Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Violence Begets Violence.

This isn't a political post. It's not really about faith or religion either. It most likely boarders on philosophical, so take off your fight face, kick up your feet, and let's talk for a minute.

I watched this today. I don't watch many videos longer than a gif these days. It was difficult for me to hear her struggle to answer. I'm not a particularly empathetic person, but I felt real empathy for her.

There is a narrative we create about pro-choicers: pro-lifers see them as larger than life, cold hearted baby haters. Vocal pro-choicers want to be heard so desperately, that they help create the caricature. Then pro-choicers can point to the narrative that spins pro-lifers as women hating zealots who seek control over others. We all try to stay focused on the message, the talking points as though the words alone will break down barriers and convince others that WE. ARE. RIGHT.

The extremes exist. Most of us are lumped into the middle. I didn't watch the interview and cringe because she was trying to dehumanize an innocent fetus. A baby. A human. I didn't cringe when they'd talk over each other. He was trying to get her to answer a question, and she was trying to point his attention to something different.

I struggled because it brought the stories of so many women I have known to the surface. Stories that remind me of the cruelty of people.

The woman who's spouse had injured her to the point she had memory loss, and she was forced to relive the custody loss, abuse of her children and abortion she endured once she left. The women I know that are trying to piece together marriages as they crumble, when pregnancy feels devastating. The woman who had escaped her rapist, but only to face the threat of child support enforcement demanding she turn over the name so they could try to get reimbursed for her assistance funds. The woman just trying to find somewhere safe and anonymous to get STD testing after her husband had an affair. The pregnant teen trying to find a way out of an abusive home.

I have dozens of these stories that come to life for me when the abortion debate pops up. These are not just the stories of women I met while I was a domestic and sexual violence advocate. These are women I love. My friends. My family.

The message here is clear: violence begets violence. Abortion is not a single issue. It cannot be reduced to the simple act of an abortion. We have to form our responses to abortion around the issues that more often than not cause abortion.

Pregnant women are more likely to die at the hands of their abuser. Women are forced into abortions to cover up crimes. Women feel such shame and lack of support that they believe abortion is the only way out of "trouble." Why is that?

Violence begets violence. If we are not strong enough to stand up to the violence, the shame, the lack of support that women face, we are not strong enough to end the violence of abortion.

I'd like to put a positive spin on that to end the post, but it's a pretty bleak fact. If we cannot open our eyes to the issues women that are literally all around us are facing, then we don't stand a chance in the face of abortion. Think about that. You don't have to go to another country to find women experiencing violence or being shamed into submission. It is happening to women you know and love. I know that flies in the face of the "you shouldn't have to know them to care" truth, but it is right in our backyards. Homes. Neighborhoods.

It is easy to fight the caricature. It is easy to stick to your talking points, put your fingers in your ears, and try to carve abortion as a single issue that doesn't stem from any reality. But I say again to you:

Violence begets violence.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

2017 Books and a Brag

I need to get this off my chest, so if knowing this about me causes you to never want to read the blog again, I understand:

I did not meet my 2016 reading goals. I KNOW. I even shamefully added the YA series I had re-read and didn't want to add since I read them in a day, and I still came up two books short of my goal. I guess reading lists and blogs get pushed to the side in a year with a new baby and a move. Such is life. 

The combination of the fantastically dreadful political climate and my lack of posting has the number of Cathofeminism followers dwindling. For those of you left though, I offer a quick run down of what I read in 2016, what I plan to read in 2017 so far, and a painting brag so that I can remember I am still pursuing creative outlets! Let's get down to business and talk books. 

2016 Reads:

Modern Romance: Aziz Ansari
A good read. Ansari researched past and present dating trends and compared, contrasted, dissected the similarities and differences. Plus he's hilarious.

The Princess Bride: William Goldman
I was totally suckered into the story here. Great book. Goldman is a genius. 

As You Wish: Cary Elwes
I had a major crush on Elwes when I was ten, so if you did also, this is a great guilty pleasure read. 

Romantic Outlaws: Charlotte Gordon
I had no idea how much I loved reading about historical figures until this book. It follows the lives of Mary Wollenstonecraft and her daughter, Mary Shelley. A truly fascinating story and now I need to make a mental note to add Frankenstein to my 2017 list.

So You've Been Publicly Shamed: Jon Ronson
Another one in the pop culture genre. While I am terrible about tweeting, I live on social media so it was an insightful read for me. 

rats saw god: Rob Thomas
I was mourning the moratorium on new Veronica Mars books, movies, series and went old school Rob Thomas. Great stuff. 

It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History: Jennifer Wright
I love reading about crazy historical figures. I need more books like this. 

The Art of Memoir: Mary Karr
AMAZING. I immediately added a few of Karr's books to my list, and she's my current memoirist heroine. There's a Catho writer's shin-dig she will be at in June and I plan to do all I can to be there. 

The Girl on the Train: Paula Hawkins
More fiction! That is so rare for me. I basically read this because I am dying to see the movie (obsessed with Emily Blunt but five kids at home so waiting for the DVD) and now I just want to see the movie even more. Quick read.

Half Broke Horses: Jeanette Walls
Walls wrote this from her grandmother's perspective and it was such a vivid story. She's a fantastic storyteller, and I loved this maybe even more than The Glass Castle. 

I tried to read outside of my standard female comedienne memoir genre and found a few more areas to pull from in the future. When I was 12 or 13, I read the Vampire Diaries series and it was my favorite thing in the entire world. When the CW announced they would be doing a TV series based on the books, I was all "YEAH. IN YOUR FACE, TWILIGHT." But I never watched the series, and the promos made me never want to watch it ever, but I secretly wanted to re-read the books. I had my mom bring them to me and, well, let's just say that there's a reason I haven't read much YA or fiction since I was 12 or 13. It was still fun to read again for nostalgia's sake. 

2017 Reading List (so far)

Books I have not been interested in reading even though in theory I really want to read them:

1. Breaking Through: Helen Alvare

2. Anna Karenina: Leo Tolstoy

3. Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching: Anthony Esolen

Books I have and cannot wait to read but then I just end up playing spider solitaire on my phone because it is mind-numbing in the best way possible:

4. In Cold Blood: Truman Capote

5. The Liars' Club: Mary Karr

6. Lit: Mary Karr

7. The Woman Warrior: Maxine Hong Kingston

8. It Didn't Start With You: Mark Wolynn

9. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: Ransom Riggs

10. My Badass Book of Saints: Maria Morera Johnson

11. Hillbilly Elegy: JD Vance

Books I do not have and will not let myself buy or check out or rent or borrow until I start actually reading more than a magazine article this year:

12. Everything I Never Told You: Celeste Ng

13. Just Kids: Patty Smith

14. Scrappy Little Nobody: Anna Kendrick

15. Talking as Fast as I Can: Lauren Graham

16. Frankenstein: Mary Shelley

17. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

As my goal for the year is only 15 books, and I have 17 and counting on my 2017 list, it's ambitious and I am considering some audio books for the ones I keep putting off. (I am looking at you, Tolstoy.)

Tell me: any you see that you loved? Hated? Dying to discuss? What are you excited to read this year?

Brag time: I have not painted since 2009. Kids got in the way.  I suddenly really wanted to make something, so I had the four older kids collaborate on the giant purple painting on top while I made a pair that were supposed to be for the bathroom, but I like them way more than I had planned to like them. Lesson learned: I miss painting.

Monday, November 14, 2016

High Profile Man is a Sexual Predator but We Can't Talk about It.

Yep. Check out this important companion photo. 

We're going to talk about sexual assault claims today.

Here's our scenario:

Bob is at work/bar/dark alley/in Buffy's home. Buffy is there too. They are working late/having a drink/passing through/chatting. By the time the night is over, Buffy has been sexual assaulted. She consented to spending time with Bob given the normal parameters of their work/bar/dark alley/home liaison. She did not consent to sexual contact.

It's the next day. Bob says Buffy was into it. She wanted to have sexual contact. Buffy says it's unwanted, and therefore a criminal act.

We can find scenarios like this all around us: in the news, or within our communities. It happens often. There is a disturbing phrase I hear quite often when Bob is not a stranger but instead a high-profile man:

"I don't have enough evidence to believe High Profile Man did those things."

I'd like to ask: what evidence would convince you?

What if two women said High Profile Man did these things? Three? Four? A dozen?

Is only a conviction good enough?

What if he admitted to being there, he had a substantial amount of power over her (physically, career-wise, etc.) and she said that he assaulted her. Is that enough?

What if there is no DNA? What if she cannot bring herself to face him again? What if she fears her life is not able to stand up to the intense scrutiny a sexual assault victim often endures? What if she is barely holding it together? What if he buys his way out of it?

When are we, the public at large, allowed to use sexual assault claims against High Profile Man when discerning his character? When are we allowed to let him know that his actions are despicable and we want none of it?

When will we tell High Profile Men that women are not there merely for their sexual domination?

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Sorry, grammar friends. I have no idea how "round-up" or "round up" should be written out. Fail.

I only had 28 posts for The Guiding Star Project to sort through, but the majority of them were focused on sexual assault. While that is certainly relevant to intimate partner violence, I will plan on another sexual assault post with links to all of those in April.

Taking the "Crisis" Out of a Crisis Pregnancy- This posts asks the pro-life movement to focus on the situations that drive women to believe abortion is the only way out.

Intimate Partner Violence- An introduction to IPV dynamics.

Pregnancy and Domestic Violence- A post that discusses the role pregnancy can play as an abuse tactic.

As I review these posts, they all seem to serve as an introduction to IPV. They might be particularly useful to use as awareness posts. Ahem.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Get Over It

I don't need to inform you that there was a Trump sex talk tape. I don't have it in me to write a scathing post about the man. What good will it do?

Everywhere I look, I see prominent pro-life figures choose Trump as their hill to die on. He's what they stake their reputation on.

And they are losing all credibility in the eyes of those that advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and in the eyes of the survivors themselves.

For years I have repeatedly told my less pro-life friends "No way. Pro-lifers care about women. We care about the circumstances that lead them to abortion. We care about every person." I have worked to hollow out this little corner of the Internet as a place that proves being pro-life is a consistent, all life has dignity sort of movement.

And these jokers are destroying that.

There are few Catholic pro-life voices out there saying "Wait a minute. This is not okay. It is not locker room talk. It is not okay for men to treat women as their personal playground." Do you know what they hear in response?

Get over it.

Get over it. We need the Supreme Court.

Get over it. But Clinton.

Get over it.

Do you know what that amounts to in the eyes of women that have experienced sexual assault?

Get over it You don't matter.

Get over it. Men can do what they want.

Get over it. Your safety is a sacrifice I am willing to make.

We needed to stand together on this one. Instead we are ripping ourselves apart and proving there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.

Get over it. A phrase too often muttered at victims of violence.

Monday, October 3, 2016

October DVAM Round Up

To kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I thought I would round up some previous posts on the subject. Over the years there have been many posts about domestic violence, also known as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), so it is time that I try to collect most of them into one place. I have included a short description of each post, but if you have an unanswered question, please do not hesitate to ask in the comments or message me! If you would like to participate in DVAM, share these posts on social media. Give others the opportunity to think about IPV this month. 

The links below are all to other posts on this blog. I plan to gather up posts that I have written for The Guiding Star Project as well, but those will be in a different post on a different day. 

A Note for Friends and Family of Domestic and Sexual Violence Survivors- This post is just an introduction to what you can do to help if a loved one is experiencing IPV or sexual violence. 

Our Search for the Perfect Victim- A reminder that hurt people, imperfect people, and people we don't like are also victims of violence.

To Be Pro Life and Against Violence Towards Women- This was an early post of mine that explored the connection between being pro life and against violence towards women, or the lack thereof in practice.

Daring Greatly and IPV- Brene´ Brown's book, Daring Greatly, covered an issue she calls "scarcity." I find the concept important to understanding IPV survivors.

The Bible, Marriage, and IPV- This post explores IPV and sacramental marriage. 

We Can Be a Voice. Just my standard plea for fellow Catholics to have a thorough understanding of both their faith and IPV/sexual assault. 

The giant, four part series on IPV and sacramental marriage that ultimately took so much out of me that I have barely written a post since:

Marital Rape- A post that highlights the awful fact that marital rape can be present in IPV situations.

Supporting Loved Ones Dealing with Trauma- This post offers a reminder to remember your own self care and to discern your level of involvement or ability to help loved ones that are neck deep in trauma such as IPV. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Supporting Loved Ones Dealing with Trauma

the simplicity of FB friend lists...

There was a moment about three months into my time as a domestic and sexual violence advocate where it was no longer a job.

Up until that time, I found it curious that I was good at the work and felt such a passion for it. My coworkers were amazing. They all had a personal connection to someone that had experienced Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), sexual assault, or Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA), and had an instinct for the work that benefited the women seeking our assistance.

That night in group, we were working through a popular workbook, discussing families of origin. As I skimmed the questions, one leapt off the paper. I recognized it. Someone very close to me had also used the workbook, and I had come across their answer a long time ago. I also had a personal connection to several individuals that had experienced violence and trauma in their most intimate relationships.

(I know that is a very vague description of what was an important moment in my advocacy life, but I do not want to use this post as a way to tell someone else's story for them.)

I borrowed my employer's copy of the book, and read it cover to cover in a day. I saw my work in a different way. I encountered people in a new way. I was thoroughly overwhelmed with the responsibility my new awareness carried.

I was trained to help strangers. It was tough work to listen to personal accounts of trauma every day, but I was able to disconnect most days, and leave work at work. Realizing the struggles of people I loved and not being able to compartmentalize it as work was difficult. When I listened and helped clients at work, there was a clear role: I was their advocate, not their friend or relative. My duty was to provide them information, help them sort out their needs and sift through the services that might help. I helped them define the support they already had access to, and what they still were seeking. It is not as easy to be an advocate for people you know personally. You are their friend, sister, daughter or loved one first, not an advocate.

I remember feeling very confused about a few of my personal relationships specifically. I now had knowledge that had opened my eyes to their struggles, but I didn't know how it impacted the relationships, for better or worse. I turned to my coworkers for help.

I was reminded that I was not my loved one's advocate or therapist. I was their friend, or family member. The choices they make impact my life, whereas the choices my clients made often did not. The connections were different, even if I did come to care a great deal for the women and their families.

It has been a few years since I have been paid to be an advocate. From time to time, readers reach out with their stories, or others find me and I am able to help. Often, I am contacted by the friends and family of survivors and victims. It is difficult to watch someone you love go through this sort of trauma. It is overwhelming and scary to know that, as much as you want to scoop them out of a violent relationship or dangerous situation, you can only be there to listen and offer support.

A gentle reminder to those supporting victims of violence: it is okay to set boundaries. We are not meant to be friend, family, counselor, and advocate all in one. It may be difficult to have that conversation, but your relationship will be healthier (and you will better be equipped to support them) if you set boundaries and remind them that there are people that can provide the help that will be better suited to their situation.

Feel free to contact me for information or help finding local numbers for assistance. Peruse the blog archives for more sites to check out. Take care of yourselves!