AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research. Founded in 1881, AAUW is open to graduates with an associate or higher degree from an accredited college or university, as well as students currently enrolled in college. Dues support the operations of the Dearborn-Michigan branch, founded in 1933, as well as the state and national organizations.
THE BIG READ-DEARBORN is hosting a “meet-and-greet” for authors who contributed to the book DREAMING DREAMS NO MORTAL EVER DARED TO DREAM BEFORE.
The timing is perfect, less than a week prior to Halloween, the grand celebration of all things spooky. So tickle your inner Edgar and show up at the Henry Ford Centennial Library this coming Tuesday, October 25, 2016, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Authors will be on site to read selections from the anthology and do autographs. Paperback copies will be available to purchase at $16 apiece. Why not ignite some Halloween happiness and buy holiday gifts as well? You can even have your gifts personalized, and you’ll be supporting a great cause! All proceeds from the book go to fund future community-wide literacy projects.
Andrew Carnegie said it best, “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people.”
Rumor has it that some creepy refreshments will be served.
Since studies indicate it will take another century to achieve gender parity,
how can we accelerate the embrace of inclusion in corporations?
Today women occupy 11.5% of board seats in the top one hundred companies in Michigan. In 2013, the figure was 11.6%! Among executive officers, 13% of seats are held by women.
According to Terry Barclay, president and CEO, Inforum: “[Corporations] need to focus more and become truly expert in broadening their search to identify not just proven talent but potential talent that can be mentored and developed. Research shows men are promoted based on their accomplishments. This is a significant factor in why it’s taking longer for women.”
In Michigan more corporations talk the talk about supporting women moving into senior-level jobs. However, statistics demonstrate that most are not evolving toward inclusion.
The University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business is trying to change that. It has begun a new executive education program designed specifically to help female executives learn the knowledge and skills needed to take them to the top. Career-accelerating education for women executives ideally will result in genuine change.
Some of the traits women need to hone are the capacity to work hard over long hours, the ability to communicate authentic desires, the courage to step up, and the need to
provide support for those who can sponsor them in the future.
Source: Carol Cain, The Detroit Free Press
World War II pilot Elaine Harmon, who died last year at the age of 95, wanted to be laid to rest with her fellow veterans at Arlington National Cemetery. Harmon’s wish has been fulfilled — thanks to a dedicated effort by her family and a law passed by Congress.
Harmon was one of the Women Airforce Service Pilots who flew military planes in noncombat missions in order to free up male pilots for combat. The work carried real risks, and 38 WASPs died serving their country, but they were regarded as civilians. They paid for their own pilot training! The military was not required to pay for funerals, or even just for remains to be sent home. And when the war was winding down, the WASPs were dismissed and their jobs given back to male military pilots. Although the WASPs were promised military status, but they never did during the war.
“The only reason was because of sexism,” declared U.S. Representative Martha McSally, the first female U.S. fighter pilot to fly in combat. “I mean, the men who were doing the same roles before, alongside and after them, they were military. These women should have been active-duty at the time.”
Decades later in 1977 women were retroactively granted military status and acknowledged as veterans. Decades more had to pass before WASPs were allowed to be laid to rest at Arlington with full military honors.
A month before Elaine Harmon died in 2015, then-Army Secretary John McHugh decided that WASPs did not qualify for inclusion at Arlington — and never should have.
The military cited limited space. As The Associated Press notes, “eligibility for in-ground burial at Arlington, which has severe space limitations, is extremely tight, and not even all World War II veterans are eligible for burial there. But eligibility for placement of ashes, or above-ground inurnment, is not quite as strict.”
Rep. McSally called it a “cruel injustice” for the Army to decide that no WASPs could qualify for inurnment. “I realize that at some point they are going to run out of space at Arlington. We understand that,” she said. “But look, when we are totally out of space … why would we not want to have the story of the WASPs as part of that legacy?”
Harmon’s relatives appealed for a change in policy, and a petition on Change.org gathered signatures. Then Rep. McSally introduced legislation that would require the cemetery in Arlington, Va., to make WASPs eligible for inurnment. The bill passed in May 2016, and was signed into law by President Obama.
Harmon’s ashes were inurned in a funeral with military honors this week. “It sounds funny, but we’re all kind of excited,” Harmon’s daughter told the AP before the ceremony.
“In a way, we’ve already grieved, and this now is about closure.”
The chaplain read from a poem penned by a WASP:
“…now her flight can be to heights her eyes had scanned,
Where she can race with comets, and buzz the rainbow’s span”
Sources: The New York Times and NPR
Women’s history is often overlooked in popular culture, but we now see courses being offered across the United States in colleges and universities that address these shortcomings.
Women’s Equality Day on August 26, 2016, is the 96th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. However, women still do not enjoy equal rights under the Constitution; so AAUW continues to advocate for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Urge Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a member of AAUW, to take action on this important amendment. Educate friends and family about your commitment to gender equality.
When we push for action on issues like equal pay, paid leave, Title IX and voting rights, we inch closer to our goal.
Now as we approach the 2016 election, remind candidates and elected officials that while we have made much progress since gaining the right to vote, much still remains to be done to achieve gender parity.
Do you know what FGC stands for? Not likely.
Do you know which significant woman has just been inducted into the Arab- American National Museum here in Dearborn, Michigan?
She has devoted her life to stopping the suffering of women who have endured FGC. In fact, her greater goal is to eradicate the practice altogether because of its medical complications and legal issues.
The practice of Female Genital Circumcision is practiced on young girls in many parts of Africa. Some refer to Female Genital Circumcision as Female Genital Mutilation.
“It’s still shocking to me. I saw an 18-year-old whose opening was about dime size. I saw a pregnant woman pregnant with a pencil-sized opening. One couldn’t help but wonder how she’d managed to even get pregnant.”
A graduate of Harvard, Dr. Nawal Nour practices medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts; and she researches health-and-policy issues regarding female genital cutting. She explains, “Female circumcision is nothing like male circumcision. In the latter, the foreskin is removed from the penis. With female circumcision, we have the equivalent of the penis being removed.”
She was compelled to start a clinic designed to assist those who suffer as a result of the practice and to educate other health professionals about the medical impacts from the ritual.
“The major complications are seen on women who have undergone Type 3 circumcision. Type 1 removes the clitoris — this is common in Ethiopia. Type 2 excises the clitoris and the inner vaginal lips, which may end up fusing together. Type 3 is removing the clitoris, the inner lips, the outer lips, then sewing everything together, leaving only a very small opening for urination and menses. This is mainly done among Somalis and Sudanese and in parts of West Africa.”
Dr. Noor grew up in the Sudan, Egypt and Great Britain, and became aware of FGC at school. Her father, a Sudanese-agronomy professor, and her mother, an American, were influential in speaking out against it.
“I remember one girl saying she’d been circumcised and that it hurt, but it was a good thing because now she was a woman. The practice troubled me, but I was also intrigued by it because it’s so horrible — and yet, it continues. As a child, I couldn’t understand why people would do something that wasn’t good for them. I became a physician so that I could find an effective way to attack it.”
Her medical practice started attracting patients from the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and West Africa. “I became known in the immigrant community around Boston as that ‘African-woman doctor’ at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.” Most of the women who sought her out had undergone FGC.
“The women who’ve undergone Type 3 can have scarring problems and problems with their menses. Some of them have terrible trouble having sex with their husbands.If the clitoris has been removed, it cannot be returned. But sometimes, when we do a procedure which opens up the scar tissue from the Type 3 circumcision the end result can look very good. It can look like new external lips have been formed. The women I’ve operated on are very pleased with that. They have less pain in intercourse and with their menses. It allows them to urinate quite easily, which often wasn’t the case before.”
FGC continues to exist for multiple reasons: confusion over religious dictates, making certain daughters will be marriageable, maintaining chastity, belief it provides protection, and its ritualistic nature.
Educating American health care providers about the practice to assure better care is one major goal for Dr. Nour. Educating immigrant women to prevent the practice from being perpetuated in the U.S. is another.
Some historians suggest the practice was used in 19th-century America. Castrating and clitorectomizing women was seen as a means of social control and even as treatment for ”hysteria” and ”eroticism.”
“Female circumcision is a horrible act, and I empathize with the horror of doctors encountering it, but I ask that a physician not reveal emotions and thoughts to the patient. FGC is different from the patient! The patient may or may not have wanted it herself, or she may be happy with the way her body looks. In any case, she should get sensitive and productive care.”
Dr. Nour, a board certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist, is the Director of the Ambulatory Obstetrics Practice at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition, she is an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Nour is a MacArthur Foundation Fellow for creating a center that focuses upon the physical-and- emotional needs of women who have undergone FGC.
AAUW-Dearborn applauds the Arab-American National Museum for educating people about this issue.
“WHAT ONE RAPE COST OUR FAMILY” by Laura Hilgers
WHEN people hear about campus sexual assaults, they rarely understand the true impact such an attack has on the survivor and her family. But I do.
In the spring of 2013, my daughter, Willa, was raped by a fellow student at her college in Washington, D.C. A freshman at the time, she did not tell anyone until a year later. Meanwhile, she developed post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, depression and an addiction to alcohol. And while she chose not to file criminal charges — out of fear of being traumatized again — she struggled so much after the attack that ultimately she had to leave school.
It would be impossible for me to describe in the space of a newspaper article the emotional toll this took on Willa and our family: the grief we felt that our child’s body (and soul) had been violated; the anger that we (and the college) could not protect her; the fear that our once spirited, ambitious daughter might never be more than a shell of herself. But I can offer, by way of illustration, a financial reckoning — collateral damage that demonstrates the devastation, and that rarely comes up in the national discussion on campus sexual assaults.
The financial burdens of an attack can be overwhelming. A 2014 White House report noted that the cost to survivors (of all types, not just college students) can range from $87,000 to $240,776 per rape. While the numbers are staggering, they seem abstract until your family is the one paying the bills. In our case, they were on the higher end of the range, and included the following:
$105,000 Cost of three years of lost wages, starting now, that Willa would have earned if she had graduated on time in May. I’m assuming that a college-educated woman would have earned at least $35,000 a year.
$40,000 Cost of lost wages, me. This is also an estimate, but during the time that Willa struggled with severe PTSD, I had to turn down assignments, cancel trips and take days off to care for her.
$23,491.98 Cost of a 45-day stay at a residential treatment center for trauma and addiction (the latter of which Willa developed after her assault, as a way to numb the pain). The upfront cost was $54,300, and Willa’s dad and I had to cover this. We received $30,808.02 in reimbursement from our insurance company.
$23,400 Cost of a six-month addiction rehab aftercare program, which included $1,900 per month for living expenses, and $12,000 to cover the remainder of our annual health insurance deductible. The program accepted our insurance for the rest.
$22,408.68 Cost of lost tuition for one semester, one attempted semester and one summer school session that she attended, all after her attack. During this time, Willa earned credit for just one class. Life is wildly complex, so I can’t say with certainty that Willa’s sexual assault caused her academic decline. Before the rape, however, she had a 3.6 grade point average and was on the dean’s list. After it, she routinely earned F’s and incompletes. As she struggled through these last three semesters, we paid $23,528.68 (and also received financial aid). For the last summer session, the school reimbursed us $1,120.
$12,328.71 Cost of therapists’ bills, for our daughter to see four different therapists, two in Washington and two in California, as we tried to find the right match. We paid $20,546, and insurance reimbursed us $8,217.29.
$8,400 Approximate cost of travel for me, for three emergency trips to Washington from my home in California, and four trips to Arizona, where our daughter went to rehab.
$4,823.98 Cost of psychiatrists’ bills, for Willa to see two different psychiatrists, one in Washington and one in California. We paid $6,985, and insurance reimbursed us $2,161.02.
$3,630 Cost of attention-deficit disorder testing. Before Willa told anyone about the rape, she was unable to concentrate on her studies, and asked to be tested for A.D.D. The upfront cost was $3,750; insurance reimbursed us $120.
$1,840.28 Cost, after insurance reimbursement, of the several trips Willa took to the emergency room for panic attacks.
$250 Cost of a visit to a dermatologist, unreimbursed by insurance, for a “hair loss” consult, after Willa lost half her hair from stress.
There were other expenses too, but the ones I’ve listed add up to $100,573.63 out of pocket, and approximately $145,000 in lost wages, for a total of $245,573.63. That’s roughly the same as the cost of four years at one of the nation’s top colleges.
I should be clear: I would have done anything, made any financial sacrifices, to see the light again in my daughter’s eyes (which is there now, thanks to Willa’s hard work and the many caring professionals who helped her). I recently went through a divorce, however, and my former husband and I are writers, not investment bankers. These are big costs for us; at times, we had to borrow from family or retirement funds, or use proceeds from the sale of the house we gave up in the divorce.
We’re fortunate to have top-tier health insurance, which helped defray many of the costs. But this is still an extraordinary amount of money, and I often wonder how survivors from less privileged backgrounds recover from these attacks. It’s not a hypothetical question.
According to a 2015 survey at 27 universities by the Association of American Universities, 11.7 percent of all students (including men) reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact, by force or incapacitation, since enrolling at their university, and the incidence among undergraduate females was 23 percent.
These costs are enormous for any rape survivor, not just those who suffered a campus sexual assault. For our family, they continue to accrue.
This fall, Willa will start her sophomore year, at the age of 22, at a different school. In addition to tuition, we’ll be paying $3,500 a month for her to live in a sober dorm nearby. It’s approximately $25,000 more than we would have spent if she lived in a regular dorm for two semesters, but the structured environment will provide the extra care and support she needs as she returns to a place she’s hesitant to go: a college campus.
Laura Hilgers is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Growing up as an Asian-American daughter of immigrants in the Midwest, Kelly Tsai told college women, “There was not a place for me where I made sense. … Make some noise if you can relate.” The room erupted. Tsai, a spoken-word poet and one of five, 2016, Women-of-Distinction awardees at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL), echoed the theme of otherness. Tsai expressed her admiration for the young leaders in the audience and challenged them to pursue their dreams without fear. “Confidence is a muscle. You must use it every day. Sexism and sexual harassment are real, but know that other people’s mistreatment of you is not who you are!”
Superior Court of the District of Columbia judge and advocate for LGBT and Latino people’s rights, Marisa Demeo, remembered being asked her whole life to account for where she “came from.” She was born in the United States, but people questioned her Puerto Rican and Italian background. They wanted to place her race, heritage, and culture into a single box. As a gender-nonconforming person, she further baffled standard constructions of identity. To those who have felt ostracized, Demeo declared, “You are a vital thread in the fabric of America. Without you, America would be less beautiful. Less creative. Less smart. And less strong.” She cautioned the college leaders not to hide their true selves out of fear. “When you reject yourself, that is the deepest pain there is.”
A campaign-and-communications manager at the Center for American Progress, Sarah McBride, brought the crowd to tears, cheers, and murmurs of empathy with her story of revealing her identity as a transgender woman and then losing the partner who had helped her get there. Just four days after she married another transgender activist, he passed away from cancer. His death, painful as it was, reinvigorated McBride’s passion for trans-rights, underscoring her belief that “change cannot come fast enough, that everyday matters when it comes to building a world where every person can live their life to the fullest.” McBride encouraged the crowd to nurture a sense of urgency, as students can be powerful change makers. “Our college campuses should look like what we want our country to look like in 10 or 15 years!”
Business investor, Anu Duggal’s, advice was pragmatic as she offered tips on how women can build professional networks. She advised students to track names of professors and bosses in a spreadsheet and make an annual effort to stay in touch through letters or coffee trips. “Find a mentor. Whatever field you go into, it’s incredibly important to find people who will support you and be your advocates.”
Entrepreneur Kimberly Bryant encouraged attendees to look inward for inspiration and to rely on each other to achieve goals. Bryant grew her organization, Black Girls Code, from a dozen girls meeting in a San Francisco computer-lab basement to a worldwide organization serving more than 6,000 girls. Inspired by her STEM-enthusiast daughter, Bryant encouraged the audience to make passion drive their careers. “The thing that gets you up in the morning … do that,” she advised. She urged the women leaders in the room to rely on each other’s strength. “You have the potential to answer all of the questions that you may have on what will make the world a better place. But we need each other.”
An extraordinarily articulate, determined young woman has provided a compelling victim impact statement in the wake of the conviction of Brock Turner, Stanford University swimmer and an entitled, perhaps spoiled, young man. At twenty he raped a woman of courage. Her statement at the sentencing is a lengthy, but engrossing and riveting read. It certainly illustrates why fighting for women’s rights is not a done deal.
Your Honor, if it is all right, for the majority of this statement I would like to address the defendant directly.
You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.
On January 17th, 2015, it was a quiet Saturday night at home. My dad made some dinner and I sat at the table with my younger sister who was visiting for the weekend. I was working full time and it was approaching my bed time. I planned to stay at home by myself, watch some TV and read, while she went to a party with her friends. Then, I decided it was my only night with her, I had nothing better to do, so why not, there’s a dumb party ten minutes from my house, I would go, dance like a fool, and embarrass my younger sister. On the way there, I joked that undergrad guys would have braces. My sister teased me for wearing a beige cardigan to a frat party like a librarian. I called myself “big mama”, because I knew I’d be the oldest one there. I made silly faces, let my guard down, and drank liquor too fast not factoring in that my tolerance had significantly lowered since college.
The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow. I thought maybe I had fallen and was in an admin office on campus. I was very calm and wondering where my sister was. A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person. I knew no one at this party. When I was finally allowed to use the restroom, I pulled down the hospital pants they had given me, went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing. I still remember the feeling of my hands touching my skin and grabbing nothing. I looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside me was silenced. I still don’t have words for that feeling. In order to keep breathing, I thought maybe the policemen used scissors to cut them off for evidence.
Then, I felt pine needles scratching the back of my neck and started pulling them out my hair. I thought maybe, the pine needles had fallen from a tree onto my head. My brain was talking my gut into not collapsing. Because my gut was saying, help me, help me.
I shuffled from room to room with a blanket wrapped around me, pine needles trailing behind me, I left a little pile in every room I sat in. I was asked to sign papers that said “Rape Victim” and I thought something has really happened. My clothes were confiscated and I stood naked while the nurses held a ruler to various abrasions on my body and photographed them. The three of us worked to comb the pine needles out of my hair, six hands to fill one paper bag. To calm me down, they said it’s just the flora and fauna, flora and fauna. I had multiple swabs inserted into my vagina and anus, needles for shots, pills, had a Nikon pointed right into my spread legs. I had long, pointed beaks inside me and had my vagina smeared with cold, blue paint to check for abrasions.
After a few hours of this, they let me shower. I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.
On that morning, all that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up immediately. But for now, I should go home and get back to my normal life. Imagine stepping back into the world with only that information. They gave me huge hugs and I walked out of the hospital into the parking lot wearing the new sweatshirt and sweatpants they provided me, as they had only allowed me to keep my necklace and shoes.
My sister picked me up, face wet from tears and contorted in anguish. Instinctively and immediately, I wanted to take away her pain. I smiled at her, I told her to look at me, I’m right here, I’m okay, everything’s okay, I’m right here. My hair is washed and clean, they gave me the strangest shampoo, calm down, and look at me. Look at these funny new sweatpants and sweatshirt, I look like a P.E. teacher, let’s go home, let’s eat something. She did not know that beneath my sweatsuit, I had scratches and bandages on my skin, my vagina was sore and had become a strange, dark color from all the prodding, my underwear was missing, and I felt too empty to continue to speak. That I was also afraid, that I was also devastated. That day we drove home and for hours in silence my younger sister held me.
My boyfriend did not know what happened, but called that day and said, “I was really worried about you last night, you scared me, did you make it home okay?” I was horrified. That’s when I learned I had called him that night in my blackout, left an incomprehensible voicemail, that we had also spoken on the phone, but I was slurring so heavily he was scared for me, that he repeatedly told me to go find [my sister]. Again, he asked me, “What happened last night? Did you make it home okay?” I said yes, and hung up to cry.
I was not ready to tell my boyfriend or parents that actually, I may have been raped behind a dumpster, but I don’t know by who or when or how. If I told them, I would see the fear on their faces, and mine would multiply by tenfold, so instead I pretended the whole thing wasn’t real.
I tried to push it out of my mind, but it was so heavy I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone. After work, I would drive to a secluded place to scream. I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone, and I became isolated from the ones I loved most. For over a week after the incident, I didn’t get any calls or updates about that night or what happened to me. The only symbol that proved that it hadn’t just been a bad dream, was the sweatshirt from the hospital in my drawer.
One day, I was at work, scrolling through the news on my phone, and came across an article. In it, I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress, dress pulled off over my shoulders and pulled up above my waist, that I was butt naked all the way down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I did not recognize. This was how I learned what happened to me, sitting at my desk reading the news at work. I learned what happened to me the same time everyone else in the world learned what happened to me. That’s when the pine needles in my hair made sense, they didn’t fall from a tree. He had taken off my underwear, his fingers had been inside of me. I don’t even know this person. I still don’t know this person. When I read about me like this, I said, this can’t be me, this can’t be me. I could not digest or accept any of this information. I could not imagine my family having to read about this online. I kept reading. In the next paragraph, I read something that I will never forgive; I read that according to him, I liked it. I liked it. Again, I do not have words for these feelings.
It’s like if you were to read an article where a car was hit, and found dented, in a ditch. But maybe the car enjoyed being hit. Maybe the other car didn’t mean to hit it, just bump it up a little bit. Cars get in accidents all the time, people aren’t always paying attention, can we really say who’s at fault.
And then, at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming. Throw in my mile time if that’s what we’re doing. I’m good at cooking, put that in there, I think the end is where you list your extra-curriculars to cancel out all the sickening things that’ve happened.
The night the news came out I sat my parents down and told them that I had been assaulted, to not look at the news because it’s upsetting, just know that I’m okay, I’m right here, and I’m okay. But halfway through telling them, my mom had to hold me because I could no longer stand up.
The night after it happened, he said he didn’t know my name, said he wouldn’t be able to identify my face in a lineup, didn’t mention any dialogue between us, no words, only dancing and kissing. Dancing is a cute term; was it snapping fingers and twirling dancing, or just bodies grinding up against each other in a crowded room? I wonder if kissing was just faces sloppily pressed up against each other? When the detective asked if he had planned on taking me back to his dorm, he said no. When the detective asked how we ended up behind the dumpster, he said he didn’t know. He admitted to kissing other girls at that party, one of whom was my own sister who pushed him away. He admitted to wanting to hook up with someone. I was the wounded antelope of the herd, completely alone and vulnerable, physically unable to fend for myself, and he chose me. Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else. You were about to enter four years of access to drunk girls and parties, and if this is the foot you started off on, then it is right you did not continue. The night after it happened, he said he thought I liked it because I rubbed his back. A back rub.
Never mentioned me voicing consent, never mentioned us even speaking, a back rub. One more time, in public news, I learned that my ass and vagina were completely exposed outside, my breasts had been groped, fingers had been jabbed inside me along with pine needles and debris, my bare skin and head had been rubbing against the ground behind a dumpster, while an erect freshman was humping my half naked, unconscious body. But I don’t remember, so how do I prove I didn’t like it.
I thought there’s no way this is going to trial; there were witnesses, there was dirt in my body, he ran but was caught. He’s going to settle, formally apologize, and we will both move on. Instead, I was told he hired a powerful attorney, expert witnesses, private investigators who were going to try and find details about my personal life to use against me, find loopholes in my story to invalidate me and my sister, in order to show that this sexual assault was in fact a misunderstanding. That he was going to go to any length to convince the world he had simply been confused.
I was not only told that I was assaulted, I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted. And that distorted me, damaged me, almost broke me. It is the saddest type of confusion to be told I was assaulted and nearly raped, blatantly out in the open, but we don’t know if it counts as assault yet. I had to fight for an entire year to make it clear that there was something wrong with this situation.
When I was told to be prepared in case we didn’t win, I said, I can’t prepare for that. He was guilty the minute I woke up. No one can talk me out of the hurt he caused me. Worst of all, I was warned, because he now knows you don’t remember, he is going to get to write the script. He can say whatever he wants and no one can contest it. I had no power, I had no voice, I was defenseless. My memory loss would be used against me. My testimony was weak, was incomplete, and I was made to believe that perhaps, I am not enough to win this. His attorney constantly reminded the jury, the only one we can believe is Brock, because she doesn’t remember. That helplessness was traumatizing.
Instead of taking time to heal, I was taking time to recall the night in excruciating detail, in order to prepare for the attorney’s questions that would be invasive, aggressive, and designed to steer me off course, to contradict myself, my sister, phrased in ways to manipulate my answers. Instead of his attorney saying, Did you notice any abrasions? He said, You didn’t notice any abrasions, right? This was a game of strategy, as if I could be tricked out of my own worth. The sexual assault had been so clear, but instead, here I was at the trial, answering questions like:
How old are you? How much do you weigh? What did you eat that day? Well what did you have for dinner? Who made dinner? Did you drink with dinner? No, not even water? When did you drink? How much did you drink? What container did you drink out of? Who gave you the drink? How much do you usually drink? Who dropped you off at this party? At what time? But where exactly? What were you wearing? Why were you going to this party? What’ d you do when you got there? Are you sure you did that? But what time did you do that? What does this text mean? Who were you texting? When did you urinate? Where did you urinate? With whom did you urinate outside? Was your phone on silent when your sister called? Do you remember silencing it? Really because on page 53 I’d like to point out that you said it was set to ring. Did you drink in college? You said you were a party animal? How many times did you black out? Did you party at frats? Are you serious with your boyfriend? Are you sexually active with him? When did you start dating? Would you ever cheat? Do you have a history of cheating? What do you mean when you said you wanted to reward him? Do you remember what time you woke up? Were you wearing your cardigan? What color was your cardigan? Do you remember any more from that night? No? Okay, well, we’ll let Brock fill it in.
I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name. After a physical assault, I was assaulted with questions designed to attack me, to say see, her facts don’t line up, she’s out of her mind, she’s practically an alcoholic, she probably wanted to hook up, he’s like an athlete right, they were both drunk, whatever, the hospital stuff she remembers is after the fact, why take it into account, Brock has a lot at stake so he’s having a really hard time right now.
And then it came time for him to testify and I learned what it meant to be re-victimized. I want to remind you, the night after it happened he said he never planned to take me back to his dorm. He said he didn’t know why we were behind a dumpster. He got up to leave because he wasn’t feeling well when he was suddenly chased and attacked. Then he learned I could not remember.
So one year later, as predicted, a new dialogue emerged. Brock had a strange new story, almost sounded like a poorly written young adult novel with kissing and dancing and hand holding and lovingly tumbling onto the ground, and most importantly in this new story, there was suddenly consent. One year after the incident, he remembered, oh yeah, by the way she actually said yes, to everything, so.
He said he had asked if I wanted to dance. Apparently I said yes. He’d asked if I wanted to go to his dorm, I said yes. Then he asked if he could finger me and I said yes. Most guys don’t ask, can I finger you? Usually there’s a natural progression of things, unfolding consensually, not a Q and A. But apparently I granted full permission. He’s in the clear. Even in his story, I only said a total of three words, yes yes yes, before he had me half naked on the ground. Future reference, if you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence. You couldn’t even do that. Just one coherent string of words. Where was the confusion? This is common sense, human decency.
According to him, the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note; if a girl falls down help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls down help her up. If she is wearing a cardigan over her dress don’t take it off so that you can touch her breasts. Maybe she is cold, maybe that’s why she wore the cardigan.
Next in the story, two Swedes on bicycles approached you and you ran. When they tackled you why didn’t say, “Stop! Everything’s okay, go ask her, she’s right over there, she’ll tell you.” I mean you had just asked for my consent, right? I was awake, right? When the policeman arrived and interviewed the evil Swede who tackled you, he was crying so hard he couldn’t speak because of what he’d seen.
Your attorney has repeatedly pointed out, well we don’t know exactly when she became unconscious. And you’re right, maybe I was still fluttering my eyes and wasn’t completely limp yet. That was never the point. I was too drunk to speak English, too drunk to consent way before I was on the ground. I should have never been touched in the first place. Brock stated, “At no time did I see that she was not responding. If at any time I thought she was not responding, I would have stopped immediately.” Here’s the thing; if your plan was to stop only when I became unresponsive, then you still do not understand. You didn’t even stop when I was unconscious anyway! Someone else stopped you. Two guys on bikes noticed I wasn’t moving in the dark and had to tackle you. How did you not notice while on top of me?
You said, you would have stopped and gotten help. You say that, but I want you to explain how you would’ve helped me, step by step, walk me through this. I want to know, if those evil Swedes had not found me, how the night would have played out. I am asking you; Would you have pulled my underwear back on over my boots? Untangled the necklace wrapped around my neck? Closed my legs, covered me? Pick the pine needles from my hair? Asked if the abrasions on my neck and bottom hurt? Would you then go find a friend and say, Will you help me get her somewhere warm and soft? I don’t sleep when I think about the way it could have gone if the two guys had never come. What would have happened to me? That’s what you’ll never have a good answer for, that’s what you can’t explain even after a year.
On top of all this, he claimed that I orgasmed after one minute of digital penetration. The nurse said there had been abrasions, lacerations, and dirt in my genitalia. Was that before or after I came?
To sit under oath and inform all of us, that yes I wanted it, yes I permitted it, and that you are the true victim attacked by Swedes for reasons unknown to you is appalling, is demented, is selfish, is damaging. It is enough to be suffering. It is another thing to have someone ruthlessly working to diminish the gravity of validity of this suffering.
My family had to see pictures of my head strapped to a gurney full of pine needles, of my body in the dirt with my eyes closed, hair messed up, limbs bent, and dress hiked up. And even after that, my family had to listen to your attorney say the pictures were after the fact, we can dismiss them. To say, yes her nurse confirmed there was redness and abrasions inside her, significant trauma to her genitalia, but that’s what happens when you finger someone, and he’s already admitted to that. To listen to your attorney attempt to paint a picture of me, the face of girls gone wild, as if somehow that would make it so that I had this coming for me. To listen to him say I sounded drunk on the phone because I’m silly and that’s my goofy way of speaking. To point out that in the voicemail, I said I would reward my boyfriend and we all know what I was thinking. I assure you my rewards program is non transferable, especially to any nameless man that approaches me.
He has done irreversible damage to me and my family during the trial and we have sat silently, listening to him shape the evening. But in the end, his unsupported statements and his attorney’s twisted logic fooled no one. The truth won, the truth spoke for itself.
You are guilty. Twelve jurors convicted you guilty of three felony counts beyond reasonable doubt, that’s twelve votes per count, thirty six yeses confirming guilt, that’s one hundred percent, unanimous guilt. And I thought finally it is over, finally he will own up to what he did, truly apologize, we will both move on and get better. Then I read your statement.
If you are hoping that one of my organs will implode from anger and I will die, I’m almost there. You are very close. This is not a story of another drunk college hookup with poor decision making. Assault is not an accident. Somehow, you still don’t get it. Somehow, you still sound confused. I will now read portions of the defendant’s statement and respond to them.
You said, Being drunk I just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could she.
Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.
You said, If I wanted to get to know her, I should have asked for her number, rather than asking her to go back to my room.
I’m not mad because you didn’t ask for my number. Even if you did know me, I would not want to be in this situation. My own boyfriend knows me, but if he asked to finger me behind a dumpster, I would slap him. No girl wants to be in this situation. Nobody. I don’t care if you know their phone number or not.
You said, I stupidly thought it was okay for me to do what everyone around me was doing, which was drinking. I was wrong.
Again, you were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me. You were wrong for doing what nobody else was doing, which was pushing your erect dick in your pants against my naked, defenseless body concealed in a dark area, where partygoers could no longer see or protect me, and my own sister could not find me. Sipping fireball is not your crime. Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper to insert your finger into my body, is where you went wrong. Why am I still explaining this.
You said, During the trial I didn’t want to victimize her at all. That was just my attorney and his way of approaching the case.
Your attorney is not your scapegoat, he represents you. Did your attorney say some incredulously infuriating, degrading things? Absolutely. He said you had an erection, because it was cold.
You said, you are in the process of establishing a program for high school and college students in which you speak about your experience to “speak out against the college campus drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that.”
Campus drinking culture. That’s what we’re speaking out against? You think that’s what I’ve spent the past year fighting for? Not awareness about campus sexual assault, or rape, or learning to recognize consent. Campus drinking culture. Down with Jack Daniels. Down with Skyy Vodka. If you want talk to people about drinking go to an AA meeting. You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not how to drink less.
Drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Goes along with that, like a side effect, like fries on the side of your order. Where does promiscuity even come into play? I don’t see headlines that read, Brock Turner, Guilty of drinking too much and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Campus Sexual Assault. There’s your first powerpoint slide. Rest assured, if you fail to fix the topic of your talk, I will follow you to every school you go to and give a follow up presentation.
Lastly you said, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin a life.
A life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.
See one thing we have in common is that we were both unable to get up in the morning. I am no stranger to suffering. You made me a victim. In newspapers my name was “unconscious intoxicated woman”, ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, my life was put on hold for over a year, waiting to figure out if I was worth something.
My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition. I became closed off, angry, self deprecating, tired, irritable, empty. The isolation at times was unbearable. You cannot give me back the life I had before that night either. While you worry about your shattered reputation, I refrigerated spoons every night so when I woke up, and my eyes were puffy from crying, I would hold the spoons to my eyes to lessen the swelling so that I could see. I showed up an hour late to work every morning, excused myself to cry in the stairwells, I can tell you all the best places in that building to cry where no one can hear you. The pain became so bad that I had to explain the private details to my boss to let her know why I was leaving. I needed time because continuing day to day was not possible. I used my savings to go as far away as I could possibly be. I did not return to work full time as I knew I’d have to take weeks off in the future for the hearing and trial, that were constantly being rescheduled. My life was put on hold for over a year, my structure had collapsed.
I can’t sleep alone at night without having a light on, like a five year old, because I have nightmares of being touched where I cannot wake up, I did this thing where I waited until the sun came up and I felt safe enough to sleep. For three months, I went to bed at six o’clock in the morning.
I used to pride myself on my independence, now I am afraid to go on walks in the evening, to attend social events with drinking among friends where I should be comfortable being. I have become a little barnacle always needing to be at someone’s side, to have my boyfriend standing next to me, sleeping beside me, protecting me. It is embarrassing how feeble I feel, how timidly I move through life, always guarded, ready to defend myself, ready to be angry.
You have no idea how hard I have worked to rebuild parts of me that are still weak. It took me eight months to even talk about what happened. I could no longer connect with friends, with everyone around me. I would scream at my boyfriend, my own family whenever they brought this up. You never let me forget what happened to me. At the of end of the hearing, the trial, I was too tired to speak. I would leave drained, silent. I would go home turn off my phone and for days I would not speak. You bought me a ticket to a planet where I lived by myself. Every time a new article come out, I lived with the paranoia that my entire hometown would find out and know me as the girl who got assaulted. I didn’t want anyone’s pity and am still learning to accept victim as part of my identity. You made my own hometown an uncomfortable place to be.
You cannot give me back my sleepless nights. The way I have broken down sobbing uncontrollably if I’m watching a movie and a woman is harmed, to say it lightly, this experience has expanded my empathy for other victims. I have lost weight from stress, when people would comment I told them I’ve been running a lot lately. There are times I did not want to be touched. I have to relearn that I am not fragile, I am capable, I am wholesome, not just livid and weak.
When I see my younger sister hurting, when she is unable to keep up in school, when she is deprived of joy, when she is not sleeping, when she is crying so hard on the phone she is barely breathing, telling me over and over again she is sorry for leaving me alone that night, sorry sorry sorry, when she feels more guilt than you, then I do not forgive you. That night I had called her to try and find her, but you found me first. Your attorney’s closing statement began, “[Her sister] said she was fine and who knows her better than her sister.” You tried to use my own sister against me? Your points of attack were so weak, so low, it was almost embarrassing. You do not touch her.
You should have never done this to me. Secondly, you should have never made me fight so long to tell you, you should have never done this to me. But here we are. The damage is done, no one can undo it. And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on, I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on.
Your life is not over, you have decades of years ahead to rewrite your story. The world is huge, it is so much bigger than Palo Alto and Stanford, and you will make a space for yourself in it where you can be useful and happy. But right now, you do not get to shrug your shoulders and be confused anymore. You do not get to pretend that there were no red flags. You have been convicted of violating me, intentionally, forcibly, sexually, with malicious intent, and all you can admit to is consuming alcohol. Do not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.
Now to address the sentencing. When I read the probation officer’s report, I was in disbelief, consumed by anger which eventually quieted down to profound sadness. My statements have been slimmed down to distortion and taken out of context. I fought hard during this trial and will not have the outcome minimized by a probation officer who attempted to evaluate my current state and my wishes in a fifteen minute conversation, the majority of which was spent answering questions I had about the legal system. The context is also important. Brock had yet to issue a statement, and I had not read his remarks.
My life has been on hold for over a year, a year of anger, anguish and uncertainty, until a jury of my peers rendered a judgment that validated the injustices I had endured. Had Brock admitted guilt and remorse and offered to settle early on, I would have considered a lighter sentence, respecting his honesty, grateful to be able to move our lives forward. Instead he took the risk of going to trial, added insult to injury and forced me to relive the hurt as details about my personal life and sexual assault were brutally dissected before the public. He pushed me and my family through a year of inexplicable, unnecessary suffering, and should face the consequences of challenging his crime, of putting my pain into question, of making us wait so long for justice.
I told the probation officer I do not want Brock to rot away in prison. I did not say he does not deserve to be behind bars. The probation officer’s recommendation of a year or less in county jail is a soft timeout, a mockery of the seriousness of his assaults, an insult to me and all women. It gives the message that a stranger can be inside you without proper consent and he will receive less than what has been defined as the minimum sentence. Probation should be denied. I also told the probation officer that what I truly wanted was for Brock to get it, to understand and admit to his wrongdoing.
Unfortunately, after reading the defendant’s report, I am severely disappointed and feel that he has failed to exhibit sincere remorse or responsibility for his conduct. I fully respected his right to a trial, but even after twelve jurors unanimously convicted him guilty of three felonies, all he has admitted to doing is ingesting alcohol. Someone who cannot take full accountability for his actions does not deserve a mitigating sentence. It is deeply offensive that he would try and dilute rape with a suggestion of “promiscuity”. By definition rape is not the absence of promiscuity, rape is the absence of consent, and it perturbs me deeply that he can’t even see that distinction.
The probation officer factored in that the defendant is youthful and has no prior convictions. In my opinion, he is old enough to know what he did was wrong. When you are eighteen in this country you can go to war. When you are nineteen, you are old enough to pay the consequences for attempting to rape someone. He is young, but he is old enough to know better.
As this is a first offense I can see where leniency would beckon. On the other hand, as a society, we cannot forgive everyone’s first sexual assault or digital rape. It doesn’t make sense. The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative.
The probation officer weighed the fact that he has surrendered a hard earned swimming scholarship. How fast Brock swims does not lessen the severity of what happened to me, and should not lessen the severity of his punishment. If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be? The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.
The Probation Officer has stated that this case, when compared to other crimes of similar nature, may be considered less serious due to the defendant’s level of intoxication. It felt serious. That’s all I’m going to say.
What has he done to demonstrate that he deserves a break? He has only apologized for drinking and has yet to define what he did to me as sexual assault, he has revictimized me continually, relentlessly. He has been found guilty of three serious felonies and it is time for him to accept the consequences of his actions. He will not be quietly excused.
He is a lifetime sex registrant. That doesn’t expire. Just like what he did to me doesn’t expire, doesn’t just go away after a set number of years. It stays with me, it’s part of my identity, it has forever changed the way I carry myself, the way I live the rest of my life.
To conclude, I want to say thank you. To everyone from the intern who made me oatmeal when I woke up at the hospital that morning, to the deputy who waited beside me, to the nurses who calmed me, to the detective who listened to me and never judged me, to my advocates who stood unwaveringly beside me, to my therapist who taught me to find courage in vulnerability, to my boss for being kind and understanding, to my incredible parents who teach me how to turn pain into strength, to my grandma who snuck chocolate into the courtroom throughout this to give to me, my friends who remind me how to be happy, to my boyfriend who is patient and loving, to my unconquerable sister who is the other half of my heart, to Alaleh, my idol, who fought tirelessly and never doubted me. Thank you to everyone involved in the trial for their time and attention. Thank you to girls across the nation that wrote cards to my DA to give to me, so many strangers who cared for me.
Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget.
And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.
On June 7, 2016, we urged State Representative Darany to pass HJR GG, the Equal Rights Amendment, to allow Michigan citizens to vote for equality in the Michigan Constitution. Equal protection under the law would help assure sex discrimination is not allowed in Michigan. While many laws have been passed to better protect girls and women, we must still address sex discrimination. Putting the ERA in the Michigan Constitution would enable girls and women to achieve equality and equal protection in the law. Today Representative Darany sent his response:
Thank you for contacting me regarding House Joint Resolution GG, also known as the Equal Rights Amendment. I appreciate hearing your perspective on this important issue. Please know that I share your support for this legislation in its current form, and I will continue to advocate for policies that create an inclusive environment for all of my constituents.
As you may know, this legislation proposes an amendment to Section 2 of Article I of the
Michigan Constitution in order to ensure that no person is denied equal protection of the laws or enjoyment of civil or political rights on the basis of sex.
HJR GG was introduced in the House on April 12th and is now being reviewed by the Committee on Judiciary. While I am not a member of this committee, please know that I will support this resolution in its current form should it come before me on the House floor for a vote. If passed, the provision would only become part of the state constitution if approved by voters at the next general election.
Again, thank you for contacting my office regarding the Equal Rights Amendment. Please feel free to contact me again in the future regarding social equality or any other state government issue.
George T. Darany
15th District – Dearborn
The technology sector is booming, but there’s been no progress in boosting women’s share of some of the best-paying jobs. Women remain vastly underrepresented in so-called core tech jobs, holding little more than a quarter of positions such as programmer and cybersecurity analyst for which computer and math skills are paramount.
The number of men in core tech jobs expanded by about 15 percent to 94,500 from 2007 to 2014. The gain for women was 12 percent to 34,000, leaving them with 26.5 percent of the total, slightly less than what they held in 2007. It is harder for women than men to get into core tech jobs, to stay in the field, and to advance. Gender diversity has been a subject of intense discussion within the industry.
Jean Yang, an assistant computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University and an MIT alumnae, said more needs to be done to ensure that women feel comfortable actually finding careers in the field. “It’s not just a pipeline problem,” said Yang, who previously interned at Google and Facebook. “It’s that women are actually leaving, and they’re citing things like harassment and the glass ceiling and feeling like they have to struggle all the time against stereotypes and people not giving them credit.”
MIT expects women to comprise about 40 percent of graduates from its electrical engineering and computer science department this spring. This month, a nonprofit called Project Include was launched by a group of prominent Silicon Valley women to win commitments from tech companies to measure and improve their diversity.
Google reported this year that the number of new mothers who left the company dropped by half after it increased paid maternal leave from 12 to 18 weeks. Fast-growing startups that investors and employees join in hopes of striking it rich are much less equipped to launch a major human resources campaign according to Barbara Gault, executive director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.“In the tech field, there’s kind of a startup culture and mentality that tends to favor shaking up the old ways of doing things — not doing business as usual and not necessarily following
standard HR practices that actually might help ensure diversity.”
This post has been condensed from a MAY 17, 2016, article by Curt Woodward and Janelle Nanos that appeared in THE BOSTON GLOBE.