Friday, June 24, 2016

I Dreamed A Dream

Anne Hathaway as Fantine The Victim of Society
From Les Misrebles
There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong,,,

Claude-Michel Schonberg

From Les Miserables

Fantine is the tragic figure of Victor Hugo's story to overcoming oppression, corruption, and other issues in Les Miserables. Although she is not the main character of the book, you cannot turn away from her trials as she goes from a young girl in love, to an abandoned single mother, and finally a prostitute on the streets of Paris who has nothing else to sell but her body to keep her child from being thrown out into the streets.

Recently I had the privilege of producing some videos for an organization which helps to rescue people from a life of prostitution. I learned how young girls (mostly) have been lured into the sex trade and even held captive against their will. Debra Woods told me her story.

When Love Was Blind

Debra Woods
Debra Woods came from a good environment with a loving dad and grandparents who reaffirmed and praised her for her achievements. But with an absent mother at the age of 12, she began to rebel like most children do. By the age of 15, Debra had a full on rebellious streak which included drug use, running away from home, and by 17 she was a single mom. She had reconnected with her mom who had been in prison for drug use and sex work. Debra's bad behavior in her father's home eventually led her to leave and live with her mom. Shortly afterwards she met a man who had charm, smooth words, and seem to love her. Her boyfriend convinced Debra to take a trip with him to LA and meet some friends of his. After checking into a hotel room, her sweetheart tossed some condoms to her and told Debra that she was going entertain his friends. Apparently money had been or was about to exchange hands for this entertainment. This infatuated and naive teenager was about to be introduced to prostitution, and he looked at her and remarked: "this is pimping, bitch." She endured a living hell for the next10 months.

He Took My Childhood In His Stride

The Romeo Pimp and his unsuspecting victim
The boyfriend who Debra met turned out to be a "Romeo Pimp." It's a good name for them. Romeo Pimps target problem girls mostly. They troll the bus depots, malls, you can find them on or in generally any place transient or troubled girls might be. They're called Romeo pimps for a good reason. They're very charming, charismatic, and sympathetic to a troubled girl. He goes from a sympathetic ear, to maybe a protector, and then being the boyfriend, and the man with all of her answers. This is not the comical over dressed flashy guy from from the past; he looks like your everyday man so that he's not noticed by the cops. When these men eventually have a woman in their clutches, they close the door on her choice to leave. The beatings, intimidation, and threats to family members are employed as a tools to keep her in line. In Debra's case what ended her 10 month nightmare of terror was getting incarcerated, and returned to her family.

But most girls become women, who have the deep wounds, which turn to scars from the experience.
Even after the pimp has been removed from her life, the hardness of being sex trafficked becomes tatooed onto her heart. She's learned how to survive and adapt. Many because of poverty, drug addiction, or homelessness, many return to the streets on their own to have enough money to make the rent, have food, or support their habit. Like in the story of Les Miserables, Fantine went from a young girl in love, to a woman struggling from day to day just to survive. She sold her possessions, and then eventually herself to survive.

Advocates (some who have been victims themselves) do not see these girls and women, as sex workers, but victims of sex trafficking. Because most of the victims have started out as young girls who were forced into this lifestyle as early as 13 years old, the choice was not theirs. And after being arrested and profiled as hookers or prostitutes by the police, and even society, they carry the Scarlet Letter of shame. In an interview with Police Chief Jerry Dyer; he stated,

Fressno Police Chief Jerry Dyer
"We in law enforcement have found over the years---is that historically we have treated many of the girls out there on the streets--- involved in the sex trade and prostitution as suspects, when in reality is that they are victims. So many of them are forced into this lifestyle and cannot get out. And that's why we have had to change our attitude in law enforcement--- to look at them as victims." - Police Chief Jerry Dyer Fresno PD

Police Chief Dyer and other police officers in a task force called The Coalition Against Human Trafficking are working to to break the cycle along with Debra Woods and the organization: Breaking The Chains. But sadly there are dark corners in this issue; we have pimps who wear the military uniform or the badge while exploiting victims for profit and their own personal needs.

The Tigers Come At Night

In 2014 sex trafficking was discovered at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, where a NCO masquerading as a Sexual assault prevention officer would approach cash strapped female soldiers in attempts to recruit them into a prostitution ring. It all fell apart for Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen, when a female soldier reported him for sexual assault and attempting to coerce her into his stable. McQueen had set up services for high ranking officers as well as civilians. The problem in the military isn't just confined to one military base in Texas, but as far as Korea.   See: The U.S. military’s long, uncomfortable history with prostitution gets new attention

And the meme "good cop, bad cop" takes on a whole new meaning as a story in Oakland CA reveals that several cops exploited a young sex worker. They traded her safety and anonymity for sex and money.
Officer Brendan O'Brien 
The scandal began in February 2015. Guap was seventeen at the time and working on the streets of East Oakland as a sexually exploited minor. In an interview, Guap said that one day a pimp chased her down International Boulevard, but she spotted an Oakland police car and approached the vehicle for help. That’s when she met officer O’Brien. The Real Reason Why Oakland's Police Chief Was Fired- East Bay News June 10, 2016
At the time Celeste Gaup was 17 years old running down International in Oakland Ca. from her pimp.
Fortunately for Celeste (at least for the moment) she spotted a patrol car, and asked for the Officer's help.  Officer Brendan O'Brien was Celeste's rescuer and the man of the hour. According Gaup, she and O'Brien began dating then the officer introduced her several other officers. All of them became sexually involved with her for money and protection. She was also transported from Oakland, to Alameda County, Richmond, and Livermore. Sadly the motto: "To Protect and Serve" gets another black eye and it did in the Kenneth Hotlzclaw situation. See my blog: The Times, They Are A Changin

I Had A Dream My Life Would Be...

Back in April at a meeting with several of the staff of Breaking The Chains Organization, with the co-founder Tiffany Apodaca, Debra Woods entered the room. She recalled some words to me which she spoke in an interview:
 Debra  Woods Today

"I have a lot of friends out there. I have a lot of girls--- and although I haven't seen them in 10 years, and although I've seen them in the most seediest of circumstances. I love these women. These are women that I cried with--- these are women that I have struggled with."
She then ushered in two young women who looked about 19 or 20. The were frail, and a little nervous with tears streaming down their faces. Debra then introduced them as two of the many girls she left behind years ago when she left the lifestyle, but seemed to have found a way to go back and rescue. I just looked stunned as others embraced the girls and introduced themselves. When those who have the power fail to be part of the solution, then we who have just a little hope, and a lot of heart must step into the arena. The Invisible War continues.

Special Thanks To:
Debra Woods and Tiffany Apodaca
Co Founders of Breaking The Chains for inviting me into your world and sharing your story and vision. and for giving hope to women everywhere.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer
For Taking a bold stand in the face of an issue that is older than America itself
Denise (Dancing Paint Brush)
For being my invaluable editor and spell-checker
Vera Santa Clara And Catherine (Deja1422)
My friends and Article finders who share what's going on in today's Rape Culture

Fort Hood sexual assault prevention officer ran on-base prostitution ring: witness
By:Sasha Goldstein New York Daily News

The U.S. military’s long, uncomfortable history with prostitution gets new attention
The New York Post- October 31, 2014

The Real Reason Why Oakland's Police Chief Was Fired
East Bay News by Darwin Bond Graham and Ali Winston

Breaking The Chains
Breaking The Chains.Org

Friday, June 10, 2016

Macho Man

Village People I've Got Be A Macho
Every man ought to be a macho, macho man

To live a life of freedom, machos make a stand

Have your own lifestyles and ideals

Possess the strength of confidence, that's the skill

You can best believe that he's a macho man

He's the special god son in anybody's land

Village People
℗ 1978 Can Not Stop Productions NYC 1978

I've Got To Be

Cowboy, Construction worker, Native American, Biker, Soldier, and Cop, made up the fun pop style of the group called the Village People. They strutted, gyrated, and sang to the pop sounds of Disco. We were no longer in the "Mad Men" era of Jazz, or the folk crooning's of the Sixties. It was colored lights, silk shirts with puffy sleeves, tailored hair and platform shoes. Outwardly we seem to be enjoying life, while not being afraid of the culture of unisex ideas and philosophy. Songs like the Village People's Macho Man, parodied the over done idea; the culture of male dominance and toughness. It was something of a joke, at least on the surface. Bulking up and being Mr. Hard Body back then, was no longer center stage in society. But still the idea of what a real man should be always remained in the forefront of many societies, especially in America. 

Doing what boys and men do
To be a real man the culture has taught us, means power, respect, and privilege. We live in this man-built, male driven society to succeed at all cost. Real men are suppose to live, play, and love like men do. We follow that pathway of maleness through sports, business, and the military. "Be a man...," your father would say. "It will make a man out of you...," said the recruiter or the coach. "Big boys don't cry" forced back the emotional and physical pain that every boy remembers from one generation to the next. We play hard, we fight to win, and never let people see your pain, insecurities, or short comings.

The unadorned truth is men in the military, college campuses, and even church institutions have been sexually assaulted.  They fall prey to coaches, superior officers, the clergy, as well as acquaintances or peers.  When it happens, everything the victim thought was true about masculinity becomes a brain salad of confusion. Like any victim of sexual assault, the boy or man feels a deep initial guilt. "How could I let this happen to me?" while no doubt questioning his own masculinity.

Every Man Wants To Be

Rape is thought to be the sexual conquering that happens exclusively to women. And so following the pattern in our society, male rape victims never talk about it, because to do so would conclude that they are not real men. A male victim of rape feels he has no other choice but to try to out-run the shame of the experience by keeping quiet while pursuing a more outwardly manly lifestyle. But the silence only allows his doubts, anger, fear, and guilt to grow inside of him.
On the surface the lyrics:
"Macho, macho man, I gotta be a macho man..."  are humorous, but it is also the programming of our society. Be macho, act the part, or at least fake the tough male boldness with everything we have. "If people find out this thing happened to me, then I might as well be dead." For awhile most male sexual assault victims can pull it off. But then like anything that goes unchecked, the assault(s) come flashing back. The victim pushes back harder with more work, more man activities. Maybe they drink more, move to another state, or whatever it takes to squelch the thing which violated them. 

Call Him Mister Ego

Sadly the very thing that young men choose to enhance their masculinity, has become their
betrayer. "Be all that you can be...," the old commercial jingle would chime. Or "Aim High..." and "The Few, The Proud..."

Bill Minnix who joined the Air Force in 1973 at the age of 17 was eager to serve and of course, do something with his life. While stationed at Kessler Air Force Base, he had been targeted by officers at that base who invited him and other recruits to these parties where they were given large amounts of alcohol. Minnix says he was raped 4 times within several weeks. The sexual assaults plus seeing his perpetrator everyday, lead to him not showing up for duty on multiple occasions.  Finally after only 6 months of active duty, Minnix was given an "other than honorable discharge" and released from the Air Force. Another hard truth is that although rape is more prevalent with women; more that half of the report cases in the military are of male servicemen.  But our credo of what a man is suppose to be, grips male victims with the guilt. They've seen female victims come forward, and speak out, only to be ridiculed, re-victimized, retaliated, and branded as not good enough.

To Live A Life of Freedom

 When the myth of who men are supposed to be collides with the reality of sexual assault and trauma, they get the living shit beat out of them. They feel not only not good enough in their profession, but not good enough to be a man. The most significant statement of stigma that Bill Minnix made after his discharge was:
“Nobody believed me. My family didn’t believe me," he said. "My sister picked me up from the airport. I couldn’t share with her what had happened, because a man just doesn’t get raped." -Veteran Fights To Overcome Stigma And Trauma Of Military Sexual Assault APR 29, 2016
Advocate and Sexual Assault Survivor: Bill Minnix- Photo BRADLEY W. PARKS
The culture of what is acceptable about both genders tells us that a man doesn't get raped. And that may be part of the reason for such low reporting of this crime. The shame and fear of ridicule from those that we know, keeps us silent and feeling disconnected from others.

Bill like other survivor/victims felt disconnected and lost. Disconnection and shame leads many male victims to broken relationships, homelessness and even in Bill's case attempted suicide. 40 years later, Bill Minnix was ready to end it all. With his Chevy Hatchback over looking a cliff he was ready to hit the gas and plummet to his death. Fortunately another car pulled up behind him at that moment.
maybe that was the moment which lead Minnix to make a call for help. Shame was the monster in the car with Bill and many other men like him, saying "Real men never let this happen." The shame was his constant companion which reminded him of his failure as a man. Many male sexual assault victims are losing this battle because they're running away from being open to the reality that their sexual assault happened. They won't tell anyone because if they do so, it will expose them as being weak.

I'd advise everyone reading this blog to go and listen to Dr. Brene Brown on the topic of shame and vulnerability. It could change your life. She said in a conference:
Dr. Brene Brown- Listening To Shame
"Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous. I define vulnerability as emotional risk, exposure uncertainty. It fuels our daily lives. that vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen, to be honest.---If you put shame in a petri dish,it needs three things to grow exponentially :secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount in a petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can't survive. The two most powerful words when we're in struggle: me too" -Dr. Brene Brown: Listening To Shame- Ted Talks March 16, 2012
A few of my feminist friends will give me a gentle nudge on social media, hinting to me that I need to tell the stories of men and boys in our society who have been victims of sexual assault. And I humbly admit that they need to be more part of the conversation about sexual assault, because this is not a woman's or feminist issue, and it should not be used as a tool for the Male Rights Advocates to shame those who speak out. This affects us all. And with that said; I call more men to step out of the shadows into the arena having the courage to be vulnerable, because vulnerability is courage. Be the man in the arena who steps in to the fight, and makes this his fight too. Men like Bill Minnix are in this fight. They are speaking out through organizations like Protect Our Defenders, and other groups to let men and women know that they don't have to do it alone.

Possess The Strength of Confidence

The Fear of Ridicule and Blame for Men
Men like Bill Minnix need to be able to step out of the shadows of shame, and be heard and believed. They should not be re-victimized by a society or culture in America or anywhere that would tell them, "because this happened to you, you're not macho, and you are not a man."  Boys who wanted to serve their church in the name of God are betrayed by priests, or clergymen. In families some are attacked by another family member, and shamed into silence. And men on college campuses, in the military and other institutions are sexually assaulted, ridiculed, retaliated, and then eventually discharged with a less than honorable label. Some can't find work, become homeless, and or develop a drug addiction, and PTSD.

Our society refuses to understand male trauma and suffering. Men try to survive in a culture of manliness, bravado, and whatever else, and of course the shame continues to remain with them until they find themselves on the edge of a cliff ready to hit the accelerator and end their misery. Is it wrong to be cool, or feel manly, and enjoy what other guys enjoy? Of course not. But when the outer man is disguising a wounded broken soul, that is hemorrhaging with shame, life becomes a masquerade.
When We do Nothing For Men and boys

Although most of the stories I've share in my blogs, deal with sexual assault against women, I'm reminded by my fellow advocates (mostly women) that we need to encourage more men to speak out and share their stories. We must help both men and women to help break the silence. Again Brene Brown remarked in a Ted Talk, that a wise Feminist friend once told her, "When we do nothing for men and boys, then we do nothing for girls, and women."  Brene Brown at The UP Experience 2009- You Tube-2009 

Real men are afraid mostly being rejected by those who are closest to them. They hide their pain from family, friends, sweethearts, and people whose respect they covet. Maybe they take a risk and share their story, only to look back into the face of someone who reacts with a TMI (Too much info) stare. And so like Bill Minnix, many male victims would rather survive in silence than to risk being vulnerable again. We need to be open to their hurt and allow them to be real men who can step into the arena of shame, without the fear of getting the emotional shit kicked out of them by the ones they love the most.

The Man In The Arena

Macho Man- Village People ℗ 1978 Can Not Stop Productions NYC 1978
Military "Rape" Estimates: The Truth Behind the Numbers- Villainous Company
Veteran Fights To Overcome Stigma And Trauma Of Military Sexual Assault- By Conrad Wilson  April 29, 2016
Dr. Brene Brown: Listening To Shame- Ted Talks March 16, 2012 -You Tube
Brene Brown at The UP Experience 2009- You Tube-2009

Special Thanks To:
Vera SantaClara. Rosie Palfy and SueVee (For giving me the gentle nudge on the issues)
Catherine- Deja Thanks Cath for telling it's okay for real men to be vunerable
Denise Artlady- My spellchecker. It goes without saying. You're the last stop before I publish
And so many other whom shared with me parts of their stories of personal pain in confidence

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Times They Are A Changin

My Reflection

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'
-Bob Dylan

This is a photo of me taken out in the rain. The artist brilliantly removed my body and left my reflect to symbolize the struggle to be seen in the struggle over in the issue of sexual assault and rape in our institutions.  The world when I was a kid was much more simple. I hardly noticed the unrest, conflicts, politics and other things that I would have to deal with later on. As a teenager, there were songs you could dance to, and then songs that you could dance to but had a very deep message. My innocence has gone but I hear those songs loud and clear. They mean something new to me in 2016.

Come Gather 'Round People

When television camera's dared to show images of men, women and, children being attacked with
1960 Birmingham Al. firemen turn fire hoses on black
protesters during civil rights movement. 
water hoses, policemen, and dogs, it rocked the conscience of America. We wanted to believe that such things were not happening. It left us stunned and less innocent. After that we couldn't pretend ignorance. Bob Dylan's folk song seemed to herald that we had to make changes in how we lived, and how we treated each other. Marginalized people now had a voice through journalism and the media. Over the decades, the racists, misogynists, and others either had to reform, or go crawling into a hole while living out their lives in silent resentment.

Now we live in age of the emails, Skype, Instant Messages, texting, and a myriad of other things that were at one time as make believe as the Jetsons or Star Trek. There is nothing evil about the technology or the Internet. It provides the chance for an exchange of ideas and connects us all together. But the second bite of fruit from the tree of knowledge, we not only know what good is out there, but also the dark side of humanity.

Today haters display their messages freely and without fear.
Over the past decades we've seen some pretty sobering things in our society, our country, and globally. We've discovered ways to communicated with our neighbors and the world faster through technology and science. News, both good and bad, awaits us every day as we rise from our beds and plant our feet on the floor. While we grab tooth brush with one hand, we grab the iPhone with the other. Our quiet thoughts get blasted with the preaching of so-called TV journalists spewing out opinions disguised as facts. And now with itching ears, maybe we're not looking to discover the truth
like our parents did after shocking news reels came into our living rooms. Maybe we want answers that will fit our political agenda and not prick our conscience.  If you don't want to believe that misogyny, racism, rape in the military, or on college campuses exists then, you can find those scoffers, deniers, and fact-twisters on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any social media website. You don't have to think for yourself or change your attitude. You need to select the truth that suits your comfort zone or the leader that speaks your mind.

A female Marine's name and photo was posted on a Facebook page that other Marines commented on. "Find her, tag her, haze her, make her life a living hell," someone wrote on the page, the report said, and another said she should be silenced "before she lied about another rape."
The retaliation sometimes severely damaged victims' careers. Several said that after they reported their assaults, they received poor performance evaluations, punishments for petty infractions, were assigned to demeaning jobs such as picking up garbage and lost opportunities for promising assignments.
According to the report, some troops said they were threatened by their fellow service members after coming forward about their assaults. One female airman said she was called a "bitch," told that she got what she deserved and that she "better sleep light," the report said.  
Air Force Times- May 18, 2015 Report: Retaliation against sex assault victims rampant

 They get their courage to insult victims o with comments and twisted ridicule. They've slithered out of their holes ignoring facts, stats and even research. They don't want to know what the truth is. They want to know what our political party (or leaders) say about the issues. Theses non-thinkers want to protect the institution rather than make changes.
It's easier to deal a soft lie today, rather than the hard truth. And if you're on the Net you're either looking for truth, or the lie that will scratch your itching ears.

Come Writers And Critics

The internet has also put a light on some unspeakable horror committed by some of the very people
Jack Web of Dragnet portrays
By-gone days of the fictional cop.
sworn to protect and serve us. They were the defenders of law and order. In the 50's through the decades to follow, we saw the Joe Friday's and other TV cops adorn our society as defenders of righteousness. While it's true that most police do not rape, many police agencies have been found guilty of either ignoring, denying, or protecting bad cops for the sake of the brotherhood of blue.
It takes one drop of something dirty in a cup of clean water, and it makes the whole cup undrinkable. So law enforcement cannot expect civilians to like or defend an institution with this problem with the system. Police, like Officer Doug Rose, who along with his partner, appeared at the home of a woman who had just stepped out of the shower. Doug Rose would not give Elmerelda Rossi the courtesy to get dressed. The very vulnerable Rossi got hysterical as she
Ex-policeman-R Illeagally entered the home of
 Elmerelda Rossi- L exposing her to shame 
was grabbed and handcuffed allowing the towel to drop to the floor. Rose assert his power and authority over this woman by telling her, “When a Cop Shows Up, You’re Not the One in Charge, and I don't care if this is your house.... Do you understand me?” Doug Rose's actions were illegal, including entering her Rossi's home, the attempted arrest, and exposing her.
Rose also omitted the full details about the incident in his report. Although an internal investigation was started, Rose was allowed to quietly retire with fully benefits. The crime was covered up and made to go away for the sake of the department.

Daniel Holtzclaw Used his position and authority
 to terrorize African American women
The most startling case today involved Daniel Holtzclaw, the ex-Oklahoma City officer convicted of rape and other charges after he preyed on African-American women over six months. One of Hotzclaw's victims was  Shandegreon "Sade" Hill who was pulled over for being intoxicated. She was taken to a hospital on the other side of town and sexually assaulted by the officer while handcuffed to a bed. Later she told the media at a press conference:

“No nurses, nobody came to check on me,” Hill said. “Me being in the room with the police, not expecting to get violated the way I did, the way I was done, I just couldn’t even believe it. I was speechless. I was scared.---I felt like I was in survivor mode, so I had to do what he was making me do,” Ok City Cop Convicted of Rape CNN January 22, 2016
Jannie Liggons One of Holtzclaw's victims speaks out.
"He stopped the wrong woman that night."
Hill finally had courage to tell what happened to her after another victim Jannie Ligons 57, mother and grandmother reported her assault. Apparently Officer Holtzclaw had been targeting African American women. By his standards black women were easier targets of sexual assault because no one would care. The other accounts of other victims are so frustrating and unbelievable I don't have time to share the details. But it all came to an end when this officer was reported to the police and the media. Liggons did not have an arrest record. She was just a ordinary middle aged grandmother on her way home from playing dominoes with her friends.
Fortunately, the Oklahoma City Police Sex Crimes Unit was credited for following up on Jannie
Daniel Holtclaw trades a uniform of blue for a jump suit of Orange
after receiving a sentence adding up to 2 life sentences
Liggons case, and an incredible arrest and conviction followed. Both the victim, and the prosecutor echoed the words, Holtzclaw messed up--- He picked the wrong lady to stop that night." And while I myself along with others cheered those words, I have to stop and reflect. To victimize any person regardless of what they did in the past, is wrong and unacceptable from any policeman, or law enforcement system. It means that the imperfect person who has a record for drug use, or anything else, is fair game for the system. And then to assign that profile to women, and women of color, is a race to the bottom.

Come Senators And Congressmen 

We cannot have respect and trust for institutions and agencies when they trample on our moral rights as citizens. You cannot just make people summit to a system simply because it is powerful. That system must act on a foundation of morality and equality. The military cannot expect blind allegiance, just because it waves the American flag, and dismisses sexual assaults of its soldiers. The church cannot proclaim itself pure and holy while protecting pedophile priests, and our police system cannot justify their positions of authority when they use their authority to victimize those whom they are sworn to protect.
As I have stated before; sexual assault defies gender and race. Rapist don't care about your politics or your economic standing. People of moral upstanding positions in society can be victims, as well as the man or woman with a police record. Party girl who drinks--- good girl who never does. Straight guy or gay--- civilian or military, Christian or Atheist. Times are always changing. But will they change for the better or worst? Because ignoring sexual assault in our society won't make the problem go away.

Sources How Police Caught The Cop Who Allegedly Sexually Abused Black Women

CNN.Com Ok City Cop convicted of rape 

Air Force Times:Report: Retaliation against Sex Assault Victims Rampant Officer Illegally entering woman's home while she showers Poll: Sexual Harassment on Facebook Most Common Abuse

Thank You 

(Denise) Dancing PaintBrush for your Clever artistry with your camera.
VeraCruzin and Deja (Catherine) For being a source of information
Keep it coming!
SueVee for keeping me in the trenches and pushing on. Get Better.

April is Sexual Assault, Awareness and Prevention Month

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Till It Happens To You

Till It Happens to You Music Video
You tell me it gets better,
It gets better in time.
You say I'll pull myself together,

Pull it together, you'll be fine
Tell me, what the hell do you know?

What do you know?
Tell me how the hell could you know?
How could you know?
Till it happens to you,
You don't know how it feels,

How it feels
Till it happens to you, you won't know,

It won't be real
No, it won't be real, won't know how it feels.

Lady Gaga

What Do You Know? 

As I sit down to compose this article someone has been sexually assaulted. Before you read this, many more people are becoming victims to a crime that happens whether the media pays attention or not. 
Lady Gaga, a victim of rape as a young woman of 19, knows that it's not an issue of skinned knees, but a personal invasion. The word terrorist has been thrown around a lot; but sexual assault in my opinion is an act of personal terrorism.

A young person enlists into the Army, Navy, Marines, or Air Force to make a difference, to be part of a team... A woman gets hired out of many applicants (presumably because of her qualifications). A new student enters the campus of a University excited to learn and grow and experience... This has been a wish fulfilled. And then when rape happens their lives go spiraling out of control. Their view of life, people, and friends becomes shattered. 

Apparently the military, like many other institutions, is failing still at combating sexual assault. For all of its talk about Zero tolerance, very little seems to reverse the course of this problem. Yes, reporting may be up but retaliation in the ranks continues.

Many survivors we interviewed, some of whom did not initially report their assault, said they did not want to report because they had seen what happened to others. As one said, “I know how it works in the military. If you report, you are out [of the military].” One Marine who was ostracized after reporting, walked in on her roommate being violently gang-raped. When she asked her roommate if she would report the assault, her roommate said that she would not report because “I don’t want to end up like you.” When a trainee turned her drill sergeant in for sexual misconduct in 2012, she experienced such intense abuse in retaliation that she later discovered his other victims made a pact never to reveal what he had done to them.-Embattled. Human Rights Watch. May 18, 2015

Until You Walk Where I Walk

Retaliation keeps the sexual assault alive in the victim's life. That fear sent shock waves out to others by the perpetrators and supporters that this is what happens to victims when they speak out. Victims of rape in the military are most affected because they are subject to living in close proximity to the assailant, and live in constant fear of repeat assaults. 

Montreal mayor says Roosh V is not welcome in Canada
Social rape advocate, Daryush “Roosh V” Valizadeh is encouraging his misogynist followers to “come out of the shadows and join him in his crusade to make men's rights to rape women in privacy legal. His belief is :
“By attempting to teach men not to rape, what we have actually done is teach women not to care about being raped, not to protect themselves from easily preventable acts, and not to take responsibility for their actions--- I thought about this problem and am sure I have the solution: make rape legal if done on private property.” -Raw Story February 1, 2016
His twisted mindset seems to work for him. Mainly because a person like Roosh has no moral filter. They have simply excused themselves by believing his lusts and predatory attitude doesn't hurt him, and no one else matters.  Roosh V was in Ontario where he was told to leave a local bar in an unfriendly manner. He plans to hold secret meetings to promote his rape agenda. Some would advocate his right to free speech. But in this blogger's opinion: speech which advocates the violation of another person should not be sanctioned or tolerated.

ODU Frat House Signs: A Bad Idea

This Is No Joke

Predators like Roosh V travel from country to country because they seem to know that in our institutions and even in society we do not stand together against this crime. Our justice system is lazy to the point where rape kits are shelved, warehoused, and even forgotten like relics in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Many victims have been told by prosecutors, that their case isn't winnable, so they won't attempt to seek justice against the alleged assailant. The issue on College campuses gets blurred because of the loss of funding or the accused is the football star. The mentality in the military is to respect tradition and the glory of the Armed Forces, while men and women are sexually assaulted in the ranks.
When the media quiets down about this or any human outrage, we go to sleep again believing the problem has gone away. But many of us continue to see the things that the media has moved away from. Just because this isn't happening to you, doesn't mean it's not happening to someone right now in our societies, on our college campuses and Universities. Although the silent agony of this crime may not be heard, the victims cries are real. Sadly we don't take this serious until it happens to us. We forget about this shameful crime until it happens to us.

Till It Happens To You-
US ‘make rape legal’ group-
A Frat House Hung ‘Offensive Banners- UpRoxx.Com
Montreal mayor says Roosh V is not welcome in Canada- Tarnga.Net

Special Thanks To 
Vera (Veracrusin)
Catherine (Deja1422)
For being my eyes during this difficult time.

 No More PSA

No More PSA

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Every Breath You Take Part 2

Every move you make
Every breath you take
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you.-Sting (C) 1983 A&M Records Ltd

If you haven't read part 1 of the story of Monisha Rios and her struggles in the military, you might want to check that out. THE INVISIBLE WARRIOR REPORT: Every Breath You Take Part 1 
Supposedly we want to encourage bright and eager young people to Be all that they can be--- Remember that's what the Army slogan use to say. But now returning to civilian life, Monisha still walked that perceived slut walk that most women do, when they don't cooperate or when they become whistle-blowers against the system.

I'm reminded of a single line from the movie: The Invisible Warrior, when a female Veteran (Kori
Kori Cioca Battling for Vets Benefits
Cioca) exclaims in astonishment: "What The F**k is going on with the VA?"
Broken people look for safe harbors to reach. They, like any of us who have escaped the undertow of darkness, gasp for air and the chance to breath and find life. Monisha Rios, a young veteran was seeking to rebuild her life and to heal from the trauma and nightmares.

She was denied at first, the most basic services, which took more time.  She had an honorable discharge, and the Veteran's Administration argued that she came up short of the standard 24 month eligibility. The VA told her she was not a victim and not entitled to those services. At the time she didn't feel empowered to fight for her rights so Monisha took the bad news and moved on. Her mind and body told her "something is wrong with me." But the VA told her she did not have any real problems. So she was pushed out of the boat of help that was supposed to be granted to all Veterans who come marching home.

Every Vow They Make

Imagine if you had an infliction attacking you, but no one believed you? You feel it, and you know its real, but you're told: "Nope, nothing wrong with you." And so you go untreated for years. Time did not erase the shock and terror associated with her sexual assaults while in the army. In fact the depression, anxiety, overwhelming fear, and nightmares were a regular thing. The biggest challenge came to Monisha when she finally qualified for VA care while in college working on her degree in social work.

"My entrance into mental health services was terrifying. One day, I walked into the Women’s Clinic and whispered to the check-in clerk that I was afraid of myself. I’d never felt that way before. The therapist on call came to talk to me and together we discovered I was not actually going to self-harm, but could probably use some therapy. Sadly, they didn’t ask more than the “were you raped on active duty” question and I was put into groups with men. Needless to say, I didn’t go to those. They prescribed sleeping pills and pain pills that made me so tired I flunked a semester. After about 5 sessions with a female therapist, she was transferred to another facility. That was it for me for a while. I continued receiving physical health care and did my best to manage the other stuff on my own."

Neither the VA nor the Women's Health Services helped to pinpoint the reason for what Monisha was dealing with. In her Masters program for social work, she eventually got to the heart of the problem. It was like pulling back the prickly leaves of an artichoke to get to it. Someone threw her a lifeline six years later in a study on PTSD. While reading the material, Monisha discovered that what she was experiencing was real. It validated everything that had happened to her right down to the verbal abuse, harassment, intimidation, and threats. Plus she now knew that she should have been eligible for help without serving for 24 months. She had missed out on getting help from 1998 to 2010. (I wouldn't have wanted to be the person who gave her the bum steer at that point.)

Every Game They Play

Maybe a combination of anger and the will to live kept her going on, not only just to find the truth for
herself, but also how to get help for others as well. Fear will always try to push you back down with depression and anxiety, guilt and shame. No doubt, Miss Rios continued to battle those demons in her lone hours, as well as dealing with the people who marginalized her problem and in some cases, turned a blind eye to the continued harassment she would face in the VA hospital setting.
After graduating from college, Monisha had a new job as a licensed eligible clinical social worker in West Virginia, and had a better sense of what mental health services were all about. She married her high school crush who was also a Veteran, and became an instant step-mom. Now in a new state and with her family, the uphill battle continued as she walked the maze of the local VA hospital, filled with the day-mares of apathetic staff and others. After contacting the MST coordinator, no one called her back for over 12 months. During that time she and her family had their fortunes reversed and they lost their home, which put them on the homeless list.

When she and her then-husband moved in to the homeless program at that VA, they had to do so as single Vets because at that time there were no couples facilities available. In reality the couples facilities were being used for storage purposes at this particular West Virginia VA homeless program. The married couples were definitely not on their high priority. The couple were told; "you're not allowed to kiss, hold hands, and definitely no sex because it's not  fair to the single Veterans."  The campus police acting on a tip confronted the Veteran married couple in the chapel area. "We were told you came in here to have sex together!" Obviously they were not, They were simply enjoying some private time together and trying to heal as a family unit. This just added to the harassment from other male Vets and made life for them bad. As they walked through the facilities together, other men leered at her and told Rios's husband to keep her close. He was not allowed to protect her, or retaliate against the unwanted harassment or advances made.  Male eyes would be peering through the cracks in doors and windows just to catch a glimpse of her and other female residence in the women's section.

Every Step They Take

Experiencing more threats and retaliation, Rios was re-living her old boot camp experiences again. One of the
Even going to the VA you can be a target for unwanted attention
other male vets in the same program would send her little notes, and cards which elevated to stalking and harassment. Of course what else can a victim do when living in this "Hear, See, and Speak No Evil Land?" She gather recorded evidence that this sly guy was sexually harassing her and other female vets. Staff members ignored her at first. But finally she and her husband made their case; this patient was given a warning that the harassment and stalking needed to stop and also he was not to talk to any of the female veterans. Monisha's victory would be slightly short because as she was sitting in a quiet place eating alone, the outraged Vet came in with cane in hand to confront her. This was deja vu all over again from Tech school and the biting airman. (See Part One) The only thing that snapped him out of it was another female Vet who witness the scene and promised to report him. At that point he seemed to turn heel and retreat. Visibly more afraid and shaken by the crazed threats Monisha, went to her room and, reported it to the staff who in return alerted the VA police. Fortunately he was removed from the campus and not allowed to come back. After the removal of this patient, things calmed down for her and her husband; and Monisha was able to advocate for better conditions while raising awareness of the staff, and even receiving an apology for her treatment there.

When moving to Delaware and continuing her MST treatments, Miss Rios would find herself again struggling just to maneuver from a waiting area to various stations in the VA hospital with harassers in hot pursuit.  It took a long time to her first appointment at this new VA, but on the first day she was again subjected to unwanted attention by another Vet. While sitting in the waiting area with wedding ring on, she was hit on again by a man who wouldn't take no for a answer.

 "Unfortunately the VA is where a lot of this stuff happens. Unless you're going to the Women's clinic which is sequestered for women, then you're a sitting duck. I was waiting to meet with the Psychiatrist (which I did not want to meet with anyway) and this male veteran came and sat next to me and started talking. (Which is no big deal.) And then eventually started asking for my phone number--- telling me I looked just like his therapist who he had a crush on--- and started to go in an inappropriate direction--- 'oh I like you, you seem like such a nice person--- I want to get to know you--- can we go out?'--- Even though I was wearing a wedding ring and even though I said no thank you--- I'm not interested, I'm married--- (being the nice person I am, and not wanting to tell this guy off.) The door faced the psychiatrist office so he, the male veteran) knew where I was going.  And while I was in there, I told the psychiatrist--- 'this just happened in the waiting room--- I'm not comfortable going back out by myself. Could you call someone to escort me?' and she said 'Oh I'll make a note of it in your clinical notes.'
The psychologist appeared detached and very automated in her responses. Who knows if this was a buffering device she used to stay above what was happening, or a "I could care less what's going on" attitude, to just cope with their surroundings. Monisha was taken aback by the cool attitude.
"I’m also a mental health professional. So I know how this was supposed to go. She was supposed to do her part to keep me safe. This man is standing right outside her door.  And her response was to put it into my clinical notes? Wrong answer. She should have addressed it with him directly, using crisis prevention and intervention skills. If he escalated, she should have called on other staff, and in the worst case, the VA police to assist.”
Apparently according to Rios, this was another "head in the sand" situation in the system. Fortunately, her next stop was at the Women's section of the clinic where she could escape this "don't take no for an answer" individual. As soon as that appointment was over, he was on her trail again; out to the parking lot. Fortunately, a VA employee did intervene, as he overheard Monisha protesting to the male Vet to leave her alone. Tactfully, the employee moved in between both of them and disarmed the situation. Sadly she spent many appointments trying to avoid this one individual by walking in the opposite direction or jumping into an elevator. I wonder why security doesn't review it's policies on people (ex-GI or not) who just loiter the grounds and harass others? Before a MST/PTSD victim can make it from the parking lot to their first appointment, they are often subjected to over staring, cat-calls, whistles, inappropriate comments, and gestures, possibly even being groped or worse. A place that they come to for help and treatment, turns into a place where re-victimization is almost a sure bet.  Suffering is exacerbated. New trauma symptoms develop. Their families and relationships are often the ignored casualties. Sadly, like is true with many veteran families, Monisha’s marriage did not survive the series of extreme, undue hardships - many of which were preventable by practicing good ethics in providing care.

People like Monisha Rios and Ruth Moore, a sexual assault victim turned advocate, are speaking out on behalf of Veterans who have been sexually assaulted, discarded by the military, and denied even their most basic benefits, aside from the help they need with their ongoing battle with PTSD.

Ruth Moore: Battling For Benefits Click link for story

Monisha Rios: MST, PTS, and Human Rights Advocate
Monisha Rios has accomplished so much to help other people in the battle against re-victimization, Sexual Assault, and harassment that not only happens to women in the military, but to men, as well as the Gay and Transgender Community. The important thing to remember that the Invisible War doesn't just begin and end when you leave the military, but is pervasive in the systems that have gone unchecked.
She continues as a speaker and advocate for Veterans who are battling the Veteran Affairs system, and has been invited to speak out of on talk shows including Project Censored: Sex Crimes in the VA.

Thank you, Monisha for both interviews. I'm proud to know you. Happy Veterans Day to all my fellow Vets, and Invisible Warriors.  I know we've got a long ways to go, but each story you bring makes a difference.

It's On Us

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Every Breath You Take Part 1

Every move you make
Every breath you take
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you.-Sting (C) 1983 A&M Records Ltd

This 1980's pop classic by The Police was considered an off beat love song with undertones of a guy who always had a woman on his mind. Maybe flattering for the times. but now it's evolved into something of a stalker anthem for a new generation. And while it great and even cool to remember the song, and make jokes about it's meaning, to live a life where you're forced to be on guard because of those who believe they have the right to have access to you in the military, college or the work place can shake you to your very core as a person.

Oh Can't You See, You Belong To Me...

In 1997 Monisha Rios was 17 years old when she took a military entry exam. Most of her life she had been told that her learning skills were sub-par compared to others, and that, in itself, affected her confidence and even self-esteem. She was very surprised to realize how well she did on the exam and began to receive calls from all the branches. It might have been the beginning of open doors in academia for her, but she also went through the maze of sexual harassment, and sexual assaults in the military and fighting for personal justice, as well as advocating for those who were being assaulted and marginalized by the military and VA.

Army Private Monisha Rios 1997
Monisha chose to enlist in the Army, partly because the Army had been a family tradition for some years back; plus the idea to join the military was very humanitarian. But of course being a minor, she had to do some serious persuading with her mom that this was a good thing. During her senior year, Monisha was in the delayed entry program, and worked hard at becoming physically fit for boot camp. Ironically no recruiter told her the truth about the sexual harassment maze she'd go through, which started even before she made it to boot camp.

"We had to share a hotel room. ( females in same room, and males in different rooms) We said good bye to our families--- It was like a movie like "Porky's" almost acting like complete idiots except this was real life--- young guys walking in and out of rooms. They would come and sit on my bed--- try to touch me while I was trying to sleep." She would push back. "Hey we're shipping out tomorrow--- like they actually believed that going into the Army meant they were going to get laid or something." Recalling her experience, "That was pretty scary that first night."  -Monisha Rios

briefed on the military's brand of training for sexual assault 
After getting on the bus and reaching their destination to Fort Jackson SC, the female recruits were briefed on the military's brand of training for sexual assault by putting the responsibility on the female recruits.  "We were trained not to smile, bat our eyes, cross our legs, don't laugh or look feminine. Don't do anything that will attract attention to you. We were literally codified by the female drill sergeants, who would make us do push ups if we crossed our legs." Apparently the military's belief was if a recruit didn't act like a woman, then it would deter unwanted attention from male recruits. Amazing that the military can give a soldier any command but not, "don't touch another female or male soldier."

Every Single Day, Every Word You Say...

In this integrated platoon although sleeping quarters were separated, both male and female soldiers
total harassment disguised as military conditioning
were encouraged to have limited but helpful interaction with each other. That standard seemed to be a moving target in Monisha's case with a male drill sergeant from another platoon. This drill instructor DS observed Private Rios showing another fellow private how to fill out a laundry slip in the corridor. Apparently the DS saw Rios as some sort of Delilah to this guy's Samson, or Esmeralda who was trying to charm and bewitch other male. She was made to remain in the corridor and lie on her back with her legs spread eagle much to her personal humiliation. While the male recruit was subjected to the typical drop to the ground and give me twenty or thirty with him yelling "what's wrong with you soldier? That female will just get you in trouble." While yelling the most misogynistic slurs at the young female recruit "You're nothing but a whore!--- you're mother was a prostitute!--- and you're in the Army to be a prostitute like your mother!!! and other things while laying in a sexual position. This specific drill sergeant seemed to enjoy harassing Rios and other women in the most sick and demeaning ways to let them know in his opinion women didn't belong in the Army. This was just just one instance. I know the military will play mind games with boot camp recruits to condition them in being soldiers, and it's not pleasant, but generally done to help them to think like soldiers. But in my opinion, this was total harassment disguised as military conditioning. The harassment continued in other places; in the chow hall where the Drill Sergeant sitting in Monisha's direct line of sight would remark, "Oh you know what you really want in your mouth..."  Do you have to guess what things like that does for someone's appetite?

Every Game You Play, Every Night You Stay

After enduring boot camp hell for 11 weeks, Private Rios then moved to technical training at Keesler
Kessler AFB and Technical School
AFB, where the harassment seemed to turn to stalking when a male D.S. came into the female latrine while she was in the shower, standing on the other side of the thin curtain. Fortunately he was gone soon after that because of another unrelated incident.
Later at that same base a male Airman who Monisha considered to be something of a friend began making her feel uncomfortable. His talk went from casual things to sharing his rape fantasies. He told her how women really like it rough, and inspite of her refusal to hear anymore, he followed up the talk with attacking her from behind and leaving a set of painful teeth imprints in her arm, much to her shock. 
"He bit me so hard that each tooth mark left a dark purplish blue bruise. They were darker than the rest of the bruises. He threatened to hurt me if “I got him in trouble”. Not a single person in that room did anything." -Monisha Rios
left shaken and afraid for her own safety
Of course feeling the intimidation from the large Airman, she decided to remain quiet and try to let the whole thing pass. But it wasn't to be so because one of her own platoon members saw the bite from the kink artist and insisted that she report him. Monisha then pointed her assailant out to her DS. Whatever punishment he received from the incident, this arm biting perp wasn't happy.  He planned his retaliation on her. With another male friend in tow, he wades into her formation yelling sort of foul obscenities at Rios without a thought. Fortunately her female Drill Sergeant apprehended him and his buddy, while members of Monisha's own platoon hustled her to safety. Shortly after, the bully was kicked off the base and maybe the military for good. But needless to say, this close call left the recruit shaken and afraid for her own safety.  

The Air Force doctor who was already treating her for other injuries attended to the bite on her arm. One day he began counseling her on perhaps separating from the Army to avoid arm bites or something much worse.

The overwhelming fear and terror outweighed my desire
 "He told me things would not get any easier for me; that I would most likely be assaulted in worse ways; that rape was in my future. On one hand, he could recommend I be placed on permanent profile, which would limit my MOS options, but not the likelihood of being raped. Or, he could recommend a separation based on my injuries, and significantly reduce my chances of being raped while serving my country. While I deliberated over the next few weeks, I thought of how terrified I felt, how depressed I’d become, how I’d washed out of classes, how unsafe and unprotected I really was in this environment. I thought of what might happen to me if I stayed in. I hadn’t even been in for a year and I did not want to return home as a failure for not handling Army life as a woman. I still struggle with that (internalized oppression). The overwhelming fear and terror outweighed my desire for an army career." 
-Monisha Rios
Apparently at some point Monisha Rios began to realize that she was in an institution that had little
regard (if any) for women who wanted to serve. She was becoming broken psychologically with every breath she takes, and every move she makes.  The military institution she thought she was joining had become her enemy because she was the wrong gender. Next time her team mates may not be around to help her to avoid the inevitable. What a thing to have playing in your head both night and day.

Every Claim You Stake, I'll Be Watching

If she had second thoughts about getting out of the Army, they were squelched during her out-processing at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, where she endured more sexualized psychological and physical oppression at the hands of a female captain who was one of the boys. Monisha recounts that it was like basic training all over again; this time with a woman leading the hatred brigade. It was like Boot Camp Hell The Sequel.

Monisha Rios Today
After standing up for herself she was retaliated against. Another hard lesson to learn was that other women in the military would throw her under the pay-back bus. A female Platoon Sergeant had to follow through on a cooked up  false accusation (by would-be rapists Monisha stood up to) and took  her aside to tell her she knew it was a lie. The Platoon Sergeant remarked to her that "it’s what you get for standing up for myself against the boys club" And of course this PS wasn't going to stick her neck out for Monisha and be retaliated against herself.
When her day to be discharged came there must have been relief mixed with a sense of failure to complete her commitment to the service. She thinks about it quite often as she fights to advocate for those who are also struggling with trauma brought on by sexual harassment and sexual assaults. This fight would take her to the step of another institution. The Veterans Administration.  Her story continues in 2 weeks.

Special thanks to: Monisha Rios for taking the time to make this interview possible. Looking forward to working with you again in the near future.

Ms Rios is an Adjunct Graduate Professor from Lesley University a Graduate School of Social Sciences Division of Expressive Therapies, “Expressive Therapies and Social Action in Communities”, Cambridge, M.A., January 2014
Independent Veteran Advocate and Consultant, National, October 2012 to Present