In the mid ‘90s, I lived in Western Massachusetts and worked at NELCWIT, an agency that offered services for women in transition. Specifically we worked with female victims of domestic violence and their children. I wore many hats at NELCWIT, and one was performing the overnight duties at the shelter where the women and children lived until they could find suitable, affordable housing. I answered the crisis hotline and if the hospital called to say there was a rape victim, and I was on duty, it was my job to go support her during her rape-kit process. I dreaded getting that call. And for several years I never got one. But one night when I arrived at the shelter for my overnight shift, the call came, and I went. I gave myself a pep-talk on the 10 minute drive to the hospital. This isn’t your rape. This didn’t just happen to you. Stay in your body. Be the supportive person you would have hoped for back then, back in 1983. Back in Los Angeles. When I arrived at the hospital and explained who I was, the first thing the nurse said to me was, “She was drunk. She’s in there.” The tone of voice wasn’t just dismissive, it was hostile. It was so hateful, I flew immediately out of body. When I was raped, I was drunk. I wanted to say something to the nurse, but I floated into the patient’s room. She looked sad; she looked lost; she looked just like me. She asked me to sit with her and for the next three and half hours of hell I did. The experience was horrendous because of the way the nurses and the police treated the victim. The rape kit took a long time to administer. The nurse was extremely rough with the patient, left us for long stretches of time with no explanation as the patient lay in shame and stirrups, and allowed the cop to come in and ask questions while the patient lay spread eagle. I finally forced myself back into my body and told everyone in the room to leave. Then the patient and I had a conversation about how she wanted the rest of the examination to proceed. I relayed her wishes to the staff: No more judgmental remarks: be kind and compassionate or be quiet. Be gentle. And to the police officer: Come back when the kit is complete. After some arguing in the hall, the patient’s wishes were respected. No one was kind or compassionate, but they kept their mouths shut. When the police officer asked if she wanted to press charges, the woman burst into tears and said no. There was no way she could go to court and be treated like a criminal, not after the “brutal” treatment she received in the hospital. She said the rape kit ordeal was worse than the rape.
When I was raped, I did nothing. I wrapped myself in fear and shame. I knew my words in a courtroom would do nothing but bring me humiliation and blame. Two stories in this week’s column touch on these themes. “Where are the Rape-Kit Nurses?” discusses the lack of trained hospital staff who can perform the procedure. And it’s not just the shortage of an individual who can scrape and pull and pry and drop evidence into Ziploc baggies. What we need are trained nurses who don’t re-traumatize an already traumatized victim and police officers who don’t roll their eyes or raise their voices or decide for themselves “it wasn’t rape” if a woman chooses to stay silent. The second article relevant to this story is the mis-trial of Bill Cosby. Please read the article in BUST for a clear understanding of why women often refuse to report rape crimes.
Other stories this week focus on World Refugee Day, Charleena Lyles who was shot dead by police in Seattle after she called 911, Philando Castile who received no justice for his death at a white police officer’s hands, and Nabra Hassanen, a young Muslim girl, kidnapped and beaten to death in a crime currently being treated as “road rage” rather than “hate crime”.
It’s a tough week of news, but for these stories and more, in case you missed it, Read On! Your comments are always welcome.
“On World Refugee Day, 5 Correspondents Reveal what it’s Like to Cover the Crisis”/ by Jennifer Hassan/ Washington Post/ June 20, 2017
2. What’s more, Noah continued, is that at least one group is demonstrating some appalling hypocrisy by not speaking out on this verdict in particular. “Philando Castile wasn’t just a man shot at a traffic stop,” Noah said. “He was a legal gun owner whose family was in the car, and who had committed no crime at all … because he was lawfully armed, you would think that one powerful group in America would say something about it. This is a group you’d expect to be losing their goddamn minds about this.”
“Trevor Noah on the Philando Castile verdict: the NRA should “be losing their goddamn minds””/ by Caroline Framke/ VOX/ June 20, 2017
3. “I’m sure the guy hit my daughter because she’s Muslim and she was wearing the hijab,” she said. “The thing in my head is, why did he do that to us? We’re not bad people. He doesn’t know us. Why did he ever do that? I don’t feel safe at all anymore, as a Muslim living here now. I’m so worried about sending my kids out and their coming back as bodies.”
“Darwin Martinez Torres Charged With Killing Nabra Hassanen”/ by Sameer Rao/ Colorlines/ June 19, 2017
4. Now Lyles and Castile are two of the latest additions to a group as old as blackness, a list of black names and bodies trampled under the heel of state violence. That list itself is a subset of the lives ruined or ended by white supremacy’s iron grasp. Their addition to that tradition—and the expected denial of justice in Castile’s case—make this Juneteenth an even more bittersweet celebration than usual.
“The Quintessential Americanness of Juneteenth”/ by Vann R. Newkirk II/ The Atlantic/ June 19, 2017
5. As many Black folks know, there’s always that one person who requests a Jay Z song just to be able to use the N-word. That train is never late. This time, the guilty party was the earthy, rolls-her-own-cigarettes-and-probably-voted-for-Bernie-Sanders-in-the-primary type of “harmless” white woman. But she was far from harmless.
“Stop Forgetting Black Women in Your Fight for ‘Equality’”/ by Kellee Terrell/ Harpers Bazaar/ June 16, 2017
6. But Sessions, in enlisting his white male colleagues’ help, his good ole boys, is getting them to collude in a racist lie, to portray her as an antagonizing hostile aggressor, out to destroy White masculinity and White power with her evil questions. And so they need to shut her up. – See more at: https://www.damemagazine.com/2017/06/19/real-reasons-senator-kamala-harris-made-ag-jeff-sessions-nervous#sthash.NKR32TTG.dpuf
“The Real Reason Senator Kamala Harris Made AG Jeff Sessions “Nervous””/ by Stacey Patton/ Dame/ June 19, 2017
7. “I work at a wastewater treatment plant, and hold a license in the field. I literally have men come into our plant, see me and ask, ‘Is there a man I can talk to?’ I’ve also been accused of ‘sleeping my way into the job.’ You know, because every woman dreams of sleeping her way into the sewer industry.”
“‘Is There a Man I Can Talk To?’: Stories of Sexism in the Workplace”/ by Susan Chira and Brianna Milord/ The New York Times/ June 20, 2017
8. Tracking these issues is important, because the way the media — and politicians — frame these incidents can have lasting real-world impacts. According to recent studies by Pew Research and Claremont Graduate University, positive opinions of Islam and Muslims in the United States unexpectedly increased after the September 11 attacks, a shift mirrored in France after the Charlie Hebo shootings in Paris. At least one researcher believes this change was likely a result of politicians and media who pushed messages opposing Islamophobia.
“Non-Muslim Attackers get a Lot Less Media Coverage Than Those Who Claim Islam”/ by Jack Jenkins/ Think Progress/ June 19, 2017
9. On Wednesday (June 14), James T. Hodgkinson opened fire on a group of Republican members of Congress and their staff, injuring five people including House majority whip Steve Scalise. That shooting, which occurred on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, was widely covered by the media and sparked conversations about gun control and political violence. But not counting the tragedy in Alexandria, the US actually experienced eight mass shootings just this week, leading to 12 deaths and 27 injuries. These tragedies received much less media attention.
“Nine Mass Shootings Happened in the US this Week. You Probably Heard About Just One of Them”/ by Lola Fadulu/ Quartz/ June 17, 2017
10. The mistrial has the potential to send a message to victims of sexual assault everywhere that speaking out against the offender, an act that is immensely difficult in itself, doesn’t lead to justice – especially when the accused has the help of fame, fortune, and an expensive legal team. In fact, the Washington Post reported that Bill Cosby’s spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, stated before cameras after the verdict that “Mr. Cosby’s power is back.”
“Bill Cosby’s Sexual Assault Verdict Is Exactly Why Women Don’t Report Rape”/ by Hannah Rose/ Bust/ June 19, 2017
(2015 New York Magazine cover…used in BUST article.)
11. The teachers expected backlash, and they got it, in the form of white parents from the city’s wealthier neighborhoods writing to their school principals and saying that they were displeased that such an event would take place, saying that a Black Lives Matter day was too militant, too political and too confusing for their young children, according to KUOW.
“White Liberal Tears and Racism From Parents in Response to Seattle Teachers Wearing ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-Shirts”/ by Monique Judge/ The Root/ June 19, 2017
12. The 1960 musical, which is about two neighboring fathers who trick their children into falling in love by pretending to feud, contains a scene in which characters dress up as and villainize Native Americans. Attendees said they were also shocked at the casual use of the word “rape” in the musical’s dialogue.
“Native Americans Walk Out of Fantastiks Performance at University of Wyoming”/ by Staff/ CBS News/ June 19, 2017
13. “The American Healthcare Act will be a disaster for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Peter Berns CEO of the Arc, a nationwide charity federation. “It will have a devastating impact on their lives and will frankly be a giant step backward with all the progress the disability community has made over the years.”
“These are the People at the Mercy of Trump’s Healthcare Bill”/ by Drew Philp/ The Guardian/ June 20, 2017
14. These examinations can take a long time, up to six hours, and are most effective when completed shortly after the assault. Before receiving an exam, victims are encouraged not to change their clothes. Not to shower. Not to use the restroom. So if a patient’s nearest medical facility does not have the staff or resources available to complete the highly personal exam, or to provide sensitive, timely care, that victim may, as a result, choose to forgo reporting their assailant.
“Where Are the Rape-Kit Nurses”/ by Brittany Bronson/ New York Times/ June 20, 2017
Joyce Hayden left her university teaching job two years ago in order to pursue her own artistic work. An assemblage artist, painter, and writer, Joyce is currently in the process of acquiring an agent to represent her memoir, The Out of Body Girl, which describes her 8 year relationship with a charismatic gambler and the dangerous road that eventually led to her freedom. Her chapbook of poems, Lost Handprint, is forthcoming from Dandelion Review. A freelance editor and writing coach, Joyce’s writing services and a selection of her artwork can be found at her website joycehayden.com. Joyce is available for commission art work, including celebration shrines for loved ones and pets.