Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Bible, Marriage, and IPV

I am absolutely not a biblical scholar. I am quite relieved that Catholicism is not a sola scriptura kind of gal for many reasons, but I understand and recognize the importance of sacred readings. Please keep this in mind as I write and dissect in this post!

One of my biggest pet peeves as a domestic and sexual violence advocate and as a Christian, is hearing folk profess loud and proud: "God hates (fill in the blank)!" To think that real, live, human people truly believe that the best way to spread the message of Christ and to evangelize/minister to their brothers and sisters in Christ is to start out by professing that our God (who is LOVE) "hates" something, is devastating. Not just to those hearing this message, but for all.

This subject had me so worked up, that I sat in my uncomfortable chair grumbling for a few days this past week. "No way the bible says hate." I told myself. So I looked it up on my handy dandy bible verse cheat sheet, and I see this:

So I pull out my NABRE study bible, flipped to the Old Testament, and prepared to see some sort of translation notes related to the original text to English. While I did not, I came to a greater understanding of the text. Here is the full text:

An interesting note in my study bible reads, "2:14 Companion...covenanted wife: the Hebrew word haberet signifies an equal, a partner. This woman, in contrast to the daughter of a foreign god, shares with her husband the same covenant with the Lord."

What I take away from this, is that Christian marriage is a partnership where both parties are equally responsible. A woman is equal to her man. I find myself less focused on the text "I hate divorce" and more focused on the message that marriage is a covenant and partnership

This quest lead me to want to give a more thorough review of other 'marriage' mentions in the bible. Cathsorority came through and linked me to a page that lists the options for readings during a Catholic wedding. What I found are some common themes that I want to share with you. (All New Testament excerpts.)

This first example relates to the "two become one" aspect of marriage, and comes from an instance where the Pharisees are trying to trick Christ into saying something blasphemous. It shows marriage as something to be taken seriously.  

Ephesians 5 is the reading that I was most familiar with before marriage, and it might be my least favorite if I am being totally honest with you. There is an extraordinarily large emphasis placed on the first portion of this reading in many traditional faiths: "Wives be subordinate!" with little commentary mentioning the reciprocating verse that asks husbands to love their wives "as Christ loved the Church." 

The problem with taking portions of this verse (and any verse) out of context, is that you lose important information and instruction. This is less a call for wifely subordination and dominating husbands, and more a call for mutual devotion. 

Even in times and cultures where women are not valued as equals partners in marriage or in society, this is a call for equality and sacrificial love. 

Do you see where this is going? The constant message in the bible as it relates to marriage, is love one another. The emphasis is continually placed on what God loves, not what God hates. So, let us apply this to intimate partner violence (IPV). (Note: The following lists are by no means comprehensive; more like a rough overview.)

According to these passages and the Catholic faith, marriage is:

-A sacrament. 
-A commitment/covenant/promise.
-Entered into by a man and a woman as equal, consenting partners. 

A relationship involving Intimate Partner Violence (IPV):

-Is consumed with power and control. 
-Gives one partner dominance over the other.
-Warps love.
-Is harmful and devastating to all involved. 

If we combine a sacramental marriage with the consequences of IPV, the relationship lacks some crucial ingredients. When we focus on the aftermath (divorce, separation, etc.) and not on the wrong doing or the warped interpretation of marriage, we are harming survivors. 

Recently, The FaithTrust Institute posted this article, which discusses the fact that religion is a reason that victims stay in abusive relationships. 

It can be very difficult for a devout person of faith to leave an abusive relationship. If you entered into a marriage honestly and with the understanding marriage is "death 'til you part," leaving feels like giving up. If you feel this doubt and it is encouraged by a faith community (both lay persons and pastors) that preach "God hates divorce!" without exception and without a deeper understanding of the context/complexities of marriage or IPV, you feel that there is no way out. You feel conflicted and guilty for not being able to hold up your end of the marriage, when in reality, the marriage was built unequal. The message appears to be "Divorce or Stay."

As Christians, we must have a deeper understanding of marriage as well as IPV. Marriage is not built on the standard cultural view of submission. Marriage was not created to hold one partner (and children) captive. Marriage is love, not abuse. Our faith community must not help abusers to hold their victims hostage.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Modesty" and Assault

I can't believe we are still having this conversation.

Upworthy has a video discussing cat calling and assault. (Some language, but good.) It was positive to see a video linking cat calling and assault, especially after the recent proclamation that women should take being harassed as they walk in public as a compliment. Then I did a stupid thing. I looked at the comments. On a pro-life Facebook page's post about the video.

Ladies. Gentlemen. It was embarrassing. If you watch the video, I am sure you can guess what I saw in the combox, so I won't bother repeating it here.

I'm not going to write about the danger zone we've created with modesty talks. I've seen it written better than I can manage dozens of times. Many of those posts come from Calah Alexander, BUT SHE IS RIGHT.

I have covered (no pun intended) the subject of sexual assault before. I have even detailed my own experience with assault.

Today, there is only one message I want to pass on. If you are conservative, against abortion even in cases of rape, Christian, Catholic, traditional... Stop. Stop making assault hinge on what a woman is wearing. JUST STOP. The crime lies in deciding someone else's body is there for your amusement and pleasure. The crime is deciding you do not have to keep your hands or your words to yourself. The crime is in taking without consent.

Stop. Refocus your thoughts. This is not about destroying men or their fun times. It is about destroying the idea that a woman is there for your pleasure, and that you have a right to take what you want without asking.

Stop. When you say that men and women should show respect and reverence for one another and that marriage and sex is sacred, no one is listening if you follow that by calling a woman a whore for wearing short shorts. No one is listening when you say that all life is sacred, even in the womb, if you follow that noble statement by saying a woman deserves to be assaulted if the way she dresses does not meet your approval.

Do you need to know why no one is listening? Women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds experience assault, harassment, and rape. Everything about what you do, how you walk, how you talk, what you are wearing, and how you look can be re-framed. Don't believe me? Potato salad.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

If It's Good Enough for Dorothy Day, It's Good Enough for Me.

I did not attend a Catholic high school, and it never occurred to me that I should have a catechism. I think my mom had one lying around the house from her RCIA days. By the time I had arrived for my first day of Totus Tuus training, I was wishing I had thought to look.

We sat for a week and listened to pretty fantastic talks and lessons concerning what we would be teaching in our parishes. They gave us a list of helpful tools (All of which I somehow never purchased while teaching): A solid Catholic bible, the CCC, and apologetics resources that included the most incredible piece of laminated paper I had ever seen (which I did buy halfway into the first summer).

I honestly believe what hooked me for life that first summer, was hearing about Catholic Social Teaching (CST) for the first time in my life. I had never heard it phrased that way, though I certainly knew the principles. I borrowed my teammate's catechism nearly every day that first summer to go through and study all the reference numbers from our training.

Sometimes, I hear CST thrown around as a "liberal Catholic thing" and this drives me bonkers. First, because I loathe it when we label universal Catholic teaching by a limited, American political term. I also loathe it when others can't see how perfectly CST rounds out the "faith and reason" idea within Catholicism.

Because CST holds such a special place in my heart, I thought I would shoot off a post for you with my top eight all things CST. So, in no particular order, here we go:

I came across this INCREDIBLE infograph a few years ago, and it is just one of my favorite things ever. Current issues, scripture, encyclicals, CST. Pure awesome.


I wrote about this back in April (post here), but I really find the application of CST to the modern American economy/political scene to be fascinating. It truly reinforces that no one political party embraces purely all that is good. I am certain that, given the Church's universality, these principles are easily applied to other nations and political climates as well. How fortunate are we to have a thoroughly sourced and well-written rubric to help us navigate current social issues without dictating how we all must come to a conclusion? Yes. There are different ways to apply these principles. Who doesn't love a good Catholic debate, eh?


I also positively adore the fact that some principles of CST (ahem... dignity of work and rights of workers) helped to bring Dorothy Day into the church.


The Catechism also presses the need for social justice. These passages not only spell out our equality despite differences, but acknowledge barriers to be overcome:
1938 There exist also sinful inequalities that affect millions of men and women. These are in open contradiction of the Gospel:

Their equal dignity as persons demands that we strive for fairer and more humane conditions. Excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples of the one human race is a source of scandal and militates against social justice, equity, human dignity, as well as social and international peace.44
Solidarity, yo (CCC, 1939). We are all in this together, like it or not. The duality of this is striking: comforting to know we are all in the same boat, but that means we can all go down if it sinks.
What? This is totally relevant. The ark is a boat! GO WITH IT.


Personal story time: My first-ever, real, live, religion class post-Catholic school, was my junior year of college. Intro to Theology with Fr. Meinrad Miller at Benedictine College. The course was cleverly nicknamed 'Into to Catholicism' by the student body. After two summers of teaching Totus Tuus, I finally had to purchase my own copy of the Catechism, and it was a pretty exciting. As I was making my giant book purchase at the student bookstore, I was pretty eager to get my CCC up to my room and start looking stuff up. This book was also on the list:
The only way I would have been more excited, is if I would have had to buy a Baltimore Catechism as well. 
Once I had my books, I paid and stepped away from the window. I checked through the order to make sure I had the right items and neither catechism was in my bag! I had to wait in line again, and convince the bookstore guy he was wrong. It took some arguing, and then I had to go another week without my books because they had ordered the wrong ones. That guy is now my husband, and it still takes some convincing when he is wrong. Ha!

For Christmas one year, my adorable husband gave me this book:

It's totally a textbook. Book nerd. 
I had just started working as a domestic and sexual violence advocate. While the work was tragic and rewarding, the environment was tough one for me to find my place. I did not know a single person that was a practicing Catholic that did the work, and I was discovering that clergy (Catholic, other Christian denominations, etc.) did not always jump on the "Say no to abuse!" train the way I had assumed. I needed as many resources as possible to confirm that Catholicism in no way supported women staying in abusive relationships. The section of this book that covers the "sinful inequalities", human dignity, etc. definitely helped confirm this for me, along with...


...The FaithTrust Institute. While this agency acts as more of a non-denominational resource, (meaning, not everything you will find on the site fits within the teachings of Catholicism) many of the resources they offer helped my clients, and helped me to remember what God's plan for marriage looks like, and that violence (physical, sexual, mental, emotional or of any kind) has no part in that plan. If the family is the social unit upon which we build our society, it must be healthy: there is no room to treat a spouse like they are less than.

Now that you have a glimpse into my obsession on the subject, what are your thoughts on social justice, or CST? Any resources you care to share?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Poor Dead Horse.

I really feel like I am maiming the horse here, but I really hate it when I like something and then end up let down by said thing. Let's talk McDonald's boy/girl toys.

I won't lie: there are times when the choices for toys at McDonald's are spot on. My Hattie loves her some My Little Ponies for instance, and Calvin was more than happy to get a bad ass Cobra shooting thing. Hattie may have ripped all of Rainbow Dash's tail hair out but I PROMISE it was out of love.

Don't judge. Road trips and busy weekends happen.

So, when the toy switched to Spiderman toys for girls and boys, I was actually impressed. My kids love Spiderman. Hattie plays Baby and Momma Spiderman with all of the action figures and Calvin plays along, because it's still Spiderman. Calvin picked up a couple cool Spiderman toys this last road trip, and Hattie did too, only she may have been doubly impressed because her gear was pink and purple. Yes, I know: colors are for everyone. Yes, I am the same woman that does everything in her power to ensure her children do not fall into the gendered marketing pit. I am also the woman that swallows her distaste for pink when her daughter clearly has a fondness for it. 

Then I got super pissy when I saw the difference between the girly notebook and the boyish notebook.

Instead of endlessly ranting on how lame it is to handout journals for girls and puzzle/activity books for boys, I just offer this:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month but We Don't Need Feminism.

I did not have to spend time as a domestic and sexual violence advocate in a big city to be a witness to injustice. The rural setting was enough. I watched women fight to regain custody of their children when it was lost through no fault of their own. I was witness to women fighting to keep from getting fired because of a stalker. I held the hands of women reliving abuse so horrific that those battles replayed in their minds so often and vivid that they thought they were experiencing it again. I have been there while women of all shapes, sizes, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds struggle to use every coping skill under the sun to survive.

They went through the ringer with a less than perfect justice system. Judges and lawyers with limitations. Officers who cared, but did not have a prosecutor (for whatever reason) that was willing to help. Officers that did not want to be involved in a "family matter" or thought rape was a "lesson to be learned."

For many reasons, one being confidentiality, I won't go into the sordid details. Being a witness to this sort of thing does not just go away. It wasn't possible to take off the advocate hat once I had worn it.

This is why I am particularly bothered that, as we near the close of yet another Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I get to read about a male Catholic blogger who does not believe feminism serves a purpose. I won't link to the post. I am sure many of you have read it. When I post a response from another blogger to his post, I see my Facebook 'likes' go down, so I would venture to guess some of you agree with him. I can't write up a response better than Simcha or Destiny, so I will just politely say that women have not gained equality yet. I saw someone on Facebook talk at length about not needing feminism because God gives her all the equality she needs. What about other women? Being equal in the eyes of God has not stopped the porn industry from stripping every ounce of dignity from women. It has not stopped men from thinking being married means they have free reign over their wife as though she is property. It has not stopped women in other countries from being pariahs once they are brutally raped by a man who is not their husband. God-given equality, inherent dignity if you will, is powerful. It means we have even more of a duty to end rape culture and violence against women. It means we have a duty to protect our children from a culture that oversexualizes our girls and teaches our boys that power is all that matters.

It makes me very sad to see that there are Catholic voices not getting it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Post Where I Impress You With My GoodReads "Currently Reading" List

A few days ago, I was perusing the barrel of laughs that is Facebook. It was filled with various Frozen video shares, some quippy memes, updates, some bison running on a road, and a discussion about the poor and the rich in America. A friend of a friend asked (and I am paraphrasing here)

"If everyone is fed, does it matter how big the gap is between the wealthy and the poor?"

Since I am wading through the dense paragraphs in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (that link will get you all the sources for the quotes below), I have been knee deep in this subject matter for nearly a month now. I also spent several years working with the welfare population in a not-so well off town. I am not agreeing or disagreeing with the above statement, but I ask that you keep it in mind as I ramble through this post.

A few sections in Chapter 4 of the Compendium really struck me, and I would like to share them:

165 A society that wishes and intends to remain at the service of the human being at every level is a society that has the common good — the good of all people and of the whole person  — as its primary goal. The human person cannot find fulfillment in himself, that is, apart from the fact that he exists “with” others and “for” others.

I have long upheld that it is not my duty to vote for the government to care for those in need, but for me to do this myself. I believe that the best way to serve those in need, is at the smallest level possible: first in family life, and then our communities. The bigger the pool of people becomes, the more difficult it becomes to provide tailored services that provide the most help, without enabling or prolonging the suffering.

166 The demands of the common good...concern above all the commitment to peace, the organization of the State's powers, a sound juridical system, the protection of the environment, and the provision of essential services to all, some of which are at the same time human rights: food, housing, work, education and access to culture, transportation, basic health care, the freedom of communication and expression, and the protection of religious freedom.

The freedoms listed above also allow for people to be cruel. To have opinions or beliefs that are untrue or bias. That does not make them right: as a Christian, I am called to serve all. To love all. A government cannot allow laws to be put into place that go against our basic human rights. It is difficult to remember sometimes that the standard of living the majority of Americans experience, is not the equivalent of human rights. State of the art technological advancements are not basic rights.

183 Christian realism, while appreciating on the one hand the praiseworthy efforts being made to defeat poverty, is cautious on the other hand regarding ideological positions and Messianistic beliefs that sustain the illusion that it is possible to eliminate the problem of poverty completely from this world. This will happen only upon Christ's return, when he will be with us once more, for ever. In the meantime, the poor remain entrusted to us and it is this responsibility upon which we shall be judged at the end of time. (Mt. 25:31-46)

No amount of wealth redistribution will end poverty. No amount of government intervention will end it either. Our duty on earth is to serve others: to imitate Christ.

187 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to certain forms of centralization, bureaucratization, and welfare assistance and to the unjustified and excessive presence of the State in public mechanisms. “By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending”.

There is dignity in work. Work dignifies people. It is healthy. To borrow a term, the Social Assistance State puts this dignity into danger.
188 Various circumstances may make it advisable that the State step in to supply certain functions[401]. One may think, for example, of situations in which it is necessary for the State itself to stimulate the economy because it is impossible for civil society to support initiatives on its own. One may also envision the reality of serious social imbalance or injustice where only the intervention of the public authority can create conditions of greater equality, justice and peace. In light of the principle of subsidiarity, however, this institutional substitution must not continue any longer than is absolutely necessary, since justification for such intervention is found only in the exceptional nature of the situation.

 In sum, humans find worth in helping others and in community. There are basic rights afforded to all, but we cannot expect the government to serve those that are our responsibility. Some circumstances would warrant temporary interventions, but long term solutions that would have elected officials and taxes do our duties for us do damage to us all.

I return to the statement from the beginning of the post:

"If everyone is fed, does it matter how big the gap is between the wealthy and the poor?"

I think the question is misleading. I think it is not really the right question at all. Are we caring for the most destitute in our communities? We use social service programs like food stamps as a crutch to lean on; an excuse. We use it to imply that those that need food and shelter have it supplied for them, but you know. Only the ones that can't help it. Only the ones that we find deserving enough. We judge and trivialize and minimize plenty. Our duty as Christians is not merely to serve those we feel need our help, but also to serve those that we don't think deserve it. Perhaps the truer and more difficult calling for us today, is to serve not just those in need, but those who are in need because of their own doing. It is easier to swallow helping someone down on their luck than it is to help someone who fell victim to their own devices. Christ didn't choose to die for Himself. He chose to die for our sins. He chose to serve us even though we chose against Him.

This is exactly what Christ would say. 

There are many forms of poverty. Maybe financial poverty can ideally be resolved with a large budget and wealth redistribution, but poverty will still exist.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Thing About Rape.

(I forgot to mention over the weekend that I am participating in Conversion Diary's Seven Posts in Seven Days. It will be a good thing for me to work through all of these violence against women posts that have been stirring around in my head! Head over to Conversion Diary for more 7 in 7!)

Women. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, attitudes. They have different religions, different families, different strengths, different extra curricular activities. Introverted and extroverted. Attached or unattached. Young and old, experienced or inexperienced and everything in-between.

A few days ago, I wrote about the concept of not enough, or scarcity. Sometimes, not enough is a bit normal. Think back to being an adolescent: trying to figure out hormones and the inexperience of youth trying to be adult. I think I had what would be considered a normal amount of this back in the day. I remember bursting into tears one day over a school photo, and "too much forehead." My mom suggested a new haircut, and I was off to find something else about myself that I needed to critique. Today, it seems much worse for young girls.

Let me get back on track before I hijack my own post with Mean Girls and tales of my youth. The point: I had parents that talked to me about sex, dating and even rape. I was just an average kid, trying to get used to growing up. 

 Left: Eighth grader me

Right: college me
I didn't really feel comfortable in my own skin until college. My freshmen year and most of my sophomore year, I was just happy. Things may not have been perfect in my life, but I felt comfortable with who I was. The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote for The Guiding Star Project (Parts One and Two) last March:

It was Thanksgiving my freshmen year of college. After the standard family time, I had plans to spend some time with one of my best friends. He picked me up and we went to his parent’s house so we could catch up. He told me how his classes were going and all about his most recent break up. I told him about my classes and how I had just started seeing someone new. I remember gushing a little, because I just felt really happy. Within a few moments, the conversation turned and suddenly he was on top of me in the dark. I asked him repeatedly to stop: I reminded him that I was seeing someone. It was as though he could not hear me. I was terrified of the person I thought was my best friend. I retreated inside my head and repeated the Hail Mary as I was certain the night would end in my virginity being stolen. After a few minutes, he sat up and I asked if he could take me home. He talked to me the entire ride home nonchalantly as I stared out the passenger window, relieved that he only assaulted me. I asked my dad to take me back to school early so I could be alone.

It took some time for me to come to terms with what had happened. I over-analyzed everything I had said to him, certain that I just had not been clear enough with him. My confidence was shattered, and I felt used.

I was lucky in a twisted way.

It was a few weeks before I told anyone what had happened. I was fortunate enough to have a best friend that loved me, and encouraged me to be honest and truthful about the situation. That half an hour of my life was powerful enough to have lasting consequences for me and my self-worth. It also impacted my perception of sexual assault victims, especially in one specific way:

This is a photo of the outfit I was wearing that night. My favorite pair of well worn, boot-cut, dark wash jeans. My favorite fuzzy sweater hoodie with a t-shirt underneath it: perfect for a Kansas November night. I had spent all day with my family and was just visiting my friend. I was not stumbling out of  a bar, in a tube top and Daisy Duke shorts. Even if I was, it did not mean anyone had the right to assault me.

I have hesitated to make this point. The comparison is a moot point, because it truly doesn't matter what you are doing or wearing. If you are unable to give consent, or you say no, it is assault. Period. 
One of the campaigns that I love right now, is from Men Can Stop Rape. An Example:

 photo MCSR-TakeaStand-Poster-3.jpg

The reason I am writing this post? It is far past time to change our attitudes about rape. Rape culture is pervasive: it victim blames, it gives rapists excuses, and otherwise good people crappy reasons to ignore and minimize rape. Rape should not feel like "the great equalizer" for women. The truth about rape and sexual assault is that it can happen to anyone. It does not just happen outside a bar. The thing about rape, is that it is not ever "understandable" or deserved. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Daring Greatly and IPV

You may not know this about me, but I do not board the Self Help Reading Train very often. When I was an advocate, I read a great deal of books that would help me to become a better advocate. Those books ranged from books like The Courage To Heal, memoirs written by abuse survivors, art therapy books that might help me to think about how I interact as an advocate, finance... trust me. It ran the gamut. Now that I stay at home with my children, my reading as turned more towards things that interest me, but when I heard several people talk about the book Daring Greatly, it seemed time to pick it up. If I am being completely candid, my face looked like this for a few months:

The more I listened to the sort of information and tolls that people were taking away from the book, the more curious I became. So, I bought it. I really do find Brown's research fascinating.

Brown talks about the concept of scarcity in her first chapter, as a way to "collect" all the "not enough" sentiments: not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough, not strong enough, not enough. This is a concept that has not escaped the feminism movement, no matter what branch or tree of the movement with which you identify. Feminism seeks to eradicate the concept that women are not enough. Sure, there are different ideas and approaches, but equality means equality.

When it comes to IPV (intimate partner violence), sometimes it feels different. Folks that typically would fight the concept of mommy wars, or fight for women's equality seem to feel uncomfortable when a woman experiences violence in her relationship. Here are some things I have actually heard said about women in violent relationships:

- She must like the drama.
- She deserves it for having kids with him.
-She is a grown-ass woman and should fight back.

This sort of talk leads me to believe that, in general, most people do not understand the dynamics of IPV. Or how "domestic issues" are handled sometimes with the legal system, but that is another conversation. Why isn't it as simple as being drawn to drama, or deserving it, or fighting back?

 Yep. I am posting it again. I think in many ways, the concept of scarcity applies to this. It is one thing to live in a world filled with messages from the media, advertisers, maybe a few so-called friends that you are not enough. It is a horse of a different color to live in a world where the person that is supposed to choose to love you no matter what and more than anything else in the world, and the person that you love no matter what and you have given your heart to fills you to the brim with not enough. Imagine for a moment that your loved one:

-Told you that, because you are a woman, you are not good enough to me more than his servant.
-Told you that you are not a good enough mother to your kids, and if you left, he would surely take them away.
-Told you he only treats you the way he does because, if you were thinner, he might love you again.
-Told you that your family and friends can't come to your home because you are a slob and not clean enough.
-Said all of the above and then used threats of or actual violence, emotion abuse, sexual abuse and limited your financial access as well.

The fact is that every instance of IPV is different, yet strikingly the same. It is set up to manipulate and control the victim. It is never as simple as leaving, especially since we know the threats and likelihood of lethality increase when a woman leaves.

I read the first chapter of Daring Greatly, and instantly thought about the women I have known that lived with abuse. If we fight to end the "not enough" messages that women encounter daily, then that means fighting to end IPV, and helping women survive abuse and its aftermath.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

To Be Pro Life and Against Violence Towards Women...

... seems to feel like more of a rarity than it should be. In my experience as an advocate, I worked hard to take a deep breath and speak up when abortion was discussed with coworkers. I will admit that I certainly feel more well-versed on the subject matter now, but I did not have it in me to stay silent on the matter. I never was faced with the situation where a survivor asked for abortion resources, but I did provide many a shoulder to cry on and comfort for women that had abortions or were overwhelmed with pregnancy or miscarriage. It taught me that there are scary, real, and harmful situations for women in this world. It taught me that women sometimes feel they must do the unimaginable to survive. I hate that I know these things.
Power and Control Wheel:
This graph illustrates many of the tactics abusers use to control their partners.

Being an advocate means knowing these awful things, and knowing that there are others trying to combat violence and rape in a culture that blames women for rape and sees IPV as "relationship" or "domestic" issues. The advocates that fight in the trenches every day to help women heal from abuse and rape go to court with survivors and see the gamut of outcomes: conviction, charges dismissed, custody given to abusive partners, battered women held responsible for their partner's abuse, rape trials turned into a parade of the victim's sexual past. They see women judged by society and they have no legal or social support. They see women raped and left in pieces, sometimes with a child as a result. They see women beaten and forced into sex get pregnant, stay pregnant or beaten until they miscarry. It is no wonder that abortion looks like the better option.

The religious affiliation statistic is heart breaking.
 It shows a real gap in the love we are asked to show and that love in action.

Being a (small) voice in the pro life movement means encountering all kinds of pro life individuals. This movement is filled with loving, caring, and compassionate people. It is filled with the voices of my generation: those that survived the abortion statistics. It is also filled with Christians, non-Christians, atheists, men, women, and children. There are also those that call women who have had abortions murderers and whores. There are those that think that shaming and blaming women for abortion is the "tough love" approach that will save lives. These people are wrong.

Now you have an idea of what I see: Pro choicers determined to find a way to avoid trauma and alleviate some pain. Pro choicers wary of those against abortion but unwilling to fight IPV and rape culture. Pro lifers that know children cannot be the cost of equality. Pro lifers wary of those that promote abortion because they see them as trying to destroy the family unit.

No one wins in this deadlock, especially not women. People on both sides of the abortion debate must start to acknowledge the pieces of truth the other side holds.

Rape is not as simple as reporting it if we shame victims and blame them for their own assault.

If you are pro life and reading this post, I challenge you to seek more information on the cycle of violence. Find out more about rape.

If you are pro choice and reading this post, I encourage you to engage in real conversation with someone you know that is pro life, or research Feminists For Life to find out more about how the pro life cause does not mean saving children at the expense of women.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I had an odd lesson in coping today, courtesy of my children. Today, the older two children had dentist appointments. It was the first time for my two year old daughter. This week, I have been observing her interactions with other children and people outside of our family: she is quiet and reserved. She speaks to other adults about the things she knows: her mom, her brothers, and how her older brother is her only friend. Then today, she ran up to every child she saw in the waiting room and introduced herself and her brothers: the very picture of an extrovert.

My oldest son never stops talking. He understands the concept of doctor and dental check ups, and that it means he usually ends up with a prize for behaving. He made the office staff laugh as he counted his seventy teeth, and told them all how he will have a loose tooth soon, and the Tooth Fairy will bring him a Hot Wheel. Nothing seems to make him nervous. When he is scared, he talks to reassure himself or to gain more information.

When it was my daughter's turn, they called her over. Her head went down, and she obeyed every instruction. She was silent. No smiles, no laughing: stoicism at its finest. When she was done, she got down and ran over to play, laughing and giggling as though she had flipped a switch. It was painful for me to see her that nervous, and to react the way that I do.

I know that she is only two, and that it very well could have been yet another character in her on-going comedic tragedy. The girl has some mad drama skills. But I saw a look in her eyes that told me otherwise. She was incredibly nervous, but wanted no one to detect a weakness.

My children reacted very differently to the same, harmless situation today. Imagine for a moment, the varied reactions humans are capable of when the stakes are higher, say in a situation of abuse.

My time as an advocate proved this same thing time and again. Some women were stoic and just wanted to get back to work or to something that made sense. Some women laughed and joked to cover pain. And still others fell apart, and needed real time to grieve and plan their next move. Some drank heavily, some ate heavily, some were angry and abusive in turn. Some covered their emotions, some were eager to please and some were set off by the slightest sense of injustice.

We ask why women in abusive situations stay with their partners. We ask why sexual assault survivors were wearing a skirt or out late at night or at a party drinking. We blame women for the violence and then we blame them for trying to find a familiar way of coping with that pain and grief when they are coping alone. We encourage abortion and rage against women for "allowing children to be born into a situation" but we do nothing to end the violence or support them in coping if they do not cope in a pleasing manner.

What if my daughter had cried and thrashed while having her teeth cleaned? She would have certainly been less pleasing to the staff. We wouldn't have faulted her for being scared though. So why do we fault women when they are scared and seeking healthy ways of coping with trauma instead of supporting them and standing up to the violence?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Long Loneliness: A Review of Sorts

To be honest, I am not much one for book reviews. I tend to assume I can figure out if I will like a book or not, and I am usually right. I can only think of one exception, so I am not going to rave or wave on this book, but I did want to share a few "Aha!" moments that I felt while reading Dorothy Day's autobiography, because wow. I am still thinking about them. 

This passage just grabs me. Often, I find myself struggling in my faith: not understanding, trying to understand, forgetting what I thought I understood. Reading this and being reminded that we humans are not just "one dimension" is refreshing. We have bodies and minds and souls. So often our society focuses just on the physical and yet there is so much more to our existence. 


Day's incredibly brave and difficult decision to choose Catholicism over the love of her life RIPS ME UP.  She says, "To become Catholic meant for me to give up a mate with whom I was much in love. It got to the point where it was a simple question of whether I chose God or man." Wow. Not going to lie. I teared up thinking about whether or not I could have made that decision. Sure, I made the decision time and time again while dating, but what if I would have had to make that choice when it was THE man? 


Day beautifully described the ambivalence a Catholic like me sometimes feels about the human Church when she wrote about her feelings on the Church during her conversion. "'The worst enemies would be those of our own household.'" To hear that the struggle of loving the faith and being frustrated with how we practice our faith is so timeless gives me some hope. 


Dorothy Day also describes a peculiar, yet familiar scene under a section she titled, "Community." 
One of the great German Protestant theologians said after the end of the last war that what the world needed was community and liturgy.
The desire for liturgy, and I suppose he meant sacrifice, worship, a sense of reverence, is being awakened in great masses of people throughout the world by the new revolutionary leaders. A sense of individual worth and dignity is the first result of the call made on them to enlist their physical and spiritual capacities in the struggle for a life more in keeping with the dignity of man. One might also say that the need to worship grows in them with the sense of reverence, so the sad result is giant-sized posters of Lenin and Stalin, Tito and Mao. The dictator becomes divine.
 Does history repeat itself? Do we acknowledge it is repeating itself while it is happening? I am struck by the similarities between what Day describes and our current political climate and affiliations. Large posters of our President and other candidates. Social media clamoring with a near worship-level of allegiance to parties instead of the needs of our fellow men and women.


"Every Catholic faced with great need starts a novena."


I am so glad that I read this book. My interest in all things Catholic and feminist is growing, and to read about Dorothy Day's life in her own words was refreshing and motivating. Because she fits today's definition of feminist, but she really just believes in the equal and inherent dignity with which ALL humans are created. So, go add it to your list. Or at least read a bunch of quotes from her or look her up on Wikipedia. She pretty much is amazing.

Also, if you haven't joined the party on Facebook, come join.