Home > Communication, Family, Parenting, Rant, Safety > Forget Phylicia. Remember my mom.

Forget Phylicia. Remember my mom.

“That man is following us,” my mom whispered as we left the corner market.

My prepubescent self waved her off. I was irritated how paranoid she’d become as our court date loomed.

Whatever. He just wants to get something to eat,” I whispered back as we began walking toward the courthouse. “Just like us.”

When we reached the courthouse, the man walked in right behind us. I ate my words outside the market when he handed a thick envelope to the defense attorney.

He had been following us. But why? Why would anyone investigate the victims?

More than 20 women have brought allegations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby

I didn’t mean to write about that, not even when I read he’d hired a team of private investigators to discredit the women.

I didn’t mean to write about that even when I read how Phylicia Rashad, the actress who once played his TV wife said, “Forget those women,” expressing the opinion some unknown enemy is trying to smear Cosby’s legacy for reasons she can’t understand.*

I didn’t mean to write about it when I woke up this morning. But then I saw another choice quote from Phylicia, and my heart plummeted.

Whenever I thought about testifying against a pedophile as a child,

Me, at age of testimony

Me, at age of testimony

I thought about my terrible, terrifying experiences as a child on the witness stand. If I had any room left to remember it, I recalled my little sister’s tears as I watched her testify just feet away from the former family friend who’d molested her repeatedly.

This morning, my heart leapt from my usual recollections to my mom. I wondered what the experience was like for her, having to defend her self and her fragile heart while also tending to her children. How on earth had she found the courage, the strength, the energy to bundle up four kids and walk us to the courthouse where, as our attorney had promised, we were put on trial? How had she endured each of those terrible moments on the stand herself, and–worse–each of the moments she had to sit and withhold comfort as her young daughters endured the same outside her reach?

The defense strategy was to discredit my mom. Had the pedophile really repeatedly assaulted my sister, and once placed his hand upon my barely formed breast to suss out whether I’d permit it? Or had an impoverished woman discovered a friend came from money, and concocted a way to get herself some of that money?

The verdict? Hung jury. The jurors couldn’t agree. The only thing they agreed on unanimously was that they would never, not ever, subject their own wives or daughters to court were they ever assaulted. They would not let their loved ones know the agony of testifying feet from the perpetrator, nor having their good names smeared as part of a defense campaign.

Our courtroom experience so horrified them from the outside that they never wanted to face it from the inside.

My mom went to court knowing we’d almost certainly lose. It was the right thing to do.

More than that, she hoped doing it would give the pedophile pause the next time he contemplated the possibility of victimizing someone else’s children. Similar accusations had been brought against him before, after all; they were inadmissible in our case since he hadn’t been convicted.

She went to court knowing some of the jurors would be Phylicias, more willing to believe some vast conspiracy against one outwardly genteel man than that the man could do such horrible things. More willing to believe that two little girls or dozens of women would lie through their teeth for some unknowable personal gain than that one man’s affable smile could conceal countless assaults.

When I see women coming forward months or years after an alleged assault, I don’t usually think, “What’s in it for you?”

I think, “I wish you the best in the days ahead, because the days ahead are going to be exhausting and terrifying.” That was so for me and mine even when the man we faced wasn’t powerful and nationally beloved for the roles he played.

My mom was torn apart in a quiet, musty Oregon courtroom far from the merciless eyes of a public that wants to believe the people it loves are infallible. For, indeed, if even the man with the widest grin and the merriest laugh could drug women and assault them, what would that say about the world? What would that say about the men in their neighborhoods and, worse, in their own homes?

So they go on believing conspiracy is likelier than assault because it’s comforting. Because they have never read Gavin de Becker and fail to understand that, per de Becker, “the solution to violence is acceptance of reality.” Because they don’t understand–or willfully disregard–that the misbegotten “truths” perpetuating their own comfort comes at the cost of the weak and vulnerable around them.

That disbelief is the carefully tended pathway pedophiles and other perpetrators dance along gleefully, trusting it to keep enabling them as it did those who came before them.

Phylicia said, “Forget those women.”

I say, forget Phylicia.

Forget convenient disbelief.

Forget favoring dishonest comfort over honest discomfort.

Forget denying assault, and thus being complicit in all future violence worked by the perpetrators (inevitably) around you.

But please don’t ever, ever forget the image of my mom escorting her four small kids to the county courthouse, doing so not for personal gain–and despite great personal pain–but because she knew our silence would make it easier for one pedophile to keep on molesting children.

It was my mom, my sister and me then, but if we keep on denying individually and societally, it will be your sister, your niece, your cousin and/or your daughter tomorrow.

Always

She believed. Through tears and guilt, she fought. She will always be my hero.

 

* Phylicia contends her “forget those women” was taken out of context, but there is no appropriate context for those words here. Either way, she’s insisting the real focus here should be the defendant’s narrative/destruction of legacy, not the victims’ narrative/sexual assault. Sounds familiar. #ByePhylicia.

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  1. January 8, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Wow – I can’t imagine what your family went through. Kudos to you all for being so brave. I hope you all are in a place now where you feel safe and loved.

    • January 8, 2015 at 9:02 am

      I am, thank you. I think that’s what really hit me–physically–this morning. I always think about my mom and her hardship from the comparative comfort of my life now. I make choices with the loving support of some amazing friends. My mom … she walked virtually alone. Most the time, I think I’ve made peace with the hardships of her life, but there are mornings like this one where I feel like I’m standing in her shoes instead of looking upon her as her daughter.

      Mornings like this, I’m paler than usual and my stomach lives in my shoes. I wish I could reach back in time and offer my mom any of the comfort and support I almost take for granted today. I can’t do that, so instead, I try to honor her memory in ways that might make her pain transform someone’s life today.

  2. January 8, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Phylicia Rashad is an authority on how Bill Cosby treated Phylicia Rashad, little else, in this situation.

    I had no idea your family went through all that . . . I, truly, will never understand the victim-blaming that is so prevalent – I guess I understand why it happens (anything to prevent the victim from coming forward/following-through that might lead the perpetrator to walking free would lead anyone with the resources to act in such a way), but we need to figure out, as a society, how to stop the practice.

    • January 8, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Phylicia Rashad is an authority on how Bill Cosby treated Phylicia Rashad, little else, in this situation.
      Exactly so!

      The court experience was so traumatic that I almost walked away without participating in my mock trial at the end of my first year of law school. I stepped through the door and suddenly saw the room as if it was the very same courtroom in which I’d testified. I wanted to flee, but I steeled myself, reached my seat step by step, and made my way through the trial. Throughout it, I wrote notes to my partner explaining why I was shaking. He wrote back that he was astonished to discover I was struggling; I looked so composed.

      I probably still have the notes, come to think of it. I’ve kept almost all the notes exchanged and letters received in my life.

      I’m glad I had the liberating experience of completing the mock trial though my hands shook. I felt unstoppable afterward. And yet, oh! How I ache to think of the people who will never find that freedom, and how much even those who do find it will suffer long before they do!

      I really didn’t understand denial until I read de Becker. We’d faced it other times before, too, and it was always perplexing to me. Reading his explanations helped me understand all presentations of denial better, though I learn a little more almost every day. Understanding denial (first defense) helped me understand victim blaming (second defense) a little better, too. Both are parts of the “it couldn’t happen to me” illusion that comforts one even while it wounds another. Both must be stopped.

  3. January 8, 2015 at 10:01 am

    I’m not sure why some people simply can’t accept that someone they thought they knew is capable of such crimes. Maybe it’s human nature to question how someone who seems so kind and normal on the outside can harbor such a twisted sickness deep within — hiding it so well from public view. Maybe because it scares the hell out of us? As it should. Wake the hell up people! Yes, all humans have flaws, even those we admire and with tons of power. Sadly, I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine America’s Dad was a rapist in disguise. The sheer number of women who’ve come forward is mind-boggling. What’s it gonna take for someone to believe them? 50 accusers? 500 accusers? It should only be ONE to at least prod the police to investigate the accusation. “Forget those women”? That is shameful. I am baffled how Rashad can say it was “taken out of context”. What context?? Oh the context of “I am in complete denial and it’s safe here.”

    I am deeply saddened to read of what you and your mom and family endured in the past, Deb. Your voices are heard loud and clear in this post. Thank you for writing this and bringing these issues to light.

    • January 8, 2015 at 10:07 am

      Oh and another thing like you said — I am sick of hearing how his “legacy is being destroyed”. What about all those women and their lives, their sense of trust being destroyed? The shame and fear they feel? Oh but I forgot, according to Rashad they all conspired together, made sure their stories were all exactly the same so they could prevent Cosby from having a stupid TV show. Makes total sense!

    • January 8, 2015 at 10:33 am

      YES to every single word of your comment, with a couple of responses to specific points:

      What context?? Oh the context of “I am in complete denial and it’s safe here.”
      Nailed it! Yes, yes, yes.

      Maybe because it scares the hell out of us?
      That is exactly it! I didn’t understand this for years, and then only understood pieces of it.

      My mom later found out another family friend was making moves on my youngest sister. When Mom told her friend, her friend lambasted her and completely denied even the possibility her husband could have done such things.

      I’d been baffled by parts of our earlier experience with a perpetrator until then. My mom’s friend’s response was so illuminating for me. I slowly came to understand she was invested in not seeing. She was invested in the life she’d built and the way she’d come to see the world. If her marriage, a core piece of her world, was built on falsehoods, what might it say about the rest of her life? She was afraid.

      The fact she wouldn’t even consider it was so illuminating for me. She was willing to confuse what she wanted with what was and tell herself whatever stories about my mom would cinch her conclusions. Her response was part of why I vowed to see what really is instead of what I want to see, even though I keep finding shortcomings in my seeing. (I try to be vigilant about remedying these.)

      I still didn’t really get it until reading de Becker. I always want to quote him, but I can never find just the right sentence or two out of pages of wisdom accumulated from his decades of experience. But he seems to reach the same conclusion as you: that fear drives this peculiar response, as if by saying “that doesn’t happen in my neighborhood” we can actually preclude it from happening in our neighborhoods. Wrong! It’s by facing it–even the possibility of it–that we can make ourselves and our loved ones safer by consciously working against it.

      de Becker has no patience for denial and I love how plainly he states it. I just wish I knew how to make those who most need to hear his words hear them, for their safety and the safety of those they love. For everyone.

      If we’re unwilling to hear 20 women, like you I fear we’ll be just as unwilling to hear 200, or 500. And I fear so much for each child who hears news clips like this and remains silent, understanding she, standing alone, will never be believed by those invested in disbelief.

      • January 8, 2015 at 10:47 am

        Exactly — fear. Fear of what some humans are capable of because it forces us to examine ourselves and everyone we meet. The truth is raw and painful and brings the age-old questions to light: what is good? what is evil? What does it mean to have power and how do people abuse that power? Whether it’s an adult abusing a young helpless child or a Hollywood mega-star abusing women, it’s about a human displaying vile disrespect and humiliation over another person in order to make the perpetrator feel somehow superior or entitled.

        • January 8, 2015 at 10:52 am

          I got something in my eyes reading this. Yes again. You put it so perfectly. Do you mind if I quote part of this in a tweet?

          I think beneath these piecemeal fears is an overarching fear: that goodness and evil cannot both exist in the world, or in the same person. That if we say “yes, this exists,” we are saying “good no longer exists.” But it does, and the good shines all the brighter and more hopeful when holding it up against everything else that exists in this world.

          It is holding that goodness close to heart that I choose to write about this badness. The more people can face their discomfort and sit with uncomfortable truths, the closer we will be to living in a world where “not in my neighborhood” or “not among my friends” is truth.

          • January 8, 2015 at 11:11 am

            Absolutely. Again, you put it so eloquently. Good and evil do exist and humans are capable of either. For me it comes down to making a conscious choice every day: love or fear. The path you choose will determine your future life.

  4. nicciattfield
    January 8, 2015 at 10:22 am

    This is such a hard one…I remember during the Zuma rape trial in South Africa, one of my clients saying “I will never ever testify in a court. Look at what is happening to that woman!” She didn’t, even though there was a date and a very clear no. Nobody wants to go through being discredited.

    On the other hand, I think the media make things difficult. They turn the stories into what one of our human rights activists called a pornographic feeding frenzy, where the media share details rather than emotions, violations, the stories of the victims and the struggles they have faced since.

    As a person originally from England, I saw that Jimmy Savile, one of my (and every child’s) heroes was an abuser with a history of allegedly raping young girls. It seemed quite a few people knew about it, to the extent that Val McDermid wrote a book called The Wire in the Blood, where she profiled a tv presenter with a yen for young girls, and would later say it was based on Jimmy Savile.

    Sometimes, you just have to understand what the survivors went through, and forget idealizing the bastards who did it to them. And I so appreciate the writers who do this…I read a review of Skyfall which argued that Daniel Craig’s bond crept up on the young abuse survivor while she was in the shower, like Jimmy Savile, even though she had taken no interest in him, simply because he was bored, and said the movie was a disgrace. We need that kind of public awareness, and the continual reminder that no matter what kind of person we thought was good or kind, the survivors should have an equal voice and equal rights. And not simply as an interesting story. The degradation needs to be shown, so that readers can understand.

    I’m angry now. But it’s a good thing, and an important post.

    • January 8, 2015 at 10:45 am

      Hear, hear. I actually originally wrote “forget Cosby,” but deleted that because of how it shifted this narrative.

      I want people to hear the victims, not as pieces of a “pornographic feeding frenzy” (a description that feels so apt) but as themselves. As humans whose experiences have made them feel less safe and less valued in this world.

      Seeing someone so blatantly shift the narrative was startling. How about we not shift the narrative to the defendant’s for once? How about we listen to individuals, individual heartbreaks, and sit with them for a while, not from a place of castigating one person (Cosby) but actually hearing and considering them?

      I can’t articulate my understanding very well yet because it’s pretty new to me, but my discomfort here is linked to the discomfort I feel when I hear these words from a current hit song:

      Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
      She says, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.”

      So women should shape their self worth and body image based on men’s perception? How about we find it within ourselves, instead of relationally? What will it take for us to do that, and hear women speaking out as for themselves and their safety instead of against another?

      • nicciattfield
        January 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

        i too think women sharing how they experience stories is so important. I used to do that work, and it was part of the reason I went to do social justice instead. The pain of it is heart breaking. And it’s hard to do. I remember one day all of the counselors, including our mentor crying over what one woman had experienced.

        This is why I think women’s rights are so important. Song lyrics can drive everyone mad too! I remember being at the cinema with Danny who must have been about 5, and a rap song playing with the most obscene lyrics about violently degrading women. And yet when I went to complain, everyone was curious as to why.

        Women working together and sharing together is my goal too. But I also think men should speak out against exploitation. And if they could, if there was a greater awareness of how to treat women respectfully, then abuse and exploitation would no longer seem ‘macho’ or cool.

        Abuse and rape make me sooo angry.

        • January 8, 2015 at 11:05 am

          But I also think men should speak out against exploitation. And if they could, if there was a greater awareness of how to treat women respectfully, then abuse and exploitation would no longer seem ‘macho’ or cool.

          Absolutely agreed. I was heartened by college students shifting discourse from “how not to get raped” to “how not to rape.” Many of the powerful pieces I read, and actors pushing for this shifted discourse, were young men. There is so much hope in that!

  5. cardamone5
    January 8, 2015 at 10:51 am

    I am so sorry for your sister, and for you and your mom. I am appalled by what Phylicia said, but not by Bill Cosby’s actions. In fact, to me, they favor the victims because if he truly did nothing, then why investigate them? Let the facts speak for themselves. Unfortunately, our society does not like to delve too deep into deplorable subjects such as the victimization of victims, and the fact that even after 20 women made the same allegations against one man, there is still disbelief, still people claiming conspiracy. It’s the same looking the other way attitude that refuses to change gun laws in this country, and results in innocent African American boys being gunned down and presumed guilty again, and again, and again. Our society must address this disgusting apathy. Thank you for this post.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

    PS: I was molested once in a park by a group of teenage boys, but other than filing a police report, there was never any punishment. I walked to the park by myself so there was no adult present to put a stop to it. I couldn’t identify them, and even went willingly up the gym equipment where they huddled because I thought they were cool and wanted someone to play with. Although this experience does not impact my daily life (night terrors, etc.), it did contribute to me having trouble with intimacy. I share this not for pity, but just to offer another perspective on this issue.

    • January 8, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. The impacts of assault ripple out in waves that continue for years and decades after the act(s). If we can prevent these acts in the future, imagine the social capital we’ll gain as people are able to invest more energy and resources into creating instead of healing. Individuals and society both lose out by violence.

      Your first paragraph really resounds with me. I’d heard that all injustice is related, but I didn’t understand that until recently, when countless hours scouring Ferguson-related news led me to see that the denial I’ve witnessed first hand reaches into all facets of life. It’s not only reserved for victims of certain kinds of violence, but for virtually anyone whose truths conflict with our own. Denial assumes many different forms and is expressed by different words, some more neutrally expressed and others overtly hateful, but it universally allows injustice to continue beyond the short reach of rose-tinted glasses.

      • cardamone5
        January 10, 2015 at 7:52 am

        Totally agree (unfortunately, but where there’s awareness, there’s opportunity for change.) I recommend Anne Lamott’s book Small Victories, which repeatedly asks why injustice occurs given the existence of God. She shares some pretty incredible personal experiences that help uphold her belief in God. I found it uplifting and relatable. Highly recommend.

  6. January 8, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    It didn’t happen to me, so it didn’t exist to me. Thank God, Thank God that I was allowed to keep my innocence as a child. That I was able to live with the illusion that all people loved and protected children. Having that feeling of security, however false it may be, is every child’s right – their RIGHT! And our duty as adults to provide.

    It’s beyond horrible that there are monsters capable of stealing the very essence of safety from children like you and your sister, whether physically or psychologically.

    • January 8, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      I lost your comment somehow! I agree. I so agree. Sometimes I’ll say “I love you so much” to my kids, and then feel saddened by the knowledge there are so many kids being abused or neglected right at that very moment.

      At those moments, I am resolved to do what I can do, which is to love the heck out the kids in my life and occasionally write a post like this. I’m thinking about what else I can do in the background, but there’s a bunch more thinking to do on that front.

      If only I had the psychic powers my younger self dreamed of. I’d send a little of that love (and resources) to each child suffering.

  7. January 8, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Thank you for sharing. Your story is beautifully written and very powerful.

  8. January 8, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    I hear what you say. And I agree that we can’t just assume Cosby is innocent because he’s a jolly, funny man who practically lived in our childhood living rooms, teaching us all about how to be a real family. I agree that’s bullshit.

    But you know what’s also bullshit? Assuming someone is guilty because they’re accused. Trial by media. Believing something vile because it seems naive not to. All that.

    I have been a victim of Attack By Media. People who didn’t know me, had never spoken to me, believed something horrible about me. Complete strangers searched for my address online (fortunately our home is out in the boondocks, off the map; they didn’t find it) and discussed coming over to burn it down. And for a week our little local newspaper fanned the flames, because – as the editor declared triumphantly – “We have never had this level of community engagement in a story!” Whoopeee! (He was talking about the online comments … by people who didn’t know me. Didn’t know anything about the story except what the newspaper chose to tell them.

    You wondering what I did? Because there’s no smoke without fire, right? I’ll tell you. I saved a dog’s life. And then I objected to giving it back to the person who left it to die.

    That’s it.

    For that, they wanted to burn my house down. Perfect strangers.

    Bill Cosby has been accused, and all you know is what the media has told you about what his accusers are saying. That is ALL.

    • January 8, 2015 at 2:47 pm

      That’s indisputably terrible. I can see how this would impact your response to reflections like this. Indeed, I’m shocked day in and day out by the number of death (and other) threats transmitted to people I follow. It’s a scary world we live in, where threats can be issued easily with little to no accountability.

      On the other hand, I’m not sure whether you’re replying directly to me or to other posts you’ve seen written related to these allegations. My post was not about whether or not Cosby is guilty. In fact, it feels almost as if you’ve proven my point by turning the conversation away from the women involved and how the public responds to them and right back to Cosby. I specifically did not write this about Cosby, because I feel the did-he-or-didn’t-he game (whether as re: Cosby or any other accused) benefits few and serves as detriment to many. It again moves discourse from “let us listen to these women and not immediately dismiss them” to an implicit “BUT THEY COULD BE LYING.” Which, well, I’ve had several lifetimes more than enough of because that’s the dominant narrative I’ve seen in two decades of watching.

      Even responses in comments are generalized away from Cosby. How many accusers would it take before someone could so much as entertain the possibility he could have assaulted someone? Many someones? What’s the number where “alleged” starts looking an awful lot like “holy mackerel, how many other women might he have hurt”? I’m interested in changing an entire landscape and how these cases are treated, not castigating any individual. This is consistent with my Woody Allen post, where I wrote:

      Did Allen assault his daughter? My perception is irrelevant to whether the assault did or did not occur.

      It’s the idea of perception that compels me to write. There’s a particular kind of perception that I struggle with constantly: Denial.

      &

      It’s thus I ask not, “Did Woody Allen do it?” but, “Could he have done it?”

      Ask yourself the question with intent not to judge but to see, and then listen, really listen, to how you answer. Your answer is the key to the well being of every child whose safety rests, no matter how briefly, within your hands.

      I respect your perspective and appreciate your comment, as always, but I’m troubled by it all the same.

      What’s important to me is that people stop immediately dismissing any and all accusations against people they love and/or admire. Unwillingness or inability to consider the possibility that such people could victimize others is part and parcel of how many perpetrators are able to continue perpetrating without recourse.

      So again, I turn away from the deflection of let’s-focus-on-him and back toward that image of my mom ushering her four kids toward the courthouse. To me. To my little sister. I can’t change what was done to us, whether by pedophile or the courts, but I can be a part of changing to what and how people listen, the better to make more people safe today and tomorrow. And that’s why I called out Phylicia: because “forget those women” is exactly what we’ve done for ages. I demand better for our children and grandchildren.

      • January 8, 2015 at 3:15 pm

        Hi, Deborah… Once again, a thoughtful response that compels more thought. Thank you…:)

        I don’t really see how you can exclude either perspective. Yes, “How many accusers does it take before we take this seriously?” is indeed a valid question. But if we believe accusers based on the fact that there are lots of them, we assume the guilt of the accused. So I get it – you weren’t writing about Cosby. But if we believe the accusers … well then actually this is about Cosby. If we believe them, because there were many of them, then he must be guilty.

        In my opinion, just one accuser is enough. If one voice is raised in accusation, a matter should be investigated … but no one, no matter what they’ve done, should be tried, judged and condemned in the media. PLEASE don’t believe one, or six, or 20, or 50, just because they’re quoted in the media!

        I hope you didn’t think I was downplaying the awfulness of your own experience. It was certainly much worse than my own! But … we are all a product of our experience. We all wear flawed and foggy glasses. Just as I am inclined to distrust anything I read in the press, you may be inclined to support a woman who presents as an assault victim.

        As for Phylicia … I read the article and the follow-ups and honestly, I am inclined – based on my experience as a reporter AND as someone who has been quoted out of context during trial by media – that this was a case of a journalist who screwed up. But even there, I don’t know. All I know about this is what I have read.

        • January 8, 2015 at 3:42 pm

          But are we listening to or against accusers? This seemingly simple question has profound impacts. By immediately turning listening to into an exercise in figuring out whether or not the accused is guilty, we are already listening against. We are already ourselves accusing, implicitly, if not usually quite so plainly as Phylicia.

          It’s actually Gavin de Becker who most informed me, not my own experiences. Once I’d read him, I felt compelled to get people questioning whether they believed something because it was real or because they want it to be real. I want people asking those questions in their day to day life, in all things. That is my key objective.

          Immediate “he’s guilty!” or “she’s lying!” in any one case makes it about that one case or person instead of identifying how a systemic problem might terribly and brutally impact all citizens in day to day life. I want that brutalization ended. I want people to be able to consider that beautiful, beloved people can do not-beautiful things. That willingness will open people to make better, more protective choices in their personal lives. Gonna see if I can find something else I wrote on this. If so, I’ll share here.

          I actually LOL’d at Phylicia’s clarifications today. They served to confirm–for me–that she really, truly meant we should “forget those women” … But regretted saying it quite so bluntly!

          • January 8, 2015 at 3:59 pm

            I think we’re probably a little at cross-purposes here, and agree more than we disagree…:) I honestly don’t have an opinion as to his guilt or innocence, or as to whether they’re victims or a different kind of predator. Sometimes I lean one way, sometimes another, depending on what I read – but always I try to remember that I DON’T KNOW. Not knowing the facts, not having heard the evidence (assuming this ever comes to court), not knowing the people involved, except in each case through the dirty and distorted lens of the media, I cannot have a valid opinion.

            I think what disturbs me most about this case is not whether or not he did it – not to say that’s not important; of course it is, and I am totally behind you on wanting to stop predators in their tracks. But what I find disturbing on the big screen of our lives is to see, once again, how willingly people gulp down whatever they read. That has always been the power of gossip, but when we lived in smaller communities everyone knew the village gossip, and took her (him?) with a pinch of salt even when lapping up the latest story. But The Media has such a very loud voice, such extraordinary reach, and such tentacular penetration into every cranny of our lives.

            So yes, I believe I understand your motivation for writing, and I agree with you. I was simply looking at the issue from a different angle.

        • January 8, 2015 at 3:47 pm

          “It again moves discourse from “let us listen to these women and not immediately dismiss them” to an implicit “BUT THEY COULD BE LYING.” Which, well, I’ve had several lifetimes more than enough of because that’s the dominant narrative I’ve seen in two decades of watching.”

          Thinking further on this, while I wander around doing household chores. And yes, this is the crux of the matter. Do we reject the possibility that someone we are inclined to trust for whatever reasons could have done an evil thing? Or do we reject the possibility that a bunch of women, for no clear reason, could lie?

          And the point I’ve been trying to make is, I know it’s not PC to say this … but yes, I think they could be lying. And also I think they could be telling the truth – I think he could have done it. My personal inclination, simply because there are so many of them and I don’t see how there could be real collaboration, is to believe them. But yes, they COULD be lying.

          We have to remember that what we read is not, and cannot be, the whole story. We don’t know their motives, We don’t know whether they in fact have ever met and collaborated to bring him down for some unknowable reason. We also don’t know him. All we know is what we see in the media – and that cannot be trusted.

          • January 8, 2015 at 3:57 pm

            Understood and (mostly) agreed. The realm of possibility is wide in this world, though some possibilities are more probable than others.

            As for your final sentence? Oh my word, yes. I honestly trusted mainstream media to be fair and impartial until a couple of months ago, when I started noting how dramatically first hand accounts–substantiated by evidence!–diverged from what limited, strangely phrased reporting was done in mainstream media. The almost total failure to report the CO NAACP bombing a couple of days ago would have surprised me a couple of months ago. Now? Not so much, and probably never again.

        • January 8, 2015 at 3:50 pm

          Found the comment I was looking for! Someone asked me (in re: “Portrait of a Pedophile”) why I didn’t name the pedophile in my blog.

          Below is my answer, which I offer to illuminate more clearly why I write about these things the way I do, bearing in mind less strongly perpetrators/the accused and more strongly both (a) past and potential victims everywhere and (b) my desire there be fewer victims.
          __

          Your question is a good one. I debated answering it within the original post, but the more I write about, the more diffuse the message becomes.

          There are two key reasons I don’t name him. The first involves how guilt and innocence are treated within the U.S. justice system. If someone is convicted of a crime, they’re guilty in the eyes of the law. There’s no problem naming the convicted perpetrator because he’s guilty not only in fact but also in the eyes of the law. When someone is not convicted, the converse is that naming them can be called defamation or slander. The factual truth of that someone’s crimes is not legally recognized, which means victims risk a second excruciating round in court just by speaking the factual truth with a name correlated. Almost anyone who’s been through the disheartening, terrible experience of being (re)victimized by the justice system would tell you there’s little that would make them go through that again unless it was absolutely necessary.

          The question of necessity leads to the second key reason I don’t name him. If this were my lone childhood encounter with a sexual predator, I might feel differently, but the fact is that members of my family fell prey to no fewer than four such predators in my childhood. Four. One was a stranger with clear mental issues. Two were charming family friends. One was family who appeared charming to those outside the family.

          Naming each or all of them does much less in the long run than letting people know that there are ways to steer clear of perpetrators like them and helping them find–and use–those ways. The men (to use the term in only the loosest of senses) who victimized my family have small reach within one community, whereas men like them walk en masse through the world. Naming names might change small sections of one community. Giving or pointing to tools to identify predators wherever they walk, on the other hand, can change the world.

          I do believe the world can be changed.

        • January 8, 2015 at 3:51 pm

          Oh, geez! Totally overlooked the much more concise intro to that same post:

          Note: I do not mean to incite a witch hunt, nor any kind of hunt whatsoever. What inspires me to share this is not the desire to identify any particular perpetrator–for, indeed, many truly gentle men may fit the broad portrait below–but to enable readers to see, as I do, what can lie concealed behind certain carefully crafted kindnesses.

  9. January 8, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    It is such a hard decision to take. And so very right. Walking away from those hard decisions allows the perpetrator to thrive.
    Still not an easy one…

    • January 8, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      I definitely, definitely don’t mean to indict victims. My frustration is with those who do immediately indict victims. As long as perpetrators are perceived to be only lewd, clearly deranged men who live somewhere else, the handsome, charming perpetrators among us will be overlooked while those who press charges will be vilified. I understand why more victims don’t come forward, and would never demand they must in our current social landscape.

      Until we are willing to accept at a societal level that most people make assault accusations because they have been assaulted, and not because they have some ulterior motive, victims will remain silent to protect themselves while those who assault them walk free. That’s not on the victims. That’s on all those who keep believing–and behaving as if–most accusations against kindly figures are lodged by evil, lying accusers.

  10. January 8, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    I think I’ve said it before, but at the risk of repeating myself: your mom was a warrior and loved you all very much. Always so clear when you speak of her, whatever the context. ♥

    We just recently had our own “scandal” up here in Canada … look up Jian Gomeshi … and the wave of support for the victims rose close to tsunami heights although there was much similar disbelief and attempts to discredit the women involved. #ibelievethem

    • January 9, 2015 at 5:20 am

      I looked up Jian Gomeshi. The first article I found had this lovely quote:
      “Every woman who comes forward paves the way for the next, and there is great comfort in that, not just in this case but in all cases of violence against women,” she said in a statement.

      Re: my mom? You have said that before, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet. My heart soars every time I hear her referred to not as “that crazy lady” (or similar) but the loving warrior I knew her to be.

  11. January 8, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    Thank you for writing this. Much love.

  12. The Rambler
    January 8, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    Beautifully written, as always. I still remember that man, by the way, who followed us to the court house. He wasn’t really trying to stay out of sight, but who, for the love of god, wears an all white suit in Eugene, OR with a white fedora and black rim? It was really, really hard to miss him, and I think the pedophile’s sole purpose in hiring him was to throw us off on the first day I was supposed to give testimony. The whole experience was one of the most horrible, gut-wrenching experiences in my life. Mom wasn’t allowed in the courtroom while I testified, so thank God for our godmother who sat there, right behind the pedophile, so I could see her loving face, and focus on her rather than him. I love that woman so much! That and the grandmother on the jury who cried with me. As a child in a sea of adults, most of whom were asking questions that were so pointed and angry, and yelling at me (the little me who still quivers in the face of angry voices) it was easy to get lost in the sea of angry faces, and to have all sorts of things brought up, which, as a child, you don’t really think about. The abuse lasted from when I was 7 to 10 years old, but things were brought out from when I was 6 that I didn’t recognize, and pre-dated the abuse (a Christmas ornament that said “I love you” – I didn’t even recognize it as mine, until I remembered it after the trial). I know when they told me I would be due back in court for a second day of testimony, I felt like there was nothing that could be possibly worse. It’s bad enough that I was abused, but that I had to be verbally abused and accused, while everyone tried to say Mom was putting me up to it, and didn’t mom abuse me, and wasn’t I just trying to get attention? It was sickening. And it’s a wonder that our mom suffered depression after all this crap, after being raked through the coals? The whole thing sickens me. I’m very, very thankful for the walls my mind built against the abuse, even if it didn’t help at the trial. I don’t know what happened in between the skips. In spite of the horror, I got up and faced a terrible man, even if he smirked at me and could tell he still had power over me. When I encountered him almost a decade later, he still made me shake in shoes (I was at work), and he enjoyed it. It made me sick. I was happy I didn’t cry in front of him. (I was able to keep it at bay until he left), and now, after years in a supportive relationship, with an amazing bedrock of friends, I know where my feet are, I know where the ground is, and I also know how to say “Fuck you” . If ever given the chance again, there will be no quaver in my voice, as I have decided to blame HIM for the slow sink into despair mom experienced after the trial. Mom blamed herself, but I choose to blame him. He spent years building her trust – who would think that a friend would hurt a child?

    • January 9, 2015 at 5:51 am

      Anything and everything about this experience makes me cry, but it’s not usually thankful tears. Reading that our godmom was sitting there right behind the pedophile makes me grateful for her love, offered not as an abstraction but in her day to day and extraordinary acts. I’m so glad she was there, though I can’t remember her myself. Apart from the terrible feeling of testifying, I remember from my time on the stand only looking at the pedophile over and over and over again and wanting to bash in the mock-wounded expression on his face.

      I remember many conversations with Mom about her guilt. I understood it, but I tried to steer those conversations back to this message: Sadly, we can only know what we know, and much of what we know is through experience. (That’s part of why I write here; so more people know without having to experience first hand that “charming” and “friendly” aren’t always good things.) I also relate to Mom’s guilt, as I remember that incident with both of us watching TV with him. For a long time, I wondered how I could have come face to face with his abuse and turned away, leaving you–my little sister–stranded to endure it alone. I blamed myself for many years until coming to believe one man and one man alone bore the burden of guilt.

      I talked to someone else before I did finally tell Mom about that incident. I was so nervous about saying anything because of his threats (which I remember in feeling, not word), but whomever I talked to said I must. Was it Topaz? Was it Missy? Was it you? I’ll never fill in that memory gap from such a traumatic time. I remember steeling myself to walk into Mom’s room, and saying I was nervous about something that had happened, but remember little that happened after I said those words. I have just these terrible fragments of memory and feeling.

      I have been awed and amazed by your strength as you have grown, through your whole life and most especially the last few years. I can imagine you saying “fuck you” with chin up and shoulders squared as readily as I can imagine you showering love on your lovely children. That love and that strength are intertwined. There’s so much beauty in understanding–thanks to Mom and all our own experiences through the years–that love and strength aren’t oppositional. Both your love and your strength are prodigious. Inspiring.

      Thank you so much for commenting about your experience, BLS. I love you. Always. ♥

      • The Rambler
        January 9, 2015 at 4:35 pm

        Awwwww, you always know how to make me cry! I think that becoming a mom has been one of the most fortifying experiences, more so than I could ever have imagined. I want to be strong and patient, not just for me anymore, but so I can pave the way by example. I think, also, the trials I endured in the last few years let me really look at myself and my tendency to try and live by making others happy, rather than what truly makes me happy. Thank you for being the most amazing sister! Also, I recollect having these conversations with you, but I think you also had them with Topaz and Missy, so whoever pushed you over, I think they did the right thing!

        We may not have won, but we tried and are stronger for it.

  13. January 9, 2015 at 3:31 am

    Like you, I have been reluctant to write about this issue. Like you I have seen this all through the lens of my history and my heart. I have on my desktop right now what I have written, it mirrors so much what you have said. You are braver than I, you pushed publish.

    I am constantly in awe of your journey, of your mother.

    • January 9, 2015 at 5:58 am

      I so much want to write pieces that come not from a place of being reactive but from independent, autonomous reflection, you know? But once in a while–at a higher frequency, recently!–I find news that demands some kind of response. I’m glad I pressed “publish,” but oh, how I understand not doing so. Especially not quickly.

      I don’t think I am one bit braver than you. When I read about you going to jail and sharing your heartbreaking experiences over and over again, driven not by hate but hope for change, I am awed by your braveness, love and the loudness of your hope. The fact it’s more fragile some days than others doesn’t make it not real. It just shines a brighter light on your strength. Your wisdom.

      I am in awe of you, my friend. I am inspired by you.

  14. January 9, 2015 at 11:54 am

    As horrible as what your family went through was, I know a pair of sisters who were abused, and when they told their mother their mother did not believe them. Could you imagine? How the !@*% can your own mother not believe you?

    I know the man who violated them and he’s a quiet, hard-working man. You wouldn’t look at him and immediately think “child molester.” Everyone his a side of them they let no one else see. As much as we like to think we know people, we will never know everything about somebody.

    As to the Cosby situation, it’s not like just one or two women have come forward. Over a dozen of them have and they all have similar stories. As hard as it is to believe that Bill Cosby could be a sexual predator, you have to at least admit that where there’s smoke there’s usually fire.

  15. January 10, 2015 at 1:20 am

    Thank God for brave people like your family. It is horrible that you weren’t believed, but you definitely did the right thing. At the very least, other people probably looked at him with suspicion despite the verdict. Probably some children were protected.

    • January 10, 2015 at 5:34 am

      It’s my hope that, having been gone through criminal proceedings at least twice, he thought twice the next time he sized up a potential victim.

      I can’t know for sure what he did or what others took away from that case. That’s why it’s so crucial to me to share my experiences here, to write posts helping people understand that villains don’t often (per Buffy the Vampire Slayer) have horns or wear pointy hats. That’s why I wish every single woman would read The Gift of Fear, and every child protector would read Protecting the Gift. I want to help people identify perpetrators, part of which is squashing the errant notion that they’re readily identified by their loudly suspicious behavior. In fact, they tend to be quite charming; that charm is one of their greatest gifts … right alongside our denial.

  16. January 10, 2015 at 5:20 am

    Wow, this is heartbreaking! First of all that is one awesome mom you have there! She just became a hero in my book! I have read and seen so many times where even the mother would turn a blind eye and not believe her daughters. It is just so unreal to me. We should raise awareness to this subject as it is one of my biggest fears for my daughters. with the amount of misconduct against boys it is becoming my biggest fear for my little boy as well! Thank you for writing this and forget Phylissa, she is dumb and would rather sit and worry about some man’s legend who will not matter in years to come then to think for one second that the allegations are true! I’m sorry but twenty woman, not even one woman can be lying in this situation!

  17. February 5, 2015 at 10:14 am

    This is so terrible. I am so sorry for everything you and your family went through. This must have been extremely difficult to share. I really appreciate you sharing this post.

  18. March 6, 2015 at 1:11 am

    Reblogged this on Steve Karanja.

  1. January 9, 2015 at 11:42 pm
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  10. January 10, 2016 at 11:12 am
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