Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Spoiler Alert

My mom was spending time with Miss C the other evening while I ran an errand.  Later that night, with Miss C in bed, I got ready to read her a chapter of Anne of Green Gables.

We are close to the end, four chapters to go, and the rivalry between Anne and Gilbert has been going on three years.  Three years of intense silence, ignored apologies, grudges that seem Irish in their tenacity.  Because he called her Carrots.

( My siblings and I joke that when we spend time in Ireland, there is a list of people we are supposed to visit, and then a short list of people we are not supposed to talk to.  Because someone talked smack about someone else's cow forty years ago.  It's like honoring a grudge on behalf of deceased Great Aunt Mary McCreedy twice removed.  This is loyalty.  But because we often mix up the names on the lists, and because all Irish people look the same, we often find ourselves having tea and cookies with The Enemy.  And they make a good pot of tea.)

So I opened up Anne of Green Gables and Miss C sat up and said, "Nana said that Anne and Gilbert get married.

She was half distressed, half in disbelief. 

"Well, I don't know.  Right now she's only fifteen."

"But Nana said so.  That it happens later.  I wish I didn't know that."

"Well, even if they get married, there are so many other things we don't know."

"But they don't even like each other.  So that's a big thing to know."

"That's called a spoiler."

"What's a spoiler?"

"It's when you're part way through a story, and someone accidentally tells you how it ends."

"So Nana's a spoiler.  I'll let her know."

"No no no, that's not what I said.  I said it's a spoiler.  Getting early information.  It is a spoiler.  People aren't spoilers."

"It's a spoiler because you said Nana's a spoiler and I'll let her know."

I think I might be added to that short list.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Financial Abuse

Actress Kerry Washington spoke last month about a tactic in domestic abuse that is both invisible and common:
Finances are almost always a weapon of choice.  Taking away access to cash, destroying credit, jeopardizing jobs -- financial abuse leaves invisible bruises that can take decades to heal.
Melissa Jeltsen explains:
Financial abuse is a tactic often used by abusers to control and isolate their partners. It takes many forms: Abusers may drastically limit their victims' access to cash so they have no money of their own....They may sabotage their victims' ability to work, or pile up debt under their victims' names.

For an abusive relationship to continue, it takes two mindsets: the abuser mindset (control, manipulation, isolation), and the victim mindset (resignation, shame, feeling of powerlessness).  The cycle is broken anytime one of these mindsets shifts.  Most often, it is the victim shifting from shame and powerlessness into survival.  It can be sudden, born of absolute necessity, or subtle, building over months or years.  Survival is one state, and once achieved, self-sufficiency is able to take root and grow.

Washington states,
I think people just aren't as aware of financial abuse.  If a woman isn't even aware of the dynamics of financial abuse -- what it looks like, what it is -- she may not even know that that's part of the tools being used to control her and manipulate her.. ...When there is more information around it, people can begin to identify it and then get the help they need.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Raising His Hand

It has been said that when one student in a classroom is brave enough to raise their hand and say they don't understand something, there are others who are sitting silently, also not understanding, but too embarrassed to raise their hand.

I'm linking here to a story I just read about a teacher in Pennsylvania.  She was charged with felony sexual contact with one of her students.  The discovery came about when parents of the student found inappropriate texts on his phone.  This discovery led to a bigger story unrolling about a  relationship that a teacher initiated with their teenage son.  After charges were pressed, another young man, a teenage student of hers, came forward.  But that was not the last of it.  More allegations were then made concerning "inappropriate activity in a classroom."  In short, the parents discovery brought forward the truth that their son was not the only one.

Misuse and abuse of power rarely happens as an isolated incident. 
It is a powerful thing when one person comes forward with their story.
It gives permission to those who have been sitting silently. 
It helps pave a path to the truth, so that corrective action can begin. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

More Stories Shared

Meredith Vieira is brave.  Here she tells of her own experience with domestic abuse, and why she stayed:

From working with victims of sexual abuse, I have found that one common thread is this: no one searches harder for fault or blame than someone who experiences something terrible over and over at the hands of someone who loves them.  Often the conclusion becomes self-fault, self-blame. 

The move from victim to self-advocate is such a very very vulnerable and fragile thing.  The work is mental and emotional before physical.  The leaving comes after the inner work has begun.   

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Thing She Carries

Emma carries her mattress wherever she goes.

Sometimes people help her carry it.
Sometimes they call her names for dragging that thing out in public.

She carries it anyway.

She carries it without expectation.  She carries it because it is with her always, anyways.

Emma is healing and allowing us to see her healing.

"It's been a week now, and it already feels a little lighter," she says.
"I’m getting used to it; I’m getting stronger.”

---from Going From Class To Class With Emma Sulkowicz And Her Mattress

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Even Elevators

The national attention on domestic abuse has been intense over the past few days, following a high-profile example playing out with NFL player Ray Rice and his now wife, Janay Palmer, complete with elevator video evidence and subsequent press conferences.

All of the dialogue around this issue is very useful.  All of it. 

Co-hosts of Fox and Friends have been denounced for this particular piece of commentary:

After discussing the latest developments in the Ray Rice situation — in which the star ex-Baltimore Ravens running back assaulted his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator — Kilmeade joked, “I think the message is, take the stairs.”
Doocy countered, “The message is when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera.”

This morning, on a local radio show, I listened to two men talk about how "the media changes everything."  That nothing is private anymore, there can't be anything that happens without someone documenting it with their phone, that "even elevators aren't safe."  They didn't mean safe for women, or human beings.  They meant safe from scrutiny.

At this moment, I am glad that we live in an age of information. 
That we live in a time and place where even elevators are not private, where moments that could typically be tucked away from public viewing are no longer tucked away from public viewing. I am glad that this particular type of "safety" is evaporating.  It forces us, all of us, to confront what happens behind some closed doors, and more importantly, what we believe about what happens behind closed doors.

One woman, Beverly Gooden, tweeted, "almost without thinking", why she stayed in an abusive relationship. 
“The overwhelming tone was, ‘Why did she stay?’” Gooden, a human resources manager from Charlotte, N.C., told The Washington Post. “I felt that people just don’t realize, asking ‘Why doesn’t she leave?’ is such a simple question for a very complex issue.”

Gooden's goal was simply to offer support:
"I want people to know they are not alone and that there are people who truly understand what they have gone through," said Gooden. "When the overwhelming public voice is of shame, you can get lost in the guilt. You can feel voiceless. I want people to know that they have a voice! That they have the power. That's so critical, that survivors feel empowered."
Gooden's message resonated. Within a few hours, thousands of Twitter users were sharing their stories. 
--From 19 #WhyIStayed Tweets That Everyone Needs To See

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blaming the Victim: The Joint Apology for Getting Punched in the Face

Many people didn't really want to see that video. They wanted to believe Rice was attacked by Palmer and did something to warrant being punched in the face. From the moment part of the video became public over the summer until Monday morning, it was easy to put some blame on Janay Palmer.
The woman always gets the burden of proof and the burden of pain. The woman is always cast as the gold digger, the mentally imbalanced stalker, the inappropriate dresser. The woman is always the provocateur.
---from Culture of Blaming the Victim

When it takes video evidence to get the public to take abuse seriously, the power is in the hands of the people who have the videos — and decide whether or not to release them.
Without documentation, the victim's and aggressor's accounts become a "he said, she said" — and we know from media studies that people are more likely to believe accounts that confirm their prejudices. If people tend to side with the person they already know, like or trust — in this case, the star player — video evidence becomes one of the only things that can break that impasse.

---from  The People Who Have the Footage Have the Power