Monday, May 25, 2015

Hymns Of The Silences



“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.  Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children.”
                                                                                                       Pulp Fiction – 1994



When I first started “Sliding Down The Razor’s Edge” I had no grand plan to change the world.  No intention to shake up the mainstream.  No desire to do anything more than offer pointed commentary about issues that pissed me off and needed to change.  Certainly no solutions.  I write fiction but many times the message I want to slide between the lines in stories and novels lacks a platform that has broad impact.  It happens that way sometimes.

But somewhere along my path I had a painful realization that a voice without conviction – without the strength of ideals to back up the ideas – is simply wasted breath.  Somebody once said: “You can’t just yell from the mountaintop and expect to hear more than the echo of your own voice”.   Complaining and pointing out what’s wrong isn’t enough.  You have to make a difference.  You may not change the world all at once, but as I told my daughter recently, you can make a small difference in whatever way possible, even if it’s only in your own backyard – one small change can ripple outwards in meaningful ways.  You have to be the one who helps create the change you demand.

For months I have focused on issues of domestic violence and sexual violence, and tried calling attention to what I believe is a national public crisis.  There are other voices who are doing the same thing, and who are effective as well as eloquent - channels like Jezebel, Media Girl, and Finally Feminism 101 are critical in furthering the dialogue.  Dr. Stephanie Wright continues to be a strong voice and tackles these issues through “52 Monday’s” – she is a writer who is my hero, even if she doesn’t wrap herself in a cape and leap tall buildings.  The way she and others address issues of DV and sexual violence consistently surpasses anything I can offer,

And that brings us to where we are today.

I have maintained that the permanent solution to solving sexual violence is to teach boys (and men) not to rape.  Simple in theory but tough to execute.  It involves teaching respect for women in not only actions, but through our attitudes, the things we say, and the different ways we treat ALL women.  Yes, we need stronger laws.  Yes, we need to prosecute aggressively.  We need stronger enforcement of TOP’s and POP’s in matters of domestic violence.  We need to end victim shaming and make it easier for victims to report sexual assault.  Cops rarely raise an eyebrow at a burglary victim and never question you like it’s your fault your house was robbed, but try reporting a sexual assault and see how well you’re treated.  There’s a reason over 80% of all sexual assaults are not reported.

And it’s a fact that 4 out of 5 reported sexual assaults are by people known by the victim – that stereotypical portrayal of the rapist wearing a ski mask and lurking in dark alleys is not realistic and was probably never that accurate.  It happens, but more likely it will be a friend, classmate, ex-partner (or partner/spouse in cases of DV), or a date. With that in mind, I have advocated long and hard that we need to change our perspectives and change the narrative about sexual violence.
           
And we need to do more than just talk.

We need dialogue.

We need action.

We need to make a difference by calling out misogyny wherever and whenever we see it, hear it, and experience it.

This week a number of anti-feminist trolls on #YesAllWomen took exception to my contention that ending sexual violence starts with teaching boys not to rape.  I’m always willing to debate intelligently but I don’t have time to argue with stupidity or ignorance.  The disconnect and the distance between their position and mine is too wide to cross without detracting from what we’re trying to change as well as accomplish.  And it is now clearer to me that my work is just beginning – as we say in my house, I am just getting warmed up.  Words without action are just words.  I need to do more and say more.  Nothing that was ever significant just happened – we need to make it happen.

And like Jules said in “Pulp Fiction”, “It’s hard…..but I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.”

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Trouble Man




Here’s where we are:

It’s the day after the most anticipated fight of the past twenty years and all is right in the sports world.

The NFL has concluded its annual draft and to no one’s surprise, Jameis Winston from FSU was drafted first overall and signed to a 4 year/$23.35 million dollar contract (including a $16.7 million signing bonus).  The same Jameis Winston accused of sexual violence against another FSU student.  The NHL playoffs continue into second round match-ups while Slava Voynov from last year’s Stanley Cup champion LA Kings, awaits the start of his trial on domestic violence charges against his wife but nobody knows about it since the Kings were ousted from playoff contention a week before the season ended.

And last night, the most talked about domestic battery convict in sports, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., defended his welterweight title against Manny Pacquiao and won a unanimous 12 round decision in Las Vegas.  Floyd Mayweather who is undefeated against men in the ring and undefeated against women outside the ring.  The same Floyd Mayweather, Jr. who has a long pattern of abusive behavior, including 7 separate assaults against 5 different women that led to either citation or arrest.  The same Floyd Mayweather, Jr. who is a court-certified domestic abuser with the following rap sheet:



  •  Pleaded guilty to 2 counts of domestic battery in 2002 and received a suspended six month sentence.

  • Found guilty in 2003 of 2 counts of domestic battery and received a suspended sentence of six months

  • Served 60 days of a 90 day sentence after pleading guilty to domestic violence charges involving a former girlfriend.


The same Floyd Mayweather, Jr. who shows absolutely no remorse.

The same guy who has routinely said that all the bad things he has ever been accused of doing to women are merely allegations…..”Once again no pictures; just hearsay and allegations.”  Forgetting that Las Vegas officials have either destroyed or made it extremely difficult for the public to access photographic evidence of his handiwork outside the ring (often through Mayweather’s defense team’s orders for disposal, such as the one filed on October 11, 2011 in his case involving ex-girl friend Josie Harris). Forgetting that he pleaded guilty to a reduced battery domestic violence charge.

Boxing has long been a sport of contradictions.  Fans applaud the violence and live for the bloodshed, and too many flawed men are idolized as warriors and heroes in spite of their propensity for violence outside the ring.  Mayweather’s rage against women is no different than that of other boxers who preceded him in the last twenty years.  Diego Corrales was awaiting sentencing for beating his pregnant wife when he died in a motorcycle accident in 2007.  Arturo Gatti had toxic relationships with women and was arrested on domestic violence charges.  Mike Tyson, “the baddest man on the planet”, and ex-heavyweight champion, did three years of a six year sentence for rape. 

Mayweather has never been sanctioned or suspended by a boxing commission.  Never been denied a license to fight.  In fact, no fighter has ever been denied a license to fight by a state athletic commission for domestic violence charges.

“He may have a boxing license, but he doesn’t have a license to hurt women”, Gloria Allread said.

In the weeks leading up to the Pacquiao fight, media channels like CNN and ESPN’s “Outside The Lines”, and sportscasters like Keith Olbermann called out Mayweather as a serial abuser.  "I will not give (Floyd) Mayweather a dime," Olbermann said about the boxer. "He should've been banned for life by his sport two, or five, or ten years ago. I will not promote, watch, nor report on Mayweather's fight. I will boycott it and I urge you to as well."

But too many voices remain silent.  When the video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancĂ©e came out, the public screamed for blood.  Mayweather remains unrepentant and nobody says a thing.  If a guy with his criminal record moved into your neighborhood, you might think twice about inviting Mayweather over for coffee and TV time with the family.  But millions shelled out close to $100 for the PPV event, putting over $100 million in his pocket, and trivialized his domestic abuse history….trivialized something that should never be trivialized.  That’s one of the many reasons why domestic violence remains such a problem throughout society - not just in sports.

Domestic violence is tolerated and trivialized, even by those who say they won’t tolerate it.

It happens that way far too often and doesn't change.

Monday, April 13, 2015

This Happened To Me, Too

I'm over at wrighterly.com this week with a guest column entitled, "This Happened To Me, Too". The column is part of Stephanie Wright's "52 Mondays" - if you care at all about stopping DV as well as sexual violence, you need to check out her work EVERY WEEK. Week after week she has consistently raised her voice and increased the level of dialogue on the subject - Stephanie Wright is one of those true heroes who makes a difference in her words and actions.  I'm flattered and honored to add my voice to hers'.

Please take a moment to read "52 Mondays" then take a stand.

Make a difference at stopping DV and sexual violence.

You can read "52 Mondays" here

Sunday, April 12, 2015

2 College Students Charged in Sexual Attack on Florida Beach



I’ve talked and written at length about DV and sexual violence – I’m fortunate to have a guest post at wrighterly.com later this week (part of Stephanie Wright’s excellent 52 Mondays series) where I’ll be writing about sexual violence on college campuses.  Within that post I’ll deal specifically with the “It’s On Us” campaign.

For those unfamiliar with “It’s On Us”, the campaign encourages bystander intervention – students stepping into bad situations to help potential victims.  From the “It’s On Us” website:


“The campaign reflects the belief that sexual assault isn’t just an issue involving a crime committed by a perpetrator against a victim, but one in which the rest of us also have a role to play. We are committed to creating an environment - be it a dorm room, a party, a bar or club, or the greater college campus - where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. This effort will support student-led efforts already underway across the country, and will focus particularly on motivating college men to get involved……. By getting men involved, we can change this way of thinking (violence against women) and create new social norms..”

So imagine my horror this morning when I came across this article in the NY Times while drinking my coffee:



Obviously those students on the beach in Panama City, Florida are not only clueless about “It’s On Us”, but lack the moral fiber to do what’s right in a situation that is clearly wrong.  "This is happening in broad daylight with hundreds of people seeing and hearing what is happening, and they are more concerned about spilling their beer than somebody being raped," Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen said.

We need to do more than getting men involved.

We need to teach boys to respect all women. 

We need to teach men not to rape. 

And apparently we need to teach other men to put down their beers and get involved when they see something wrong happening.



More more info on "It's On Us", check out their PSA:
"It's On Us" PSA