June 6, 2017: Abry Deshong, Social Entrepreneurship

maiawhistleAbry Deshong is a social scientist and the founder of Maia Whistle, a company that designs functional jewelry to raise awareness for ending sexual assault. Her jewelry is designed to be both functional, acting as a rape whistle, and a conversation starter around the topic of sexual violence. Abry started our discussion by sharing how she got involved preventing domestic/sexual violence. We then transitioned into broader conversation about rape culture and how to combat it.

Social entrepreneurship is taking action to solve social and cultural issues through startup companies and the like.

Learn more about the Maia Whistle at the website or Facebook page.



  • There are several TED Talks on sexual assault. Ione Wells’s talk, “How We Talk about Sexual Assault Online,” is particularly relevant to the focus of Abry’s presentation.
  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network): This national organization hosts programs against sexual violence, works to inform national policy on sexual violence, and helps operate a hotline for survivors and those affected by sexual violence.
  • The Blue Bench: Denver’s support center for survivors and those affected by sexual violence.
  • Forbes’ list of 30 social entrepreneurs making a difference: This list gives a good sense of the breadth of work social entrepreneurs engage in. 
  • Falling Whistles: These whistles are made by a non-profit organization to raise money and awareness for the people of The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Talking about sexual violence

Below are discussion questions from Abry, most of which we didn’t have time to address. Feel free to use these to start conversations or to dedicate more thought to, and of course, you can post your thoughts here.

  1. If you were wearing the MAIA whistle necklace and you received a compliment, would you feel comfortable starting a conversation about ending sexual assault?
  2. Can you think of any particular group in your community who would not be comfortable sharing about the meaning behind this whistle? Why?
  3. What tools do you personally feel are missing in order for you to feel effective in ending sexual assault in your community?  
  4. For the academics in the room, how have you seen sexuality and sexual violence shifting on campuses as of late?
  5. Do you have any ideas or dreams of creating a social entrepreneurial endeavor? Want to share?
  6. What might be the downfall of a social entrepreneurial approach to changing sexual violence in our culture (versus traditional routes such as social service, advocacy, prevention education)?
  7. Since the recent presidential election, what are some ways that you have taken personal agency / action in ensuring resources and values in your community are in place and in line with your values?

Please continue the conversation, in real life and/or below!  

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