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I’ve got a bone to pick with Avril Lavigne

4 Aug

Yeah, as an advocate for victims of sexual assault I have to say something about this. I just do. It’s Avril’s song Smile that’s in question. The lyric I’m about to address really upsets me. I will admit, however,  that against my better judgment and music taste, I listen to this song and all her others with a kind of paralyzed enjoyment. How awful are Girlfriend and Hot? Pretty bad, but they’re on my running mix. Moving on.

This is the lyric that I wish she would have thought more about before singing it into America’s eardrums:

Last night I blacked out, I think
What did you, what did you put in my drink
I remember making out and then, oh oh

The next line in the song explains what happened while she was blacked out: his-and-hers tattoos. But taking the previous lines by themselves, there is a strong suggestion that somebody got her drunk and/or influenced by a drug so that she wouldn’t be conscious for what came next.

The fact is, alcohol is the number one date rape drug, and alcohol facilitated sexual assaults are common. Sometimes a person chooses to drink, and sometimes he/she is manipulated into inebriation. What some may try and pass off as “drunk sex” is actually sexual assault, because in some states (like mine), an intoxicated person cannot consent to sexual activity. Intoxication muddles consent, which is often communicated nonverbally.

And that’s what I have to say.


Who are the Joneses?

13 Jul

Click to find out

A different kind of movie review: Domestic violence in Water for Elephants

23 Jun

I went to see Water for Elephants when it was in theaters knowing nothing about the story. I enjoyed the movie’s premise, it’s cinematic stuff (as much as the next average movie-goer), and the 1930’s era elements. Even Robert Pattinson was bearable – dare I say likable. Compared to August, Jacob was a downright hero and you hoped he’d get the girl. I realized as the movie progressed that not only was August a perpetrator of domestic violence, but that his behavior and personality were textbook batterer. Everything about him was right on track.

  1. August married Marlena, who was a young and abused girl. The more vulnerable someone is (because of their age, past abuse, home life, living situation, etc.), the more likely it is for them to be targeted and then victimized.
  2. Marlena tried to excuse August’s temper, controlling behavior, and physical domination over her by his consumption of alcohol. Although it is common for perpetrators of domestic violence to abuse alcohol, it is not the cause or reason for their abusing.
  3. August abused the circus animals, which he knew were dear to Marlena’s heart. Abusing animals for the purpose of intimidation and cruelty to their wife, girlfriend or partner is a tactic of abusers.
  4. Although August correctly suspected Marlena and Jacob of having an affair, it’s not much to assume that August didn’t also falsely accuse Marlena of other affairs. To me she acted like his accusations were familiar. Often, abusers will fabricate stories of infidelity just to have a reason to yell at, berate, and name-call their partner.
  5. In the end, August tries to kill Marlena. Domestic violence homicide does happen – there were 543 of them in the United States in 2009. Sometimes the lethality of an abusive relationship comes into question when other factors are in play, like they were with August:
  • the abuser is assaultive during sex
  • weapons are present
  • the abuser starts letting others see his abusive tendencies, rather than keeping it in the home
  • the victim has begun a new relationship
  • the perpetrator abuses the victim while intoxicated
  • the abuser is depressed
  • the abuser is preoccupied or obsessed with the victim
  • the abuser has a history of assaultive behavior against others

Social Injustice News Summary (SINS): June 13-17

17 Jun

Texas: In Houston this week, the publicized rape of Jamie Leigh Jones finally goes to trial six years after her victimization. Jones says that in 2005, working in Iraq at 20 years old, she was gang raped by several male KBR/Halliburton employees. She had been socializing with the men one evening, and after she accepted a drink from one of them became unconscious until after the attack. Based on her account, her victimization did not end with the violent rapes that night. She was confined without food, water, or communication for 1-2 days under armed guard. Then, the forensic medical exam performed on Jones by a U.S. Army physician was given to KBR.  This latter action was a violation and conflict of interest in the chain of evidence of the case.

Art: Jamie Leigh Jones

This case is about the crime of sexual assault. Let us remember, then, that sexual assault is not the fault of the victim. Whether or not a victim is drunk, sober, high, flirtatious, attractive or plain, it is the perpetrator who decided to rape. Also, let us remember that it it is rare for someone to fabricate a sexual assault.

For six years Jones has been hushed and disbelieved by KBR, who insists its innocence. But now Jamie Leigh Jones has a foundation, is married and teaches, and has her day in court. I can’t imagine that this trial will be clean or easy for her, but let’s hope that justice prevails.

India: Although not written this week, I wanted to talk about a Washington Post op-ed about sex-selective abortion in India. The author is Aseem Shukla, co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation and an Associate Professor of Urologic Surgery and Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. He’s talking about the cultural, societal, and political reasons and consequences for the boy-baby preference that some Indian families hold.

North Carolina/U.S./World: This week the BBC has reported on current compensation efforts by the North Carolina state government to help ease the trauma of the many living victims of forced sterilization. Though the primarily mental-health, sexual orientation and race-determined eugenics programs happened in decades past and ended in 1979, these people have not received acknowledgment of their suffering.

Social Injustice News Summary (SINS): June 6-10

10 Jun

New York: The New York Times has reported on  a 13-year-old autistic boy, murdered at a care facility for people who are mentally disabled. The facility is the Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center, and young Jonathan Carey was asphyxiated to death. The employee responsible for the death was a former convict who was overworked at O.D. Heck at the time of the murder. He sat on the face-down boy for 15 minutes in an attempt to restrain a fit Carey was having. He was convicted of manslaughter.
In addition to the inexcusable events of Carey’s death, the O.D. Heck center and eight others like it in New York state have a history of hiring criminals, not using federal funding appropriately, and dismissing legitimate reports of client abuse. [A similar situation in England was documented in January.]

Illinois: Two teachers at a Christian school have been charged with sexually abusing students, according to the Chicago Tribune. As is common with child predators, these sibling perpetrators had vocational access to children, and used alcohol and grooming tactics (.pdf) to prepare their victims. The two are Nelson Quintana and Eliza Martinelli, and they are pastor’s children. She is married, and currently being held on $1.5 million bail. The abuse, which happened over a period ending in 2007, was revealed by the five victims. Whether the perpetrators used spiritual manipulation on their victims the story did not say. [For more information on spiritual abuse and child abuse in general, consult the National Child Protection Training Center newsletter – Volume 2 Issue 12.]

Iraq: Among the increasing number of U.S. Army suicides, the death of a mistreated Army Specialist is now being reported by the Stars and Stripes. Specialist Brushaun Anderson, 20, shot himself on January 1, 2010 in the midst of being hazed and abused by his superiors. Anderson began his military career enthusiastic and well-praised by his commanders. He had been enlisted for a year when his first deployment came up, to a remote base in Iraq. His attitude changed there, when he was singled out in unusual punishments and infractions. His suicide note revealed a tone of regret and disappointment in himself and in the Army. His abusers remain in Army leadership positions.

New York: The World Heath Organization and the World Bank have released a report, summarized by the Washington Post, on the global population of persons with disabilities. The report mainly links disabilities and disease with poverty and aging.  I liked this quote by Etienne Krug, a Belgian physician at WHO: “Disability is an interaction between the impairment and the barriers put up by society and the environment.”

On a bit of a lighter note:

Georgia: A Catholic Archbishop in Atlanta wrote a letter addressing child sexual abuse within the Catholic church. According to him, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People study has found sexual abuse in the Catholic church greatly declined.  It’s good to see a stand being taken; however, just because clergy abuse “incidents” are down doesn’t mean that abuse isn’t happening. Less than one-third of child sexual abuse victims disclose, and of those only a percentage are reported (source).

Indiana: The Indianapolis Star covered a report made by the Indiana Department of Child Services, which found child abuse fatalities down in that state.  In 2009 there were 38 child deaths resulting from abuse and neglect, down from 46 the previous year .

NEW weekly feature: Social Injustice News Summary (SINS)

7 Jun

Hello all. I’m here to announce that starting this Friday, I will begin a new weekly feature called SINS.

SINS is: Social Justice News Summary. What I’m going to do is scan major newspapers and publications (as many as I can get to) for stories on social injustices. I will link the stories and summarize them here in a SINS post.

I will do this for personal and public awareness: How can we care about atrocities that we don’t fully understand? How can we do our small part for social justice in our daily lives if we don’t know what’s going on?

I understand that it’s quite sad and sick stuff that I’ll be re/printing here, but it’s better to know. Ignorance counters solutions, but knowledge counters ignorance.

A final note:  When I wrote Social Justice News Summary and realized it spelled SINS, I felt confirmed in this project. Social injustice is sin. Please (proverbially) join hands with me in solidarity against it.

If you have any online publications to suggest that I scan for stories, let me know! Thank you.

*update* I’ve begun researching for this Friday’s first SINS. I am sad to say that the numbers are true: every single day people are killed, abused, mistreated, marginalized, wrongly persecuted, victimized, or manipulated. I realized that I didn’t put any scope or parameters on the SINS project. I would love to present what’s going on in the world fairly by giving all forms of injustice equal weight: child abuse, domestic violence, prison rape, religious persecution, civilian war casualties, famine, human trafficking, elder abuse, civil liberty, gender iniquity, sexual assault, military deaths, homelessness, abuse of the mentally or physically disabled, etc.

But I don’t see how I can both cover the array of different injustices AND do it unbiasedly! Here’s what I’m going to do: limit the number of stories I present to no more than five (theoretically, one for each weekday), and I will try to give attention to all manner of social injustice in and outside the United States.

April: For abused children and survivors of sexual assault

31 Mar

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is also Child Abuse Prevention Month. These are two huge, serious problems to recognize in 30 days! Let’s look at some stats.

Child abuse:

Almost five children die every day as a result of child abuse. Most are under the age of 4.

90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator; 68% are abused by family members

Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy

Neglect comprises 60% of child abuse; 11% is physical.

Here’s more info.

Sexual assault:

Roughly 75% of sexual assault victims know their perpetrator

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime

Sexual assault takes many forms—it is any unwanted sexual contact, including rape or attempted rape

1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in his lifetime

Sexual assault is hugely under-reported; it is also seldom falsely reported – 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police

Only about 6% of rapists ever spend a day in jail

Here’s more info