I’ve never been one to linger over the death of celebrities.
Yes, I’ll feel sad, I’ll probably go to YouTube and watch a few videos, reminisce about what work of theirs I enjoyed and then move on with my life, because while yes, it is sad, I didn’t personally know them and I have limited time and energy.
I’ve often been perplexed by the outpouring of extreme grief for someone the person who is despondent over the loss of doesn’t personally know; I’ve always felt that the excessive time energy and resources spent in mourning, would be better focused on people we know in real life; our friends, families and communities.
I have always felt that “celebrity worship” in general was over the top and that we’d all do better to give more time and attention to the things and people who are in our real lives, every day.
While some of it seems excessive to the point mental imbalance, I understand that characters in films or books become familiar and inspire us, and that those in the music industry literally created the soundtrack of our lives.
As we get older, more and more of those who had impact on our lives die, some before their time. In many ways, these losses represent the death of our childhood, coming of age or other important times in our lives. It’s also a harsh reminder of our own mortality.
The world is rapidly changing, people are more divided than they have ever been (in my lifetime) and many of us fear greatly for global political stability, the economy, the environment and those who are marginalized and often victimized in our society and it’s natural for the loss of something that helped us through hard times or inspired us to have a significant impact when we’re already sad, stressed and worried.
I noticed something interesting with the latest loss of a well known and beloved person. Not only was her work and her most beloved character being mourned, but she was being mourned as a real person, not just a character, a person who did good work on behalf of others, who used her celebrity status to help fight the stigma of mental illness, who was a feminist role model for young women and was a tireless advocate for others.
For myself, when I feel the loss of anyone, be they a family member, a neighbor or someone whose art influenced my life, I am going to carry what they meant to me and stood for out into the world.
For carrying on their work, shouting their message to the rooftops and making sure that their struggles and hard work were not in vain is the best way to honor their lives and death.
*in case the title isn’t clear enough, here’s your trigger warning. This story is about sexual assault, abuse and harassment.
I was reading comments online spurred by the current GOP presidential candidate bragging about sexually assaulting women. They ranged from intelligent commentary about why sexual assault is such an under reported crime to complete and total denial that we live in a rape culture in which men are entitled to control, comment on and use womens’ bodies.
One commenter mentioned that the “one out of five” women being a victim of sexual assault number seems low” and wonder if it’s because they “weren’t comfortable reporting it.” Not to quibble, but I’ve read “one out of four” and my personal experience being and talking to women indicates it’s much higher than that.
In concurrent threads there are people who deny these numbers, deny rape culture and say that the women now stepping forward about said candidate are liars who are just looking for attention. It is vital that women step up and speak out. We can no longer be silent and we can not let this stand.
So here’s my story.
1965 – I don’t remember the first time I was sexually assaulted, but it was by my step “father” who conned his way into my mother’s life when I was three years old. I became aware that he “make me feel icky” when he touched me when I was about nine or ten years old (and I felt guilty for not loving a “step” like a “real” “parent” like the Brady Bunch told us we were supposed to. I figured it out when the memories made sense at the age of 16 (when I, for the most part left the home) My mother’s reactions to this ranged from “we don’t talk about things like that” to violently abusing me herself while under the influence of alcohol. I grew up being told never to talk back to or upset him as he had high blood pressure, or he would have a heart attack and die and that it would be my fault. How sad I was to find out that was a lie. As a teenager, after witnessing him hitting my mother so hard in the face that her bridgework flew out of her mouth I pulled my 22 rifle out of the closet and told him all of the horrible things I’d always wanted to say to him as a child and told him that I’d kill him if he ever touched me or my mother again. He didn’t have a heart attack and didn’t die. I was disappointed.
1967 – I was five years old, in first grade. It was after school and I was walking past the bike racks to the car where I was being picked up from school. A 6th grade boy grabbed me, threw me on the ground next to the bike racks while another boy on a bicycle told him, “spread her legs” as he grabbed my ankles, adorned with those little lace trimmed bobbie socks, the boy on the bike tried to run over my genital area with the front tire of his bicycle. No one helped me. I kicked, screamed, raged and got away. Later when I was questioned by the principal about it, they had a suspect that I was to name. This means there were witnesses that did not try to help me, and/or that he had assaulted other little girls and was still allowed to be at school.
1973 – at eleven years old while playing football with the neighborhood kids, one of the boys pinned me down and violently groped my crotch. The response when I told an adult, “Boys will be boys”
1975 – at thirteen years old while walking home from school, a boy commented on how “small” my barely developing breast were and grabbed them. Again, “Boys will be boys”
That same year, another older boy tried to rape me in the projection booth at a local movie theater. I fought him off and never went back to that theater. Big surprise here. It was my fault for going into the projection booth (I was interested in the projector).
1976 – I was 14, a boy followed me home from school and assaulted me. I punched him. He did not get in trouble, but I was pulled aside by one of the fathers in the neighborhood, grabbed by the shoulders and told to “calm down” and that I “was not a normal girl” and was “too aggressive” (because obviously, normal girls just take abuse and don’t fight back)
1977 – I was 15 and thought all of the horse play and wresting stuff with our church youth group leader was just innocent fun, because I was a tomboy, super naive and somehow, still believed the best of people. I discovered after the fact that it was apparently well known (to everyone but me) that this adult male in a position of trust, in a church was hot for me and behaving inappropriately; he quietly disappeared.
1980 – I was barely 18 years old. The “neighborhood rapist” who I found out after the fact had already raped seven women at knife point attacked me while I was out running in the early morning daylight. I was the “lucky one” who fought him off (and broke a few of his fingers, I was so filled with rage, I’d have killed him if he hadn’t run away with his sweat pants hanging down around his knees). I was only the “lucky one” until the questions started, “What were you wearing?” “Why were you wearing shorts instead of baggy sweats?” “Why didn’t you get a better ID on him?” “why didn’t you incapacitate him?” “Why were you out running at all?”
1987 – I was repeatedly harassed and groped by a supervisor when I worked for the US Forest Service. He was not disciplined and I was not believed and was vilified by The Fire Management Officer who had on a separate occasion told me, “A pretty girl does not belong on the fire line, she is a distraction to the men.”
1988 – I had men (who I was physically stronger than and was a better medic than) who refused to have me as a paramedic partner because women didn’t have any business doing that job. They were allowed to do this.
1989 – I had a helicopter pilot refuse to fly with me as flight crew/medic because I was a woman. He was allowed to do this so my work schedule had to be manipulated to placate his misogyny.
1996 – The National Historic Site I worked at on a temporary detail, told me (the only law enforcement officer on site) that I was never to handle a confrontation, that I was supposed to let the maintenance guys handle it. When I balked at that, as well as being told to leave the site during an emergency (flood) while the men stayed, when I was the person charged with public safety, I was brought up on insubordination charges and was forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. I couldn’t get out of St Louis and back to Colorado and a real park fast enough after that.
1997 – The National Monument I worked for used a convict labor crew to do work in a very busy monument with small cities at each entrance (this was not a remote area) They were very poorly supervised and were allowed to wander freely around the maintenance area which was adjacent to the house area. When I wasn’t wearing my uniform and duty weapon they would yell and catcall me when I was in my back yard or at the mailbox. One of these criminals, got away from the crew and got inside a maintenance garage alone with me. After I complained and they were forced to stay in the van while fueling and the Park Service was forced to supervise them properly, I was literally “set up” by one of them and was brought up on charges. When I filed a formal complaint for this, the first investigation was “lost” and I had to go through the entire process again; this time with an interviewer from OPM who was very much into victim blaming. Everything that was said about me in that report was terrible and degrading. My “running shorts were too short”, I was “too aggressive for a woman”, even the french braid I wore my hair in was “too tight and made me look like a bitch.” I felt terrible for my Chief Ranger who was a stand up guy. This all came down from the Superintendent who was a sexist, misogynist bastard who constantly degraded women and a system in which sexual harassment and disrespect of women was deeply ingrained.
2002 – I was running in the park at lunch time, training for the Seattle Marathon. I was attacked by a guy in the park who jumped out of the bushes and tried to tackle me, once again, I fought him off (and threatened to kick his ass) and of course the questions were, “What were you wearing” Because apparently running shorts and a sports bra in 90 degree weather is an open invitation to be assaulted
2016 – At nearly 54 years old, I can’t walk two blocks to the grocery store without being catcalled and harassed. My recent “favorite” was the guy (young enough to be my son) who drove by me twice, turned around, pulled over at a stop light and yelled, “HEY! Little Girl, Come Here!” Let’s just say that encounter didn’t end well for him as he ran the red light to get away from the crazy lady.
These are just a few “highlights” of my life experience with a culture that allows men to see women as objects and vilifies women for their own assault and harassment. If I tried to recall even 10%, I’d be here for weeks writing a book about it.
Sexual assault, sexual harassment and discrimination happen every single day.
These acts happen to a hell of a lot more women than “1 in 5”, “1 in 4” or whatever ridiculously under reported number gets thrown out there.
So when someone says, “Rape culture doesn’t exist” or “They’re just words; get over it” you’re discounting the very real experiences of 50% of the population because while not every woman will report being sexually assaulted (even if she has) we have all been harassed or discriminated against.
Do you know why women come out en masse after being raped or assaulted by a famous and/or powerful man decades after the fact? It is because it’s taken that long for them to feel that they “might” actually be believed.
Rape culture is real and the current GOP candidate is turning back the clock and giving his misguided followers implicit permission and encouragement to be misogynist, racist, homophobic, bigoted and violent towards anyone who challenges their narrow, ignorant and selfish world view.
Not only do women need to tell their stories, but men, good men (the vast majority of men are good men) need to stand with us, to stand up and say that this behavior does not represent their gender.
I’m seeing a lot of posts, as I have over the last several months pitting groups against each other.
It seems that in the small and narrow minds of some that compassion for one group of people is seen as not caring about others.
People who were outraged about Cecil the Lion were vilified and accused of not caring about starving children in Africa or whatever cause internet trolls wanted to throw out there.
Guess what folks, we can all care about more than one cause at once.
The statement that Black Lives Matter is twisted and co-opted by those who don’t understand that yes, all lives do matter, but black lives are being unnecessarily taken at alarming rates and that the underlying causes need to be addressed for the good of humanity.
And now the Syrian refugee crisis.
Islamophobia aside (don’t get me started) many are outraged that we still have homeless veterans (or homeless at all) and say that no refugee should be accepted until all of our veterans/other homeless are taken care of.
And you know what? We should be outraged that veterans (or anyone) is on the street in this country while corporate CEOs make obscene amounts of money poisoning our environment, and others grow wealthier by the day on the backs of our soldiers sent off to fight wars for profit.
Does that mean we should pit one group against another?
It means that we should try to help EVERYONE.
Rather than using this crisis to “take sides” and pit groups against one another, how about we try to find a better way to think and to act.
Instead of creating more hurt and anger, how about you think of actual solutions that will help everyone?
Could the homeless and veterans be sheltered and put to work helping the refugees assimilate? We won’t know unless we try, until we propose solutions, when we vote and demand that our alleged “leaders” are accountable (and stop with the partisan bickering from the far sides of the spectrum, that helps no one)
Before you post that next inflammatory meme to social media which does nothing but divide people further, how about taking some real action and calling/writing/faxing your congress critter and demanding that we take care of our veterans, the homeless AND the refugees who did not ask to be bombed out of their country.
For those of us who have had to forgo our holiday plans to escape the madness due to unprecedented drought conditions, heat and fire danger to protect our homes, I’ve created a little game. (it’s keeping me from going out and killing my drunk asshat neighbors for shooting off illegal explosives and risking all of our homes and lives)
I present to you…
“Tacoma 4th of July Asshat Bingo”
Play along with us on Twitter and Facebook tonight on your mobile device while you’re out hosing things down in your yard.
I am sad for those who are disenfranchised, discriminated against and have no hope for justice.
I am sad for those who lack the compassion to understand the realities of people with other life circumstances.
I am sad for those who live in fear.
I am sad for those who choose to hate.
I am sad for those communities who are now labeled “those people who bring it on themselves” because outside agitators, anarchists and others looking for an excuse to commit violent and criminal acts used their tragedy to do so.
I am sad for public servants whose profession has been tainted and whose jobs have become much more dangerous due the actions of those who use the job to have power over rather than serve others.
I am sad for local businesses and hardworking people who have suffered damage and loss.
I am sad for the families, friends and loved ones of those who have been hurt and killed.
I am sad that I am seen by some as the enemy.
I am sad that I am not likely to see a post racial United States in my lifetime.
I am sad that this, is the legacy we are passing on to our children 50 years after the Civil Rights Act was enacted.
Some time on the evening of October 27th or the morning of October 28th, 2014 a metal newspaper box serving as as “Little Free Library” was stolen from the corner of S 12th/Earnest S Brazil St and S. Sheridan Ave on Tacoma’s Hilltop.
Please keep an eye out in case it has not already been sold to a scrap yard for meth money.
A story written about Little Free Libraries written for South Sound Magazine can be found here.
To see more photos of Little Free Libraries in Tacoma, you can click here.
Today I am saddened and sickened by the worse than standard media frenzy surrounding this date and the events of 13 years ago.
Why is this year “different”? Why are we being whipped into frenzy of fear?
It’s quite simple, we are on the precipice of another for profit war in Iraq, and the quickest way for our government and corporate overlords to manipulate us into forgetting the loss of life and what a failure the last war was, and to gain support for a new for profit war is to create an atmosphere of fear and paranoia.
This is not about protecting our freedoms; this is about profit for Halliburton and other war machine corporations to line their pockets as well as those of the politicians whose puppet strings they pull.
Honor the loss, respect those who lost/gave their lives. Perhaps even stop to think about those who live in fear of bombs and missiles every day.
But please, don’t fall victim to this heinous act of manipulation.
Some first responders at the scene were trained police officers, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs.
Some were race staff and volunteers.
Many more were spectators just waiting for their friends, family and loved ones to cross the finish line in a life affirming event.
Some runners, perhaps having dreamed of this day, this chance to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon their entire adult lives stopped their forward progress abandoning their dream, the goal they had worked so hard to achieve, in order to help others.
Regardless of title, training or lack thereof, they were all “first responders”.
They will never be able to unsee what they have seen. No matter how tough or experienced some of them may be, they will be haunted to varying degrees by some of the images for the rest of their lives.
To those who were there, who responded, who selflessly gave of yourselves,
Please avail yourselves (if you have not already) of any critical incident stress debriefing offered. If you were a spectator, a participant or anyone else who does not regularly have that offered to you, seek it out through your local EMS agencies.
While some of you who do this professionally already understand the impact and how long it is going to take to process the events of March 15th, 2013, it’s going to be even more challenging than you know to get past what you saw, heard and felt.
As a paramedic for 13 years, I can’t count the number of mass casualty incidents I responded to; to say they are shocking and overwhelming is a gross understatement.
Many years ago at a base station meeting, an emergency room doctor who sees the worst of the worst (in a controlled environment and only one or two at a time) when telling the story of one such event when he was a ride along couldn’t describe the feeling of helplessness he felt when confronted with so much critical trauma, death, dying and chaos. “I don’t know how you people do this day in and day out; I had no idea where to start.” he said.
The helplessness… knowing you can’t help everyone, knowing you can only do so much for so few and that it’s never enough, is a truly devastating feeling.
What makes this even worse for everyone involved in an event such as this, is that these were “your people” your peers, perhaps even someone you knew personally.
That is the worst of the worst, parents responding to calls where children the same age as their own were critically injured; I lost it after a call where a “man” (if you could call him that) beat his 60-something year old mother viciously when she would not give him drug money (I had him bodily removed from the room so that I could work on his mother because I was honestly afraid of what I might do to him); she was the same age and looked like my mother, I had to call her immediately after I got back to the station.
Even worse when it’s someone you know… I responded to a dangerous and accidental drug overdose of one of my friend’s young children. On an even more personal note, my paramedic instructor had a serious heart attack (that required a quadruple bypass) and I was on the unit that responded.
There is more, so much more… I can’t count the number of times (after, always after a call) where I (the allegedly tough as nails medic and incident commander who’d been through it and toughed it out so many times before and always held it together on the call) sat sobbing uncontrollably on the floor of the emergency room bathroom.
I am very damaged from all of this. I have seen things, things that people do to others, to innocents, to children… that are so horrible I can not tell another person because it would quite literally scar them for life. So those things must live inside me, and I must manage them on my own as best I can. (it is never good enough)
How damaged you might ask? Most of my close friends have never seen me hold a baby other than in the process of delivering one in an emergency situation. Most people see a baby and want to hold/cuddle it. I, instinctively check it’s color, make certain that it has a pulse and is breathing and that it has not been abused or injured. I’ll spare you the stories of why I’m that way… you don’t want to know and I would never inflict that on you.
My hope is that all who were there that terrible day are able to seek out whatever help is available to them so that they can process what they experienced and not let it permanently damage their heart and soul.
No matter how old, experienced or tough you are, we all need help processing such things. It is OK to cry, it is OK to lean on others, it is OK, no, it is vital to seek help.
You can only be available to help others, if you are taking good care of yourself.
I love my neighborhood, my neighbors, The Tacoma PD, our CLO’s and the Hilltop Action Coalition which fought to reclaim this neighborhood and still fights today.
Love is worth fighting for…
The battle to reclaim this neighborhood filled with historic homes was fought long ago by others; the turn around came after the still notorious gun battle in the 2300 block of S Ash St. (I drive by this house occasionally, and the first time I see Mr Bill Foulk in his yard, I will stop and shake his hand)
I can not take credit for any part of reclaiming this neighborhood; this was done long before my arrival.
But when I chose to buy a home here over a year ago, I made a vow to be a part of the (continuing) solution.
Notorious slumlords whose numerous properties have and continue to be the subject of continual complaints, sources of illegal activity, in various states on disrepair and more often than not house criminals and drug dealers include: Demetrius Pye, Peter Porietis and the notorious Paul Post.
While the city of Tacoma is not enforcing the Nuisance Ordnance as they should be, perhaps due to fear of lawsuits (hey, given the lack of enforcement against and cowtowing to Clear Channel is anyone really surprised?) despite the best efforts of our police department, the neighbors are pissed and are fighting back.
Some residents near S 8th and S Cushman Streets, after receiving push back rather than cooperation from Mr Poretas (who oh, by the way does not live in the neighborhood) decided to fight back on their own when a problem house on their block came up for rent.
A friend and I took a drive this afternoon to find the signs we heard about and talk to some of the neighbors who after failed attempts to convince the slumlord (Mr Poretas) to correct the problem have made it very clear that they are not going to just sit back and take it.
We found four of these signs. This one was our favorite.
Take warning criminals and especially you slumlords.
The neighbors are watching and are taking action which includes but is not limited to: walk abouts, video surveillance, photographing drug dealers and their vehicles, setting off car alarms and spotlighting late night activity and pushing the city to enforce the law/codes.
We love this neighborhood and unlike you are invested in it.
We are Tacoma’s Hilltop. We are Gritty and we will win.