Monday, June 20, 2016

Three Ladies

     Today was such a mix of emotions at work.  I helped an older lady, we'll call her Marie, who was having a hard time balancing her checkbook.  I don't have any problem helping and trying to find the solution; my thought being, I would want someone to help my mother, to treat her with respect and dignity.  Maybe in another 20 years I'll put myself in that equation, but right now it's all still defined by her.  As I was helping Marie, she talked about the problems in her life - she's killing herself working two jobs, her grown children are taking money from her and never repay her, her mother died two years ago and she just wants to die and be with her, the ill husband.  She was very lonely, and I didn't have the heart to stop her, as it was clear that she needed this time.  She cried a lot.  I talked about taking care of herself, making hard choices about her children, knowing that her mother would never want her to die.  It is physically draining sometimes to do this though, to really listen, ask questions and take on their sadness.
     After she left, flip the dial 180 degrees to the next challenge, we'll call her Celine.  Celine is married to a very wealthy man probably 15 years her senior.  She is always immaculate, impeccably dressed, quite beautiful and incredibly mean.  She's the sort of woman who expects you to understand immediately how important she is and bend the rules to her needs.  Celine can be quite pleasant if you complement her fashion sense, but if like today, as she was unable to be assisted right away, hell hath no fury.  You will apologize profusely and promise that she will be taken next, while she slams her paperwork down on the bench in the waiting area and painstakingly removes her sunglasses in a pointed fashion.  A pointing at you fashion.  Then when your associate is helping her, she will demand that you leave the clients you are working with and come to his desk post haste in order to hear her complaints again.  But then her husband will arrive, the husband who threw off his first wife, for Celine, and instantly her demeanor will change.  Oh how helpful you are, oh yes you're protecting our assets, oh yes, of course, of course ... the phoniness dripping from her.
     Later in the day, Gabriela came in.  85 years young, she brought her granddaughter, because she no longer drives.  A month ago, I told her that she needed valid ID in order for me to make the changes she wanted.  She had returned with a new passport, but the same sense of humor.  Gabriela said that she was afraid she might have to kill me if I wouldn't help her this time.  She laughed, I laughed,  the granddaughter put her head in her hands.  I said, let's avoid the killing and make your life better.  I helped her and then she started to tell me about her life.  She came from Guatemala 50 years ago with her husband.  They left their seven children behind and worked tirelessly to send money to them, eventually being able to bring them all to the US.  She would get up at 6am for the 7am bus to take her to the shoe factory.  There she would work on various machines until 8pm at night.  She would come home, soak her hands in hot water to bring the swelling down and make the joints work again.  Then she would start processing baby shoes on an embroidery machine that the second job gave her to work from home.  She did that until 1am, and she had to finish, because the truck would come to pick up her piecework at 630am.  She said she did this for 40 years.
     Unfortunately, sometimes her employers would pay her by check and sometimes by cash.  What she didn't know was that they weren't reporting all the hours she was working, so now she gets $530 a month from Social Security.  And they're telling her that she may be getting too much, as she didn't work enough to earn that much money.  I will tell you that her fingers were gnarled together and she would frequently put them in her lap.  She apologized for their appearance, but I told her they were beautiful.  To work so tirelessly, to do what she could to bring her children here one by one, and now to be alone, as her husband died 5 years ago - I thought she was radiant.  She said she was glad she didn't want to kill me anymore, but maybe she'd think about killing the Social Security lady.  We both laughed.  Then I turned to her granddaughter and told her it was her job to rally her mother, her aunts and uncles to come to her grandmother's aid.  I said that she needed to carry the torch for her, time to let Gabriela's hands rest.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Brock Turner

     I spent a good chunk of today wondering if I could add anything of value to the discourse around the Brock Turner rape case.  If you haven't read the victim's speech at the hearing, I understand it's a condensed version of her 12 page impact statement, here is a link (be warned, this is a difficult read with graphic details not suitable for any of my younger readers):

     By now, you've read that in his father's statement to the judge on requesting no jail time and probation only, that his son's "life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life."  You've probably also read that the judge decided to give Brock Turner, convicted on multiple charges of sexual assault by a jury, to six months in county jail.  It's expected that he'll probably serve three months.  Prosecutors had asked for six years in a state prison.  The maximum for the three felony charges would have been 14 years.
     As a woman, I've heard my entire life that I had to be careful of my surroundings, careful to not put myself in a bad situation, careful to not drink too much, careful to dress appropriately, careful to wear shoes I could run in (that was one of my mother's favorites), and the list goes on and on.  Many of these suggestions imply that it's my responsibility to keep myself safe, secure and not raped.  And to some extent, it is absolutely necessary to be mindful of my safety and my surroundings, but that does not mean that it's up to me to not get raped.  It's on rapists to not rape.
     From what I have read, his father didn't use the word rape, in his statement of remorse he doesn't refer to the events of that night as rape, a friend who wrote a statement to the judge of support for Brock doesn't think it was rape and in fact says Brock isn't a rapist, but one of "these idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement." She in fact goes on to say the whole thing is a problem with political correctness - there was no way he could be a rapist, because "he was always the sweetest to everyone," and "the whole thing (is) a huge misunderstanding."  If Brock didn't come from money, this would have been a very different outcome.  If Brock was a man of color, this would have been a very different outcome.  In all of this though, the victim's outcome remains the same.
     There is no such thing as consensual sex.  To use that term implies that there is non-consensual sex, which isn't the case.  If you aren't consenting, then you are being raped.  It's fairly simple; woman, man, married, single, gay, straight - if you didn't consent, if you couldn't consent, then you were raped.  Depending on your age, you've probably heard "she/he shouldn't have had that much to drink" ... nope, that doesn't give you permission; "she/he shouldn't have been dressed that way" ... nope, still no permission; "she/he shouldn't have gone back to that person's place" ... nope, no such thing as implied consent.
     In what I've read from Brock's friends and family, they want to focus your thinking around campus drinking and sexual promiscuity.  He's going to go on speaking tours after his jail time to help others understand the dangers of drinking too much.  (Meanwhile, his lawyers are appealing his convictions.)  This isn't about drinking too much, it's about rape.  It's not about sexual promiscuity ... whatever the hell that means.  She wasn't being promiscuous (that's another label to imply she deserved whatever she got); she was unconscious.  Rape is about power and control; it's not about sex.
     In all I've read, I don't see anything about Brock having a sister.  He has a mother, probably some aunts, maybe a couple grandmothers.  He clearly has at least one female friend.  I wonder how he or his father would feel if his mother or grandmother were found half naked, unconscious and raped in the dirt behind a dumpster - their rapist discovered mid act and tackled by two passing by college guys.  Would his father be quick to worry that the rapist's life had been "deeply and forever altered?"  Would they agree that his mother's drinking before the rape had led to her sexual promiscuity?
     Brock Turner is the stuff of nightmares.  He is that man waiting to pick off the weakest member at the party, hiding behind his all American smile and swim meet times.  A jury convicted him on three felony charges - assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.  He is a convicted rapist who will now have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.  I don't care if he isn't "his happy go lucky self" anymore.  Neither is his victim.  She will spend the rest of her life with wounds far deeper than the bruises she got that night.  She'll probably forever be scared of the dark and the unknown around the next corner,  Her statement describes much more eloquently what she's been dealing with over the last year emotionally, financially and mentally. She is forever changed, forever altered by his evil.

     "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones" - Shakespeare