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Rape is Rape

Brock Turner was caught in the act, sexually assaulting an unconsious woman outside of a frat party at Stanford University. Two grad students spotted Turner on top of the unnamed woman; they lay next to a dumpster and she was clearly not awake or aware. Turner ran when the men approached, and one was able to chase and tackle him while the other called the police. For his crime, which the victim suffered from immensely, he received six months in jail and 3 years probation. The judge, Aaron Persky, says that the extremely lenient sentence was because he believed Turner when he stated that this woman, who was so drunk that she could not fend off this man, gave consent for sex. He also stated that Turner was remorseful, even though he only admitted remorse about drinking too much and the “dangers of alcohol.”

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I’m going to get more personal than I normally do and share a bit of something that makes me uncomfortable. There was a sad moment in my life where I had to live in  boarding house. During that time, I was assaulted by a crackhead who thought her boyfriend had looked at my housemate and I in a sexual way. She flipped out and my housemate, her baby and I locked ourselves in my room and called the police. She ended up trying to run from the police and got hog-tied. I had to go to the hospital for blood tests because she was using needles, she caused me to bleed when she attacked me, and I had no idea if she had hepatitis or AIDS or what. Thankfully, I was fine.

My housemate was married, and lived right across the hall from me with her husband and baby daughter. We were all friendly and would sometimes share a drink together. We were also friends with a couple who lived down the hall in a larger, more apartment-style unit. One day, my housemate was away with her baby, and the husband was home hanging out with the couple. I was by myself, just finishing a shift waiting tables. I showered and went over to the couple’s place to hang out for a bit. Once they started smoking weed, I decided to go back to my place. The husband followed. I didn’t realize he was following me.

I unlocked my door and as I started to step inside, he hit me from behind and knocked me directly into my bed, which was right inside the door. My cats ran for it and hid in the closet. Thanks, cats. I got up immediately in a panic and asked what the fuck he was doing. He was acting strange; he’d always been respectful and almost reserved, but I had also never encountered him without his wife before. He didn’t answer me, slammed my door behind him and was in my face in breakneck speed. One hand went around my throat and the other started trying to take off my clothes. He was bigger than me, taller and stronger. I screamed as loud as I could possibly scream for him to get his fucking hands off of me, punched him repeatedly in the ribs, and started kicking at his legs. I got in a solid groin shot, which finally got him to release his grip on my throat. He told me that he knows I want him because he saw the way I looked at him. I don’t remember what I grabbed, but I grabbed something off of my nightstand, swung at him, and told him that if he didn’t get the fuck out, I would kill him. He left.

I didn’t get raped by this idiot, but I could have. He didn’t come close to accomplishing his goal, and I still felt incredibly violated. I had a friend come stay with me every day for weeks until I moved out. I started carrying a knife. I couldn’t sleep. I started to question myself; was it my fault? Was I too nice? That was my reaction and I DIDN’T EVEN GET RAPED. So, imagine Brock Turner’s victim, who was raped and then sent to the hospital with debris in her vagina and then told by the legal system that she couldn’t be trusted, that maybe she was flirtacious and asked for it, that it was her fault in part that it happened. She is the victim, and the court system (and many of Turner’s supporters) have instead turned her rapist into the victim and her as the instigator.

Rape isn’t something we should take lightly. “I couldn’t help myself” is not an excuse for violating another person against their will. No means no. If a person cannot give consent, they cannot agree to a sexual act. If I’m passed out drunk and my husband tries to get it on with me while I’m muttering no during my brief moments of clarity, that is rape. It doesn’t matter who, doesn’t matter the situation. Rape is rape and we need to make these people responsible. We need to stop blaming the victim. When we tell women what to do/how to dress/how to act to avoid rape, what we are really saying is “this is what to do to ensure he rapes the other girl and not you.”

My experience is still something I can recall in detail, and it happened back in 2004. Turner’s victim will recall what happened to her for the rest of her life, made worse because it went to court and she had to see her attacker and deal with intrusive question after question about the incident. Brock Turner is not the victim. Brock Turner was 100% in the wrong. Stop shaming rape victims and trying to find the bright side of the rapists. They chose to cross the line, and they should have to live with that choice for the rest of their lives, just as their victim has to. I leave you with the disgusting letter that Turner’s father wrote to the judge.

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Rape

Last week, my husband and I stumbled upon a segment on the radio that hit a nerve.  The two hosts were discussing a woman who I’ll call Stacy, as they did not reveal her name.  The hosts were contacted by Stacy’s friend, Candy, who was seeking advice about a possible legal issue.  According to Candy, Stacy and her boyfriend went to a bar one night where the boyfriend was “feeding her Long Islands.”  Stacy became incredibly intoxicated and the next thing she knows, she is waking up naked in her boyfriend’s apartment with absolutely no recollection of how she arrived there.

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Candy went on to say that Stacy then asked her boyfriend what had happened.  He was not only unconcerned, he raved about how wonderful and amazing the night had been.  Stacy was horrified that she could not recall any details of this amazing sex she apparently had, which is why she confided in Candy.  Let me also add that Candy did confirm that Stacy and her boyfriend had in fact been intimate before; they appeared to be living together and this was hardly the first time that the two had engaged in intercourse or any other type of sexual activity.  Candy decided that Stacy needed to report this night to the police because it was clear that she was raped.

Now please tell me, am I clueless, insensitive, or simply stupid?  Because I cannot look at this situation and see it as rape, not even a little bit.  First of all, no one “feeds” you drink after drink; you choose to drink and choose to get drunk.  You can’t sneak drinks into people.  It would be different if Stacy was drugged in some fashion, but she wasn’t.  She chose to get drunk with a man she seemed to trust.  Second, a blurry night with your significant other is something that has happened to a lot of us.  I get drunk with my husband.  I’ve never lost an entire evening, but I have experienced tidbits of memory failure here and there where I won’t recall how we got from one point to the next.  If you drink and drink heavily for an evening, it is bound to happen.  If it happens frequently, you should not be drinking.

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Stacy couldn’t remember stopping for snacks at Taco Bell, couldn’t recall how she got home, and couldn’t remember the great sex she had with her boyfriend.  This does not equal a rape.  Candy was convinced that Stacy was in fact blacked out and her boyfriend forced himself on her.  If so, then I would agree that it was rape since she was unable to consent whatsoever and was obviously unaware of the activities.  But if Stacy was simply blitzed and having a blast with her equally drunk boyfriend, then this was just two people who had an intimate relationship and decided to drink way too much and end the night with sex.  That IS NOT RAPE.

Candy eventually admitted that she had been raped in the past, something she is obviously still traumatized from.  Perhaps she looked at Stacy’s situation, saw her own experience in it, and now desires her friend to seek out the justice that she never received.  Candy didn’t go to the police, but Stacy still can.  But is it even justified?  Maybe the boyfriend is a real dirtbag and maybe he did try to persuade Stacy to drink too much so she’d loosen up and be more fun in the bedroom.  But maybe not.  There is nothing here that suggests rape and it is an insult to women who do get raped to throw around the word like it’s nothing.

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I’m not going to throw a personal rape story in here for you now because it’s simply none of your business.  I will say that rape comes in many forms and sometimes, you have to leave it up to the victim when it comes to reporting the crime or staying silent.  Imagine what the police would do with Stacy.  There is no proof.  No trauma.  No bruising or cuts or evidence of violence.  No drugs.  Nothing illegal outside of driving while intoxicated.  What can they do with her, other than hit her with a barrage of questions, prod away at her life, and possibly traumatize her for real with the circus that is reporting a sex crime?  If she woke up with a black eye and torn clothing, it’d be one thing, but that was not the case here.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that rapes should be reported as quickly as possible both so the victim can be cared for and so the perpetrator can be arrested.  No one on this Earth should get away with violating another person in such a manner.  But it’s a dangerous thing to do what Candy has done and automatically assume rape in situations where it does not exist.  It’s dangerous to assume that every female who claims they can’t remember the night before has been raped.  It’s unfair to automatically make men into evil sex-crazed monsters when they’re honestly not doing anything wrong.

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Rape should be taken seriously, of course.  Part of taking it seriously means not seeing rape where it doesn’t exist.  You can’t claim rape because you regret a decision to sleep with another and want to feel guilt-free about it, and you can’t assume your friends have been raped simply because their situation vaguely reminds you of your own.  Rape is a heavy word and the accusation hits hard.  I cannot begin to imagine how terrible it would be if I was accused of such a crime when all I did was have sex with the person I loved (or lusted).

We also need to be responsible ourselves.  When rape happens, it is not the fault of the victim; there is no “she was asking for it” BS that the assailant gets to claim.  That said, we have a responsibility to ourselves to take steps to keep ourselves safe.  Maybe that means not drinking to excess.  Maybe it means having a wingman/woman around you to ensure you make it home safely and alone.  Maybe it means avoiding certain areas or people.  Just because rape isn’t the fault of the victim doesn’t mean that we have to act like victims.  If Stacy had just quit drinking after two or three Long Islands, she would have remembered the trip to Taco Bell, the drive home, and the maybe not-so-hot sex in the bedroom.  Or on the flipside, she would have remembered her boyfriend being far too pushy, holding her down, and ignoring her pleas.  Either way, the question of Was It or Wasn’t It wouldn’t exist, and she wouldn’t currently be struggling to find the truth.

Why Don’t You Have A Seat Over Here

I’ve been following the Steubenville rape case in the news for weeks now, and we now have a guilty verdict that will send two boys to a juvenile correction facility where they could possibly remain incarcerated until they are 21.  Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond have received sentences of a minimum of two years and one year respectfully, but must also register as sex offenders for the rape; the act of penetration to the victim with their hands constitutes rape under Ohio law.  The event was fueled by drugs and alcohol and teenagers behaving like teenagers; living in the moment, having fun, and not giving a thought to the consequences of their actions.

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What the two boys did was horrible.  What the teenagers who witnessed the event did by covering things up is equally as bad, as is the actions of a few on social media sites by threatening the victim with bodily harm.  It’s an all around terrible situation.  No one deserves to be violated in this way and to be shamed by their community.  No one deserves the trauma and the backlash or to be told that it’s their fault that they were sexually assaulted.  The victim did make a poor choice in becoming so inebriated that she had no control over her actions and couldn’t even manage to stay conscious, but that doesn’t mean she deserved what happened to her and what continues to happen as people angry over the sentencing place the blame on her shoulders.

Mays and Richmond definitely deserve to serve time for what they did to this female.  They chose to treat her like a piece of trash, to laugh as they violated her, and to act like it was all a joke.  That said, the pair are still only children.  They screwed up and no doubt, this ordeal and all the time in court and in the spotlight has hit them both hard and taught them a serious lesson.  The time in the juvenile facility will help to strongly drive home that what they did was all kinds of wrong.  But do they really deserve to become sex offenders?  Do these teenager boys deserve to have to register as offenders and have that thrown on top of what is already a very heavy load of grief, regret, shame and anguish?

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I’m not saying I sympathize with rapists because that is simply ridiculous.  But I do sympathize with two young lives who are going to be ruined even further if they must register as sex offenders.  Mays and Richmond are already paying for their crime dearly with all the negative attention that is coming their way, the effect this has had on their families and community, and the time they must serve in the juvenile facility.  Their mistake is likely not one that these boys will ever repeat in their lives.  In addition to registering as sex offenders, they are ordered to undergo treatment, which I feel is absolutely necessary and will further assist the two in fully understanding what they did, why it was wrong, and why it should never happen again.  The punishment and rehabilitation are enough without putting the sex offender registry on top of it.

I understand why this is a sexual offense, but I don’t know if their mistake and poor choices justify carrying the extra stigma of being a registered sex offender.  This is something that will affect where they can live and who they can live with.  It will affect where they can work and the ease of getting employment.  It will affect their livelihood well after they have served their time and undergone their rehabilitation, well after we have all forgotten about their crime, and well after their victim is recovered and has moved on.  I can’t help but be very bothered by the fact that these two boys are going to have their entire lives ruined over one dumb night of partying.

Defense attorney Madison comforts Richmond as Richmond reacts to the verdict during his trial at the juvenile court in Steubenville, Ohio.

Mays and Richmond are both minors, 17 and 16 respectfully, and still very obviously not thinking as a rational adult would.  I’m not suggesting that their age and lack of maturity is enough to excuse their poor actions, but I do believe it is enough to save them from becoming registered sex offenders.  Richmond’s attorney, Walter Madison, is planning to appeal this decision in order to save his client from becoming a registered offender and I do hope that he is successful.  Having the boys register will not teach them or save them from repeating this act again later in life.  They need to be punished, they need to learn, and they must make amends.  Perhaps they also need to spend time doing volunteer work with battered and abused women in order to imprint it into their brains.  They simply need to be saved.

When we are dealing with people as young as Mays and Richmond, the goal should be on rehabilitation and on saving these two lives, not simply on piling punishment on top of punishment.  Force the two to apologize directly to their victim and to their community.  Ensure they understand the severity of their crime and make them learn proper boundaries.  Make them see the damage they have done and make them understand how rape affects a person.  Show them what will happen if they continue along a path of wrongdoing by putting them face to face with people who have made the same or worse mistakes.  Ensure they serve enough time in the juvenile facility to where they have no desire to ever break a law again.  But don’t lump them in with pedophiles, serial rapists, and other adults who simply can’t or won’t learn their lesson.  Give them a chance.

Compliance

Sunday night marked the end of what has been a nice month enjoying free Netflix DVD’s; we pay for streaming only since Redbox seems to fit our DVD needs better and saves us money, but weren’t about to pass up a deal for anything free.  One of the films we watched last night was Compliance, a 2012 film inspired by true events, specifically one incident at a McDonald’s in Mount Washington, Kentucky where a prank phone caller convinces the restaurant manager that he is a police officer who requires assistance in investigating a theft.  The film features Ann Dowd as Sandra, the manager at the ChickWich fast food chain and the person who receives the call from “Officer Daniels,” the man playing the prank.  Daniels claims to have been in contact with the regional manager and informs Sandra that one of her employees had taken money out of a customer’s purse earlier in the day.  After matching Daniels’ description of the thief to her employee Becky (Dreama Walker), Sandra springs into action and summons Becky to the back to confront her about the alleged theft.

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The confrontation begins innocently enough.  After Becky denies any knowledge of a theft and her involvement in one, she allows Sandra to escort her to the back office and storage room to have her pockets and purse searched per the “officer’s” instructions.  I was asked to do this same thing when I was 16 after a friend stole a candy bar from the school store and the teacher assumed I and another student had part in it as well.  I refused to empty my pockets or backpack without my parents notified and an officer present, even when she summoned the principal.  I would expect anyone else to have the same reservations about being searched, but Becky went along with Sandra’s request and her belongings were searched.  No money was found.

[SPOILERS BEGIN, BUT KNOWING WHAT TO EXPECT WILL NOT KILL THE MOVIE’S SHOCK VALUE AT ALL.  PLEASE READ ON]  At this point, Sandra seems satisfied that her employee is not a thief and does not have the stolen money in question.  Officer Daniels is not quite as easy to please and immediately requests that Sandra conduct a strip search.  His justification for the request is that it will be quicker and easier to resolve the situation in this manner, as the alternative is taking Becky to jail.  His justification for not being present is that he is currently conducting an investigation at Becky’s home which also involves her older brother and drugs.  When Becky is momentarily left alone with the phone, Daniels threatens to charge her brother with very serious crimes if she does not comply.  Frightened and feeling helpless, she gives in to his demands and allows the strip search to take place.

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Keep in mind that this film is based on true events; these strip searches did in fact happen in multiple locations because of a prank phone call.  Numerous people were conned into removing their clothing and even performing sexual acts and cavity searches.  The below image is a still from the actual security video footage of the event that the movie is based on:

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Back in the office, Becky is stripped until completely unclothed and her clothes are put in a bag and taken out to Sandra’s car so the “police officer” can come collect them later and search for secret pockets where the stolen money would be concealed.  He also throws in the “fact” that the clothing may contain trace amounts of marijuana and be of assistance in the larger case against Becky’s brother.  Shockingly, Sandra complies and Becky barely protests as her clothing is placed in an unlocked car to be collected later.  Covered in only an apron, Sandra tasks a young male employee to “keep an eye on” Becky while she tends to the busy restaurant.  He is the first to exercise any common sense, stating that the caller’s requests are outlandish and refusing to participate.  Feeling pressured, Sandra calls her fiance Van and asks him to watch Becky while she works.

At this point in the story, I’m past the point of disbelief.  The caller has no proof that he is law enforcement of any kind, has only vague knowledge of the restaurant and the employees there, and trips up in his story enough times to make anyone with a functioning brain stop and think that something is very wrong here.  Sandra is going solely off the words of an unseen and unknown person who claims to be a cop and just happens to know the name of the regional manager, something that is posted in full view in many fast food joints.  Yet because of these claims, the already present job stress, and the fact that the called is heaping praise on Sandra, she does it.  Because of fear and the idea that law enforcement is an unquestionable authority, Becky and the others go along with it.  I’m gobsmacked that not one person stops this terrible strip search and demands that officers come to the scene to deal with this alleged theft.

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Sandra sets up fiance Van to watch over her captive employee and returns to her managerial duties.  In her absence, Van follows instructions given by “Officer Daniels” and instructs Becky to remove the apron covering her naked body and do jumping jacks.  The reason given for this request is that Becky may have concealed the money in a body cavity; the jumping jacks will dislodge the money and put an end to this investigation.  (NOTE:  In the actual event at McDonald’s, the female was instructed to insert her fingers inside her vagina in order to prove that nothing was concealed within)  After this humiliating event, Sandra returns and is greatly confused by the ashamed looks on the pair’s faces.  During her brief return, Becky makes a plea to put an end to this and allow her to get dressed and leave.  Unfortunately, Sandra rudely denies the request and the prank caller, having overheard the conversation, demands that Becky be punished.

Once Van and Becky are along again, Van is instructed to spank her hard while holding the phone close to her buttocks so the caller can hear the slaps.  Becky is then instructed to do “something nice” for Van afterward as an apology, which translates into performing oral sex on him.  (Yes, also actually happened)  The guilt and shame immediately sets in, but only after Becky has performed the sex act.  Van quickly leaves the restaurant, leaving Sandra confused and without a chaperone for her employee.  In a bind, she calls on the restaurant’s custodian Harold to take over.  Harold is thankfully a no-nonsense person, immediately refusing to comply with the prank caller’s instructions and telling Sandra exactly what this pervert is having the men do to poor Becky.  Only at this point does Sandra think to begin verifying Officer Daniels’ story, which is immediately proven to be totally false.

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The real police are called and a real investigation begins.  Detectives soon discover that this is not an isolated incident and are able to find and arrest the man responsible for these calls and for instigating various crimes.  The true events were orchestrated by a married father of five, David Stewart.  He tried to cover his tracks by using calling cards to phone the various locations and by disguising himself during the purchases in a correctional officer’s uniform.  Police later found a calling card in Stewart’s home that had been used to call nine restaurants in the past year, including one Burger King in Idaho Falls on the same day they received a call that tricked their manager.  The investigation also uncovered dozens of job applications for jobs in law enforcement, hundreds of police magazines, and various police uniforms, holsters and guns.

Unfortunately, after extraditing Stewart to Kentucky to stand trial, he was determined to be not guilty of the crimes by a jury, possibly due to lack of evidence and the fact that the actual phone call was not recorded.  The surveillance tapes, however, were rolling and resulted in the store manager being terminated, another employee who assisted being transferred, the fiance being sentenced to give years for the sex act and abuse, the victim to go to therapy and still be damaged, and for both the victim and the manager to sue McDonald’s and win.  There are still ongoing cases in other restaurants where this took place, so the possibility still exists that Stewart will be found guilty for his crimes at a later date.

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This film was shocking enough without the knowledge I have now about the true events.  As the viewer, it’s impossible not to scream at the characters on your screen and try to drill some sense into their heads.  You can’t help but be frustrated that no one is questioning the caller, choosing instead to follow along blindly and subject a young woman to horrifying situations.  I had my suspicions that a lot of creativity had been put into this movie and that it wasn’t as extreme as it seemed, but the film nearly mirrors the actual incident at McDonald’s.  The fact that it has happened so many times, and may still be happening, speaks volumes about human nature and our blind faith in authority.

The world needs more Harolds in it; people who call out BS as they see it and don’t allow themselves to be bullied into something, especially when they know it’s wrong.  We need people to understand that they have rights even when dealing with an actual present officer of the law.  We have to have some sense and realize that no law enforcement officer can order you into stripping, spanking, and oral sex.  We cannot allow fear to overcome and overtake us.  We can’t stand idly by while nonsense like this takes place.  This situation and the others like it were all easily preventable, but sadly we did not have enough Harolds present for that to happen.

Overall, Compliance is an amazing film and even if you feel like I ruined it for you here, I suggest you watch it and experience it for yourself.  Out of the three movies we packed into our Sunday, this was by far my favorite.  Weigh in below with your thoughts and opinions on these prank calls, and on the film if you’ve seen it!

 

God’s Will And My Body

“You know, this is that issue that every candidate for federal or even state office faces. And I have to certainly stand for life. I know that there are some who disagree, and I respect their point of view. But I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case — of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”Richard Mourdock

I haven’t always been an atheist heathen.  I was raised Catholic, baptized as a baby, received my communion, and was confirmed as a member of the Catholic church as a teenager.  At 16, I would accompany a friend to youth group in the Baptist church he belonged to.  I prayed when things were good and prayed even more when things got rough.  I believed that my past friends and relatives were watching me from heaven and I hoped that I was a good enough person to land there myself.  And then, I went through a string of awful events in my life that no amount of prayer or belief could fix.  I was even shunned by a local Catholic church for having a child out of wedlock.  I lost my belief and I’m okay with it, but I do still understand and respect those who believe in God and would never insult them for it.

I was trying to avoid weighing in on Mourdock’s comment, but it’s been bothering me and I can’t seem to escape it.  It’s a topic that hits close to home in a way for me; I didn’t get pregnant due to a rape or anything of that nature, but I went through some other things on the list of things a woman should never experience.  I also lost 90% of my belongings, including things that are irreplaceable.  The list goes on and is a tad too personal to list here, but the point is that I suffered and was surrounded by people telling me that it was God’s will and that God had a plan for me.  God was pushing me, testing me, and preparing me for something great.  God would never give me more than I could handle, so I shouldn’t worry.  God knows best.  I’m sorry, but I can’t believe that my personal shit storm was part of some greater being’s plan for me.

I understand the belief that life is a gift from God.  The creation of a human life is a special thing regardless of religion and should be respected.  I understand the belief that life begins at conception; I don’t think the fetus can be considered a life until further into the pregnancy, as it is too underdeveloped in those early stages, but I respect those who believe it begins at the moment the sperm and the egg collide.  What I do not and cannot respect is the idea that God has it in His plan for women to be brutally raped and for a pregnancy to result.  I do not believe God would want these women to be mentally scarred and to bear a child that is a constant reminder of this violent and personal attack.  I do not believe that anyone would continue to worship a God that would cause so much pain and suffering, throwing babies into awful situations with abandon.

This is ultimately an issue of whether or not abortion is right and proper.  Is it wrong for a woman to get an abortion regardless of the situation or is it wrong only when abortion is used as a form of birth control due to the irresponsible actions of the man and woman?  Mourdock isn’t the only one who feels abortion is wrong; Republican Todd Akin stated that women cannot get pregnant if they are victims of “legitimate rape” because their bodies will just say no.  It amazes me what people will say when they are pro-life and believe abortion to be a horrible and unthinkable act.  To say that a pregnancy caused by rape is God’s will or to say that a pregnancy is impossible if the rape isn’t legitimate is insulting, incorrect, ignorant, and pretty idiotic.

The National Abortion Federation states that “surgical abortion is one of the safest types of medical procedures. Complications from having a first-trimester aspiration abortion are considerably less frequent and less serious than those associated with giving birth. Early medical abortion (using medications to end a pregnancy) has a similar safety profile.”  Research shows that abortions performed before the 24th week of pregnancy do not cause the fetus any pain since they happen before cells are specialized, so there can be no pain to the fetus because there are no nerve cells formed yet.  In some cases, choosing abortion is a better option than having the baby.  This naturally doesn’t mesh well with everyone’s beliefs, but women should be given the right to choose and to seek out abortions so long as they are done safely in a clinic and done early on in the pregnancy.

Abortion is now and should remain an option for women who are raped and find themselves pregnant while still reeling from their attack.  Women should have the right to rid themselves of every memory of a rape, especially in the case of incest, without being made to feel guilty, to feel like monsters, or to feel like it wasn’t a rape because they secretly wanted it to happen.  I find it wrong when women get 7 or 8 abortions due to their irresponsibility with birth control, but I respect their right to do what they wish with their body and with the fetus prior to it becoming too developed.  In the case of rape, there should be no question of whether a woman has the right to abortion, and especially no nonsense about the father’s rights; once he made the decision to sexually assault a woman, he lost his rights to any child that may have come from that attack.

It frightens me a bit how much and how strongly religion is brought into politics.  There is meant to be a separation between church and government, and we’ve definitely seen evidence of this in our schools, as Christmas celebrations have become treeless holiday parties, prayers are banned, and God must be absent.  We are so extreme about keeping our children in a religion-free learning environment, yet the people who we elect to lead us, both state and countrywide, are allowed and almost expected to make their religion known and to quote their God while proposing policy?

This is not a country where God is an absolute.  Not to be rude, but you can’t prove His existence and you can’t force every person in this nation to accept Him as their one and only God.  As such, this country should not have to hear politicians throw God around while trying to create such serious policies as the legality of abortion and whether or not a fetus is a viable life during the first trimester of pregnancy.  Of course the politician should use their belief system to guide them, but they should not be coming out and stating that X is true because God says so.  That isn’t law.  To a nonbeliever such as myself, that is fiction.  It’s convenient to say God wills it so, and since God cannot be seen, heard, or confirmed, it’s all too easy to say X and Y is His will since it cannot be questioned.

Everyone is free to believe what they will, but when you are a person who has the power to change our nation, you must base your arguments in logic and provide concrete information and solid reasoning.  Had Mourdock simply stated that he has a moral issue with abortions in any case and while he sympathizes with woman in situations of rape and incest, he simply can’t say that he is in full support of abortion, I doubt people would be hitting him as hard as they are right now.  Instead, he chose to throw God into the mix and declare it His will that victims of rape and incest find themselves pregnant.  He made himself look foolish and he reconfirmed my belief that there are too many politicians using God as their scapegoat when they can’t quite find the right argument to use in order to make their point.

I want to conclude with the words of Reverend Susan Russell, Episcopal priest from California:

As a priest and pastor I can’t count the number of times I have met with, talked with, counseled with and engaged with people who struggle to make sense of “the God thing.” Many of those conversations start out with the statement “I don’t believe in God.” But once I get them to tell me about the God they don’t believe in, it turns out I don’t believe in that God either.  Because here’s the deal: If I thought my only choice was between “Richard Mourdock’s God” (who “intends” that a woman bear the child of her rapist) and “No God,” then I would be an atheist faster than Mitt Romney can change positions on a political issue.

But I am not an atheist. The God I know and serve is one of justice, love and compassion — not judgment, exclusion and condemnation. The Jesus I follow is the one who preached peace, challenged poverty and liberated women. And the church I belong to is one that stands proudly in the prophetic tradition — committed to putting our faith into action on the issues of social justice that challenge our generation just as our forbears did in theirs.

As theologically indefensible as I find his position on a woman’s right to choose, the First Amendment protects his right to be whatever kind of Christian or Muslim or Jew or Buddhist or Atheist they choose to be.  What the First Amendment does NOT protect is the right of any of us to write our theology into our Constitution — something Joe Biden got totally right in his vice presidential debate with Paul Ryan“I accept my church’s position that life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and — I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman. I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that women can’t control their body.”

There are many things at stake in this presidential election, but choosing between faith and freedom is not one of them. Protecting the freedom of others to believe what they choose to believe about what “God intends” protects not only our own freedom to believe what “God intends” but defends our democracy from the very real threat of theocracy embodied in the policies of candidates like Richard Mourdock. And that is a battle worth fighting — no matter what you believe or don’t believe about God!

Noomi VS Rooney

The last movie my husband and I caught in the theaters in 2011 was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  I got the trilogy written by the late Stieg Larsson for my 2010 Christmas and instantly fell in love with the series and with the main character, Lisbeth Salander.  This was a damaged woman with a serious pair of brass balls and an iron will, a woman who I identified with in some ways, admired in others, and who I’d love to be friends with if she’d have me.  After I completed reading the trilogy, my husband and I watched the Swedish film trilogy starring Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth.  If you’re not familiar with this film series, you may recognize her name from Sherlock Holmes: Book of Shadows as she plays the gypsy Madam Simza Heron.

Watching Noomi on-screen in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was like watching Lisbeth be lifted off of the pages and placed on-screen; she managed to fully embody the character without any breaks in illusion or forced moments.  On becoming Lisbeth, Noomi said  “Lisbeth is a human being who’s suffered a lot. She needed to create her own world, her own set of rules, as the ones that exist haven’t helped her. She’s always been completely alone in her world, outside it she’s been vulnerable. [She] has locked away her emotions, her heart, to protect herself. Everything inside her is deeply rooted, and once she’s let someone in she’s incredibly faithful and loyal. She will fight to the death for what she believes in.”  She definitely dove deep inside this role to discover the inner workings of Lisbeth; throughout the entire trilogy, you are never watching Noomi play Lisbeth.  You are simply and beautifully watching Lisbeth Salander and her alone.

David Fincher, the director who took on the task of Americanizing this film, definitely had his work cut out for him.  Not only did he have to tackle a widely loved and successful book, but he also had to compete with an already brilliantly made film by Niels Arden Oplev.  Fincher cast Rooney Mara for the role of Lisbeth, a somewhat unknown actress who he had previously worked with in The Social Network.  Such a big deal was made in the media about Rooney’s drastic changes in “becoming Lisbeth,” including her choice to get her nipple pierced since it would add to the authentic and accurate feel of the film.  Judging from the reactions of most, I would say it worked and would expect Ms. Mara to have a great deal of success in her future if she is smart about her career.

It’s interesting to me to see different directors tackle the same project.  I preferred Fincher’s general casting choices over Oplev’s; Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist was much closer to what I pictured when I read the book rather than Oplev’s choice of Michael Nyqvist.  I enjoyed Fincher’s flashback sequences which were helpful without overloading the film or adding any confusion.  As far as the pacing of the films, I believe Oplev nailed it; he seemed to take his time while Fincher’s felt rushed, yet both films were around the same length.  Oplev stuck to Larsson’s word, while Fincher added a bit of creativity and tweaked a couple of things that threw me and didn’t seem to fit properly.  Fincher’s version was obviously easier to watch since it was in English, but it also sacrificed authenticity  when it shed the subtitles and the language.

The biggest difference and one that unquestionably puts Oplev’s version at the top is Lisbeth Salander, the woman who is at the center of the story.  I imagine it would be quite stressful to any actor to go through drastic physical changes and become a somewhat mentally unstable character who also manages to be borderline genius, who is a victim of sorts to rape and violence, but who refuses to remain a victim once the crime has been committed, a person who is endlessly complex but extremely guarded.  To become Lisbeth is to do much more than cut and dye your hair and learn to ride a motorcycle.  It’s more than a nipple piercing and an averted gaze.  It’s the difference between watching an actor play Lisbeth and just watching Lisbeth be Lisbeth.

Unfortunately for Rooney, she had to follow up Noomi’s breathtaking performance; had I never watched the Swedish version of the film, I imagine I would have been content with Fincher’s take on it.  I just didn’t believe Rooney as Lisbeth.  Some things weren’t quite her doing; the bleached eyebrows seemed a bit silly to me and some of the things they did with her hair didn’t match Lisbeth’s style and personality.  The performance itself was good but fell shy of being great; at times Rooney came off as acting like a bratty antisocial child rather than an introverted yet strong-willed woman.  At other times, Rooney looked out of place in the role as if she was extremely uncomfortable.  While Noomi managed to effortlessly exude beauty and sex appeal under the hardened image, Rooney either looked a bit too freakish or simply like a pretty girl playing Gothic dress-up.

Again, it’s quite possible that I’d feel totally different if I had never seen Oplev’s movie and was given Rooney as my first living version of Lisbeth.  I do hope that the movie is successful and Fincher signs on to complete the trilogy along with Rooney and the rest of the cast.  I encourage everyone to go catch the movie in theaters while it’s still out and hopefully it’ll peak your curiosity enough for you to read the books and/or watch the Swedish trilogy.  My Noomi/Rooney debate aside, I love a story with a strong female lead that isn’t drowning in Hollywood’s standard of beauty, typical gender roles, or anything else we’ve all seen time and time again.  The character of Lisbeth is one that is easy to fall in love with and I urge you to give her a chance.

Life Begins At… Where Again?

I read yesterday that Mississippi will be voting shortly on a constitutional amendment that declares a fertilized human egg a legal person.  This “could effectively brand abortion and some forms of birth control as murder” according to The New York Times, who also report that “the amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest, and some birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills” that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories.” 

Upon conception, a fertilized egg is nothing more than a ball of unspecialized cells.  During the 5th and 6th weeks of pregnancy you begin to see the first signs of liver and lung formation as well as changes to prepare for ears and a mouth to grow, the arm buds form, and you have a bit of a tail.  In the 8th week, fingers and toes become apparent but are still webbed, the brain is developing, and genitalia begins to form.  The end of this week also marks the beginning of the fetal period, where most organs are present but still developing and operating at minimum.  The brain and nervous system don’t begin operating rapidly until week 27; activity prior to then is mostly simple reflexes and jerk reaction to stimuli.  It is at this point of major brain activity that I consider the fetus to be a person, as do many courts who have made certain cases double homicides when the mother is far enough along in her pregnancy that the fetus could survive outside the womb had it been given the chance.  Prior to that though, regardless of the joy parents feel once they learn they are expecting, what you are carrying isn’t legally or developmentally a person.  Not just yet.

Abortions are risky but they are no more dangerous than childbirth itself when performed in the first trimester, and some consider an abortion to be even safer than childbirth because there is a lesser amount of stress put on the body among other reasons.  There are women in this world who use abortion as a form of birth control, terminating pregnancies left and right because they are too irresponsible to use proper protection.  I don’t agree with abortion in this type of situation, but I also don’t oppose it because it is their right to do what they wish with their body.  They are not murdering a child nor are they taking someone’s life.  They can walk into a clinic and terminate as many pregnancies as they choose.  While I might think they’re irresponsible in their behavior, it’s not my place to comment to them on it nor is it my place to try to stop them.

What Mississippi is proposing is irrational; their argument is emotionally based rather than factually based.  They propose we decide that a sperm and an egg that joined just yesterday is the same thing as you and I, the same thing as my son and my husband.  They propose that the morning after pill, Plan B and others, should be illegal even though these pills do NOT terminate an existing pregnancy, but prevent it from happening which rids the body of nothing more than a few cells that have yet to implant and begin forming anything close to resembling a human being.  They propose that if I am raped by a strange man or a relative, I am stuck with my rape and/or incest baby because it’s the right thing to do, completely disregarding my emotional state and the fact that seeing this baby may make me insane, as it would be a constant reminder that I was violated.

Whether or not I have a baby is up to me, my husband, and partially my doctor as he or she would be there to advise me of negative consequences of conception and birth.  The government doesn’t have any say over my uterus and what I choose to keep in there or take out of there.  In general, abortions can be performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, before the fetus is well-developed and well before it can survive outside of the womb.  This is the safest time for it to be performed and there is no reason whatsoever that any female should be denied an abortion so long as she’s of age and is physically fit to undergo the procedure.  She should not be called a murderer or chastised for her decision.  She should not have the government ruling her own body.

If I had a miscarriage at 22 weeks, my baby that would have been will not receive a death certificate because there was no birth certificate.  We don’t celebrate our day of conception, we celebrate birthdays.  I’m not 31, I’m 30 because my life began when I made my appearance at the hospital in New York and not when my parents decided it was baby making time.  You can’t claim your unborn baby on taxes because they don’t exist yet and have no social security number.  What Mississippi is proposing simply doesn’t fit with the way society works.  If life truly begins when that one lucky sperm burrows into an egg, then everything above and more must change as well.

Mississippi is proposing this amendment because they don’t like abortions.  Well, I don’t like traffic but that doesn’t mean we should pass a law to keep nonessential people off of the roads.  Abortion is a touchy issue and although I happen to support a woman’s right to choose, I have zero problem with people who are pro-life so long as they aren’t the extreme idiots who bomb clinics and murder doctors in between protests.  We all have our opinions about it, but an opinion and a feeling shouldn’t dictate the law.  It’s not wrong to terminate a pregnancy in the 8th week, it just makes certain people sad.  It’s not dangerous to terminate in the first trimester (and sometimes later) but it is very dangerous to allow government to have this control over us as well as to force women to seek abortion in dangerous places since they are unable to obtain one legally.

For every pro-life argument I hear I can think of two pro-choice counterpoints.  In an ideal world we would have no murder and no premature death and no disease or heartache.  Unfortunately, we don’t live in a Pixar movie.  There are so many more important things for Mississippi and other states to do with their time other than find ways to ban abortions.  Rather than try and protect kids before they even come kids, how about spending time assisting children in our country who live in poverty, are abused and neglected, are born addicted to drugs because their mother couldn’t quit, who don’t receive proper education, who go hungry, who have disabilities and don’t get the proper assistance, or the countless other issues facing today’s youth.

I feel as though this push for government to control whether or not women can get an abortion is just one step down a slippery slope of insane controls to be handed over to the government.  Should they also tell me what method I must use during childbirth; can I use an epidural or must I use the water birthing method?  Will they allow use of condoms or will that be some sort of manslaughter since thousands of potential baby making sperm are going to waste?  How far will it be allowed to go?  I can only hope that the majority of people out there feel as I do and this insane vote to amend the constitution becomes ancient history.

UPDATE 11/9/11:   Mississippi voters Tuesday rejected a controversial amendment that would have defined life as beginning at conception.

The L Word

“It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what.  I’ve found that when you want to know the truth about someone, that someone is probably the last person you should ask.” – Gregory House, MD

While I can’t know for sure, based on what I’ve learned from raising a kid, I’d say that humans learn to lie sometime around 3 years of age.  From then on, they just get better or more creative at it.  My son is a terrible liar, but he is a very creative one.  I did my share of lying as a child as soon as I figured out that when my parents said “Tell us the truth because we’ll find out eventually anyway,” they were simply blowing smoke to get me to admit what I had done.  I have no doubt that my husband, my best friend, and my mother-in-law have all lied to me at some point in their lives.  Chances are it was a small lie, like telling me I looked fine when I looked like I was coming off of a one week bender, but a lie all the same.  My parents lied to me about a whole encyclopedia of things.  Ex-friends and ex-boyfriends brought it by the truckload.  It could be the fabricated answer to my question or maybe just an embellishment of a story.  It could be an entire event that is secretly fiction, or maybe an edit to justify their bad behavior.  Whatever size or form, it’s always there.

To a certain extent, I totally understand the “save my ass” lies.  If I trip and you didn’t see it, I may lie about it to save face.  My kid lies to try to stay out of trouble and avoid losing his Game Boy.  Who hasn’t lied to their boss and claimed an illness or car trouble when they were actually feeling fine and just overslept or maybe had a late night?  Or claiming ignorance to a police officer after being pulled over for running a light or ignoring a No U-Turn sign?  Or said “good to see you” in passing to someone they can’t stand the sight of?  Not only does it seem to come naturally, but it seems like an acceptable way to save face and keep the peace.  Unfortunately, little lies have a tendency to grow or to open a path to bigger and more serious ones.

For some reason I can’t quite wrap my mind around, rape has always been a popular thing to lie about.  I went to high school with a girl who lost her virginity at somewhat of a young age and claimed she had been raped.  I’ve known a girl who contracted a pretty embarrassing STD and told people the person who raped her was the one who infected her.  I’ve heard it used a couple of times to explain away unplanned pregnancies, as well as just a card to gain sympathy from friends.  They were all eventually exposed as liars.  I don’t need to explain how low this type of behavior is, to lie about such a vile act.  It’s a slap in the face to those out there who have been unfortunate enough to have to experience a rape and it also destroys credibility of those who have been raped and seek help or justice against their attacker.  The same goes for anyone who lies about being abused in any way, be it verbally or physically or emotionally.

I also never quite understood the people out there who treat their life as if it’s a movie and they are director and producer, editing scenes, adding and cutting content, deleting whatever doesn’t work for them and creating something completely new.  It’s appropriate in fiction sure, but fact should stay as fact.  I get annoyed when I’m watching a “based on a true story” film and find out later that during scripting and production, numerous fictional elements were added in order to spice it up and make it more interesting.  At least when it’s done on-screen, there are valid reasons for doing so; entertainment value and making money.  What justification can a regular boring person have for doing it day in and day out?  You aren’t going to profit off of telling your friends a fictional tale of some hot guy hitting on you in the mall, nor are you obligated to try to entertain your friends with tall tales of your worldly adventures.

What it all comes down to is a craving for the attention of others.  Negative attention can be turned around by throwing in a fairy tale about how someone wronged you, causing your criticizers to turn on the other person and seek to comfort you.  If you have a somewhat average life, it’s easy to have all eyes on you by inventing tons of out-there stories of your encounters with various people or the crazy things that always seem to happen to you when you leave the house.  Lying to try to build a reputation for yourself of being the life of the party by fibbing about all the people who see you in clubs and flock to you.  But why?!??  Is there something lacking in your personal life? Are you insecure or ashamed of something?  What’s wrong with making an effort to find interesting things that actually occur in your life rather than invent them on a whim?

The positive side of it is that I’m fairly certain the majority of people can easily see through the false parts of people’s stories.  Did anyone actually believe Bristol Palin when, after appearing on a reality dancing show, she got this done:

With the justification that it was necessary for medical reasons so her jaw and teeth could properly realign?  No, you got it done because countless people were calling you a cow and mocking your fat face, stating you were the only person on that show who was gaining weight rather than losing, so you fixed your jaw to look thinner.  Why lie about it?  Just be honest, admit you got surgery due to an unhappiness with your personal appearance, and be done with it because WE ALL KNOW THE TRUTH ALREADY!  There are very few people out there who are truly skilled liars; the majority of those who try are highly counterproductive and end up exposing themselves eventually.  Common sense will win every time and the bigger the bullshitter is, the more obvious their bullshit becomes.  Anyone got a shovel?

“It’s never lupus” – Gregory House, MD

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