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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


The legacy of a WWII vet

16 Mar

If you want this story or any excerpts, please leave a comment at the bottom with an email address, and I will respond. All research and writing is mine.


Thomas “Sug” Collins returned from service in World War II’s European Theater and lived 66 quiet years in Laramie. He stayed in the first and only house he and his wife ever bought; where he fathered their four daughters and welcomed their eight grandchildren and nineteen great-grandchildren. Sug – short for sugar, short for “Little Sugar” – was a nickname he grudgingly endured from his older brothers as a kid, but a name he later kept and answered to from most everyone he ever knew.

Sug died at 89 on October 22, 2008.

His story was not formally published or widely known of. In fact, only a handful of people outside his family knew the details of his service. He was interested in living life, not on dropping his own name and letting his part in the war be known.

Though he fought with individual heroism, his story blends with the great number of deeds and sacrifices given by the myriad of WWII fighters. The collection of selfless actions provokes solemn awe in those dwindling members of the current generation who appreciate it. Instead of remaining disconnected, those few fix a purposeful gaze on the smooth, white marble of a cross or Star of David, or any marker on the grave of a veteran, and feel their chest tighten slightly in a sweep of speechless gratitude.

Photo: Mine. Taken in Luxembourg.

Maybe one day, a young person will stand before Sug’s headstone and be humbled that a WWII soldier lived through battle and many decades longer. But on October 29, Sug’s funeral didn’t stop traffic or merit a moment of silence. His was one of two military honors burials that week.

There was, though, a small group of young adults present, outside his family, who cared. Sug was buried amid the respectful formality and tradition of military honors drills by Air National Guardsman.

Precision in a step, a salute, a rifle volley: the marks of a military honors funeral. With the number of WWII, Korea and Vietnam veterans who die each day, some servicemembers report for duty at a cemetery. About 686,000 veterans died in 2007. The number of funerals near larger populations can be between seven and thirty daily.

Two National Guardsmen, along with American Legion and VFW members stood for the noon funeral. Sug’s family was there: his wife, Mildred, and his daughters, from youngest to oldest: Sally, Karen, Janet and Jeannie.

The honor guard presented Sug’s widow with a folded flag. They had been married for 63 years, 2 months and 28 days.

The four daughters said the service was sad, touching, lovely and respectful. It made them proud. “He very well deserved it,” Jeannie said of her father.

The women describe their father as strong and steady – a man who didn’t get shaken up easily. During the tornado that roughed Laramie up a bit in the spring, Sug sat square in the living room and didn’t worry about it. If it’s going to hit, it will hit.

They say skin color and class didn’t exist in their father’s eyes. He was very conservative. He hunted, but only for the meat and never for the trophy. As parents, community members and surrogate parents to local children in need of care, the four women describe both their mother and father as goodhearted people who didn’t expect anything in return.

Sug’s family plucks his story from the mass of war stories. By the way they describe him in soft, loving tones, he was a great man in each of their lives.

A few years after Sug graduated from Laramie High School he was drafted into the Air Force, then the Army Air Force. It was April 1, 1942. Not even four months after the Pearl Harbor attack, he was in training to be a ball turret gunner: manning a gun in the rotating ball underneath B-17 aircraft. He was supposed to protect the vulnerable belly of the plane, and it was one of the most dangerous jobs.

He was sent overseas, stationed in England in late 1943. He flew 25 missions in five months. One mission showed the gut of Sug’s character: the co-pilot was shot, and all the crew jumped in panic. Sug stayed. He helped the pilot land the burning plane.

After those missions, he came home.

Sug was a true war hero when he was honorably discharged from the Army Air Force and then the reserves three years after he returned home. For his brave actions in the war his uniform was decorated with pins and ribbons, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Oak Leaf Cluster.

Though Mildred couldn’t remember the dates right away, she and Sug met the year he returned home and were married on July 27, 1945. “Sixty-three years is a long time to think back!” she said.

Mildred knew Sug’s parents before she ever saw him. During his time overseas, Mildred first got a job helping his mother on their Colorado ranch. After that she went to visit her sister in Washington state, not expecting to stay long. Mildred was supposed to return home for school, but instead she got a job working on war ships.

She laughed at the thought of being one of WWII’s Rosie the Riveters. “I was young then; it didn’t seem like hard work,” she said.

She and Sug wrote letters over the months. She said he asked for cookies and wrote nice, interesting letters. So when he returned home they weren’t strangers; although their first meeting wasn’t exactly love at first sight.

Sug was in Ault, Colorado at a roadside bar where one of his brothers worked. Mildred was with friends outside. When Sug came out of the bar, she figured he was drunk and didn’t pay much attention to him.

They still got together. Sug was stationed in Colorado Springs at Peterson Air Field for the remainder of his service as a reservist. He didn’t have a car, so he would take Greyhound to visit Mildred.

She said they never had a real date until after they married, and that when he proposed he gave her a pin of wings instead of an engagement ring.

She never finished school. “All my schooling I got from Sug. He taught me a lot,” she said.

Mildred and Sug bought that one-story house in Laramie with the paychecks Sug had sent home to his mother, and which his mother gave back to the new couple. With the four girls they had there, two more rooms were added on to the house.

“I was [Sug’s] eyes, and he was my legs; so we got along pretty good,” Mildred said of growing old with Sug.

Sug lived in the house which used to stand alone on the edge of prairie land. As West Laramie built up around him, Sug stayed Sug. For his family, his memory is solid and consistent. He was a good man who fought good in the war and lived good afterwards.

The only photo found from Sug’s war service shows a crew of 10 men sitting and kneeling in front of a B-17 painted with a nude woman holding a peace sign and sitting on a bomb. Sug stands on the left, the shortest of the six men standing, with eyes shadowed by bright sunlight. He is smiling.

How did I get so lucky?

9 Mar

If we could shrink the earth’s population to a group of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following.

There would be:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere
8 Africans

52 would be female
48 would be male

70 would be non-white
30 would be white

70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian

6 would possess 59% of the entire world’s wealth and all 6 would be from the USA

80 would live in substandard housing

70 would be unable to read

50 would suffer from malnutrition

1 would be near death
1 would be near birth

1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
and only 1 would own a computer

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness…you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation…you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest,torture, or death…you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep…you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace … you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If your parents are still alive and still married … you are very rare, even in the US and Canada.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.

*I got this from here

Care about human trafficking?

1 Mar

The human trafficking and child sex slave industry is huge, and unfortunately it ain’t going anywhere soon. Especially when the demand, the culture, the similar industries, and the excuses keep supporting it.

I don’t claim to be any sort of an expert. I’m just sharing a few awesome resources for anyone else who wants to know more about this problem.

The A21 Campaign, the International Justice Mission, and Love 146 are a few organizations dedicated to combating human trafficking. They are inspired by the Christian call to social justice.

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote several investigative pieces on the problem. (Just enter search terms such as “sex slavery” or “Cambodia”  into the search of all his columns at the bottom of his link.)

Here is the Department of State’s Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, for more info and reports and such.

GEMS in New York is a rehabilitation-type program for girls who are coerced, brutalized, and/or threatened  into “the life” on the streets. Featured on their website is a documentary called Very Young Girls, about young teens in New York City who were forced into prostitution by those very means. The site also lists resources in other states.

There are tons and tons of other resources and organizations! It’s a big issue. Here is an AWESOME video that helps bring it all down to bite-size. Watch the video, then go check out the Laboratory’s website. They have even more links listed.