Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just raped a girl

My husband and I had this discussion last night about professional sports. He pointed out that Plex shot himself in the leg and has been suspended from his employment without pay. But, in contrast, Kobe was charged with (and very nearly admitted) rape and the lakers flew him back and forth for games and court appearances.

I suggested that it could be a result of a number of factors at once . . . one, the difference in the culture of the NBA and the NFL . . . and the values of the commissioners. Two, Plex hurt himself and thus his team, team owners directly and Kobe just raped a girl. It's easy to say the girl may or may not have "asked for it" or that she may or may not be of lose moral character or that she's justs looking for her 15 minutes. But in the end, she's just a girl and who really cares that she was raped?

And, that is why we have so much more work to do.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Participating Citizen

One of the ongoing conversations in our office is what "lessons" we would like to incorporate into our prevention programming. We are big supporters of comprehensive sex education. We believe in personal responsibility. We also want to encourage responsible bystander behaviors.

By, "bystander behaviors" we mean having the courage to speak up when someone is out of line or intimidating or intentionally/unintentionally mean. We want to shape a community where people are not afraid of intervening when they seen exploitation or abuse or intimidation.

We also would like to see a society where people respond in compassionate and appropriate ways to the pain of others.

This evening I read of the college student who web broadcast his suicide. Some viewers egged him on. Some tried to talk him out of it. Some discussed if he took enough drugs to accomplish the task. Only a few tried to seek out an intervention or assistance. Sadly, they were too late.

Reading this reminded me of an incident in court recently. I was assisting a client in obtaining a restraining order. We were gathered, early, outside the courtroom. Everyone in the hallway that day was there seeking relief in situations of domestic or interpersonal abuse, violence, or intimidation. A couple was having a disagreement to one side. The voices were soft at first, but using profanity and disrespectful language. The male of the couple put his face within an inch of the female's face and started yelling profanity and threats. At first, we jumped and watched. She tried to quiet him. This, as with so many abusers, just "provoked" him more. When he started yelling again, I walked over to the one courtroom in session so I could signal to the bailiff that we needed assistance. The officers were already on the way out of the courtroom.

They separated the couple and asked the male to cool off. They moved the female into the courtroom. The male started glaring at me and muttering that "People need to stay out of other people's business." I looked him in the eye and told him that he needed to move on.

I hope that my response to get a real intervention will serve as a model for the other people in the hallway. Maybe someday they will act to get an intervention for someone else. I also feel that not only is it a responsibility of the work I do that I intervened . . . but a responsibility as a member of this community.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


From time to time, I will recommend to clients that they may want to consider the option of filing a civil suit against their perpetrator. I don't make this recommendation in all cases . . . and I'm cautious to warn that they should hold off on even speaking to an attorney until after the criminal courts are finished with the case. (Defense attorneys seem to love to gloss over the criminal actions of their clients and vilify the victim if it looks like she might gain one penny from the case. I've seen far too many cases result in not-guilty verdicts simply because the defense attorney suggested that the family of the victim might someday have some financial gain. Years ago, a case unravelled when the defense attorney claimed the 13 year old girl made up a story of being raped by her neighbor because her parents were in a dispute with the neighbor over a fence. )

Anyway, the NY Times is reporting a fantastic outcome for a civil case in Florida. I like that the jury awarded a substantial amount for medical and counseling expenses, as well as damages and money for anguish.

Sadly, it seems that too many people don't appreciate the consequences of their actions until their pocketbooks are hit.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I've never been afraid of change. When I was in college I was energized by the feeling that I was standing at the brink of changes all around me. I got a reminder of that in Obama's speeches.

There were tears that welled up when I sat down with my ballot this week. I took a moment to drink in that I was about to mark a ballot for a person who not so long ago in our history couldn't even vote. And, that moment brought back a childhood memory.

I remember pretty vividly some well meaning adult telling me and my brothers (who were not adopted) "when you grow up, you could be president." And, even as a fairly young child, I remember thinking that they were just being polite by including me . . . a bi-racial, adopted, girl. . . but that they really were just talking to my brothers.

Last night, as I was finally going to bed, I remembered a friend of mine who is expecting her first child in the spring. A month ago, during a meeting, she optimistically told me that she just knew that her bi-racial baby was going to have a role model in President Obama. My last thought last night before falling asleep was that her child would never have that feeling that she or he isn't included when someone says "when you grow up, you could be president." And, maybe that's the best change.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I have refrained from really writing about the "Duke Lacrosse" case here.  I'm not directly involved in the case, I don't know anyone who is directly involved in the case, and there has been so much conflicting information in the media that it is hard to judge for myself.  

When the case was "happening" my source of information was largely the NY Times.  I've heard it discussed, and I know people in that region of the world and from time to time hear their opinions.  (By the way, you North Carolina Voters, I understand that your attorney general is using the Duke case in his re-election ads . . . which if nothing else seems in bad taste and likely to convince victims in your state that the state is unfriendly, uncaring, and not really all that nice to victims.  But, that's just my take.)

Today, we in the office watched via the internet a press conference held sometime within the past week to announce the publication of a book by the young woman in the center of the case.  I was most impressed by a professor from NC A&T University who spoke rather elegantly about the case.  

Her statements were the perfect springboard to a discussion about the intersectionality of oppressions and sexual violence.  This case isn't just about rape.  Or gender.  Or race.  Or privilege.  Or social class.  This case is about ALL OF THOSE things, and probably a few more.  

Would it be too simple to say that perhaps what really went wrong with this case, beyond the obvious, was that it challenged too many of our socially held notions and the system overheated and blew up?

Maybe the long shot of this case will be that we start working towards a meaningful conversation about the many oppressions at play in our society.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just the Beginning

When I attempt to explain the "victim experience" to people, I often say that the assault is merely the beginning of the whole "victim experience," not the end.

The attack itself is often the scene of panic or alarm or terror. Lots and lots of women I talk to say that they worried more about being killed than they did about the rape itself. They describe that horrible, pit of your stomach feeling of realizing that you no longer have control over not being raped, you refocus your attention on surviving the attack.

But, after the attack, you have lots of rushing thoughts and conflicting impulses to contend with, immediately. Call the police? How is my family going to respond? Will I be believed? Will I be blamed? Do I blame myself? Oh god, what if I get pregnant or a disease from this? What if he comes back? Why? Why? and again, Why?

We realize that only a small percentage of victims immediately call the police and seek medical treatment. The societal myths about rape and rape victims work against that impulse. It is rare for me to see a victim who absolutely knows they did nothing "wrong." Rare. (I constantly debunk the victim's own acceptance of rape myths.)

When medical treatment is sought, we have the opportunity to both gather evidence and provide appropriate medical interventions. Medication can be given to prevent pregnancy. Medication can be given to prevent many of the sexually transmitted diseases and/or infection resulting from the assault. In recent years, the director of our emergency department and I have discussed the efficacy of offering anti-retrovirals to help prevent HIV.

This is becoming more standard as we advance our response to victims of this violent crime. So, imagine my thoughts when I read in the New York Times that in South Africa, a doctor was fired for a) offering anti-retrovirals to rape victims and b) supporting a local rape crisis center who advocated for the treatment. (Read about it here.) Now, judges have ruled that he was fired improperly. But, it took years for this ruling to happen. How many people who needed his medical care were denied it because of his humane and appropriate actions? How many rape victims shouldered the feelings of shame and guilt and blame because their victimization contributed to his firing? (Which is totally a stretch, but so often victims will blame themselves not just for the assault but the aftermath as well.)

And, how much longer will it be before "those in charge" understand that rape is not the result of the victim's actions . . . but the perpetrators? And how long before, universally, we have a society that rushes to the aid and responds to the needs of the victim rather than make their pain a political football?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Huge Leap Forward

Much stress around the office.  Lots of outreach/community education with the start of the school year.  Still waiting for a grantor to honor their contract with us.  

But, still a tad bit "work high" from a new development this week.  Years ago, I attended a wonderful workshop at the national conference about a new program to train nurses to gather forensic evidence in sexual violence cases . . . document it . . . and teach them to testify.  It was hugely successful in the communities where it was going on.  

I immediately met with the director of our Emergency Department about this cool new idea.  I had grand plans . . . a room equipped with everything we would need to perform truly excellent forensic examinations, nurses trained and available.  It was going to be cool.  Except that the hospital had plans for expanding and renovating the ED and a forensic examination room wasn't in their plans.

That was years ago.  Since then, I've tried to convince individual nurses to take the training.  But, even the few who did were frustrated by the hospital's lack of cooperation and found higher paying jobs elsewhere.

Until this week.  This week, we had a certified forensic nurse examiner perform an evidence kit . . . and she had a nurse in training with her.  I learned that there are 7 nurses in our ED who have taken the 50 hours of classroom training and are working through their 50 hours of clinicals.  The trainee nurse told me that she is hoping that in a year's time . . . they will have all kits performed by a forensic nurse examiner and possibly our exam room set up.

For those of you not aware of the forensic nurse examiner program . . . the program is open to nurses with several years of ED or women's health nursing experience.  There is extensive classroom training for everything from evidence preservation to being cross examined.  

Most clients won't necessarily realize the difference . . . except that the forensic nurses work harder to build a relationship with the victim . . . to make the evidence gathering process as much of a joint venture as possible.  And, I noticed that the nurse was a lot more patient with examining for internal trauma when usually doctors only notice it if there is blood or it is unmistakable.  

It took years and much patience, but oh my goodness is this a huge leap forward for us.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I just read an article about a 48 Hours Mystery show that is upcoming. The show features an interview with one of the boys abducted and abused by Micheal Devlin in Missouri.

I'm pretty impressed with how this case is being handled. It seems that there was a fairly quick resolution within the court system. And, from reading the young man's comments, it appears that he has had some pretty good counseling. And, it appears that it is on-going.

I was also impressed to see that his parents are stepping up and advocating for his interests. I cannot say how much I'm pleased to see that and only wish other parents were as good at protecting their children's interests.


Thursday, September 18, 2008


Yesterday, the topic of conversation around the water pitcher was an article I believe was on Yahoo.  The article was about a young RNC delegate who was victimized by a person they met in a bar while attending the RNC convention recently.  The delegate is an attorney, donor to the GOP, and 29 years old.  The delegate was flattered by the attentions of an attractive person.  The delegate invited their new friend up to their hotel room.  There, the new friend mixed another round of drinks, and the next thing the delegate knew, the friend was gone and so was about $50,000 worth of cash and property.

The police in the Twin Cities says he has no doubt this crime happened . . . the delegate is being very cooperative with investigators.  They believe that the delegate was slipped a "date rape" drug in the drinks mixed in the room.

Oh yeah, the delegate is male and the offender is female.  The article closes with a quote from the delegate explaining that as a single guy, he was flattered by the attentions of this attractive woman . . . and that if anything has made this humiliation worthwhile was letting people know that date rape drugs can be used on men too.

There is no mention if the victim believes he were sexually assaulted, if he is bothered by the idea he may or may not have been sexually assaulted, or if he even thinks that if sex happened (with or without his consent and/or participation) that it's even a crime.

I see cases like this all the time, but with the genders reversed.  In fact, the last ER call I personally took, the victim was a young college student who had attended her first college party and didn't realize what was in the punch.  She woke up with her underpants on inside-out and backwards and believes she was raped.  As I walked into the ER, the triage nurse asked me if it were even a rape if she doesn't know for sure she was raped?  Law enforcement has taken her statement, but isn't really concerned about finding the unknown perpetrator.

But yet, it's sexist of us to question the candidacy of Sarah Palin when she thinks rape victims ought to pay for the forensic examination and gathering of evidence in the process of reporting the crime to law enforcement?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's what we do. . .

Remembering back 7 years ago . . . I was attending a meeting of the executive committee of a state organization I with which I work. We were in a hotel in a small town not known for being a tourist attraction. The hotel was one that catered to business travelers. We were sitting in the hotel's "lounge" which doubled as a breakfast room in the mornings. We were eating breakfast. The big screen tv in the corner was turned to a network morning news program, and I was reading the paper. I remember wondering aloud if Micheal Jordan would find a way to make another comeback when the tv switched to the twin towers. The guy said that they couldn't confirm it, but they'd received a report that a plane had flown into one of the towers. We all looked up . . . when I saw a plane come into the picture I honestly thought it was a plane sent to check out the damage . . . since it was so high up. I was horrified and shocked to see it fly into the building too.

There were people in our group who had family, loved ones in that area of the world. We all shared cell phones to help them get in touch with people. I remember calling my husband and learned that the people in his office were already tuned in. I called my family and told my grandmother to turn on the tv because we were under attack.

We watched the coverage for a while . . . and then decided that we should try to meet until we needed to break for other reasons. (Also, we thought it would be good to help those who had not yet reached family focus on something else.) We started the meeting . . . and someone told us that the pentagon had been hit. There was a woman in our group whose husband had a meeting at the pentagon that day . . . and she was having trouble getting in touch with him. The towers came down . . . and we couldn't bring ourselves to continue the meeting.

We gathered back in the lounge to watch the endless loops of coverage. Those of us who didn't have loved ones in immediate danger took care of the others. There were people in the lounge who weren't part of our group . . . and we took care of them too. We brought them tissues and coffee . . . and sat with them. We made sure they could safely return home. I remember one man asking me how I could so easily be taking care of others, people I didn't know . . . and I remember saying "it's what we do. . ."

When we decided to leave the hotel for homes . . . we arranged for one of our group to drive the woman whose husband was at the pentagon home . . . and someone else would follow her and drive her home afterwards. We set up a phone tree to check in as people were able to reach their homes. I drove to my husband's office because, even though I knew he was safe, I still needed to be with him.

I regret that I watched the media loops over and over. After I went to bed, my husband got me up and said there was a new angle . . . it was video of the plane actually going into the building (rather than flying behind it, and not coming back out). I really regret that I saw that view because to this day, that scene still appears in my nightmares from time to time. But, that's what we do too . . . we absorb the nightmares of others. I have a loving and supportive family, and I know it's just bad memory . . . so I can withstand it. I know others gave up more . . . and still need support and understanding.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Every time I think of Governor Palin's flip remarks, I get angry. I get angry because there is no easy way to describe every thing I, and those like me . . . on both sides of the conservative/liberal coin . . . do every single day. I do everything from recruit, screen, train, and supervise volunteers to representing my agency and my cause to my local community, to my state, and across the nation. I take out the trash and clean up when our office floods again. I get out of bed in the middle of the night to help people who have been victimized. I fill out endless paper work documenting that I documented the documentation for the tiny bits of money the government thinks victims of crime are worth.

I do this work because I believe in it. I do this work because I think it matters. I go largely unnoticed and unthanked. I get paid peanuts and most years don't get a raise. Heck, most years I have to hold my breath to see if I'm gonna get paid every month because the government takes their sweet time getting our funds to us. They expect the work to happen but don't bother to insure that the rent or phone bill is paid on time.

And she has the gall to belittle and be glib and flip about community organizers? How about this . . . if what I've chosen to dedicate my life to is so worthless or meaningless, how about she give me her blackberry number, and the next time I get a call at 3am because a 13 year old girl has been raped by her grandfather or a young woman woke up to find a stranger holding a knife to her throat . . . I'll call her to handle it while I stay warm and cozy in my bed?


Biology works, even when we don't want it to, when we aren't prepared for it, and even when it's not fair. Years ago, I heard that a state legislator announced that there was no need to be concerned about the abortion issue and incest or rape . . . because he was a doctor and he could say with medical expertise that it was not biologically possible to get pregnant when the sex was forced or unwanted.

Well, knock me over. Later I learned that the good doctor was actually a dentist . . . and had fallen in with that weird group of people who seem to think that humans really do have control over biology. These are the same people who think that if it were really a rape, then the woman's vagina would be torn up due to lack of lubrication. They have this weird theory that if the body responds the way it is biologically programmed to . . . then the woman must have secretly wanted the sex. I think these are the same weirdos who think that all women secretly want to be raped and so rape isn't really that bad a crime.

But, I've kinda veered off subject. The subject is choice. I absolutely believe that women should have the choice to decide when they become mothers. Our society demands that women be more responsible for children than men. Biologically, women must bear the possible outcomes of sexual intercourse more than men. When and with whom a woman has sex must be an issue of her decision. Use of birth control, although ideally should be a joint decision and endeavor, ultimately is a woman's choice. And, the decision to carry any pregnancy . . . intended or not . . . should be ultimately the woman's choice.

I think that all too often, people equate folks who are "pro-choice" as being "pro-abortion" and that abortion is the only issue at stake. Choice is about personal independence. Choice is about contraception. Choice is about knowing the options and making educated decisions. And, sometimes choice is about carrying or aborting an unintended pregnancy. I'm all for women carrying surprise pregnancies. If not for the SURPRISE! pregnancy, most of us . . . myself included . . . wouldn't be here. But, people who make an informed and educated decision to carry that surprise to delivery are a whole lot less likely to abandon that child in a trash can . . . are less likely to abuse that child . . . and hopefully will have spent the time between discovering the pregnancy and delivery preparing to welcome that child.

The problem with making choice a political issue is that when you refuse to give women the information they need to make good decisions . . . or you tell them that they don't have a choice . . . you are reinforcing just how second-class they are in our society. Because, choice as an issue is always aimed at women. Where are the purity rings for boys? Why don't churches have mother son nights during which sons pledge to their moms that they won't have sex, won't put a girl in the position of a surprise pregnancy until they are married? When have we seen media messages shame boys for pre-marital sex that might have resulted in an abortion?

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Very bad behavior is a crime. We understand that and we punish accordingly. We, as a people, disapprove of stealing and hurting and other forms of misbehavior. But, over the past couple of decades, we are starting to understand that misbehavior is more than just taking that which we don't have a right to . . . it has lasting impact. Trauma doesn't go away so easily.

As I was reminded of the lasting effects of trauma yesterday when a man who works with another agency in my community was visiting our office. He said that he'd had a rough morning. When he arrived at his work place, he heard that there had been a tornado that touched down in his town a few miles away. He described calling people to verify the story and see what damages could be reported. He mentioned that he'd lived in the same town 20 some odd years ago when the town was nearly destroyed by tornadoes. Even though a life time has passed since those tornadoes . . . clearly the trauma of it still plays in his mind when the weather turns foul.

Trauma can make people react more strongly than you might expect. Trauma can lead to faulty logic and funny decisions. Trauma inflicted by people is harder to recover from than forces of nature. And, the long term trauma of being victimized sexually or physically is worthy of our society's patience.

Just something to think about.

Monday, August 25, 2008

That's what you do . . .

There is a link to the article in the title of this post.

The article is about a couple in San Antonio who tried to sell sexual access to the woman's five year old child in exchange for an apartment, a car, and day care for a 10 month old child. The article states that the mother of the 5 year old believed that the sexual abuse would be a "positive" experience for the child and she'd receive sexual gratification from watching. It also mentions that the couple, of which the male was married to another person, had plans to inflict their crazy on the 10 month old at a later date and even inflict violent crazy on a teenager.

But, keep reading. The wife of the male in this "couple" filed for a protective order to protect her 14 month old child from her husband . . . and filed for divorce. THAT'S what you do when you find out your husband is a scary, twisted, horrible person.

I'm sure there are more women or men who find themselves in similar situations . . . and we never hear about the ones who act swiftly to protect themselves and their children. I hate that this woman had to discover that the person she was building a life with could betray her in such horrible ways. . . but I applaud her for having a good moral compass.

Friday, August 22, 2008

All that Glitters?

This week, my staff and I have been following the twisted path aging rocker Gary Glitter has been taking back home.

He was convicted in Vietnam of sexually abusing 2 "pre-pubescent" girls. He spent three years in prison and was released this week. Since he is a foreign national, and a convict, Vietnam showed him the door. Mr. Glitter tried to move his road show over to Thailand but they just said no to the sex offender. He tried to avoid returning to England by first claiming that his little ears hurt, and then later faking a heart attack. (Oh, PUL-EEZE) He then boarded a flight to Hong Kong (Folks in Thailand told him that if he over stayed the 12 stay in the airport, they would jail him for immigration violations.) But, Hong Kong said they had no room for an foreign sex offender and sent him back to Thailand.

Finally, he is back in London.

Mr. Glitter says that he did not want to return to England because he would be disrespected because of his sex offender ways. Folks in England are forcing him to register as a sex offender.

Of course, I'm cynical. I don't believe that the young children he was caught sexually abusing were the first children he ever used for his own sexual gratification. Men in their 60s don't wake up one morning and decide that the one sexual experience they've never thought of before but must have before they die is sex with a young child. People who sexually offend against young children escalate their actions from fantasy, to pornography, to engaging with children for their own masturbatory uses, to abusing children. I doubt that it was by accident that Mr Glitter found himself wanting to have sex with children and JUST BY CHANCE finding himself in a country in which the sex trade makes finding a child to have sex with fairly easy. (Vietnam, Atlanta, you name it . . . the sex trade is everywhere)

I was pleased to see that even his money and/or celebrity status did not convince those other countries to take a chance on allowing him near their children. I'm glad to see that they didn't buy the logic that he'd "done his time and now deserved a second chance." When it comes to people who sexually abuse children, a second chance could mean more children's lives destroyed. Our society absolutely needs to monitor, closely, sex offenders . . . because once convicted, they are no longer innocent . . . the children in our society at least deserve that we will do what we can to control the offenders we already know about.