Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Uninformed Ally Says What?

Sexual assault isn't exactly a great dinner party discussion. There is rarely a place on the Internet where strangers or acquaintances are able to learn or talk about it.

For several years, abuse and assault was my job. The conversation never ended, never dulled. I would wake up, go to work, then listen to survivors, plan support groups on it, have staff meetings on it, go to seminars and conferences to learn more about how to support survivors. Even the way I went grocery shopping was changed because of my work with survivors.

I'd wager there never is a great time to talk about the subject. Sexual assault is an ugly truth. It's something we don't want to know about. We don't want the experience, and we don't want to be reminded that it is reality.

Sexual assault and consent is messy. Complicated sometimes. It makes us confront our societal failures. Generalizations are easy. It is easier to tell ourselves that people are too sensitive, too careless, too irrational than it is to try to change the perpetrator's behavior or even our own beliefs.

I don't believe we want to hurt others. I don't believe we've all turned into combox trolls. So, this is me, trying to change the world. For those of you that have experienced sexual assault? I see you. I know you are there. The rest of us? We need to do our best to make sure that our words prove we are a reliable ally.

If you want to support sexual assault survivors, don't say these five things.

Because no one talks about their experience or because it hasn't happened to me, it isn't a pervasive issue. 


There are men and women in your life that have experienced assault. That isn't an educated guess, or a projection. Even if you have not, others have.

I was sexually assaulted and I am just fine, so those that are not fine aren't trying hard enough.


Every person in this world comes with their own unique set of baggage and coping skills. We all need different things to heal from trauma. If yours was a smooth ride, that is fantastic. Not everyone will have that same experience.

A spouse cannot rape their spouse.


A marriage vow is not blanket consent for sex.

Men can't be raped. 


Yes. They can. Rape is not simply vaginal intercourse.

If you don't want to be raped, don't do____.


No one deserves rape. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted. No one. We continually focus on the victims of rape because explaining away the circumstances gives us a false sense of control. If we don't do ___ and we tell others not to do ___ then, rape will not happen. But it will, because we are busy reacting instead of preventing.

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.