Tuesday, September 30, 2008

reporting rape and abuse

pastor steve hickey, an avid member of the opposition here in sioux falls, wrote about me on his blog last week. he named me as the "gal" coming in to south dakota from massachusetts, and called me an "angry, hurt, anti-life young person." i have no idea how he got to my blog, but i do give him credit, at least, for reading all the way through my post. (even if it does creep me out a little to have someone like him know that part of my life.)

at the end of my post about coming out to south dakota, i explained why my situation made me particularly empathetic to the victims of sexual violence that may need real access to the full gamut of reproductive health care -- which, yes, includes abortion.
Steve Hickey doesn't think that women, like me, who've been victims of rape or incest should have access to this service (he calls it babykilling, of course).
he also seems to believe that every single woman who's been a victim should be forced to report their attack. which means, bringing it back home to me, that he thinks i should have been forced to report my rape(s).
he links to a woman, Dianne Heynen, who, after accusing Planned Parenthood of wanting rapists to go free (a logical accusation for an organization that promotes women's rights...), claims that reporting rape is important, if not essential, to healing.

Dianne Heynen, my dear, you are wrong.

reporting rape is not essential to healing.
reporting rape is not important to every person's individual, unique healing process.
reporting rape can, in fact, be downright detrimental to healing.

if a woman chooses, with her own agency, to report her rape, then yes, it is a powerful tool of healing.
if a woman is forced into reporting her rape, into rehashing every ugly detail of every aspect of her violation? if it's not her choice, if she has no agency? that is not healing. that will only make things worse. that is repeating the violation -- forcing her to do something that she would not have willingly done. force at worst, coercion at best. this is not empowerment, nor is it helpful for any kind of healing, no matter how you look at it.

if i would've reported my rape, i would've been laughed out of the police station.
if i would've reported my abuse, i would have lost my family a full 7 years before i chose to cut my family out of my life. i would've lost my family long before i was ready or able to survive without them.
not reporting my rape or my abuse to the state saved my life. not reporting my violations is what enabled me to get to the point i'm at right now, to the point of calling myself a survivor.

i know myself and my healing process well enough to know that a report of the rape would make things a million times worse.
i know that by looking at myself, and i know that by looking at what was said to me, and i know that by knowing the laws that govern nonconsensual sexual relationships.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

s.d. campaign, day 1

there may or may not be an update every day. probably not. but today was kinda a big day, being the first (and only) full day of PP's Live Action Camp, so i'll do a little overview of the highlights.

-first was sign-making for the visibility that we did at a fairly busy intersection in downtown Sioux Falls. but wait. more importantly, what came before that:
coffee, from Black Sheep Coffee, the coffee shop that's pretty much right next door to the campaign HQ. they roast their own, and not all of their beans are fair trade, but at least some are. independent coffee house, so it's not shitty coffee like starbucks. i also had a soy latte later, which is my drink of choice, and what i'm most picky about. it wasn't the best i've ever had (the best is a tie between the ones i make and the one i got at The Buttery in boston), but it was pretty good. whoever picked that spot for campaign hq is a genius, and i would like to give them a huge hug.

-the visibility went well. more supporters than not, and only a few rude comments or hand gestures. far less than the supportive honks and thumbs-ups that we got. very encouraging way to start the day...even if we did leave the corner with numb hands and sorta hoarse voices.

-lunch, then phonebanking. phone banking was good, and it actually might be my favourite campaign activity.
it was great, until Mr. Jared.
Jared was a 33 year old male, registered Independent.
at first, he seemed unsure about the measure, so i launched into an explanation. he had intelligent questions that seemed based in simple uncertainty and a lack of information. i answered all of his questions the best i could, and i made a ton of really stellar points.
turns out, though, he was on the other side the whole time. or, at least, that's my best guess. he said or implied something about babies being more important than the woman's health. he talked about the "greater good" -- basically, telling these women whose circumstances aren't covered by this ban to suck it up and deal, 'cause overall, it's "saving more babies." he claimed, at the end, that our conversation had not only cemented his decision to vote for this abortion ban, but that he saw now that he needed to spend his time working against our campaign.
Mr. Jared is a douchebag.
I wasted 15 effing minutes on him.

-speaking of antis, i'm famous. an anti-choice pastor here in Sioux Falls who's pretty well-known actually mentioned me, by name, linking here, on his blog.
he called me an "angry, hurt, anti-life young person."
he has compassion for me, supposedly, which...is nice, i guess?
i'm not gonna link to him, he doesn't deserve that. but...there'll be something later about his claim that all victims should be required to report rape because it's "good for the healing process." or something.
because it's not true, but i've not got the time or energy for that post yet.

-after phone banking was canvassing. sorta successful. the supporter houses i found were full of more than one supporter, so that boosted my numbers. but it was long, and i was tired, and the houses were far apart. however, everyone was very nice. i even met a republican man who's leaning toward voting no, and is also definitely voting for Obama on the 4th. he's sick of Bush. and he thanked us for getting out there and doing what we could to make change we saw was needed. very sweet. i liked him.

and now, it's about 10:30pm on my birthday, and i'm going to bed. for some well-deserved sleep.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

the south dakota post.

edited to add, 9/27/08:
Below is the post I wrote before I headed out here, in which I question CHF's strategies in not focusing or really talking about (from what I could tell) the so-called rape/incest "exception."
Now that I've spent a day and a half with the campaign (more about that soon), I want to add this: I get now why the campaign's not focusing on the bureaucratic b.s. of the rape/incest "exception." I should've known they had good reason, and they do. I've never really been great at "strategy," because I'm not really stoked about using messages that I see as missing anything. I understand why they're used, and I'll use them without complaint, but in my ideal world (which is, clearly, not reality), I'd be able to use the "abortion as basic repro health care as a human right" message. but i can't use that here, and I get that.
That said, this is the campaign's actual stance on the rape/incest so-called "exception," which I didn't understand when i first wrote this post:
The way the measure is worded creates an awful lot of bureaucratic red tape. Red tape that victims shouldn't be forced to find their way through. Reporting rape is not always in the best interests of the victim. It also, as with most rape laws, is really restrictive, and it'd require victims to fit a very specific set of circumstances to really "count" as victims. which is, obvi, bullshit.

The reason it's not the main message is this: SD voters are more compassionate to women with certain health problems not covered by these so-called "exceptions" than they are to rape victims, mostly because they believe that required reporting of rape will automatically mean more rapists in jail. It's an understandable belief, and one that a whole lot of americans share. It'd be great if it were true, and it'd be great if prison was really the best deterrent for sexual violence. But it's not. However, this isn't really the fight that the campaign is fighting right now, so it makes sense that combating that faulty view of rape law and the state's role in rape prosecution isn't a focus of the campaign.

That said, on to the original post.....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

for the record...

  • Sarah Palin as potential VP (i.e. president when mccain dies two days into office) terrifies me. Tina Fey, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the clueless Alaskan governor, however, is a genius.

  • Like Cara, I'm staying optimistic that Obama will win. Mostly because it's unfathomable to me that he won't. And I don't wanna have take part in that mass exodus to Canada on November 5th. (Although I won't lie; I'll have my passport handy while watching election results come in.)

  • Thinking about the economy makes my head hurt. And it makes me sad for what it might mean for my little baby cafe. So I'm not going to think about it. For tonight, at least.

  • I may be watching election results come in somewhere in South Dakota, if things go as planned. I turned down a full-time campaign (read: obsession-inducing, inevitably unhealthy) job with the SD Campaign for Healthy Families, but I'm still invested in the outcome of election day out there. I'm still looking for funding for a second volunteer trip out there for the couple weeks leading up to the election (contact me if you want to fund me yourself), but I've got one trip planned and booked. I'll be heading out September 26th (the day before my birthday!), spending a week and a half with the campaign, canvassing like my life depends on it ('cause really, it kinda does), developing a charming midwestern accent (don'chaknow?), and heading back to western mass on October 6th. Wish me luck! In the meantime, watch this new ad from SDCHF:

And my biggest wish, as of 8:30pm tonight, is to explain to this Vote Yes for Life woman, Janet Folger, what it's really like to be a victim/survivor of rape and incest. Because she so, so, so clearly does not understand. And in my optimistic state, I need to believe that if she understood, she wouldn't be making this absurd speech:

Sunday, September 07, 2008

community organizing.

I'm a day early on this one, but I've got a few long days of work/babysitting/etc ahead of me, so I'm throwing this up on Sunday instead of Monday. Which is probably fine, since this post doesn't really fit in the parameters of what tomorrow's virtual mobilization of community organizer/bloggers is supposed to be about anyway. I may still throw one up tomorrow, and maybe it'll actually fit into said parameters.

Tomorrow, a lot of bloggers will be blogging on community organizing. The idea behind this is to have bloggers who are community organizers blog about their experiences, about what being a community organizer means, and about why it's important work.

This is all in response, of course, to the "jokes" about community organizers at the RNC, coming from both Giuliani and Palin. Really? If you're going to make fun of Obama, you've gotta at least find some better material.
This whole thing is just absurd. The reason they need to mock Obama, though? Not because he was a community organizer. Because of what Ezra points out:
But look, let's call a spade a spade: When Giuliani sneered about community organizers on the "South side" of Chicago, it's pretty clear what he was saying: Barack Obama spent his time rabble-rousing among black people. It's no different then when the RNC called him a "street organizer."........
Community organizer isn't being used to describe a job but a background. Obama organized poor black people. Helped channel their anger and grievances and anxieties. That's change you can fear.

The RNC debacle created a wave of defense among a whole slew of bloggers, especially feminist bloggers.
As it should. Because grassroots, community organizing is vitally important to movements like feminism. Organizing on the personal, community level is how you build a movement. And community organizers are the people who do the dirty work, who make change happen, who are a lot more in touch with the people they're serving than "public servants" like politicians and most lobbyists ever dream of being.
The mainstream feminist movement? Not really all about building a movement. The mainstream feminist movement isn't really about community-building on a local level. They do great work on the state level, they do great work in legislative processes and working with bureaucratic bullshit and getting funding toward their causes. They sometimes provide important services to the community at large. But when it comes to getting into a community, becoming immersed in it, becoming part of it, so that they can be responsive to what people really need, they're usually pretty absent. That's not where their priorities lie.

When I say "they," I'm talking about the Big Feminist Organizations. The "career feminists" (most of them, at least). The feminist organizations in the beltway ("national" organizations) are mostly concerned with beltway politics. This is important, but they aren't organizing communities. They're organizing politicians. Rounding them up, gathering them together, getting legislation passed or working within the state institutions to make change. (I suppose politicians can be considered a "community," in some sense, but that's really not the kind of community I'm concerned with here.) This is great. It needs to happen. But it's not community organizing.
Even organizations that function within their individual states don't always engage with community organizing. NARAL Massachusetts is a perfect example. I have a million grievances with NARAL's political choices nationally, but even in Massachusetts, the NARAL organizers are not community organizers. I say this because I live in western Massachusetts. In my 3 1/2 years here, including 2 in college, I've heard about exactly one organized NARAL MA event here - meeting with an aide of western MA's congressman in Springfield. I almost went, but couldn't get off work, and didn't want to pay the gas to drive all the way down to Springfield. I think they drew maybe one or two volunteer activists from the area to that meeting. NARAL MA's priorities don't bring the organization outside of Boston or Beacon Hill. They lobby the state assembly and the state senators. I think they've held events for Obama in Boston. They probably work with some student groups at some of the many colleges that Boston is home to. But that's pretty much it. Their priority is at the state level. Their priority is purely capital-P Political.

What NARAL MA, and NARAL Pro-Choice America, and PPFA, and PPLM, and NOW, and so many of the Big Feminist Organizations do is organizing, I don't deny that. And, depending on how broadly we're defining "community," it could easily be considered community organizing, as well. But what I'd like to see celebrated and validated more isn't just that kind of Big Feminist Organization advocacy. What I'd love to see this movement, if we're really going to be a movement, doing more of is movement-building. Getting Obama elected and fighting court battles and working to get congressional funding allocated to abuse victims is important work. But it's not (necessarily) building a movement.

When I think of "community organizers," much like the organizing that Obama did on the south side of Chicago, I think of movement-building. Organizing state players is one thing. Organizing the community and building a base for this movement is an entirely different thing.

Which I guess is why I, like some other bloggers, are a little confused about why all of these big feminist bloggers are now coming to the defense of community organizers. An awful lot of them are career feminists. An awful lot of them have gone the "strategic" route in lieu of the community organizing, collective route (perhaps because we live in an individualistic culture and collective feminism is not what we do?), because collective organizing is not 'practical' or 'realistic.'
(Thank you, thank you, to the always amazing bfp for hitting the nail on the head and helping me understand, in sentence form, why the sudden rush to defend community organizers seemed so off to me.)

And now, with all of that said, this is how I see community organizing.