Due Process

I un-followed a Canadian author who helped shape my identity as a human and as a creator. I un-followed her because of a letter she signed. To be clear (because no small statement is ever clear) I did not un-follow her forever. My feed is an ebb and flow of the things I enjoy, the things that give me hope and the things I hope to know. My feed serves me. That’s why it’s mine. I may find, in the near future, that reading her small, instant words feeds me. For now, I’m choking on it. I also did not un-follow her simply because she took a political or personal action I disagree with. She has built up enough good faith as a creator that I see no need to view the world through a lens identical to hers. I un-followed her because it hurt.

Two words she threw out like a casual sprinkling of flavour on a massive meal: Due process.

I am a sexual assault survivor. I am a multiple sexual assault survivor. In almost every case, it was a man who held cross-sections of power attempting to or succeeding at misusing my physical and emotional form because they could.

When I started to realize – well into my teens – that what had happened to me was, indeed, against our presumed social contract, I began the process of seeking my due.

Due process simply means fair treatment in the judicial system. Not only fair treatment for the person who stands accused, but for the person who stands destroyed. Too visceral? Too emotional? Probably.

Here is due process to a person who has been raped, sexually abused or sexually assaulted:

1

Tell someone. This person may be yourself. Often that’s the first person you tell. If you are young, you may tell yourself after a book or a flyer in your school or an episode of Degrassi confirms that the tearing and ripping inside you is not an anomaly, but a reaction. There’s an overt message that you are not alone in numbers, but 1000 subtle messages that you are probably alone regardless. If you are an adult, telling yourself can happen during, or just after or years later. It can happen when you do that math inside your head that says if I scream he will kill me or if I just make it to the end it will be over and she will leave. Math is a process. Math figures out how much more they have to weigh than you to hold you down. Turns out, it’s not that much. It is not fair that this is how you must talk to yourself, but neither is it judicial, so we will pass this step.

2

Tell another someone. Maybe a friend. Maybe using code words. In my case, it was a guidance counselor. She was not the first person I told, but she was the first to break the code. There is a good chance that the person you tell will not believe you. They may try to find a way to show that it was your fault. This is about you, but it’s also not about you. It’s about constructing a safe cocoon of control that says I would not have made those choices so it would not happen to me or I did something similar once and I am not a villain. Sometimes they will believe you, but since they have spent a same lifetime watching dashing men on film win women over by hands-over-ears ignoring their nos and stops and I mean stops, they will wonder if it isn’t just the way things are. This is also not fair. Now that you have told someone, we may be drifting into the judicial. After all, everyone you tell, even your diary or your mother, can be called up later to testify. That’s the process. Maybe it’s better to say nothing at all, and to smile in pictures at picnics, but then, those pictures may also be called to testify. Anyone/thing you tell is likely to come back at you. This blog could come back at me. Every time we speak, we give a piece of ourselves to that process that we cannot take back with honest words. Words are not proof.

3

Tell the police. Go to the police. We use ‘the’ with police because everyone knows what you mean. No need to give qualifiers, adjectives. They are the police. The police with candies at parades and dirty looks when you walk in groups with other people from school. The police who, perhaps, look more like your assailant than you. Here the process comes due. If you have made it to this part in the process, you are one of only 6 out of 100. 94 out of 100 people chose to stop at step 1 or step 2. You sit in a room or curl up in a ball in a room or pretend you are not in a room and try to take something that is bigger than any part of you and break it down small enough that it will fit on a piece of paper that can go in a file in a drawer or on a computer and maybe turn into fair treatment in the judicial system. If this outcome were common, there would be more than 6 of you. It is not common. Numbers show that. Stories show that. Rooms full of women secure that no one is listening show that. Our arms and our medications and our nervous ticks show that.

4

There are two ways this step in the process can go. You may find, like I did, like a fall from a high height that lands you square on your back, that the last step takes all the wind out of you. It is okay if your process ends here. The next step involves lawyers. Lawyers are people who went to school for a very long time to study a system created before most folks could vote or own property or avoid being property. An apple tree can grow a thousand ways, but it’s still an apple tree. Until we plant something new, this is our only apple tree. This apple tree sucks. People will tell you to have faith in it. They may point to new branches that have grown since you were considered a person. They may say that the roots are strong enough to maintain us through change. That is bullshit. Only 1 out of 65 of us will see fruit from this tree and that fruit is often small and full of worms. Have I lost you? Anyone who tells you that you should not have feelings until due process is served is choosing not to see that no matter how nobly an idea may grow, it is only by its fruit that we can truly judge it. There is no fucking fruit.

5

Some people may think that the previous step is the last one in the process, but there is another. This is a step we take when we’ve exhausted one of the previous steps and found that, no matter what the promise of fairness is, the social contract we have signed has crap clauses. It has the clause that wealthy people and famous people and popular people and really any people can still succeed, no matter what they do to us. They can be free. They can be loved. They can be president. It has a clause that says we are to stay very, very silent no matter what happens, unless the tree gives us grand, ripe fruit. They do not point out the very small text that says it rarely does – and then usually when very pretty and convincing humans with pristine pasts and no scars point at very mean looking humans and say, “it was them!” So what do we do? We hold our hand to our mouth and with a theater aside, we whisper our stories in quiet spaces. We write maudlin poetry and carve lyrics on our bellies. We cry when we masturbate and flinch at gentle touches. We sometimes throw the contract out and shout and shout and shout, only to be met, finally, by a two words that I can no longer bear:

Due process.

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Why We Hate The Huntress

If you have any social media presence, a television or, on occasion, read a newspaper, you’ve likely heard about American hunter Rebecca Francis. She’s the one who posed, smiling, with a giraffe she had shot, then posted the photo to social media.

The shot heard 'round the Twitterverse.

The shot heard ’round the Twitterverse.

In a phenomenon that happens disproportionately to female hunters, she was harassed, received death threats and was the subject of vitriol not even reserved for baby-killing war-mongers. It was a reaction that played out across every platform I participate in. It made me wonder, what prompted our extreme hatred of Ms. Francis?

Firstly, we must keep in mind that big game hunting and trophy hunting are not poaching. That is to say that big game hunting and trophy hunting exist within the confines of local or international law. While we may morally disapprove of someone’s choice to participate in hunting, they are not participating in activity that is illegal. Like abortion, kink or making art out of one’s bodily fluids, our approval or dissaproval should not directly affect someone’s ability to participate in a legal activity. Whether we chose to try to change the law is an entirely different matter and one that is open to generally unpleasant debate.

Secondly, I’m going to choose not to discuss the inherent gender, colonialism, capitalism and income disparity issues that this particular case has brought forward. Not because I don’t think these issues need discussing, but because, in this case, I’m much more interested in why our reaction was so violent compared to other similar cases.

Thirdly, I am going to state that it is possible to choose not to endorse an initial behaviour while also disapproving of the reaction to that behaviour.

Which leads to my first theory on why we hate the Huntress:

1) You’re Either With Us Or Against Us

Who remembers this clip?


(Note: I linked to the most succinct clip, and do not know anything about the organization that posted it.)

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this statement was telling. It was a moment in history that was either reflective of, or in part responsible for, a massive shift in how we viewed ourselves. One was either on one side or the other and there could be no middle ground. There was no space for disapproval of both the attacks on the US and the military actions of the US. There was no space to approve of the armed forces but not the government in charge. There was no space at all. There were two sides and only one could be chosen. And if you and a neighbour had chosen opposite sides, then you were now enemies. Unlike the yin yang ideal of two sides of nature, where each contains some of the other, the line was perfect and it was impermeable.

This carried over into everything. You could be pro-gay marriage or anti-gay marriage. You could be for reproductive rights or against them. You could be pro-war or pro-peace. And the more we defined our opinions as a binary, the more we separated into factions. And it wasn’t just about feeling safe in our shared ideals, it was about being against the people who were on the other side. It wasn’t about choosing not to participate in activities one disapproved of, but about making sure that no one could participate.

You were either with us, or you were against us. You were either an angel or a devil. Multiple choice answers had been replaced by yes/no boxes that dropped us into smaller and smaller groups until we were alone. Morally right, of course, but alone.

2) She Does With Glee What We Do With Guilt

Another reason, I suspect, that we so hate the Huntress, is because of what she represents. One’s head would have to buried deep in the sand to be able to ignore the damage being done to our planet’s ecosystems. This is especially evident in the numbers around species loss.

I used to volunteer in the biodiversity section of a local museum and one of the statistics scientists there were discussing was that by 2050, we may see a fifty percent reduction in the number of species on this planet. This is a frightening statistic and fear can lead to important and life-saving action. Or it can lead us to attack easy targets as a way to temper our fear.

The biggest dangers to the creatures we share the planet with are overpopulation, habitat encroachment, pollution, introduced species and, yes, over-hunting and fishing. As westerners, much of the damage we do is via consumption. We buy food from a company that uses deforestation to build agricultural factory farms, we purchase newer and shinier items that use chemical processes that create toxic run-off, we plant non-local plants because who doesn’t want a perfect lawn? Every day, we make small decisions that contribute to creating endangered species. Our existence, if not pursued with great care, is part of the problem.

Yes, but can we make the footprint smaller??

Yes, but can we make the footprint smaller??

Still, to live a life with zero footprint, or even a reduced footprint, takes a great deal of effort, money and time. Most of us cannot or will not reduce our footprint to the point where we are not contributing to the decline of species numbers.

Do you know what’s easier than changing your entire life? Attacking a person on the internet. Admittedly, attacking a person on the internet is actually easier than almost everything else we do. It takes almost no thought and gives us the same sense of satisfaction that actual action brings, but without the pesky effort.

With this in mind, I modestly propose that rather than attack a human being, we help the creatures we care about. If making change is not possible, then look into organizations like The Giraffe Conservation Foundation, or any of the 28 four-star rated animal conservation charities listed here. Perhaps if we are more vigilant ourselves, we will feel less inclined to seek a sense of accomplishment by flailing outward.

3) Giraffes Are Cute

You know I’m right. If she was holding up an endangered trout, most of us wouldn’t even have noticed.

In the end, we need to examine what our extreme reaction (I saw people calling for her torture and death) means, what it says about us, and what we can do with our feelings to create positive change. Ask yourself, what is the end goal? If it is to stop big game hunting and improve the lot of animals, sending threats to one hunter is an inefficient method of accomplishing that goal. Public shaming doesn’t create change. Public action does.

*If you comment, please do so respectfully.