Tuesday, September 29, 2015

An Invitation To Men Who Want A Better World

Around the world, women continue to struggle for equality in basic matters like the right to drive and to marry when they choose. Elizabeth Nyamayaro gave a recent TED Talk on how to enlist everyone - men and women - as allies for change (she is the creator of the #HeForShe Twitter campaign).  It is time for each of us to become agents of change for equality, and that includes men who need to play a key role in that change.

Key takeaway:
"What we share is much more powerful than what divides us."

Check out the TED TALK here

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Til It Makes You Feel Better

I'm over at wrighterly.com this week with a new post about sexual violence on college campuses.

You can check it out here

And while you're at it, please take the time to watch Lady Gaga's music video about sexual assaults on campus, and if you can, download it from itunes.  A portion of every sale will go to support groups for survivors of campus sexual assaults/violence.

Click here to check out Lady GaGa's video

Thursday, September 10, 2015

"Why Wouldn't You Just Report It?"

A good step forward by VP Joe Biden and Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance to tackle the backlog of 70,000 unprocessed rape kits across the country.  More than 40 law enforcement jurisdictions will receive the funds that will help alleviate the backlog of untested rape kits.  Sexual assault kits contain forensic evidence collected from survivors of sex crimes through a painstakingly thorough but humiliating process that many survivors have said is almost as traumatic as the sexual attack they experienced. But the process can lead to valuable DNA evidence through crime lab testing - when it is processed.

Vance said that still, today, "it's estimated there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in police storage facilities nationwide. What stands in the way of testing them is money and the will to get the job done.''

“DNA technology is the guilty person's worst enemy,'' Biden said. "It reduces the total number of victims . .. . But the second thing it does is it sets women free who've been victimized.''

You can read the article here

And for info on rape kits, please see this article from RAINN here

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A History of Bad Judgment

“A good time was guaranteed for one and all
The tattoos did target practice in the hall
While waiting for their number to get called out
I, I, I, I found out what the wait was about”
                                                          Chrissie Hynde – “Tattooed Love Boys”

Much to say but barely enough space to do justice to everything I want to write about.  And what I wanted to write about isn’t as important as what needs to be said…..

Anyone who knows me, knows I live, breathe, and bleed hockey.  I’ve played on all levels and coached when I stopped playing, and for years kept an equipment bag along with my CCM and KOHO sticks in the trunk of my car in case somebody somewhere needed an extra player….and in my house, we are a hockey family from the youngest to the oldest especially when it comes to matters of the New York Rangers.

If you have a marginal interest in hockey (or sports), by now you have heard the allegations that NHL star Patrick Kane raped a woman earlier this month.  Although the investigation is on-going, no charges have been filed yet (there is an entirely separate conversation that needs to be had about the way we charge assailants in crimes against another person’s body and how we prosecute cases involving property).  For a more thorough examination into the investigation, check out Sports Illustrated’s recent article: http://www.si.com/nhl/2015/08/21/patrick-kane-rape-case-investigation

So it’s another headline and another story about an athlete’s poor behavior.  

We already know about the NFL’s #1 draft pick Jameis Winston, and the daily sports pages (which resemble a police blotter on a good day) are littered with the names of college football players like Sam Ukwuachu (Baylor), Michael Williams (UT), and AJ Johnson (UT) who are facing sexual assault charges of varying degrees. But the NHL isn’t immune.  Last year Slava Voynov was suspended by the NHL after being arrested for a felony DV incident involving his wife.  And before that it was Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov who was charged with misdemeanor assault against his girlfriend, although the charges were later dropped because the prosecutors could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Earlier this year Mike Ribeiro of the Nashville Predators was charged with sexually assaulting his nanny.  Years before that, Hall of Fame goalie and current coach of the Avalanche Patrick Roy had a DV run-in but was never charged.

It’s clear that domestic violence and sexual assault issues are not limited to football.  The sport that I love faces those same problems and needs to take strong steps that educate and enforce clear guidelines about what will not be tolerated, although I am not hopeful.  Check out Kavitha Davidson’s recent article on what the NHL is not doing:

This is way bigger than hockey – no matter how much it affects what happens on the ice – and that should be lost on no one.

“You know, if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him.”

And that brings us to Chrissie Hynde (of The Pretenders).

In her upcoming memoir and interviews this past week to support the book’s release, Hynde talked at length about her sexual assault when she was 21.  Hynde told the Sunday Times Magazine that she completely blamed herself for being raped by a motorcycle gang member in Ohio.  She also said women should take responsibility when they get assaulted and need to stop blaming others.

"You can't paint yourself into a corner and then say whose brush is this? You have to take responsibility," Hynde said. "If you play with fire, you get burnt. It's not any secret, is it?"

Twitter exploded with quick condemnation and criticism.  But this is the world we live in  – and it’s been that way for a long time.  Hynde is no different than other victims of DV and sexual violence who blame themselves for what was done to them by someone else.  Too many women think that in cases of sexual violence, they were somehow to blame.  Hynde’s comments reinforce to people who have been raped or abused that same misguided point of view:  it was your fault.  But the thing is –choice of clothing and how someone is dressed is not an invitation to rape, nor is it an excuse for bad behavior by an assailant.  

There is no such thing as “asking for it”.  

Patrick Kane can get away with living a frat-boy, life-of-the-party existence because we have learned to turn our heads at inexcusable behavior, especially when it comes from athletes. We are cautioned to withhold judgment against Kane until “all the facts are known”, yet very few voices have said that we should be doing the same thing for the woman who made the allegations.  The social media world exploded with knee-jerk reactions and harsh condemnation against her with words like “gold digger”, “liar”, and “slut” without any details of the allegations being made and somehow that’s okay.  That victim-blaming – no matter by whom, including victims like Chrissie Hynde – is somehow acceptable.

And it reinforces to a sizeable chunk of the population those fundamental misconceptions about rape and who is at fault.  That includes the victims themselves.

We live in a society where we talk about the clothes women wear, the height of their heels, the way they dress, and how much they have had to drink as relevant factors in sexual violence.  The kind of place where we spend more time teaching girls not to get raped than we do in educating boys not to rape.

 We need to change that conversation.  

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.