The Burden

•November 15, 2009 • 7 Comments


•November 15, 2009 • 1 Comment

Five Star Friday Recognition!

•November 13, 2009 • 1 Comment

Five Star FridayMy post Naming Names – It’s My Choice has been featured on this week’s Five Star Friday! Thanks so much to Nic for nominating me. I feel so honored to have been chosen!

What Is Five Star Friday?

Five Star Friday, run by Schmutzie, hosts a weekly collection of links to superior weblog entries from all genres that have been submitted by the people, for the people. Anyone can submit entries. So if you know of excellence happening out there in weblog-land, send in the link for the next edition at Five Star Friday.

If you are ever in need of good reading material of the blogular variety, it is the place to be. Enjoy!

Stopping Rape…

•November 6, 2009 • 2 Comments

I am sure most of you have heard about the Richmond High School gang rape case. For those of you living in a closet here is just a bit of the coverage available on the news lately:

Police in suburban San Francisco believe as many as a dozen people watched, laughed, took snapshots, and stole jewelry as a 15-year-old girl was beaten and gang-raped outside her high school homecoming dance without reporting it.

One suspect is in custody, but police said as many as six other men attacked the intoxicated girl over a two-hour period Friday night outside Richmond High School.

The girl left the dance at approximately 9:30PM and was walking to meet her father for a ride home when a classmate invited her to join a group drinking in the nearby courtyard. The victim had already consumed a large amount of alcohol by the time the assault began. Investigators say as many as 15 people, all males, stood around watching the assault, but did not call police or help the victim.

“She was raped, beaten, robbed and dehumanized by several suspects who were obviously OK enough with it to behave that way in each other’s presence,” Lt. Mark Gagan of the Richmond Police tells CNN. “What makes it even more disturbing is the presence of others. People came by, saw what was happening and failed to report it.”

“Based on witness statements and suspect statements, and also physical evidence, we know that she was raped by at least four suspects committing multiple sex acts,” Gagan said. “As people announced over time that this was going on, more people came to see, and some actually participated,” he added.

Manuel Ortega, a 19-year-old former student at the school, was arrested soon after he fled the scene and will face charges of rape, robbery and kidnapping, police say. He is being held on $800,000 bail for investigation of rape, and robbery.

“That’s just wrong,” senior class president Gina Saechao, who helped organize the dance, said on Monday. “What if it was your little sister? What if it was your mom?”

The victim remained hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

Much of the coverage of this and most high profile sexual assault cases are frustrating because of our culture’s tendency to blame the victim and minimize trauma. I was pleasantly surprised to find the following post. It focuses on what men can do to change the cultural climate that allows for rape and violence towards women to happen.

Men Can Stop Rape:

mobilizes male youth to prevent men’s violence against women. We build young men’s capacity to challenge harmful aspects of traditional masculinity, to value alternative visions of male strength, and to embrace their vital role as allies with women and girls in fostering healthy relationships and gender equity.

The following is their letter published in PTA Magazine.

Everyone would agree that the gang rape outside Richmond High School was horrific. While this criminal act is particularly troubling because of the large number of perpetrators and witnesses, the incident should not be viewed in isolation. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), a sexual assault occurs every two minutes in the United States. In Men Can Stop Rape’s (MCSR) view, rape happens because we as a country have not committed to creating cultures of prevention focused on sexual and dating violence in our schools and communities.

If we pay attention to who commits rape, we see that the majority of assaults are perpetrated by men attacking women and other men. But the majority of men do not commit sexual violence and therefore are potential allies with women. By providing a blueprint for transforming bystanders into active agents of social change, MCSR mobilizes young men across the country to create cultures of rape prevention in their schools and communities.

What gets in the way of prioritizing the creation of these cultures nationwide? Victim-blaming, for one. We worry that people will hold the the young woman in Richmond accountable for her assault, especially since there were reports in the media that she had been drinking alcohol. No rape survivors are ever at fault for their assault, whatever the circumstances. To place responsibility on her is a way of diverting responsibility from the young men who committed the rape.

Outsiders typecasting sexual assault as occurring in communities with troubled youth serves as another way of not addressing rape as a social issue. In an October 28 Contra Costa Times article, one student is deeply disturbed that all the Richmond High students were described as animals in response to the assault. There were 400 students at the prom who did not commit rape. And there were female and male students who took steps to call the police. What enabled them to act in a humane manner? These students should be part of the story.

So, what can we do? First, we need an understanding of rape prevention that is broader in scope, that involves females and males, and that is based on respecting our cultures and ourselves. Historically, preventing sexual assault has been thought of in terms of females engaging in risk reduction, such as walking in pairs or dressing conservatively. For lasting change to occur, however, men and women can prevent sexual violence by challenging the attitudes and assumptions that dehumanize women. Atianna Gibbs, a recent Richmond High graduate, says in the October 28 Contra Costa Times article, “That could easily have been their sister, their mom. …Nobody deserves that.” Her comment suggests that it is easier to hurt someone who is of no importance to us than someone who is. This act of dehumanization is an attitude connected to rape and other forms of violence. Racist violence, gay bashing, and rape clearly all share this dynamic.

Fathers can serve as role models of healthy masculinity for their sons and daughters by treating everyone with respect and empathy. Mothers and fathers can discuss with their children what consent and healthy relationships look like. They can become involved with groups like PTA to work to ensure that there are multiple ways schools engage in creating a culture of rape prevention, such as classroom curricula, after-school groups, teacher trainings, and public education campaigns. Parents should support their sons’ involvement with youth programs that encourage healthy masculinity and relationships, like Men Can Stop Rape’s middle school and high school Men of Strength Clubs.

Through our clubs, young men choose to define their own masculinity by evaluating whether messages about manhood, like “don’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” play a role in creating unhealthy and unsafe relationships. They learn skills to speak out effectively when they see attitudes and behaviors that degrade women and girls. Club members translate their curriculum lessons into public education and peer education, uniting a wide cross-section of the community consisting of students, parents, educators, administrators, and business leaders. The young men in the club pledge to be men whose strength is used for respect, not for hurting.

If we want healthy cultures, empathy must occupy the center of a culture’s core, nonviolence must be a shared value, and everyone must matter. Men and women can prevent rape by sharing responsibility and by recognizing that if our cultures are going to be healthy, everyone must play a part in caring to make them so.

Patrick McGann, PhD, is vice president of communications for Men Can Stop Rape, Washington, DC.

Neil Irvin is vice president of programs for Men Can Stop Rape and a member of the Forrest Knolls PTA of Silver Spring, Maryland.

Naming Names – It’s My Choice

•October 1, 2009 • 6 Comments

I read a great post over at The Curvature this morning, Protecting Your Safety While Speaking Out is Not Irresponsible.

Cara speaks exquisitely about Katie Price and why she does not need to name her rapist.  Cara also talks about her own decision to leave her rapist unnamed:

Katie Price has not done something particularly different from what I have; she has only done it while people know her name. I have spoken about being raped, and while I have never been particularly specific about the details, I have constantly mentioned that my rapist was also my boyfriend at the time. For those who have known me for many years, that is more than enough information for them to know his name. For him, were he to find me, it is also almost certainly more than enough. And that makes it enough period.

I have not given his name. I will not ever give his name publicly. And no amount of victim-blaming bullshit is going to change that.

Why? Because I value my safety. Because I value my mental health. Because I value myself.

Because printing his name would make it a million times easier for him to find me. Because it would make it easy for his friends to google his name and find me, too. Because it would open me up to extraordinary harassment by someone who through his very narrow definition of rape, which he undoubtedly uses to maintain his belief that he’s a decent person, almost certainly believes with all his heart that he did not rape me. It would open me up to charges of false accusations, to questions about why I have not pressed charges and statements about what a liar I am because I haven’t. It would back me into a corner, because while not pressing charges makes me a liar, pressing charges means setting up an impossible case on the grounds of something that happened many years ago with no witnesses, for a crime that rarely results in conviction, anyway (something that is especially true in the UK). Because it could potentially open me up to charges of libel. I will not name him because I deserve — no, because I have the goddamn right — to not spend every second of my life looking over my shoulder, afraid of just when he will appear.

And I imagine that if not every one of these things is true for Katie Price, a significant majority are. Her choices, right now, are being called an irresponsible coward by feminists and an attention-seeker by the media, or being sued for libel by her rapist and being called a liar by every single person under the sun.

What a brilliant fucking set of options, right?

These are many of the same reasons I have chosen not to name my own rapist in this blog.  Sadly, I have had numerous comments (some of which I have approved, many of which I have not) about how I need to name him, tell his family, let the world know, etc.  Let me clearly state right now, once and for all, I am not going to out my rapist publicly. That is my decision to make. Don’t think that it is one I make lightly.  I have thought about it for years. More than you could ever imagine.  So please don’t think you need to write and enlighten me as to all the reasons I need to name names.

I am speaking out about my rape, but I have to do it in a way that does not endanger me or my family. That is my choice; that is my right – and it is the right of every other victim out there. It does not matter if she (or he) is a celebrity, an activist, or the girl next door.  It takes a lot for a person to put herself (or himself) out there. Please don’t berate her (or him) for not doing it the way you think she (or he) should.

Polanski, Whoopi and Rape Apologism

•September 30, 2009 • 12 Comments

I find the response to Roman Polanski’s arrest flat out shocking.  I can not fathom how anyone could support a man who drugged and anally raped a child, took a plea deal, and then fled the country before he could be sentenced. It blows my mind that so many people think this is a waste of time.

Most disconcerting was hearing Whoopi Goldberg’s pronouncement on The View yesterday:

WTF is rape versus rape-rape?  This is not a “little mistake.” Rape is rape! Do you have any doubts? Read the victim’s testimony from the  grand jury testimony:

A. I was going, “No, I think I better go home,” because I was afraid. So I just went and I sat down on the couch.
Q. What were you afraid of?
A. Him.
. . . .

Q. What happened then?
A. He reached over and he kissed me. And I was telling him, “No,” you know, “keep away.” But I was kind of afraid of him because there was no one else there.
. . . .

Q. What did he do when he placed his mouth on your vagina?
A. He was just like licking and I don’t know. I was ready to cry. I was kind of — I was going, “No. Come on. Stop it.” But I was afraid.
. . . .

Q. What happened after that?
A. He started to have intercourse with me.
Q. What do you mean by intercourse?
A. He placed his penis in my vagina.
Q. What did you say, if anything, before he did that?
A. I was mostly just on and off saying, “No, stop.” But I wasn’t fighting really because I, you know, there was no one else there and I had no place to go.

I’ll leave off there before we get to the part where he rapes her anally and ejaculates in her anus.

How can anyone read that and say she was not raped?

I was raped at thirteen by a man whose child I was babysitting.  Heck, he and his wife used to babysit for me when I was younger.  It reminds me a lot of the way Polanski’s victim described her rape.  No, I was not drugged.  Yes, I did say “No” repeatedly.  I did struggle and try to push him off of me.  I did not scream or kick.  I was scared. I was f-ing terrified!  So Whoopi, was I raped or rape-raped?  I’ll tell you right now, by all definitions of the law, I was RAPED! Rape is rape is rape. There is no gray area. There is no “kind of raped.”

Nic at My Bottle’s Up put it elegantly,

“I find myself ashamed to say that I was once a fan of yours… a fan of your successes… a fan of you as a woman… and now, you disgust me.”

Oh and on the discussion of the judge putting Polanski away for 100 years, here is how Patterico’s Pontifications addresses it:

I have read variants of this claim all over, mostly commonly that the judge was going to give Polanski 50 years. What?? The judge wasn’t even going to give him 50 extra days. He was going to give him 48 extra days. I get this from the motion filed by Polanski’s lawyers.Paragraph 16 of the declaration of Polanski’s lawyer says: “Judge Rittenband announced to counsel that he now intended to send Mr. Polanski to prison for the second time under the following conditions: (1) that he serve 48 additional days in prison . . .” The other conditions were that there would be no further hearing, and that Polanski “deport himself.” Polanski had been sent to prison for a “90-day diagnostic” and had served only 42 days; the 48 days was meant to complete the 90 days.

This allegedly went against a previous in-chambers promise by the judge that the initial 42 days would be all Polanski would serve; however, Polanski did not plead based on the previous promise, which was made after the plea. That previous promise did not induce the plea, and when commentators say the judge “reneged” on a deal they are adopting the language of Polanski’s lawyers, who argue that the judge said he would make his decision after reading the probation department report and listening to the lawyers’ arguments. Instead, Polanski’s lawyers claim, the judge made up his mind before listening to the lawyers. Which, truth be told, judges always do; they just usually put on a better show of listening to us.

So, Polanski claims the judge was biased and justice wasn’t being served. He could have stayed in this country  and fought for his rights and put this behind him years ago. Instead, he fled and lived the good life.

Roman Polanski left this country because he’s a guilty, cowardly rapist.  He plead guilty to sex with a minor. He admitted that he drugged her. Those are the facts! What I don’t understand is how all these elite filmmakers could sign a petition asking for Polanski to be released.  Do they support Polanski’s actions?  How do they separate the man from the act?  Is he such a great filmmaker that he deserves to get away with rape?  I just don’t get it!

Woody Allen signing the petition, okay that doesn’t shock me.  But Whoopi’s comments really threw me for a loop.  I always thought of her as a strong woman; one who supports women’s rights and equality.

So what are all the Hollywood types thinking?  Could someone explain it to me?  Come on Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, Mike Nichols, Tilda Swinton, etc. why do you think he should not have to face justice? Can you explain it to me? Can anyone explain it to me?

Oh and if you are curious, click here for a complete list of people who have signed the petition to “Free Polanski.”

Peter Gross has another good point,

“What I find most loathsome is his supporters’ use of the death of his mother in the Warsaw ghetto, and the trauma he received there during the Holocaust, as an excuse for his behavior. The Holocaust was a horrific event. Tens of thousands of children survived and had to live with that searing experience all their lives. Virtually all of them managed to live without committing horrific crimes. To invoke the Holocaust as an excuse is revolting, and a mockery to those Holocaust survivors who have lived with dignity and humanity.”

Just because you have lived through trauma, does not give you an excuse to abuse others. If you commit a crime, you commit a crime.  I feel bad that he has had to deal with so much trauma in his life. Yes it is horrible what happened in the Holocaust.  It is awful that he lost his wife and son to the Manson murders. But being a victim of trauma does not make it okay to cause trauma to someone else! What is worse, he admits it. He admits he drugged a child and f-ed her. But for some reason he doesn’t think he should face justice for his crime.

Scrutinizing his behavior, can we really consider him as having admitted to his crime? It seems  more like BRAGGING about it to me.

Songs With Meaning: I Didn’t Know My Own Strength

•September 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Occasionally I will post a song that I find inspiring as a survivor.  I hope you find them inspiring too. And don’t forget to suggest songs that you would like to see featured in the comments. I am always looking for new songs.

I Didn’t Know My Own Strength by Whitney Houston.

Lost touch with my soul
I had no where to turn
I had no where to go
Lost sight of my dream,
Thought it would be the end of me
I thought I’d never make it through
I had no hope to hold on to,
I thought I would break

I didn’t know my own strength
And I crashed down, and I tumbled
But I did not crumble
I got through all the pain
I didn’t know my own strength
Survived my darkest hour
My faith kept me alive
I picked myself back up
Hold my head up high
I was not built to break
I didn’t know my own strength

Found hope in my heart,
I found the light to life
My way out the dark
Found all that I need
Here inside of me
I thought I’d never find my way
I thought I’d never lift that weight
I thought I would break

I didn’t know my own strength
And I crashed down, and I tumbled
But I did not crumble
I got through all the pain
I didn’t know my own strength
Survived my darkest hour
My faith kept me alive
I picked myself back up
Hold my head up high
I was not built to break
I didn’t know my own strength

There were so many times I
Wondered how I’d get through the night I
Thought took all I could take

I didn’t know my own strength
And I crashed down, and I tumbled
But I did not crumble
I got through all the pain
I didn’t know my own strength
Survived my darkest hour
My faith kept me alive
I picked myself back up
Hold my head up high
I was not built to break
I didn’t know my own strength