The Reality of Rape

Standard

A lot has been said lately about Todd Akin’s horribly ignorant statements regarding rape. People are up in arms over the whole thing, and rightfully so, demanding that he drop out of the Senate race, and politics all together. It’s refreshing to see politicians on both sides of the aisle denouncing his statements. But..

But the biggest thing that scares me about all of this isn’t the fact that a political leader believes this kind of crap. It’s the fact that he’s not alone. No matter what kind of backlash we’re seeing via various media outlets, you know there are plenty of people sitting in their living rooms saying, “Well, I don’t see what’s wrong with that. Lots of women claim rape because they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions.” or “He said he talked to doctors. I bet he’s totally right about lady parts shutting down when REAL rape happens.”

There was an opinion piece on CNN written by a woman who became pregnant as a result of rape. The comments on the piece were nauseating and absolutely terrifying. While there were a lot of supportive people, there were several who questioned her story, to put it kindly.

Here’s the thing. I want to hate Todd Akin. I want to hate every right wing nut job who believes that rape is something that happens when a stranger follows a woman who’s hanging around where she shouldn’t be. I want to hate them with every fiber of my being. But I can’t. I can’t because I can see why they are hiding behind their ignorance. It’s not simply because reality doesn’t fit with their agenda. It’s because reality disrupts their entire ethos. They live in a bubble, cushioned against anything that might threaten their black and white views of the world. If they admit that rape happens, that it happens often and knows no socioeconomic or racial boundaries, then they have to admit that it could happen to their own wives and daughters.

A few years ago I was chased through a parking garage in broad daylight by a stranger. I had just left a job interview. I vaguely noticed that a young man was walking behind me, but wrote it off as being my own paranoia. That’s what women are taught, you know. We’re taught to feel guilty for being afraid because there aren’t REALLY monsters lurking around every corner, are there?

Anyway, I decided to take the stairs when I got into the garage because there was such a long line at the elevator. After a couple of flights I noticed that the young man was still behind me. I quickened my pace, and so did he. I began to run, and so did he. Not wanting to be trapped in a stairwell, I ran out the first door I came to, only to realize that I couldn’t remember where my car was parked and the level I’d come out on was completely deserted.

He kept pace, several feet behind me as I continued to give him “What the Hell are you doing?” looks over my shoulder. Finally, an older couple in a mini van came around the corner. I reached out and hit their window, begging them to stop. When they did, the man dodged between a couple of cars, trying to look like he was getting into one.

“I think that guy is following me. Can you take me to my car?” I said as loud as I could. As soon as he heard me say that, he ran.

That incident has stayed with me for the last five years. I still can’t walk through a parking garage without calling my husband and keeping him on the phone.

I wasn’t even assaulted and the entire fabric of my reality changed that day. My fear was no longer unfounded. The idea that I watched too many crime shows, or didn’t trust people enough, held no weight anymore. I learned that a woman, dressed in slacks and a nice sweater, heading home to her five month old baby at 2:00 in the afternoon, could be a target. ANY woman could be a target.

We trivialize rape and scapegoat the victims because admitting that it could happen to anyone hits too close to home. Rapists are going to rape. They aren’t good people who were led on and just couldn’t stop. They are monsters who choose to put their own sexual desires above their humanity. Whether it’s a stranger stalking a woman in the dead of night, a college kid who thinks he deserves a little something for buying dinner, a husband who believes he’s entitled, or a family member who preys on trust, they are monsters all the same.

Unless and until the conversation changes from “how to avoid being a victim,” to “women are people, not sex toys or reproductive tools,” no woman is safe. The long running narrative that teaches men and women that male sexual desire is somehow beyond their control needs to stop.

I have two daughters and a son. My daughters will grow up knowing that they are more than the sum of their parts. So will my son. It is unfortunate that I can’t control what the rest of society is teaching their children.

Hiding behind rhetoric and denial gives rapists more power. It gives them space to continue to victimize women because no one is going to believe them anyway. This isn’t a political issue, it’s a human issue and we are all responsible for making it stop.

Are you there, epiphany? It’s me, Jillian

Standard

I’m probably going to be bitching a lot over the next few months (years, whatever) about editing my novel. I apologize in advance to anyone who actually decides to read this because I’ll probably let my inner two year old come out, sobbing and gnashing her teeth as she has a tantrum all over the keyboard. It has to happen somewhere, though, and I’d rather not have my kids witness it. It would really fly in the face of that whole parenting thing I’m attempting to pull off.

Holy crap, though.. this editing thing is tough. I wrote my first draft during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It’s a fun exercise that basically forces you to have a massive brain dump on your computer screen. Think of it as a laxative for the mind. It’s not about quality, just getting 40k words down in 30 days while managing to tell some semblance of a story. I highly recommend it if you suffer creative blocks like I do.

The result, however, (in my case anyway) proves to be less than satisfactory. It’s ok. It’s taken me over a year, but I’m finally beginning to let go of how badly it sucks so that I can attempt to fix it. And I’m not just being modest. My first draft totally blows. I let a couple of people read it because I felt like I needed feedback and now I’m like, shit. I let people read this? For real? NOT COOL.

Now that I’ve gotten over the utter humiliation, I’m kind of on a role with the editing thing. I’m feeling pretty good about it, like it could really be a good story if I can fix the horrible writing and add some actual character development. The thing that is driving me absolutely crazy go nuts is this nagging feeling that there’s a better way to tell the story right there, lurking at the edge of my mind. I just can’t quite grasp it. Maybe I’m subconsciously blocking it out because I know how much more work it will be if I basically have to completely rewrite it from a new angle. Whatever it is, I can’t shake the feeling that a major breakthrough is right there. Frustrating and motivating to the point that my brain might explode.

You know how, sometimes, the universe sends something your way at just the right moment? Well, this little piece below found me exactly when I needed it most.

Aside

When I was 18 I confessed my undying love for my high school crush in his yearbook. Yeah. I was THAT girl. I don’t know what I thought would happen. Maybe he would suddenly see me for what I really was and love me back. Or maybe he would mock me mercilessly and I would be faced with the reality that he was a total ass hat and not the shining pillar of teen boy I thought he was.

Unfortunately, life isn’t an ’80’s movie. I bared my soul, and you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. Life went on as usual. I didn’t see him again until an incredibly awkward encounter at our ten year class reunion. He was drunk. I was sober. And he did end up being a total ass hat.

My point is.. well I’m not sure. I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about the moments in my life when I’ve been bold and brave, those moments when I’ve stepped up to the plate and taken a huge risk. There aren’t a lot of them, or at least I don’t think so. I tend to play it safe and protect myself from any  emotional or psychological discomfort. In the end, I really think that does more harm than good.

Back to bravery though. The moments you choose to close your eyes and fall off the cliff, trusting fate to catch you, those are the ones that define a person. When I look back at mine, I wonder less about my capacity for courage, and more about my inability to choose the right times to say fuck all and dive, head first, into the abyss.

Confessing my high school crush? Sure, maybe it was something I needed to do to find a sense of closure. Or maybe it was just a self serving ploy to create a little boy drama in my otherwise virginal existence. I had the guts to write down my feelings on the way out the door, but I couldn’t let go and try actually interacting with the guy. I didn’t look beyond my media sculpted sense of romance long enough to see that love isn’t like the movies. The real risk isn’t in the confession, it’s in building a relationship from the ground up, putting in time and effort in spite of the possibility that it could all go to Hell.

Therein lies my weakness. My bravery is always quick and fleeting. There’s the initial adrenaline rush (YES! I’m GOING to do this!), then it ebbs away when I realize that this might take more than just one bold move on my part.

I’ve been in a healthy relationship for over eleven years, I’ve given birth completely naturally. I’ve done both of these things with an absolute commitment to my cause. Yet the idea of committing, really committing to something just for me, like the childhood dream of being a writer, terrifies me. It’s the greatest, and perhaps the most important, mental challenge I’ve faced. And always, always, as I press on through each excruciating paragraph, that voice in the back of my mind is whispering, but what if you fail? What if you put in all this work for nothing? What if you are the talentless hack you think you are?

As my throat constricts and panic sets in, a second, much weaker, voice breaks through: What if I CAN? What if time and commitment are enough? What if I can pull it off and live the dream?

What if.. what if.. what if..

Living life bravely, refusing to just be lemming, getting in line and following the herd off of that inevitable cliff, takes a lot more than a willingness to be bold and take a few risks. It takes the guts to stand up, not to others, but to yourself and say “No matter what it takes, I’m going to do this.” Refusing to bail when things get uncomfortable, completely ignoring all exit routes: that’s real bravery. And it’s a lot easier said than done.

To Live Bravely

Derailed

Standard

I started this blog a couple of years ago, switched to my very own fancy schmancy domain name, then promptly lost all motivation to blog. Well, since life is about fresh starts and second chances, here I am again.

What have I been up to for the last three years (asks the nonexistent interweb audience)? Oh, you know, the usual. I changed jobs, had a third baby (what??), wrote a novel (what the WHAT??).. Yep. I am now the mother of three crazy children under six years old, working full time, and attempting to edit my novel in my free (HA!) time.

And what have I learned? Dude, this shit is HARD. Everything looks all roses and gumdrops when you read other people’s blogs or see news stories about people living their dreams. I always get all revved up and seriously MOTIVATED when I see someone else making things happen. Then reality hits. Kids need to be fed, the mortgage needs to be paid, and Mama hasn’t slept more than four consecutive hours in over seven months. Sometimes, ok, all the time, it feels like getting by is the best I can hope for. Dreams? Passions? I can barely get to work on time.

So here’s to do-overs. It’s never too late to pursue something. No more excuses. Even though most days I’d rather have my eyes scratched out than read one more FREAKING word of my terrible first draft, I’m going to power through it. If that means barely managing to edit a paragraph a day, so be it. At least it’s something.

Please remind me of this in a month when I give up because IT’S JUST TOO HARD and blah blah blah (insert random, whiny excuse here).

Random thoughts on Accountability

Standard

I need to lose 20 pounds and my house is a disaster. That’s right. I’m admiting it. I could go on about how 10 pounds would bring me back to my pre-pregnancy weight which really isn’t that bad and I have a new baby and a two year old so it’s not a huge deal that my house is a sty.. but I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to own the fact that I am a disorganized mess and I need to fix it. So, there. I owned it. Sweet. Now what?

Maybe I should take pictures of my nasty house and my big ol’ post pregnancy belly and post them online for all the world to see.. that would hold me accountable. It could also earn me some cash. I bet someone out there has a fetish for messy houses and pasty bellies. Huh..

On second thought… nevermind. I think I’ll just stick with the accountability of having to look at all of it everyday. No need to share.

Because I’m such an expert

Standard

In the past few days I’ve received several messages from friends who can be counted among those cool enough to check out my bloggy blog. It’s really interesting because the gist of those messages has been “thanks for writing about your experience. I’m going through the exact same thing.” The funny thing is that I’m getting these from some of the very people who inspired me to do something more with my life. They always appeared to me to have it together and to be doing exactly what they want to do. I guess it’s a grass is always greener thing.. but I have to wonder: WTF is going on with all of us? Why are we so unsettled?

Sometimes I think the problem is that our generation has been given too many options. We’ve always been told we can do whatever we want. Between TV and the Internet we’re exposed to so many different things  it becomes hard to ferret out what truly interests us. I think, when we graduate high school, we also feel a lot of pressure to choose NOW. How can you possibly have enough life experience at that point to really know what direction you want your life to go in? I mean, some people do… and that’s fantastic. Some people always know and have the drive to go after it. But I think the majority of us change so much in our early 20’s that, by the time we hit 25, we feel like we’re entering the midlife crisis zone. It’s the awkward teenager phase all over again except, instead of not knowing what the hell our bodies are doing, we can’t figure out our own minds.

I’m starting to think this is the wrong way to look at it. This inability to settle shouldn’t be viewed as a crisis, it should be viewed as a gift. It’s not that we CAN’T settle. It’s that we AREN’T WILLING TO. And that can be a beautiful thing. It’s an opportunity to try different things and not feel guilty if they don’t work out. So what if you went to school for something and now you hate it? You tried something and it didn’t work out. SO WHAT? Don’t waste your time focusing on the failure, see it as an opportunity to grow and change. Just add it to the list of things you know you don’t want to do. It gets you one step closer to finding the thing that will bring you joy.

So, there’s my self help guru moment of the day. ‘Cause, you know, I’m totally in a place where I should be doling out advice (sarcasm people, SARCASM). Now I want to pose a couple of questions. What did you want to be when you were younger? What was that one thing that excited you, gave you that spark that you needed to get through the awfulness that is highschool? Did you give it up? Why? We may not have had the life experience at that age to choose the right career path, but we did have the time and innocence to follow our guts and dream.

I used to want to be a writer and a singer. Both faded out for me because I convinced myself that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. Plus, you know, “those aren’t realistic career choices.” I didn’t do either for a very long time. This venture into blogging is the first writing I’ve done for myself in years. And you know what? It feels DAMN good.