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"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.


Random bullets of grouchiness

It's one of those days when I decided that rather than doing something this evening to improve my mood, I decided, "WTF, I'm already in a hideous mood, I might as well do something that will likely worsen it." Here's my annoying day:

1. I was asked a few weeks ago for some film recs for a take back the night march. I think I will make this post disappear in a couple of days because I am going to state, for the first time ever (!), my area of expertise ... sexual violence, particularly childhood sexual assault. So, I was asked, because of this expertise, for some film recommendations to show at a take back the night march event that focused on sexual violence and that was cross-cultural or international. I spent, because I like to be helpful, a lot of time crafting a good list of films. When I sent them off, I asked the person to send me the full list of recommendations (she had asked a few people). She promised she would, but I got no response. The student who was organizing the event emailed me and thanked me for my recs. I responded and asked for the full list. This is (sadly or sickly enough) my area of interest (clinically and research-wise), so I wanted to know what other films were out there of which I might be unaware. The student emailed me back and said he hadn't kept copies of any of the other emails, and thus couldn't tell me what other films were recommended (!?!?!). Sorry! But did note that he had decided to go with the film they had originally thought they wanted to show, since they had it already. What??? He didn't even keep the emails or create a list of the films? And then all of it was for nothing since they just decided to go with the film they had already? I'm so annoyed.

2. So I watched that film tonight (part of my, "wtf, my mood sucks already, so who cares"). It was an okay film, but not great. It is an Indian film (and is called "Maya") and is about basically a deflowering ceremony that occurs within some communities still today in India, despite its being illegal. Among some communities, when a girl gets her period she undergoes a ceremony in which she is basically raped by a priest and perhaps other adult men. Horrifying, no doubt. But, I think in terms of a take back the night march, this gets into tricky territory given that it is so tied to religious and cultural ideas. Also, the description of the film describes it as an example of "sexual exploitation" which I have a hard time seeing. At least in terms of this film, it seemed as though this was truly seen as a way of gaining a deity's favor, and that no pleasure was gotten from it by the men. Now, this may not be true. But it seems to me in order for it to be about exploitation - someone has to be used for someone else's pleasure or gain, and I'm not sure that was shown *in this film*. One of the films I suggested, Once were warriors, I think is a much better film for this occasion in that it shows how hegemonic patriarchy, racism, poverty, domestic violence, and sexual violence all collide and deleteriously affect a family. Plus, it is well acted and directed (sadly Maya was not - in fact I found it long and annoying). I also think it doesn't "otherize" and doesn't judge (except it does judge the white people - but I'm okay with that).

3. I went to a day long training today on sex offenders. I found it annoying, frustrating, upsetting, interesting, sexist, irresponsible, brilliant, etc., etc. Hence, my reaction was complex. The presentation was to be on a very specific issue related to offenders (which I won't identify) which is an issue I actually have a book chapter on, and an issue I have taken and extended to a different area of violence in an article I'm submitting to a journal. So, I have a keen interest in the area, and some expertise. But, because it was being presented by someone who works with sex offenders (I work with victims), I thought it would be really enlightening. And in some ways it was.

Early on he had a disclaimer about his use of humor. I have no objections to using humor - except, I don't think rape and sexual violence are funny topics. I will admit that I am guilty of having joked recently that sexual harassment was so damned effective in getting what one wants, that I was thinking of starting to use it. So, apparently I think sexual harassment is funny, but rape isn't. Sue me.

This guy made a lot of jokes - jokes I found offensive. I think it is great he and his co-workers are able to keep a sense of humor in their work, but I think when presenting to people who work on the front lines with victims, some editing and knowing once's audience is helpful. For example, he described one rapist who drugged his victim, took her home, set up video cameras and raped her over and over. She woke up and saw the camera pointing at her, and realized what had happened. Our presenter said, "I hate it when that happens." Ummm... what, you hate it when you wake up and realize you have been raped? Oh, ha ha ha ha.

More disturbing is that the MEN in the audience were among the biggest laughers. This really bothered me. A lot of joking too was made in terms of those darned molesters and their crazy antics. It reminded me of a film called "Rate it X" (one of the most fricking brilliant films ever about the objectification of women). At the end they interview the guy who created the character "Chester the Molester" (the gist of the cartoon was demonstrating all the methods Chester used to gain access to little girls. One I remember is Chester dressed up as the Easter Bunny, and he is sitting there in the shrubs dressed as a bunny with his penis and testicles out .. and he has a trail of eggs leading right to his penis, and a little girl is following the trail ...). The man who made Chester denied that that character in some way made molestation more okay. He said, "Chester is just a goofy guy!" That's what this presentation was like - oh that goofy sex offender with his mickey mouse t-shirt, and that other one who got a job at FAO Schwartz, and this other one who .... you get the picture.

He also offended me just about every time he talked about women or victims. For example, he showed a table of the effects on kids at different ages of childhood sexual abuse. He noted that younger kids (pre-school aged) had lesser effects of the sexual abuse as compared to teenagers. He explained this by saying that "children are resilient." Uh, no, that's not why at all. It's because they don't understand what happened (often) and so we don't always see the effects UNTIL they are teenagers. Also, if a kid gets molested, she or he is far more likely to be believed and far more likely to get therapeutic services. Teenagers who are raped/assaulted are often not believed, are often blamed, and more often than not are not offered therapy (unless it is to deal with how much of a "problem" they are).

He also informed us that we needed to "create a safe environment" for victims so they can talk openly about what happened to them. Oh, ya don't say! A safe environment, who knew! I thought a hostile environment was what facilitated healing.

He also noted that "only" 6% of rape cases happens among women older than 29. First of all, ONLY??? And second of all, this is among REPORTED cases of rape. What we know is that the older the victim the less likely she is to be believed, the less likely she is to report it, the more likely she is to be blamed, AND the more complicated the case because she is likely not an "innocent victim," thus prosecution is less likely (as it is less likely to be winnable). Further, she is more likely to be raped by someone she knows, which severely lessens the chances she will report it, much less label it rape.

He later described DOJ (Department of Justice) study which he described as a "nice" study *because* it included men. That just annoys me because not every study needs to include men, and the inclusion of men ought not make it a better study just because men are added.

In talking about women who end up partnered with sex offenders, he said, "How unhealthy are these women?" So, I couldn't really let that one pass and noted that just as sex offenders are exceptionally skilled at gaining access to horrifying numbers of children, of gaining the trust of the kids and the communities, and are able to commit these crimes WITH NO DETECTION - they are also skilled at convincing adults that they are trustworthy and good. After all, these are often men who are priests, sports coaches, teachers, childcare providers, etc., etc.

Oh, he also said that men on average have "11 sexual outlets per week" (among normal men, that is). That's a lot. Anyone know what the average for women is?

I spent a lot of time correcting his spelling errors on the printouts of his powerpoints - which i really enjoyed doing.

It wasn't until 40 minutes before the end of a 7 hour training that he even got to the specific topic that had been advertised. And he sped through it, which really frustrated me. He had also promised an "extended" question and answer period - and i had a lot saved up - but it was more like 2 minutes, and he seemed impatient.

I also felt frustrated because I paid to be there. Granted, it wasn't a lot of money - but I paid nonetheless. This workshop was partly an in-service for people working at an agency, and partly a training for shrinks in the community. Well, it seemed as though the employees of the agency were unaware that people from outside were there, and that we had paid. They were so distracting it annoyed me. The people in front of me talked almost through the whole thing. I would have said something, but I might like to work here someday, so I didn't want to misstep. But people were pretty impolite, and it annoyed me. It is hard sitting and listening to these upsetting descriptions of child sexual abuse, and having people twittering all around you, passing noted, cell phones going off, asking bizarre questions, etc.

On the other hand, this guy has an innate talent, it seems, for working with sex offenders. I was really amazed, and recommended on my evaluation form, that he just stick to that from now on. Skip talking about victims and non-offending parents - just talk about the offenders (and watch the humor - use it judiciously).


At 1:29 AM, Anonymous Just Josh said...

Your criticisms of the workshop leader are totally justified. In fact, I'd go as far as to say he's so conflicted about these issues, and so clearly unconscious of their import, that he should find a different career.

Anyway, about "Chester the Molester," did you know that they guy who created the character, the late D. Dwaine Tinsley, drew many of those "Chester" cartoon strips in his prison cell, to which he had been (correctly or not) sentenced for having repeatedly molested his young daughter? If not, here's the Wiki.

At 11:11 AM, Blogger shrinkykitten said...

Well, I think he should just have me be his co-presenter and I'll cover the victim and non-offending parts of this!

That's interesting about Tinsley. In the film "Rate it X" he actually appears with his daughter when she was a toddler - and his interactions with her are creepy - and my students always end up feeling very worried about her. I had intended to look into her to see if he had molested her - so thanks for the link.

At 4:48 PM, Blogger k8 said...

I'm more than a little skeeved out by the workshop leader. I'm related to funeral directors, I've heard a lot of dead body jokes in my day, but nothing even close to this level of inappropriate. This actually makes me worry about the 'work' he does.

BTW, I made my way here after seeing your blog linked to many desktop screen shots!


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