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Dear White Suburbia. Stop Permitting Sexual Assaults. Thanks. Sincerely, All the girls and boys who have been victims.

Let’s get this out in the open first. No high school student wants to be the victim of a sexual assault. No high school student then wants every one in their school to find out they are the victim of a sexual assault. It’s the kind of notoriety that blows.

I’ve been the person told about a sexual assault more times than I care to count. Comes with the territory of outpatient mental health. Sometimes it’s twenty years later. Some times it’s twenty days. Sometimes it’s twenty hours.

The number of teenagers and women I’ve processed sexual assaults with staggers me. Because yes. While sexual assault definitely happens to males; I have a far larger number of female victims in my practice.

The number of times the perpetrator has been prosecuted- out all of the cases I’ve had- maybe twice.

The number of times the victim reported it and the police interviewed them, the DA reviewed the case, their psychiatric and medical records were released to the DA and the police…and then nothing happened…too many times.

The really fun part is when they report it to their high school. I learned this over the last few years having moved my practice to suburbia. The high school does their own investigation. That’s right. Even when the police are involved, DCF, and every one else, the high school, under the guise of Title IX conducts its own interviews. With the victim. The witnesses. And the accused perpetrator.

In the meantime in all of my cases…the victim is expected to change their class schedule, not go to prom (because they can’t actually tell the perpetrator not to go apparently?!), and basically completely invalidate the victim at every turn. All supposedly legally under Title IX.

There is a culture of victim blaming, victim shaming, and “but he’s on the wrestling team!” shock and horror that any one could make “him” uncomfortable by bringing up the fact that he perpetrated a sexual assault.

These cases are in white suburbia. I had SIGNIFICANTLY fewer of these cases I mean significantly fewer, when I worked in a city with a very large high school and a diverse make-up. I spoke with a police officer in one of these small towns and said is it just me or is there a lot of sexual assault here? They told me it wasn’t just me. That it was a problem in their small town.

The victims first have to deal with telling their own parents. Which sucks. Every time. Then had to deal with telling me or another mental health provider. Then they told the police. Then the district attorney. Then the freaking school. Who then in multiple cases told the girls to basically change their class schedule and adjust themselves around the perpetrators schedule because they couldn’t ask the perpetrator to change anything.

I actually received calls from a nearby guidance department who were trying to elicit from me that my client’s behaviors were just that. Behaviors. They were avoiding class because they simply didn’t want to go. I just about lost my mind. I said if the perpetrator who sexually assaulted me was in my class I also would not want to go. I also would act out behaviorally. That particular guidance office doesn’t call me back anymore.

Schools are failing our children. In so many ways. Victims are  gaslighted and perpetrators are let off without even a slap on the wrist. We have created a culture of invalidating our children who are sexually assaulted because we are too scared to stand up to the wealthy white families of the perpetrators. (Eh hem. Kavanaugh. Starts at the freaking top people).

The victims are told to basically shut their mouths, sweep it under the rug, and go be a good girl now.

Fuck that nonsense.

Since I started writing my blog clients now and then will tell me they read it regularly. I don’t hide it, but I don’t promote it.

So to all of you reading. I am angry for you. I am hurt for you. I have called school administrators who left me voicemails back that their guidelines are published online and they will not discuss this further with me.

They obviously haven’t met me.

There will be discussions. If I have to plant myself in a board of education meeting until some one will listen to me every month they have them. Then I will.

I know it’s exhausting for you to constantly be fighting for your rights. I know you want to keep your head down and just make it through high school. I know you don’t want your parents to fight as hard as they want to because you just want things to go back to normal.

If that’s what you need; keep your head down. I got you.

And to anyone else reading this know that we as a society have to do better. We have to empower victims of sexual assault not demoralize them. We have to prosecute perpetrators yes even and especially when they are white and especially when they are wealthy. We can’t let this cycle continue because our children are suffering.

 

 

 

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Why I Will Talk to My Son’s About Sex and Consent

The number of girls and women who tell me stories of date rape never ceases to astound and horrify me.

I’ve been the first one they’ve told. The only one they’ve told. I’ve been the one they told at the start of a long and terrible process of pressing charges. I’ve had to be the one to then tell their parents.

I’ve been the one to tell a Mom and/or Dad that their daughter was raped.

Then I have to explain about date rape. That their daughter was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs and that’s why she didn’t tell anyone when it happened because she felt responsible. She felt she had consented because she may have been too drunk or unconscious so she couldn’t say No. Though she knows she wanted to say No and she knows she certainly didn’t say Yes.

The hardest part is often going back to school. She often has to face her rapist and her “friends” who stood by and sometimes literally watched it happen. She has to face the rumors of kids calling her slut and whore. She has to hope to God when her period is late that she’s not pregnant. She has to sometimes mourn the loss of her virginity to a non-consensual sexual experience that left her wounded in so many ways.

She often holds the blame/shame/guilt that is the rapists in and on herself.

She sometimes sheds her first tears when I tell her none of this was her fault. No matter how drunk or how drugged she was it was up to the perpetrator to not have sex with her when she could not consent.

I’ve had to reassure women and girls that when they went to the police and the police interviewing them asked them “Why didn’t you tell him to just stop?” “You are taller than him, why didn’t you stop him?” “It doesn’t sound like rape” that the policeman was wrong. That they were courageous and brave to go to the police and it was the police’s fault for being asshole’s.

The story is never quite the same. There’s always some different disturbing little detail that makes each time I hear it fucking awful.

The reason I decided to write a blog post about it is because of how incredibly common this is and how incredibly preventable it is. Teach boys and men not to have sexual contact with anyone who cannot consent. And by consent I mean be conscious, coherent, not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, and verbally saying yes during a discussion about what is going to happen.

We teach kids algebra and we pound US History into their skulls. We teach them the Pledge of Allegiance and how to use Netflix and Amazon Prime and we teach them how to drive and how to do laundry. We guide them in opening bank accounts and applying to college. But we have neglected to teach our children about consent to sex and not to have sex with an individual who is semi-conscious and not able to fully and coherently consent.

Why are we comfortable letting them watch R rated movies with sex scenes but not discussing actually having sex?

What about the kids at the party who know the girl is drunk, who know the guy’s intentions, who sit back and do nothing? Why not teach our kids to stand up for someone…anyone who is not conscious?

The shame is not on the girl who drank too much. It is on the boy who ignored how drunk she was and had sex with her anyway. The shame is on the boy who had to take off her clothes because she was only semi-coherent and not moving. The shame is on the boy who took pictures of the girl after he stripped her and after she puked and blacked out again.

I have two sons. You can bet your ass I will be having many discussions about consent and sex with them. I will not let them be uneducated in this regard. I will put the fear of God into them so that they would never think to put their penis in someone who is not able to consent coherently and without alcohol and drugs in their system. I’m not scared to have those discussions with them. I’d be terrified not to.

Being a parent is hard. There is no rule book. There is no right or wrong way to do it. But I can tell you woman to woman, Mom to Mom, this is one area that is not grey. Talk to your sons about sex and consent.

Protect them from becoming a perpetrator with the same vehemence you would protect them from becoming a victim.

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Violence Against Nurses

So I’ve been MIA for a little bit. I’ve been dealing with a lot personally and professionally. Professionally it’s brought up a lot of memories from when I worked in the emergency department as a staff nurse. Warning- this blog post has nothing to do with me being a lesbian mom- it’s a memory and commentary on violence toward women and the state of our health care system. Seeing our current administration downplay and ignore the #Metoo movement pisses me off. Feeling scared and vulnerable also pisses me off. So I’m going to tell a story as to why we need to have discussions around violence.

I had been working at the ED for over six years, almost seven. It was a crazy night, I was in triage. We had a lot of psychiatric patients in the ED, which is NOT the place for them, but there is no place for them, so there you go.

We had a lot of medical emergencies, and then they panic alarm went off. We use that to alert security and staff that we need bodies with the psychiatric patients because some one is escalating. There always has to be a nurse in triage. So my partner went to the back to check it out, security guards ran by, the rest of the nurses were in a medical emergency. I was in the middle of a triage assessment when I heard screaming. Not patient’s, but staff. Lots of screaming.

I followed the screams and rounded the corner and saw a pretty gruesome scene. Two nurses had been physically and violently assaulted by a patient. There was blood, clumps of hair, and what would turn out to be permanent injuries. There were about six security guards holding the patient who was still fighting. There was blood running down the faces of at least three of guards. The nurses who were attacked were screaming and crying, and in shock and I dragged them into a closet because all the patients in the ED could see them. It’s all very open. There was a doctor with them who also went into the closet. It was a big closet. I remember I grabbed gauze and held it over the blood on the guard’s faces because it was pouring into their eyes.

This was as bad as it sounds. No charges were pressed against the patient even though both nurses tried, because of a variety of reasons the police would not do it. It was quite possibly the worst part about the whole experience. They had permanent injuries and they would never obtain justice. It’s also sad because who wants to press charges against a psychiatric patient? No one. But in that moment, when I had known all of those staff members for over six years, and we were friends and we had each other’s back, to see them hurt was fucking awful. It was painful, and made us all feel pissed and vulnerable and scared.

I had to go back to work the next day. I don’t know how I did it, but I did. And when I got to the doors two nurses were standing there. They had been there the night before too. They couldn’t go in. None of us wanted to. We all wanted to walk away, erase that memory. Erase the fear. We all didn’t even say anything, at some point though one of us badged open the doors and we all silently filed in for our shift. We didn’t need to speak.

The part about going back after seeing something horrific is that today it could be us.

The week of my wedding, a couple years earlier, I got kicked in the ribs by a patient. I was bending over to pick up something on the floor and they just kicked me. I had a bruise on my ribs about 4 inches in diameter while my family tied me into my corseted dress.

I was no stranger to the violence of working in the ED, and it’s something that when you are there you have to kind of put out of your head otherwise it would just break you.

I don’t know what the solution to this problem is. But I know it’s a problem. I also know hospitals don’t like to talk about it, and they don’t like to take responsibility for it, and management likes to minimize it and it falls to the RNs on the front lines walking in every day not knowing if they are going to leave with a black eye or worse.

If you know a nurse thank them. Because you cannot possibly imagine the shit they see and face on a daily basis.

If you are a nurse. Keep fighting. We need rights, we need protection, and we will get none of it if we let these things keep happening with no recourse.

Thank-you to the state of CT who passed legislation making it a felony to assault a healthcare worker in the line of duty. Don’t be scared to utilize it.

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Why Strong Women are B*#%&’s and how I was compared to a woman stabbing a head.

My cousin and I often send each other interesting cards or postcards randomly through the year. One I got from her this Fall took me some time to process. If you don’t know the story of Judith and Holofernes allow me to give a short version. Holofernes invades the city Judith resides in. He decides he wants Judith’s body. She enters his tent, he gets drunk, and she beheads him. It’s kind of awesome. I mean she takes on an Assyrian General who is literally laying siege to a city.

This story has been portrayed in numerous paintings over the ages including one by Francesco del Cairo. It was during the Baroque period, and since I took Humanities in high school I have a minimal idea what that means. The only lighting is to draw the viewer into Judith’s face. The rest is very dark. It takes a minute or two to look away from her bad-ass expression to realize she’s holding a dagger in a head. Holofernes’ head. There is also a servant girl who is trying to whisk her away from the scene.

Now my own back-story. If you’ve read the blog you know I’m feisty. I stand my ground, and I’ve been described as a bitch, hard-headed, stubborn, and most recently like a “gnat that will just keep coming and coming until she figures out what the hell is going on,”. The gnat comparison was actually positive because it was some one who was telling a client I would be relentless in trying to find an answer.

My cousin wrote, “Her face just says ‘are you going to piss me off too.’ You are also a glorious bad-ass who doesn’t take shit from anybody and you’ll do whatever it takes to protect your people.” The stamp was a Disney villain- Maleficent.

I called my cousin.

“You compared me to a woman stabbing a head.”

We laughed and she reiterated her original point. I ended with, “There’s a blog post here somewhere, fair warning.”

All of the qualities I have been criticized for over the years would be praised in a man. If I had a penis I would be called ¬†a “go-getter” or my favorite, “Boys will be boys.” Standing my ground and holding to ethics when others waver and bend is looked down on in me because I’m a woman.

 

I also work in a female dominated field (nursing) and have had to go toe to toe with male physicians and psychiatrists. For voicing my opinions in healthcare I have been told to “Smile more” “take the weekend off because you may not be thinking clearly” “I know this is because you’re pregnant” “Is this because you are still breastfeeding?” “You just seem sensitive to this right now” “I’m not saying this because you’re a woman.” “You didn’t do anything wrong, but” “So I need to talk to the real person in charge now.”

What I have had to say because I’m a woman, “My face is up here.” “So me bringing up the fact that the resident made a bad call and this was done under the Attending is now translating to me not thinking clearly?” Message received. “That patient grabbed my ass, and you laughed, I don’t think I’m being overly sensitive, I think I was sexually groped and the staff present, a physician laughed.” “MY FACE IS UP HERE!!!!”

Healthcare is hard. Corporate structures are hard. Being a female in any field is hard. Being a lesbian pregnant or nursing female is even harder. Some days the fight doesn’t seem worth it. I did take that weekend off several years ago, and I came to some very important conclusions. I could not change that system unfortunately. I had to work there, bide my time, and leave. Sometimes we have to work in places we don’t like to get to the light on the other side. Without my time in the darkness fighting and learning to not fight, and learning about “old boys clubs” and bureaucracy I would not be where I am today. Some of my hardest lessons personally and professionally have been learning that I can’t fight every battle even when every atom in my being wants to. Staying silent takes more strength and more inner turmoil sometimes than speaking up.

I worked in the hospital settings for ten years as a staff nurse and an advanced practice nurse. I experienced sexism in almost every possible way. It’s hard to not come through healthcare and have some sort of resentment build toward men. There are also constant power struggles that are hard to not engage in especially as a younger less experienced provider. I came through the last decade less naive, more cynical, but if anything I am now more passionate about my patients and providing quality care and that’s I think what is important for me to hold onto.

The thing that really gets me is if I were a man all of the traits that have been admonished in me by previous bosses in healthcare would have been praised if I were male. The bitch in me would be seen as authoritative and somewhat attractive in a male. But because I’m female and have been pregnant or worse menstruating I am just a bitch.

I used to bristle at male qualities being pointed out in me as negative. Now I’m like fuck it. I’ll stab the head and hold it up and roar. I’m direct, I have a dry sense of humor, I smile only when it’s truly warranted, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. Our country and our youth have gotten into a situation where by being nice we have allowed monsters into power. We allow our LGBT youth to die from suicide and homelessness and drugs and hatred. If standing up demanding for the tenth time you look at my face and not my tits makes me a bitch, so be it. If standing up and demanding action and pointing out the negatives in our society without a pretty smile on my face makes me a bitch, so be it.

If putting females into a villain role is the only way we as a society are comfortable with them being strong, fierce, loyal, fighters, then so be it. I’d rather be Maleficent spewing fire than laying back with my eyes closed living in a fairy tale.