Friday, April 24, 2015

A "Broken" Feminine Genius

About a week and a half ago, Pope Francis spoke on the subject of the differences (and the sameness) of men and women. You can read about it here, but it made me get something in my eye.

You see, for a very long time, I have been thinking about the term "Feminine Genius" and how I see it in me. It came to a head when I read Momnipotent. The struggle for me centers on this totally made up but not really made up conversation.

Friend: Yeah! Feminine Genius rocks! Women are awesome.
Another Friend: What is 'feminine genius'?
Friend: It encompasses all the things women are great at: their natural abilities.
Another Friend: Cool. Like what?
Friend: Oh, you know. Like child birth, breast feeding, NURTURING.

Then I pull my hair out. Four c-sections right here, and while I can probably squirt a bowling pin down from across the room with my incredible milk supply, I stink at nurturing. To hear ad nauseam that women are good and womanly things like NURTURING, and emotions, and feelings, and NURTURING is really sort of depressing (wait. That's a feeling, right?) when you just aren't nurturing.

Before I get a com box filled with fake no, that's not trues, it is. My child comes to me hurting, screaming, and crying and my first instinct is not to kiss and make it better: it is to address the snapping issue in my brain and try like hell not to cringe and back away saying "Dude, why are you coming at me I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING PLEASE LEAVE."

So, Pope Francis using fresh terms was a relief. This in particular:

We have not yet understood in depth what things the feminine genius can give us, that woman can give to society and also to us. Perhaps to see things with different eyes that complements the thoughts of men. It is a path that must be crossed with more creativity and more boldness.

I identify in many ways with the new face of the new feminism movement. I speak out against domestic and sexual violence. I speak out against abortion. Just as the whole pro life thing sort of disqualifies me as a mainstream feminist, I sort of feel discounted within new feminism because my body was not naturally equipped to push out four large children, I don't enjoy breast feeding in the least, and there is no way a single person that knows me would choose the word "nurturing" as one of the three words that best describes me. What is a girl that is caught in between to do?

No way. I love my washer and dryer.

Just as there is not one type of man, women are different. We all have different strengths, different weaknesses, different fashion senses. I am comfortable in my own skin. I have things that I need to work on (it probably wouldn't kill me to be more emotive, empathetic, sensitive...) but I don't need to change in order to show how my feminine genius is not broken. I'm a woman. Boom. Creativity and boldness- you heard the pope. 

Now, Go back up to the top of the post and read the two links. 


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Believe Them.

An article appeared on my Facebook feed this morning. The Pink Haired Papist and I are discussing it over on my page
This is what it would look like if my disembodied head sat creepily close to Tori as she had a drink.

All joking aside, this article really breaks my heart. 

I don't really want to delve into statistics right now. Sexual assault numbers are notoriously inaccurate given the number of women that never report. So, even if "2% of rape reports are fake" is inaccurate, I'd go you one better and say of course it is inaccurate. You cannot account for something that is under-reported, because to what degree is it under-reported? And really. Can you blame victims? (No pun intended.) If you come forward with sexual assault allegations, everything you have ever worn, done or said is called into question. In my case, I lost both of my closest friends for speaking up. Imagine if I had reported it. 

When I was assaulted by my best friend in college, I felt like scum. I had willingly gone to his parent's home at night, thinking that we would just be catching up. I quickly realized that was not the case. 

When I got back to my dad's, I just wanted to go back to school. A few weeks later, I called a mutual friend and told him what had happened. He said "You know he didn't mean anything by it." If one of my best friends can make unwanted sexual advances and choose not to stop despite me saying "No." and I tell my other closest and trusted friend that I was assaulted and he doesn't believe me, why would a police officer?

The message we send women over and over again is this: If you were assaulted, report it. Then be prepared to prove that you are the perfect victim so that we will believe you.

The article that launched this post speaks mostly to campus* assaults which are most likely** the most commonly unreported sexual assault. Why? Alcohol. How many college (and high school) age women wake up the morning after, realize they have had sex without the ability to consent, and blame only themselves? Doesn't it make sense to be addressing this issue with both men and women that are college age?

This same article also brings up The Rolling Stone debacle. The author goes out of his way to ensure his readers that it all was a lie and that NOW believes it anyway. Why is the only mention of victims about lies? I have a book filled with things to say about this. If an assault is reported, it is the job of the police officers and the justice system to prosecute the person responsible. It is our job as advocates against sexual assault, not to discredit the victim, but to believe her/him and support healing and rehabilitation for all involved. Why do we get so wrapped up in discrediting the victim first? Why can't we just acknowledge that there was some sort of trauma involved and strive to help those involved repair the damage so that it stops happening?

Ask yourself: How much does it help us to assume an accuser is lying or partially to blame for a sexual assault? When we assume a victim is lying until an assault can be proven, we ensure that future victims will not come forward. 

I get it. No one wants to see lives ruined over false accusations. This is why prevention and advocacy is so imperative! It is important that we address this issue with our children. It is important that both men and women stand together to end sexual assaults. It is important that we support healing for victims and rehabilitation for perpetrators. 

*If you want to call them that- not all sexual assault happening to college students by college students are happening on campus, but I digress. 

**If you have statistics to disprove this, feel free to fill me in.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sexual Violence Against Women and the Catholic Response

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the Catholic Church has had to seriously up her game when it comes to the subject of sexual assault, in particularly as it relates to the clergy abuse scandals. However, when it comes to sexual assault, a great deal of the training or responses issued center on rape and pregnancy.

The Catholic Church (beyond the Catechism (2356) ) does not really have a standard training for the clergy or faith counseling focused on sexual assault advocacy or healing. In my experience as an advocate, there are Catholic organizations that serve sexual assault survivors, but when it comes to one on one counseling or even educational/training materials there is most certainly something left to be desired.

The Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review Findings (2011) tell us that faith communities are a likely support system for victims of violence, yet our support for survivors is seriously lacking. Poor catechisis  and modesty/chastity talks gone wrong are not doing a fantastic job of sexual assault prevention. We cannot leave our girls to believe their level of modesty is responsible for assault, and we cannot leave our boys to believe that they are nothing but a victim of their sinful urges.

I believe that the Catholic Church can put together more cohesive preventative measures and responses when it comes to sexual violence. The USCCB website has a section with parish resources related to combating sexual violence, but many of the links speak mostly about domestic violence. I believe the response must be more than this.

The inherent dignity of all people must be upheld in all aspects of Catholic faith education: from parish communities to counseling. The church has implemented the VIRTUS training program for all parish volunteers in the US as a response to the clergy abuse scandals. I believe that our parishes can work with local domestic and sexual violence programs to also train their staff in advocating for survivors. The pro life response here, is to have complete understanding of the dynamics of all forms of sexual assault, and to be able to support survivors as they heal. After all, will they not call upon their faith community for support?

The FaithTrust Institute approaches domestic and sexual violence from a religious perspective. They have resources for most faith communities, though nothing I have seen that is explicitly Catholic. When I go to the USCCB page and click on the link for resources, nothing comes up. This something that really must improve

Do you know how your parish and diocese approach sexual violence? Sound off in the comments! I would love to hear about successful approaches or working relationships between Catholic organizations and the local anti-violence programs.