Sunday, January 25, 2015

AN UNBROKEN CIRCLE



So here’s where we are on domestic violence five months after that Ray Rice elevator video surfaced:

Nowhere.

Headlines.  A few conversations.  Brief moments of heightened awareness.  A few Public Service commercials featuring NFL players.  But not much else is really that different.  Progress as well as any forward steps have been hard to find. Nothing that has broken the cycle of violence and pain.

And that needs to change.

Some basic facts about domestic violence everyone needs to know:

  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.
  • More than 60% of domestic violence incidents happen at home.
  • Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • At least 1/3 of the families using New York City’s family shelter system are homeless due to domestic violence.
  • Women ages 20 to 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.
  • More than 4 million women experience physical assault and rape by their partners.
  • 1 in 3 female homicide victims are murdered by their current or former partner every year.
  • More than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year.
  • Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at high rates (30% to 60%).
  • Children exposed to domestic violence at home are more likely to have health problems, including becoming sick more often, having frequent headaches or stomachaches, and being more tired and lethargic.
  • Male children who witness the abuse of mothers by fathers are more likely to become men who batter in adulthood than those male children from homes free of violence.
  • Domestic violence victims face high rates of depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks, and other emotional distress.


Men need to take the lead on this issue – we have the power to do what is needed, and we need to add our voices and raise the volume.  If you’re a guy and you’re not speaking out against DV, you are part of the problem.

Stephanie Wright has undertaken a weekly challenge/focus of writing about DV at wrighterly.com,  and I encourage everyone to read her 52 Mondays.  She is well-spoken, thoughtful, and constantly insightful with her POV – calling attention to DV issues with strength and an eloquence that is sometimes lacking in my own posts. 

You can also find more info at the following links:


This is where it starts.

Monday, January 19, 2015

BLURRED LINES

Re-posting this from A COLD RUSH OF AIR (9/25/2014)



Elliot Rodger left little doubt about his motives, intentions, or the source of his problems when he went on his killing spree last year in Isla Vista, California.  His 141-page manifesto was filled with hatred towards women and his violent misogyny ignited debates that brought the term “rape culture” back into mainstream conversations.  Sadly, most men have no idea what rape culture means, including some who argued vehemently against its existence.
If you’re a man, the first thing you need to know is that rape culture exists.  It’s as real as the way you suck in your stomach on the beach and how you pretend to have been a better high school athlete than you ever really were.  You can deny its existence all you want – pretend it’s fanaticism or feminism or anything else you can label with an “ism” that lessens the blow, but rape culture is real.
            And if you’re a man, it’s your fault.
            That might hurt, but it’s undeniable and men have to face that fact.
           Rape culture exists because men believe it does not exist.  We hide behind phrases like “it’s not all men”or “I’m not that kind of guy”, and make excuses to minimize the things other men have done and soften the pain their actions create.  We find explanations and reasons, and point to dozens of examples that show how we’re not all the same - anything to get us off the hook.  But we can’t rationalize it away because facts don’t lie.
            The hard truth is that men are the primary reason for the existence of rape culture.
         If you ask, most men can’t define rape culture or put into words what it means in today’s world.  It’s not a theory – something imagined by radical feminists or hysterical left-leaning writers on college campuses and in Brooklyn coffee houses. It’s not created by socio-economic conditions.  Rape culture is about the way we collectively deal with situations where sexual assault and rape are tolerated, ignored, trivialized, normalized, or made into jokes.  It’s not just our actions but our attitudes.  Rape culture is about exposing women to unwanted sexual advances and a lack of accountability in the excuses we make when it happens.  It means a rape victim is victimized all over again when she reports the crime.  It’s about blaming victims for actions against them.  Most importantly, it is a conscious decision by some men to commit an unwanted act against another person, and other men allowing it to happen.
            It happens a lot.  Every day.
            Women get that and understand it.
            Men still have a lot to learn and a long way to go.
            Some guys think it’s unfair to categorize men into one homogenous group.  That it’s unfair for the actions of a few to reflect poorly on this group.  That it’s wrong that all men have to adjust their behavior, and they are right.  It is unfair and wrong.  But it’s also unfair that not enough men have been taught not to rape.  That not enough men have learned that “no” means “no” – that grey areas don’t exist between “yes” and “no” when it comes to consensual sex or even unwanted attention.  It’s unfair that women cannot go anywhere without looking over a shoulder, holding car keys like weapons, or considering every man she sees as a threat – considerations men rarely think about.
            If you can’t understand how that works or what it means, think about it this way: there are 470 species of sharks but only 4 have ever been involved in a significant number of fatal, unprovoked attacks on humans.  If you are swimming in the ocean and see a dorsal fin pop up between the waves, you don’t stop to calculate your chances – you turn into Michael Phelps and freestyle back to the beach.
            It’s like that for women.
         Every man is a threat.  Even nice guys can turn out to be someone or something different, especially since over 70% of all women know their rapist.  Like it or not, all men need to be judged by our worst examples.
            That is how we have forced women to live.
            Rape culture is about vulnerability and we need to fix it.
            Bad men exist.  Our role is to do something about that and change the way other men behave.  We talk about rape prevention but instead of teaching women how not to be raped, we need to teach men not to rape.  We need to act in ways that make all women feel comfortable and be considerate of the space we share.  Men need to stop objectifying and degrading women, then blaming victims for things men have done as a result of that.
            If you’re a man, you need to act as if every woman is your wife, mother, daughter, or friend and treat them accordingly.  If you have daughters and sons – if you care about the women in your life – if you care at all about ending hatred, violence, and sexism against women, do something.
            Stop making excuses and start making changes.
On a Friday night in Southern California a few months ago, Elliot Rodger unleashed his rage and millions of women again told stories of sexual violence, sexual harassment, and sexual fears.  Painful, powerful, and brutally honest stories that have been told before. 
This time, all men need to listen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

After The Fire



There is something inherently wrong in Ferguson, Missouri.  The undercurrent of racial tension, hatred, and discrimination that festers for all to see is no longer a nasty little secret…..just look at how Monday night’s ruling and its aftermath played out.  In a town where 67% of the residents are black and 90% of the police force is white, blacks have been significantly over-represented by traffic stops, stop-and-frisks, and arrests for years.  For weeks all of Ferguson as well as most of the nation waited cautiously for the grand jury to issue its ruling.  Like coastal residents in the Carolinas preparing for a slow moving hurricane making its way up the Atlantic seaboard, Ferguson officials had time to prepare, and Ferguson officials had a choice to make Monday when the ruling was issued – who to protect, how to protect them, and where to deploy police. 

No loss of property compares to a human life.  No loss of business compares to the loss of a family’s son.  But whose property Ferguson officials protected says a lot about whose life is truly valued in that town – on Monday night, militarized police brutalized protestors but did not protect a vulnerable business community.  And Ferguson officials made the same decision they have made for years: protect white residents and ignore black residents while trampling on their First Amendment rights.

This is the world that Michael Brown lived in and the same one Officer Darren Wilson worked in.  A world where long-simmering racial tension is the norm and an unarmed 18 year old teenager can get gunned down by the police the same way Cary Ball, Jr was gunned down by cops a year earlier.   
There’s an evil in Ferguson that’s worse than something out of a Stephen King novel.


         Much has already been written about Michael Brown’s death and the grand jury’s failure to return an indictment against Darren Wilson.  But some other things to consider:

  • People who say “don’t commit a crime and you won’t get shot” don’t understand what it’s like to be repeatedly harassed because of the color of your skin. They just don’t have a fucking clue.
  • This movement by some to sit during recitals of the Pledge of Allegiance (because we’re not “one country….. indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”) has been done before.  If you want to make a something happen be the change you want to make….nothing great was ever accomplished by sitting on your ass.  Get involved.  Vote out incumbents.  Make a difference.
  • It’s not often that I agree with Supreme Court Justice Scalia, but in 1992 he clearly explained the role of a grand jury:   It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be]            denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor.” In contrast, Officer Wilson was allowed to testify before the grand jury, presenting them with every piece of exculpatory evidence available. In his press conference, prosecutor Robert McCulloch said that the grand jury did not indict because eyewitness testimony that established Wilson acted in self-defense was contradicted by other exculpatory evidence. What McCulloch didn’t say is that he was under no obligation to present such evidence to the grand jury. The only reason someone would present that kind of evidence is to reduce the chances that the grand jury would indict Darren Wilson.
  • I have a world of respect and admiration for police officers.  My grandfather was a cop, we grew up around cops, and my son is six months on the job and heading to the police academy in a few weeks.  But we need to train our police officers that the first response in any situation is not to pull their gun and open fire.


 And finally – it’s Thanksgiving again. That time of the year when people who can afford it, gorge themselves and then race to the mall where they can push, shove, and trample their way down the aisles to buy things they cannot afford and that they really don’t need.  There’s something about the concept of Black Friday being a national holiday – one more important than just about any other on the calendar – that makes me bat-shit crazy. Especially when there are still way too many kids who go to bed hungry every night.



KM

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why I Think The World Should End

If you haven't seen this video by Prince EA yet, it's a powerful statement on change.



"Instead of trying to change others we can change ourselves
We can change our hearts"


Memorize this like it's an 8th Grade Civics lesson and repeat it every day to everyone you meet. 

Like Robert Kennedy once said:
"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all these acts will be written the history of this generation".

MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND MAKE IT COUNT.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

THE WAY IT IS



This is where we are on domestic violence. 
 
Ray Rice hit his fiancée in an Atlantic City casino elevator last Valentine’s Day, and after a tearful confession got a two game suspension from the NFL .  The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey accepted him into a pre-trial intervention program that will expunge his arrest record once he completes specific conditions and undergoes counseling.  Like it never happened. Life for Rice went back to normal because he was “sorry” and a “good guy” with no history of violence (except on the job - the industry he competes in features at least a dozen violent, felonious assaults on every play as part of its DNA).  He married his fiancée who apologized for her role in the “incident”, and some around the league even offered how it was a private matter - that they were both probably at fault.

Except video footage surfaced that shows Rice hitting Janay Palmer with the same kind of punch Tommy “Hitman” Hearns used to bang into his opponents in the ring and everything suddenly changed.  The Ravens terminated his contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The NFL claimed it did not see the video footage when it imposed its two game suspension but that’s a lame excuse.  Why does it take a video to suddenly increase the awareness of domestic violence and its brutality?  It happens whether it’s on video or not.  Millions of DV victims don’t have video footage to back up their claims – does that make the crimes committed against them any less brutal or vicious?

What about the facts?

The NFL had a chance to act swiftly months ago and send a message to its players and fans that domestic violence will not be tolerated.  No excuses.  No reasons.   When Commissioner Roger Goodell gave Ben Roethlisberger a six game suspension for sexually assaulting a 20 year old he wrote, “The Personal Conduct Policy makes it clear that I may impose discipline even where the conduct does not result in conviction of a crime, as, for example when the conduct imposes inherent danger to the safety and well being of another person”.

Michael Vick got 2 years for his involvement with a dog-fighting ring and Josh Gordon was suspended 16 games for repeated marijuana offenses.  Hell- Plaxico Burress got 4 games for shooting himself in the leg.  Initial penalty for hitting a woman: 2 games.

What Rice did was terribly wrong and the NFL needed to take a stronger stand much earlier.  They blew it and have been scrambling to get it right ever since.

I hope Rice’s indefinite suspension was done for the right reasons and not because this is a public relations horror show for a business filled with too many employees – players, coaches, and owners alike- committing criminal acts.  That it was done to send a message to players and fans that DV is wrong – not to send a message to advertisers and TV partners that their financial investment in the league is safe.

We have a lot to learn and a lot to change before the issue of domestic violence disappears.  We need to take a hard look at the way we treat women in music, literature, and film, and change that narrative.  We need to change policies and procedures that allow pre-trial intervention for violent acts, no matter who commits them or what the circumstances.  The same kind of policies that reduce felonies to misdemeanors.  One in Four women are victims of domestic violence or dating abuse.  We need to stand up and protect each other – we can’t keep turning away.


There is no reason for domestic violence.  The NFL is finally recognizing  that fact.  We as a society – and mostly men in particular – still have a long way to go.