Is the Cart before the Horse? A Clarification

I don’t know Zachary Thompson or Garrison Keillor, and my concern is not about them alone. I know it can be next to impossible to get fired from a bureaucracy, but my concern remains. I am not condemning the #MeToo movement or anyone else. I’m asking a question I think is valid. Is the cart before the horse in some cases of men being fired because of sexual harassment allegations.

Because of my own experience I tend to believe every woman who says she’s been sexually assaulted or harassed, but I don’t want people losing their livelihoods with no investigation into allegations against them. If there has been an investigation, it is incumbent upon employers to reveal that when someone is fired because of one single allegation.

A good friend wrote to me about my previous post on this subject. I’m sorry she didn’t post to my blog so everyone could have seen her concerns. I hope this clarification is helpful. I don’t want anyone thinking I have an issue with #MeToo, because I don’t. It’s partly what gave me the courage to tell my own #MeToo story.

Is the Cart before the Horse?

Happy new year and best wishes for a safe and prosperous 2018!

This first post of the new year poses an important question about a topic close to my heart: #MeToo. I’m wondering if we are sometimes moving too far too fast. Here’s why:

On 3 January 2018, Dallas County Health Department director Zachary Thompson, who was scheduled to retire on 31 January, was fired because of sexual harassment and hostile work environment allegations made against him by one person. There has been no mention of an investigation into the charges, just a firing.

In early December, Minnesota Public Radio fired Garrison Keillor based on one allegation of “improper conduct” by one person . . . without an investigation into the charge.

There may be others who have been brought to ruin on the word of only one person without any proof of wrongdoing or bad behavior. My concern is that we are shooting first and asking questions afterward. In other words, in some cases, employers may have acted too expeditiously: they may have put the cart before the horse. And that’s no way to fix the problem of men behaving badly.

 

Forbidden Words? Yes!

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was put on notice that there were seven words and phrases that should not be used in its budget request document. The department of Health and Human Services, to which the CDC reports, denies it, but given the administration’s anti-intellectual bent, I believe the CDC was told not to use these seven words and phrases in its budget proposal document:

Fetus
Entitlement
Science-based
Evidence-based
Diversity
Transgender
Vulnerable.

How crazy is that? Maybe not as crazy as it sounds. Daniel Engber at Slate, the online news source, says rather than a ban on theses words from the top, avoiding the seven terms is actually a strategy formulated in the lower ranks of the CDC itself to avoid drawing the ire and thumbs down and of congress.

No matter which version of verboten words you believe, according to the Washington Post, on Tuesday, 19 December, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in collaboration with artist Robin Bell displayed all of the banned words in yellow and blue lights above the entrance to Trump International Hotel in Washington DC just down the street from the White House. The installation ended with, “We [the lgbtq comunity] will not be erased.” Way to go, HRC!

Regardless of the veracity of the original story, in response to the CDC’s words and phrases to avoid strategy, I have compiled a list of 10 words and phrases Mr. Trump and his minions should never, ever use again:

Crooked
Rigged
Huge
I — as in “I [Trump] alone can fix it.”
Loser
Believe me
Sad
Tremendous
Fake news
Failing — as in “the failing New York Times.”

I am confident that eliminating these words and phrases from the president’s and his administration’s limited vocabularies will cut down on his bombastic tweets and other foolish statements. The aforementioned 10 words and phrases seem to have gotten Trump into the White House. Let’s hope that forbidding their use will send him packing!

 

The End of My #MeToo Story

At our 25th or 30th Fisk reunion (our class meets the years that end in zeros and fives), again with the support of my friend Glenda, I arranged to meet with “B,” the man who had raped me all those years ago. We met in the lobby of our reunion hotel. I had decided, hoped, that confronting him would help me let go of the assault and its residual effects on me.

My stomach was in knots and I was beyond nervous. “B” showed up at the appointed time and place. He looked worried. “What did you want to talk about?” he asked. “I think you know,” I said; “I want to know why you did what you did to me. Why you raped me.”

“B” seemed surprised, but he did not say what I expected. He did not say he didn’t do it. Instead, he said, “I thought you wanted . . .” His voice trailed off. I was incredulous and I’m sure my face and voice showed it; for a moment, I was literally speechless. “You thought I wanted to be raped . . . by you and ___? That makes sense to you?”  At this point “B” said, “I’m sorry if I misunderstood . . .”  Again, his voice trailed off. He wanted to characterize his crime, his rape of me, as a misunderstanding! It shocked me and made me angry and sad.

And that was that. I do not remember the rest of the conversation if there was any “rest.” It was disappointing. I don’t know what I expected, but I certainly did not expect to be told that “B” thought I wanted to be raped – by two people no less! I am really lucky that our other classmate refused to take part in the assault. I guess what I wanted, what I hoped for was a full-throated apology, but as you can see, I didn’t get one.

The statute of limitations has long since run out on “B”’s crime. I have done my best to let it go, and exposing the decades-old secret did help some. But I never will forget or forgive what “B” did to me. For now, I am determined to let it go, though I do hope that one day I will have the nerve, the courage, to say his full name in a post so that he can experience the shame and burden of his crime as I did for so long. I don’t want there to be any “misunderstanding.”

#HeadHeldHigh.

 

 

 

More #MeToo & Secret Club

I am one of the fortunate who was never sexually harassed at any of my fulltime workplaces, yet I still must say #MeToo. The first time, I was accosted by my boss in the stockroom at my summer job at Cain-Sloan department store. I don’t know what all I said to him, but it made an impression, because I was able to slip out of his embrace and leave the stockroom. Fortunately, he never approached me that way again, so it ended right where it began.

I was not so lucky one Saturday in the spring of my junior year when I was sexually assaulted by someone I knew, and whom, up to that point, I thought of as a friend. I thought we liked each other. We are contemporaries and were in the same class at Fisk University. I’ll call him “B.”

“B” raped me on a beautiful spring afternoon toward the end of our junior year. The assault was a crime of opportunity – his; I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It didn’t happen in a dark alley but in a well-lit dorm room, yet I was just as surprised and it was just as frightening as if I had been accosted on a poorly-lit street by an unknown assailant.

Being raped was bad enough, but suddenly, another man whom I also knew strode, naked but for a towel around his waist, into the room. Fortunately for us all, he balked at joining in. Instead, he said, “Man, this is Pam! Are you crazy?” He told me to get dressed and leave. He then hustled “B” and himself from the room. I have always felt that he saved my life.

In a daze, I got dressed, grabbed what I had come there for, went back to my dorm room, and took all the painkillers I could find.

I swore my close friend Glenda to secrecy before telling her that I had taken a bottle of Excedrin. She convinced me to go to Student Health where they pumped my stomach and tried to get me to tell why I had tried to harm myself. They threatened to call my parents but I refused to give them the number. They never did call, and I did not tell them what had prompted my suicide attempt. It was all too horrible, embarrassing, and shameful. I wasn’t sharing it with some doctor in Student Health, and I certainly wasn’t telling my parents.

I had been raped. Nothing like this was supposed to happened to nice, college girls like me. So, I did not call the police;  I told no one. I literally felt I would die before telling one single soul.

I don’t know if there were rape kits way back then, but it did not matter. Because of my shame and anxiety, the medical professionals did not know I had been raped, so I was not examined with that in mind.

I was assaulted on a Saturday afternoon, so I was able to “recover” and push everything to the back of my mind where I could pretend none of it had occurred. Monday, I got up and went to classes as if nothing monstrous had happened to me. The rest of that semester and my whole senior year, I felt fear in “B”’s presence. Fisk is small; I was never alone with him, but I couldn’t completely avoid him either.

I kept the events of that spring afternoon at bay for many years. But it all came rushing back at me when I looked at pictures from our tenth college reunion, and there I was in one of the photos grinning like a fool with “B”’s arm draped over my shoulder. I couldn’t believe or understand it: what was I thinking? What was he thinking? I had thought he liked me, but this man had raped me. What was I thinking? It was all so confusing.

Still, I did not seek help for another eight or ten years.

Why was I so reticent to seek help or to tell anyone what happened? There was (and still is) a stigma attached to rape and rape survivors. Even though a woman is attacked through no fault of her own, everything about the rape is shrouded in secrecy and shame. Someone told Bridget Kelly’s father that, as a result of being raped, she was “damaged goods.” His message was clear: women who have been raped are in a category apart, a negative one. Another implication is that nice girls, good girls don’t get raped.  A woman must have done something to bring it on herself. Her name must be kept secret to protect her. From what? She has already been injured.

With shame and secrecy is how women have been taught to respond to sexual assault: somehow it was always our fault. And rape was something women – not their assailants – needed to be ashamed of. Society made this plain by the way it shrouded rape in secrecy and insinuation, by hiding survivors’ names and investigating the survivors’ sexual histories. For years, I bought into these faulty premises.

I was embarrassed and ashamed of being raped. I also was fearful and felt guilty, because the man who raped me was walking around campus, and I thought the rape was somehow my fault. But the fact of the matter is that I did nothing wrong, nothing for which I needed to feel embarrassment, shame, or guilt.

“B,” the man who raped me, should be ashamed, even today. After all, he is the one who did something wrong; he is the one who is at fault; he is the one who is guilty. However, because I did not report it, he walked away from a heinous crime, graduated, went to law school, and is now an officer of the court.

It has taken me decades to admit my membership in Bridget Kelly’s “secret club.” That is not to say I never told anyone. Over the years, I have told maybe three people. I never did tell my parents (who are now deceased), my sisters, or my college roommate.

I am acknowledging the rape now because Bridget Kelly’s story, logic, and bravery along with the #MeToo phenomenon helped me realize that it is my duty to speak up, 1) so I can be free of the burden of this huge secret, and 2) so I can help other survivors – recent and longstanding – realize that they are innocent and have nothing to be ashamed of. The only way to remove the stigma of surviving rape is by reporting it when it happens and putting the onus where it belongs: on the rapist.

On Sexual Harassment, #MeToo, and a Secret Club

In the last couple of weeks, in the wake of the spate of sexual harassment claims against powerful men, I have heard several references to “sexual harassment training.” It’s an expression that makes no sense to me. These alleged perpetrators already know how to sexually harass women and, in at least one case, a boy. I think reporters should be saying “anti-sexual harassment training” or “sexual harassment prevention training.” Recently, I even heard an NPR reporter explain that someone in Congress was considering offering “harassment training.” I certainly hope that fails!

* * *

I input #MeToo in my Google browser to see what I could learn about the phenomenon of women admitting to having been sexually assaulted or abused while outing their assailants/abusers/rapists. Lianna Brinded, writing on Quartz, says #MeToo has caused a paradigm shift in the way we all look at and respond to sexual harassment and abuse. She is apparently correct. It seems that women are mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.

One thing some women are saying is that their confidence was diminished by harassment, something I just did not get. A friend who used to work for a Fortune 500 company helped me understand how women’s confidence could be undermined. She explained that in her unit, no one ever got an above average performance review – even when they exceeded their goals.

That happened to me once, but I refused to sign my review, and I went above my boss’s head with evidence and complained – in writing – to the Personnel department. Now I see that although I was bold, I was also lucky. Lucky that policy required that employees had to sign their performance reviews, lucky the Personnel director was a woman, and lucky that my boss backed down. From what I am learning, things could have gone very differently.

* * *

Now, I want to introduce you to a remarkably brave and insightful young woman who survived a horrendous attack 15 years ago. She was kidnapped from her home in Killeen TX, raped, shot three times in the back, and left for dead in an open field.  Her name is Bridget Kelly,

When Kelly’s story was reported in the news, she was surprised that her name was not disclosed.  She had done nothing to be ashamed of.  Why was it worse, she wanted to know, to be raped than to be shot?  The names of gunshot victims are not suppressed to “protect” them.  She told her father, a columnist for an Omaha NE newspaper that it was okay to reveal that she had been raped.  And once his newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald, made an exception to its policy of not revealing rape survivors’ names, he did just that.  So, Bridget, then 24, still in the hospital recovering from rape and bullet wounds, thought of something so right and so logical that I wondered why it had not occurred to me long before.

Another observation Bridget Kelly made after her rape was revealed is that being raped is like belonging to a secret club to that no one wants to join.  Once people knew that Bridget had been raped, some of the women in her life revealed that they, too, had been raped.  You probably know someone who has been raped, because as many or more rapes go unreported than are reported to law enforcement. That unfortunate truth is on the rape survivors who must be brave and report sexual assault.

I’ll talk more about Bridget Kelly in future posts . . .

Let’s Start Using the M-Word: Murder

Monday, 6 November, a listener on NPR’s “The Takeaway” posed an important question: Why do the media call the massacres that periodically occur in the United States “mass shootings” when they are really “mass murders”? When we use the right words, the “shooters” can be called what they are: murderers.

An example is November 5th’s murders in Sutherland Springs TX. Devin Patrick Kelly did not just shoot 46 people; he murdered 26 and wounded 20 people. That does not seem difficult to say, so I challenge the media to say it.

Using the appropriate words might even convince those who have been reticent to stand up to the gun lobby and their lackeys in Congress that it is, indeed, time to discuss gun control measures. and gun violence

After all, mass murders are not simply a mental health issue as Donald Trump likes to characterize them. Mass murderers don’t usually use knives or baseball bats or weapons that require up-close and personal contact. They use guns; and we as a nation must insist on enforcement of the gun laws we already have, close the loopholes regarding background checks, and be unafraid to enact more laws if they are needed.

Why should gun show gun buyers be exempt from background checks? Why should any private citizen be able to purchase semi-automatic weapons? Why should anyone be able to purchase a bump stock? Why the euphemism for murder and murderers? Food for thought.

Time to write your congressional representatives don’t you think?

Speaking of Confederate Monuments

Wednesday, 1 November, I addressed the Dallas City Council regarding recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Confederate Monuments:

My name is Pamela Ice and I live in Dallas.

It matters to whom we erect monuments and after whom we name streets, parks, and schools, and it should not be to or after traitors. Therefore, I thank the Dallas City Council for removing the Robert E. Lee statue and changing the park name back to Oak Lawn Park; and I thank you Mayor Rawlings for establishing the Task Force on Confederate Monuments.

I agree with all but two of the Task Force recommendations. I suggest that the task force revisit Recommendation 8, and not rename streets unless they are named specifically for confederates. Names such as Lee, and Cabell are relatively common so if these street names are generic in nature, I say leave them be. Last week I was reminded by various speakers at this lectern of the costs and inconveniences residents and businesses will incur if street names such as Lee Parkway are changed unnecessarily.

Recommendation 13 calls for an apology for “the policies and practices of the City that have furthered institutional racism and segregation.” Rather than an apology for the past, my recommendation is that you and the council should actively work to eliminate City policies and practices that even today further institutional racism and segregation.

Thank you.

 

Update: Dallas’s Confederate Monuments Yet Again

On Wednesday, 25 October, I observed as all but one of the Dallas City Council listened to input from mostly white Dallas citizens regarding the recommendations of the mayor’s confederate monuments, schools, and street names task force.

A number of the people who spoke were from the Mayfair on Lee Parkway who are opposed to changing the street name. I agree that that is unnecessary.  It is not the Robert E. Lee Parkway, just Lee Parkway. Two or three people felt that the discussion of confederate statue removal was prompted by Marxists in our midst. A handful of people angrily demanded that the Robert E. Lee statue be restored to its pedestal in Oak Lawn Park and that the park’s name revert to Lee Park.

There was at least one speaker whose stance surprised me. An African-American woman spoke for keeping the confederate statues, claiming them as part of her history and heritage. She received loud and long applause from the predominantly white assemblage. Two speakers drove in from Cleburne to request that the Lee statue be given to the Cleburne Arts Council, a 501c3, for display on their private property. One speaker was from Arlington, one from Carrollton, and one from Addison. One elderly gent went to the microphone to assure us that the Civil War is over and that we need not re-fight it.

Some speakers claimed that the very discussion of the disposition of the monuments was causing strife where there had been none. Many claimed that fewer than 30 percent of Dallas citizens wanted the statues removed or the streets renamed. A handful of folks called for a city-wide vote on the monuments, and schools and streets renaming issues. Each time it was suggested, there were enthusiastic, sustained applause

All speakers had had their say in just two hours, from 6.00 to 8.00 p.m. Mayor Rawlings thanked all of the speakers and invited those who wanted to speak but did not do so that night to sign up to speak at the 1 November Council Meeting. I signed up. I will post my comments next week.

Jones Parrots Trump; Kneeling Protests Continue – As They Should

When did kneeling become disrespectful? And since when did singing the national anthem at sporting events become about the military? Apparently since Donald Trump declared it, for he has an uncanny ability to convince people that what he says is true even if it is not.

The kneeling protests by men Mr. Trump disrespects by calling them names, are about drawing the country’s attention to injustice. David Leonhardt of The New York Times says the protests were not effective, but I disagree. The protests were effective until Friday, 22 September, when the president successfully twisted the meaning of kneeling from an attitude of respect to one of disrespect and brought the military, the flag, and the nation into the discussion, not to mention he called the protesting players s.o.b.’s. The president has been allowed — by the media, his “base,” and the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones — to hijack the players’ intended focus and purpose.

I include Jerry Jones in my discussion because it was  just two weeks ago that Jones was kneeling with his players on the sidelines and linking elbows with them during the national anthem. Today he is parroting Donald Trump saying that any Cowboys “disrespectful to the flag” will be benched. But as I explained earlier, kneeling is not disrespectful, and the purpose of the protests is to highlight — and stop — the injustice of the police killing unarmed African Americans and other people of color.

Fortunately, NFL Players’ Association executive director DeMaurice Smith revealed today that NFL owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell had “promised in a meeting last week ‘that they would respect the constitutional rights of our members without retribution.'”

Ever since I was a child, I understood kneeling as a sign of respect or reverence. I was taught to kneel at my bedside to say my prayers at night, something I did with awe and respect. I do not know of anyone who kneels out of disrespect. It seems I was mistaken when I wrote that “every other thinking American” understands what the kneeling protests are about, they are about justice, not disrespect.