Sunday, March 17, 2013

There Is No Joy in Steubenville


Judge Thomas Lipps ruled today that the two young men who are alleged to have raped a fellow 16 year old student have been found guilty.

CNN's report this morning emphasized the emotional heights of this ruling. The two young men, Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, were sentenced to time in juvenile detention. Richmond cried after the sentencing, while trying to apologize to the victim and her family. CNN's reporter, Poppy Harlow, reported on how hard it was to watch “as these two young men — who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students — literally watched as they believed their life fell apart. . . .
One of the young men, Ma’lik Richmond, as that sentence came down, he collapsed, . . . the convicted rapist told his attorney that “my life is over, no one is going to want me now.”

Yes it is true that their lives will be changed forever.  They are now considered sex offenders, and will carry that label for the rest of their lives.  The boys, however, will not be the only ones to carry a live-long burden.  Their victim will be carrying a hefty burden, for the rape as well as for all the photos and videos that were widely distributed and viewed by her friends, family, classmates, and even people who never knew who she was before. Perhaps her promising future too has been diminished (what do you think, Poppy Harlow)?

Sure I know that much of the media feels compelled to find the "human interest" side in every story, to tug on our heartstrings in a bid for viewers.  But this "tug" felt more like a heave.

Yes, these young men's lives have been diminished.  But it was not the sentence that did them it.  It was their own actions, for which they are now being held accountable.  And that's how justice is supposed to work.



If you can't see the CNN video in the viewer above, try this link to YouTube: http://youtu.be/MvUdyNko8LQ.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Taking On Rape Culture: Zerlina Maxwell, Super-Shero

Zerlina Maxwell had the audacity to suggest, on Fox News no less, that to end rape we should teach men to NOT RAPE

What a concept.

In response, she received of messages from FOX viewers intent on intimidation by calling her names, dismissing her ideas, and even threatening her with rape. This is a typical tactic of misogynists, to try to silence articulate women who speak out. 

Did not work. 

Since then, Maxwell has published these suggestions for how to teach men not to rape.

The context of Maxwell's comments was a conversation on Fox News' Sean Hannity Show about gun ownership maybe preventing rape.  Maxwell, herself a rape survivor, took issue with how the topic was framed:
“I think that the entire conversation is wrong. I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear and how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape. In my case, don’t tell me if I’d only had a gun, I wouldn’t have been raped. Don’t put it on me to prevent the rape.” 
As a rape survivor, the conversation about how to best combat rape and domestic violence is personal and can be very challenging.  Rape culture is a pervasive part of our society because of social conditioning. Yet we struggle to find ways to avoid patterns of victim blaming and many of us would rather advise women on the precautions they should take to avoid being raped as opposed to starting at the root of the problem: teaching men and boys not to be rapists in the first place.
Way back in October, Colorado prosecutor Ann Munch spoke in Seattle about blaming rape victims for their attacks. She was not the first to notice how jurors would often torpedo a case with solid physical evidence because the victim did something to bring it on herself, such as leaving her home to go out for pizza, riding the bus, or being at work.

Maxwell's point is that when men and boys commit rape and the victims get blamed, it perpetuates a cycle of acceptance that men and boys will be men and boys, and that rape is a natural, expected occurrence.  Almost makes it seem as benign as April showers.

Rape is not a natural, expected occurrence. Rape is a deliberate, planned act of domination. Rape happens not because of how a woman dressed, or how much she drank, or what she drank, or which dark alley she may have walked down. Rape happens because a rapist was present.

I don't give out list of what to do or not do in my self-defense classes.  Any good self-defense class should give you tools to better navigate the world you choose to live in, not lock you up "for your own safety." Any good self-defense class should place the responsibility for sexual assault and rape squarely on the perpetrator.  And any good self-defense class should equip you to make safety choices for expanding your presence in the public world.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My First Morning at DAWN

I (almost) completed DAWN's 50 hour training to work as a volunteer domestic violence advocate, and today was my first day on the crisis line. Actually, I didn't talk to any of the callers -- I shadowed an advocate to listen in on what she'd say to callers, did data entry on each call, learned about available resources, etc.

This was a busy morning, with one call following another following another. Moms worried about their daughters' relationships, a woman looking for immediate shelter, a soon-to-be-ex-wife looking for financial help to get through a dragged-out divorce. There's a lot of need out there, at the very least for accurate information on the law, your rights, and access to the myriad of resources available.  It feels good to be able to connect a person in need with the help they are seeking, to bring just a bit of relief to someone in the anxiety of crisis.

The next volunteer training is in late June.  There's always the need for volunteers, so if you are looking for a super-worthwhile cause, this could be it.  I'll be checking the schedule to make up those classes I missed while out of town, so maybe I'll see you there.