My Kind of Love

Sometimes people ask me “Esther, why are you so outspoken? Why can’t you just talk about love? Why can’t you just love?”

Oh, but I am. Being outspoken in the face of injustice *is* love.

Here’s the thing. Love takes many different forms. It looks different ways at different times for different people.

Love looks like a gentle word to a friend who is hurting. It looks like taking a meal to a family dealing will illness or injury. It looks like a hug for a little one having a nightmare at 2am. It looks like donating money to a loved one in need. It looks like a handmade scarf for a friend who has moved to a cold place and is homesick, sending flowers to a loved one going through a difficult time, traveling to be with a family member or close friend who’s about to have a baby, and listening quietly to a loved on who is in pain. It looks like driving someone to doctor’s appointments, watching a friend’s child for an OB appointment or while they’re in class, and visiting a friend who’s in the hospital unexpectedly and taking them toiletries and a change of clothes.

Love also looks like protesting racism and police brutality, participating in marches against systemic and institutional injustice, calling your Congresspeople and asking them to fight against Executive Orders that are unconstitutional and harmful to vulnerable people and asking them to vote against unqualified Cabinet nominees who stand to do a lot of damage, and mobilizing fellow USAmericans to also call their Congresspeople towards the same end (and helping them find the right individuals and contact info to be able to do so). It looks like participating in protests against bans on refugees and immigrants based on their religion/skin color/country of origin, donating money to organizations working to help the refugees and immigrants being unjustly targeted and detained, and volunteering your services as an attorney pro-bono to those same refugees, immigrants, and organizations. Love looks like speaking up about the school to prison pipeline, systemic and institutional racism in schools, and funding organizations helping the citizens of Flint, Michigan who still don’t have clean water because “the government doesn’t have the money to help them” (but we totes have billions of dollars to build a wall that will do nothing to improve national security and serves to accomplish nothing good and much bad). Love looks like using your privilege to speak up and raise awareness about LGBTQphobia and the violence faced by transgender people, especially trans women of color. It looks like holding the feet of your elected officials to the fire when they try to take away healthcare protections for vulnerable members of society, speaking out against anti-semitism, and pushing back against ableism and the mocking of disabled people. It looks like calling out hate speech. Love looks like calling a spade a spade and not letting people hide their prejudice and bigotry behind “religious freedom” while they try to strip civil rights – INCLUDING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM – from marginalized people. Love looks like saying “No, it’s not ok to ignore our history of racism, genocide, and colonization while making heroes out of men like Christopher Columbus”. It looks like being aware of the white supremacy and racism historically present in feminism among white women.

“But… Jesus was love. You should be trying to be more like Jesus.”

That’s precisely what I’m doing. Jesus did indeed preach love… Jesus preached love for EVERYONE. Jesus didn’t just preach love for people who looked like Him (and, by the way, Jesus didn’t look like a white European dude with blue eyes and blonde hair, Jesus was a Middle Eastern man [and was NOT a Christian] and, quite frankly, probably looked more like the refugees we’re now turning away than like me or most white USAmerican politicians who are supporting the new President). Jesus preached love for all people. Jesus preached compassion for *everyone*, not just people with the same belief system or the “right” nationality.

Yes, sometimes Jesus’ words were gentle and soft.

And sometimes, Jesus’ words were… less so. I doubt that His “You brood of vipers” and “whited sepulchers” speeches were seen as very nice by the recipients. And in answer to the question “What Would Jesus Do?”, sometimes, Jesus would get a whip and knock over some tables, and I have a sneaking suspicion that if Jesus were here now, He’d already be going to town on the people perpetuating atrocities in His name.

Love doesn’t just look one way. Love can be uncomfortable, blunt, and outspoken. Love can be loud, passionate, and fierce. Love is not just words. Love is action. So if you tell me “I love people” but you’re not backing it up with your actions? That’s not the Christlike love you tell yourself it is.

I’m loud and outspoken because that’s how Jesus loved and loves me. I’m passionate because that’s how I was created, it’s who I am. I cannot say in one breath that I love God, and then sit back and be quiet in the face of injustice. Love, for me, in this time and place, looks like protests, activism, awareness, education, pushback, and advocacy. And if you try to stand in the way of my love for my friends and family, my love for my fellow human beings who are threatened by injustice and bigotry, I won’t be okay with that.

My love is not silent in the face of injustice. It is a fierce roar.

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PTSD Is Not Weakness

CW: A Certain POTUS Candidate Whom I Refuse To Name (I don’t care to contribute to his trending), suicide, mental health, depression, PTSD.
 
I have no intentions of weighing in by responding directly to/on POTUS Candidate Racist McFerretwig’s recent remarks about soldiers with PTSD. Not because I don’t think it’s important. Not because it doesn’t have me all sorts of angry. Quite the opposite. So why not? It hits too close to home. And, quite frankly, this whole year (but especially the last 6 or so months) has been REALLY difficult in a multitude of ways, some of which I haven’t even talked about publicly. Lately, I haven’t been in a good place (no I’m not suicidal, just not in a good place) and I don’t have the emotional energy to watch his remarks or even to read them to be able to weigh in.
 
Instead of talking about that walking travesty,, I want to talk more generally about depression, PTSD, and suicide.
I’d like to start with a few facts.
1. Anyone can have PTSD, it’s not limited to combat vets, servicemembers, or severe trauma.
2. PTSD is a legitimate health issue.
3. PTSD is not a sign of weakness or the result of doing something wrong, sinning, not praying enough, etc.
 
Now. Even though PTSD can affect anyone, not servicemembers, I’d like to focus on veterans with PTSD.
 
Did you know that on average, 22 veterans a day commit suicide? I’m not suicidal, but I understand all too well how people – including veterans and their dependents – can get to that point. And unfortunately, most of what’s out there and geared towards suicide prevention, including from the military, is there to help when people reach the crisis point. We need more aimed at preventing people from hitting the crisis point, which means helping veterans earlier on, whether it’s earlier detection and treatment of PTSD/depression/etc., helping prevent really crappy situations from reaching a certain level, helping prevent unjust situations in the first place, and so on. A big part of that is that we need more conversations about PTSD, depression, and other mental health issues, we need an increase in education and awareness, because those are a huge part of combatting stigma. And when it comes to servicemembers, veterans, and their family members, the stigma that is out there can all too often play a very large role in keeping them (us) from reaching out for help (including before hitting the crisis point). This means we need to be careful how we talk about mental health, depression, PTSD etc. NOT saying “that’s weakness”. NOT saying that people who commit suicide are *insert derogatory statements here*. NOT joking about suicide, NOT making light of these issues. It means trying to make sure we are a safe person to talk to, and that people know we’re a safe person to talk to. It means that when you hear someone saying this crap and perpetuating stigma, you call them on it and have a conversation about the realities of PTSD, etc.
 
PTSD, depression, suicide, and mental health issues in general are no joke and they’re not a joking matter.
 
If you or someone you know need help, please feel free to message me. I’d also like to include some other links to resources that may be of assistance.
 
This link is to the Crisis Text Line (in case you’re more comfortable texting instead of talking on the phone). 
 
Military OneSource Provides a number of different types of support and resources. 
 
This link is to the Veterans Crisis Line
 
If you/your spouse are in the military, you can contact the MFLC (Military & Family Life Counselor) for your installation. If you need help finding their info, contact me and I’ll help you figure it out. ACS or your unit should also be able to help you get this info, and you don’t have to tell them why or for whom you need it.
 
For military/dependents, Chaplains may also be an option.
 
If you have TriCare, you may find this link helpful. It’s a post I wrote for Postpartum Progress about getting help for PPMD as a military spouse, but a lot of the information is relevant to this post. 
 
If you’re having a rough time, please reach out. You don’t have to go through this alone. If someone you know is having a rough time, PLEASE reach out so they know they don’t have to go through it alone. It can make a huge difference. Reaching out literally saves lives.
 
I won’t get into all the reasons why this is so important to me, besides to say that I’ve been there. After my first baby was born, I had 2 hospitalizations courtesy of Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders dragging me down into a really dark place. I almost didn’t make it out alive, but I did. In large part, I made it out because of people who reached out to me, and people who responded with love when I reached out. If you’re that person and in that place, know this: you matter, it’s NOT hopeless, you are loved, and the world is a better place because you’re in it.

On Being a “Good Ally”: It’s Not About You

Today, let’s talk about being good allies/co-conspirators with oppressed/marginalized communities.

If you want to be a good ally/co-conspirator, realize that it’s not about you. Being a good ally/co-conspirator is not about getting cookies, accolades, praise, awards, and attention. It’s not about getting patted on the back because you’re so brave to speak up for what’s right and fighting against the oppression of human beings. It’s not about recognition and warm fuzzies. If those things are your motivation, you’re doing it wrong and you need to sit down and take a good hard look at yourself and rethink your methods. You probably need to sit down, be quiet, and listen. I know that it’s hard to accept criticism. I know it’s uncomfortable. TRUST me, I am intimately familiar with that discomfort. But instead of getting defensive and continuing to make it about you and why the people you claim to want/try to be an ally/co-conspirator with are so mean and you’re so hurt, stop and sit with your discomfort. Look deep within yourself and ask “WHY do I have such a negative reaction to the people I claim to want to be an ally/co-conspirator with/to/for calling me out on the ways I’m causing them further pain?”. Chances are very good that if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find that your discomfort shines a light on a shadow of privilege and problematic behavior/thought patterns/beliefs/etc. And once you have seen that mess for what it is, you can start to weed it out.

And keep in mind that no matter how uncomfortable you are (whether it’s discomfort due to being called out by the people you claim to want to be an ally/co-conspirator to, or discomfort because of angry reactions from the people being confronted with their own problematic behaviors), keep in mind that your pain and discomfort is not equal and comparable to the pain and discomfort faced by the people you claim to want to be an ally/co-conspirator to. Example: let’s say there’s a man who says he wants to be an ally to feminists because he recognizes that sexism and misogyny are still very much alive and active institutionally and systematically as well as on individual levels. Let’s call him Bob. Bob, on a regular basis, speaks up about and against sexism and misogyny, to include calling other men out when they say and do sexist and misogynistic things. Bob is open about his support of feminists. Bob probably shares posts from websites and FB pages that promote intersectional feminism and from a variety of individual feminists in an attempt to signal boost their voices. Eventually (possibly sooner rather than later), people (probably mostly men) start lashing out at Bob. “HOW DARE YOU say sexism is a thing. How DARE YOU share that terrible #YesAllWomen hashtag. NOT ALL MEN!!!! OMG why are you divisive? You’re such a fucking idiot, Bob, and I don’t care who in the family I offend. Half the family has you blocked from their newsfeeds because you’re so offensive. You’re the one being sexist by saying this stuff.” and that’s probably just the tame responses. Over time, Bob gets more and more pushback. Bob probably loses some friends. Bob may even have family members who lash out, talk about him behind his back, block him, etc. People say some very hurtful things to Bob.

Bob’s pain is very real. It sucks to have people lash out at you when you speak up for what’s right, especially when it’s people who claim to love you and have previously claimed to just LOVE how passionate you are about your advocacy for other people and for doing what is right (but that’s only when your cause doesn’t make them uncomfortable by confronting their sexism/racism/LGBTQ antagonism, Islamaphobia, white supremacy, etc.). Bob is perfectly justified in being hurt and upset that his loved ones treat him like this. But even though Bob is in pain, Bob needs to realize that the pain he feels and the discomfort he feels due to negative reactions to his allyship is NOT the same as the pain experienced by women due to institutional and systemic oppression and marginalization on top of the same on an individual level. The pushback he gets for speaking up is NOT the same as the lived experiences of women, and he should not compare the two and try to put them on the same level. Bob needs to understand that speaking up is a choice that he makes, and he can choose to step back if he needs a break, whereas women don’t get to step back from being a woman when exhaustion hits because they’ve been living under the oppression since birth. Bob still has his male privilege and the privilege of taking a breather if he chooses/needs to.

This example applies far more generally, not just to men trying to be feminist allies. If you’re trying to be an ally with members of a marginalized/oppressed group, you DO NOT get to compare any discomfort/pain you experience with the pain and lived experiences of people who are members of that group. Being an ally and experiencing angry reactions from people who are unhappy having their privilege and problematic/oppressive behavior and words called out is not the same as experiencing the oppression experienced by the people you want to ally with. Your lived experience is not and will never be the same as theirs. Being an ally doesn’t make you a member of the community, and trying to say it does and force your way in takes space away from the people who actually do belong to that community, and that’s not ok. It’s not ok for Bob to go into a feminist space and make the feminist space about him, and then get angry and lash out at women who say “Dude, not cool, not ok, BTW you’re mansplaining too now and you’re being condescending and talking over me, and you’re being a crappy ally. Stop it.” It’s not ok for Bob  to go into what are supposed to be safe spaces for women and make those spaces about him. It’s not ok for Bob to take space away from the women who need it.

As a cis-gender woman and feminist, I can say that I don’t expect male allies to get their allyship with feminism right the first time. I realize there’s a learning curve, and that we are all growing and progressing as we move through life. I’m certainly not perfect, and I have made mistakes in my attempts to be an ally, and I will again in the future. That’s one reason I know that sitting with your discomfort can help you learn and grow, and reacting defensively and closing off your ears while insisting you’re right does the opposite, and can drive away the people you claim you want to help, and can mark you as not being a safe person. Being open to listening and learning, realizing you’re not perfect and you will ALWAYS have more to learn and more growing to do, is vital.

If you want to be a good ally, if you want to do the right thing by standing up for what’s right and using your privilege to speak up against oppression, that’s great. Realize that that’s going to come with discomfort and pain. Doing the right thing often does. When you get criticism and pushback from the people you’re trying to be an ally/co-conspirator with, stop and listen, and try to determine how you can apply it to your life. Don’t compare your discomfort with the pain caused by systemic oppression. Remember, it’s not about you. If you’re making it about you, something is wrong and you need to step back, sit down, be quiet, and listen.

Who’s Really Disrespecting the Flag?

CW: This post discusses racism, police brutality, the killing of People of Color by “law enforcement”.

 

kaepernick-knee

Photo: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images

Over the past few weeks, my social media feeds have been full of discussions about Colin Kaepernick and his choice to take a knee during the National Anthem as a form of protest against injustice, racism, and police brutality. I’ve seen a lot of people crying foul and complaining about how disrespectful he’s being to the flag, to the Anthem, to the United States of America, to USAmerican Servicemembers and veterans, etc. I’ve had some thoughts simmering about this topic and I want to share them, specifically for my fellow white people, especially those who feel like Kaepernick is being disrespectful. And please keep in mind, I say this as someone who is a veteran of the US Army, who is the spouse of a combat veteran who is in the process of transitioning out of the US Army, and who has a number of other relatives and close friends in various branches of the US military. I’ve spent a lot of time around the military, on installations, and thinking about what the military and our oaths as servicemembers stand for and about what constitutes respect and honor for the country and the flag. (I don’t think that makes me better than anyone, I just wanted to preemptively put that out there since people tend to assume I have no connections to the military and try to tell me “soldiers/vets/their spouses/families think/feel blah” as a way to try to shut me up.)

 

Personally, I don’t believe that Kaepernick is being disrespectful at all, he’s doing something that is totally in keeping with the very roots of the USA and with what the USA and the flag are supposed to stand for. The USA was founded out of the desire of white people to be free from tyranny, to be able to live their lives as they saw fit. The USA supposedly stands for democracy, freedom, and justice. Heck. The Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase “With liberty and justice for all.” That’s what the flag is supposed to stand for. That’s what our country is supposed to stand for.

But. There’s a problem with that.

Liberty, justice, freedom, and democracy aren’t a reality for everyone in the USA.

What?!? What are you talking about?!?

I speak of the rampant and unchecked killing of People of Color (POC) by “law enforcement”, the justification and defense of it by far too many white people, and the fact that even when there are “investigations” and on the rare occasions when it gets prosecuted, no actual accountability comes from it.

How can we say the the flag and the Anthem and the USA stand for justice, democracy, andpoc freedom for all when that really only applies to white people? There is no justice for Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Eric Harris, Michael Brown, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Rekia Boyd, and Freddie Gray. I don’t exactly hold out hope that there will be justice for Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Terence Crutcher, or Tyre King, or any of the other POC who have been or will be killed by LE. The system is rigged against it.

The USA was founded by (white) people who wanted the right to protest and speak out against injustice without fearing for their lives and well-being, without fearing repercussions like losing their livelihoods or having the King send his soldiers after them. Speaking up against injustice is one of the core things the USA is supposed to represent. To my way of thinking, Kaepernick taking a knee during the Anthem (a song with racist content and roots, but we’ll save that convo for a different day) to protest racism and police brutality – things which go against all this country is supposed to represent – is highly patriotic, not disrespectful.

What is disrespectful is that people who have sworn to protect and defend the public are allowed to go out and shoot that public, to kill people because of their skin color. Disrespectful is the fact that we allow the badge they wear to be a free pass. Disrespectful is allowing “law enforcement” to get away with taking the lives of POC. Disrespectful is the fact that someone taxpayers employ to keep the peace are allowed to do the very opposite with no accountability. Disrespectful is justifying and defending killings that we would demand a life sentence or the death penalty for if the people doing the killing didn’t wear a badge. Disrespectful is saying a CHILD deserved to be shot within seconds of the police pulling up. If it hadn’t been police, we would call what happened to Tamir Rice a “drive by shooting”. We decry these actions when they’re taken by gangs but then allow the police officers who do these things to keep collecting a salary. Disrespectful is Disrespectful is responding to posts about the injustice of a man with his hands up beside a broken down car being killed with “Well, he should have…” What’s disrespectful to the US flag and the USA is defending state sanctioned murder.

 

I wasn’t in the US Army for very long, due to a medical discharge, but when I enlisted a army-esthercouple of years after 9/11, I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and my country. I may not have had a very long career, but I spent it trying to serve my country and fully intending to have a long career, even willing to give my life trying to save others as a Combat Medic. I hear people say “soldiers and veterans didn’t sign up so Kaepenick could diss the flag by taking a knee during the anthem.” Actually, I did. I joined the military wiling to defend his right to do what he’s doing without people saying he should be fired or arrested. You know what I did *not* join the military for? I sure as hell didn’t enlist so white people could get a job swearing a similar oath, promising to protect and defend the public paying their salary, and then take the lives of members of that public with black or brown skin. I did NOT enlist to defend systemic and institutional racism. I didn’t enlist so people could use me as a political token to excuse the silencing of POC speaking out against police brutality, inequality, and state sanctioned murder, all things that are in direct opposition to the Constitution I swore to uphold and defend.

kaepernickI’d far rather see Kaepernick take a knee during the anthem in protest of police brutality than see “law enforcement” officers killing the people they’re supposed to serve. I’d rather see Kaepernick take a knee during the anthem to protest inequality in how POC are treated than see people defend and justify “law enforcement” officers killing POC in cold blood and doing so while flying the flag of the USA. I’d rather see Kaepernick take a knee during the anthem in protest of racism and injustice than see people defend and justify that racism and injustice in the name of the United States of America. I’d rather see every team in the NFL, NBA, WNBA, NHL, MLB, and every other sports association in this country take a knee during the Anthem than see white people continue to defend and justify acts that should never even happen and invoke me and my siblings-in-arms as the reason why.

There is indeed a great deal of disrespect to the United States of America, the flag, and servicemembers and veterans happening today… but Colin Kaepernick isn’t the culprit. Who’s really disrespecting the flag? The culprit is the “law enforcement” officers taking black and brown lives and the white people saying that it’s ok. Just think about that.

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Note: I apologize for the oddities with paragraph spacing, my blog post editor window thingy is being… difficult… as is my internet.

Rape Is NOT a Consequence of Drinking Alcohol

Content Warning: This blog post contains discussion of rape, victim shaming/blaming, and Brock Turner (the Stanford rapist trial boondoggle). Here’s a picture of one of my cats (hiding from a guide dog in training who was staying with us), in lieu of white space, in case you need to exit out without reading this link. I *totally* get that, and you have my solidarity. ❤ I’ve had to click out of a few links, or even avoid clicking them. :-/

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Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion of what happens when people drink alcohol, discussion of what the consequences are for drinking, especially if you get drunk, especially-est if you get falling down black-out drunk. As I have some experience with this, I thought I’d shed some light on the matter.

The consequences of drinking alcohol include:

  • Getting tipsy/buzzed
  • Getting drunk
  • Becoming emotional
  • Peeing a lot
  • Dehydration
  • Difficulty walking
  • Passing out
  • Throwing up
  • Hangover

Please note that you may not have all of these symptoms. The symptoms you experience depend on a variety of factors and vary from person to person. They also vary for the same person depending on factors including (but not limited to) what you drink, when you drink it, how fast you drink it, your food intake, your water intake, medications, medical conditions, etc. This is a list of some of the symptoms (or consequences) you *might* experience after drinking alcohol.

Now, let’s talk about…

Things that are unequivocally NOT consequences/symptoms of drinking alcohol:

  • Rape
  • Sexual assault

I know it’s a shorter list, but please, read it again. Read it a few times. I’ll wait.

In the wake of the Brock Turner boondoggle, in which a man was convicted of raping an unconscious woman and received only a 6 month sentence in county jail, I’ve heard multiple people make remarks along these lines.

“They’re both facing the consequences of their choices.”
“She shouldn’t have drunk so much.”
“Things would probably have turned out differently if she hadn’t gotten so drunk she blacked out.”
“She needs to take responsibility for her choice to drink/get that drunk.”
“The person who gave her her last drink holds some responsibility too.”
“This is why women shouldn’t drink very much.”
“Women who drink need to make sure they have a trusted friend who’s sober with them.”
“She made a choice to drink and now she’s paying for it.”
“Please drink responsibly so this type of thing doesn’t happen.”
“Her life is being affected by her drinking choices.”
“Choices like theirs have consequences.”
“Never set yourself up to be attacked or raped.”
“It’s too bad she chose to drink to incapacitation and now has to face the consequences of that choice.”

Here’s the thing. I’m going to let you in on something that is apparently not a known fact to everyone. This is REALLY important, so pay close attention, ok? You ready? Here we go.

Rape is not a consequence of alcohol. Rape is not a consequence of drinking alcohol. Rape is not a consequence of getting drunk. Rape is the consequence of someone who decides to rape someone else. RAPE IS NOT A CONSEQUENCE OF DRINKING.

There is only one person who is responsible for the fact that Brock Turner raped a woman who was drunk and unconscious. That person is Brock Turner. And Brock Turner didn’t rape this woman because he was drunk or because she was drunk. Brock Turner raped this woman because he’s a jerk who said “To hell with consent. My wants are more important than her humanity, and consent doesn’t matter.” It wasn’t because he was drunk, because rape isn’t a consequence of drinking.

I’ve been drunk before, to varying degrees (everything from vaguely buzzed to vomiting, blacking out, and probably had some alcohol poisoning going one. I’ve also been raped and otherwise sexually assaulted. And you know what? The two happened independently of one another. With the exception of one time (and that time involved an abusive and manipulative relationship and grooming that had been happening for a while including while sober, ad was generally a crappy situation, but isn’t that always the case?), I wasn’t raped when I was drinking. I was raped/sexually assaulted when I was sober. And the rapists? Also sober.

I’ll tell you one story in particular. Years ago, there was a night where I was really unhappy, and I ended up *really* drunk. Like, really really really drunk. I couldn’t stand up or walk straight. I ended up having to be carried up the stairs, stuck in a shower, and put to bed once I was clean, dried off, dressed, and no longer smelled of vodka and orange Fanta (terrible combination, if you’re wondering). I spent most of the night vomiting and it was well over 24 hours before I was actually sober. I blacked out at a couple of points. It’s taken me YEARS to finally remember most of the night, but there are still a few blocks that are missing. Quite frankly, looking back, I’m pretty sure I had alcohol poisoning. Fortunately, the friends I had around me – both male and female – were decent people. Despite the fact that some of them were drunk and I was drunk, nobody raped me, and I didn’t rape anyone. One of the guys was the one who carried me upstairs and deposited me with the female friends who got me cleaned up and taken care of. He was alone with me in a stairwell while I was drunk… no rape happened. Why? Because rape isn’t a consequence of drinking alcohol (or doing drugs).

If rape were a consequence of drinking, why do sober people rape? Why are sober people raped? Rape isn’t about alcohol, just as it’s not about what the person who was raped was wearing, whether they were flirting, whether they initially said yes and then changed their mind, whether they said yes to some petting but no to anything further, whether they were doing drugs, whether they’re a sex worker, whether they are sex-positive, or anything else. Rape isn’t even about sex. Rape is about power. Rape is about someone who decides that what they want matters more than the person they want it from.

There is nothing I can do that makes me responsible for my rape. Being raped is not a choice I make. Being raped is not the consequence of any of my choices. If I am raped, it is not my fault in any way, shape or form. To say that it is, to say the things I listed above in the examples of things people say, is to blame me for someone else raping me.

This line of thinking of “She chose to drink irresponsibly” is victim blaming. It’s a part of rape culture. It takes some of the culpability and responsibility off of the shoulders of the rapist and puts it squarely on the shoulders of the rape survivor. That’s not right. Unfortunately, a lot of the people I see saying “She’s now dealing with a devastating consequence to her choice to get drunk” don’t realize that that’s them blaming her for what the rapist did. They say “What?!? OF COURSE I’m not blaming her! He’s the rapist, it’s not her fault. Why would you think I blame her? I don’t blame her for being raped. I just think she should have made better choices.” And they don’t see the contradiction. They don’t see that they’re putting the choice to rape on par with the choice to drink, when they’re not at all the same thing.

You should also know that if this applies to you, if you’re one of the ones saying “Well, it’s a consequence of her getting so drunk, she should have been more responsible in her drinking”, you’re telling the people around you that should they/we ever be raped/sexually assaulted, you are not a safe person to come talk to. Why? Because you’re likely to sit there and – even without realizing – find some way to pin the blame on us and make it OUR fault. That’s one of the things you say when you make it about the rape/sexual assault survivor instead of leaving it all on the rapists shoulders. Think really hard about whether that’s the message you want to send. Hopefully, it’s not, and now that you know better you’ll do better.

I’d like to share the words of the woman whom Brock Turner chose to rape. This is part of the letter she wrote (you can read the full thing here)and read as her victim statement at his sentencing. Her words are powerful and spot on, and it’s only right that she be given airtime to voice this.

“He has done irreversible damage to me and my family during the trial and we have sat silently, listening to him shape the evening. But in the end, his unsupported statements and his attorney’s twisted logic fooled no one. The truth won, the truth spoke for itself.

You are guilty. Twelve jurors convicted you guilty of three felony counts beyond reasonable doubt, that’s twelve votes per count, thirty ­six yeses confirming guilt, that’s one hundred percent, unanimous guilt. And I thought finally it is over, finally he will own up to what he did, truly apologize, we will both move on and get better. Then I read your statement.

If you are hoping that one of my organs will implode from anger and I will die, I’m almost there. You are very close. This is not a story of another drunk college hook­up with poor decision making. Assault is not an accident. Somehow, you still don’t get it. Somehow, you still sound confused. I will now read portions of the defendant’s statement and respond to them.

You said, Being drunk I just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could she.

Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.

You said, If I wanted to get to know her, I should have asked for her number, rather than asking her to go back to my room.

I’m not mad because you didn’t ask for my number. Even if you did know me, I would not want to be in this situation. My own boyfriend knows me, but if he asked to finger me behind a dumpster, I would slap him. No girl wants to be in this situation. Nobody. I don’t care if you know their phone number or not.

You said, I stupidly thought it was okay for me to do what everyone around me was doing, which was drinking. I was wrong.

Again, you were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me. You were wrong for doing what nobody else was doing, which was pushing your erect dick in your pants against my naked, defenseless body concealed in a dark area, where partygoers could no longer see or protect me, and my own sister could not find me. Sipping fireball is not your crime. Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper to insert your finger into my body, is where you went wrong. Why am I still explaining this.

You said, During the trial I didn’t want to victimize her at all. That was just my attorney and his way of approaching the case.

Your attorney is not your scapegoat, he represents you. Did your attorney say some incredulously infuriating, degrading things? Absolutely. He said you had an erection, because it was cold.

You said, you are in the process of establishing a program for high school and college students in which you speak about your experience to “speak out against the college campus drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that.”

Campus drinking culture. That’s what we’re speaking out against? You think that’s what I’ve spent the past year fighting for? Not awareness about campus sexual assault, or rape, or learning to recognize consent. Campus drinking culture. Down with Jack Daniels. Down with Skyy Vodka. If you want talk to people about drinking go to an AA meeting. You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not how to drink less.

Drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Goes along with that, like a side effect, like fries on the side of your order. Where does promiscuity even come into play? I don’t see headlines that read, Brock Turner, Guilty of drinking too much and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Campus Sexual Assault. There’s your first powerpoint slide. Rest assured, if you fail to fix the topic of your talk, I will follow you to every school you go to and give a follow up presentation.

Lastly you said, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin a life.

A life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”

(Note: The survivor has made a follow-up statement addressing why she chooses to remain anonymous, and it’s not only to protect her identity. Read more here.)

Wow.

Alcohol didn’t rape this woman. Brock Turner raped this woman. Not because he was drunk or because she was drunk, but because he chose to rape her, to act with total disregard for her body, her autonomy, and her rights. He treated her like a possession, not a person. Alcohol isn’t a sentient being, Alcohol doesn’t take over brains and force them to rape.

Before I go, I want to say it one more time, because it’s that important for people to realize.

Rape is not a consequence of drinking alcohol. Rape is a consequence of a person who decides to rape someone else. Alcohol does not cause rape. Rapists cause rape.

Resources for rape/sexual assault survivors and those who know/care about them

Now, I’d like to take a minute to switch over to talking about resources for rape/sexual assault survivors and the people who know/care about them, because that’s *really* important.

If you or someone you know has been raped, it is not your/their fault. There are resources to help you. You can contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and they can chat with you confidentially 24/7 via internet or phone. They can also help you find local support. RAINN also has a page with national resources that might be of some use. Additionally, you can research and see if you/they have a rape crisis center nearby. RAINN also has a page with info about the DoD Safe Helpline. 

“DoD Safe Helpline provides a way for DoD community members affected by sexual assault to get help. These services are provided by RAINN through a contract with the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO).” –RAINN: DoD Safe Helpline.

Other options for members of the US military and their dependents include

  • Calling your local MTF and they should have an option on the phone menu to get put through to the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.
  • The DoD SAPRO (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office) website includes a section for victim assistance, which includes a breakdown of assistance options (including reporting options) by duty status: Active Duty, Reserve Component, Transitioning, Veteran, DoD Civilian, DoD Dependent, and DoD Contractor.

If you are a college student, you may have options/resources available through your campus nurse/health clinic, if you have one.

Planned Parenthood also has a page with information about rape/sexual assault. One thing of note from their page:

“Some hospitals/clinics have Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) programs. These programs have nurses who are specially trained to collect evidence and provide medical care following a sexual assault. You do not have to cooperate with a law enforcement investigation in order to receive a medical forensic exam at no cost. The National Rape Hotline should be able to direct you to the nearest SANE program.

Many people who have experienced sexual violence are concerned about pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You can come to any Planned Parenthood health center for Emergency Contraception (within 5 days) and STI testing.” –Planned Parenthood: Rape/Sexual Assault Information

These are some of the main resources I usually direct people to, and they should be able to point you in the direction you need to go and give you advice specific to your situation. If you are a rape/sexual assault survivor, I am so sorry for what you’re going through. Know that there are people out here, including me, who support you 100% and unconditionally. If you need help, please reach out. If you’re not sure what you should do, you can reach out. You are not alone.