Thinking about sexual abuse and assault

Every woman you know has encountered some sort of sexual verbal or physical abuse at least once in her life.

Every one.
Most women you know have had multiple instances of it. Some very serious. Some “just” inappropriate comments. Insinuations that a raise depends on sexual compliance. Groping. Sexual images in the workplace.
20-50 percent of them have been raped.

Think about it.

Think how many women are impacted. Women all over the world. Billions of them. Women who are part of your lives. Women you love. Your mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, cousins, coworkers, friends, lovers.

“But not all men are like that” you say. Of course not. But men need to be more active in fixing the problem. All of us do, but particularly men. Men have met this behavior with uncomfortable silence and turning their backs to it for too long.

But when I try to clarify my own thoughts about it, I have so many questions. More questions than answers.

What about false accusations?

Are they common or rare?

How young is too young to consent, and who decides?

Is there a certain amount of sexual behavior that we should tolerate even if it isn’t consensual?

What is worse-the predators or the men who know about their friends and co-workers who are predators and do nothing?

How do you balance a need to believe the victims with a need to a fair trial, whether the court of public opinion or a court of law?

What about innocent until proven guilty?

What about innocent until proven guilty when the judicial system is stacked with people, men, who are often abusers or inclined to favor abusers in court?

What about damage to careers?

Why are women blamed for the assaults and abuse directed at them so often?

What does it mean if someone waits decades to report an attack?

Or if she never reports it at all?

How can we expect anyone to report it when in most of the world women are brutalized for having been victimized?

How can we expect so much of women in the US when so often the victims are slut shamed or worse?

Is not reporting an attack a sign of guilt or innocence?

Is it meaningful in any way?

What is the line between a compliment and an inappropriate remark?

Should one mistake end someone’s career?

What about two?

How bad should the mistake be to end a career?

At what point should someone be fired?

Why do so many men think it’s OK to touch any part of a woman’s body?

Are we OK with sexual abuse being used as a partisan tool?

What about believing the ones who say it happened?

Are people more willing to believe accusations against gay men?

Are allegations of abuse being used for political ends?

What does it mean if an artist has committed some sort of abuse or assault?

Should they lose awards/accolades they earned for their art?

Does it nullify all accomplishment?

Do these men genuinely believe we want to see their dicks?

Is it really that difficult to keep it in your pants and keep your hands to yourself?

But here’s the thing: the US elected a president who admits that he has himself groped women and thinks it’s a celebrity perk. Even if you don’t believe the women who have accused him of rape, why do you not believe his own words?

What does it say about us as a nation that we are willing to elect pedophiles and rapists to our highest positions?

Are there so few men and women of character willing to run for office that this is the best we can do?

This is hard to write about. I have only questions, except for one thing: it needs to stop.

An imaginary conversation about upheaval at work

My work BFF is moving to a different team and my heart is broken.

Aren’t you happy for her?

Yes. I am super excited, and it is a fantastic move for her! But she sits next to me now and I love her and next week she won’t be there anymore. She’ll be over a mile away.

You will talk to her all the time. You can IM each other all the gossip.

I feel like an abandoned spouse.

There are way worse things happening at work right now that you can freak out over.

The other upheaval at work is scary and it’s also something I am totally fretting about in my own quiet way, but this is an emotional work disaster. That is much worse.

Have you been crying at work again?

No. Yes. Maybe a little. We both did. And I learned that she is a Taurus. That explains why she is my work BFF.

Uh, it does?

Totally. Because I am a Scorpio.

Which means?

Since we are astrological opposites, we have a great synergy in which we can TOTALLY handle all of each other’s weird shit without batting an eyelash.

Such as?

None of your business.

I thought opposites would tend to butt heads…

No, but OMG MAYBE WE WILL NOW THAT WE WILL POTENTIALLY HAVE DIFFERENT WORK GOALS!!!

Seriously?

Nah. I was being melodramatic. We’ll still have very similar goals. Don’t roll your eyes at me.

I can’t help it.

It’s involuntary?

No, you’re being irrational. I thought you were all science based. Astrology is total garbage.

Oh, I know it is.

But you still believe it in this case?

Uh. Not exactly.  I just believe that I am a total Scorpio which is the best sign, and that Taurus is the second best sign.

Because?

Just..because.

It’s about sex, isn’t it.

Sex, power, money and death. But ewwww not at the same time! At least not the death part.

Of course not. Weirdo.

Creep.

 

The sound of silence

If you need to assume anything assume that all silences from now on have grief in them.

Rick Moody/The Albertine Notes

Silence is beautiful to me.

To an introvert, and I think we’ve established my credentials in that regard, silence and solitude are  nearly as essential as air and water. Talking a lot leads to silence until my inner scale is re-calibrated and I can talk again. With a job which requires a lot of talking, I require long periods of silence to avoid inner meltdown. Since my job is how I pay for the other essentials in life, that silence happens in my off time. When I come home from work, I don’t want to do anything but not hear or say anything for a while. Sometimes a long while.

That means that the people who have to put up with the quiet are the ones I am the closest to. It’s a balancing act for me to meet my own need to recharge with the needs of my partner, friends and family.  Vashon thinks I should talk to him on a more than occasional basis, which I hear is a common request from a romantic partner.  That is a challenge to me both because of the introversion and because I have always been a secret keeper. Work in progress. It always will be, because it doesn’t come naturally to me.

My hobbies are also largely silent. Writing. Reading. Making things. Daydreaming. Having imaginary conversations with people. Yes, daydreaming and having imaginary conversations are too hobbies.  They’re also the sorts of things that require a certain amount of concentration and freedom from distraction.

Yes. I really just said that daydreaming requires freedom from distractions. Yes, I am serious.  Whatever.

Still, those are largely temporary silences. Healthy silences. My brain is resting and restoring. I’m doing things I love. Things that make me happy. They’re the sort of silences that I require to maintain a certain veneer of sanity, and I am well aware that it asks a lot of a partner. I come home needing quiet, and then want even more quiet so I can do something I enjoy.

You might wonder why I insist on living with other people. I’ve wondered myself.  I’m generally pretty content to be alone with the silence. Is it fair to inflict it on people who have more of a need to talk and share than I do?

Recently I’ve had to cut back on most of my hobbies due to time and space constraints and it hasn’t gone very well. I seem to need a creative outlet as much as I need quiet. What will I do about that? I live with someone who needs a partner who is engaged and communicating, not someone who is sitting quietly thinking about the next imaginary conversation she’s writing.

Given my love of quiet, it’s ironic that the ultimate weapon someone can wield against me is silence. It’s the saddest sort of silence when words fail and all you can do is stop even trying to speak.   You can’t respond to nothing. You can only flail and guess. To someone with an overactive imagination who likes to overthink everything, silence means I go into imagination and assumption overdrive.

The silence when  two people want to say something to each other and can’t are the worst for me. When there is so much damage and hurt that one or both sides just quit speaking at all it breaks my heart more than just about anything else could.

 Silence is as ugly then as it is normally beautiful to me.