Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Discombobulated State of the Kosmos: A DSK Report

The Dominique Strauss-Kahn (or DSK) story has followed a partly unpredictable course. First of all, most sexual assaults are not reported, including those committed by members of the cultural elite. Second, most assailants are not caught if the assault is reported. Even if arrested, most assailants are not prosecuted. So I was initially impressed at the speed of this beginning of this story, where the hotel maid reported, the police found evidence, and an arrest worthy of a TV drama (as the plane that DSK was on was preparing to take off). Wow, I thought, are the planets and stars in some special alignment? Did the Universal Law of Karma supplant the Golden Rule (he who has the gold . . . rules)?

But more recently the Kosmos has returned to business as usual. Irregularities have been found in the past of the maid. She is a poor immigrant. Seems she lied on asylum papers. She knows people who are serving time in jail. She has multiple cell phones.

None of which have anything to do with the rape charges. All of which may derail the prosecution's case.

As any number of women who have tried to prosecute rape have found out, stuff like that matters to a significant number of potential jurors. As a culture, we like our victims stainless. And if the victim comes across as less than a madonna (not to be confused with pop icon Madonna), if they come across as a real person with warts and fears and the possibility that 20 years ago they may have inhaled, they are not deserving of justice. (That's why assailants will often seek out targets who they think cannot withstand a caustic public scrutiny.) Very few people will actually come out and say that, but actions such as votes in a jury do speak louder.

Currently, it's estimated that between one in eight to one in five women will be targeted for sexual assault sometime in their life. If you are one, here are my recommendations should you choose to report and prosecute, regardless of whether or not you fought back, evaded rape, or complied with the assailant's demands.
  • First, find a sexual assault advocate. One who is experienced and believes you. Preferably not on the police payroll, but from an independent group. In the Seattle area, good choices are the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center and Harborview Medical Center. University of Washington students can contact SARIS.
  • Second, get your own lawyer. Yes, rape is a crime against the state. And a good lawyer can help you navigate through the criminal justice maze.
  • Finally, get a REALLY good therapist. You'll need one.
PS - I was thinking of writing on DSK's peanut gallary (i.e., those public figures who insisted that a man of DSK's standing would NEVER commit rape). Jon Stewart, however, did such a good job, and as I always say if you can't beat it, link to it.

Ruckus over Rihanna: Criminal or Candor?

Rihanna's recent video, Man Down, is stirring up some controversy. She portrays a woman shooting a man who raped her.



(If you can't view this here, watch on YouTube: http://youtu.be/sEhy-RXkNo0)

Cartoonist Darrin Bell (Candorville) not only got a really clear message ("don't rape!"), he sent out an equally clear message ("don't excuse rape!") in last Sunday's strip.

What do you think the message is here?

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Chilled Butter Maneuver: Self Defense Lesson #2 from the Cat

Lilith is one cool cat. And she's not afraid of you.

Lilith, a 17 year old with spring and verve of a cat a quarter her age.
Indeed, Lilith will readily come over to any visitor and "allow" herself to be adored and petted. She is fine and mellow when she recognizes that appropriate due is being paid to her by adoring fans.  She is the Queen of the house, and she knows it.

But don't let her outward appearance deceive you -- Lilith has a core of razor steel. What she wants, she gets (like cheese, milk, and chocolate ice cream). And what she doesn't want, well . . .

At the risk of understatement, cats do not like taking their medicines. Pilling a cat, rare as it is in my household, is still onerous. Each cat has its own means of resistance, and Lilith's is among the most effective.

Most cats struggle from the moment they realize you're holding the dreaded pill and looking at them. But not my Lilith. She purrs. She headbutts and rubs her cheeks against my hands as I maneuver her in place between my knees. She purrs some more, and as I shift my attention ever so slightly to get the pill in my hand ready to launch, she springs. Her move is not at all explosive or drastic, it's  more like she's the proverbial greased pig. One moment she's "securely" nestled in my grasp, and the next she's disappearing under the couch.


Her key is relaxation and timing.

Lilith, secure in her knowledge that she'll triumph, lulls us into believing we've got her. Relaxation also gives her speed and slickness when she makes her move. But her suppleness alone isn't quite enough -- Lilith can recognize when our attention is just a bit distracted, and she picks that moment for a successful escape.

Sometimes in a threatening situation, your best recourse is feigning compliance. You go along with the assailant's demands, watching for your opening. Waiting for that momentary distraction (or the chance to create one). And, should that window open, you will be ready to spring into action.

(For practice in what "springing" actions would work best, take a self-defense class. Two 5-week courses are beginning soon: one in Bellevue this coming Saturday July 9, another in Seattle on Monday July 11.)

Sometimes that window will not open. You have to realize that in self-defense sometimes your choice is between bad and worse. That's the reality. After-care is crucial (and that's a topic for another blog post).