Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “rape”

Rape is a Crime. So is Silence.

Disclaimer: I am writing about a topic I know nothing about. I am a man. I have never forced myself upon a woman, never been forced, and it is a topic that I feel no one is talking about. I live in the progressive San Francisco Bay Area and I am experiencing a wave of shock at the three incidents I have heard about recently.

This is America…California…San Francisco…and it feels like I am living in a primitive or totalitarian society.

All three incidents (as much as I was told) involved women who reached a point where during the attack they went still, played dead, from fear that they could not stand more physical abuse and pain, or maybe for fear of their lives. They tried to mentally detach, to distance themselves from what was being done to them.

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As far as I understand, this desperate survival act, compromised their ability to have the criminals who did this to them brought to justice. The fact that the physical evidence could have been from just having ‘rough (consensual) sex’ means that they are not believed that they were raped, and are often treated as sluts, liars, or unstable.

The fact that the women I spoke with were apprehensive about reporting the crime to the police is a terrible reflection of our police force. Why are they having to report this to a man, in a uniform, who symbolizes ‘power-over’? Do we not have enough women in the police force that it is standard procedure for a woman police officer to interview the (female) victim?

So this is a man’s world. Maybe, but here is California we are blessed with some amazing women in leadership. Where the fuck is Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and the other strong women leaders I look up to and admire? In my work, and the activism part of my life, I meet such incredibly strong, empowered women. Why the silence? Where are the men in power who have the responsibility to protect all citizens?

When I first came to California, a gay friend was explaining the fight to crush DOMA here. He said something like: It has to start here. California is a start-up nation, not only in hi-tech, but in social policy. If it can be done anywhere, California must lead the way to change.

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That a person must walk around for the rest of his/her life with this crime eating away inside, constantly in a  state of hyper-vigilance, being a painful reminder every time someone close tries to be intimate with them, is a life sentence.

Bringing the rapist to justice will never erase what they did to the victim, but it might go some way to closure. At least there is not that haunting feeling that the assailant is still walking free.

If we are to suggest that America has any claim to moral and social leadership, if we are to preach freedom to the world, then we must eradicate this criminal act and the damaging silence that surrounds it.  

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, Ashbar – Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Porn Website For Teens?

My teenage son wants to watch the Game of Thrones series with me over the summer ­– a father/son bonding opportunity? I rarely pass up one of these increasingly rare opportunities. But I baulked at this.

It was not the questionable morals and values of many of the main characters in a series where even the heroes are rarely portrayed as gallant. Neither was it the violence that can be quite graphic. I baulked at the sex, not because I don’t want my son seeing explicit sexual scenes, but because I felt these were not healthy examples of sex.

The sex scenes in Game of Thrones are often about men using their power over women, or women using sex to manipulate men. There are many instances where the man unceremoniously mounts the woman from behind, enjoys a couple of grunting thrusts and climaxes (we assume). He then ties up his breeches and saunters off.

imgresIt seems to me that this reflects much of what is out there in Internet porn. I’ve never watched BDSM, rape or violence scenes, even if they are fictional, so you will excuse my assumption that these are not what I would consider healthy sexual encounters.

I do not want my son learning about sex from such videos or scenes. While we have discussed the birds and the bees, and the difference between having sex and making love, I have to acknowledge that there is only so much he is willing to learn from his father.

When I was his age, I had seen a few sex scenes on the then-new (British) Channel 4 – The History Man anyone? – but this seems very tame compared to the options now available with the Internet. And I was woefully prepared for my first time.

imgres-1So I was fascinated to discover an article in the Daily Mail – Make Love Not Porn – in which Cindy Gallop, an entrepreneur, has launched a website which has already over 100,000 subscribers.  Ms. Gallop told ABC’s Nightline: “Children are viewing porn years before they have their own sexual experiences and it is shaping their view of sex. That is why showing real lovemaking is so important.

“Young men and boys alike have a warped sense of what sex is like. I want to change that.”

There is a statistic floating around the Internet that claims 90% of children between the ages of 8-16 years have visited porn sites. I could not find the study, but even if it is ‘only’ 50%, I am not sure I want a generation receiving their sex education from Internet pornography.

I plan to check out Ms. Gallop’s website. In the old days, a father would leave Mayfair and Penthouse magazines in a hidden place that his son would find and hope he can connect the dots. A positive website showing healthy sex might seems a better option for the 21st century.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter. For more about the author, check out his website.

Living In Fear

I grew up in a rough area of London during a time when there was a lot of racism on the streets. It was the 1970’s and the British Nationalist Party (then the National Front) were becoming too popular. I learned to be constantly aware of where I was walking, never wearing headphones (we had walkmans then), never going on the top of a double-decker bus, watching for alleys and dark driveways etc.

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It was a stage that I am glad I have passed through (I still cross the road if I see a group of white men with short hair or shaved heads), but half our population doesn’t get that opportunity.

A female friend of mine, young and attractive, with long blond hair, said these words a few weeks back that are still haunting me: Every woman imagines her own rape. She was quoting someone else, but I could only think of those women I know and love.

When she had moved to the city, her mother had urged her to cut her beautiful hair short, warned her never to wear flip-flops (the attacker can step on them from behind and trip you), and brought her pepper spray.

When my wife began working at a clinic in a rough area and needed to lock up in the dark and walk to her car in a deserted car park, I bought the best pepper spray I could find. I was probably more scared than she was, but it was an insight into what goes through every woman’s head.

images-2 We live in a country where we believe we are free. The question is, are we truly free, when half of our population needs to continually look over their shoulder?

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter. For more about the author, check out his website.

The World is Your Facebook – Roger Ingalls

This afternoon I received an interesting email from a friend that contained a PowerPoint presentation showing facts about the world. It proportionally represented the entire population on Earth as if we were only a village containing one hundred people. It made the numbers more comprehensible.

Facebook World

Let’s do something similar and bring the facts even closer to home by making the world our Facebook page. I’d like you to imagine that the only people in existence are also your Facebook friends. The average user has 130 friends. You may have more, or less, but let’s represent the entire human race relative to the average Facebook user. We have demographically shrunk the world proportionally.

Your world, your Facebook:

1)      You have friended all 130 people on Earth.

2)      You are friends with 67 women and 63 men.

3)      Seventy-four (74) of your friends are Asian, 27 are European, 18 are from the Americas (north, central and south), and 10 are from Africa.

4)      You have 43 Christian, 29 Muslim, 18 Hindu, 9 Buddhist and 1 Jewish friend.

5)      While worshipping their God, 60 of your friends live in fear of assault or death.

6)      Fourteen (14) of your friends are gay.

7)      You have 8 very rich friends that control 60% of the world’s wealth.

8)      Poverty hurts 104 of your friends.

9)      Sixty-five (65) of your friends are hungry or malnourished.

10)   Ninety-one (91) of your friends cannot read or write.

11)   One of your friends is giving birth.

12)   One of your friends is about to die.

13)   Only one of your friends has a college degree.

14)   Only one of your friends has a computer.

15)   If you have clothes on your back, sleep with a roof over your head and have food in the fridge, you live better than 98 of your friends.

Proportionally shrinking the entire population down to the size of the average Facebook user’s friendship-reach, did make it easier for me to rationalize the true state of the world. It was a good mental exercise.

I’m fortunate and should be more thankful.

Akin and the Women – Tom Rossi

Congressman Todd Akin (R. Missouri) has violated a sacred trust. For this he has been shunned by his own party.

Is the trust a healthy respect for women? Get serious. It’s the pinky-swear that Republicans take that they will never actually express (in public) their deep-seeded, voodoo superstitions and attitudes about women.

In case you’ve been living under a rock – and a big one – Todd Akin, last week, said: “…that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, uh, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” (his emphasis).

Wow. I actually thought that writing about this would be easy – there’s so much to work with… so much to be enraged about. But I find my head spinning with disbelief. Representative Akin a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. He is on one of the most important legisative committees in this country on science, and he must have flunked high-school biology. Believe it or not, this is what offends me the most. But then there’s so much to choose from.

Another thing that bothers me is that what Akin and his braintrust appear to be saying, between the lines (not too well hidden), is that it’s OK for just a few women (rare?) to be forced to carry their rapists baby. Akin said that the rapist should be punished, not the “child.” Paul Ryan apparently agrees that rape is a “method of conception.” I wonder what their attitudes would be if they accepted the 100,000 (which could be a really low estimate) rapes that occur in the U.S. each year as “legitimate.”

It’s tempting to think that this ongoing fiasco represents an inherent misogyny in the Republican Party. It’s really more base and less dramatic than that. What women and “sympathetic men” (men with a heart and brain) don’t realize is that women are the production system for a resource – labor power.

Would you let your lawnmower stop cutting the grass because it felt violated by your hands on its handle? Would you let your car stop taking you to work because there had been no justice when someone dinged the door in a parking lot and the car was upset about it? Of course not.

Women produce the babies that will, according to Republican plans, not become educated unless they can afford it. They will, instead, get trained to do the work that big-time capitalists need done in factories or financial enterprises or private medical practices or picking strawberries. Women are the cotton gins of America. Or, more accurately, they are the inanimate machines that make other machines that make other, useful items.

Republican capitalists don’t hate their cotton gins. They need them to keep on plugging away. Don’t fret your loss of humanity, ladies. Welcome to the club of those who don’t really matter except for the job we perform and the value we add for someone richer (i.e. better) than us. I ruptured a disk in my back, once, working at a warehouse. That’s nothing compared to being forced to have a rapist’s baby, but the pain stays with me and reminds me of my position in this world.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Did You Get The Message, Todd Akin?

I wanted to write about your disgusting comment, Mr. Akin, but I really didn’t know what to say. I’m speechless and appalled. Thankfully, there are others far more articulate than me and far more credible. I hope you read Eve Ensler’s article in the Huffington Post. I hope you read every word of it.

Eve Ensler

You offended every woman (every man and child) who has ever been violate, ever been threatened. You have offended every person who loves a wife, sister, daughter, friend, who has been raped. 

If you are so out-of-touch with the people you represent, you have no right to hold the position you do. The right thing is to resign and go home. But before you do – reread Ms. Ensler’s article.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

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