Sexual Assault And The Twitter Tide

*trigger warning*

This is not my life. I have told myself that a lot the last few days. Not my life. These stories are about someone else’s life.

But the dialogue – it’s something I know we’ve needed to have for a long time. There’s been a shift, and that shift is coming online and from younger people.

This is a link that will take you to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, if you need to talk to someone.

This is a link that will take you to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, if you need to talk to someone.

Let me take you back a bit. Roman Polanski went to court for what he did. I read the court documents while writing a story on him. He drugged and anally raped a 13 year old girl. The actual reports are graphic and brutal. Hours of mistreatment and abuse. When I wrote the story about 15 years ago, the general flavour of the discussion around Polanski was that he was a tortured genius, reeling from the death of his wife at the hands of the Manson Family. He was forgivable. Even the (now) grown woman in question had forgiven him, so why couldn’t we?

Remember, this was a case that had been reported to the police, had gone to court and had resulted in a conviction. That’s rare enough on it’s own. There was no doubt that Polanski was a child rapist. Still, the narrative favoured him. He was an exiled artist. A man misunderstood. What were we saying? Who wouldn’t rape a child under those circumstances? Her bodily autonomy was worth much less than his creativity? A great creator can not also be a horrible man?

Click here to find Rape Crisis Centres in Ontario.

Click here to find Rape Crisis Centres in Ontario.

When Jian Ghomeshi posted his Facebook statement, many of my artist friends reposted it. After all, who among us hadn’t had our lives judged by our patrician higher-ups? Add to that the weird societal idea that women lie – an idea that goes all the way back to our Sunday School classes, comic books and saturday morning TV shows…

Oh Veronica. She’d tell any lie to get Archie – and hasn’t that Hannah Montana gotten herself trapped in yet another situation because she just can’t be honest about who she is?

People I respect and care about posted his well-scripted preemptive strike and I did not. Even then, my gut said wait and see (my gut is not a scientific tool, but it’s been pretty handy, so I listen to it.)

What I noticed almost immediately was something I had never seen before – as quickly as the narrative that cast him as victim was produced, people started to question it. Folks suggested caution to those incensed by the firing. People mentioned friends who had found his behavior frightening or who had noticed that he could be intimidating in his dealings with women. People talked about their own experiences with powerful (mostly) men that had mirrored these allegations. Within hours, the overwhelming support had become far more cautious as people started to question whether his statement could be taken at face value.

Click here for ways to contact the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre.

Click here for ways to contact the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre.

I followed the tide as it shifted and realized that I was watching something completely new. As the women started to come forward, one after another, bravely attaching their name to allegations that I can’t even describe right now, hashtags like #ibelievelucy, #ibelievethem and #beenrapedneverreported took over Twitter. If you are under 30, you may not understand exactly how new and amazing this is. I get that Twitter is not the real world. It’s a microcosm that is young, tech savvy and opinionated. What happens on Twitter will not translate to homes, police stations or courts of justice – but that’s okay. It is a public space where women were heard and believed. That bowls me over. It gives me hope. It says something.

Yes, Twitter is where women find themselves harassed and threatened. I’m not dismissing that. But it’s also forum that has allowed for a shift in how we talk about assault. It has allowed hundreds of thousands of women to say “You don’t know me, but I’m telling you a person attacked me and committed crimes against me and no one listened.” Previously, that kind of openness has been limited to survivor’s groups and clinics and diaries that no one sees. We’ve moved the story out into the world. Let’s see where it goes from here.

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In Answer To Your Question

*trigger warning for sexual assault and general unpleasantness*

There is an article in the Toronto Star newspaper about a radio host. It alleges that he has assaulted or harassed quite a few women. Since there hasn’t been a trial or even a full vetting of all the information, I can’t say whether this is true. However, one of the questions asked, even by fair-minded people, is why these women haven’t gone to the police with their allegations.

There is a good chance that they have chosen not to because, at some time in their lives, they’ve met someone like me. In getting to know me, they may have heard about my experiences (I am not alone, but these are mine) with reporting sexual assault to the police.

I went to the police when I was still a teenager. Since I was an avid diarist, I even know the exact day I went to the police station to make my report. It was January 19th, 1995.

Before making the report, I took a three hour bath. I remember refilling with hot water more than once, but there are things that cannot be cleaned away. Even though I was living in Malton at the time, I was required to return to Rexdale to make my report. To make the report, I needed to go to the police station closest to where the crime occurred. I needed to get on a bus and return to a place I had literally fled in fear.

To make matters almost comically worse, the person I was making the report about got on the same bus as me. He didn’t see me. I hid behind other people and almost passed out. It was like having the whole electric system in my body go haywire. It was like I had been shocked. The fear and panic, it consumed me.

At 23 Division in Rexdale, I got off the bus. I wrote in my diary that I was glad he didn’t see me. “It freaked me out,” teenaged me wrote, in shaky script.

Back on his home turf, fresh from seeing him, I was escorted by a large and intimidating male officer back to a small room, where I was sat across from an officer I will call J. J was 23 Division’s youth crimes officer. In my diary, I noted that he was very tall. I wrote down what he wore. I did not make note of the fact that an officer who deals with young offenders may be the worst person to talk to a teenaged victim, as they see young people as innately suspect. I did not note that putting a young victim alone in a closed off room with a strange and intimidating man, one who possesses a great deal of societal power, would not lend itself to feelings of safety or understanding. I did not have that perspective at the time.

On his wall was a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s If. I read it over while I waited for him to speak. I wondered if he chose it because the police station was on Kipling Avenue. And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son! I did not suppose the message was for me.

Officer J unceremoniously dropped a tape recorder on the desk between us and asked me to tell him, in as much detail as possible, what had happened.

I opened my mouth and could not speak. I was afraid to cry and be dismissed. I was afraid I would scream. I was a little afraid that the man who did it to me had seen me on the bus and would come to my home that night and kill me dead.

For whatever reason, there were no words, except a whispered, “Can I write it out?”

J was not pleased with my request. He sighed and brought me paper.

I detailed it as best I could. It took more than an hour. The whole time I was writing, every threat my assailant had made echoed, telling me to stop. I felt trapped and wanted to undo it all. I wanted to tear up the paper and run. I wanted to melt into the chair, into nothing.

“What will you do?” I managed, after I was done writing.

“It’s up to you. You’ll have to press charges.”

Press charges? What did that mean? Did it mean that I, a high school student living in one room, would have to hire a lawyer? Did it mean I would have to see him? Face him? Did it mean he would be served papers or arrested? Would he be in jail or free to come after me? I was incapable of asking these questions, and Officer J offered no guidance or information.

“I…I can’t do that.”

He looked at me like I’d wasted his time. Perhaps I had. My high school guidance counsellor had set up the meeting for me. I had been too afraid to call. Too afraid to initiate. Now I was too afraid to actively pursue it.

“Listen. Just go home. Try to be a good girl. Call me if you change your mind.”

And it was done.

I went home that night to my room. I noted in my diary that it was freezing and that the woman who owned the building was singing hymns all night. She turned off the heat to save money and sang hymns to save my soul.

That night I had a nightmare that I was sitting on my bed with a friend when a man in a uniform came in and shot them 8 times. Their body landed on me, trapping me to the bed while they twitched and eventually died on top of me.

No charges were ever pressed.

Now ask me again why women don’t go to the police.

About Face

This will not be yet another blog about Renée Zellweger’s face. Mainly because it’s ALL been said and done. It really, really has. I mean, look at this:

And I used quotes. There are 4,710,000 results for this shit.

And I used quotes. There are 4,710,000 results for this shit.

I’m actually going to micro-focus on one phrase that keeps popping up, no matter where one reads about this – That phrase is, “It’s like she’s not even the same person.”

As a short, round human, this phrase set off a high speed train of thought. This is the track it took:

  • As a human who is female and North American and a performer, Ms. Z. is defined by her looks.
  • BUT, no matter what is going on, she’s still the same human, because one is not defined by one’s eyes. One is defined by one’s experience, genetics, mental capacities, circumstance and whatever the magical sky folks are defining as a soul these days. When these things cease to be, then the person can be said to be gone.
  • Yet we are often broken down into our elements. For instance, folks will say that a person is fat. Fat is a part of a person, but that one part is used to define a whole being. Still, if my fat were removed or reduced, I would still be me, therefor I cannot “be” fat, since fat is impermanent.
  • Put another way, when I die, my fat will still be around, yet I will not be. So I cannot be fat, since fat cannot be me.
  • Ms. Z cannot be her eyes, since her eyes will outlast her. The essence of what makes her distinct is in the mind, not in the flesh over her ocular balls.
  • Therefor changes to the outer self cannot make one a new or different person. That’s just silly.

Conclusion? We are a silly species. And I’ve gone cross-eyed.

I feel like a whole new woman.

The New Who

SO MANY SPOILERS. You have been warned.

The web is where fan theories live, and I have one. The new Doctor Who, the one played by the fantastic Peter Capaldi, is new.

The Eleventh Doctor

The Eleventh Doctor

Now, we know he’s new, but what I mean is he’s newborn new. When Smith’s Doctor, the Eleventh, was on his way out, he was granted a series of new regenerations. In essence, he was given a second life.

My theory is that all of the quirks people find so annoying or engaging about Capaldi’s Doctor are a result of his youth. The new Doctor is a baby. He’s petulant, he’s demanding, he’s self-centered, he’s clueless – he’s like every kid I’ve ever nannied. As the season progresses, he is growing up, going through stages of development that roughly match how a child might advance.

Cute, you say, but give me some proof. (You may not say that, but if you did, I’d offer up this:)

1. The first episode is called Deep Breath. That’s the first thing medical folk look for from a newborn. That first breath. He’s birthed from the Tardis and spends the whole episode running around in a nightie that looks like a baptismal gown. Then he jumps in the lake. Eventually he ends up at a restaurant and what does he say? “Do you have a children’s menu?”

2. The next episode features the Doctor coming to terms with his new life – “Am I a good man?” he asks. That’s followed up by a trip to Sherwood Forest, a kid’s fantasy if ever there was one, and an episode about the monster under the bed, in which we actually see the Doctor as a child.

Even the promo picture shows him at school.

Even the promo picture shows him at school.

3. In Episode 6, called The Caretaker, the Doctor literally goes back to school and hangs out with a school-aged kid, Courtney Woods. We even have to sit through a meet the teacher night, truly one of the most horrifying aspects of grade school life. It should also be noted that the school is Coal Hill, the school featured in the very first ever episode of Dr. Who. Yep. It’s where he was born the first time too…and where he found his first teacher companions, Barbara and Ian, now mirrored by Clara and Danny. Then in Episode 7, he takes Courtney to the moon where they deal with where babies come from. It turns out, they come from moon sized space eggs filled with slimy amniotic fluid and germ-spiders. That’s not what I learned in school, but then my teacher wasn’t a Doctor. Even the latest episode, in which the Tardis is shrunk and the doctor spends most of the episode being carried, seems to infantilize him.

Here’s the deal – I rarely theorize about creative work because it’s easy to see stuff that was never intentional, but this feels intentional. I mean, he’s a new life. We’re watching him from the very first steps. It’s kinda cool. Next episode, when he does something that seems really frustratingly obtuse, imagine that he’s a kid, still growing and learning. It will all make sense.

“You are a broom. Question: you take a broom, you replace the handle. Then, later, you replace the brush. And you do that over and over again. Is it still the same broom? Answer: No, of course it isn’t! But you can still sweep the floor! Which is not strictly relevant. Skip that last part. You have replaced every piece of yourself, mechanical and organic, time and time again — there’s not a trace of the original you left. You probably can’t even remember where you got that face from.” – The Doctor, Deep Breath

October

Mental illness is like the worst pet ever. You can’t house train it. It will crap everywhere. You cannot make it love you. It will live off of you, but it will also attack you when you least expect it. It will destroy the things you love.

And unlike a pet, you can’t put this fucker down. You can’t snap it’s neck and bury it in the back yard. You have to try to sedate it with drugs or wear it out with exercise or fix it with a million half hearted cures, none of which accomplish what you really want, which is getting the damned animal out of your house.

Vincent knows what I'm talking about

Vincent knows what I’m talking about

Depression is a stone-cold bitch.

It’s October, which means my depression is doing its happy dance. Shorter days and colder weather feed it and it grows. If my efforts to control it don’t grow in proportion, then I can expect to come home and find the whole place trashed. I have a SAD lamp and a treadmill and some drugs and vitamins and I use all of these to try to lull depression, so I can make it thorough the Canadian winter.

Depression really is a stone-cold bitch.

That is all.

In Lieu Of Thanksgiving

Hello humans who are also Canadians who have today off because of delicious turkey. This would be the day to be thankful, which is usually when we make a big list of all of the things in the world that we generally take for granted and share libations with the ones we love (or something like that.)

I’m not feeling very grateful today.

I am feeling, however, on the cusp of being hopeful.

I hope that soon the shift will happen and all genders will find a way to see eye to eye and stop using our fucky-bits to decide value. I hope that women will make up 50% (or so) of government and commerce and voice and the crowd scenes in movies.

I hope that we realize that no matter what we believe, there’s a kernel of truth in it and that kernel is that part that says love wins. And if we believe none of this, I hope we admit that love sure ain’t gonna make things worse.

I hope that media shifts away from making fear the headline and makes solutions the focus.

I hope we realize that we are worth saving and stop destroying all that we have and calling it growth or progress or the free market. I hope we realize that sustainable isn’t a bad word.

For me, I hope I meet more of my neighbours. I hope I find a way to do good. I hope my body settles on wellness and my mind on calm. I hope to grow my family and plant a garden I can eat from and spend time doing things that bring me close to people and to myself.

I hope. And that’s enough for today.

Hello Trolls, Welcome To Rexdale

Thank you National Post. Just thank you.

Thank you National Post. Just thank you.

Imagine my relief when one of Toronto’s major newspapers ran a story called Fatal Toronto shootings a reminder what the real election issues should be. It was everything I’d been saying, just with more eloquence, more backing, a bigger readership and a platform that I could only dream of. I was so happy I actually got kind of teary. SOMEONE CARES. Someone is listening! Our kids warrant consideration and votes and column space on a page!

Then I broke the cardinal rule of the Internet. I read the comments. I mean ALL the comments. And they were horrible.

Now, everyone who has half a brain knows you don’t feed the trolls, but in this case, I think I may have to, because perhaps a lot of Torontonians are trolls without knowing. While they would never go on a forum and espouse the views of the trolls on the National Post article, somewhere in the back of their brain is a vague sense that the vitriol spewed by the trolls might be a little bit true. So here, just this once, I throw on my armour, hop under the bridge and feed the trolls.

Picture 26

You will notice that this clever fellow has 50 up-votes and no down-votes, so it’s a fair guess that folks agree with this sentiment. Can I say, right off the bat, that starting a statement with “Racism aside” is painful? I mean, lord, when we are talking about Rexdale, we can NEVER leave racism aside. I was once pulled over with my then boyfriend, who was searched by the cops (I wasn’t.) Afterward, they asked me if my “mother knew I was out with a boy like that.”

In case you aren’t quite sure what the cop was talking about, in regards to a boy like that, I provide this helpful chart:

Oh.

Oh.

There are examples from school, work and everyday life to back this up as well. You can’t talk about Rexdale and leave racism aside. It won’t work.

But on to your next point, high birth rates (because more Canadians is a bad thing? Or is it that you don’t consider them Canadians?)

My mom was an immigrant. She came from Germany in the 50s. She came from a family with five kids. As a first generation Canadian on my mom’s side, I had two siblings. Being an immigrant didn’t determine how many kids my mom had. Her health, her ability to care for us and her own choices did.

My own experiences aside, the actual statistic for immigrant birth rates is 20% higher than the national average. And since the national average is 1.7 kids per household, that means a whopping total of 2.04 kids per household. Oh yeah. That’s gonna ruin us. And would you like to know how many generations it takes for that number to equalize with the national norm? One. Oh, and the real kicker? The number of children we need per household to maintain the national population? 2. So if you take it down to the actual numbers…you’re still wrong.

And even if you weren’t, I don’t think this is really about how many kids immigrants have. It’s about xenophobia and tribalism and good old fashioned human fear of the unknown.

Which brings me to your third point – that immigrants don’t want to integrate. Let’s start by saying that that’s a mighty big brush to paint a huge group of people with and finish with this awesome graph that shows literacy among first generation Canadians:

immi1

I mean, sure this isn’t representative of the entire immigrant experience, but it’s a micro picture of the learning curve and it’s an impressive curve. This does not, to me, say that kids aren’t trying to learn, fit in or better themselves. It says just the opposite.

On to the next troll:
Picture 28

I’m going to skip the low hanging fruit that a person complaining about uneducated people can’t spell bringing…but this is still an easy one. Statistics bear out that immigrants are less likely to use EI, social assistance or subsidized housing. Less likely. And, on average, over a lifetime, immigrant households put $40,000 more into the social pot than the national average. That’s it. What you are saying is patently false. Saying it out loud doesn’t make it true and it isn’t. Next?

Picture 29

Oh. Well you’re just a horrible racist. Or a full-on troll. Either way, it should still be noted that s/he has 11 up-votes, so s/he’s not alone.

What it comes down to is that these voices are not uncommon and the kids living in these neighbourhoods are not clueless. We knew all this stuff. We knew that people hated us or ignored us or blamed us for things we couldn’t possibly be logically blamed for. If you think these opinions are helping – you’re really, really out of touch.

I guess that’s it, isn’t it? Folks are out of touch with neighbourhoods like Rexdale.

And they’re happy about it.