What About Us?

It’s been a while since I’ve felt the need to blog.

Last week, they announced the verdict of the Eric Garner case which resulted in the officer not being charged.  My heart sank, tears came to my eyes and my mind searched for a reason why this happened.  Just as Jon Stewart pointed out, unlike the ambiguities of the Ferguson case, this case had none, zero.  It was on video, filmed, the murder of this man by a police officer. Clear cut.  Not surprisingly, this proof did nothing.

Police brutality affects us all, however, minorities suffer a much greater impact, loss of life, assault.  The thought that my family could be pulled over for a DWH (driving while Hispanic) or worse…and that is a terrifying thought to me.  My skin is white, I don’t look mixed so I don’t have to be afraid.

There is another reason why I came here to blog.  Lately, NFL players have been voicing their protest of Eric Garner’s trial and Ferguson.  They have entered the field with their arms raised, they have worn shirts saying “I can’t breathe” and that same sentence has been written on their shoes, wrist bands and more.

I applaud their protest, I love that they are using their voice to speak up not only for minorities, but against police brutality, for the families who voices are so limited.  They made the choice to make a public statement, using their status to change our society and I love that.

At the same time though, it makes me want to scream at them in anger, it makes me want to cry, it makes me want to shake them and look them in the eye and say what about us!  Why weren’t there any players using their voice when a woman was knocked unconscious by her partner, why weren’t there players using their voice when a woman was raped, why weren’t their players using their voice when a child was beaten?

For decades, the NFL has harbored, supported and covered up domestic violence and sexual assault cases.  Finally, in 2014, something is being done about it.  Their own organization supports perpetrators of violent crimes, crimes of physical assaults and sexual assault, crimes that kill women and children.  Every day, it is estimated that 3 women are murdered in the United States by an intimate partner.

How many women can’t breathe because the man they love grabs their throat and tightens his grip? How many women can’t breathe because he broke her ribs? How many women can’t breathe because every day they are in fear for their lives?  How many children can’t breathe through their tears of pain? How many women and children can no longer breathe because their life has come to an end?

The video of a woman being assaulted and knocked unconscious brought attention to the problem that has been going on in the NFL for decades.  Since 2000 alone, there have been over 70 domestic violence related arrests….Players now have been asked to or forced into participating in Domestic Violence commercials and campaigns, but no player has voluntarily offered up his voice in this fight. Before this season, no player has voluntarily used his actions or clothing during a game or practice to say that what the NFL has done for decades is wrong, that the perpetrators of these crimes, the abusers, the rapists, the murders, should be in jail.

Again, while I can support their protest, I also have the right to feel angry at them for ignoring the abusers in their own organization.

Through my partner, a die-hard Chargers fan, I have a new-found appreciation and love for this sport.  I haven’t missed a Chargers game all season.  Even when I’m at work, I watch it on my phone.

However, as a woman, I feel that this sport, like so many others, is purely for men where women are reduced to the color pink, the amount of cleavage we show and how short our skirts are.  I can’t help but feel  ignored and marginalized knowing that higher ups in this organization would rather hide and protect these abusers for a profit then do anything about it.  Even the players don’t want to take a stand….

All I can hope for, as in most cases, is that things do change and maybe, eventually, these athletes will volunteer their voices for all of the women who have been harmed or killed.  I hope they will fight for a change.

♥ Meggie

Ray Rice and Dometsic Violence

I’m sure by now everyone has heard about Ray Rice’s assault on his then finance Janay.  Another video was just released showing what actually happened in that elevator and his contract with the Ravens has been terminated and he has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

Unfortunately some people don’t understand the severity of domestic violence until they see it with their own eyes.  They can be told she was knocked out but after seeing a man hit a woman that hard, it has much more of an emotional “Oh my God” impact.  Then people understand.  I don’t think he would’ve been fired if that video hadn’t gone public.  If the NFL saw it but no one else, I think they wouldn’t have said a word.  Public outcry is the only reason they terminated his contract and suspended him.

Even though that may be true, I don’t think the video should have gone public.  First of all, it makes the victim relive that moment over and over again.  Second, survivors should be in control of their own stories.  They determine when or if it is ok to talk about their assault and what details to share, not the media.  The survivor always has to be in the forefront of our minds, not the scandal or ratings.

I read yesterday Janay’s reaction, blaming the public and media for her husbands termination and it breaks my heart.  It was his conscious choice to hit her twice and knock her out, it was his fault.  I wish she could say “The media shouldn’t have made that video public, that is my story to share, not theirs.  It is a shame what happened to my husband, but he shouldn’t have hit me.  There is no excuse for that.  His decision made him lose his job” because that’s the truth. 

I was also reading on Twitter a wonderful hashtag #whyIstayed and #whyIleft.  I hope that really shines light on domestic violence.  I’ve read so many people saying she stayed for his money….there are a lot of reasons why a victims stays even if their partner doesn’t have a dime to their name.  It’s a strange mindset to be in a relationships with someone who hurts you or doesn’t respect you.  At the time it makes complete and total sense to you when the rest of the world wonders why.  Living in fear, living with someone where you always have to watch your back becomes an every day habit, you get used to being afraid like it’s something normal.  That’s the point where you feel so worthless than you actually believe you deserve the way you’re being treated, that you did something to cause your partner to treat you that way, so you just be careful as to not to set them off.  That becomes your life.

There have been some very positive changes in society and as we all work together we can make a difference, we can make a change and we can fight this.

Side note: There is still space at the seminar I’m hosting with Jessie on October 11th at Benedictine University in Lisle, IL.  If you’d like to register, please visit www.1is2many.eventbrite.com.  If you don’t live in the area but still want to make a difference, I’m doing a walk for Mutual Ground, a local domestic violence/sexual assault shelter and am currently fundraising.  If you’d like to contribute please click here.

♥ Meggie

Hard Work Pays Off

For the last few months, I’ve been working my butt off.  A lot of things have happened recently.

First of all, the wonderful manager of WAR Chest took a well deserved trip.  So for the past 6 weeks, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work in the store on Friday’s.  It was so much fun!  I absolutely love talking to people and doing everything in the store!  I can’t think of one thing I dislike. 

She has also asked me to help plan events for the boutique, which I am so excited about!  Event planning is one of my favorite things to do.  It’s challenging, keeps me busy and I love coming up with creative new ideas! 

Not only that, I’ve been taking some photographs of volunteers as models.  This is something so new to me.  I love photography, but I don’t typically take photos of people so I’m learning the best ways to pose people and how to direct them to create the perfect shot.

Through that work with the boutique, I’ve been contacted by a local fashion blogger to potentially take photos for her blog!!  I should be meeting with her soon and I am so excited!  Also, a volunteer wanted to hire me to take photos of her grandsons.  How exciting is that?  I can maybe start making a little extra money doing something I love and continue to perfect my skills.  With student loans to worry about, any extra income would be wonderful.

I’ve taken over the Instagram account for Feral Fixers, a local cat rescue.  I’ve also been working more of their events and trying to help with marketing as best I can.  They’ve been working so hard to place so many cats and kittens in a home.   If you live in the Chicagoland area (especially Dupage County) check them out!

On top of that, I’m still doing a fundraising walk with my sister, my best friend Kristiii and my sister’s friend for Mutual Ground and I’ve just signed on to run a 5k for Traffick Free.

Finally, my pride and joy.  The last few months I’ve been working on a seminar to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault.  I have been emailing back and forth with Benedictine University and finally scheduled a time and reserved a room.  They have been so immensely helpful, I can’t even put into words!  It’s been really long days and nights, scheduling photo shoots for marketing material, editing those photos, adding our information, writing event details, setting up accounts, sending out press releases hoping to be picked up by someone, creating contact lists and so much more. 

I’ve been working so hard to get everything together and it is finally happening!  So far 9 people have officially registered and we are hoping for many many more.  I am getting to the point where I am almost completely exhausted, but so excited at the same time.

If anyone is interested in coming you can register at www.1is2many.eventbrite.com

I can’t thank the people who have been helping enough and I’m so excited to see the outcome of this event! Keeping my fingers crossed!

♥ Meggie

Stop the Victim Blaming

I was just reading this article about an ESPN reporter who went off about the Ray Rice situation.  For those of you who don’t know, Rice is a professional football player accused of knocking his then fiancée out and dragging her unconscious body into an elevator.  As of right now, his punishment is a 2 game suspension.

Stephen Smith begins by saying how deplorable it is for any man to lay his hand on a woman. He talks about how he would involve law enforcement.  A good start right? but then things get infuriating…

He continues to talk about thing he would tell women which would be “let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions” because we all know that in an abusive situation, the victim (man or woman) has obviously done something bad enough to be beaten.  WRONG!

Another reporter, Michelle Beadle, began to speak out against his ridiculous statement so he defended himself.  He reiterated that domestic violence is wrong, that no one should ever do it but of course he follows that up ” But what about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong being done upon them?”  Are you being serious right now?  He obviously has no comprehension as to what an abusive relationship is.

I think if people could prevent domestic violence, no one would be in that situation in the first place….  Women’s actions do NOT cause an intimate partner to become violent with them.  Men’s actions do NOT cause an intimate partner to become violent with them.  How are they supposed to prevent it? Please do share with the world your preventative measures.  I’m sure we’d all love to hear them.

Do they include not dating a violent person?  Well, the thing is, with domestic violence perpetrators, victims don’t know they’re violent until they are already in the relationship.  Perpetrators don’t act violent toward everyone they know and they can be the most charming men/women you will ever meet.

Is another preventative measure to not be around them if they are under the influence of alcohol?  Well, alcohol does NOT cause domestic violence.  Alcohol, as everyone knows, lowers inhibitions and makes it easier for true personality to come out.

Domestic violence is about control over a person.  Victims can be men or women and perpetrators can be men or women.  Victims can feel lost, hopeless and worthless.  They can also feel as though they deserve these actions when in fact they don’t at all or they can feel that if they love them enough, the abuse will change.  No two victims feel the same way.

Let’s just remember though, a victims does nothing to deserve violence, a victims does nothing to provoke violence and any decision a victim makes really has no relation to violence.  If a partner is willing to lay their hands on the person they say they love, there is no reason for that ever and therefore women (or men) do NOT need to make sure they don’t provoke the actions of an abuser.

I truly don’t think he will ever understand why his statement was so wrong but this is why we need to continue to raise awareness of issues like domestic violence. We need to teach our young men and women what domestic violence and sexual assault is so our future generations don’t grow up saying statements like this.

♥ Meggie

You Need to Stop….

You need to stop making everything a gender issues

You need to stop acting like women have it so much harder in life

You need to stop with these feminist ideas, it’s just because you were hurt in the past by men, you need to just let it go and move on.

I’ve had all of these things told to me before, even very recently and I’ve been thinking about it more and more after watching the most amazing sketch on The Daily Show.  Jessica Williams tackled the topic of college campus assault.  She points out the differences that men and women face when entering various situations.

I know I bring up gender issues, but it’s not in a way that is over blown or “man hating”.  I think there are very negative gender separations with regards to male stereotype which I’ve written about before and I know there are very real and dangerous problems when it comes to being a woman in a patriarchal society.

How do I know this? because I’ve experienced them.  I know what it’s like to be afraid at night, to be cat-called and told it’s just men being ‘honest’ and giving me a compliment.  I know that more women are assaulted or kill than men and most of the times the perpetrator is a man.  I know that in our world, it is more common for a woman to be a prostitute, typically sold by a man and men are more likely to purchase them (and purchase from the sex industry in general), purchasing another human being like an animal to use and let go.  Keep in mind, before anyone freaks out with men are abused too and women purchase from the sex industry! Yes I am completely aware of it and I focus a lot of my education on men’s rights in regards to abuse & the sex industry.  These facts I’m stating are statistics and the majority of the instances women are the victims.

Though this may seem incredibly harsh, I think it is exceptionally ignorant to ignore these gender differences in society and to accept behavior that supports them, support behavior like cat calling or purchasing human beings or not speaking out when you see someone treated like this.  I will continue to speak out about all of the topics that I feel strongly about.

My biggest pet peeve is when people attribute my past negative experience with men to my current opinions or when they act like I hate men because that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I’m not damaged goods, I’m not broken because of my past.  I am a perfectly capable and intelligent young woman  who has formulated opinions based on what I know & learn, what I’ve seen and yes my own personal experience.  I form opinions just like everyone else in this world so do not act as though I am broken and incapable of intelligent thought.  It’s not only frustrating, but it is hurtful to be looked at as broken.

I wish, in a perfect world, each gender could switch for a day.  Women then can experience the ridiculous expectation of masculinity and inability to express themselves that men face, we could see what it’s like for men who are dealing with issues like sexual assault or difficult topics like those.  Men can experience the harassment and fear women face going into situations at night, alone, with alcohol, being cat called, touched, groped, masturbated at and more.

Unfortunately, that can’t happen, but our society is becoming increasingly more aware of what we all go through.  As we continue to open our eyes, opinions will change, behaviors will change and I hope society will move in a more positive, accepting and understanding direction.

♥ Meggie

Why do you always blame men??

I am involved with a variety of issues which are typically considered “women’s” issues.  Domestic abuse, sexual assault, street harassment, human trafficking, subjects viewed as men attacking women, men hurting women, men treating women (for lack of a better word) like shit.  My Facebook wall is a public service announcement 24/7, filled with articles about men taking advantage of women under the influence or how men need to respect women and not shout at them, how women shouldn’t be forced to change the way they dress because some man will shout a lewd, disrespectful comment, men need to change, not women.

Because of all that, I typically get asked why do you always blame men?  There are two parts to this answer.

I am a firm believer that men don’t rape women, men don’t hit women, men don’t assault women, men don’t harass women in the streets.  Rapists rape women, abusers hit women, assault women, shout at women.  If I was passed out, none of the men I hang out with would rape me, they would take care of me.  If I was walking down the street with men I know, they wouldn’t shout at a woman.  If they like her, they would speak to her as an equal.  If they get mad at a girlfriend, they won’t hit her.  Why won’t they do these things? Simple, because real men treat women as equals.  Men respect women, men love women and men take care of women.

The second part of this answer is that a large part of my advocacy and public education is regarding men.  I strongly believe that men are incredibly underrepresented when dealing with DV/SA (domestic abuse/sexual assault) and a variety of other issues.  As a society, we tend to view these as a woman’s problem because the majority of the victims are women and majority of the perpetrators are men.

Not only that, men face different types of problems when trying to speak about any assaults.  “Of course men can’t get raped because a real man is strong and can defend himself.”  “Women cannot sexually assault men, they always want sex, DUH!” “Real men can take care of themselves, right?” This ridiculous stereotypes make it exceptionally difficult for men to disclose their abuse, especially if  a woman is the perpetrator.  This is the main reason why male assaults are so under reported.  This also makes it almost taboo for society to discuss male sexual assault.  Many people don’t know that 1 in 6 men are sexually assaulted before the age of 18, that men can get raped by women, that men do seek out services from DV/SA organizations.  At Mutual Ground, a DV/SA agency in Aurora, 3% of their clientele is men and that is slowly growing.

To create a society where women won’t be harassed in the street, where women won’t be assaulted or raped is to create a society where men can experience the same.  Men deserve as much respect, love and protection as we do as women.  Men deserve the right to come out and receive help & support after an assault.  We have to work together.  We can’t continue to blame 1 sex for “causing” this problem, this epidemic because this isn’t a women’s issue, this is a people’s issue.  Both men and women are the cause of it and both men and women are the victims of it.  Just because the percentage of victims is greater for one gender doesn’t mean the other isn’t affected.

I don’t blame men.  Those articles on my Facebook page aren’t about men.  They are about the real perpetrators, the rapists, the abusers, the cat callers, the street harassers.  Those people make society unsafe and those are who I speak out against, not men.

My Revised Love Letter

I have written a Love Letter to myself in the past, you can read that if you click here.  However, life goes on.  We change, have new experiences, meet new people that change our perception and grow as individuals.  Therefore, our love and our life is in constant flux and that is wonderful.  That is what makes life stunning and mysterious and wonderful.  For a while I lost sight of that, so to refocus, I decided to revise my love letter

Dear Me,

The first part of your original letter, keep that, but really believe it this time.  You rock those stilettos, dresses, business suits, jeans, leather jacket or sweatpants. Don’t change your style and embrace your body, love your body.  It does so much for you!  Keep laughing and smiling.  You have a wonderful laugh.  You have this incredible ability to smile in the hardest times and get through it.  You’re a survivor and you always have been so get it together girl!  Get it together and really laugh again!

I know you’re anxious, that’s ok to an extent.  It’s ok to be cautious at times, but just let life flow, stop over analyzing, stop over thinking.  Lay back and enjoy this stunning ride before you miss every second of it!  You always get so caught up on flipping to future pages, trying to see what is going to happen next, trying to make sure you won’t get hurt or can trust who you’re with, you’re going to miss what’s right in front of you!  You don’t have to be like that anymore. 

You are surrounded by people now who love you, people who care about you so let go of the person who hurt you.  I know you couldn’t trust him, I know you couldn’t feel safe around him and I know it’s hard to get through it, but you have to let it go.  Learn from the past so it doesn’t repeat itself and move on.  The people who you are with now ARE NOT HIM.  They don’t hurt you, they don’t lie to you, they don’t deceive you.  They take care of you, they protect you, they listen to you, they support you, they care about you and that is the most important thing in life, to be surrounded by people like that.  You have the most amazing friends in the entire world.  Don’t push them away because you over think, just enjoy it, enjoy them and love them back with all of your heart.  Please don’t lose sight of what is right in front of you because you’ll end up losing that and that will be one of the biggest mistakes of your life.  What will happen will happen and everything will always be ok.  Do you know why? Because your past is NOT your future.

I know those are things you have to work on, but I’ve also seen so much growth in the last few months.  I see you’re returning to the woman you used to be..  What I mean by “you’re returning to the woman you used to be” is not that you have become stagnant as a person because you haven’t, you have changed and grown and met new people who have enriched your perspectives.  What I mean is that your love for the world is coming back, your thirst & NEED for travel, your confidence, your strength.  At times you back down, you go back to this meek, passive shell of a woman you were for 2 years so stop that!  Stay strong.  The people around you love that about you, and I most importantly I love that about you!  I love your strength, intelligence, adventurous nature, curiosity.  To be honest, you’re pretty freaking awesome so stop holding that back and just go for life like you used to!  Keep growing, keep changing but never lose the core of your being, your passion, your drive, your confidence and if someone can’t deal with that then they aren’t worth your time. That is what I love the most about you and what I always have loved the most.

Here are some final thoughts that I want you to remember every single day.

1. Don’t lose yourself again, you lost yourself for over 2 years.  The core of your being is a strong, loving, loyal, confident, intelligent, stunning young woman who has the entire WORLD in front of her to explore!  You are too young to waste any more of your time lost, come back to me because I love that about you.

2. Always accept change. As people we grow and change so embrace it!

3. STOP OVER THINKING! You’re just going to push people away and stress yourself out to the point where you aren’t healthy.  Both of those outcomes aren’t good for anyone at all.  Marvel in the wondrous mystery that’s in front of you.  You’re happy, why should anything else matter?  You are so happy you can’t even use words to describe it so why think more of it?  Don’t push people away and don’t stress yourself out.  Just love what you  have.

4. Don’t lose sight of your life.  You are doing what YOU LOVE.  Not everything is perfect quite yet, you live at home, insurance isn’t really your thing but time changes those.  Those things are easy to change.  You have PASSION and INSPIRATION!  Those are things people have a hard time coming by and when you lose those, then that’s just not living.  Seriously, have you looked at what you’re doing? Have you looked at the people you’ve helped, you’ve impacted, the work you do? How many people get a chance to truly do what they love and be passionate about it?  Far too few that’s for sure.  You are one in a million who has the confidence to fight for and work at what you love.  Never stop fighting.

5. Also can you be just a bit less stubborn?  Stand your ground, but in other situations you can afford to be a bit less stubborn. 🙂

6. Start really dreaming again, not just kinda dreaming, like you have been for too long, but really DREAMING like you used to.  Fill your head with hope and faith and take a deep breath and jump in.  Get out of this country, go to a new city, camp, backpack, swim in the ocean, crawl through a cave, see the world’s largest ball of twine!  Nothing it out of reach, remember? That’s what you used to say to yourself so start saying it again.

7. Most importantly, I want you to say this to yourself, to us, every single day.  You are amazing, you are to be valued, you are to be respected and that means by you too. Don’t discount yourself or think you aren’t capable of something because you are capable of anything and everything.  Look at what you’re doing, look at what you’ve been through, look at the kind of person you are.  Value yourself, love yourself and don’t ever lose sight of you again. I’ve missed you far too much.

I look forward to reading the next chapter of your life.

With all of my love,

Meggie