Lots of Love

“To change our culture, we have to have difficult conversations across differences with lots of love..Knowing how to have those conversation[s] is just the beginning of changing systems of oppression.” –Laverne Cox–

 

Several years ago, my sister and I went to listen to Laverne Cox speak at the University of North Texas (UNT). Both she and I consider ourselves to be advocates, allies, and (of course) huge fans of her show, Orange is the New Black. It was amazing to listen and to become so absorbed in Laverne Cox’s story and how she is using her platform to create positive change in our society.

I wish I would have had the opportunity and the foresight to record her speech. It was motivational, inspirational, and authentic. If I had the ability, I would play it daily so I could have a constant reminder of her message and spirit.

I made two notes while listening, both quotes I feel everyone should hear. 1) “Empathy is the antidote to shame.” and 2) “To change our culture, we have to have difficult conversations across differences with lots of love..Knowing how to have those conversation[s] is just the beginning of changing systems of oppression.”

Just one week after the tragic massacre in Orlando, I encourage everyone to keep those words close to their hearts. In the days following the shooting, I found myself avoiding reading opinion pieces on news outlets and commentary on social media. The hatred that resulted and continues to spew from behind keyboards leaves me baffled and concerned.

The amount of hatred and xenophobia in our society is ridiculous.

What we need right now is lots of love.

What we need right now is to have those difficult conversations, and while doing so, approach our fellow humans with dignity, respect, empathy, compassion, and (did I mention?) lots of love.

Call to Action

WeAreOrlando

  • How can we be allies if we are not listening to the diverse stories of marginalized populations? I encourage you to be silent and to allow yourself to use the time to actively listen and to learn. Have those difficult conversations. Soak it all in. Grow.
  • Get out there and share the love. Each of you have your own unique sets of talents and gifts. Whatever it is that you do, do it with love.
    • If you are talented poet or artist, you might consider helping this 6-year-old with her cause.  Madison Lindsay is sending homemade cards to the survivors of the shooting, family members of the victims, police officers, nurses, and others affected by the nightclub shooting. You can contribute cards by sending them to Sharing Smiles PO Box 560566 Orlando, FL 32856.
    • You can also send messages of hope to survivors and victims’ families online here.
  • Give blood. To find a donation site near you, check out oneblood.org.

How are you spreading the message of love in your community? Join the conversation by commenting below.

 

Be the change,

Erin

 

 

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She’s Someone: Addressing Rape Culture and the Stanford Rapist

Last week my husband asked me about the direction that I felt this blog was moving and the tone that I want to maintain throughout my posts. Without hesitation, I explained that this blog is going to address heavy and often controversial topics. This is going to be a place where I shed light on social injustices that occur right under our noses and yet, remain unseen, unheard, and unaddressed. I intend to create an outlet where people can feel free to ask questions, express their opinions, debate issues, learn, and grow. I want to leave my readers with calls to action, inspiring them to create change.

Basically, I didn’t create this as a space to rant and rage, but rather to inform, encourage, and inspire…

But, I’m outraged and I felt that it was inappropriate to leave the issue unaddressed.

If you’ve read any headlines lately, you’ve probably read about what the media has been referring to as “The Stanford Rape.” A 23-year-old woman was sexually assaulted behind a dumpster as she lay unconscious. Her assailant, 19-year-old (at the time of the assault), Brock Turner. Two bicyclists noticed the victim survivor was not moving and confronted Turner who attempted to flee the scene. The two men restrained Turner and held him until police arrived. The woman bloodied, bruised, and dehumanized, was taken to a hospital. The case went to trial and Turner was found guilty by a jury of three counts of sexual assault. Turner could should have faced over ten years in prison for the charges, but instead only faces a six-month jail and probation sentence.

Six months??!!

Here’s what the victim survivor had to say about the reasoning behind the lenient sentencing:

The probation officer weighed the fact that he has surrendered a hard earned swimming scholarship. How fast Brock swims does not lessen the severity of what happened to me, and should not lessen the severity of his punishment. If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be? The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class. –Direct quote from the letter the victim survivor read to Brock Turner in court.

Only six months??!!

Meanwhile, nonviolent criminal offenses can lead to 25+ year sentences.

  • Weldon Angelos, father of 3, sentenced to a 55-year mandatory minimum for selling marijuana.
  • John Horner, father of 3, sentenced to 25 years for selling painkillers.
  • Richard Paey sentenced to 25 years for forging prescriptions.

And, others charged with sexual assault face much harsher sentences.

  • Genarlow Wilson, 21, serving a 10-year sentence for consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old. He was 17 at the time and the 15-year-old was his girlfriend.

 

Yet, Brock Turner faces only six months??!!

 

While I do not condone the illegal acts described above, I find myself stunned at the severity of the punishments  and the countless lives affected by these harsh consequences. Then, on the other hand, I just cannot fathom how our justice system allows individuals such as Brock Turner to be sentenced to only 6 months jail and probation after sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster!

Sexual assault advocacy and victim services aren’t my areas of expertise, but I am a social worker, an advocate, a woman, and a survivor of sexual assault. I wanted to show my solidarity with the victim survivor who has suffered immeasurably from the assault, the trial, and the judge’s sentencing. I couldn’t let another minute go by without telling her how sorry I am that we failed her.

  • We fail to teach boys that ongoing enthusiastic consent isn’t an option, but a requirement when you want to touch someone else’s body. It’s more than a suggestion or a defense to be used after you’ve committed the heinous act of rape.
  • We fail to provide real consequences when boys act inappropriately and excuse their actions saying, “Boys will be boys.”
  • We teach young men that, if they’re athletic, they don’t have to be kind, make good grades, or play by the rules. We emphasize the importance of catching a football, swimming the fastest, jumping the highest, and winning championships. We put athletes on a pedestal and treat them as if they are above the law.
  • We perpetuate rape culture by victim blaming and by asking victims what they were wearing, how much they drank, and digging into their past sexual histories after they’ve survived a sexual assault. When’s the last time someone was mugged and we asked them what they were wearing, how much they drank, and if they’re sure they didn’t “send the wrong signals”?  
  • We’ve created a society where cisgender, white, upper-class, male privilege is so blatantly obvious in our daily lives that we’ve learned to accept it as the norm. We’ve become socialized to this way of life and we’ve become silent about things that matter.
  • We place value on women only because of their roles as wives, daughters, mothers, and grandmothers, as if women only have worth via their relationships with men.

Shes someone

So, yeah. I’m angry.

Sitting here tonight, tears fall for all the ways that we have protected rapists like Brock Turner and for all the ways that we have failed you. You, alone, have worth. You are someone.

So, if you’re reading this and you’re fired up like me, good! You should be. We have to make changes to prevent this from happening in the future.

Call to Action

  • If you think justice was not served and would like to see Judge Aaron Persky removed from the bench for his decision in this case, sign the petition here.
  • Don’t blame the victim survivor. It is never the fault of the survivor. Rape is always100%, without a doubt, caused by the rapist. The survivor did not “ask for it” and it doesn’t matter what they were wearing, how much they had to drink, or what sexual acts they’ve participated in previously. It is always the fault of the rapist.
  • Teach enthusiastic consent to your children, your friends, your siblings, whomever. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. It is vital that we teach consent as an enthusiastic, ongoing “yes” rather than a “no” or silence.
  • Don’t make rape jokes and don’t laugh at them. There’s nothing funny about rape. 1 in 5 women experience sexual assault while in college. It’s no laughing matter.
  • Participate in Take Back the Night rallies and other campaigns meant to bring awareness to the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. Get involved in your community so that you can make a difference.

 

I participated in a Take Back the Night rally when I was an undergraduate student at Texas Woman’s University. I remember walking the streets holding hands with some of my peers chanting, “What do we want? Safe streets on campus! When do we want them? NOW!”

Fast forward, years later. What do I want? To end violence against women and to stop perpetuating rape culture. When do I want it? NOW!

 

What do you think? Join the conversation by commenting below.

Be the change,

Erin