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Her Name Was Susan Cox Powell

Her name was Susan Cox Powell.

We went to high school together.  Though we didn’t know one another very well, we had a lot of mutual friends.  I remember her as someone who was gracious, intelligent, and kind.  Susan had a beautiful smile.  She disappeared in 2009.  Interviews with Susan’s friends have shown that her relationship with her husband was abusive.  He shoved her, slapped her, wouldn’t allow her to buy groceries for the family, and locked her out of the house.   Her father-in-law had a disturbing obsession with her, and took voyeuristic photographs of her.  Susan left a will in a safe deposit box that said if she disappeared it “wouldn’t be an accident”.

Her sons’ names were Charlie and Braden.

They were taken on an impromptu “camping” trip at 12:30am, in the middle of a snowstorm, by their father, the night that Susan disappeared.  Three years later, Charlie and Braden had started talking about that night.  Braden drew a picture of a car with three occupants, and when he was asked about his drawing, he said “Mommy’s in the trunk”.  One year ago today, they were killed by their father, who took a hatchet to their tiny bodies before setting a fire that would ultimately kill all three.

I am convinced that Susan’s husband killed her.  I am convinced that we will likely never find her, her friends and family will probably never have closure.  I am convinced that we should learn from this, that we should be tireless advocates for those who are abused by their partners.

  • Intimate partner homicides account for 30% of all deaths of women.
  • Everyday, in the US, three women are murdered by their partner.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • Every year, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes.

It is easy to think that you are smarter than a woman in an abusive relationship.  It is easy, to look at the situation, and think “she should have left him”.  In reality, it is incredibly difficult to leave an abusive relationship, especially when you have children.  It is common for abusive partners to use children as a way to get their partner to stay in the abusive relationship.  According to her will, Susan’s husband told her that he would “destroy” her if she tried to leave him.

It is hard to be the friend or family member of someone who is in an abusive relationship.  It is hard not to have those thoughts.  It is hard to watch someone’s personality deteriorate in the face of abuse.  It is hard to be supportive, to lend an ear, to watch your friend or family member walk back into the home they share with their abusive partner.  The National Domestic Violence Hotline has some very helpful tips on how to help a friend or family member who is in an abusive relationship.

Since the National Domestic Violence Hotline was established, domestic violence and intimate partner homicide has taken a drastic downward turn.  The Hotline is funded by the Violence Against Women Act.  The VAWA is currently being debated by our nation’s elected leaders, and it may not be re-authorized.  This would be an unspeakable tragedy.  Please, write to your senator, write to your congressional representative.  Tell them to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Her name was Susan Cox Powell.

Her sons were Charlie and Braden.

I am burning a candle in their memory today.

I am also emailing my representatives, in their memory, to try and make sure that other women in her situation have the resources necessary to leave abusive relationships.

 

Edit: For those of you who would like a form letter, please see the one I have drafted below.

Dear Senator/Representative/Congresswoman/Congressman   ,

I am writing you today in memory of  Susan Cox Powell, and her sons, Charlie and Braden, to urge you to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

This act provides the funding necessary to assist women who are in domestic violence situations, and since its inception in 1994, the number of domestic violence incidences have decreased dramatically.

Decreasing domestic violence is not a partisan issue.

Sincerely,

Facebook Community Standards

Yesterday, I reported a Facebook group that I found incredibly offensive.  It was portraying young girls (possibly some that were under the age of 18), calling them sluts, and advocating their rape.  I reported them under the “hate speech” section of the “report page” function.

I was horrified to receive the following response email from Facebook:

Hi,

Thanks for your recent report of a potential violation on Facebook. After reviewing your report, we were not able to confirm that the specific page you reported violates Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

Learn more about what we do and don’t allow by reviewing the Facebook Community Standards:https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards.

Thanks,
Viki

So, I went to the Facebook Community Standards.  The only thing I could find that would have excluded this particular page from suspension falls under this part of the criteria:

Hate Speech

Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.

Huh.  So, you think it is okay to suspend or remove posts from pages like A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over the World, which challenges gender constructs and other feminist issues, but pages like Slut Memes (choice quote: “What did the left leg say to the right leg? Nothing, they’ve never met. Get it. Cause you’re a slut.), Sluts Embarrassing Themselves, I Kill Bitches, My Whore Wife, and the cleverly titled Whores are allowed to remain because they are somehow satire?  I just found those through searching “slut” “bitches” and “whore” on Facebook.

That stuff is not satire.  I’m not the only one who has noticed that Facebook will happily censor things that could be described as feminist, but they won’t remove misogynist posts or pages.

Come on Facebook, get it together, and make sure that the people you have checking these things are versed in feminism, misogyny, misandry, and other forms of societal marginalization or oppression.

Random Ramblings

I am suffering from some serious writer’s block.  I was unexpectedly too busy to post yesterday, but I’ve had a couple of hours to write, and I just don’t have a topic that I can write a full post about today.  So today, you get snippets of things that are rolling around in my brain.

First off, can we please STOP calling other women “whores” and judging them for having sex?  One of my family members shared this on her Facebook wall, and it made me see red.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have definitely judged other girls that I didn’t know well, and called them “whore”.  But you know what?  I look back at those times, and every single time, it was an insult made out of jealousy.

You heard me.  I have called other women awful names because I was jealous.  I was jealous because I thought they were prettier, or because they had a nicer body, or they wore clothing that I could never pull off, or they were more socially confident than me, or they were better at flirting, or they had the attention of the guy that I thought was cute/dating/liked.  Look deep within yourself when you decide to label someone “whore” or “slut”.  Unless that person actually works in the sex industry, chances are, the reasons behind your loathing of another person is actually emotions that you’re directing at yourself.

Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.  - Cady from 2004′s Mean Girls

I’d like to add that calling someone a whore doesn’t make your sex or love life any better.

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A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to be funny on the Nice Girls twitter account, and joked that The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino was so sexy, I was scared I’d run out of batteries.

One of my followers, who is also a friend of mine in real life, said that I should invest in a Hitachi Magic Wand.  When I replied that I didn’t really have the money to spend on it, she actually bought me one!  It gets delivered tomorrow, and you can expect a review after I’ve taken it for a test drive.

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There are some really amazing conferences that I want to attend, but I always find out about them too late.  I really wanted to go to CatalystCon, the Good Vibrations Sex Summit, and I barely found out about Arse Elektronika in time to attend one day of the conference.  How does one go about getting on the mailing list for these things?  Readers, if you hear about an interesting sex conference that you’d like to see me at, or read about on Nice Girls, could you let me know about it?

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I read what seemed to be a really amazing, sex positive, open relationship positive book called Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles.  I say that it seemed to be that way, because up until the final chapter, it was purely discussing how women and men are programmed to seek out partners outside of their primary relationships, and it even had some interesting theories regarding homosexuality.  In the last chapter, it had a cloying story about an elderly couple and how being monogamous throughout their entire lives was the best possible reproductive strategy.  It seemed like an odd way to end an otherwise open minded and rather engaging book.  I’m still wrestling with how to review it properly.

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In the interest of giving Nice Girls some more diverse voices, I am approaching some of my fellow sex educators about writing articles or columns for this blog.  I’m also planning on starting a YouTube channel, so that I can interview some of the interesting people I come across in this line of work, and you can see it all!

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Finally, today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  I’d like for you all to take a minute, and take a look at that website.

And now, I’d like to challenge you to be a transgender ally.  When you see injustice, bullying, or any sort of hate-motivated violence (whether physical or verbal), take a stand.  Make sure that your words are not going to hurt another.  Intervene.  Call the police, and then stand witness when they arrive.  Make sure that those around you, whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, know that you won’t stand there and let someone else hurt them.

“Fake” Geek Girls

Let’s get one thing public here, right off the bat.  I am a self-identified “geek”.  I wasn’t one of the “cool kids” in high school, though I stood up for myself enough times to never be outright bullied to my face.  I’ve always managed to find my fellow geeks in whatever city I reside. [Please note: although I am sure that there are people who will react with vehement outrage, for the sake of argument, I am going to use the words "geek" and "nerd" interchangeably.] Read the rest of this entry

Naming and Shaming

Have you heard the name Amanda Todd?  Hers is a heartbreaking story of a young teenager who was relentlessly bullied by an anonymous online man, and then in person by her classmates because of a youthful indiscretion.  Specifically, she was encouraged to lift her shirt and flash someone on a cam-chatting site, and the man who encouraged her then shared a screenshot with others, including her classmates.  The man has been identified by Anonymous, they of the “we are legion” variety, and his personal information is now available for any person who has the desire for vigilante justice.   I admit, I felt a little thrill of joy when I saw the video on the Anonymous YouTube account, stating the name of Todd’s harasser, but I immediately felt guilty about it.

How about the name Violentacrez, also known as Michael Brutsch?  He’s been outed from his anonymous screen name as a chief moderator and expert troll on several unsavory subreddits.  He’s also been targeted, and he has subsequently lost his job, and his wife has become a target as well.

I have shared my opinion on “naming and shaming” publicly before, and I am going to do it again.  Right now.  I find it all incredibly distasteful.

Amanda Todd and her parents should have gone to the police with the information she had regarding her harasser.  He was ACTUALLY distributing child pornography, and blackmailing her in the process.  When her classmates were harassing her in person, she and her parents should have gone to the principal, or called the police.  The Gawker writer who outed Brutsch should also have turned over his information to the police, as he was also distributing child pornography.  Yet no one is talking about the things that could have been done to stop these people from hurting others.  There is no discussion of how the legal system is the proper venue for reporting harassment, or turning in evidence that someone is committing illegal acts.

Instead, there are Facebook pages about how the man who was accused of harassing Amanda Todd is going to die; two men are being held up as the worst that society has to offer, but that’s okay because now they’ve been caught and aren’t we glad that now we know their names?

Knowing their names does nothing but allow other assholes on the internet to use the same tactics of bullying and harassment, which sinks these would-be white knights down to the same level as those they purport to abhor.  It allows those who are innocent in these dealings, like Brutsch’s wife and children, to be caught in the crossfire as the internet burns and pillages real names in a virtual world.  It creates a mob mentality that makes scapegoats out of the unsavory in their thirst for blood, and we are better than that.

Use experiences to educate about the bad situations and behaviors you want to see changed, but don’t give the internet the names of those who are guilty of perpetuating the bad situations and behaviors.  Allowing a particular person to become a scapegoat for broader problems only allows the group who accepted or encouraged the behavior to disavow that person, and then claim that they have changed.  It is the best form of misdirection, and allows the group to continue, essentially unchanged.

Using the heartbreaking story of Amanda Todd as a tool to educate other young women about how to deal with coercion, blackmail, mental illness, harassment, and bullying would be a much better way to make sure that this happens less frequently.  Turning in Brutsch privately would have given the US justice system a much better chance at a fair jury trial, and would have prevented his family from being vilified along with him.

Don’t get caught up in the sensationalism of the story, learn and teach the lessons that the story has to offer.

Some Blogs I Follow

Good afternoon everyone!  I’ve been busy reading books to review for you all on Nice Girls, and I thought that in the meantime, I would share some of the fantastic blogs I follow.

For reading up on feminist issues, these are my top four:

Patriarchy Survivor.  This blog comes from a Facebook page I follow: No, I will NOT be quiet.  This blog has a lot of submitted personal stories, and some of them may be triggering to anyone who has experienced rape, sexual assault, or domestic violence.

Make Me a Sammich.  The author describes this as “a place to read and talk about being a woman in the USA in the 21st century.”  It’s a great description, and she recently started posting some pretty awesome fiction!

Another Angry Woman describes her blog as “Part anarchist. Part feminist. All angry.”

Damn Right I’m a Feminist has shorter posts, mostly about current news articles and some fantastic quotes.  Don’t miss her Sexist Song of the Day posts.

For some reading that is a little lighter in topic and tone (in other words, you’re much less likely to read something that will make you angry), check out these blogs.

Sex Lives of Moms has some occasionally hilarious posts, but offers advice and commiseration for those awesome moms who are struggling with regaining intimacy with significant others.

Online Dating – Why I’ll Soon Be a Crazy Cat Lady always cracks me up.  If you’ve ever tried to find the genuinely good guys in the cesspool that is online dating, you will probably recognize your experiences in her blog.

 

Tomorrow’s post will be a review of Sex at Dawn!

Street Harassment: Ladies Just Can’t Win

If you’re a fan of Nice Girls on Facebook (and if you’re not, then you should definitely go click “like” right now!), then you’ve probably already seen this post I shared yesterday.  Trigger warning: there’s an account of a pretty verbally violent situation.

A friend of mine had shared it, and I got pretty angry at the conversation in the comments on her page.  I had never been witness to such oblivious “mansplaining” in my life.   I’d like my readers’ thoughts on this conversation (names have been intentionally omitted): Read the rest of this entry

A Call to Men

I recently came across this video on the TED talks website.  It features Tony Porter, the founder of A Call to Men: The National Association of Men and Women Committed to Ending Violence Against Women.

His eloquent 11 minute speech is a work of art.  It was definitely worth the standing ovation he received at the end.

To my male readers: what is your experience with stepping outside the “Man Box”?  Do you believe it is real? If so, what can we do to raise the next generation outside of this “Man Box”?

To my female readers: what are your reactions after watching this?

Grace’s Diary

Thanks to a tip from one of my dear friends, I found out about Grace’s Diary, a beautifully drawn point and click game.  But this isn’t your ordinary game.

Grace’s Diary is a visual novel with easy gameplay, but this game has a purpose.  Grace is concerned about her friend Natalie and Natalie’s relationship with her boyfriend, Ken.  Grace has decided that she should call Natalie and voice her concerns, but Grace needs to write down the behaviors that concerned her.

As Grace, you explore your own room for reminders of times that Ken or Natalie have acted in strange ways.  If you find all of the evidence, and you navigate your conversation with Natalie successfully, there is a happy ending.

Although I think some of the gameplay is a little clunky (there is one piece that is particularly difficult to find, and I had to use a walkthrough to find it) and some of the dialogue could use some work,  there is no doubt that Grace’s Diary is a great game.  You can find Grace’s Diary on the Amazon App store here, and it is free.

No Moral Abortion?

The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts has stripped Dr. Ann Neuhaus of her license to practice medicine following malpractice allegations.  She didn’t maim anyone during surgery.  She didn’t prescribe the wrong drugs.  She didn’t misdiagnose someone.

She refused to force a 10 year old girl to give birth, and gave her a late-term abortion. Read the rest of this entry

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