Sorry Not Sorry

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Public apologies: the quickest way to say you’re sorry without having to actually show any remorse. We’ve seen a slew of public apologies since the #MeToo movement began, but if we think back, we can see they’re really nothing new.  It seems a right of passage for those in the public eye to commit some sort of faux pas and almost, but not quite, apologize for it.

In a BBC comedy video (LINK), Rachel Parris gives some tongue-in-cheek advice about how to craft a good “I’m sorry.”  She highlights some of the common “missteps” we hear these fauxpologies for: racism, calls for police brutality, and sexual assault. What could, in fact, be considered hate crimes, calls for state-sponsored terrorism, and criminal activity, are instead swept under the rug in a gentle “sorry, not sorry” apology.

Ms. Parris discusses the three main types of public “apologies”: 1. “It was taken out of context;” 2.”I’m sorry I used upsetting language;” and 3. “If I did that, I’d be sorry.” It’s easy to see why these aren’t real apologies at all.  There’s no context that justifies abusive language or jokes.  The language isn’t usually the problem; the actions are. Finally, if you’re offering a conditional apology, it’s no apology at all. Apologies without accountability are just empty words.

Our willingness to forgive and forget, particularly for powerful abusers, allows abuse to continue to thrive and for victims to feel silenced and re-traumatized.  Look at any interview with Ray Rice after video surfaced of him knocking his then-fiance unconscious to see what an apology looks like from an abuser who is only sorry he got caught.  Listen to Ms. Parris talk about Kevin Spacey to hear what a serial sexual abuser sounds like when forced to face his past.  Listen to the countless non-apologies we’ve heard over the years and wonder how we, as a society, haven’t gotten any better.

It’s time we starting expecting better apologies.  And it’s time we started demanding accountability.  It’s time we started seeing changed behavior not just nice words.

#MeToo, Madigan

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Timothy Mapes Harassment Scandal (LINK)

Does the #MeToo movement still matter?  Haven’t we talked about this enough?  Surely everyone knows and understands how unacceptable sexual harassment in the workplace is by now!

If you’re like many Americans, you’ve heard these questions.  Maybe you’ve even asked them yourselves!  Harvey Weinstein is facing charges for sexual harassment and assault.  Al Franken was forced to resign!  There’s only one, not two, US presidents facing allegations of sexual assault (Bye Kevin Spacey!).  Surely this means we’ve made progress!

Well, if you’re wondering if the #MeToo movement is still relevant, just look at the news coming out of Illinois.  Timothy Mapes, ex-chief of staff to IL political powerhouse Mike Madigan, is out of a job after a sexual harassment scandal and all he has left to his name is a $130,000 buy-out and a $134,000 lifetime pension.  Hard luck for him but you’ve got to pay the piper, friend-o. In fact, if the charges are proven in court (and when has a case of sexual harassment against a powerful politician ever failed?!), he could face a hefty $5,000 maximum fine. Talk about consequences!

No one could look at this case and think that they could get away with similar behavior.  It’s nice to know we are finally starting to hold these powerful abusers accountable.

Oh wait…

 

 

There is no such thing as other people’s children.

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Do we really trust that our children are safe in immigration detention camps?  Do we look at a tent city full of babies and think we’ve done the right thing?  Can we ignore the lifelong trauma our children will face from this enforced separation?  Are we sure our children are being protected from predators and abusers?

There is no such thing as other people’s children.

When we see the allegations of abuse and assault our children are facing, we must be enraged.  We must speak out.  We can’t afford to stay silent.  Our children’s lives are at stake.  Our humanity is at stake.

Contact your representatives.  Call their staff, send letters, show up at their offices.  Donate to organizations like the ACLU that are fighting for our children.  Don’t give up until we know ALL our children are safe.

(Information on what is happening in immigration detention centers for children: ACLU).

Bachelorette Background

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Our American obsession with reality TV says a lot about us as a culture.  Some people love reality TV.  Some people love to judge those people.  But with a reality TV star sitting in the Oval Office, we can’t deny the fact that this is a deeply ingrained part of our ethos.

I would argue, as [an embarrassed] reality-TV lover, that we can learn a lot about our selves and our society by looking at the plot lines, characters, and attitudes created by the producers of these TV shows.  In fact, if you want to learn about how Americans feel about gender, sex and sexuality, and relationships, you couldn’t find a better education than you’d get by watching a few episodes of the Bachelor or Bachelorette on ABC.

For those of you who are unfamiliar (have you been living under a rock or do you just have more exciting lives than me?), the Bachelor franchise on ABC is a series of reality shows about a chosen Bachelor or Bachelorette (cis-gendered, almost always white, heterosexual man or woman) who dates anywhere from 25-30 people, slowly eliminating these potential suitors until they arrive at week 10 and propose to their one true love in what is always “the most dramatic season finale yet.”

This show has given us some gems as far as Gender and Sexuality 101 material.  Bachelors sleep with multiple women and no one bats an eye.  Bachelorettes have sexual relationships with multiple contestants and you hear the usual: slut, whore, skank, easy.  Put 25 fitness trainers in a house together in a competitive environment and you quickly see how our society fails to promote deep emotional intelligence in our boys and men. Homophobia (“no homo”), toxic masculinity, racism, and problematic gender norms run rampant.

This season, however, the Bachelorette production team has outdone themselves.  A cast member, currently on the show though clearly not a final contender, was convicted of indecent assault just prior to the show airing. (LINK TO STORY). Had the producers done any sort of due diligence with their contestant background checks, they could not have failed to uncover two-year-old allegations of sexual assault and harassment.  In a #MeToo world where we’re finally discussing sexual harassment and assault, would producers really not be thinking of this?

It’s unfortunately likely that these charges were uncovered and dismissed as “allegations” that don’t need to be taken seriously or valued as a potential source of drama.  Even if they were unaware, that shows a willful ignorance to not be protecting the contestant from suitors with aggressive or violent histories.

Our reality TV reflects us.  It reflects our culture and it reflects our values. Whether we want to admit it or not, TV shows what we want to see and what we see in ourselves.  If these producers can ignore a convicted sexual aggressor, what are we tolerating or ignoring in our every day lives?  How do we go through our daily lives ignoring the abusers around us?  Who do we tolerate because “it happened so long ago” or “it really wasn’t that bad” or “she just couldn’t take a joke”?  Who escapes the consequences of their actions because their a beloved entertainer or a leader in the community? Who will go unpunished because the victims are not important enough to our society?

It’s just a TV show. I know that. But it’s also a reflection of us.  It is a mirror held up to our culture and we can’t turn away any longer.  #MeToo

 

 

It’s not your fault. Ever.

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Content note:  discussion of violent sexual assault and victim-blaming.

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A student was violently sexually assaulted by an acquaintance this weekend at NIU (LINK to article).  The student was working on a final project for school when the attacker stopped by, physically attacked and sexually assaulted her, finally dropping her off at the local hospital.

To their credit, the university police connected the victim immediately with services from Safe Passage and took immediate steps to ban the attacker both from campus and online courses.  We are so grateful for their thoughtful, victim-centered statement and actions following the attack.

The survivor was back at school on Monday, finishing her art project.  Some online took this as an opportunity to question her credibility, wondering how someone could go through a traumatic and violent experience and return immediately to work.

If there is one lesson we should learn from survivors and from the outpouring of survivor stories in the #MeToo movement, it is that each person’s experience is different.  One survivor may need weeks, months, even years to be able to return to “normal life”.  Some may experience triggers and trauma for the rest of their lives.  Some may be ready to pick up where they left off the next day.  One survivor may break down in tears, one may experience anxiety.  Another may laugh, brush off the attack, or be in a hurry to return to life as usual.  No one response is the “right” response.  No response makes a survivor’s story any less credible.

If you’ve been assaulted, know that you are allowed to respond however feels right to you.  You are the expert on yourself.  You are the architect of your healing journey.  No one response is more or less valid and no response means you are more or less a survivor.  You are equally entitled to belief, support, and help no matter how you respond to trauma.

Survivors should not have to prove that they “deserve” our support.  If you’ve never been a victim of sexual violence, we would invite you into journey of learning how important it is to support survivors.  Victim-blaming is a second form of trauma that survivors often have to face but when you start by believing, you tell survivors that they are not alone.

At Safe Passage, we have a commitment to Start By Believing.  This means if you tell us you’ve been a victim of violence, we will always believe you, support you, and help you in whatever ways you need.  We are available 24/7 at 815.756.5228.  You are not alone.

 

CASA

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As we’ve posted previously on our blog, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.  We are so grateful for our amazing children’s counselors, our prevention specialists who do education in the schools, and our caseworkers who work tirelessly for parents and children in our care.   We are also incredibly grateful for our community partners who do incredibly important work ensuring the safety and support of at-risk children.  One of those partners, CASA DeKalb County, is guest-blogging today, sharing a personal story about the critical work they do:

My name is Anna*. I am 8 years old. When I was 6, I was living in a motel room with one bed in DeKalb with my mom, her boyfriend and my half-brothers. I slept on the floor. It was cold. My mom and her boyfriend used drugs. They argued a lot.

My CASA advocate came to our motel room. She reported our living conditions to the judge.

I live with a foster family now. I have my own room. I have my first bed. I have my own blanket. I am warm at night.

*Name changed for confidentiality

Anna’s story is one of many that are involved in the juvenile abuse and neglect court every week in DeKalb County. In fact, every 13 hours in DeKalb County there is a new case of child abuse or neglect reported. On average, there are about 200 children who, through no fault of their own, are involved in the juvenile court system each year. Anna and these other children in DeKalb County are victims of child abuse or neglect. CASA works with these children as their voice in court, speaking on behalf of their best interests and making recommendations for the children.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) DeKalb County’s mission is to advocate for and serve as the voice for abused and neglected children. CASA is appointed as the guardian ad litem (GAL) in 100% of cases in the DeKalb County juvenile abuse and neglect court. In the role of GAL, CASA volunteer advocates gather information about the child’s situation and provides that information to the judge so he/she can make informed decisions on behalf of the child. The goal for each case is for the child to be placed in a safe, permanent home as soon as possible, preferably back in their own home when that is safe.

CASA plays a unique role in child abuse prevention, which is especially remembered during the month of April, as it is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Through advocacy in the courtroom, CASA helps ensure that a child is placed in a safe, permanent home where there is less chance of any recurrence of abuse or neglect. CASA advocates monitor a child’s case to verify that parents attend the services they need, such as counseling or parenting classes, to correct the conditions that led to the case to come into court. For children like Anna in the story above, CASA advocates draw attention to unsafe or unhealthy conditions in which a child is living so the judge can place the child in a better home environment. CASA also works in the community to draw attention to child abuse and neglect through speaking engagements with local service clubs and the use of social media and online marketing to spread awareness. This April, CASA is posting “Myth vs. Fact” on their Facebook page to help dismantle some of the common myths regarding child abuse or neglect.

While child abuse prevention is something talked about in the community during the month of April, the children CASA serves live these experiences each and every day. These children need to have their voices and their stories heard. Together as a community we can work to continue speaking up for these children, bringing us closer to a time when all children have the opportunity to thrive in a safe and loving home.

To find out more about CASA and their work with abused and neglected children, visit http://www.casadekalb.org.

Give DeKalb County

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When I was in college, I had a roommate who would wake up at 3 am to watch tennis.  No watching replays for her.  Who cared if I had a test the next morning?  The match was on in Australia!  The only thing worse in a teeny room than a tennis-obsessed roommate was a teeny room with a tennis-obsessed roommate who also played trumpet.

Now I’m far from perfect and I’m sure she could tell you some horror stories from the days of living with me, but the point is we were both two privileged, nontraumatized strangers who managed to drive each other crazy in communal living.  We had the best opportunities for being able to peacefully coexist and it was a rough year.

Imagine now, that my roommate and I were both fleeing abusive relationships.  She has two children under the age of 5.  She and I have been living with abusive partners and I grew up in an abusive household.  I’ve learned to lie to get what I need to survive and I’ve learned to yell if I want my voice to be heard.  She struggles with a substance use disorder.  Now imagine that we had to share a room in our emergency shelter.  She and I and her two children in a room not much bigger than our freshman dorm.  There’s two bathrooms in the entire building for all 25 of us to share and one communal kitchen.

Imagine trying to heal under those circumstances.  Imagine trying to move on from an abusive past and face your trauma.  Imagine how much easier it might seem to just give up and go back home.  Imagine how difficult it would be to take the time to invest in your own mental health and healing.

For many of our clients, they don’t have to imagine.  This is our reality.  Our shelter, while it provides incredibly important and necessary emergency care, is still set up for just that: an emergency.  It isn’t designed to be a place of healing and wholeness.  Our staff have done so much with the limited budget we have, but we know there is so much more to do.

This year on May 3, Give DeKalb County is hosting the 5th annual community fundraiser for DeKalb nonprofits.  Please consider visiting www.givedekalbcounty.org on May 3 and make a life-saving donation.  Your donations ensure survivors continue to have access to emergency shelter, counseling, and advocacy, but also give us the flexibility to invest in projects to improve the emergency care we provide and ensure every survivor is given every chance to not only survive, but thrive.