Opening up about sexual assault in Israel.

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel

assault is not a single-county, single-culture, single-anything issue, and just as the U.S. is struggling with revelations like that out of Steubenville and the number of sexual assaults in the military, so is Israel.

In Israel’s case, many revelations revolve around the famous and powerful: Former President Moshe Katsav is currently serving a seven-year prison term for raping, sexually abusing and harassing three women; ex-Justice Minister Haim Ramon was convicted of sexual harassment; influential media figure Emmanuel Rosen was recently accused by 10 female colleagues of obsessive harassment and date rape; Tel Aviv District Court Judge Nissim Yeshaya said in court two weeks ago—while discussing the case of a young woman who was gang-raped at 13—that “some girls enjoy being raped.” Meanwhile, indictments for sex crimes in Israel’s military doubled in 2012. Haaretz reports:

In recent months, indictments on charges of sexual abuse have been filed against soldiers, officers and civilians employed on IDF bases. A civilian physician working for the IDF was indicted on charges of rape and sexual assault, an airman in the IAF was convicted of rape and sodomy, and a company sergeant first class in the 931st Battalion of the IDF’s Nahal Brigade was convicted of the sexual assault of female soldiers who served under his command.

Much like in the U.S., one result of the headline-grabbing news has been a sudden outpouring of personal stories. Early last month +972’s Dahlia Scheindlin, better known for her public opinion analysis, wrote a deeply angry and ultimately deeply personal column about the utterly mundane and often paralyzing reality of sexual harassment in women’s lives. After discussing just how well-known Rosen is for his skirt-chasing ways, she wrote:

In fact, I don’t know where to start writing at all. Should I begin by giving a pithy description of the fascinating social media dynamics, the frenzied debates between the genders running on Facebook forums? Should I describe the defensiveness and anger of many men?

…Should it be the tales of trauma now being shared by an appalling number and range of women, an ever-spreading stain whose blackness and girth are still deepening and spreading?

…Or should I tell my own story?… No, I never complained to the workplace and I am ashamed I wasn’t able to prevent or redress those situations, instead of what I did: stew in my humiliation and the wreckage of my self-worth, built from the ground with my own sweat and blood. Confuse my rage at him with rage at myself, for not telling him to f*ck off, or even before that: for not projecting a personality so unfathomably wonderful that he could never countenance such disrespect in the first place.

Early this month, well-known literary critic and social commentator Ariana Melamed responded to Yeshaya’s comments in a column about her own rape at the hands of a family member at age 14. In searing detail, she told of being hugged, then forced to the muddy ground, then raped, then hearing the sound of her rapist’s satisfaction. “Slowly, slowly—God alone knows how—you gather your strength and go home, bleeding, on failing legs.”

Then this past Friday, journalist Sharon Shpurer (who has been among those covering the Rosen case) wrote in Haaretz:

It was when I was 11 and a half…. One of the teachers thrust his hands under my school shirt. He touched, he fondled, he stuck his tongue in and he kissed. A few minutes of resistance and it was over. Then it happened several more times. How many exactly? I don’t remember. The 24 years that have elapsed have already blurred the small details, the memories and the feelings.

…I didn’t do anything with this. I didn’t complain to the police and I didn’t tell anyone. Life went on and I kept it inside me. I was ashamed. Why was I ashamed? I don’t know. Maybe precisely because I didn’t complain and I didn’t talk. Maybe.

Shpurer writes about how hearing the stories from Rosen’s accusers, then other stories, and finally reading Melamed’s column, “gave me strength.”

Daylight is the best disinfectant and its role is not only to disinfect the soul but also to ensure that the topic does not fall off the agenda, and that young girls and boys will know they must not be ashamed and they must not keep silent.

…We need not necessarily involve the police or the courts, which will rummage in our psyches, our sexual habits and our degree of permissiveness…. What we do need now is just to spit it out, each of us her own story. To show, quite simply, that this is a nationwide plague.

During the time that I lived in Israel I spent several years as a counselor with theTel Aviv Rape Crisis Center, and so have found myself sadly unsurprised by all of this news. Israel is a country like any country, and as in any country, 50 percent of Israelis live with the knowledge that their bodily autonomy may be violated at any given moment. One in every three Israeli women is a survivor of sexual assault.

What is surprising to me, and heartening, is that so many Israelis are talking about it. Daylight is the best disinfectant, and the sooner that Israelis and all people come to understand that sexual assault is a human rights issue of monumental proportions, the sooner all of our societies can heal from the pain we have long expected all women to simply shoulder.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Advertisements

Breaking: Facebook promises action on gender-based hate speech.

facebook-like-iconHuh! Seven days after the launch of the #FBrape campaign, Facebook has responded in just about the best possible way. From the company’s statement:

Many different groups which have historically faced discrimination in society, including representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, and LGBT communities, have reached out to us in the past to help us understand the threatening nature of content, and we are grateful for the thoughtful and constructive feedback we have received. 

…In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate…. We need to do better – and we will.

The statement then lists a series of concrete steps, “that we will begin rolling out immediately” — these include:

  • a review of Facebook community standards and an update to its hate speech guidelines
  • updated training for teams responsible for reviewing “hateful speech or harmful content”
  • increased accountability and transparency for creators of questionable content
  • establishing “more formal and direct lines of communications with representatives of groups working in this area, including women’s groups,” and other outside resources, such as the Anti-Defamation League’s Anti-Cyberhate working group, legal experts, “and other groups that have historically faced discrimination.”
  • undertaking “research on the effect of online hate speech on the online experiences of members of groups that have historically faced discrimination in society, and to evaluate progress on our collective objectives.”

This is all very, very good news indeed, and as someone who’s advocated around a lot of painful issues in the course of her life, I almost don’t know what to do with it. You mean – people can see reason? Within a reasonable amount of time? Really?

And it’s all thanks to the folks at the Everyday Sexism ProjectWomen Action and Media, and activist Soraya Chemaly – from their statement about the day’s events:

Facebook has admirably done more than most other companies to address this topic in regards to content policy.

…“It is because Facebook has committed to having policies to address these issues that we felt it was necessary to take these actions and press for that commitment to fully recognize how the real world safety gap experienced by women globally is dynamically related to our online lives,” explains Soraya Chemaly.

“We have been inspired and moved beyond expression by the outpouring of energy, creativity and support for this campaign from communities, companies and individuals around the world. It is a testament to the strength of public feeling behind these issues.” says Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.

Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women Action and the Media (WAM!), said: “We are reaching an international tipping point in attitudes towards rape and violence against women. We hope that this effort stands as a testament to the power of collaborative action.”

We are hopeful that this moment will mark an historic transition in relation to media and women’s rights in which Facebook is acknowledged as a leader in fostering safer, genuinely inclusive online communities, setting industry precedents for others to follow.We look forward to collaborating with these communities on actions both big and small until we live in a world that’s safe and just for women and girls, and for everyone.

Now, of course, Facebook still has to deliver on all these fine promises – but you know what? Rape culture and domestic violence apologists are EVERYwhere. What we don’t have everywhere are efforts to combat those things. Facebook is to be commended for this swift and solid response, and its willingness to be in dialogue with the very people who called it on the carpet. This is a very powerful, very hopeful thing.

And I have to say: I’ve been active around the issue of sexual assault since the mid-80s, and I have seen huge cultural shifts in just the past few years. Today’s outcome would have been completely inconceivable even just five years ago, I think. It’s utterly remarkable to me – in fact, I think I’m in a little bit of shock.

But it’s the good kind of shock! So thanks Facebook! And thank you very much to all the folks who read this blog and spread the word. We are a part of something that made real change for good. Give yourself a high-five for me, ok? : ) THANK YOU!

Why isn’t it hate speech if it’s about women?

Facebook-Unlike

PLEASE SEE VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE, HERE.

I am famously Not On Facebook (well, “famously” among you folks, anyway), but not being on Facebook doesn’t mean that I’m entirely unaware of the phenomenon. And it strikes me that, much like Twitter, there are probably nearly as many “Facebooks” as there are users, all the various different little cultures that have been created and propagated on that platform, most users largely unaware of most of the other cultures that exist right along beside them (kind of like, you know: in the Real World).

Which is why I’ll bet most Facebook users have no idea how much vile, violent anti-woman hate speech is posted there daily, under the guise of free speech and/or “humor.”

This week, Soraya Chemaly, Jaclyn Friedman and Laura Bates posted an open letter to Facebook on HuffPo that reads in part:

We are calling on Facebook users to contact advertisers whose ads on Facebook appear next to content that targets women for violence, to ask these companies to withdraw from advertising on Facebook until you take the above actions to ban gender-based hate speech on your site.

Specifically, we are referring to groups, pages and images that explicitly condone or encourage rape or domestic violence or suggest that they are something to laugh or boast about. Pages currently appearing on Facebook include Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus, Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won’t make you a Sandwich, Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs, Raping your Girlfriend and many, many more. Images appearing on Facebook include photographs of women beaten, bruised, tied up, drugged, and bleeding, with captions such as “This bitch didn’t know when to shut up” and “Next time don’t get pregnant.”

These pages and images are approved by your moderators, while you regularly remove content such as pictures of women breastfeeding, women post-mastectomy and artistic representations of women’s bodies. In addition, women’s political speech, involving the use of their bodies in non-sexualized ways for protest, is regularly banned as pornographic, while pornographic content – prohibited by your own guidelines – remains. It appears that Facebook considers violence against women to be less offensive than non-violent images of women’s bodies, and that the only acceptable representation of women’s nudity are those in which women appear as sex objects or the victims of abuse. Your common practice of allowing this content by appending a [humor] disclaimer to said content literally treats violence targeting women as a joke.

For me, reading about it wasn’t enough to really jolt me — what jolted me was seeing pictures.

I won’t post any here, because they’re truly disturbing, but if you’d like to see what Chemaly, Friedman and Bates are talking about, you can click here, herehere, or here.

The first example is the one that shocked me into taking action, and after having a dispassionate exchange about Facebook ad policies with me, it was the second one that inspired my Twitter friend and J Street’s new-media associate, Ben Silverstein, to make this happen:

What these posts are, pure and simple, is hate speech. We don’t often call open misogyny hate speech, but that’s what it is. If it’s your idea of a joke to meme-ify a picture of a woman cringing in fear with the words “Women deserve equal rights… and lefts” (as can be seen here), then you are (to quote Facebook itself) “attacking a person based on… gender.” Indeed, you’re attacking half of humanity. That is hate speech.

If you want to help put a stop to this kind of willed blindness about the dehumanization of women, you can click here to learn more and do some pretty simple things: Send a tweet. Post to an FB page. Maybe write an email. That’s it. Five minutes, ten minutes. One minute.

But if Facebook and their advertisers are flooded with protest, if enough people with money to spend on ads are horrified enough, if FB is hassled enough – things can change. And that means we have to flood them with protest. We are the only ones who can.

One image – not horrifying, except for the idea behind it, and it’ll give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Please take action — this kind of thing is part and parcel of the culture in which one in every five women is raped in her lifetime, and one in every four is the victim of violence from an intimate partner.

When we laugh, or just ignore it — we say it’s ok. But it’s not ok. And we need to call it out.

violence against women

The power of silence vs. the power of talking.

If reading about rape will trigger you, please respect your own limitations. If you need to talk to someone about any sexual assault or abuse that you or someone you love may have experienced, please call RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

**************

shhThe fact that the world is talking about the horrible events in Steubenville is, to put it mildly, an unusual thing. Usually, sexual assault is wrapped in silence.

The silence of social niceties, the silence of discomfort, the silence of fear. Many survivors don’t talk because they’re ashamed, or because they were told they’d be killed if they do. Many don’t want the assault to take up any more of their time than it already has, and many are sure no one wants to listen. Many can’t yet find the words to tell the world what happened.

But it’s been my experience, as a rape crisis counselor and friend of survivors, male and female, that breaking that silence is one of the most powerful tools there is for dealing with the events survivors grapple with — whether it be the assault, or the assault’s aftermath.

Moreover, telling the truth — giving voice to the lived reality of millions upon millions of women and girls, men and boys — is one of the most powerful weapons there is for dealing with those who would deny the realities of rape.

To that end, I present today a guest post, a monologue written by a woman I know named Danielle.

Writing this piece was one of the ways that Danielle has found to grapple with what happened to her. She hasn’t yet performed the piece nor seen it performed, but she hasn’t ruled out the possibility. When I asked her if I could put it on my site, here’s what she said:

I went back and forth on whether to put it out there, because some part of me fears judgment for what happened. However, that is exactly the reason to do it. Women don’t speak up, aren’t honest, because of the fear of judgment. And, maybe it is time to add to the voices that say, “Not anymore.” What happened to me affected me in a major way, but I am not defined by it, nor do I continue to carry it with me like baggage. It happened. It changed me. But, it didn’t ruin me. And, if sharing it can help someone else, then yes, let’s do it.

If you have a story you would like to share, please do so in the comments or send me an email (contact information in the About page, to the right). I promise you, this space will be safe. There will be no trolling here.

Note: I first ran this post in the wake of Lara Logan’s rape in Tahrir Square. It seemed entirely appropriate to run it again this week.

*************************************************

This is written as a monologue to be delivered to an audience, part acting, part performance art (I wrote it in the style of a Chicago performance troupe the NeoFuturists). Everything in italics is stage direction.
———————-

(she walks slowly from upstage, in clothing slightly too big for her to give the effect of it almost falling off. a clear glass filled with bright pink liquid is in her hand. she is slightly unsteady, but not “drunk”…she may or may not sit down at the lip of the stage)

You made my second drink. (beat) I had a small buzz from the first…but yours tasted like rubbing alcohol. A quarter of the way through, my words began to slur. Halfway done, I couldn’t stand. (pause) “Drink up!” (stares into the glass, at the last bit of the drink…slams it back, then considers the empty glass for a moment–beat) Then I lost my sight.

You didn’t notice me trying to fade into the couch, to pass out with what dignity I could muster. When you pulled me toward you, I saw it in the distance, like when you see a tv on in someone’s home as you drive by. (beat) I pulled away. Did you notice? (pause) Your weight came down upon me as if it had always been there and I wondered if you realized that reciprocity had triumphed over reason. Your hands moving mine to you, my body a vessel for your desires, for I had none of my own. Blind, deaf, and dumb, just as a puppet should be. I followed you outside, stumbling, wondering what I could sacrifice in the name of Not Making A Scene. My clothing peeling off like shedding skin as I tried to keep it close, as if it could still protect me. But shed skin is dead skin and unchecked lust knows few bounds. Your weight pushing against me, supported by elbows abraded by fabric. I had the scars for a week. Did you hear my answer in the silence that followed your questions? Did you see me trying not to cry as you kissed my back, feigning tenderness? When you fell out, did you hear me whisper a quiet thank you, only to breathe it back in when you found your way again? Did you see the face in the window, interrupting us? No, that was only in my mind. I didn’t look you in the eye, but if I had, would you have noticed? My powers came back to me as it ended; however, too little, too late. Task completed, you bounded off with lip service, but not a second look. As you searched for scraps of food in the kitchen, I searched for scraps of myself.

You didn’t notice, did you?

Neither did I.

Rape tolerance and actual facts.

Trigger warning: Please take care of yourself and be aware of your own limitations whenever you read anything about rape.

I had a bit of a thing the other night when I discovered this article: “Rape flier causes outrage; Arizona sex assault victim speaks out.”

The flier, posted in a men’s bathroom at Ohio’s Miami University, read in part: “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape: 1) Put drugs in the woman’s drink, therefore she wont remember you… 6) Sex with an unconscious body does count, so don’t back down if shes sleeping; 7) Practice makes perfect, the more you rape, the better you get at it….”

Seeing this in the very week in which we have been assailed (yet again) with a new rash of rape apologism was just too much. My blood started to pound, I was suddenly crying, and I was filled with a powerful sense of emotional nausea (if that makes sense), reactions that are all overcoming me again, even as I type.

Women live with this every day of our lives, it’s in our leader’s mouths, it’s in the jokes we hear, it’s in the very air we breathe — and then we’re told that rape is our fault. To put an aspirin between our knees. To prove that we didn’t like the rape. To bear the rapist’s child. And to drown in shame.

I’ve been feeling all day that I really should write about it all, but I just can’t. I’m too exhausted by it, too worn down, too emotionally nauseated. But luckily, someone with a slightly bigger soapbox has written a piece filled with both righteous fury, and reams and reams of data. I’m cutting and pasting some of it below, but really, please: Click through and read the whole thing: “50 Actual Facts About Rape,” by Soraya Chemaly.

And men of good will? Please, please share this with your friends, your brothers, your uncles, your father. Please.

Remember facts? Remember facts about rape? Because it turns out that a whole lot of people know less than nothing about the subject. Indeed what they think they know is a whole lot of something that is wrong and dangerous to our heath, safety and well-being.

… For months now we’ve been subjected to surreal revelation when it comes to what people think and understand about rape, god and women’s magical bodies. Here is some real, fact-checked information from a list originally published last week in RHRealityCheck…..

1. Low estimate of the number of women, according to the Department of Justice, raped every year: 300,000
2. High estimate of the number of women raped, according to the CDC: 1.3 million
3. Percentage of rapes not reported: 54 percent
4. A woman’s chance of being raped in the U.S.: 1 in 5
5. Chances that a raped woman conceives compared to one engaging in consensual sex: at least two times as likely
6. Number of women in the US impregnated against their will each year in the U.S. as a result of rape: 32,000
7. Number of states in which rapists can sue for custody and visitation: 31
8. Chances that a woman’s body “shuts that whole thing down”: 0 in 3.2 billion

Had enough? Me, too. And, believe me, this is the Cliff Notes version. Some people are offended by frank conversation about violence, especially sexualized violence. I’m offended by tolerance for these assaults, scientific denialism, entertainment at the expense of people’s safety and bodily integrity, and shame-infused legislation that hurts children and women and is based on the belief that all men are animals at heart.

Rape happens everywhere . All over the world rape acceptance, rape tolerance, rape denial and rape ignorance at best are used to restrict women’s reproductive rights and impede women’s equality. At worse, rape is used strategically and with violence and malevolence as a weapon in war and as a tool of active oppression. Keeping the reality of rape in the shadows has obviously done us a massive disservice and provided cover for rapists and their apologists. So, even though it’s not easy information to digest, it’s important. Maybe information is part of god’s divine plan.

…Akin, Mourdock, Ryan, et al are the distortions. If men like Mitt Romney really doesn’t agree with them then he should grow some ovaries, so to speak, and stop playing in the same political sand box….  All of this goes hand-in-hand with Facebook rape pages, Daniel Tosh rape jokesReddit rapist threadsmusic, videos, movies, ad infinitum. This recent political display of religiously convoluted rape “reasoning” in legislation is a national shame with deadly consequences for women here and abroad.

To read the rest of “50 Actual Facts About Rape,” please click here.

An open letter to Conservative men about rape.

I am a Progressive, a Liberal, a Democrat, a left-winger, an Obot — whatever you want to call me, go ahead. I’ll own it. Hell, I’m a borderline socialist.

And in the course of my gig as an opinion writer and left-wing activist, I write a lot about “the GOP,” often in a fairly condemnatory tone.

And even so, I try to make a very careful practice not to write about “Republicans,” because what I take issue with is the party itself, its current leadership, and its official platform/policies.

I am very, very much aware that there are a lot of folks out there who identify as Conservatives or Republicans with whom I probably am in agreement on many issues, and from whom I could probably learn a thing or two. There are a lot of arguments that we could have, too, but that’s the way it goes in a democracy. We’ll part ways at the ballot box, and that might create some hard feelings.

But at the end of the day, there are some things that are not (should not be) partisan. Some things are right, or wrong, and we should be willing to cross the aisle to say so. Taking sexual assault seriously, treating it as the horror and the scourge that it is, is one of them.

Rapists don’t care what your politics are. They don’t care what your education is, how much money you make, or what your stance is on the Bush tax breaks. Rapists are criminals who cause grievous bodily harm, and far too often mental and emotional anguish. More often than not, they know their victims, and far more often than we’re willing to admit, are in fact in an intimate or familial relationship with their victims.

If you are a living, breathing adult, you know people who have been sexually assaulted. Maybe some have never told you, maybe a few have, but no matter the extent of your personal knowledge of the individual facts, the singular fact remains that someone — female or male — is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes. And you know some of them.

When representatives of the party we vote for say and do things that are wrong — say and do things that hurt people who have already been hurt or are already vulnerable — it is our responsibility to stand up and say “That’s wrong.” I have done this before, and I will do so again — the Democratic Party is not a collection of angels, after all. It is a collection of human beings, some of whom are exceptionally ill-informed or insensitive, and if I want the party to truly represent me and my values, I need to make my voice heard.

I doubt I’m going to reach many Conservative men with this open letter — this blog is tiny, and it’s pretty firmly ensconced on the left hand side of the blogosphere — but if you are a Conservative man, please take to task those in your party who have recently made exceptionally ill-informed and insensitive comments about women and rape.

There is no room for parsing what is and is not “legitimate” or “forcible” rape, and there is no room for mealy-mouthed apologies that try to escape responsibility for using those phrases in the first place. There is no room for likening rape to other “methods of conception.” There is no room for comparing a pregnancy resulting from rape to a pregnancy resulting from consensual sex in an unmarried relationship.

Please talk to your daughters, your sisters, your wives, your mothers. Find out what has happened to them in the course of their lives, and the lives of the women they know. Read the stories told here, sit with this information — with the knowledge that the fact of rape and the threat of it serve to shape and guide the lives of 50% of the human population — and then, please: Say something.

Say something to your party. Say something to your friends. Say something on Twitter, on Facebook, on your blogs, in your articles. Please.

Think about the women you love, and say something.

If you’re triggered by the Sandusky verdict.

If you are a survivor of any kind of sexual assault/abuse and are triggered by the Sandusky trial and verdict, please remember that you can always reach out to the folks at RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) and/or 1in6 (a male-specific support service). If you want to talk to someone in your area, both services will be able to direct you – and of course, if you want to leave a comment here, please feel free. I’m usually not online on Shabbat, but I will be this week, so that I can monitor this thread — it will be an entirely safe space for anyone who might want to share their story.

PS If you do leave a comment, and it’s your first time commenting on this blog, you’ll go into moderation, but I will get you out as soon as I can. Here are two earlier threads in which some people told their stories, + some background on my own experience as a rape crisis counselor: An experiment in silence breaking: Please tell a story about sexual harassment or assault and Men’s stories of sexual abuse and assault.

On Too $hort and apologies.

So a couple of weeks ago, this rapper I’d never heard of before he really pissed me off — really pissed me off.

In a video shot for the online presence of XXL Magazine, rapper Too $hort said:

When you get to late middle school, early high school and you start feeling a certain way about the girls. I’m gonna tell you a couple tricks… A lot of the boys are going to be running around trying to get kisses from the girls. We’re going way past that. I’m taking you to the hole….[Push her] up against the wall or [pull] her up against you while you lean on the wall. Take your finger and put a little spit on it and you stick your finger in her underwear and you rub it on there and watch what happens.

So. Here we have a grown man of some renown advising pre-teen and teenaged boys to sexually assault girls. Which, you know: Awesome.

Initially, Too $hort appeared to apologize on Twitter, if with a certain lack of understanding, explaining that he’d been “in character” and had gotten carried away, but he changed tack fairly quickly, essentially lashing out at those who took the video as anything other than a joke.

Which, you know: Awesome. (And hence my reference to him here).

HOWEVER.

In the meantime, having been swamped with responses, reactions, stories and no little anger, Too $hort (nee Todd Shaw) gave an interview to Dream Hampton, a writer with Ebony and one of the women involved in WeAreThe44% (a reference to statistics that show that 44% of American girls are assaulted before their 18th birthday). This time, here was what Too $hort  said:

I just wanted to reach out because I had been truly disturbed by this whole thing as far as me putting this out there like that. I’m not trying to make this go away or trying to make this right or anything. I understand completely….

When I taped the XXL video, my goal was that this was some kind of comedy piece. So I am sitting there and the thing that I am saying is actually reminiscent of when we as little boys were being bad and (what) we were doing something or learning or practicing. But now I’m understanding that it’s actually it’s a form of sexual assault. And it’s crazy that I’m just now understanding this.

I’m not going to lie to you…my eyes are opening just from reading the comments, the stuff that is coming from people. They say stuff like, “Does he get it?” I’m reading it and I am starting to get it.

….I hate that this had to come out like this but I really feel blessed. I feel like I am going to kick in and kick back a lot positive energy in something that I have been kicking out a lot of negative energy in a lot of years…I am not expecting anyone to say “I forgive you” or anything in that nature. It may not be the biggest mistake in my life, but it was a major mistake, looking at the camera and saying those words.

We have this tendency to not allow for change, to not believe in it. The one, worst, most terrible thing that a person ever said or did? That’s it. That’s who that person is, now and forever more, amen.

But this interview (as well as the one Too $hort later gave to allhiphop.com) shows the sheer, self-destructive stupidity of that. People can listen. People can learn new ideas. People can change.

And if we don’t allow them to do so, if we don’t believe them, if we reduce people to their worst moments — we fail in our own path. And we fail those we would hope to protect.

As a woman who has suffered her own share of passing, casual, low-level assaults and harassments, as the mother of a girl, as the friend and loved one of women who have been assaulted and raped at all stages of life, and as a former rape crisis counselor, I am very clear on what we need to stop rape: We need men.

Women and girls can learn, to a certain degree, to protect ourselves, but bottom line, the people doing the raping are the ones who have to stop. And they will not do so until enough men come along like Too $hort who say “Hold on. I didn’t get it before, but now I do. I’m sorry.”

I’m grateful beyond measure to the women who organized on this issue, to Dream Hampton for conducting the interview and using it as an opportunity to tell yet more truth (read the whole thing here), and to Too $hort, for apologizing and meaning it. Sometimes there’s no way out but through — I’m grateful that he’s decided to push on through.

h/t my internet buddy thewayoftheid

“Men can stop rape.”

I do a lot of ranting about the ways in which our culture, down to and including the words we use in daily discourse, supports and perpetuates the reality and fear of rape for 50% of the human race.

But today I saw this, and I think it’s pretty damn wonderful, so I thought I would share:

*

These are images from the My Strength Campaign, a joint project of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) and California’s Department of Health Services, and among the many things that I find wonderful here (starting with the fact that it actually turns the focus on changing men’s behavior, rather than women’s) is that third image, the one with the two men. Men can be and often are victims, too, and we have to start recognizing that reality, as well.

These images are just that — images. Part of a larger campaign, conducted by a coalition of organizations working together on the issue of sexual violence since 1980, each of which had already been working on the issue for some time. Which is to say: These posters cannot possibly address everything that needs addressing, or change the reality by themselves.

But I think they are part of an important larger trend, one that can be seen in a broad array of efforts to get men involved in fighting the scourge of sexual violence, and can be heard in the voices of individual men who are standing up and speaking out. And I think that good, powerful images are one of the most powerful weapons we have in any advocacy campaign. I wish these posters were being put up all over the country.

Women can fight rape — but only men can actually stop rape. Efforts like this give me hope.

h/t Colorlines

An experiment in silence breaking: Please tell a story about sexual harassment or assault.

Yesterday I wrote that the one way to gain any good out of the rolling clown car that has been the Herman Cain candidacy would be if we use this opportunity to get more honest about how frequently girls and women face harassment and/or assault.

The truth is that I don’t think most men have any idea how prevalent it is. How often our muscles tense, the kinds of calculus we must do before walking down that street or past that co-worker, the sheer reality of our very gender being used against us as a weapon. A tool of control. A platform from which to declare victory or dominance.

So I just tweeted the following:

Dear men: Please turn to a woman who loves & trusts you today & ask one question: “Have you ever been harassed?” Then just sit & listen.

But I think it would really powerful to have something to share, something like the post I did back when I asked my fellow white Americans to sit and listen to black folks’ responses to watching the President of the United States being forced by a racist huckster to show his papers.

If you have a story to tell about harassment or assault, I’m asking you to do so here (men, too). This will not be a space in which your sincerity or the truth of your story will be doubted (and should we garner any such replies, they will be ruthlessly slapped down by me), and of course, it’s the internet — you may be an anonymous as you like.

But please – let’s talk. Let’s tell the truth. Only in telling the truth will we be able to change the reality.

UPDATE:  It occurs to me to provide this information as well – For an online hotline for assault/abuse survivors, click here; telephone hotline here: 1-800-656-4673.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I’ve also started a thread for men’s stories – for that, click here.  I believe that the differences in our experiences make separate threads a good idea — a better way to honor and respect the differences in our realities — but our stories share many elements, and we are wise to not just talk among ourselves, but also to listen to each other.

Advertisements