Wednesday, August 5, 2015

This Is Where I Live. Now.

“You're an orphan right? You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? “
                                                                                          Good Will Hunting

Ask enough people and they will tell you that time heals all wounds. That if you put enough distance between the horrors of your life, the hurt eventually disappears and the pain subsides.  That you can move forward.  It doesn’t matter if it’s days- weeks – months – years – enough time will make everything better.  A broken heart.  A busted marriage.  A failed relationship. Infidelity.  The loss of a loved one. Supposedly time has the healing power of a circus carnie.
            Except it doesn’t always work that way.
            It’s bullshit advice that is too often meaningless; words thrown around by people who have nothing else to offer, no matter how well-intentioned they might be.
            Life can kick your ass in unimaginable ways and the passage of time will never diminish the brutality of those experiences.  A harsh fact of life is that there are some wounds that just don’t heal.  In dealing with their pain, victims-turned-survivors learn how to push forward, putting one foot slowly in front of the other until they begin to walk.  Some take longer to do it.  Some move faster and farther.  Some find a renewed strength in their own determination.  Others falter as they try to move forward.  None run the way they used to.  Time cannot replace what has been taken.
            I live in a house like many others- a home with a strong foundation, walls, and windows that block the views while letting neighbors catch only glimpses of life inside.  It is a house filled with incredible kindness, grace, beauty, and a love unmatched by any I have ever known – the kind that wraps around me fully and completely.  It is a house filled with strength and quiet courage.  It is a place where I find my own strength from the woman I love in ways I can’t express, and ways that humble me in my own inadequacies.  It is also a house filled with pain.  Pain that won’t heal, no matter how many years pass.  Domestic violence and sexual violence leave that behind – scars that don’t fade away or disappear.
             The passage of time does not matter in my house.
          The curious thing about time is that it can be a paradox, allowing you to look forward while also enabling you to dig into the past.  Spend too much time looking backwards and you can never move forward.  Not long ago I believed I could make things better by talking about the past – that by somehow reliving each cataclysmic event my love had gone through would lead to some kind of cathartic epiphany while making everything better and easier to deal with.  That the pain felt by these people I love fiercely would be tolerable if they could somehow examine it, dissect it, and talk about where it came from.  But I was as wrong about that as I have ever been wrong about anything before.  You can’t erase pain.  Not with words and not with detailed examinations – that becomes another form of victimization survivors have to go through, with more questions to answer when they really should not be subjected to questions at all.  In many cases, especially for survivors of both domestic violence and sexual violence, the only place the past belongs is in the rearview mirror where it cannot intrude on the present.  When even seemingly inconsequential moments hide triggers that bring back nightmares, an uninvited look at the past can take someone down a wrong-way path of horrific proportions.
            It’s in our DNA to solve problems and find answers, even when others don’t ask you to take on that role.  If you aren’t a survivor the first thing to realize is that you will never have anything more than words to offer.  And there are no “right words” to talk away pain.  I didn’t get that at first and it took time to understand – I don’t have a single answer that will make anything better and I probably never will.  I’m learning to be okay with that.  I’ve come to understand that the only thing I can do – the only thing anyone who loves a survivor can do – is to be supportive and to love unconditionally.  Love deeply and fiercely and never stop loving.
            More people need to understand that.
           Ask enough people and they will tell you all kinds of answers about how long it takes a wound to heal.
           The only correct answer is that it doesn’t matter.
            It will take as long as it needs to take.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"I Suggest You Shut Your Mouth"

Required reading:

The July 27 to August 9 issue of New York magazine features 35 of the 46 women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault since the late 1960's on the cover, along with an empty chair representing the 11 women who did not want to be photographed or interviewed. It is a powerful article about the culture of shame and silence that victims of sexual violence endure and the cost of speaking out against their attackers.

As noted in the article, speaking up is the only thing to do.  And more men need to speak out against sexual assault.  Stay silent no more.

More on this to follow......

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Murder By Numbers

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
                                                                                                William Bruce Cameron
                                   “Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking”

We are a culture and a society built on numbers, statistics, and data.  That’s how we roll…..we cite numbers to support arguments.  Frame conversations around relevant ratios and make salient points supported by numbers.  Reference numbers when necessary or convenient, as long as they back up the facts we want them to support.  Kids grow up with an encyclopedic knowledge of batting averages, free throw percentages, and touchdown passes thrown by quarterbacks in high school, college, and the NFL (at least kids from my generation did).  Our government is based on numbers regarding population, Social Security numbers, GNP, CPI, etc.
It’s impossible to disregard numbers or their importance in every facet of our lives.
Here are a few more relevant numbers:

·         -Number of American soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001 – 2012: 6,488
·         -Number of American women murdered by current or former partners from 2001 - 2012: 11,766
·         -Average number of women killed every day by domestic violence in the US: 3
·         -Number of American women who experience (or will experience) physical intimate partner    violence in their lifetime: 38,028,000
·         -Number of women in physically abusive relationships who are raped or assaulted during the relationship: 40 – 45%
·        - Number of American women who were victims of domestic violence in 2013: 4,774,000
·        - Number of “legacy rapes” reported by law enforcement in 2013: 79,770

So here’s today’s question:
How many women need to experience physical intimate partner violence before we start to take domestic violence seriously?

I’m not sure what that number is, but we know for certain it’s not 38,028,000………. because if it was, somebody would have done something about it by now.

Friday, June 26, 2015

You Learn A Lot of Lessons

A very powerful article from the Washington Post on June 12, 2015.  Like most stories about sexual violence on college campuses, this one slid below the radar nationally and fell through the cracks of public conversation outside a few, select circles.  It should have been front page news – instead it was lost nationally while we talked about Kylie Jenner, another Kardashian pregnancy, and the latest presidential bid by another GOP pretender to the throne (how many are we up to now – at least 30 or 40).

The poll - conducted by the Washington Post – Kaiser Family Foundation – found that while 20% of women on college campuses were sexually violated, the “circle of victims” is probably much larger.
Everything there is to say is found within the article, but there are a couple of key points worth emphasizing:

  • The poll found evidence that myths about sexual assault persist among students despite efforts in recent years to dispel them. Six in 10 women said it was a common attitude on their campuses that if a woman is sexually assaulted while drunk she is “at least somewhat responsible.”

  • Nearly 6 in 10 women also said it was commonly believed that when women go to parties wearing revealing clothes, they are “asking for trouble.”

  • One man’s quote when discussing a friend’s rape cuts to the heart of the collective attitude about sexual violence on campus:  “There’s a difference between having drunk, regrettable sex, and being raped.”
Please take the time to read.  Then make the time to do something.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Curious Case of Hope Solo

I'm over at this week with a guest column entitled, "The Curious Case of Hope Solo". The column is part of Stephanie Wright's "52 Mondays" in which she dissects, discusses, and examines domestic violence.  I've said this before and I'll keep saying it, if you care at all about stopping domestic violence and sexual violence, you need to check out her work. EVERY WEEK. And then you need to do something about changing the narrative on sexual violence and domestic violence in this country.

Stephanie Wright is one of those true heroes who makes a difference in her words and actions - Week after week she has consistently raised her voice and increased the level of dialogue on both subjects.

You can read the column here

Friday, May 29, 2015

Every Picture Tells A Story

A little perspective and random POV on things that matter....

It's been a week in which I found myself battling an element of the lunatic fringe on Twitter - that same dumbass but vocal group of idiots who dispute rape statistics, argue that women routinely make false rape accusations, laugh at feminism, and dismiss equality for women as unimportant.  

Because it is also unbelievable that 160 politicians voted against the Violence Against Women Act....

Women are 1/2 of the world's population, working 2/3's of the world's working hours, receiving 10% of the world's income, and owning less than 1% of the world's property.

Something wrong with that picture........ 

And something right about this statement:

"Feminism isn't about making women stronger.  Women are already strong  It's about changing the way the world perceives that strength."   G.D. Anderson

And it was also a week in which a quote from a graduating high senior in Southern California - a quote on feminism and politics with a touch of satire - went viral.

“I need feminism because I intend on marrying rich and I can’t do that if my wife and I are making .75 cent for every dollar a man makes.”

And FYI- A May report in The Globe and Mail reported that women in Canada get paid about $8,000 a year less than men for equivalent work.  The numbers are similar in the United States where women make roughly 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to the White House.

Finally - for a little more perspective - check out The morning after I was raped I made my rapist breakfast

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.”