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.
My emotions today have reached a heretofore unprecedented level of sappiness. I kid you not, as of 1:30pm Pacific time, I have cried over three different things I have seen online. I’ve decided to share them with you here.
First up is Anita Sarkeesian’s TEDx talk, where she discusses the potential psychology behind the cybermob that attacked her so viciously over her Tropes vs. Women kickstarter project.
I teared up at the end. Male and female video game characters pander so excessively to the heterosexual male fantasies that it leaves little room for those of alternate genders or sexual orientations to also indulge in the fantasy. I love playing video games. Love it. But just once, I’d like to see a female character that isn’t weak, or aggressively sexualized. Am I really asking too much when I ask to play a female character who isn’t wearing a chainmail bikini over the balloons on her chest?
And then there’s this picture.
That is Dan Savage (one of my personal heroes, though we disagree from time to time) and his longtime partner Terry, getting their marriage certificate signed in Washington state. I wept like a baby. I am so happy that my home state has made same sex marriage legal.
Finally, the fact that this is an actual film that will be shown at SXSW 2013 did me in.
I am so very excited for this film. Wonder Woman is a personal favorite superhero of mine (and really, she should be for anyone else too!). I recently read The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, and the entire premise of this movie ratcheted my geekcitement up to 11. I’m interested to see how the filmmakers will compare with the author of The Supergirls.
Has anything touched your heart today? Maybe made you squee a little? Share your excitement with me in the comments below!
Because I am a terrible procrastinator, and I am desperately trying to stop doing so many “This thing makes me so ANGRY! HULKSMASH!” kind of posts, I was browsing Tumblr earlier for some post ideas. I found a few really awesome things, like the Hawkeye Initiative, where a talented artist has taken to re-drawing the poses of female comic book characters as Hawkeye. If you need to giggle a bit, and then weep when you realize how ridiculous female comic book characters are drawn, take a look. But that wasn’t enough for a whole blog post.
But this? This is seriously cool.
DrinkSavvy is the brainchild of Mike Abramson, and his invention could save lives. How many times have you heard to “never leave a drink unattended”, or “watch your drink, you might get drugged”? I know that I have definitely had my drink spiked by someone that I trusted, while I was dating him. Normally, this sort of advice is directed towards young women, but the creator was inspired after being drugged himself.
DrinkSavvy is a series of products (cups, glasses, straws and stirrers) that actually change color in the presence of GHB, a common “date rape” drug. Although it has a slightly salty taste, GHB is colorless and odorless, and can be difficult to detect in a flavored drink. Here’s what GHB can do to a person, according to Wikipedia:
Its effects have been described anecdotally as comparable with alcohol and ecstasy use, such as euphoria, disinhibition, enhanced sensuality and empathogenic states. At higher doses, GHB may induce nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, agitation, visual disturbances, depressed breathing, amnesia, unconsciousness, and death. The effects of GHB can last from 1.5 to 3 hours, or even longer if large doses have been consumed. Consuming GHB with alcohol is dangerous as it can lead to vomiting in combination with unrouseable sleep, a potentially lethal combination.
If these products become widespread, then we can effectively eliminate one tool in the date rapist’s arsenal. Do me a favor, share this indiegogo campaign on every social media platform you currently use. I want to see these used in every bar in the US.
I donated to the campaign, will you?
So, I know that I already had a blog post about this, but honestly, this issue is too important to me and people I care about to let it sit. If you haven’t read it already, please take a look.
There’s even more to the story. People need to know that the proposition with the “feel good” name isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
From this post:
Another HUGE problem with Prop 35 is that it mandates that anyone convicted of lewd conduct since 1944 register as a sex offender. Lewd conduct is what the police like to charge women and men working on the street with when entrapping them for solicitation seems like too much of a hassle. So thousands of people who are not traffickers and were never accused of being traffickers are going to have to register as sex offenders. And here’s another kicker – throughout the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s, when it was practically illegal to be queer, the police had a tendency to charge gay men with lewd conduct. So now thousands of gay men will be required to register as sex offenders – because they’re gay. Yes, there are people being exploited, sexually and otherwise, and they should be getting help. But Prop 35 is not the way to do it. Maybe the police should start enforcing the laws we already have against rape, statutory rape, assault, and kidnapping.
This bill has over $1.85M backing it, and the people who oppose it have no budget to buy commercial time on the radio, or TV, or for big splashy advertisements in local papers. Please. Please share this information.
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.
Proposition 35, also known as the Ban on Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery sounds like the kind of bill that no one can argue with, right? I mean, no sane person actually thinks that human trafficking or (non-consensual) sex slavery is a good thing, right? Right. That’s why these things are ALREADY illegal.
So why has Prop 35 been introduced? There is more to the bill than what meets the eye in the small blurb in your voter guide. This bill would broaden the definitions of human trafficking and sex slavery to a point where the terms could include people who have chosen to be prostitutes, as well as their customers, and people who have chosen to be adult entertainers (working in porn or as strippers). These people (men and women) who have chosen to engage in sex work could be prosecuted as “human traffickers” and sentenced to a decade in jail, with a $500,000 fine. If the police chose to do so, you could be charged with human trafficking merely by having sex with a date that paid for a meal. There’s nothing okay about that.
Here’s an excerpt from The Myth of Sex Trafficking, regarding Prop 35,
Here’s a riddle:
Q: Under §6(h)(2) of the CASE Act, what makes a sexual act into a “commercial sex act”?
A: That it occurs on account of anything of value being given or received by any person.
Here’s another riddle:
Q: Gee, does “anything of value” include buying someone dinner? A ticket to a movie? A drink?
A: “Anything of value” is not defined — but if it meant “money or its equivalent” it would say so.
Here’s a final riddle:
Q: Do you really think that prosecutors will think that they can get a jury to convict for a 19-year-old boy who takes a 17-year-old girl (or boy) to a concert, leading her to be grateful and to engage in a sexual act with him, under the CASE Act?
A: Maybe not. But if it’s your son facing 12 years in prison and being branded for life as a registered sex offender as a result of the conviction, would you be more likely to tell him to accept a plea bargain just in case? And don’t prosecutors like plea bargains to pad their conviction statistics? And have they ever been known to deploy their prosecutorial discretion somewhat selectively?
(By the way, that could be your daughter in the above example rather than your son.)
I highly recommend that all of my California readers go to the websites that discuss the pros and cons of Prop 35 (especially the blog linked above, for the cons) and educate yourself. While the proposition title sounds like a great idea, in reality, it will only increase the number of frivolous arrests and prosecutions of legitimate sex workers, and will increase the already overloaded court system.
I will be voting “no” on Prop 35. Instead of going after women and men who work in the sex industry by choice, why not help the women and men who have asked for the court’s assistance? I’d much rather see that energy, manpower, and judicial resources going towards processing the over 180,000 rape kits that are languishing in California.
I found this video of one of my absolute favorite Jezebel writers, Lindy West, through the Skepchick blog. Lindy speaks to a lot of the experiences of female bloggers, especially feminist bloggers. The amount of hate and vitriol that is directed towards female bloggers is absolutely nauseating, and it seems to be increasing in intensity. Offhand, I can think of two bloggers I love who have been the target of some particularly nasty stalking and abuse lately, Laci Green and Surly Amy. My dear friend, Nixie Pixel, has also been a target at times.
I attracted the attention of the MRA (Men’s Rights Activists) subreddit a few months back, due to my Dark Side of Geek Feminism post. I had some pretty severely conflicting emotions about the fact that, by and large, they all agreed with the post. Until that time, my only experience with the Men’s Rights movement was through some grumblings on a few of the feminist websites I had been frequenting.
I spent a lot of time on the subreddit, and read a lot. I cringed every time I read something that was clearly sexist, whether biased towards men or women (a few instances of the posters referring to women that they perceived as acting entitled as “cupcake” really irritated me). Overall, though, I was surprised to find myself in agreement with a lot of the threads.
I believe it is a tragedy that men who are raped are not taken seriously, and have a harder time getting access to necessary mental health treatment. I find it infuriating that there are women who actually use rape accusations as a form of bullying, extortion, or to smear a man’s name. I think that the courts should stop being automatically biased towards women in custody hearings. These were the main points I read about, and I no longer think of the MRAs (as a whole) as a bad movement.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this shift in my views. I honestly believe that both sides could use a little more positive PR. It is my understanding that both sides are trying to draw attention to injustices and attempt to rectify those injustices. Feminists and MRAs just want to be treated with respect and as though their gender doesn’t determine how they should be treated in everyday life, in the workplace, and by the justice system. Both sides have their trolls, and their radical elements, but in the end, we all want to be treated equally. In order to do this, we have to stop vilifying each others movements. We have to stop accusing entire genders of being culpable for the actions of those few who behave badly. Yes, making that mental shift is difficult, but it has to happen if we are actually wanting equality for all. Otherwise, we are undermining our own movements, and creating an Animal Farm mentality, where some are “more equal” than others.
I still think the PUA (Pick Up Artist) community is full of crap though. Sorry, Lindy, I don’t foresee my thoughts on that group changing anytime soon.
I spent a little time this past Friday at the opening evening of the XO Expo, hosted by the Adult Video Network. I was expecting to see fun new sex toys, maybe some interesting demonstrations, and crowds of people.
I saw none of those. Instead, there were tattoo and piercing booths, tables of the same sex toys I can find anywhere else, and the crowds were mostly men. These men were standing around the booths with the porn stars, and the booths that were advertising local strip clubs, staring and taking pictures of the women like they had never seen a woman in a bikini ever before in their lives. It was gross, and made me feel very uncomfortable.
One booth in particular caught my eye. It was pretty incongruous with the rest of the expo. This booth was for a group called the Pink Cross (I am choosing not to link to their website, because I really don’t want to direct traffic to the site.), which is a Christian non-profit dedicated to telling the young women who are involved in the sex industry that they are bad people who just need a little more Jesus in their lives. I was completely baffled, but after delving into their website a little bit today, I am even more baffled. Some of the testimonials are just ridiculous. One was equating BDSM with the occult and devil-worship. I actually laughed out loud at that one.
While I understand that there are some young women who are forced into sex work, there are even more who choose to be a sex worker. I have many friends who work in the local pornography scene, and they are happy with what their line of work. Equating all of the women who choose to work in pornography as unwitting and unwilling participants simply doesn’t ring true to me. What are your thoughts, dear readers?
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!
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