Friday, November 10, 2017

Rape culture & rage strokes

My name is Jessi. I'm a survivor of rape and molestation. I loathe the rape culture our society has propagated, accepts, and then justifies- all while conveniently blaming the very people it victimizes.

I would give anything right now to feel compelled to stop talking about sexual assault. I'd love for a week to go by without triggers in the news, without another powerful man being accused of assault, with more women (and men) saying, "me too." I'd love, for once, to hear a chorus of "we believe them" before there's a chorus of "are you sure?"

I cannot and won't keep quiet.
I'm pissed off and so far beyond caring about being polite or maintaining social graces.
I'm damned near in a rage stroke.

The excuses and the "oh but he's so..."  or "boys will be boys" get to me and make me see red.

"I knew he was a dick, but he's so funny!" Yes, well, Louis C.K. is still a sexual predator who thought it was okay to whip his penis out and masturbate in front of women without their consent. Not only that, but his non-apology released today was total crap. He painted himself as someone who's suffering and never actually apologized for the actions he's admitted to.

And, is this just me, or did no else get that the man is a misogynist asshole?

"But he's such a great actor!" Kevin Spacey might be one of the finest actors of our time, but he still raped, groped, and exerted his power and fame over younger men for at least the past two decades. You can be capable of acting well and rape. Just to point out, Spacey was quickly dropped from, well, everything, while others in his same position (we've actually elected two presidents with rape allegations in their past- with one admitting sexual assault on tape) not only keep their careers, but advance them as well. I have to wonder, does his accusers being male and our homophobic society have anything to do with this?

He had so many convinced that he was a good guy- that speaks to his acting, doesn't it?

"But he's a Christian." Of course I'm speaking of Roy Moore, that piece of human filth in Alabama whose actions have been excused by how many other men in power? Among the worst was equating his rape of an underage girl to that of Joseph and Mary, questioning the sensibilities of the then 14 year old victim, and, my personal "favorite," some enlightened male saying that the woman should be held accountable because "she didn't report it back then and he could have hurt others because she didn't speak up." Victim blaming much? I really love how some have brought the conception of Jesus into this and painted Joseph as a rapist and Mary as a harlot. Touching, really.


These three men are just the famous and powerful ones accused this week, following hot on the heels of Harvey Weinstein.
Screen cap of "Tales of a sexual predator. 

And then, there's this joke of a man, blogger and comedian Adam Avitable. He published a now deleted pseudo mea culpa- "Tales of a sexual predator," talking about his predatory tendencies that are long in the past.  He did this, I assume, to piggyback on the web hits other writers were getting in the middle of the Harvey Weinstein storm. Incidentally, the events he spoke of aren't all in the distant past; he has a habit of sending unsolicited nudes to women for their birthdays and, apparently, even exposed himself online to a minor. Fittingly, Adam also posed in a shirt back in 2007 (the internet never forgets) that said, "Adam Avitable's Clothing Optional Camp for Girls 14-17.... There's grass on the field, let's play!"

Adam, just like the other men listed above, is a classic case of "believe someone when they show you who they are the first time." I write about him because we were indirectly connected through friends and I always thought he was gross. I found it interesting and telling of our society that, when his blog post blew up and women started comparing notes, they found that they each weren't the only ones he'd targeted or made to feel uncomfortable. Also telling were the comments on his post and Twitter from women who thought his post was "brave." Being a predator isn't brave, ladies- it's the worst form of human excrement you can be other than a murderer.

Speaking of comedians, can we talk about the dumb jokes people still think are okay to tell about men like these? I, as a woman, can't visibly or verbally take offense, lest I be told, as I was three weeks ago, "it's just a joke. Don't be such an uptight bitch!"

Sorry guys, but your days of cracking jokes about rape, underage girls, incest, and all that other inappropriate crap need to be over. It's not being "PC" to loathe it- it's about being a decent human being.

Which brings me to my next point. Were none of these men taught not to rape?  Or that, should they rape/molest/harass someone, that they'll be punished? Of course not!

Society tells them that they can rape someone and force them to keep quiet by exerting control. Society and our rape culture has taught them that someone will laugh at their piss poor excuses for jokes, because that audience is trying to fit in or really has zero class themselves. Society has taught them that, should they get caught, and if they're white, they're likely to get less than a slap on the wrist as punishment because God forbid their own actions have ramifications. Conversely, if they're revered and loved by white people while being a POC, people are much less likely to believe their victims.

And please, spare me the diatribe from men who post to social media for their male counterparts to "do better." Don't just tell them that- don't accept anything less. Don't give your friends a free pass when they harass someone on the street in front of you. Don't make light of consent. Stop with the "I have a mother, sister, and daughter and I'm <insert emotional reaction to tales of assault here>." You shouldn't;'t need to have a mother, sibling, or female offspring to react negatively to news of sexual assault. It should repulse you naturally.

Don't just give this lip service- actively call out people who are guilty of participating in rape culture.



Society needs a reset and a moral compass. Half of our country cannot argue the immorality of abortion while still protecting that "funny uncle" in the family. The other half cannot scream women's rights and then victim blame those very women they seek to empower. That's not how any of this works, y'all.

What we're seeing now in the accusations, admittances, and public shaming of powerful and famous male predators stems from years of backlash, of being told to keep quiet if we know what's good for us, years of denial, and lifetimes of being punished for being a victim.

We're seeing women and men finally trying to burn this rape culture down.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sorry for the apologies

I'm done.
Finished.
Will not back down.
I just can't do it anymore.
I refuse to apologize for past and present mistakes or the way I parent my children.
I'm over the mommy shaming, the victim blaming, the bullshit.

Things I refuse to apologize for are as follows:

1. Calling my son autistic. This is a no go for me. He IS autistic, just as he IS tall, has brown hair, and brown eyes. I'll be damned if I ever apologize or feel bad when someone goes off on me for using autistic rather than "has autism." It's just silly. Can you separate the autism from him? No? Me either.

2. My sons' actions. You know what? It's damned hard to apologize for someone else. I refuse to say "I'm sorry, but he's <fill in the blank>." Parents of totally typical kids don't apologize for their children being assholes, and I don't think I should have to, either. My kids are good kids. They're usually polite, funny, and aren't embarrassing to take out in public (well, most of the time, but we'll get to that). I'm not going to ask for forgiveness when they act like kids or have meltdowns related to their disabilities. Or when Morgan scripts all the history of Thomas the Tank engine. Or when Bay goes on and on to me about Minecraft. They're being the only type of children they know how to be and, as long as they aren't being total jerks, I'm good with that.

3. Assisting my son when he's losing his proverbial crap in public. Why did I ever feel the need to do that? He can't help that the crowds are too much, that the lights are too bright, or that the noise is too loud. When he shuts down and cries, it's my job to help him, not to explain him to someone else.

4. Speaking up for disabled people, especially my son. This extends, but isn't limited to, calling people out for bullshit ableist policies and language. I'm including this blog, too. I've stayed away from here due to a fear of being reprimanded for how I feel. Sorry, but I'm out of shits to give. I'm going to say what I want and not feel bad for it because some keyboard crusader wants my head on a platter.

5. Activism and advocacy. I used to feel just the tiniest twinge of guilt whenever I gave hell to the schools, but that's long gone. I'm not going to apologize for them pissing me off, or for them not doing their jobs. The exact same thought process applies to the below:

6. Speaking up against and calling society out for the other isms and phobias- racism, anti feminism, xenophobia, and homophobia. Granted, I don't really apologize for saying anything about this now, but, after getting trashy comments about my stance on politics and humanity, I just figured I'd throw this in- don't be a dick.

7.Teaching my children about politics and current events. I assume competence with my kids. They overhear news, they aren't blind to societal issues like homelessness or racism. I feel like it's important to address elephants in the room and I want the boys to be informed. Don't tell me I'm poisoning their minds. Rather, I'm fertilizing them with something other than horse shit.

8. Believing in applied behavioral analysis as it stands now. Look, I get that ABA can have its issues, okay? But my son is exposed to ABA as a learning style and it works. He works with licensed BCBAs at his school, not in private therapy, and they've done wonders for and with him. He's learning to tie his shoes, cook, have reciprocal social conversations, and so much more. I'm not apologizing for it working for us, nor for us having a good experience.

9. Talking/writing about my children. When I write about my kids, I'm acknowledging the struggles and shitastrophies. I'm also championing their triumphs and telling about the funny things they do. Sometimes, autism is funny. Sometimes, it sucks. And, sometimes, my youngest is being a ginger demon. Each experience is okay to talk about.

10. Being myself. I'm at a place in my life where I actually don't hate myself or the things I say and do. I'm comfortable in my own skin and I don't care if others aren't alright with that. I swear, I drop things, I mess up, and I'm quirky. I like me.

11. My kids being themselves. I'm trying to teach my kids to be their authentic selves and, so far, they seem to have a good grip on what that means. Sometimes, my kids come off as weird, indifferent, or sensitive. However, they own most of that and I'm thrilled that they do. Authenticity is hard to come by in adults, but if we teach it to our kids early, maybe they'll grow up feeling that the earth is solid beneath them rather than shaky.


At the end of the day, how is my parenting affecting you? If it's not, then move on.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I Rage

I speak up about sexual assault not because I'm humiliated that it ever happened to me, but because I want other survivors to know that they're never alone. 

I rage against this patriarchal society we're in, one that so thoroughly devalues women, that female rape victims are treated more harshly than the male rapists, because I was once told I'd encouraged my attacker's actions and had ruined his life by telling. 


I was five.


I speak bluntly about the prevalence of molestation within families and spheres of influence because someone has to and I'll be damned if I speak of it from a parent's perspective- this cannot happen to my children.


I mourn when rapists and child molesters get a pass in order to "live normal lives" because the privilege to that same normalcy is denied to victims the instant they are attacked. Why are the guilty lives preserved when the innocent's are tossed away?


Why ask what someone was wearing instead of asking why someone felt the need to rape? 


Why is it that, when women are raped, our pasts are examined to the nth degree, trying to find some pattern of behavior which suggests we deserved to be raped? Why is it that men's lives are looked upon as having potential lost due to a woman pressing charges or making accusations. How in the hell does this make sense? 

And so, I rage. 

I rage for every woman (and man) who has ever felt we have to keep our mouths shut because what the hell is the point in telling? I rage for children whose innocence is lost before they're old enough to speak or dress themselves. I yell for the girls who've been groped by their "friend zoned" guys. I do it for the women and men who have had something slipped into their drinks and have little to no memory of anything after that. I've been in every single one of those situations and they, too, fuel this slow burning rage. 

I rage that I've already had to explain to my eight year old son that females, from the day we're born until the day we die are trained to always be cautious around men. That we, as women, are told to ignore the boys who give us unwanted hugs or kisses- they're only doing that because they want to be our preschool boyfriends and isn't just too cute? That we're forced to hug near strangers and this lends to a lack of feeling in control of our bodies.

That, when he hit a girl, I hoped her daddy told her that my son was an atrocious jerk and not someone who was sweet on her. I'm furious I ever had to explain to him the why behind that.

I explained this to him because I refuse to raise my future men with the notion that rape or assault might ever be okay. As women, we have to fight for the body autonomy which is denied to us early on and  he, as a male, has a place in society to stand up for what is right and not buy into the same misogynistic bullshit which has played out for us in centuries past.

I rage because people think that rape culture and revictimization don't exist when they so clearly do. 

I rage because someone, somewhere, once implied to all of my attackers that my body was theirs for the taking and it was okay to call me a bitch and threaten me when I said, "no." That, when I walk down the street and hear someone catcall me, I always tense up because I know if I don't smile, the words, "fucking bitch" are likely right behind the "heyyyy, girl! You gotta fine ass!" 

I'm spent because this is a never-ending cycle of violence against women and it seems to grow worse yearly. 

I'm so tired of raging. 









Monday, April 4, 2016

What Autism Has Taught Me

I've been doing this parenting autism thing for about eleven years now, knowingly for sixish, and have had knowledge of my own autism for about three years. It's been one heck of a learning curve.

In that time, autism has taught me that it's never static and always changing. Yet, whole days, weeks, months, and even years go by that seem like Groundhog Day, where the routine rarely seems to vary. In that rigid routine, though, is a constantly evolving hub of skills, understanding of the world, and hard won accomplishments- sometimes so tiny, we have to squint to see them, but they're still there.

Autism has taught me that there are many ways to slice an apple, pizza, sandwich, toast, etc., but only one correct way. Any other way than the right way will result in mutiny.

I've figured out that it is, indeed, possible, to be asked the same exact question 1,583,923 times in a day and then get asked again because echolalia.

I've learned that no amount of worrying will ever fill my bucket of fears, there will always be more things to consider, examine, and worry about some more. Because of my own autism and comorbid of severe anxiety disorder, I get the extra fun of perseverating on topics such as "what will middle school/high school be like?" "have I taught him x, y, z?" and, my personal favorite, "what's the future going to be like?" Because thinking of something like that while you're pacing and slightly manic at 3am just adds a little shot of fun to it all.

I've learned that things like milestones, time tables, and age appropriate and pretty much entirely made up and will never apply to us. Once I learned this, I was much happier.

Autism has made me realize that there are reasons why I can't learn something with just one or two demonstrations, thanks to the processing disorder side of things. This would explain why I get stuck on instructions, or forget steps in multi step problems. Morgan's the exact same way, but to a more severe degree.

I've figured out that the right fidget or sensory object at the right time can solve just about any problem, at least for a few seconds.

I've learned that I don't need to be surrounded by a ton of people who may or may not "get" me or my son. However, a small but great support network, complete with people who are willing to listen, learn, or are already "there" themselves, is key. I don't even need to actually know these people in person- I threw out the whole, "don't talk to strangers on the internet" thing a long time ago. Some of the people I've met through Facebook groups and this blog are now some of my closest confidants.

Autism has taught me that I have a resiliency within me that I never fully realized. One that will walk into conference rooms for IEPs and quietly demand the utmost best for my son and not back down until I find a way to get it.

The most important lesson autism has taught me, though, is that there are many ways for a family to be normal- it doesn't need to look like a modern Norman Rockwell painting. In our case, normal is discussion of IEPs, Thomas the Train with our eleven year old, quiet discussions with our eight year old about his worries for his brother, visiting every train museum we can find, and speaking as bluntly about autism as possible. Or, really, speaking as bluntly as possible about pretty much anything. We don't really do filters here.

Autism has taught me so much. I haven't been the most willing student at all times, and I'm still not. However, this education has been worth it because Morgan's worth it, and so am I.




What has autism taught you?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Spring Cleaning

I cleaned out my Monica Gellar closet (if you don't know this reference, we can't be friends) and realized it was a metaphor for my mental illness. It was like the Pandora's box I haven't wanted to open for years, and yet, I knew it was time. I needed to do some cleaning, both figuratively and literally. 

This is my closet now. 

                                      
Kind of pretty, isn't it? It looks organized, I have a nice little work space. Things are in specific places, and I even have a spot for my taxidermied animal thingy. 

I'm showing the "after picture" first because, frankly, it will look better in the preview picture in the link.

However, this is the before. It's bad, huh? 
The closet had been a dumping ground for randomness since the day we moved in over a year ago.  took four or five huge lawn and leaf bags of trash and four lawn and leaf bags to charity, twelve hours, and me falling down a massive rabbit hole. 

You see, as I was purging, I realized that I hadn't touched some of that stuff since we lived in Tennessee- in 2012. That's three moves, an autism diagnosis (mine), a slight mental breakdown (again, me), another severe endometriosis diagnosis for me, and so much more. 

As I was digging deep into crafting supplies, I kept wondering "why?" Why in the ever living shit did I have some of this?! I mean, at one point I was selling hair bows and accessories, so some of it made sense, but Jesus, why did I need five rolls of ribbon that were the exact same color? What the hell was going on with me when I was buying this stuff? And why was some of it so ugly?

Then, I remembered. And I got mad. I remembered Thomas and I fighting like all hell five years ago about my spending money on this shit and my denying it. The craft store was better than eating because I was steeped in anorexia and mania and I was out of control, all while trying so hard to pretend I was in control. It was when I was battling the school on IEPs, and Morgan's placement, and so much more. This was the time frame I became and advocate. 

Before that time, I broke off contact with my biological father. I fired my shrink. I fired everyone. I went off my meds. I went full blown wide open. I lost my proverbial shit. All of that was in the closet, too, in pictures, journals, and drawings I'd hidden away from myself. 

Mental illness- it had filled up bins, boxes, baskets, and bought hundreds of rolls of ribbons, and I'm not even sure how many fat quarters of fabric. I had hoarded and, scared to death of losing more things and I was losing control, I kept it all. 

I threw out guilt as I threw out cards, papers, bags, notebooks filled with manic scrawling. Rage and sadness filled me because I wondered how much time I've wasted over the years due to this crap in my head. 

By the time I was done, I felt as if I'd taken a long and hot shower.  It was as if by unleashing my compulsiveness in a healthy way, I'd been able to clean out the recesses of my brain.








Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to Handle a Holiday Gathering

*I get that I've added political commentary which can be divisive. The whole point is to distract people from autism. Please take this all with the humor that was intended. 

It's the most wonderful time of the year! With that comes family gatherings where supposedly well meaning relatives say the most absurd shit ever.  I polled some autistics and parents/spouses of autistics to see what commonly gets said at the dinner table. Then, in my limited wisdom, I've created diversionary answers/rebuttal questions. They are conversation enders, if you will, and will succeed in taking the focus off of autism or your "lack of parenting skills." If you drink, please be sure to have libations readily available.


"Have you tried spanking him?" Inform your family member that you've tried every available method of discipline. And then, offer up this gem: "So, what do you think of the Syrian refugee situation?"

"Ya think he's gonna get normal at all?"Answer that autism is a life long neurological disorder, and there isn't a cure for it. Then, state, "I'm voting for Hillary. She's a class act."  *This also requires a bite of pie and a swallow or five of wine.

"God only gives us what we can handle." Take a healthy slug of wine and then, "Right now, we're all handling Donald Trump."

"He'll be fine, don't worry so much." Full glass of wine, straight into your mouth. Then, "You know who's going to be fine? The American public after we all convert to socialism."

"You are doing a complete disservice to him by labeling him!" Deep breath.. In, one, two, three... Out, one, two, three. Take a generous gulp of hard liquor, and then, "Just like we label white shooters as 'mentally ill?"

"Your son just licked me! Again!" "Ohhh, Aunt Mae, he's just testing your American patriotism." Congratulate yourself on having a rebuttal with a full glass of wine.

"You know, autism is just a fad. In a few years, everyone will be autistic." Drink. Then, "You know, Hilary 'was there' on 9/11." That'll stop all conversation.

"I feel so bad for you!" Two glasses of wine in quick succession should be funneled into your throat. Then say, "I feel really bad for Obama. He never gets any slack." 

"You/he/she can't be autistic. You aren't re******." "You're a real dick, you know that?" Sorry, I have nothing better than this.

"He'll eat when he's hungry." Grab the bottle nearest to you, drink, and then hit that person over the head with the aforementioned bottle. There is no rebuttal to this, only laughter and mild violence.

So, maybe these things won't help during the family gathering, but they will make things more interesting and possibly even divert your relatives from discussing what they think about autism for just a few seconds.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 9, 2015

What I want Special Education Teachers to Know

Dear sped teachers,

I've made contact with many of you as of today. With few exceptions (because there are always exceptions), you are wonderful at your job, or you strive very hard to be the best you know how. However, there are some things I want you to know.

"Grade level..."
What I love about the special education process, and IEPs, is that we have a one-of-a-kind chance to meet the child where they are, instead of where people feel they should be. Once we've established a baseline, we can work more on goals to achieve. For the most part, our experience with this has been good.

But I feel as if the special education system sets some children up for failure.

Too many teachers are forced to focus on "grade level" achievements. What if my child isn't supposed to be on this grade level? What if there really isn't a point in teaching volume, mass, and measurement right now?  What if I'm okay with my son reading Thomas the Tank instead of Harry Potter?

"On grade level" is something a majority of us veteran parents stopped caring about a long time ago.

Platitudes...

You don't always have to tell us that our children are "secret geniuses." Genius is measured in ways my son is not. I fully believe that my son is smart, that all people are, but I understand that, on paper, it doesn't appear this way.

I fully grasp that, in an IEP meeting, you are attempting to deliver news that isn't settling. But give it to us straight. We don't need a bedtime story, we need facts. Perhaps I'm in the minority of parents here, but I don't want fluff and a hundred anecdotes about the "cute" things my son may do. I live with him, I know him, and I know how cute he can be.

"Helping..."

Don't help my child so much that he cannot do something independently, like an art project. I can count on one hand how many projects have been sent home that I know my son did on his own and I treasure every single one of them. Those which were clear to me that he didn't do? They go in the trash and it hurts like hell to see someone didn't think my child's train scribbles were good enough. He's good enough.

Please tell the paras to back off. If a cutting exercise or something of that nature appears to be too hard, take a breath and let him do it.

The same goes for work. My son was "helped" so many times with so many things that, upon assessments or homework, he couldn't do these things on his own. Who is that really helping?

It is a disservice to any child to help to the point that it renders them unable. Physical disabilities notwithstanding, independence is what a majority of us are after.

Skills...

Some of us really don't care if our child can perform quadratic equations. However, we really do care if they can count money, read a calendar, and balance a checkbook. If my child doesn't "qualify" for the life skills room and is forced to keep learning about why the Underground Railroad isn't really a train track (three years and running!), I'm going to need a better reason than "he's verbal." 

I understand your hands are tied in a lot of cases because of state regulations. But listen to the parents' concerns. Don't automatically say, "he'll get it... eventually." Some things aren't that important to us. We want our children to succeed, yes, but maybe our definitions of success are different than yours.


In closing, I want to reiterate something I've said time and again- I couldn't do this without you. A good special education teacher, or any teacher, is worth his/her weight in gold. We mourn the good ones we must move away from, and will remember you for always.