Monday, December 19, 2011

Wishing You Bright Lights For Your Holidays!


Happy end of year celebrations and holidays to WNL readers around the world.  It has been a pleasure to connect with you throughout the year, and I'm looking forward to a wonderful New Year for us all.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What Did Dorothy Sandusky Know?

Dorothy Sandusky
According to Grand Jury testimony, gathered in a long secret investigation, Jerry Sandusky is quite possibly a pedophile who used his talent as a football coach at Penn State to set up the perfect system of unrestricted access to vulnerable young boys.  Apparently there were people who knew things, there was a trail of victims, and there were investigations of suspicious activity before the big blow up and arrests last month.  But what about his wife, Dorothy?  What did she know?  Is it possible that she knew less than anyone?

WNL has been looking around for some answers to this question, or at least more information.  Here's what we came up with:

1.  Not for the first time, a UK paper, in this case The Mail OnLine, asks the most direct questions about Dorothy Sandusky, and points out that some of the incidents of abuse documented by the Grand Jury occurred in the family home.  There's lots of good reporting here, with this conclusion:
"There is no suggestion whatsoever in the indictment that Mrs Sandusky was aware of her husband's sexual relations with Victim 1 or any of the other seven victims.
Experts have suggested that she and her children could well have been kept in the dark.
'[Abusers are] very good at hiding it from everyone,' clinical social worker Farlie Chastain told WRCB TV. 'Very good at seducing the child and manipulating the child not to tell.'
However, Chastain, who counsels sexually abused children and teenagers at Parkridge Valley, Tennesee and at Foxus Psychiatric Services in Tennessee Valley, adds: 'I've seen it both ways, in which the family knows and is in denial.'"

Darlene, who has become a nationally known children's advocate and has written a book about her unique point of view as the unsuspecting wife of a pedophile, "The Predator Next Door", includes this paragraph in her article:
"I have never met Dorothy Sandusky, Jerry Sandusky’s wife of four decades, who goes by “Dottie,” nor have I met any of their six grown, adopted children. Yet I feel like I’ve walked in the very painful shoes I imagine they’re walking in today. In the wake of the Penn State allegations, many people are publicly wondering, “Did Dottie know?” And “how could she not know?” I’m sure people wondered that about me, because I wondered it about myself. While I would never be so bold as to presume what Sandusky’s loved ones knew, it seems entirely plausible to me that he was living a “secret life” right under their noses; that he took great pains to hide his alleged abusive behaviors from those closest to him. Sex offenders’ families are often collateral damage to their crimes."
3.  Darlene Ellison is the perfect person to raise the issue of one partner having a fully-developed secret life within a marriage, something which in its more traditional cheating/mistress/second family manifestations is part of the dark underbelly of marriage we all know about.  When your best friend tells you she's discovered her husband has a long-time mistress and a love child, it's perfectly believable that she didn't know.

Isn't it reasonable to push the boundary a bit and include wives of serial pedophiles and even serial murderers in the "didn't know" category?  It's still a secret life - just a bigger, more shocking secret.

4.  Consider the now well-documented case of serial sexual murderer Herb Baumeister and his wife Julie.  Books, articles, TV shows have been made about the Baumeister murders of young men in the Indianapolis area in the 1990s.  All of them conclude that Julie didn't know anything.  Here's a summary of the case from People Magazine in 1996.  

Enough time has passed and enough energy has been expended on the Baumeister murders to allow a level of disclosure that will be a long time coming in the Sandusky matter.  Insights like the following may give us who are trying to understand how all this happened in the context of a normal-appearing marriage a place to hang while we wait:
Behind the bedroom door, there was little pacificity to their marital problems. "Julie later admitted that she and Herb had engaged in sex only six times in the 25 years they were married," detective [Virgil] Vandagriff [the private detective who first connected the murders to one perpetrator] explains. And, according to authors Weinstein and Wilson, Julie never saw her husband nude. "Herb dressed in the bathroom (and) when it came time to go to bed he would always put on pajamas (slipping) between the sheets." He was ashamed of his skinny body.
"That should have been a tip-off to Julie that something was wrong," Vandagriff adds, reflecting again on those "danger signals" of bad, bad things to come. "But, she was an over-trusting woman who, despite their problems, put complete stock in her husband’s actions."
Julie, probably in trying so hard to reconcile their differences, threw her mental state into a complete dependency on Herb. "I think deep inside she chose not to see the signals," Vandagriff continues.
WNL:  I'm thinking that the time for outrage and indignation has passed, and it's time to start the long process of trying to understand what happened and why.  What are your thoughts?

PS:  Syracuse Coach Bernie Fine's wife Laurie DID know he was abusing young boys in the basement of their home.  Here's the tape one victim made of his conversation with her about the abuse, about Bernie, and her theories on how Bernie worked his secret life. This scandal is just getting rolling.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Stalking - Why You Don't See It Coming

 
Part 1 of Stalking: Real Fear, Real Crime

The problem with stalking, which can be defined as "the willful, malicious and repeated following and harassing of another person" (one of many definitions), is that it starts small, individual instances seem harmless and may even have a benevolent character, and it's not logical.  You may not realize, even after a pattern of continuous unwanted contacts, that you are actually being stalked.

The online Stalking Resource Center suggests starting with a quick quiz to see how much you already know about stalking.  After taking the quiz, check out the 3-part 20-minute video, "Stalking: Real Fear, Real Crime," narrated by Erin Brockovich.  Parts 1 and 2 are the tragic story of a stalking victim, but in part 3 a stalking and domestic violence expert, now retired from law enforcement, gives guidelines for police and for victims that will help you understand what is happening and how to communicate your concerns to the police if you suspect you are being stalked.

Who gets stalked?  Mostly women.  Mostly by someone they know.  Women stalk men occasionally, famous people sometimes have problems with obsessed fans who stalk them, and even ordinary people can acquire a stalker who has no prior relationship whatsoever.  Nevertheless, most stalking is male on female and there has been some, sometimes even imagined, previous relationship.  The people left out of this conversation so far are those in same-sex relationships.  Stalking occurs in those as well, and it's just as serious and twice as hard to get authorities to pay attention.

Stalking starts early.  After the stalking stops, victims can catch their breath and look back.  When they do, they are able to recognize with hindsight that there were red flags if they had only known what to look for and what they were looking at.  Red flags like insisting that you do like something when you have said you don't; feeling "insecure" if you aren't forthcoming with computer passwords, social networking pages, and names and addresses of your friends, your gym, your favorite grocery store and restaurant.  Like announcing to friends and family that you are a couple when you haven't had that discussion; telling you how much you mean to him even to the point of "can't live without you"; showing up at your home or work with surprise plans for dinner, a show, or a weekend away and expecting you to acquiesce.

What I'm calling red flags in the paragraph above could just as easily be called being attentive, spontaneous, head over heels in love with you.  Expensive gifts - are they signs of devotion or a way to make you ignore your gut feeling that you are being manipulated and bought?  Unless you have previously been stalked or been close to someone who was, how are you going to see these red flags?  Women expect rape and are on the lookout for it, but stalking, not so much.

The Breakup.  You still aren't expecting this to turn into a stalking situation.  People break up all the time.  No means no.  I'm not ready, I've met someone else.  Just part of life.  But some people don't move on well.  He texts you multiple times a day, sometimes with threats, sometimes begging you to reconsider.  Shows up during your daily routine or drives by your house at night.  The stalking has begun.  It might stop after a few weeks...or not.  You have no way of knowing how long or how far this will go. 

Now is the time to get real and stop minimizing his behavior, and start to keep detailed records.  Stalking is a pattern of behavior designed to cause fear in a reasonable person, and no one is going to be aware of that pattern if you don't document it.  Part 3 of the video linked at the opening of this post explains how the small details of stalking behavior are what defines the lethality level, and also give clues to how to catch, and hopefully control, the stalker.

Getting help.  Being nice doesn't stop stalking.  And because you don't know what your stalker is capable of, it is imperative to get support and help as soon as possible.  This is not a situation, however embarrassing, that you can handle on your own.  Keeping a record of every incident and talking to police is one option - but you may not be taken seriously.  You might have enough to get an order of protection but maybe not, and maybe your instincts tell you that being served with such an order will make your stalker more active rather than less.

Here are some things that always move you in the right direction:

1.  Tell your friends and family what is going on.  Don't pull any punches or minimize.  If you are stressed and afraid, tell them.

2.  Educate yourself online, starting at The National Center for Victims of Crime's Stalking Resource Center.

3.  Print off the Center's Stalking Incident Log and use it!  Provide log pages for anyone your stalker is contacting about you.  The messages he leaves on friends' Facebook pages about you, the hangup calls your mother is getting, phone calls to your girlfriends explaining how mean you have been to him - these are all part of the pattern.  You will be amazed to find out how far into your life your stalker has been reaching if you bring up the subject and ask those you know to use this log.

4.  Talk to trained counselors on a stalking or domestic violence hotline.  They can talk you through your situation and help you safety plan for your specific situation. You don't have to convince anyone to believe you (like dealing with the legal system), and the hotlines are aware of options you need to know about.

5.  ASSUME THAT YOUR PHONE, YOUR COMPUTER, YOUR LAPTOP ARE ALL BEING MONITORED.  YOU MUST THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX TO MAKE SURE YOUR COMMUNICATIONS AND WHEREABOUTS ARE NOT BEING TRACKED SO THAT YOU CAN MAKE EFFECTIVE PLANS TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND ALSO DEPRIVE YOUR STALKER OF INFORMATION.

WNL:  If all this stalker talk doesn't apply to you, consider yourself lucky - so far.  Like sexual assault, date rape drugs, and sexual harassment, stalking is a part of life for women.  Be aware, be an aware friend if one of yours has a stalking situation, and consider becoming an activist in your own way to make the world safer for all of us.

This is Part 2 of a series on safety planning.  Here's a link to Part 1 - Why You Really Do Need a Safety Plan.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

America's Child Abuse Epidemic


Seema Jilani wrote this frank, and frankly horrifying, piece on the currently occurring epidemic of child abuse in America for UK's Guardian.  Along with the stories and statistics she quotes in the article, Seema provides a link to a BBC News 6-screen summary of their documentary on American child abuse - well worth reading as well.

There's nothing more for me to say here at WNL.  I hope you will read Seema's article and get some facts, sadly provided by another country's TV network resources, on the state of America's children.  Come back to comment, please.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Domestic Violence Tragedy: Surprise! Intelligent Reporting





A quiet California beach town was rocked last week by the unbelievable shooting of 8 people in a hair salon by the husband of one of the victims.  Aside from the unusually high body count, this episode of domestic violence is notable for the fact that it was reported nationally, in a Huffington Post article written by Associated Press reporters Amy Taxin and John Rogers, as straight-up DV, with intelligently gathered background information, and a profile of both the shooter and his primary target, his ex-wife.  

They even took the time to establish that the motivation for the vengeful shooting of the woman and her friends and co-workers was the accused's rage over his inability to get complete decision-making control over their child, a 7-year-old son.

Contrast this article with the typical "domestic dispute" reporting where it's all about the guy (rarely is the woman in the relationship the murderer in these stories) who is described at length by neighbors and coworkers as a great guy, a give you the shirt off his back type, who inexplicably snapped and did something no one could have predicted.  Dead spouse and children are barely mentioned.  It's all about him and the big mystery of how the violence could have happened.

WNL was particularly impressed with the time the AP team had obviously taken to interview friends, neighbors, a court-appointed psychologist, relatives on both sides, and shooter Dekraai's personal psychiatrist, who testified in the recent court hearing where Dekraii's demand to be awarded "'final decision making authority" when it came to matters involving their son's education and his medical and psychological treatment' was denied by the judge.

This is one of the rare treatments of a fatal domestic violence episode in the press where, even right after the fact, journalists made an effort to tell the whole story, dirty laundry and all, so readers aren't left thinking "a nice guy just snapped". (Continuing coverage of the story at HP.)  

Takeaway:  It happened to people just like you and me, and there is an explanation - it's called domestic violence.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why You Really Do Need a Safety Plan - Part I


Why this series:  I talk about safety planning a lot because I'm a domestic violence advocate and the women who come to the nonprofit where I offer my time are trying to modify or leave relationships that have more than the usual problems.  Yet the response I often get, even from someone who has just been in court asking for a Restraining Order against her spouse (same thing as a Protective Order), is "No, I don't need to do any safety planning.  I have it covered."

Time passes, and without fail, there's another incident, usually something that could have been prevented or at least made unlikely with some prior actions on our client's part, yet even then safety planning is far from her thoughts.  She's shocked, rattled, dismayed, can't quite believe the new situation.  Safety planning still remains a hard sell.

I feel frustrated and helpless.  Now is not the time to tell the woman in front of me "Why didn't you listen to me?  We could have taken some simple steps to protect your property (privacy, money, or whatever)."  This series of articles on safety planning, to be honest, is as much to calm my frustration as it is to give you a heads up about protecting yourself.  Let's hope both of us get some benefit from the information that follows.

SAFETY PLANNING PREVENTS MESSES THAT ARE HARD TO CLEAN UP

Situation:  Brenda is faced with the possibility that she may not be able to salvage her 10-year marriage to Brad, who has lost his promising career and responded to the stress by becoming unpredictable, hostile, and, Brenda suspects,  using drugs, maybe meth or cocaine.  She asks him to leave and he goes to stay with a friend, leaving her and two school-aged children in the family home. 

Brad misses the children, so Brenda allows him to visit them on Saturday afternoon while she goes out.  While she is absent, and in front of the children, Brad packs and moves valuable items from the home, including some of the children's toys.  On Brenda's return, he says he wants the children to have some of their things at his new place, and besides half of everything belongs to him so he can do whatever he wants.  Brenda is horrified, and now has to deal with two confused and upset children, who do not understand why Dad took their toys.

Later, Brenda realizes that all the money from the children's college account is missing, and that Brad went into her computer and deleted or copied things from the hard drive.  A few weeks later, Brenda realizes she is not getting any mail.  At the post office, she discovers Brad put in a change of address for the family and all mail is now going to his friend's house.

Brenda feels violated and is in a state of panic.  She doesn't know what Brad will do next.  She retains a divorce attorney, who refers her to a domestic violence services organization near her.  Things will get worse before they get better, but at least Brenda is making a start at getting an out-of-control situation toward a more stable "new normal".

What could Brenda have done differently?  Brenda is not a stupid person, and she is hardly to be blamed for not anticipating situations completely out of her experience with Brad or anyone else for that matter.  But there are some things Brenda could have done to protect herself, family finances and property, and her peace of mind.

The first thing Brenda could have done when living with Brad became so strained that she was considering asking him to move out is call a domestic violence hotline for a confidential conversation with someone who could listen to her and give her some perspective on what might be happening, and what might happen next.  This person could help her evaluate Brad's potential to be dangerous, something which might be hard for Brenda to face, but severe stressors and drug use raise the risk of something very bad happening.

Why a domestic violence hotline?  (Brenda doesn't want to go into a DV shelter and she may be angry and frustrated with Brad, but she may not be afraid of him.)  Because domestic violence personnel are uniquely equipped, unlike therapists, clergy, marriage counselors, family doctors, and even police, to have a calm, frank, nonjudgmental conversation about what's going on behind the closed doors that every family presents to the world.

Brenda could also have looked to the collective wisdom of the internet, which, though no one source is infallible, offers so many points of view that if you are looking to learn about your situation, bits and pieces can add up to quite an education in a short time.  She might even have read an article like this one.

Resource Quick List:

National Domestic Violence Hotline - They care about your safety on the computer and give instructions up front about how to keep your visit to the hotline from being tracked.

Safety Planning - Same site as above.  This is the direct link to safety planning resources.

How Dangerous Is Your Partner?

Brenda could have gone to the library or bookstore and done some browsing in the marriage self-help/divorce strategies section.  She could start reading a copy of  "Why Does He Do That" by Lundy Bancroft.  Chances are good she will find her story in its pages, along with an outstanding analysis and prediction of what lies ahead for her and the children.  Scary?  Maybe a bit.  But at this point Brenda is already scared, and adding being completely in the dark about her situation isn't helping.  Some expert advice and wisdom is just what she needs.

Any of the above could have alerted her to how vulnerable she was - Brad has moved out but they have not gone to court to get an order for temporary custody arrangements.  Alerted her to the need to change her locks, secure her mail with a PO box, change the passwords on all the computers and online bank access, and not let Brad back into the home. 

In other words, Brenda could have been proactive rather than reactive.  To get a protective order something bad has to have happened - a protective or restraining order restricts a person's civil rights and Brenda would need to show cause before a judge will order one put into effect - but Brad's lower-level but nonetheless traumatizing behaviors are aimed at making Brenda's life miserable, and it is up to Brenda to think about what might happen and plan accordingly.

The thinking here is very much like planning for a power outage from a snowstorm, or an earthquake, or a flood.  The upsetting influence is another human rather than an act of God, but the mindset is similar.  Because this is someone you loved, and probably still love, it can be difficult to be proactive, but maybe reading Brenda's story will give you some hints as to why it is worth taking another look at safety planning.

(Graphic by Keith Haring)

Part 2: Stalking - Why You Don't See It Coming

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Use Your Outdoor Voice" - New Graphic from Lyn


Here's the latest graphic from Lyn Southworth Words and Pictures, encouraging in no uncertain terms, the end of being voiceless as part of the definition of being a good girl.  As far as WNL is concerned, Ariel the mermaid should be the last woman without a voice!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Best Domestic Violence Poster Yet

This is the best advert educating people about domestic violence that I've ever seen.  The camera gimmick that changes the picture when it senses somebody looking at it is perfect for this application.

I wish I knew more about it, where it came from, who designed it, where it has been displayed, people's reactions, etc.  If you know anything, please clue us in.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Marriage and Divorce - Small Pieces of a Worldwide Puzzle

Marriage and divorce happen all over the world.  At any given moment, these two big milestones in individual lives end up making news for one reason or another.  Here's a collection that's been growing for a while in my bookmark pile.  You'll notice that, like pieces of a puzzle you might find at a yard sale, these newsworthy items are just pieces, but they do make their little contributions to figuring things out.

1.  First up, this story headlined "The Cheating Cheaters of Moscow", and in smaller type "How infidelity has become accepted and even expected in Russia".  Julia Ioffe (writing for Slate.com) starts her explanation of the current state of affairs (so to speak) like this:
"This is quite a shift, given that 20 years ago an affair was considered a career-wrecking scandal. But by 1998, a study showed that Russian men and women led their peers in 24 other countries in their willingness to engage in and approve of extramarital affairs. Since then, these attitudes have taken hold more deeply after a prolonged consumer boom that encourages Russians to indulge their whims and desires. What does this culture of infidelity look like, and what are the costs?"
She's got historical background and some great quotes from Russian girls, including one who changed her lover's name to "Traitor" in her phone.

2.  Next up, what's behind the strange demographic shift in the US where, for the first time in history, "rural Americans are just as likely to be divorced as city dwellers".  NYT writers Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff interviewed social scientists who are studying these changes along with locals in Iowa to get clues about the big picture and how people are experiencing this change to what used to be called "urban values or lack thereof".




3.  Is marriage only for the well-educated and affluent?  Article #2 hinted that might be the case.  This article, also in the NYT, comes right out with a resounding "probably".  Starting out with quotes reflecting a reversal of the 70s and 80s feeling that divorce was liberating, the article settles down to what WNL thinks is more likely going on -
“That this change has occurred mainly among the affluent suggests it’s not just a reaction to the divorce epidemic of the ’70s,” [sociology professor] Dr. Cherlin said. “The condemnation of divorce is also coming from the group that is most confident it can make its marriages succeed, and that allows them to be dismissive of divorce.”
4.  Next, we have a series of stories from participants and from divorce attorneys (with a little therapist input for completeness) about bringing a sexual affair into the marital bed and why, as you might suspect, that bit of behavior is universally considered the worst of the worst.  Here's an example from divorce attorney Susan Bender:
Another client, who learned what Ms. Bender called “the classic thing — her husband was having sex with the nanny,” did not make the visit to the divorce lawyer her first course of action.
“She goes to bed with her husband that night, doesn’t complete the sex act, took a match and she threw it on the bed,” Ms. Bender said. “Of course, he flips out. The story ends with her walking out of the bedroom naked and him trying to put out the fire.”
Did she explain why?
“She was angry,” Ms. Bender said. “The problem with litigation is that it takes a long time. You’ve got that need for instant gratification, that need to get you back. Some people need that, they need to get you back right now.”
There's a moral to each and every one of these stories.  Do I need to spell it out for you?

5.  Ending on a more modern note, here's a look at what's ahead for same-sex marriages.  After all, being able to legally marry means you might also need to divorce some day.  Surely they thought of that when the legislation was passed (as in New York) or court-mandated as in other states.  Well, surely they did not.  NYT's Sunday Review gives you just a taste of the confusion to come.



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Update Your IUD Info, Get Reviews From the Hive



The two main reasons women won't consider an IUD (an implanted plastic or copper coil in your uterus to prevent pregnancy) are bad reputation (Don't those things make you sterile or give you infections?) and not knowing anybody who has one so you can't get a trusted girlfriend's opinion the way you can with birth control pills.

But things are changing in the IUD world.  Wired Magazine's fact and interview-packed article in the August 2011 issue lays out, with simple words and big pictures, the history of almost all the IUDs ever on the market, what the problems were, or weren't, including what's available now.

Implantable devices are back in the game after being shelved  for a generation, and they are on your TV screen (Mirena) and in your doctor's office.  The original comeback was targeted only at women who had already had children, but that's changing too, thanks to researcher and ob-gyn Laura MacIsaac, who took on the huge job of educating doctors about ParaGard, another new IUD entry.

Ob-gyn Eve Espey took the next step to making IUDs a first choice for young women instead of an option only for mothers.  Wired writer Jennifer Couzin-Frankel shares the personal story behind her efforts:
Her freshman year at Harvard, Espey got pregnant accidentally and dropped out. In 1979, right after giving birth to a baby boy whom she would raise alone, she had a copper IUD inserted. She subsequently finished college and medical school, and when her son was 12 they moved to a rural area of New Mexico, where she worked at the Gallup Indian Medical Center. At the time, the county had one of the highest teen-pregnancy rates in the US. It became clear to Espey that short-term methods like the pill just weren’t doing the job for her patients. They required too much consistent effort on a woman’s part. “There’s such a huge gap between perfect and typical use,” she says.
So Espey started the ball rolling to expand official approval of the new generation of IUDs with her passion and her research with teens. In 2005 IUDs were approved as a first-line choice for teenagers.

Now there's another milestone for IUDs and contraception in general: (From Slate.com)
Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it was classifying contraceptives (among a whole slate of women's health services) as preventative care, meaning that under the Affordable Care Act, insurers must provide these services without a co-pay starting in 2013. You wouldn't necessarily know it from the news coverage of the announcement — much of which focused on how the pill would now be free — but this has the potential to remake American women's relationship with birth control in profound ways. Although it may go without saying, lowering (or removing) the cost of something typically increases demand for it.  [bold by WNL]
Read the rest of the article for an in-depth analysis of the relationship between birth control in all forms and cost, all the way back to your mother's diaphragm.  Fascinating stuff!

The Slate article makes an important point that, along with cost, knowing somebody you trust who is using a certain form of birth control is a big factor affecting what you might choose for yourself.  We are hivers, after all, socially connected and motivated before anything else, and the internet is our connection to the wisdom of the hive.  Here are three terrific sources where you can just lurk or jump in and ask any question about birth control, including IUDs.  You won't be disappointed - you'll hear real stories from your new online girlfriends to help you make up your mind.
  • Top of my list is a subreddit (social community) called 2XChromosomes.  Lurk or join, it's free and you can make up any name you want to be able to ask a question.  There are tons of BC questions there to peruse, lots of personal stories, good and bad.  You'll hear it all on Reddit.
  • Berkeley Parents Network has so much hive input you might be overwhelmed, but they do sort it out into more specific topics, so you don't have to read through the whole thing to address your concerns.

WNL:  Birth control is the best gift we give to ourselves and now it looks like cost may no longer be a barrier in just a few years.  Go for it!

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    Asian Women Refusing Marriage - The Effects of Saying "No" are Far-Reaching

    These  two articles from The Economist are both long and excellent, with lots of graphs and in-depth reporting, so I won't keep you from reading them by writing a wordy post.

    The first article is more of an over view of what's going on with half the world's women.  The second one is more in-depth, exploring all the possibilities, and, an especially nice touch, refusing to consider Asia as a uniform giant, instead recognizing there are several different traditional patterns of marriage, multiple attitudes towards women's education, contraception use, and women's roles as the baseline.  
     
    The decline of Asian marriage 
    Asia's lonely hearts Women are rejecting marriage in Asia. 
    The social implications are serious
    Asian governments have long taken the view that the superiority of their family life was one of their big advantages over the West. That confidence is no longer warranted. They need to wake up to the huge social changes happening in their countries and think about how to cope with the consequences.
    The flight from marriage
    Asians are marrying later, and less, than in the past. This has profound implications for women, traditional family life and Asian politics



    WNL:  These huge changes in women's attaitudes and actions will affect those of us outside Asia as well.  I hope you will take the time to get acquainted with the New Asian Woman.

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Dog Helps Rape Victim Testify

    Rosie and her handler
    The NYT this morning has an article on Rosie, the first judicially approved courtroom dog in New York, reporting that her presence next to a 15-year-old girl who had to testify her father raped and impregnated her made all the difference to the girl, who after the conviction was read, said she was "most grateful to Rosie, above all". For the rest of the story, including use of support dogs in other states, and defense challenges to their use, look here.

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Warren Jeffs' Sexual Assault Convictions - Behind the Headlines

    Yesterday FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs was convicted by a Texas jury of 2 counts of sexual assault of underage girls.  Its been quite a ride for Jeffs since his 2006 highway stop arrest when he was on the FBI's Most Wanted List.  WNL has collected a couple of sources if you'd like to know more details beyond the conviction headline.

    • A guest post by true crime author Cathy Scott writing for Forbeswoman blog has additional details and background, (now paywall protected) including copies of these sad wedding photos of Jeffs and his 12-year-old "comfort wife", pictures which remind me of nothing so much as junior high father-daughter event photos.


    • The day before the verdict, Anderson Cooper interviewed Arizona investigative reporter Michael Watkiss and reporter Gary Tuchman, who attended the trial.  Both had some excellent on the scene observations which they shared in this CNN News video.  An audiotape, recorded by Jeffs himself, of his sexual initiation of his little child bride, in front of a cadre of FLDS witnesses, had just been played for the jury and those in the courtroom.
    • WSJ's Law Blog asks the question "Would Jeffs Have Fared Better With a Lawyer at his Side?"  Jeffs started out with lawyers aplenty, but fired them all, representing himself at the end.  The article looks at conviction statistics for those who go it alone versus those defendants with lawyers, finding there is surprisingly little difference between the two groups.  
    "Texas prosecutors look to be ready to lay out not only Jeffs' polygamous and underage marriages, but 22 years of misdeeds, including the whole of his 8-year-plus leadership of the FLDS Church.
    That includes, according to Nate Carlisle's great story today in the Salt Lake City Tribune: "breaking up 300 families by re-assigning wives and children, and taking property; expelling young men from FLDS to have more girls for himself and his inner circle; having 'contempt for the law of man;' creating refuges to hide women from law enforcement; and evading law enforcement himself.""

    Sunday, July 31, 2011

    Be On the Safe Side - Think Revenge

    Seemona Sumasar - Finally out of jail! (photo, CBS News)
    If you are trying to extricate yourself from a bad dating or marriage situation, this story from The New York Times might sound off some internal alarms.  Imagine a business woman in a big city who meets a charming guy who says he is in law enforcement.  He insists on moving in, and won't move out.  One day he restrains and rapes her.  When she files charges and won't back down, the craziness starts.

    A year later, she has spent 7 months in jail on revenge charges he invented, lost her home and business, and he is currently now in jail, claiming he is innocent and she is framing him (exactly as he framed her).  The abuse and control continues.

    WNL:   People who have no personal experience with coercive control (intimate partner abuse) say "Why doesn't she stand up for herself?  Why doesn't she just leave?" Because it gets worse and not better, and control is not about divorce or breakups, it's about CONTROL.

    Who needs to read a depressing story like this?  Well, if you know that something this diabolical can happen to an ordinary unsuspecting woman, you now know that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that something similar could happen to you, your sister, or a friend.  And WNL believes knowing how bad things can get is the best defense for keeping bad things from happening, and from escalating into really bad things.

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    You Can Tell If Someone is Lying, Right?


    Now that world-famous Sofitel Hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo has given an extended interviews to Newsweek and to TV's ABC News, and everybody in the country has had plenty of practice analyzing Casey Anthony's every eyebrow movement, you can tell if someone is lying, right?  You, your friends and family, and those expert talking heads on the small screen.

    Just google "tell if someone is lying" and 73 million links to articles, books, etc  pop onto your screen.  Surely a million of those must give reading microexpressions and mismatches in body language or blink rate some credibility.  Here's a typical one from Forbes Magazine if you've never explored the subject, and, unlike a lot of the lying information gurus, author Elisabeth Eaves is experienced journalist enough to put a disclaimer at the front of the article, titled "Ten Ways to Tell If Someone is Lying":

    [Disclaimer:]  "Psychologists who study deception, though, are quick to warn that there is no foolproof method. Bella DePaulo, a visiting professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, writes that “lying is not a distinct psychological process with its own unique behavioral indicators. It does matter how liars feel and how they think.” Indeed, many of the tell-tale signs common to liars, like fidgeting and sweating, can also be signs of ordinary anxiety. It’s tough to tell the difference between a liar and an honest person who happens to be under a lot of stress."
    Unfortunately, this paragraph registers with the reader the same way the "I agree" radio button impacts your brain when you are loading new software, i.e. not at all.  Yeah, yeah, but what are the 10 ways!

    Time to put on the breaks with this everyman/woman as lie detector thing, IMO.  Two very capable bloggers have put the facts about lie detecting within everyone's reach, journalist Scott Henson, who writes "Grits for Breakfast", and attorney Scott Greenfield, writing "Simple Justice".  These posts which completely debunk, from inside the legal system and the law enforcement/interrogator nexus, the lie that everybody to some extent, but especially experts, can tell when someone is lying.

    I recommend, for your own education, and to keep you out of disastrous personal situations where you plow ahead believing with all your heart that you have correctly assessed truthfulness and reliability, only to have the facts smack you upside the head at a later date, that you read these blog articles.  To get you started, here's a taste:
    "Numerous controlled studies have shown that people are not good intuitive judges of truth and deception, typically performing at no better than chance levels of accuracy. Controlled studies have also shown that even investigators and other supposed experts who routinely evaluate deceptive behavior are highly prone to error. Moreover, Kassin and Fong have shown that police interrogators and others specifically trained in the [Behavioral Analysis Interview technique taught by John Reid and Associates] not only fail to discriminate accurately between true and false statements much of th time, but also that behavior analysis training actually lowers the ability of police interrogators to discriminate accurately between true and false denials. Further, such training inflates their confidence in their judgments. (citations omitted) [Richard Leo, Police Interrogations and American Justice pp. 98-99][bold added by WNL]
    WNL:  Humility and doing the hard work of what corporate attorneys call due diligence (digging out the facts before making a deal) will serve you in personal relationships or your public duties as a juror far better than relying on your abilility, trained or untrained, to tell lies from the truth.  There is no such thing as a lie detector test no matter what you may have seen on TV (are those black boxes even plugged in?)


    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    Video Surveillance for Victims - Looxcie LX2

    Looxcie LX2 personal videocam

    If you are going through something, like, say, a nasty divorce/custody thing, you've probably wished you could just videotape those hideous exchanges at the police station, or the time he stood menacingly outside the restaurant window where you were eating but didn't actually do anything you could explain to police.  That way your attorney, the children's therapist, or the minor's counsel, could actually SEE what happened rather than staring at you while you try to explain how unnerving your ex can be without actually pulling a knife.

    Of course there are surveillance cameras in many public places already, and, as at the police station, there may be a video of your latest traumatic exchange, but you'll have to subpoena the PD to get it.  Have you considered being your own videographer?

    How about the Looxcie over-the-ear (Bluetooth style) continuous video recorder?  While it's not perfect, like all innovations in their earlier versions, the camcorder was recently featured in Time magazine’s top 50 inventions of the year. Here's a full review from Hejorama.com that takes you from opening the box through uploading the video onto your computer, and even includes updates as new information has become available.  Right now the latest Looxcie, the LX2, is available at Amazon.com for $150.00.  Don't miss Amazon reviewer "witness digital's" comments.  He seems to have been an early adopter and explains the changes in this new model.

    What about legal issues?  Do you need permission?  Can you get in trouble?  Ask your attorney before you go this route (the relevant laws are almost always local).  Obviously the usual rules about playing nice are not working out or you wouldn't be thinking about doing a defensive videotape, so your situation is not the usual peeping motivation or trying to see people's PIN numbers.  While a videotape you make is likely not admissable as evidence in the courtroom, it might really help you explain your stalking/harrassment/emotional abuse situation to people you need on your team.  The Lawyers.com link at the top of this paragraph reflects only the most general videotaping guidelines.  Every state is different.

    WNL:  There are situations in everyday life, and then there are SITUATIONS that come up for people trying to get out of abusive controlling relationships that nobody else can relate to, and in these cases, a videotape can be a plus, however obtained.  The Looxcie is not invisible and that might be a good thing, both as a defense against secretly recording someone (they can see it sticking out between your eye and your ear), and as a warning.  Who doesn't modify their behavior when they know a person, or a camera, is watching.


    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Thinking of Leaving Your Relationship? Part 2 - Children Involved


    In Part 1 of this article*, I brought up some things to think about before you end a relationship.  The list of considerations changes a great deal when there are children involved, even if there has never been an actual marriage.  Part 1 still applies, and is I hope good advice for preparing yourself for relationship breakup, but there are very important additional things to know if you and your partner have children together.

    I am not an attorney, so nothing in either of these articles pretends to be or should be taken for legal advice.  The points I am making are aimed at helping you prepare yourself emotionally and strategically to make one of the biggest changes you can possibly make in your life, and in your children's lives.

    Baby makes three, Judge makes four.  Over the past thirty years, divorcing with children has changed as the legal system tries to do a better job at handling highly personal family situations.  The results are stunning improvements in some cases, and failures in others.  Family law is a work in progress, to say the least.

    Currently, instead of dividing the children like the rest of family property, custody of minor children is now a two-part agreement; legal custody (decisions about medical care, schooling, religious upbringing), and physical custody (who has the children with them and when).  The physical custody arrangement may be the basis of computing child support.  Even if you and your partner agree about these matters, the judge who signs off on your divorce, making it legal, may not agree, and request or even impose changes.

    This happens because the judge in Family Court has evolved into a representative for the children's best interest, and what that involves varies not only from place to place (divorce is a local matter), but also from judge to judge.  Two examples:

    1.  You and your partner agree that you will have full legal and physical custody of the children.  You appear in court to have the Judge sign off on your agreement.  Surprise!  It is quite likely that you will have to defend that agreement when the Judge asks you "Why shouldn't the children's father have a voice in making important decisions in their lives?"  The current position of divorce courts in the United States is that keeping fathers in the picture is important, and even very bad behavior on the part of the father may not exclude him from sharing legal custody.  This turn of events is something you have to be prepared for, with all possible documentation.  The Court will want, and may even insist, that you share decision-making with the person you are divorcing, even if that makes your life very difficult, and provides a continuing opportunity for an abusive person to continue tormenting you.

    2.  You are splitting assets, and you agree to forgo child support to get other concessions.  Once in Family Court, the Judge will not allow the agreement.  Child support money is for the benefit of the child, and you do not have the right to deprive the child of that assistance, even if it makes for a clean break and there are other counterbalancing benefits.  Now you have to deal with the problems that come from getting a financial declaration from an unwilling spouse, and other complications if your partner refuses to pay, quits his job, blames you for this imposition, etc.

    If you are divorcing with children, educating yourself  as part of your decision-making process is absolutely critical.  The things you didn't know when you decided your relationship was no longer salvageable are the things that will make your life much more difficult than necessary down the line.

    Visit the NOLO website, buy or borrow the current books for the state where you will be divorcing, and learn everything you can WITHOUT COMPROMISING YOUR SAFETY OR YOUR PRIVACY.  You need time to think without revealing your thoughts and plans to family, friends, or your partner.  This is not the time to be an "open book"; you should be looking to people who know the legal system, understand your state support system, are informed about resources for keeping you safe, and who will share their knowledge with you while maintaining your confidentiality.  Talk to advocates at the local self-help legal clinic at a courthouse where you are not going to run into anybody you know, and seriously consider sitting in on some Family Court sessions.  The proceedings are public.  You will learn a great deal by watching other people get restraining orders, divorces of all kinds, and discuss custody, support, and safety issues with the Court.

    Children as weapons.  You are ending your relationship for multiple reasons, and some of those probably involve how you and the children are being treated.  The sad truth is that the patterns of behavior that are breaking up your marriage will not stop after you leave and may even get worse.  Damned if you do, damned if you don't?

    Actually no, you can get out and build a safe, peaceful life, but it's a process, and if you have children, you remain connected to a person who may use that connection to torment you until they are 18.  Planning for the reality of continuing problems, with the children used as pawns or weapons, is your best defense.  Even if you hope for the best, educate yourself about what might happen, and put yourself way ahead of the game.  Start by reading "The Batterer as Parent" and "When Dad Hurts Mom: Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse", both by Lundy Bancroft. 

    "But my partner isn't abusive.  He doesn't beat me up.  He may be jealous, or spend money we don't have, have addiction issues, be unfaithful, uncommunicative, controlling, etc., but I'm not a victim of domestic violence".  In my experience as a domestic violence advocate, supporting women who are going through the process of leaving a relationship that isn't working, I hear this over and over again:  "I didn't realize how bad things were until I left.  In the middle of it, I had a protective shell of denial that I used to help me survive.  When I put aside that shell, I could look back and see how abnormal things had become."  What other women would tell you if they could is that educating yourself and looking at worst cases can be your best asset.  

    It's not a sprint, it's a marathon.  You are  going to be co-parenting with your children's father until they are 18 unless your situation is very exceptional.  You will go back to court or mediation numerous times to change the support order, legal and/or physical custody orders unless your situation is very exceptional.  A vanishing ex-spouse can reappear and want parental privileges, children grow up and decide or are bribed to leave you and go live with your ex.  In other words, it's going to be a long time before you can walk out of court and say with confidence "Well, that's finally over with".  Planning for a marathon instead of expecting a sprint makes all the difference in your ability to go the distance with dignity.

    You will quickly learn that the Court and your children are uninterested and even hostile to being drawn into the personal drama that is the death of your relationship.  They may even be unsympathetic if abuse keeps happening.   You will probably find yourself sucking up a lot of low-level stress and harassment because it doesn't rise to the level the legal system will respond to, and hiding things from the children to keep them as protected as possible. In a word, you are going to need a support system to help you recover and build a new life over the next decade.

    Therapists are the classic support source, but there is another one you might hesitate to use - the support groups managed by local nonprofit domestic violence shelters.  Call a local domestic violence hotline and speak CONFIDENTIALLY to an advocate about what you are going through and ask what resources are available for you, either in their agency or others near you.  Going to a support group where you are in the presence of other women going through divorce, through the courts, dealing with Child Protective Services in some cases, may not be for you, but give it a try.  It could be the safe space you need to energize you for the task ahead.

    *Read Thinking of Leaving Your Relationship? Part 1 - No Children

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Thinking of Leaving Your Relationship? Part 1 - No Children


    This two-part post is based upon my observations working with women who are leaving relationships where there is intimate partner violence.  I have learned by watching them solve the problems that come with the decision to leave that there are things you can do to help yourself prepare for and endure the process you are considering making your next step in life.

    The reason this post is divided into two parts - this is the first - is that having children in common with your partner changes things.  Acting like it is the same for a couple to break up and a family, however dysfunctional, to break up ignores reality, to say the least.  This post is about breaking up with no children in common involved.  There may be stepchildren you have been raising, but when breakup time comes, those children stay with their natural parent.

    It's no longer "we", it's "me."  Shifting from "we" to "me" is a basic shift in thinking that goes against most women's idea of being not only a good woman, but being a good person.  But if you don't make it, you will find "we" thinking sabotaging your efforts at every turn.

    Even in situations where women are in for a fight for their lives by trying to leave, there is the hope that, once the dust settles, the partner will come around and they can be friends, or friendly, or no hard feelings, or something along those lines.  Mentally flipping ahead to a wished-for resolution instead of concentrating on the reality of tearing down and breaking up sets you up for big problems.

    Problems like trying to share things which need to be divided, i.e. a home, a business.  Failing to obtain copies of all the paperwork involved in running your family business like income and bank statements, tax returns, trusting that your partner will hand over complete copies at a later date.  Staying, or allowing your partner to stay in the same residence during the divorce.  Sharing an attorney, trying to do without legal help.  Assuming friends and family will still be your support system, and letting them know your plans or even your emotional state.

    The end of a relationship changes all your other relationships.  Acting like you are an independent person, starting to build a life, is not cold or selfish.  It mirrors the fact that this is a Big Shift and by taking a firm stand as your own person, you give friends, family, the Court, your attorney, and your support system the assurance that you are ready to move forward.  Staying in "we" mode signals you have a foot in two camps.  Which "you" are people to believe?

    By yourself but not all by yourself.  It takes help to leave a relationship, before, during, and after.  The most common mistake women make is to draw that help from pre-existing friends, from family, an attorney, and maybe a therapist.  Your attorney is not your friend.  He/She is not your enemy either, by the way.  An attorney is a guide through the maze of legal procedures and paperwork involved in a relationship breakup with the predetermined goal of getting you a divorce document that covers all the bases, one that a judge will approve.  More about that later.

    Therapy is a must, not a luxury.  You might have to wait for a while to gather the time and energy to find someone, but processing how the breakup happened and who you are post breakup eventually requires a trusted, experienced advisor.

    What of family and friends?  Can't they be your trusted advisors, maybe even help you with some of the legal-type decisions?  In a word, NO.  They may love you, be on your side (or not), have gone through divorce themselves, etc.  But they lack one important thing, objectivity.  Your breakup shakes up their world and they need time to process the change in your situation and the change in you.  They don't know you anymore, and you'd be surprised who decides they liked the old you better, and who steps up to welcome the new you with open arms.

    Build a team of experts, learn from them, become your own advocate.   If you are thinking about leaving an intimate relationship, step 1 is to educate yourself.  Hit the bookstores, library, and internet.  Use your brain and your gut instincts to ferret out information about yourself, your partner, and divorce or dating breakups that adds to your understanding of what you are going through. 

    Get a NOLO state-specific do-it-yourself divorce book even if you have no intention of doing it yourself.  Find out if your relationship is a controlling abusive one.  Look for the phrase "coercive control" and information that acknowledges the devastating effect of emotional abuse, financial abuse, jealousy, and fear in an intimate relationship.

    Call a domestic violence hotline, either national or local, and have a frank, completely confidential talk with the trained counselor who takes your call.  Do you need financial help, do you need a place to get away where your partner can't track you down, do you need a restraining order, do you have an escape plan?  What are the resources out there in case things start to go badly.  Your partner may know you are unhappy and be on supergood behavior in the hopes that you will stay, but if you make it clear you are leaving, he is more than a little bit likely to do a 180, something you need to be prepared for.

    Get legal help.  You don't necessarily get what you pay for when it comes to divorce attorneys.  An hour at a Bar Association Legal Clinic at your courthouse can serve you better than a high-priced lawyer who never returns your calls or treats you like a moron.  If you can, hire a lawyer you respect and like.  But don't depend on him/her to "get" you a divorce.  There is no substitute for knowing where you are in the process, what your options are, and what your attorney should be doing.  The lawyer is there to get you a solid, complete divorce decree and hopefully, make sure things are signed and filed properly.  You will probably have to do some of that yourself.  The best divorce is the one you babysit all through the process.  No one cares more than you do about the new life you are trying to build.

    Good luck!  Millions of women have ended bad relationships and built new lives and new relationships.  You can do it!

    (Graph from The Journal of Economic Perspectives)

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Cheated On While Pregnant? You're Not The Only One


    Check out this startling photo gallery of celebrity cheating while wife is pregnant at Slate.com  (click on the individual pictures for the backstory).  Did you realize these guys had pregnant wives at home while they were roaming - some getting other women pregnant at the same time as their wives were carrying their babies?  I must have missed that part, or maybe it isn't played up much in the reporting that gets done.

    There's plenty of speculation, personal experiences, and even a pretty good article here and there on the web on cheating and pregnancy, but nobody seems to have any statistics to tell us how frequently this happens.  Is it 10% of the time, 20%, 50%, inevitable?

    There is agreement that pregnancy doesn't make a man a cheater.  While "she's too fat to be attractive" or "she doesn't feel like having sex" might be heard from guys as excuses as to why cheat on a pregnant spouse, the consensus is that pregnancy doesn't turn a faithful guy into a cheater, and guys who cheat ultimately need no excuse, or rather, any excuse will do.

    It does appear to be true that becoming pregnant, either by your boyfriend or your husband, makes it more likely that you will experience intimate partner violence (domestic abuse).
    The Center for Disease Control defines domestic violence during pregnancy as “Physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence, or threats of physical or sexual violencethat are inflicted on a pregnant woman.” In a household survey, it was found that pregnant women are 60.6% more likely to be beaten than women who are not pregnant. Violence is cited as a pregnancy complication more often than diabetes, hypertension or any other serious complication. (“Battering and Pregnancy” Midwifery Today19: 1998).  [World Health Organization Fact Sheet]
    Emergency rooms know about pregnancy abuse, police know about it, DV hotlines, Departments of Family Services, and social workers have it on their radar.  The ones who are in the dark, and usually taken completely by surprise, are the women themselves.  Having a baby with a man you love makes you a family, is supposed to create a wonderful bond between the two of you, and if there are troubles in the relationship, conventional wisdom says there's nothing like a new baby to change the dynamic.  The little one is half you/half him so loving your baby can't help but make you closer.  Makes so much sense, but apparently not real life.

    If you'd like to know more about abuse during pregnancy, here's an excellent article, complete with a hotline number to get more information and help.  The World Health Organization Fact Sheet cited above is also excellent although currently inaccessible for some reason.  Both articles have a downside is that they focus on physical abuse, and say almost nothing about financial abuse, jealousy, isolation, psychological harassment, stalking or other demeaning behaviors (I would put cheating in this category).

    If only women could know in advance (maybe a blood test?) who those cheaters are, that would be the greatest leap forward for pairing up and starting a family since eHarmony's "Scientific Relationship Questionnaire came online.  I can't imagine that any of the women pictured in the Slate.com photo gallery of cheaters married their guy thinking he would behave as badly as he did, even while they were pregnant with his children.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Good Bye T-Shirt/Hoodie


    Make the point that you need some space, need to re-establish your personal boundaries, would like the chattering mob around you to “f” off, without being crude or starting a flame war. Just the understated facts, please.

    “Good Bye to You All”.  Pick your shirt/hoodie style and color here.

    When you're done, come by Lyn Southworth Words and Pictures to see what else is going on.

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Jaycee Dugard Speaks at Captor's Sentencing

    Aerial view of the backyard prison/home for Jaycee and her daughters
    Jaycee Dugard, released with the two daughters fathered by her captor in 2009 after 18 years of being hidden "in plain sight" of parole officers and neighbors, spoke to the man who terrorized her in a statement read in court today by her mother, Terry Probyn. Read the full transcript of Jaycee's statement here.

    Phllip Garrido, now convicted of multiple rape and sexual assault charges, will spend the next 431 years in prison for his scheme to kidnap 11-year-old Jaycee to take care of his perverted sexual needs:
    "In the beginning he said that I was helping him and that, you know, he had a sex problem and that, you know, he got me so that he wouldn't have to do this to anybody else. So I was helping him," she said.
    This article at Huffington Post gives previously unknown details of the girls' captivity, based on testimony to the Grand Jury which was unsealed after the defendants left the courtroom.
    The documents provided another window into Dugard's ordeal even though Judge Douglas Phimister had ordered that all descriptions of the sexual activity Phillip Garrido forced on her and often videotaped be withheld.

    "Some of the testimony is absolutely disgusting. The graphic description of these events that occurred would shock adults, even adults who have a distorted view of intimacy," the judge said.

    Is this TOO MUCH INFORMATION?  He's in jail, she's fine, in fact got $20 million from the State of California for bungling probation investigations that should have revealed her presence in Garrido's back yard.  It's over now, so let's move on, you may say.  Not so fast.

    In 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped by a crazy imitation holy man and his wife.  Nine months later she was identified by a police officer as the three walked the streets of a small town only 18 miles away from her home.  In 2009 suspicious officials apprehended Phillip Garrido shortly after his tract distribution trip to the UC Berkeley Campus with his "nieces" - Jaycee's daughters - caused campus police to do a background check, ending Jaycee's 18 year imprisonment.

    So two blonde girls are abducted  by weird religious perverts and their blankly obedient wives and/or recovered within a fairly close time frame.  After the initial buzz of stories and photo spreads in People Magazine, the girls insist on their privacy and disappear into protective families, waiting for the law to take its course. If you have melted these two cases into one in your mind and memory, that would be perfectly understandable. That's certainly what I did.

    But now that Garrido, his wife, Brian Mitchell, and Wanda Barzee are convicted of multiple felonies and are serving jail terms, the similarities are falling away and, back in control of their lives, Elizabeth and Jaycee are telling their stories, Elizabeth in interviews and Jaycee in a book. Turns out here are many more differences in their experiences than similarities, but it would seem that we ought to pay attention to their full stories, in their own voices, since we paid attention to the partial preliminary bits and bytes in the voices of reporters and commentators.  A question of fairness, and also a question of accuracy.

    WNL comments:  The biggest difference I see between Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard is that Elizabeth, in every interview I've seen, is so normal, so upbeat, a triumphant survivor of her ordeal almost before it was over.  She's fine!  She is certainly entitled to be fine, but I'm left wondering....  Jaycee, on the other hand, went through something and needed to recover, is probably still recovering.  Maybe there are just many ways of moving on, I don't know.

    While Elizabeth gives us nothing but a lovely smile, Jaycee has something to say. There's a lot of trauma around these days and Jaycee has written a book (available at Amazon in July, 2011) about her experience of the loss and recovery of her life.  The book - along with the statement she asked her mother to read in court today - is the proof of the return of her voice.  Listening to her version of what she lived, rather than making you a lowbrow crime junkie, may resonate with something that has happened to you, and help you understand your life or the life of someone you love. 

    Elizabeth Smart's book is available here.

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    India Brings the World a Better Vasectomy


    (Anatomy of a Testicle - The Vas Deferens is where the RISUG injection is made)
    The Better Vasectomy currently goes by the ungainly acronym RISUG  (for reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) and it is the elegantly simple and effective brainchild of  "a maverick Indian scientist named Sujoy Guha, who has spent more than 30 years refining the idea while battling bureaucrats in his own country and skeptics worldwide. He has prevailed because, in study after study, RISUG has been proven to work 100 percent of the time. Among the hundreds of men who have been successfully injected with the compound so far in clinical trials, there has not been a single failure or serious adverse reaction. The procedure is now in late Phase III clinical trials in India, which means approval in that country could come in as little as two years."

    What is RISUG?  Where the current vasectomy involves cutting the vas deferens (the tiny tubes that carry sperm made in the testicles to the penis, where they are mixed with nutritive prostate fluids to form semen), Guha's RISUG technique pulls out a section of the vas deferens and injects a nontoxic polymer, which coats the interior of the tube and, amazingly, chemically incapacitate the sperm that flow past, making them incapable of fertilizing an egg.

    How do I get a RISUG vasectomy? In India, where RISUG was invented, it's on a fast track to wide availablility.  There's no reason you can't go to India and get one just like you can go to any other country and have a medical procedure.

    Because RISUG was invented out of the mainstream worldwide pharma/medical device development system, there are obstacles to RISUG's availability in the rest of the world due to a combination of skepticism and, frankly, the inability of the big, important world to deal with something that came out of, to their way of looking at it, nowhere.  Wired Magazine explains:
    As a contraceptive, RISUG faces a far more difficult road to approval and commercial acceptance than, say, a new antidepressant medication. While an antidepressant would be considered a success if it worked in 75 percent of patients, a contraceptive like RISUG will be compared to a conventional vasectomy, which works more than 99 percent of the time. Furthermore, it has to be free from the serious side effects that were common with early experimental hormone-based male contraceptives. And it cannot cause birth defects down the line—ever. “Nobody wants another thalidomide,” says Ron Weiss, the Canadian vasectomy doctor.

    In human tests, RISUG performed extremely well. In the first clinical trial of 17 men, published in 1993, all the subjects who received above a certain dosage became azoospermic—that is, they produced no viable sperm. By 2000, it was in Phase III clinical trials in India, the final stage before approval. The compound was injected into 139 men, and the early results looked promising. In May 2002, it was announced that RISUG was on track for approval in India and would be rolled out on a limited basis within six months.

    At around the same time, a World Health Organization team came to visit Guha’s lab in Delhi and examine his data. This itself was a triumph: It meant RISUG was finally on the international radar. Weiss, a long-time advocate of the process, was with the group and performed the operation. But the five-person team came away skeptical.
    In its report, the WHO team agreed that the concept of RISUG was intriguing. But they found fault with the homegrown production methods: Guha and his staff made the concoction themselves in his lab, and the WHO delegation found his facilities wanting by modern pharmaceutical manufacturing standards. Furthermore, they found that Guha’s studies did not meet “international regulatory requirements” for new drug approval—certain data was missing. The final recommendation: WHO should pass on RISUG."
    Fortunately, that's not the end of the story.  A woman activist in the US, fed up with the lack of options for birth control from the male side, has taken up RISUG's cause and in 2010 the Gates Foundation awarded Guha $100,000 - and some much needed recognition - to bring cheap, nontoxic, one-time, 100% effective male birth control to a very needy world.

    MORE:  Read all about Guha, see a video of the RISUG procedure, and learn more about the current efforts to bring RISUG to market outside of India at Wired Magazine.

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    "Right to Life" T-Shirt - Shades of Blue and Gray


    "Right to Life" shouldn't be limited to the unborn.  Expand your life-affirming stand to include women, who suffer and die unnecessarily around the world from intimate partner violence, lack of access to healthcare, good food and clean water.  Pick your t-shirt style and color. Made especially for you.

    The story behind the shirt:  I've been an artist and feminist for a long time now, and there is something painfully useless about making images that spring from my passion about women, their lives and their needs, that might find their way onto somebody's wall at home, or maybe make a good greeting card.  Transforming some of my work into t-shirt graphics gives me a louder voice, and allows my voice to join with your voice when you wear it.  Maybe working together we can make a dent in the woman-ignoring world out there.  That's my hope and that's the story of this t-shirt :)

    When you've fried your brain looking at t-shirt styles and colors, drop by Lyn Southworth Words and Pictures to see more of the dark, woman-centered products of my passion for making women matter.

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    "Right to Life" T-Shirt - Dusty Pink Version


    Expand your life-affirming stand to include women, who suffer and die unnecessarily around the world from intimate partner violence, lack of access to healthcare, good food and clean water.  Pick your t-shirt style and color.  Made especially for you.

    Take a moment to drop by Lyn Southworth Words and Images, home for all this woman-centered, dark, ironic stuff to see what else is going on.

    (Additional colorways available soon.)