November 16, 2011 / Law & Justice, Safety

Why I Care


Reprinted with the express permission of  Miss Edee blogger Edee Lemonier.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.

Let me get straight to the point here. I’ve had enough. There are days when I feel completely worn out by what I see in the news and days when I feel ready to scream and fight. I completely understood what Eve Ensler meant in her article “Over It” that appeared on the Huffington Post yesterday. I’m angry as hell and I’m not at all ashamed to say that.

What I am ashamed to say, however, is that I think we actually do live in the midst of a “rape culture” in this country. Like calling what our legislators are doing a “war on women”, I have avoided using the term “rape culture” because I thought it was a bit extreme. At this point, though, I don’t think it is.

Over 10,000 people rioted in protest to the firing of Joe Paterno at Penn State. All over the news channels reporters are talking about his legend and how his legacy is now going to be “tainted”. Someone on my own Facebook friends list wanted to know why he couldn’t at least finish out the season. I responded (angrily, I admit) that he should have been fired and it should have happened long ago. Another friend, in an attempt to diffuse a hot topic and a long thread that was getting hotter asked, “Who cares? Let’s talk about something else that’s more fun!”

Well, you know something? I care, damn it! And here’s why…

I care because I know how difficult it is to come forward about being sexually abused. I know how difficult it is to admit having been raped. I know how deeply the shame, self-loathing, and self-blame run. I know how it feels to be so terrified to talk about it you wait decades before you are actually able to come forward. I know the fear of disappointing a parent you love so much or, worse, fearing your dad will have a heart attack and become ill when he finds out. I know what it’s like to live with feeling guilty about not coming forward sooner, that because you said nothing, someone else may have been abused, too. I know what it’s like to feel like no one will believe you or care, or that you will be blamed and hated.

I care because I know the frustration and anger of knowing it’s too late to prosecute someone who did irreparable damage to you because the statute of limitations has run out. I know the panic that sets in at the mere thought of having to recount sordid detail after sordid detail publicly, in front of family who love and support you or in front of a spouse who should never have to imagine his wife in that way. I know the anxiety brought about at the thought of having your own behavior and sexual history raked over the coals, the fear of being called a “whore”, all in defense of someone whose own past sexual deviancy will likely not be allowed to be heard in court. I know the frustration of thinking that just because I don’t remember every single detail exactly doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, while watching a court case go down the drain because a victim didn’t perfectly remember a haircut or what color hat someone was wearing. I understand the futility in the process, knowing that even if you could endure all of that, any sentence will be far lighter than what the victim was sentenced to by the abuser.

I care because Joe Paterno and the others at Penn State not only turned their backs on those innocent little boys, they essentially gave the rapist permission to continue his rancid behavior. I care because the 10,000 protestors gave permission to other child sex abusers to get away with their heinous crimes, as long as they are “beloved” by the community in which they live or the football team they coach.

I care because an entire college put the need to have a good winning season over the needs of a group of children who will suffer for the rest of their lives. I care because I’m really sick of hearing about football and not those young kids and their recovery.

I care because rioting because someone was fired for not doing the right thing tells the rest of us that we are right not to come forward, that it is pointless. Because after 35 years of silence, I finally came forward at the age of 40, and yet, after a lot of intensive therapy, it still makes me shake to type this and admit it publicly, when I’m not the one who did something wrong. I need to make something absolutely clear: My dad had absolutely nothing to do with it. He had no idea. He has been one of my greatest cheerleaders, he’s a wonderful father, a great man, and I’m blessed to call him “Daddy”. I’m doing well and healing, by the way. Please don’t leave me sympathetic messages in the comment section. This is so much bigger than me. But thanks anyway, if you were thinking about it.

I care because when some teachers actually did do the right thing and report sexual abuse of a student, they were fired for it.

I care because this is why one of Herman Cain’s accusers is choosing to remain anonymous, she fears repercussions, and she should. Mr. Cain’s attorney threatened anyone else who may come forward that she needs to  ”think twice”. Here is a quote from an interview with Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I’m not here to scare anyone off,” said the high-profile Atlanta lawyer, referring to the prospect of new accusers. “[However] they should think twice anyway.”

I care because Herman Cain is telling the public he didn’t know the women he sexually harassed, when he actually wound up settling with them. People are now questioning the victims’ coming forward. I’m actually glad they’re coming forward: I really don’t want someone in the White House who has such a callous attitude toward women and sexual harassment in the workplace. He doesn’t value women.

I care because Mike Huckabee maintains he was sexually harassed when he ordered fried chicken in the deep south and was called “honey, sweetie, and darlin’”, and made fun of victims of sexual harassment with the following statement:

Of course I need to wait 15 years before I work up the necessary outrage to come forward with the charges, and even then I need to do it anonymously so that those nice ladies behind the counter are going to dragged through the muckraking and mud throwing media without even knowing who’s accusing them. Look I am not making light of real sexual harassment, but the allegations against a man who is trying to become president are far and away tame compared to the real life actions of men who have actually been president, and whose actions were not 15 years before than ran, but while in office. (Source: PoliticsUSA)

According to CBS, “Huckabee then insisted that his intention is not to ‘make light of real sexual harassment.’” Excuse me, but can someone please explain “real sexual harassment”? Sticking your hand up a woman’s skirt uninvited isn’t “real sexual harassment”? I guess that goes into the same category as Whoopi Goldberg’s idea of the difference between rape and “rape-rape” when Roman Polanski was finally extradited to face the music after being convicted of drugging and raping a 13 year old girl. (Check out the YouTube video – 3 seconds in) Or maybe if you follow this link to a Fox News page discussing Ms. Goldberg’s opinion, you will understand better after having read all the different ages of consent in different countries. Because it seems to me the logical conclusion there is that being drugged and raped only really counts if you’re under a certain age but there are so many different legal ages it can get a bit confusing for a perpetrator.

I care because in that YouTube clip you can hear even Melissa Gilbert ask if the charge was just child molestation and not rape. Let me just clear that up for everyone: Psychologically, there’s no difference. I actually hate the word “molest”. The definition, according to Merriam-Webster online is: 1-to annoy, to disturb, or persecute especially with hostile intent or injurious effect; 2- to make annoying sexual advances to; especially: to force physical and usually sexual contact on. Excuse me, but this is far more than an “annoyance” or a “disturbance”. Whether there is “brutality” or not, any act of unwanted sexual contact is a brutal crime, especially when it comes to children. It needs to be called what it really is: child sexual assault or child sexual abuse. Take your pick.

And people wonder why we don’t come forward. And because we are too afraid to come forward, it happens over and over and over, and these monsters who continue to perpetuate it get away with it.

I care because even the ones who are caught and go to jail get out and do it again. The rate of recidivism for sex offenders is four times higher than that of people who committed other crimes, including murderers, while sex offenders are less likely to commit other crimes upon release than people who committed other crimes (Source: Anderson Cooper 360).

I care because it took two months and a petition with 180,000 names on it for Facebook to remove some – but not all – “rape pages”. These were pages with the names “What’s 10 inches and gets girls to have sex with me? My knife”, “It’s not rape if you yell surprise”, and “Kicking sluts in the vagina because its [sic] funny watching your foot disappear”. Even though pages making jokes out of rape and assault are against their terms of service, Facebook doesn’t necessarily see it that way, since they aren’t completely offensive to everyone, that they’re just rude jokes and funny to some people. Several more rape pages still exist. One remaining page tells users that comments have been disabled because “some people are just haters who can’t take a joke”. I refuse to list any names of remaining pages. I will not give them any free advertising or brain space.

Speaking of Facebook, I care because these numbers are so high none of us really knows how many survivors of sexual assault we really know. 20 of the 96 names on my Facebook friends list have experienced sexual abuse of some kind in their lives, and I know at least half a dozen others who aren’t on Facebook.

I care because 1 out of every 6 American women have been victims of attempted or complete rape or sexual assault in their lifetimes. I care because 2 out of 3 rapes are perpetrated by someone already known to the victim. I care because a woman is sexually assaulted in this country every 2 minutes. I care because 80% of victims are under the age of 30, and 44% of victims are under the age of 18 and that is absolutely appalling. I care because those statistics only count those who have been reported, because 60% of sexual assaults go unreported. (Source: RAINN) I care because the number is likely much, much higher but so many accounts go unreported or, due to an eighty year old definition of rape, don’t actually “count.

I care because in our quest to make sure we don’t just grab people off the street and lock them up for years with no trial and no charges, as was done in the darker times in human history, we err to the side of the perpetrators and take their words for it. Our news commentators go on TV and play judge and jury, picking apart every little thing about the victim, while downplaying the same thing about the rapist. “He’s such a nice guy.” “No way could he do that, he’s a quiet neighbor.” “But he’s an old man now, just let him be.” “He doesn’t look like the kind of person who would do that.” “But she’s a grandmother. Women don’t do that, especially not grandmothers.” (Here’s a hint: yes they do!) It’s easier to turn a blind eye than to believe we’ve been deceived by these so-called “nice” people.

I care because somebody needs to while the rest of the world is wondering how much Kim Kardashian got paid for her sham wedding. Somebody needs to be thinking about it, keeping an eye on what’s really happening behind closed doors while others are worried about making sure the President knows that “In God We Trust” is our official national motto.

And I care because while whatever sentence is doled out, if they are arrested, tried, and convicted, those boys, like other survivors, face a lifetime of hell. Here is a partial list put together by author Mike Lew of effects victims of sexual abuse may suffer throughout their lifetimes. These are responses he received to the question, “In what ways does the childhood sexual abuse continue to affect your adult life?” Not all responses apply to all survivors and, again, this is a partial list: shame; guilt; need to be in control; helplessness; flashbacks; physical pain and memories of physical pain; fear of intimacy; running from people; self-abuse; wanting to die; sexual dysfunction; need to be completely competent at all times; self-doubt; low self-esteem; depression; nightmares; fear of authority; fear of rules; fear of speaking out; disconnection from feelings; linking abuse with love; forgetting or amnesia about parts of childhood (missing chunks of time); “out of body” experiences; “avoidism”; feeling ashamed when complimented; and 34 other effects.

I care because the above is only some of what these young boys face down the long, long road to recovery. They will likely need therapy off and on for the rest of their lives as they enter new stages of maturity and sexuality.  Every individual involved in covering up the abuse should have to forfeit his entire retirement fund to pay for the victims’ counseling for the rest of their lives.

Yes, Ms. Ensler, I’m over it, too. And I care. I care deeply and without apology.

I care because 5 women were sexually assaulted in this country in the nearly 10 minutes it took you to read this post.