#MeToo (Trigger Warning)

I have been thinking about sharing my story for many years. With the #Metoo movement trending, I think now may be the time. I am not looking for sympathy or pity. I am not looking for attention. And I feel a little pissed that I need to even say that I am not. What I am doing is sharing my story so that some can garner a greater understanding on how violence, sexual assault, and misconception is rampant in our culture. I am one of countless women you will encounter in your life time who have been changed forever by someone who is abusive. We have been told to be quiet about it. We have been told we will be judged about what happened to us. We have been told that it was our fault. We have been told that if we share we might be a preexisting condition. We have been told our story is not a worthy of a public audience. I reject what I have been told. I now share my story.

I have been raped 2 times in my life. The first time was when I was 17 years old. It would be considered date rape since I knew my attacker. He created a circumstance which lead to me having to spend the night at his house. We were just “friends”. I trusted him. In the middle of the night he attacked me. I froze. I did not move, I did not scream. I was paralyzed. My temporary paralysis made it a little difficult for him. But he kept trying. I remember falling back asleep with tears streaking down my face afraid to move.

When he drove me home the next morning, I did not speak a word to him. But he had a mouthful to say to me. He told me that if I said a word about it, he will tell everyone I am a whore. They would believe him because his family had money and I would be trying to ruin his reputation. He also said that I had to have lunch with him every week or he would tell everyone what happened. He picked me up at school every week for “lunch”. I would sit there and barely speak, he would go on and on about whatever. When he would drop me back off at school, he would always threaten me.

It took about 3 months for me to tell someone else what had happened. But once I did, it felt like a great weight had been lifted and that next week was the first time I did not go out to lunch. As soon as someone else knew my story, it did not feel like  it was a secret anymore and I no longer cared who he told. I don’t think he ever told anyone. But I sure did, even those who refused to believe me. But I let him torture me for 3 months.

The assault itself was bad. Yet, it was the emotional trauma I suffered week after week that did me in.  And the only reason I even told anyone was because my best friend saw a change in me and asked what was going on. Her and her mother listened and gave me support and the strength to stand up for myself.

The second time I was raped was in Milwaukee, WI at the GenCon gaming convention. I was 20 years old. I do not want to go into all the details. This event touched many lives and many that may read this blog. I do not want to trigger them.

I was raped by a stranger who got access to the hotel room I was staying at. I was heavily intoxicated from the night before. I was passed out. I was awoken by my friends asking me if I wanted that creep on top of me. (A bunch of us shared a hotel room at the convention.) I was not fully aware of what was going on. I awoke hours later by myself in the room. I knew something was wrong. My body felt violated. I had a foggy memory and pain in places I should not. Confused and emotional, I took a shower to wipe off the feeling of being dirty off. (Did not know I should not take a shower.)

Later I began to put the pieces together. Several people were coming up to me an asking if I was ok. Once I had confirmation as to what happened to me, I feel apart. I called my boyfriend at the time. He could not understand me and thought I told him that I cheated on him. It took one of my friends telling him they were taking me to the Police Station for him to fully grasp the situation. He eventually met me at the hospital.

At that time, Wisconsin law stated that you could give consent intoxicated. Therefore, even though I did not know the person and had witnesses, the police would not even going to question the individual. They said I could of consented and not remember. The rapist was from a well-established family in Milwaukee who was doing his residency as a medical doctor at the local VA hospital. Did I want to ruin his life? My rapist was also known to my witnesses. He was helping run the convention and was friends with the organizers. When my friends went to the organizers of the conference, the organizers took my rapists side and let him stay at the conference.

I still went to the hospital and had a rape kit done. My boyfriend at the time met me at the hospital. I stupidly insisted to stay at the conference because I was not going to let some asshole ruin my vacation. (Probably made this choice because of the first rape.) My boyfriend booked a room and regaled me with boring stories of WWII military maneuvers so I would fall asleep.

The next day, I was going to my friend’s hotel room to meet a bunch of people for dinner. I was in the elevator and a floor later my rapist stepped in. The elevator was packed with people. But I will never forget that ride up a few floors which seemed like forever. I got to my friend’s room, broke down and asked him to take me home. That night three of my male friends drove me back to Chicago.

This time I told my parents. I was soon in counseling. This counseling would last on and off for years. I would get triggered and have to go back. I could not sleep. I was scared of being in hotel rooms. It affected my relationships. At times, it affected my work when I was working in university housing.

Today, I am strong. I get triggered less often and when I do, I recognize it. I don’t watch certain movies. I still have the occasional issues with hotel rooms. I have a loving partner who is supportive and understanding. I have many friends who made sure that I was OK. Many of those friends were amazing men. Whether they stayed up all night with me because I was scared to sleep, or encouraged me to go to counseling after a work training triggered me, or just held me when I needed. I was lucky to have both male and female advocates. You know who you are and I am grateful for you being in my life and helping me on my healing journey. (Paul, Jeff, Eric, Michael, Glen, Wendell, Tim, Tracy, Jenny, Mary, Dino, and so many more.)

25 years later, the assaults are still fresh in my mind. But I learned that I am a survivor. I have also learned so many women have stories just like mine. When we hide these stories, it makes society complacent. I want the world to hear these stories. This is not the time for complacency. It is the time for action. When so many states are trying to change their definitions of what rape is, we need to stand and say NO! When rape culture invades our everyday existence, we need to scream back, you will not make me a victim! You will not make me worthless!! You will not make me at fault! Get out there and vote! The midterm elections are important and we can change the landscape of our state and federal government by electing people who will give us justice and a voice. I am a survivor.

Vote With Your Feet And Tax Dollars: What you can do without a Dept. of Education and the EPA

I have been thinking about the possible elimination of the Department of Education and The Environmental Protection Agency. We will see the Republicans add more agencies to their elimination list. But right now there are two House bills to eliminate the Department of Education and the EPA, H.R.899 and H.R.861 respectively. The bills have been referred to their respective committees.

I know people are all up in arms about the possibility that these departments will be eliminated. One thing we must keep in mind is that it is very difficult to eliminate government agencies. There are about 4,400 employees in the Department of Education and about 15,300 in the EPA. This is about 20,000 people the government will have to either absorb or layoff. What a public relations nightmare. President Trump has tried to make PR gold with saving 1000 jobs. What can this look like if he lays off 20,000 people? In addition, it is difficult to layoff career civil servant employees in the US. These people have strong unions and power of their own. But it has happened before. Government agencies have been eliminated.

All presidents since Regan have talked of eliminating or restricting government to be more efficient. Depending on what side of the aisle you sit on, your reasons for elimination or restructuring will be giving power back to the states, efficiency, and/or cost savings. When Obama tried to eliminate the Commerce Department in the Consolidating and Reforming Act of 2012, there was opposition from all sides. The move would have eliminated 2,000 jobs over time and divided some of the agencies work over 5 smaller agencies. As objection to the bill grew from special interest groups, the bill was buried in committee. There are many special interest groups and unions who will fight the elimination of the Department of Education and the EPA.

Let us imagine a U.S. in which the Department of Education and the EPA are dissolved, does it mean it is the end of regulation as we know it? No. The job of regulating will go to the states. All states have some form of the Department of Education and EPA. The problem is that state agencies will create and enforce regulations in varying degrees of consistency. The U.S. is a large country with vastly different cultural norms from region to region and state to state. Even with Federal and local agencies oversight, situations such as the Flint, MI water crisis, coal ash from Duke Energy in water in North Carolina, and Coal mining company Alpha Natural Resources polluting the water in West Virginia continue to happen. I would expect more of these environmental disasters.

In regards to education, it might be a good thing that education regulation goes back to the states. Most of us in education hated No Child Left Behind (or as I like to call it, No Child Left Untested). It put unrealistic expectations on overwhelmed teachers and cash strapped schools. It forced teachers to teach to a test rather than encourage thoughtful engagement and creativity. But once again, state to state differences may become incredibly obvious. There are many poor states in this country and public education is expensive. Access for disabled and special education students is even more expensive. The quality of your student’s education may become more than just what school district you live in, but what state you live in.

There are states which are doing great things. The nation has followed California on environmental policy time and again. The number of states looking to institute free community college is growing after Tennessee was the first to institute it in 2014 and Oregon followed shortly after. So with this in mind I have some advice. Move. If over the next few years we see more federal power going back to the states, find a state which aligns more with what is important to you and your family.  I know it might be scary or hard. I have moved across the country twice, once to each coast, and lived in Europe for a short time. I think it might be time to vote with your feet and tax dollars.

References

Congress.GOV. n.d. H.R.861 – To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed February 9, 2017. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/861?q=%7B”search”%3A%5B”Environmental+Protection+Agency”%5D%7D&r=2.
—. n.d. H.R.899 – To terminate the Department of Education. Accessed February 9, 2017. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/899/actions.
Pianin, Eric. 2013. “Why Obama’s Pitch for Government Reform Hit a Wall.” The Fiscal Times. February 20. Accessed February 9, 2017. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2013/02/20/Why-Obamas-Pitch-for-Government-Reform-Hit-a-Wall.
Wikipedia. 2017. United States Department of Education. February 9. Accessed February 9, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Department_of_Education.
—. 2017. United States Environmental Protection Agency. February 7. Accessed February 9, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Environmental_Protection_Agency.

 

 

 

Amateur Moves? Trump’s first week in

I have been thinking about all the gag orders for the executive agencies which the new Trump administration has attempted to put in place. At first, I thought the moves were a sign of not understanding how government works as well as a bit of paranoia. I thought that these moves were those of an amateur. Now, I am not so sure.

In my opinion, there are two types of take overs of a company, department, or office. The first is the wait and see approach. Someone comes in at the top and watches how things work for awhile. This person takes time with each employee and learns about their jobs, frustration, successes, and so forth to get an understanding of the organization. This executive is looking for buy in, trust, incremental changes, and eventually loyalty. I usually like this type of leader.

The second take over I have witness is one of control and power. The individual who comes in does not care about what you do in your job, how you feel about the company. They want to make change sometimes for change sake. This type of executive feels that they already know the solution and just starts instituting their vision. Usually, people below them feel unheard, not valued, and soon disgruntled. I find this type of leadership is selfish. Sure, it can help create  change quickly, but you ostracize large swaths of people. Eventually, it will bite you in the ass. Unless you have absolute control and no problem with firing.

I think Trump is that latter leader. He and his administration have a vision. They really do not care what people think. It is about ego and control. Therefore, for those of us who watch government, we might see amateur moves such as creating executive orders with out the guidance of entities who will be necessary for implementation as being a huge mess and not understanding how government works. We might see gag orders as paranoia and wanting to frame the  message. But I see the top executive of the US come in and take over. Purposely creating  fear. Purposely creating confusion and chaos. Purposely creating misinformation. His administration does not want your buy in.  Your marches and rallies will not work on any of them. They do not feel that their boss is the American people. He is Emperor and you are an ant.

I am not saying do not protest or march or create alternative twitter accounts. Actually, I think we need more of them. I want to suggest we rethink our strategy. We will not change Trump’s mind. He has too many yes men around him. We need to let those in power who can stand up to Trump know that we have their back. It is time for our congress people, career government employees, journalist, whistle blowers, academia, artists, activists, and everyday people send a message. WE WILL NOT BE BULLIED. WE WILL NOT FEAR. WE ARE YOUR BOSS. If all goes well, this might not be the age of declining democracy, but an age of the activist citizen.

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