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

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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

Walk for Hope

On October 18th I’m walking with my best friend and my sister in Mutual Ground’s 7th annual Walk for Hope.  They are a local domestic abuse/sexual assault nonprofit that provides everything from shelter to counseling and everything in between.  We might have a few other ladies join our team as well!!

We are the Purple Ladies.  My best friend loves the move Grease (which I’ve never seen) and wanted us to be the Pink Ladies, but I changed it to Purple since that is the color for domestic violence awareness.  We fund raise until the 18th and then we participate in a 5 mile walk in Fabyan Forest Preserve.

I am so excited to do this, I love that I can do this event with other people and there is this massive community feel to the entire thing.  We are all working together to accomplish a common goal and then we can all enjoy a beautiful day together.

One of the teams is in remembrance of Kari, a 28-year-old woman who was killed by her boyfriend a few years ago.  Her mother is so active with Mutual Ground.  I don’t know how she does it.

I met another mother a while ago whose daughter was killed by her boyfriend.  She was 19.  I believe it happened about 6 years ago, but as she retold her story, talk about receiving that phone call that no parent want to get… she couldn’t help but start crying and it absolutely breaks your heart. I met her at a candle light vigil for domestic violence awareness.  After I went up to talk to her and I tried to say thank you for being strong, but I couldn’t even get out the words before I started to tear up.  I can’t imagine what she went through.  She smiled and gave me a hug.  I was supposed to be the one comforting her, not the other way around.

The fact that these two women can not only get up every morning but also speak out about what happened to their daughters is incredible.  They are some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.

That is why I walk.  I walk for all of the women and men who are still in these relationships, I walk for every child who is afraid, I walk for those who are terrified to leave, for those who think they’re alone, I walk for those who have lost their lives to people who are supposed to love and cherish them for all time.  I walk to empower and give hope to those who have lost it.

If you are interested in donating to support Mutual Ground, please click the link here.  This is the link to my team’s page.  We just started it today and so far we have $70 in donations, which I am so happy about.  Every bit helps no matter how large or small.

If not, remember there are always ways you can get involved. Educate yourself about the problem.  What is it like in the area you’re in?  Participate in campaigns like the #voiceshavepower by Verizon.  Write a message and the Verizon Hope Line will donate $3 per message.  It can’t get much easier than that.

Every day, if you are in a loving relationship and that can be partner, friend or family, remember how blessed you are, how lucky you are.  You have support, caring, love and respect in your life and never take that for granted.

Thank you to anyone who chooses to donate.

♥ 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

Be Strong, Speak up and People Will Listen

My Senior year of high school was full of AP classes, college courses that I was taking to try to eliminate courses I would need when I actually got into college.  Everyone in my school took Psych AP.  EVERYONE.  They all said the teacher was fantastic, the course itself was so interesting and best of all most of my friends would end up in my class with me!

In high school, I wasn’t the activist I was now.  I thought a lot of things and wanted to get involved but I never really had the confidence to do so.  I remained silent.

The very first day in my Psych class, we went through the usual introductions and met our outspoken teacher.  He was the kind of teacher full of energy and willing to push the rules a slight bit….

We began our very first class discussion about the differences between men and women.  As he lectured the topic slowly shifted to the reasons why men’s sports were much better than women’s.  Men were more entertaining and better athletes.  He just went on and on and on, bringing up ‘facts’ about how all the major games are men’s sports, the majority of the money from the school is received by the men’s teams, maybe if women’s teams were better athletes, they’d have more viewers, women’s sports were a joke.

I sat there stunned.  My heart was racing and more than anything I wanted to just scream at him, how dare he say that?  Those were blatantly sexist statements!  Women’s sports were a joke???????  I just sat there dumbfounded with my mouth open, looking around to see if anyone else was as surprised as I was and I wasn’t alone.

He continued bringing up what he called ‘facts’ and finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.  He said “women aren’t even in racing because they can’t do it.” and that was my last straw.  As many of you know, I was raise around Drag Racing and was always well aware of how women were viewed in the sport.

My hand shot into the air.  It was like it flew up all on its own, I had absolutely no control over it.  He paused and looked at me and said yes?  I told him “You know you’re wrong.  Shirley Muldowney began racing cars in the 1970s, she was a top fuel driver and men in the sport told her to get back to the kitchen where she belonged but she never listened to them and beat them.  Rhonda Hartman-Smith was another woman racing top fuel, Angelle Sampey races motorcycles and Melanie Troxel is coming back into the sport.  Who told you women can’t race cars?”

It just came out of my mouth and there was no way to stop it.  Just like my hand, it was a knee-jerk reaction, it just happened.  I had never spoken out like this to anyone, ESPECIALLY to a teacher or any adult in an authoritative position.  That statement stopped the few boys from laughing in the class and several more girls began to speak out.  However, it didn’t phase our teacher at all, he tried to argue with me and just make a complete joke of what I had just said.

The worst class in the entire world finally ended and I just unleashed my thoughts about this teacher to my friends who were with me.  How could everyone like him so much when he is so rude and narrow minded!!?? 

That night I went on my computer and made a list starting in the early 1900s of women in racing and their accomplishments, stapled it together and was ready for battle the next class period.

We all sat down, waiting and then he entered the room.  He started by saying he wanted to talk about yesterday’s lecture and I prepared to raise my hand again.  Then he dropped the bomb, it was an experiment, he didn’t actually believe any of what he said.  My mind was blown.  He went on to explain different concepts that applied to reactions by the class.  Then we continued our studies. He was not the horrible sexist monster I had battled with the day before!  He ended up being one of the greatest teacher I had during my high school career.

At the end of class, I went up to him and I told him I almost dropped the class! He told me that I surprised him, I seemed quiet and not the person to speak out first.  I laughed and presented him the list I made the night before to which he laughed and leafed through the pages.  He said “I like your dedication, you’re smart, you know how to argue.”

It was a long while after my senior year in high school, not until my senior year in college, that I remembered that I have a voice too.  I can speak my mind, I can argue intelligently about topic.  Instead of living a life of self doubt, lacking the confidence to say what we feel, we should all remember how capable we are and how our actions affect those around us.  I was the first to speak up in class during this experiment and after me other girls followed.  What if I had said nothing?  Would anyone have tried to say something?

Change happens when one person speaks.  That’s all that is needed, one person to raise their hand.  I’m not saying I changed the world in the slightest by that class room demonstration.   However people often say 2 things to me

1.Why do you keep talking about this stuff, nothing you do is going to change anything.

2. You should really just stop talking about this stuff.  Stop pulling out the feminist card (latina card, white card and the list goes on, who knew I was carrying so many cards with me?) every 5 seconds.  The only reason these problems like exist is because people of you keep going on and on and on and on about them.  If you just stop people will forget about it and they will be fine.

Each time these things are said to me, I remember that when one person speaks, those with similar beliefs go to them and then a group is formed.  That group grows and grows and grows until major changes are be made.  That is a fact.

I will never stay silent because as a society have the ability to change.  We have come so far, but there’s more to be done, not only in the states but around the world where women aren’t so lucky.

Don’t let lack of support or criticism of your voice ever stop you.  Be strong, speak up and people will listen.

♥ Meggie

Fighting for Change

It’s been a rough week last week.  A variety of things have just piled up and for a while, it just felt like nothing was going to work out and that I had hit a wall.

Always say positive and always keep your head up, that’s what I have to remind myself.  With the help of those closest to me, these hard times are made so much easier and I don’t know what I’d do without my friends.  I don’t know how many times I can say that about them.  I know I’m lucky.

I’ve made some changes to myself, fun ones.  I now have bangs and my hair is a dark purple.  I like the change a lot.  It’s fun, a bit strange and barely acceptable for my job, but that’s ok.  As long as they’re ok with it, then that’s all that matters! 🙂

I also had a meeting Wednesday with a local university about hosting the domestic abuse/sexual assault seminar there.  I’m working with another young woman too and she is incredible.  She is so knowledgeable and has so many valuable contributions to this event.  It just makes everything so much easier!  She is a wonderful partner for this project.

The meeting went so well, we were able to get a good deal to host the seminar there and right now we’re just waiting on a date and then I need an insurance quote (of course we need special event insurance).  We decided a Saturday in October would be  perfect.   Saturday most people have off work, it’s in the beginning of the school year when people are really active in their university and it is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  It’s perfect!

We’re both getting really excited about it.  Looking through our 7 page outline and handouts, it’s going to be so much fun to discuss these topic with people, sharing resources and information.  Each time I add or edit our existing documents, each time I create another marketing strategy, my excitement just keeps building.

We want our seminar to be different from the average event.   We don’t want the audience to be  talked at for an hour or two and listening to really heart breaking stories.  Those type of events typically attract people who are already interested in these topic or involved in the industry.  We want people who aren’t already involved or who are aware but haven’t gotten involved yet to come.  We want men to join in too.  We laid out this seminar to be a discussion where people can ask questions and discuss DV/SA in an open, judgement free area.  We want to hear people’s thoughts, opinions and questions and facilitate positive dialogue not only with each other but also (hopefully) with the administration of the university so students know where they can go for help or additional resources.

We all have to work together to solve a problem like this and I know it’s possible.  I am so excited that all of this is happening.  I think it’s about time I took a step like this and put myself out there.  I know I can do this and if we don’t get the amount of people we’re hoping for, we can always try again!  We can make a difference and by putting ourselves out there and going for it, that’s just the first step.  I’m not afraid to fail because no matter what the outcome is, I don’t see it as a failure.  We’ll learn how to improve what we’re doing until we get it just right.

I can’t wait for the next few weeks until everything is finalized.  I’ll keep everyone posted!

♥ Meggie

Equality at the Races

Yesterday I went to the drag races. Growing up, that was the sport we watched in our house, not football, not baseball, I was the little girl who grew up with cars.

I love everything about it, speed, power, noise, nitro, the complete excitement of watching the cars run, the competition. People don’t realize what really goes into drag races.  It’s so much more than just running a straight quarter mile.

Unfortunately, one of the hardest things to deal with as a young girl and young woman is that it is a male sport so even attending the races, you will be faced with sexism.  To some (not all) a woman is meant to be in tiny shorts with a shirt that is about 5 sizes to small sitting atop a car to take pictures with or maybe hand you a free sample of something, maybe beer?  We are to be shouted at, we are to be gawked at.

I was so excited to start my time at the races. My idol, the first woman of drag racing, Shirley Muldowney was signing. She still has records that haven’t been beat. I’ve met her once before but any time you can meet your hero is amazing.

In line I was with my partner and an older man in front of us turned around, looked at me and said “I bet he (pointing at my partner) dragged you into this line and you don’t know you you’re going to see”. Then he laughed.  He wasn’t trying to be mean or anything, he was trying to start an innocent conversation.  He was older and typically older generations assume genders still fall into the stereotypes they grew up with.

I wasn’t angry, but I was frustrated. I smiled back and laughed saying “I was the one who dragged him to the races.  My dad taught my baby sister and I everything about drag racing. Mukdowney is my idol. You shouldn’t assume a woman doesn’t know what she’s taking about.”  Then I laughed, I wanted to correct his incorrect assumption, but I didn’t want to be mean about it.  I knew he really wasn’t trying to be hurtful, but it still did hurt.

The next experience was when I was looking at car products with my dad.  The salesman came up and stood next to me, saw me picking up products reading about them. Several minutes went by and he didn’t ask if he could help me at all. Once dad walked over to the stand I was next to, the sales man immediately asked him if he needed help and if he could be of any assistance. It goes without saying that women typically experience this lack of service when dealing with mechanic shops, car dealerships and other car related retail shops. Again, another frustrating moment, so I left. I told my partner I see how much I’m valued here, let’s go.

The final moment was leaving the drag races, walking though the parking lot at night.  Men were shouting things out windows, one guy was screaming how he wanted ‘boobs’.  As I walked by an R.V., a man knocked on the window. First, my partner looked up and I heard the man say “Not you, the girl” and then he said something unintelligible. That type of street harassment and cat calling is so hurtful to me. I hate it. I hate having to worry about what I’m wearing or the location in at.   It’s not like I have any particularly raunchy clothing or I’m dressed in something revealing, I’m not at all, but I still have to be careful.  I hate having to be near my partner or my father to avoid this harassment.  It makes me feel like nothing

I don’t think my partner really understand how hurtful those things are to me, or to most women. I don’t think a lot of men really understand how humiliating and upsetting these things are. I think some believe it’s innocent fun or a joke.

I know it shouldn’t affect me, I mean it’s a bunch of men and that shouldn’t bother me, it’s just words. Just like parents tell their children about bullies, let it go, their words can’t hurt you, but you know your child is still hurting.

What bothers me too is that, last year at the races I was walking with my mom and sister and a man shouted incredibly lewd things to me and no one said anything, they just looked. My mother though (in a mother’s fury) whipped around and said “She is young enough to be your daughter, you’re disgusting!”  That was very true, he looked twice my age (or more) and it felt good that someone said something.  I wasn’t alone.

This year I did find my voice though.  I refuse to remain silent when I’m treated like this and never again will my mouth stay shut, especially when the phrases directed at me are aggressive, lewd or disrespectful.  I always hope for the future to change, I think we all do, but it would be nice to live in a time where that hurtful behavior (the cat calling, not the first man) will be unacceptable and bystanders refuse to remain silent about that.

Also, I hope that maybe one day my partner will understand what it’s like to be a woman and to be accosted like that.  He does see a variety of behaviors as completely unacceptable and will stand by me and any decision I make, any reaction I have to a situation.  He will support me and that is always the best place to start, I just don’t think he always gets it, like my male friends, it kinda just goes over their head sometimes.

Have any of you ever been frustrated or hurt by street harassment or sexism?  Both men and women feel free to answer, this topic is definitely not limited to women.

♥ Meggie