The Right Stuff

A problem I face on a daily basis is other people placing me into convenient little “boxes” which help them to try to understand me:

    Female (check)

    Girl/Woman (check)

    Attorney (check)

    Feminist (check)

    Annoying feminist (check)

    In your face feminist (check)

    Associate, not Owner (check)

    Liberal by most definitions (check)

The list goes on. All of us, I presume, face some sort of category “placement” challenges.

What continues to get to me is that due to being grouped into one or more of these checked boxes, people think they know me. I mean, like really know me—to the degree where people will tell me to my face what they assume I think and “surely must feel.”

This post turned into something longer than I anticipated. My reasoning and explanation for this list follows. I appreciate anyone willing to read it.

These are the things I’m assuming you do not know about me:

1. I would have no problem whatsoever defending an alleged rapist. As an attorney, that is my job. Every person charged with a crime has a right to competent counsel. Someone who is charged has (and should have!) the right to an attorney. Our legal system is not “just.” On your best day you could not navigate it without competent representation. What one is charged with means absolutely nothing to someone who wants the best possible outcome for all human beings (that’s me; I’m writing about me). Do I love criminals? Of course not. But, are too many people charged who are innocent? ABSOLUTELY. When you are sworn into the Bar you make promises. And one of those promises is to always advocate for your client; not to lie, but to advocate. Even as a former Sexual Assault Advocate I have no issue with this. When I was interviewing for jobs and listed that I was an Advocate on my resume it hindered me because the interviewer assumed I would not be able to simultaneously be an Advocate sometimes and an unbiased criminal defense attorney sometimes. It infuriated me. Because I’m not one thing. People having an amazing capacity to be one way in certain situations and another way in others without making them hypocrites. Short sighted people vote this way.

2. I’m a Christian who doesn’t necessarily believe that Heaven exists – and that is 100% okay with me. I go to church. I’m Episcopalian (and as a sect we do believe in Heaven communally). Heaven does not comfort me and Hell does not scare me. I live now. What I do on this earth before I die matters. That’s what I believe. I try to do the right thing, help others, and be as selfless as possible. I fail a lot, but I succeed a lot too. I do believe something happens when we die. This belief is in line with lyrics from the band OAR’s “City on Down”: “Well, in the end my friend we will all be together again/Clutching onto my hand/In a valley we’ll stand/Just living again.”

3. My church: accepts, marries, and loves all gay and lesbian people. And I do not think God would disapprove of that in any way, shape, or form. Pointing to the Bible to try to prove me wrong won’t affect me, as I believe the most important rule of Christianity is “love and accept everyone.” Christians who disagree are not following Jesus’s Commandments. Quoting Jesus Christ, the Book of John, Chapter 15, Versus 12-13: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Quoting Jesus Christ, the Book of Romans, Chapter 12, Verse 10, states, “Be devoted to  one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 8, Verse 17, states, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” So, the really common theme here is love. Love, love, love, love, love. Neither God nor Jesus ever tells us to hate anyone. So all of that “God hates homosexuals” bullshit you see protesters toting around is completely made up – and those people are insane – and also wrong.

4. If John Kasich was the Republican Presidential nominee I would have seriously considered voting for him. These needs some fleshing out (because for some reason I feel the need to defend myself here, as I’m often “attacked” with accusations of my motives for supporting Hillary Clinton). Before the primaries, I attempted to challenge every Bernie supporter to give me at least one reason they did not like him as a candidate. This was met with an inability, or unwillingness, to do so. My unconfirmed but strongly believed theory is that if you cannot list at least one thing you do not like about your candidate, you do not know your candidate. (I intentionally made this challenge within a single party, so it really only related to the candidates in the primary election.) Bernie supporters gave me plenty of reasons they hated Hillary, but fell short when it came to assessing Bernie. Not that I’m obligated, obviously, to tell you this, but I was not always sure I would vote for Hillary. I did extensive due diligence on all major candidates, from both parties. Despite what many people think (and I AM offended by this assumption because it puts me into an insulting “single issue voter” box) I did not decide to vote for Hillary just because she is a woman. That is so incredibly ignorant and misogynistic it’s pathetic. I believe Kasich was the ONLY reasonable Republican candidate, and advocated for bipartisanship as often as the other loud-mouth idiots would let him speak.

5. I care way more about other people than I care about myself. I’m working on getting healthy but it’s not easy. I’m an Empath, which means I have an abnormal ability to take on the mental or emotional state of another person. I do not see this as a bad thing except that it is the cause of my abnormally crippling anxiety.

6. I believe people who outwardly judge me for what I say and/or do misunderstand the amount of thought I always put into the things I say and/or do, and are therefore not worth my time. Unfortunately for me, I often end up giving them my time in the form of  thought, reaction, or self-doubt. I do not make decisions without thinking them through —from a sickening number of angles. I think of a lot of reasons TO do/say something and NOT TO do/say something. Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes awkwardly slowly, but I promise you, it happens.

7. I believe that what comes out of the mouths of those who judge me says way more about them than it does about me. I wish more people who are suffering because of the way others treat them could ignore it, but it is admittedly extremely difficult. I often utilize the quote, “how people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours,” to recenter myself when affected in this way.

8. I love football but I hate the NFL as an organization. They are the Scientologists of sports. They don’t protect their players, and every October is the NFL’s “celebration” of Breast Cancer Awareness month, when some players wear pink stuff in “solidarity,” (fucking please — you’re all full of shit) and they encourage you to donate to certain non-profits. Spoiler alert – most of that money never makes it to anyone who needs it. October is also Sexual Assault Awareness month. Given everything that has surfaced in the past ten years alone, the NFL is actively, selfishly, and I would argue intentionally ignoring this issue by choosing not to campaign for Sexual Assault Awareness — rather than Breast Cancer Awareness. Bless all the breast cancer survivors, but “c’mon, man!” (See ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown” for this reference.) Everyone is already aware of breast cancer. Best guess? — The NFL does not want to bring any more attention to Sexual Assault than it is required to, since its players have been proven to be  continuing to commit Sexual Assault season after season. After all, the majority of Sexual Assault is committed against women, and that’s bad for business. Sexual Assault is something one human being does to another, whereas breast cancer is a disease you cannot get by being raped. (I’m guessing this is “their” idiotic thought process.) And it’s “smart business” (read: disgraceful, pathetic, and typical) to make profit by exploiting people while purporting to care about an issue. But it makes the NFL a horrible organization! They should do the right thing and admit players have a problem with Sexual Assault and Domestic Abuse and show some respect for at least half of their fans (yeah, that’d be women). I won’t hold my breath until next October waiting to see players wearing teal (the official color of Sexual Assault Awareness month) stuff in games. Because breast cancer is so much more profitable! The NFL makes a tremendous amount of money selling pink — anything — “in the name of Breast Cancer Awareness,” and they’re pretty much laughing at you for buying these items. P.S. Did you know that more domestic violence incidents occur in America on Superbowl Sunday than any other day of the year? If you didn’t, it’s because the NFL doesn’t give a fuck about women, Awareness, or anything other than exploitation for profit.

9. I believe addicts are deeply misunderstood. If you’re not an addict, you cannot possibly understand how addiction works. People who know addicts and/or live with addicts get close to understanding, but it is an impossibility to understand addiction unless you’re an addict. Just like if you don’t suffer from crippling depression, you should stop assuming you know what will help. You can’t know the hell that is chronic depression or a major depressive disorder. You can’t know how anxiety can stop you from doing almost any thing. I mention both addiction and mental illness in this section because the two very often go hand in hand. The point is every single judgment, assumption, or prediction that you make about addicts and/or people with mental illness is probably misinformed. Just so you knowMy advice on this is to listen to an addict or someone with mental illness if he/she opens up to you. Listen to them, and do not offer advice. We don’t need advice. Especially from people that are not like us. We need hugs. We need a willing ear. And we need to know that people exist who love us “anyway.” (Think about the implication of that word — ANY way. ANYWAY.) And just because I feel like sharing this, while in college, I watched an episode of “Intervention” about an alcoholic which changed my life. She got sober and went on to be an Interventionist herself. That was a very happy ending to a story I wish I didn’t understand so much.

10. I am a survivor of sexual assault. I could not come to grips with this for a long while. Even after Sexual Assault Advocate training which literally defined what happened to me (as in THE definition of sexual assault is exactly what happened to me, again, by definition), it took me years to accept it as abuse. YEARS. I didn’t make it up. I’m not “crazy.” And no, I’m not “okay.” I was drugged, assaulted, and I did not consent. It has only been within the past two or three (2-3) years that I accepted this. Spoiler alert: aside from my current boyfriend who has not met the assaulter, the people I told (probably because they DO know him) did NOT react in a supportive way. I got a, “Sorry you felt like that,” while pictures of that friend and my assaulter surfaced post-disclosure to her on her Facebook page; and an, “It’s hard for me to imagine him doing something like that,” from someone who I used to respect and also trusted with many difficult feelings over the years, and will never trust again. Basically everything I post on social media concerning “things you should not say to sexual assault victims,” or “the reasons survivors don’t report,” or, “why victims of assault stay with their assailant,” IS personal to me. Even after I broke up with this person, he would not leave me alone until he found another girlfriend. Once, he even came to my house with an apology gift in hopes of getting me back, you know, the honeymoon period in the cycle of violence. (If you do not know what the cycle of violence is please educate yourself. You can do so very easily by clicking here: http://www.dvsolutions.org/info/cycle.aspx.) I begged him not to come to my house — but he didn’t care, and he did not respect anything I said. Thank God my brother was there to make him leave. And to further explain how fucked up these situations are, once he found another girlfriend, I tried to get him back. Again, unless you are a survivor or victim of this type of thing you really cannot truly understand how it might affect you. It was one of the most confusing times in my life. I contemplated suicide — I don’t know how many times — and self-harmed to a seriously disturbing place — because of this person. To this day I cannot stand the thought of him having so many friends and being so beloved, knowing what he did to me. And those of you who might ask me “well then why don’t you tell his friends?” see mere sentences above explaining that I did tell two mutual friends, and I was dismissed AND not believed.

So, there. Now you have a background on me that maybe I should be more hesitant to share. But I want to be taken seriously. And I want to be believed. And my instincts tell me that to achieve your respect, that is the reader’s respect, I have to give you some basis for my “claims.” I hope those ten things accomplished that goal.

Here’s some more insight before I get political. If you’re “new” to me you may not know that I had been for several years a rape crisis Advocate. Out of law school, having zero connections, it took me over two years after taking the Bar Exams to land a job working as an attorney. Prior to that, I worked three poorly paid part-time jobs just so I could pay the minimum on my student loans each month and keep my parents from having to pay my bills. I was beyond depressed.

Imagine, graduating from Rutgers with as close to a 4.0 GPA as one could get without actually getting a 4.0, taking LSAT classes because I knew what a horrible test-taker I was, getting an excellent LSAT score, graduating with a JD, taking two Bar Exams 2 ½ months after graduation from law school (two exams in three contiguous days in two different states, by the way), passing both (Oh my God!!! What?! I was so sure I failed!!!!!), only to find out there were no jobs available to my “highly qualified self”(cheers, 2008!), making a grand total of $19,000 in the following year, and OWING back taxes for not being “employed” – according to the law – by any of these three companies.

Why am I giving you such personal details about my life? Because you don’t actually know me when you probably think you do. Do you know what it is like to be put through the hell of Seton Hall School of Law (going to that school was the worst decision I have ever made in my entire life and I regret it daily) where they teach you that you’re in the top 1% (I kid you not – an actual lecture I was exposed to) of the population “just by being there,” and after graduating and passing two Bar Exams not being able to find a job for my “1%-er self?” According to that “institution,” I should be supporting the candidate who is going to further tax the poor, because I ought to be a 1%-er! But I’m not in the 1%. And my best guess is, if you’re still reading this, neither are you.

Not being in the top 1% as advertised, and because our tax system is what it is, I paid income taxes on an unconscionably low amount of money in both 2011 and 2012. Over 10% of what I made was owed to the government. And when your exhausting part-time jobs produced a yearly earning of $19K, it’s really REALLY hard to reconcile that with how our country DARE defend it’s tax schedule. A lawyer working out a payment plan with the IRS based on a pathetic take-home amount is not what I imagined when I signed up for law school. What a no-good scrub loser I was. Still, I looked every day with the remarkable support of my Mom. Desperate to nail a legal career yet, I went on dozens and dozens of interviews that ended with “you have an impressive resume, and I know you’d made a great addition, but with so many recently fired trained attorneys with experience who are willing to work for the same pay you are, we’re going to have to go in another direction.”

I was not then, (nor am I now), in a tax bracket that felt fair. But unlike Trump, I paid (and continue to pay) my taxes anyway.

Being a Sexual Assault Advocate helped me during this depressing and seemingly hopeless time of unemployment to do something with a purpose. For those of you who do not know what being an Advocate entails, you’re not alone. I’d say as a summary, most importantly, Advocates will meet a victim of rape or sexual assault at the hospital to make sure his/her rights and best interests are being presented and protected. This includes but is not limited to: ensuring an investigative police officer/detective was not intimidating nor pressuring a victim into reporting if it was not in her best interest (I say “her” only because I never was called out for a male victim), making sure accurate information was being given to the survivor, including her options, (in this state she does not need to report at that time and has up to 90 days to decide whether or not she will while the county police department is obligated to hold “Jane Doe” evidence), interfering if the nurse was asking inappropriate questions or making inappropriate comments (such as inadvertently victim blaming), and making sure the victim was — at all times treated with dignity and respect. Advocates in this state get “alone time” – by law – with assault victims and a privilege exists there that is similar to attorney-client privilege. I could not, and would not, repeat what was said to me, and no subpoena could make me disclose anything in those conversations, which were, ALWAYS absolutely heart-breaking.

Aside from empathizing with the survivor, one of the most difficult things was standing up to police officers who are trained to collect information to “get the perpetrator” as quickly as possible. I met some of the most respectful police officers I ever have during this time. And I met some really awful ones. For example: “Well, she either doesn’t care if this guy does it again or she’s lying,” was a repetitious theme from some officers who very intentionally said these things within ear shot of the victims I came to protect. If you’ve seen an episode of “Law and Order” you may recollect scenes where the detectives interrogate suspects by lying to them, bullying them, or saying they had information they didn’t, to try to get them to confess. If you are the victim of a rape or sexual assault, you may get the same exact treatment. “Victim blaming” does not do justice to defining what happens to these girls (the youngest I assisted was 14) and women. These girls and women are sometimes interrogated like they are the criminals. And whether the detectives are trained to conduct all interviews the same way –  across the board – in cases of rape, that’s not okay. Because it is hard enough to admit it happened, but going to a hospital is harder. And having to take medication to prevent STDs is even harder. Getting sick from those medications will happen, (most victims vomit as a result, elongating their trauma) and hospital visit, which is hard. And opening your legs so a nurse can swab every part of your most private areas is probably the hardest.

And it’s protocol to call police officers to investigate in these situations. If a victim wants what is known as “a rape kit” to be used, the police are almost always notified and they will be there even if they are not wanted. I cannot affirmatively state that is always what happens, but every case that I was called out on the detectives were there even if the victim did not ask for them. When I’d get a call at 2:00 AM, my only hope was to get to the victim before anyone else, because if I didn’t, misinformation was already delivered to the victim, guaranteed. And, although I believe the officers were just doing their jobs, what they said and did was not often appropriate. It is NOT always in the victim’s best interest to report. More likely than not, a victim knows her assailant. Maybe it’s her mother’s best friend’s son. Maybe it’s a coworker. Maybe it’s the father of her children who she relies on for money to put food in her children’s stomachs so they don’t starve. Maybe she was drugged and cannot remember what happened to her (which the detectives often construe as lying). Maybe she’s a stripper who herself believes she was “asking for it.” But whether to report the person who assaulted her is ALWAYS her decision, and should be. Whether you agree with me or not is irrelevant. There are laws in place protecting victims and Advocates because someone with a conscience decided it was time to let the victim rather than the assaulter make decisions for himself/herself.

Despite what the media would have you believe, I have heard horror stories that would shake you to your core. Victims do not want to report. They blame themselves most of the time. And that is on ALL OF US. They think they should not have been walking alone. They think they shouldn’t have been drinking. They are getting texts from their rapist while in the hospital who are making sure “everything is cool.” They think it was their fault they left a (non-)alcoholic drink unattended and trusted their friend(s) not to put something in it while they were in the bathroom. They think “this wouldn’t have happened to me if only I had….” And that is on ALL OF US. So when Trump says something like Hillary Clinton jumped at the chance to defend a child rapist and laughed about it, I TAKE IT VERY FUCKING SERIOUSLY. I’m offended that he could be that despicable, and you should be too.

Although this post is not exclusively about politics specifically, I will say its relevance here must be acknowledged. As much as I cannot stand Trump, I have zero percent idea what goes on in his head. Because of the plethora of sound bites we have from him (mostly due to his inability to stay out of the spotlight), I think I know what he is like, but really, I only know him insofar as he allows me to. I “know” what he portrays, and I put him into boxes that help me identify, or classify him in certain ways, (e.g. as a misogynist, sexist, racist, egotistical, hateful, uneducated, unprepared, and unable to form a complete sentence). The list goes on, but you understand about the “boxes” now. The same goes, of course, for Hillary Clinton, although I am far less privy to material that allows me to place her into similarly tidy little boxes. What I “know” about her is what she allows me to know, (e.g. her resume, her policies, her willingness to work with the candidate who did not win the primary so that his policies would be incorporated into the Democratic agenda, that she does not hold rallies inciting violence against dissenting voters, that she opposes “race-policing,” that she has foreign relation connections and experience, and that she remains composed while being called horrific things by a lying maniac). Again, the list goes on, but you get the idea.

I find myself now needing to defend Hillary Clinton briefly as it pertains to a particularly heinous attack on her character from the most recent debate. Trump accused her of willingly choosing to represent a rapist and laughing about the incident, specifically stating she was seen laughing about getting the guy off. Fact: Hillary Clinton was a Public Defender at the time who was assigned to a charged rapist’s case. Fact: Hillary Clinton was not comfortable with the assignment. Fact: Hillary Clinton’s boss reminded her that she could not reject a Judge’s assignment. Fact: Hillary Clinton did laugh after the case was over – but not about “getting the guy off” (especially since he didn’t “get off” but was convicted of a lesser included offense). She uncomfortably laughed in an interview about how she could no longer accept that lie detector tests were reliable since her client passed his polygraph. Fact: Defending someone charged with a crime does not mean you agree with the actions of/support that criminal. Because of course it doesn’t, if you have the capacity to think.

For a full examination of the above, please see the following article: http://www.snopes.com/hillary-clinton-freed-child-rapist-laughed-about-it/

My favorite excerpt summing up my point perfectly (emphasis added): “As Hillary Clinton said while looking back on the case: ‘I had a professional duty to represent my client to the best of my ability, which I did. He later pled guilty to a lesser included offense. When you’re a lawyer you often don’t have the choice as to who you will represent. And by the very nature of criminal law there will be those you represent you don’t approve of. But, at least in our system, you have an obligation. And once I was appointed I fulfilled that obligation.'” So, to sum up, Trump said nothing true about Hillary Clinton’s role in this case, and Hillary Clinton once again is able to meaningfully articulate aspects of the legal system that Trump, who is not a lawyer (though he does get sued a lot) does not understand.

Because you are more than one thing, if you are an attorney you can represent an accused criminal AND still be someone who does not support the crime of which that criminal is accused. This seems obvious to me, but apparently there are a lot of you who don’t understand (or can’t comprehend) that. It’s not hypocritical. It’s THE point. Actually, it takes an incredible amount of restraint, intellect, and compassion to represent someone who may or may not be guilty. I am hearing people say that Hillary Clinton is a hypocrite for representing criminals when she was a Public Defender. The job of a Public Defender is to represent those accused of crimes who cannot afford to pay for counsel. So taking this proof to its logical conclusion, the many people who think Hillary Clinton is a hypocrite for performing her job, are putting her into separate boxes when they should be the same ones.

As Hillary Clinton stated, Public Defenders defend a lot of criminals, because fortunately, at least for now, every person has the right to counsel (and I encourage EVERYONE to invoke that right if you’re ever in a situation where it comes up). The complexities of our legal system necessitate attorneys being appointed to those who cannot afford them (including myself, sadly, by the way) Our legal system is a minefield. I’d never represent myself should it be necessary – because the law is so complex. Unless you are a criminal lawyer (and even then), on your best day the legal system is stacked against you — HARD.

So I guess my ultimate point is: open your mind as to why people may be the way they are. I promise you that you know victims, even if you don’t count me, because sexual assault is common. And I promise you that victims are blaming themselves for what happened to them. And I promise you that making light of ANY of that is the reason our society is the way that it is. And I promise you one more thing.

It is on all of us.

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