Tag Archives: mental health

Why is rape so difficult for some people to understand? (Joanna Bourke)

Eradicating rape depends as much on educating people about this crime as it does on legal reform

Rape is painful, demeaning and destructive. Why is this so difficult for some people – including some influential men – to understand? People who have survived sexual assault and rape are right to be appalled to hear the minister for justice minimising the effect of rape when the attacker was well known to them. In a discussion about whether criminal sentences should be reduced if the accused pleaded guilty, Kenneth Clarke made a distinction between “serious rapes” and “date rapes”. He later retracted this distinction, but the implication that “date rape” is not “serious rape” is extraordinary for a man in charge of the criminal justice system.

This tendency to minimise the effect of sexual violence has also been seen in the furore over the arrest of the former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn for attempted sexual assault. It turns out that a great many people suspected that Strauss-Kahn had a dark side. The media and other politicians seem to have turned a blind eye. Michel Taubmann, Strauss-Kahn’s official biographer, even put forward the argument that Strauss-Kahn did not possess the “profile of a rapist”. Presumably, real rapists are knife-wielding thugs from some deprived inner-city neighbourhood.

In contrast, it is well known that most rapes and sexual assaults are carried out by people one knows. Indeed, Tristane Banon, the novelist and journalist who has claimed that Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her in 2002, chose not to report his alleged violence to the police because he was a family friend. He was also incredibly powerful.

There are many problems with diminishing the harm of sexual assault when the assailant is known to the victim. The breach of trust in this form of rape can be particularly traumatising. As one woman stammered after being raped by her husband: “He raped me … It emotionally hurt worse [than stranger rape]. You can compartmentalise stranger rape … you can manage to get over it differently. But here you’re at home with your husband and you don’t expect that.” Victims of rape by spouses or intimate friends are harmed in similar ways to other victims of rape, but they may suffer additional feelings of betrayal, inability to trust, and isolation.

Why do so many people remain opposed to making men fully accountable for sexually abusive acts? One reason is the fear of false accusations. This is a red herring. Fear of being falsely charged with rape has been stoked up by the vastly disproportionate media attention given to instances of malicious accusations. It is also stirred up by anxiety about the sexual act itself and the exact meaning of “consent” and how it is communicated.

In fact, false accusations are very rare. The most reliable statistics come from a major UK Home Office research project from 2000-03. Initially, the researchers concluded that 9% of reported rape accusations were false. However, on closer analysis, this percentage dropped dramatically. They found that many of the cases listed as “no evidence of assault” were the result of someone other than the victim making the accusation. In other words, a policeman or passerby might see a woman distressed or drunk, with her clothes ripped, and report it as a suspected rape. When the woman was able to provide an account for what happened, it proved that no rape had taken place. Once such cases had been eliminated from the study, only 3% of allegations should have been categorised as false.

Contrary to the notion that men are at risk of being falsely accused of rape, it is much more common for actual rapists to get away with their actions. Only 6% of offences reported to the police ever result in a conviction. Between half and four-fifths of sexual assaults are never even reported to the authorities in the first place. Fear of not being believed, concerns about re-victimisation, anxiety about being judged in turn, and the discomfort of the interrogation and medical examination are some of the factors responsible for failure to complain. Reprisals, especially if the offender is a partner or ex-partner, are common.

Clearly, rape is not an easy charge to make. The stigma attached to any person claiming to have been raped is significant, and in the (unlikely) event of a trial, the victim faces an ordeal that is often described as degrading in itself.

Eradicating rape depends as much on educating people about this crime as it does on legal reform. If the minister for justice can minimise the harm of certain kinds of violence, there is something seriously wrong. Good sex is a great source of delight. Being coerced to have sex, though, can be one of the worst experiences of a person’s life. To imply that it is somehow less harmful because of prior contact with the aggressor is simply astounding.

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Angry Subaru Man VS Road Bike Guy

Wow. So I’m riding my bicycle on E. 3rd Avenue (near E. 31st Street) at about 5pm on Tuesday, April 12. I see a fellow cyclist riding toward me on a road bike, in full gear.

A guy in a Subaru passes him, then slams on his brakes and comes to a stop right there, in the middle of the street. His tires even kind of squealed a little. Like in the movies.

The door flies open. The driver jumps out, runs up to Road Bike Guy and begins screaming. Cursing. Getting right in his face. Yelling obscenities that you can’t print here. For about five minutes. Seriously ranting about how the cyclist had cut the guy off. I’m pretty sure I saw spit flying.

I was so shocked I simply stopped my bike, got off, and just stood there watching. I wanted to make sure Angry Subaru Guy knew there were witnesses.

Road Bike Guy, to his credit, kept his cool.

After about three minutes of yelling, cursing, and claiming ‘champion cyclist’ status (“I’m a cyclist, too!”), Angry Subaru Man turned and started to get back in his car.

Road Bike Guy asked, in a respectful tone, if Angry Subaru Man had seen the stop sign. Angry Subaru Man gets BACK out of his car, goes BACK up to Road Bike Guy, and starts yelling again.

Meanwhile, no fewer than 7 cars are stopped in traffic. I counted.

Road Bike Guy, thanks for keeping your cool.

Angry Subaru Man, if you really ARE a cyclist, couldn’t you think of a better way to address the issue with Road Bike Guy? Do you think that R.B.G. somehow agrees with you now?

Were you worked up about something else? Lose your job? Going through a divorce? Times truly are tough right now. We’re all hurting, in one way or another. We live in community. We’ve got to cut each other some slack from time to time.

I’m pretty sure that any children who were in the 7 vehicles you stopped were watching you, learning one (less than ideal) way to deal with conflict. You were teaching by example, intentionally or not.

Thanks for the reminder that I’m teaching by example, as well. Next time I’m in my car and frustrated with a cyclist, or on my bike and frustrated with the driver of a vehicle, I’ll think of you.

Tim Birchard,
Durango

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Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries with pet owners

“Oh, it’s okay… she won’t bite.”

As I open the car door and turn to step out of the car, I look up to see two dogs fast approaching. I raise my right foot and hold it in the air. The dog stops suddenly and takes a step back. The owner quickly takes hold of the dog’s collar and then, holding the dog’s collar, slowly brings the dog’s nose closer to my leg.

“She just wants to sniff you.”

I look at my fellow human being and wonder: Do I have any say in the matter?

Why is it that so many dog owners are happy to tell me that their dog is perfectly safe, and that I should have no concerns about letting this animal put its jaws and teeth right next to my leg to satisfy its curiosity? What happens if the dog smells something it doesn’t like and responds by biting me? Isn’t it then a little too late, now that I have to pay for a hospital visit and rabies shots, to run up, regain control of their dog, and apologize?

(I’m reminded of my routine bicycle ride to work last week, when I found myself face-to-face with an angry dog, up on its hind legs, teeth bared, straining against the leash as its owner struggled to keep it from lunging at my body as I rode by. Zen told me to keep riding, since the only thing that had been disturbed was my thought process. Still I find myself turning over and over in my mind the various other possible outcomes. So much for my Zen training.)

And setting aside safety issues and the potential unpredictability of mammals lower on the food chain, what if I simply PREFER not to have dogs rubbing their noses and fur against my body?

Whose needs come first: a dog’s, or a human’s?

It’s my responsibility to set and maintain healthy boundaries around my own body. It’s also my responsibility to make sure that my body doesn’t collide with anyone else’s body; by extension, it’s my responsibility to make sure that my dog doesn’t violate the personal boundaries around other peoples’ bodies.

So why is it that when a dog owner refuses to respect my personal boundaries and I’m put in the position to maintain them myself, she or he becomes so defensive and protective of their dog?

I’m sitting in the park minding my own business. A dog runs up and starts trying to sniff my body. I make adjustments to prevent the dog from doing so.

And suddenly, I’m the jerk?

In this case, I happened to be helping a dear friend with a project that involved being on the dog owner’s property. So I kept my mouth shut. More or less. But the more this pattern wore on through the day, the more unhappy I felt. Now that I’ve had some time to tease apart the issues at hand, I feel better prepared to articulate my concerns. I’m realizing that setting and maintaining healthy boundaries with people can mean making requests regarding how they control their pets. Now I understand that I need to be ready to make the following requests:

“I understand that you love your dog, and I respect that. I need to know what action you’re going to take to keep your dog at least three feet away from my body. If your dog gets closer to my body than that, I need to know what action you’re comfortable with me taking; do you prefer I move my leg quickly and make a sharp sound? Do you prefer I shake my gloves in your dog’s face? Because if you don’t care enough to control your dog and respect my personal boundaries, I certainly plan to maintain them for myself.”

“If you don’t like any of those choices, dog lover, then I leave it to you to maintain control of your dog.”

If that doesn’t work, then I make the choice to remove myself from the situation, whether other people experience emotional discomfort or not.

At the end of the day, this isn’t a ‘dog’ issue, or a ‘pet’ issue at all.

It’s a matter of respecting another human being’s freedom to choose whether to get close to animals or not. It’s a matter of recognizing that just because I love dogs doesn’t mean that everyone loves dogs. When I let my dog walk up and sniff you, I’m disregarding your freedom to choose that outcome. And when you protect your own freedom to choose by preventing the dog from getting close enough to sniff your body and I respond by chastising you, I’m demonstrating a total lack of awareness that your happiness may not include dog slobber on your clothing and body.

What do you think, fellow human being? Where’s the line?



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Leadership circle

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Leadership journey (part 2: Legacy Statement)

Draft #3

How do you wish to be remembered as a leader by those inside and outside your organization, and by those with whom you might work in the future?

When asked this question (how do you want to be remembered?), Frank Zappa replied, “I don’t. It’s not important.”

In the spirit of Frank, I say it’s perfectly fine that “Tim” will be forgotten. What’s important is for love, curiosity, and music to be remembered and lived deeply.

The pebble hits the water and disappears, while the ripples roll outward endlessly. These are the ripples I hope to help send rolling across the pond:

  • DESIRE TO GROW. I nurture and celebrate my need to see more, and more, and more of the Big Truth.
  • FAIRNESS. I set aside my preconceived notions, shut my mouth, and listen carefully.
  • HONESTY. I acknowledge, straight up, the ways that I bring beauty and light into the world. And the ways that I don’t.
  • OPENNESS. I open my heart. Again. And again.
  • TRANSPARENCY. I openly display my motives, my gifts, my weaknesses, my truths.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY. I refuse to dodge reality. I press my face against its glass, not worrying about smudges. I also call upon friends, colleagues, and fellow human beings to come face-to-face with whatever is actually going on in any given situation.
  • SELFLESSNESS. I nurture the supreme joy of witnessing another person’s growth, realization, and transformation. I’m not trying to get anything from you. Rather, my joy comes from witnessing your reconnection with yourself. There’s nothing juicier than helping someone dream something into existence!

What have you learned in your work (and life) that you would most like to pass on—for example, lessons, what to do, how to approach challenges, outlook on life, and so on?

That in love, leadership, and life, The Jazz Ethic rules supreme: everything we need is already in the room. The tools available are perfect. The experience is truly unpredictable. The room available is perfect. The lighting is perfect. Let’s get to work.

Is there emotional discomfort? Then that’s what is present. Let’s take a look.

Is there joy? Then that’s what is present. Let’s take a look.

That people are more important than paperwork. (Even if the paperwork makes it possible to serve people.)

That it is WORTH IT to spend your life pursuing your passion and your artistic voice. If I write twenty books or record twenty albums only to find that no one cares for my art, I’ve lived a successful life through the pursuit of my own expression!

How will you convey this learning?

I’ll take a fearless attitude to entering new and unfamiliar opportunities. If The Jazz Ethic truly does rule the universe, then whatever I need is waiting for my arrival. If I’ve done my homework and show up as prepared as I know how to be, then I’m bound to learn something.

I’ll set aside the paperwork for the upcoming audit and invite the unexpected visitor back into my office. I’ll ask his name. I’ll find out how (not ‘if’) I can help him. And I’ll do my best to be helpful, remembering that ‘being nice’ and ‘being helpful’ are not necessarily the same thing.

And I’ll keep looking for ways to share my artistic expression with people, in the hopes that even if they don’t like my particular flavor of expression, maybe it will ignite them into exploring their own inner world of artistic creativity. Maybe it’ll inspire one person to express herself through art. Again… a life worth living.

What remains to be accomplished? Why is that important in building or completing your legacy?

More honesty. More stepping into discomfort. More humility. More calling ‘time out’ when my own need to complete paperwork prevents me from sitting down with a person who is looking for help. More accountability to myself and to my colleagues, as I move from sharing 20% of my talents, skills, and gifts toward sharing 100% of them.

These are critical to the development of my legacy because I’m not there yet.

Aside from more time, what will help or impede you in completing what remains to be accomplished?

Fear. (Instead, I choose LOVE.)

Doubt. (Instead, I choose CONFIDENCE.)

Uncertainty. (Instead, I choose FAITH.)

Lethargy. (Instead, I choose DYNAMIC LIFE.)

Acceptance of the status quo. (Instead, I choose SEARCHING FOR BETTER WAYS.)

Comfort. (Instead, I choose GROWTH.)

Laziness. (Instead, I choose PASSION.)

Ego. (Instead, I choose HUMILITY.)

How might completing this exercise affect what you will do on a day-to-day basis, in the next week, and in the next few months?

It’s already helping me to see more of my blind spots. Only when I see my blind spots can I address them. When I have friends and colleagues who love and trust me enough to help me come face-to-face with these blind spots, my life is a joyous journey filled with growth and transformation. When I’m able to take comfort in the discomfort, I’m a winner in the present moment. Again. And again.

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Leadership journey (part 1)

I remember the first time in my adult life I tried to get into ‘leadership’. It was back in the 90’s. I read a bunch of books that told me I should budget my time. I should be consistent, motivated, excited, energized, and ready to go above and beyond. They basically told me what I should DO and how I should BE if I wanted to be a good leader.

So I tried. Tucked my shirt in. Kept my hair cut short. Said ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’. Tried to speak up and ‘do the leadership thing’. Trouble was, I was trying to be someone I was not. And it showed. I never got the sense that people were ready to follow me anywhere.

I also began to notice that the more books I read on leadership, the more books were published. There was no way to keep up with all of the so-called ‘authorities’ on leadership. Furthermore, the books I did read often gave advice that conflicted directly with other books I’d read. “Act like you’re not afraid of anything so people will have confidence in you.” “Show your weaknesses and share your feelings so people will see you as human and have confidence in you.”

Ugh. What a mess.

I walked away from it all. I just wanted to be able to be myself. Wanted to strive for improvement, sure… but not to put on some phony act. If that’s what it took to be a leader, then they could keep it. I wasn’t interested.

At this point, I had some serious internal conflict. On one hand, I looked up to powerful leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, and a host of others. I could SEE with my own two eyes that leadership was real, dynamic, and powerful. That good leadership could change the world.

Yet on the other hand, my personal life experiences told me that leadership meant being fake, inauthentic, and phony; that in order to get people to follow me (and why would I want that sort of head trip anyway?!) I’d have to pretend to be someone I’m not. I’d have to pretend to be strong, confident, and comfortable in my own skin. Because at this point in the game, I wasn’t.

The next 10-15 years were filled with personal growth. And when I say, “filled with personal growth”, I don’t mean to suggest a pleasant afternoon stroll during which I gently stumbled upon the answer to life. No. I’m stubborn, and I often have to learn things the hard way. It felt more like crawling through rusty barbed wire and broken glass.

I skinned my knees badly. And often. Went through years of pretty savage discomfort as I learned to stand on my own two feet in my mid-30’s. About fifteen years behind schedule. But better late than never.

Started really looking closely at the concept of healthy boundaries. Began to realize that the only truly ‘clean’ relationships were those that I could approach without wanting anything from the other person. And I’d spent all my life trying to get something from the other person… love, admiration, food, money, safety, sex, security, a sense of self-esteem… you name it.

Naturally, the things I was searching for could only be found within me. It took me some years of counseling, meeting with groups of people in rooms, and experiencing some personal transformation through intense personal work (check out “Energetic Awakenings” by Scott Beebe and “I Am That” by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj) before I finally started to see some light, joy, and happiness in my life. At the heart of it all was the experience of sitting at the foot of the bed with my guitar, playing for a loved one as she died of brain cancer.

Finally I reached a point where I sense the presence of a force larger than me. And it’s not another person. I may have little time and patience for organized religion. But that feels very different from sensing something bigger than myself. Whether we call it ‘nature’, or ‘spirit’, or whatever… I know I’m part of it.

So how does this tie into leadership for me?

I was accepted into Leadership La Plata last fall, and over the past 7 months it feels like I’ve grown 7 years. As I dive more and more deeply into the concept of authentic leadership (using the concept of the Johari window as an illustrative tool), I’m learning that the intra-personal work I’ve been doing for 20 years — that is, learning about my limitations, my blind spots, the ways in which I’m selfish, arrogant, and insensitive as well as insightful, caring, and charismatic — is exactly the foundation upon which a good leader can stand.

But there’s more. There’s also a willingness to take responsibility. And that is a feeling that, in the past, I tried to dodge and deflect. It turns out that, for years, I’ve been giving about 20% of what I can give. More specifically, I’ve only been willing to reveal 20% of my gifts and talents to the world, because I was so afraid of getting ‘burned’; of not having what I need in life.

Now I see that my life is like the ultimate jazz trio… everything we need to make great music is right here in the room.

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Leadership and risk

ONLY A PERSON WHO RISKS IS FREE
Author Unknown

 To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another is to risk involvement.
To expose your ideas, your dreams,
before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To believe is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the
greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing, do nothing,
have nothing, are nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
but they cannot learn, feel, change,
grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes they are slaves;
they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.

from page 147 of Addiction by Prescription by Joan E. Gadsby

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