vaginas, and rehearsing monologues about vaginas.  Through the sisterhood of the cast, we are excited to bring you a show that not only promises to entertain, but raises awareness about the very serious topic of domestic and sexual violence.

The mission of the V-Day campaign is at the heart of each Vagina Warriors:

V-Day is an organized response against violence toward women.

V-Day is a vision: We see a world where women live safely and freely.

V-Day is a demand: Rape, incest, battery, genital mutilation and sexual slavery must end now.

V-Day is a spirit: We believe women should spend their lives creating and thriving rather than surviving or recovering from terrible atrocities.

V-Day is a catalyst: By raising money and consciousness, it will unify and strengthen existing anti-violence efforts. Triggering far-reaching awareness, it will lay the groundwork for new educational, protective, and legislative endeavors throughout the world.

V-Day is a process: We will work as long as it takes. We will not stop until the violence stops.

V-Day is a day. We proclaim Valentine’s Day as V-Day, to celebrate women and end the violence.

V-Day is a fierce, wild, unstoppable movement and community. Join us!

Performances in the Memorial Union Maintenance Shop:

Thursday, February 10th @ 5:30pm – Join us for a brief discussion after the show to learn how you can work to end violence throughout the year.

Friday, February 11th @ 6:00pm – We are proud to provide American Sign Language interpreters at this show!

Friday, February 11th @ 9:00pm

Tickets are on sale at the M-Shop.  Students pay $12 with an ISU i.d. and community members pay $15.  Chocolate vaginas will be available for purchase at all shows.  Visit us in the West Student Office Space booth on Monday, January 31; Tuesday, February 1; Thursday, February 10; and Friday, February 11 to purchase “I Respect Vaginas” t-shirts and chocolates.

All proceeds from the show go to benefit the Ames Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support (ACCESS).  Last year we were able to raise $5,000.  Help us surpass that this year!

Questions? Contact Liz Steinborn at the MSWC:

Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa

Monsoon was founded in August 2003 as a culturally specific Asian organization, serving victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and conducting community awareness activities and prevention work

Monsoon-United Asian Women of Iowa is committed to helping families of Asian descent in Iowa. The organization’s long-term mission is to eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault by promoting the social, economic, and political self-determination of all women.

Monsoon upholds every person’s right to live in a home and society that is free of violence and sexual coercion. Its specific focus is to address the cultural and language needs of immigrant, refugee and U.S.-born Asian women and their children.

Many Asian women living in Iowa face special challenges because of the cultural isolation, language barriers and the widely dispersed community in rural and urban areas.

Monsoon will function as a resource, advocate and support for Asian women, children and families affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.

For more information about Monsoon, visit


Hi my name is Thao Pham and I am currently a sophomore at ISU. I am working as a Peer-To-Peer Advocate and Outreach intern for Monsoon. I helped facilitate a discussion entitled “Intersections of Identity: Race, Sexuality, and Safety” two weeks ago with the help of the lovely and amazing Sloss Women’s Center staff.  My boss Mira Yusef (director of Monsoon) has truly been a great help in allowing me to do work in my areas of interest and helping me in any form that she can. The focus of the dialogue was on partner violence among queer women of color.  After hosting the dialogue, I reflected a bit about the topic. After hearing everyone’s comments, it furthered the notion even more that dating violence among queer people, nevertheless queer women of color are indeed very invisible. I had several people come up to me after the discussion to tell me that they never really thought about the queer community when they thought about domestic violence and sexual assault.

As an openly gay Vietnamese American woman of color, I’ve been interested in the topic of dating violence among queer women of color because of the different issues regarding intersections of identities that are present. A significant root of the issue is the heterosexism that is prevalent among our society. Why do we only see heterosexual males as the batterers and weakened heterosexual females as the victims or survivors? Why do the terms “survivor” “domestic violence” and “batterer” automatically assume gender roles? Another significant factor to input is race. Specific race/ethnicity(s) and cultures often don’t get linked to the terms sexual assault and domestic violence. I know that for Asian and Pacific Islanders, domestic violence and sexual assault isn’t generally thought of because of the stereotypes that exist that Asians are passive and quiet people. In reality, many incidents go unreported because of various barriers that hinder individuals from reporting any act of violence. These are important things to think about.

Another important issue to bring up is the media exposure of queer partner violence. It’s barely visible. Among the few media portrayals are scenes in the L Word, Noah’s Arc, and Boys Don’t Cry. Even with those portrayals, they are predominantly white and upper-class individuals. They are not exactly accurate or represent a diversity of communities. Even with issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, the hierarchy of privilege plays a significant role.

From personal experiences, I’ve had difficulty reporting incidents regarding bullying, harassment, sexual assault, and abuse because of my queer, gender, and cultural identities. Fear of community judgment and disclosing my sexual orientation were always huge barriers. I was already out to my family, but my family wasn’t ready for me to be out to the bigger community.”Saving face” and preserving honor among my family were values instilled in me at an early age. Because of my race and sexual orientation, I didn’t know how reporting incidents of same-sex partner violence would be received by anyone of a higher authority who may not be as sensitive to dealing with queer partner violence.

With Stalking Awareness month and Sexual Assault awareness month coming up within the next few months, more dialogue about these issues are increasingly important.

So this concludes my blog post for today….more will come later!!


Thao Pham

30th Anniversary Logo

In January, 2011, the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary at Iowa State University.  Here’s a bit of herstory for you:

The Sloss House is located on the Iowa State University campus. This stately little house is nestled among pine trees, with a spectacular view to the west of the University’s central campus. When Sloss House was built in 1883, it was both a significant and dominate building. The location of the college necessitated housing for part of the faculty, since Ames proper was an half-hour horse ride away. The structure marked the boundary of the faculty community from the rest of the college. At the time of its completion, it was one of the twelve buildings on the campus.

The Sloss House has become lost in the University’s growth over the last 100 years. However, it still retains most of its original character with the surrounding environment. Everything remains virtually unchanged, as if it has just been completed, except for the overgrowth of some of the vegetation and the fact that Curtiss Hall is to the North. A view from the house to the west, south and east can give you a historic feeling of what the campus may have actually looked like in its early years.” Today only three faculty home remain on campus. Construction of the new Gerdin Business College will begin during Fall 2001 just south of the Sloss House.

Yes women have the right to vote.  Yes more women are enrolling in higher education than ever before.  Yes women are starting to make their way in predominantly male fields.  But there is still a long way to go.  Women are still asked to choose between advancing their careers and having a family.  One in four college women is still sexually assaulted during their college career.  Women are still considered too emotional and too sensitive to work in certain fields.  And women are still being paid $0.73 for every dollar their male colleagues make.

We have a long way to go.  The Margaret Sloss Women’s Center is here to support you!

“Sex Talk”

Check out this web comic about “communication, consent, and gettin’ it on”!

How often do you have a conversation about your wants and desires BEFORE you have sex?  It isn’t weird, it isn’t strange, and it certainly isn’t rude to communicate your wants and needs in the bedroom (in the backseat, in your residence hall, in a library corner, or under the campanile).

Do you have these talks with your partners before you have sex?  Any advice for others out there?

The Vagina Monologues

Be a part of something amazing!  Join the Vagina Warriors and audition for “The Vagina Monologues”!

The Vagina Monologues were created by Eve Ensler to end violence against women and children. V-Day is a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls.  V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations.

All funds raised by the Vagina Warriors through The Vagina Monologues will go to benefit ACCESS.

V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sex slavery.

Join the fight and audition!  Don’t want to get on stage?  No problem!  We are looking for people to get involved with fundraising and advertising.

Auditions at the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center:
Monday, November 15 from 6-8pm
Tuesday, November 16 from 8-10pm
Wednesday, November 17 from 11am-1pm

Contact Christine Peterson. Liz Steinborn, or any of the Vagina Warriors to find out more information about Iowa State’s participation in the V-Day Campaign.


And who doesn’t want to sit around and talk about vaginas all day?!

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