Victim Schmictim.

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A 17 year old victim of sexual assault has been charged with contempt for violating the confidentiality of minors — her assailants —  in court after she tweeted about what happened to her. She is facing up to 180 days in jail and a $500 fine for publicizing the names of the guys that sexually assaulted her at a party when she was unconscious from drinking.

These guys not only took advantage of her when she was intoxicated/unconscious — which by definition is rape, but they also have pictures of her from that night floating around the inter-webs. She has been so concerned about who has seen them and has not wanted to leave her house.

I can hear people now — what in the world was she doing drinking at 17? Well friends, that is a reality of the younger generation. I do not support it but I also cannot stand by and let the conversation about this girl get turned into a drinking age debate. Drinking or not, she did not deserve to be sexually assaulted. End of story. Now that we got that cleared up…

As many have already said, the girl probably should have chosen a different route to express her frustrations that did not put her in contempt. However, being sexually assaulted, humiliated, violated, and rung through the criminal justice process all to have your assailants plead guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism as part of a plea bargain that reduces down to a mere slap on the wrist is pretty damn frustrating and downright infuriating. Her voice and rights were completed dismantled the night she was assaulted and they continued to be broken down as her case played out.

Personally, I give her a standing ovation for using her voice to tell the world what happened to her and to let her community know that these guys raped her. Research shows that rapists do not only rape once and hers cannot be assumed to be the exception. Cases like hers happen every day. It is about time someone stood up and told society how wrong it is and demand justice. She said it best herself:

“If they really feel it’s necessary to throw me in jail for talking about what happened to me … as opposed to throwing these boys in jail for what they did to me, then I don’t understand justice,”

What this teaches victims of violence is that their safety and their rights to live free from fear are not as important as the confidential rights of men who inflicted violence against them. What this teaches society is that a slap on the wrist is all you are going to get for sexually assaulting a young girl and humiliating her with revealing photographs whereas the victim will be punished for telling her story so don’t worry you’re protected. We need to stop these lessons. We need to stop punishing victims and start teaching them that they have rights that deserve to be protected. We need to start teaching our boys, guys, men NOT TO RAPE.

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Sanctions at Penn State are Well Deserved

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Joe Paterno’s statue at Penn State University is allegedly coming down this weekend. Headlines are also telling us that Penn State is being urged by legal experts and educators to shut down their football program to avoid the “death penalty” sanction from the NCAA. Paterno won a D-1 record 409 games over 46 years as the Nittany Lions’ coach at Penn State. He was fired in November after several charges of child sexual abuse were filed against Jerry Sandusky. But you know all of this. The real question is should the statue be taken down and should the football program — one that brings in over $70 million every season — be shut down for a few years or indefinitely?

First, the statue should absolutely come down. I have no doubt in my mind that Joe Paterno was an excellent football coach to the extent that he knows the sport well, coached well, and brought home a lot of Ws for the Nittany Lions. But at the end of the day, who really gives two shits? The man knew about severe sexual abuse happening to more than one child in the locker room that his football players shared. To display the statue one day longer at Penn State would continue to honor Paterno as a good man. It would be disrespectful to all of Sandusky’s victims and their families. The children whom Sandusky abused looked up to Paterno and deserved his protection and respect. He chose not to grant them any protection nor respect so his statue and legacy deserves to be removed from the public eye at Penn State. Sadly, I think his legacy will remain untarnished in many die-hard Penn State fans who fail to see the severity and tragedy of Paterno’s actions and lack thereof regarding Sandusky.

Should Penn State shut down its football program. Absolutely. By allowing the football team to go about its business and bring in large amounts of money for the Penn State community, the University would demonstrate that PSU values athletics and profits more than the lives of innocent children and the protections that should be granted to any member of their community. Institutional values linked to athletics should not trump moral ethics linked to humanity and dignity of all persons. When I first read about the program ending, I found myself asking the same question a lot of people are asking: Why should the players be punished for horrific acts committed before their time at PSU? I hear that argument, I do. But at the end of the day, the players should be agreeing with the decision to end the program in the aftermath of Sandusky’s abuse and after the report has been released proving that several faculty and staff at PSU knew about the abuse and did nothing about it. If I were a football player I would not want to associate myself with a University that showed such dishonor, disrespect, and neglect for the law and rights of it’s community members. I would not want to put that uniform on and neither should any athlete. It is about time we start holding institutions responsible instead of turning our cheek or giving a slap on the wrist because dollar signs and checkbooks matter more. I hope PSU shows America and the rest of the world, for that matter, what true values are and how to carry them out with integrity. There are many institutions in this country that should be listening and paying attention because they could be next. We need to stop living in a world of Kobe Bryants, Ben Roethlisbergers, and where sexual assaults on college campuses and within our military are ignored. It is time we hold not only the individual but the institution accountable.

 

What do you think?

Reflections In Light of Tragedy

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I have been off the radar for a few weeks transitioning to my new job,
a new dog, and life as a non-student. It’s been a fun journey and I am
happily settling into this new chapter of my life.

But this morning I woke up to a horrific news headline that I could
not fathom nor could I control the sadness and anger that ran through
my body at 6:30 this morning. I had to blog about it despite every
news station covering it in full force as I type this.

The Dark Knight Rises premiered last night at midnight. I’ll admit I
was super bummed that my boyfriend and I kept forgetting to purchase
tickets and lost our chance to see the first showing of it with the
rest of the die-hard Batman fans. I scrolled through Facebook and
Twitter yesterday, as per usual, seeing statuses and Tweets counting
down to its premiere. It’s been the most talked about movie this
summer and rightfully anticipated after Heath Ledger’s brilliant
performance in The Dark Knight in 2008. But what happened last
night/early this morning in Aurora, Colorado could never be
anticipated and is leaving America in a saddened state as we process
how such a tragedy could happen during 2012’s summer blockbuster
premier.

The FBI have ruled out an act of counterterrorism and the police have
yet to determine a motive. Still, the reality is this gunman entered
the theatre, set off tear gas flooding the theatre, inflicting utter
confusion and chaos and then proceeded to fire shots, killing 12
people and wounding nearly 40 people. Why? How? It’s all we can ask
over and over again as we sit and shock and watch this story unfold.

Under the emotions, the questions, and the genuine pain I feel for the
community in Colorado, I am left with two thoughts. First, why do we
live in a country with a history of these tragic events and yet a
strong commitment to the second amendment boasting the right to bear
arms? Why do people insist that that right in the Bill of Rights is
intended for you, me, or this lone 24 year-old gunman that heartlessly
reeked havoc in Theatre #9 early this morning? It is not and should
not be interpreted this way. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in District
of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) that the Second Amendment
protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to
service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful
purposes, such as self-defense within the home. The 2nd Amendment was
constructed when military activity could break out at any point in our
own country. There is a place for security and self-defense within
your own home, but when that “right” and protection prevails and
regulations and policies to obtain a gun become weak making it
extremely easy for people to obtain guns, horrifying events take place
much like what we are seeing in Colorado. How did this 24 year old
obtain all of these guns, chemicals, and tear gas canisters? Why is
there not strict checks and balances on this process? I don’t even
want to hear it, NRA. You cannot defend this whatsoever.

Secondly, this gunman is the textbook definition of a sociopath. At 24
years old, he did not just wake up yesterday morning and develop a
mental illness that led him to cause destruction at a movie theatre.
He has been living with mental health issues for a long time. I have
no idea what treatment he has ever received or been offered. I have no
idea what his actual diagnosis would be. But as a social worker I
cannot help but think about how fractured and disoriented our world
is, particularly the mental health sector. The shooter was allegedly a PhD candidate for neuroscience but had recently dropped out. Just because he was a well-educated individual does not make him unable to have mental health problems. A congressman called the shooter a “psychotic son of a bitch.” I get that this tragedy is stirring up strong emotions and rightfully so. I can’t stop reading articles about it and each time I get chocked up and a sickening feeling in my stomach. It is nothing short of horrifying, sad, and awful. But to call him that as a public figure is ignorant and uncalled for. Further, Mr. Congressman, you are making my point. He is psychotic. So let’s try and remove the stigma around being psychotic so no other movie theatres are randomly selected for a massacre, shall we?

It saddens me that he was never given the help he needed to be a safe, healthy human being. A large part of my heart is aching for all of the victims and their
families, friends, and neighbors but I would be lying if I said my
heart was also not breaking for this 24 year old man. I am NOT
justifying his actions. I am NOT making excuses for him. But we are
seeing tragedies and shootings like this more and more. There are
signs and red flags that I am sure Mr. Holmes gave off prior to last
night’s shooting. As the story unfolds and more information is released about him, I am sure friends, family members, and professors will speak up and mention some of these red flags that were brushed off then seeming to be only quirks or not that big of a deal. We saw it with Columbine. We saw it with Virginia Tech. We’ll most likely see it again. If and when these things come out, I hope we take a step back and discuss why these red flags are so often overlooked — not just with this shooter but with many mentally ill individuals every day.

My thoughts go out to those affected by this tragedy and my
hopes remain in our society to better the lives of others when they
need it the most.