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You think domestic violence doesn’t happen in your town? Let me tell you something: Every nine seconds, that’s seconds folks, somewhere in America a woman is beaten in a domestic violence episode. In addition, a woman is shot to death in America every 14 hours by a spouse, ex-spouse, boyfriend, or someone she was dating. If that doesn’t scare you, I’m not certain what will.

Domestic violence is a term we toss around pretty casually. The “It doesn’t happen here” syndrome is something like sticking your head in the sand. It happens in my town, on my street, but I don’t know where. I knew when it happened in my workplace, although all I could do was tell human resources what I thought and what I saw…they chose to do nothing. I was told to stay out of it…and I did…and I probably shouldn’t have.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), “Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.”

“Domestic violence is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. It is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior that is only a fraction of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and in severe cases, even death. The devastating physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.”

Thankfully, domestic violence has never been in any part of my family. Do I know people who have been victims of domestic violence? Absolutely. Other than the one case that I saw at my place of employment? Yes. My late wife and I sheltered a women who was a victim until she was finally able to escape from years of psychological abuse from a domineering husband. Until she came to us, we were completely unaware that there was any kind of problem. I believe that’s the way it is with a number of these cases. Often, the victim is nearly paralyzed with fear, sometimes feeling that she or he – yes, men can also be victims of domestic violence – has or is doing something wrong that triggers an episode.

Recently, in Massachusetts, a 51-year old man shot his 44-year old ex-girlfriend. After a two-day manhunt, the man was found dead in the trunk of a car, a self-inflicted wound to the head did him in. The victim left behind three children. Just another news story that filled the screen for a couple of days and was replaced by some other tragedy. However, it’s not just a news story for the three kids or their grandmother. It’s a shock that may never go away completely. It’s a loss that will gnaw at them, probably for the rest of their lives. Again, I quote from the NACDV, “Additionally, domestic violence does not always end when the victim escapes the abuser, tries to terminate the relationship, and/or seeks help. Often, it intensifies because the abuser feels a loss of control over the victim. Abusers frequently continue to stalk, harass, threaten, and try to control the victim after the victim escapes. In fact, the victim is often in the most danger directly following the escape of the relationship or when they seek help: 1/5 of homicide victims with restraining orders are murdered within two days of obtaining the order; 1/3 are murdered within the first month.”

What can you do about it? The first thing is to be aware that such a problem exists. In today’s world, violence appears to be an acceptable way to solve problems, whether it’s on an airplane, or at a political town hall meeting, or just about anywhere else. That attitude can often translate right into the home…but it shouldn’t. What are the signs to look for in a relationship? There are many, and some are so subtle as to easily escape detection. Does the abuser try to tell the victim what to wear or control who they can see, what they are allowed to do, or where they are allowed to go. Here are some of the signs put forth by NACDV:
• Telling the victim that they can never do anything right
• Showing jealousy of the victim’s family and friends and
time spent away
• Accusing the victim of cheating
• Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing friends or
family members
• Embarrassing or shaming the victim with put-downs
• Controlling every penny spent in the household
• Taking the victim’s money or refusing to give them money
for expenses
• Looking at or acting in ways that scare the person they are
abusing
• Dictating how the victim dresses, wears their hair, etc.
• Stalking the victim or monitoring their victim’s every move
(in person or also via the internet and/or other devices
such as GPS tracking or the victim’s phone)
• Preventing the victim from making their own decisions
• Telling the victim that they are a bad parent or
threatening to hurt, kill, or take away their children
• Threatening to hurt or kill the victim’s friends, loved
ones, or pets
• Intimidating the victim with guns, knives, or other weapons
• Pressuring the victim to have sex when they don’t want to
or to do things sexually they are not comfortable with
• Forcing sex with others
• Refusing to use protection when having sex or sabotaging
birth control
• Pressuring or forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol
• Preventing the victim from working or attending school,
harassing the victim at either, keeping their victim up all
night so they perform badly at their job or in school
• Destroying the victim’s property

I’m not asking that you either get involved or become some kind of avenging angel. I’m asking that you understand that this problem is more pervasive in this country, as well as others, and it should be a concern to all of us. If you know of someone you suspect is a victim, and if you’re speaking with her or him casually without the suspected abuser around, you might ask, “How can I help you?” It’s an open-ended question. If they ask, “With what?” you can always respond with a non-committal, “Oh, I don’t know. I thought you might want to talk about something.” Eventually, if the victim understands that you are sincerely concerned, they will get around to telling you. Sure, it’s vague, but you can’t really come out and ask, “Is that son-of-a-bitch being mean to you?” I guarantee that will earn an unqualified, ‘NO!” and the conversation will end right there. The subject is delicate, and so must be the approach to opening up about it.

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Forget about the Joneses

“What’s in your wallet?”

“Our credit card pays you twice…once when you buy and once when you pay.”

“Buy our insurance so your loved ones won’t have to assume your credit card debt when you die.”

Hey, hey, hey, wait just a cotoon-pickin’ minute here. Are we encouraging people to credit card their way into horrible debt? According to Nerd Wallet, “Debt is American as apple pie, with overall U.S. household debt growing 11% in the past decade. Today, the average household with credit card debt has balances totaling $16,061, and the average household with any kind of debt owes $132,529, including mortgages.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I guess I inherited my mother’s sense of debt. She-didn’t-like-it, and, truth to tell, Dad wasn’t crazy about the idea himself. Have I never financed a major purchase such as a car or a house? Of course I have. Why, do you think I look like Croesus? I didn’t like doing any of it, but one does need a certain form of transportation when buses or trains aren’t particularly near one, and a roof over one’s head is always a pretty good thing to have, especially when one (or two) is raising three kids. Fortunately, my late wife was of the same mind set. Actually, she was a bit tighter with money than I was. At least I never shave Lincoln’s beard from five dollar bills and sold the whiskers at flea markets, but then, that’s a story for another time. As a consequence, I don’t quite understand why Americans allow themselves to assume as much credit card debt as they appear to do. Mortgages, sure, I can see that. I don’t know too many people who can fork over a quarter mil or more to buy a house, and in today’s market, a half mil will barely put a roof over your head in many states. Student loan debt, on average, is nearly $50,000. I often question the wisdom of that because I’m not all that certain that every high school graduate should go to college…as opposed to making real money by learning a trade.

My biggest complaint about credit card debt is the interest that has to be paid. I remember the ‘book’ we kept when we took out a mortgage. We were paying more in interest than we were in principal, and it really pissed me off. “It’s the cost of doing business,” people would tell me, but that didn’t make me feel any better about it. Today, my house is paid off, as is my car. The children all graduate from college, and working in higher education, along with their athletic scholarships, meant that we didn’t pay tuition. While we joked about it at the time, think about tuition costs, even as far back as 1992, and you’ll realize just how much of a salary spike that actually was.

It seems to me that attitudes are different today. People appear unconcerned about going into debt, even though the annual percentage rates on some cards can be as high as 22-23 percent. That can add up to a great deal of money. Student credit cards appear to have the highest interest rates, another reason why high school students should receive some instruction in money and banking. This generation, however, if some of my grandchildren are any example, appear to feel that mommy and daddy will take care of everything because that’s what parents do…sorry, gang, but life doesn’t work that way, and the sooner you learn that, the better off you and your parents will be.

The biggest problem that I see with credit cards doesn’t come from just using them. It lies in the penalty rates that companies charge if you are late with payments. This is also known as the ‘default’ rate, and it is, all too often a great deal higher than the rate originally offered on your credit card. Should you just happen to be 30 days late with your payments, companies can raise your annual percentage rate to as high as 29.4 percent. Value Penguin notes that, “Depending on your credit card company, a number of other factors may cause you to incur the penalty rates as well, including but not limited to: exceeding your credit limit, or defaulting on another account with the same issuer.

Returning once more to Nerd Wallet as a source, “Household income has grown by 28% in the past 13 years, but the cost of living has gone up 30% in that time period. Some of the largest expenses for consumers — like medical care, food and housing — have significantly outpaced income growth. Many people assume that credit card debt is the result of reckless spending and think that to get out of debt, people need to stop buying designer clothes and eating at five-star restaurants. But many people use credit cards to cover necessities when their income just doesn’t cut it.” Speaking anecdotally, I can say that the cost of prescription medications has increased disproportionately to any increase in retirement income that I might have seen. In fact, my retirement plan reduced my income in 2016 by $200 per month. Combine that with an increase in grocery prices, energy costs, increasing property taxes, and home insurance rates, and you can understand why yours truly has become a ‘Scroogely curmudgeon.’ Thankfully, the house is paid for and the wheels, while old, are still getting us from place to place.

Certainly, I’m no authorized financial planner or an expert in money matters. Using your credit card to keep your head above water is no sin as long as you understand that this gap between income and expenses is not going to go away. Keeping up with the Joneses is no longer the thing to do because as a friend of mine always says, “Remember, the Joneses are in debt!” Amen to that.

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“What if?”

I have discovered the problem with computer solitaire. You never know what might have been. What if I had moved the red king to the open space rather than the black one? Was the card that I really needed under the red king? I’ll never know.

Life is like that. It’s full of “what ifs.” What if I’d married Mary Jo rather than Sally? What if I hadn’t driven my car that night and skidded on the road, and what if it hadn’t left me paralyzed for life and having to live in this wheelchair?

On more of a world stage, what if people had seen Adolph Hitler for what he was, a power hungry madman? What if Robert Oppenheimer and his people had said, “No,” we don’t believe the world is ready for this type of weapon? How many more millions of Americans and Japanese would have died, and how many generations would have been lost?

This is life in the fast lane. Our “what ifs” are all too often what we see in hindsight because we don’t use our foresight to examine what lies ahead of us when we make the choice to do one thing over another.

Recently, I read of a motor vehicle accident in Middleborough that killed two kids. One of them had just received his license nine days ago. He was speeding on a rain slicked road, missed a curve and smashed into a tree, killing himself and his passenger. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did. Let’s think about it for just a minute…a license for only nine days and yet he had a friend of the same age in the car and there was no adult supervision. Well, they were on their way to school. But…what if the mother, father, or grandparent had said, “Why don’t I drive you guys to school today? The roads are kind of slick and you know, you haven’t had your license all that long.” There would have been a hell of an argument. The dead student would have been really you-know-what. The difference is that he might be alive.

Notice please, that I use the word, “might.” We have no clue as to what could, would, or should have happened. All we know is that two people are dead, and a lot of people are very sad because of it.

This is not to say that the “what ifs’ in our lives always lead to tragedy. A girl I thought I was madly in love with is the girl I didn’t marry. What if I had? Her life has been one divorce after another. Would I have been number one? A young man in the service kept pointing his rifle at me and trying to pull the trigger, all the while saying, “It’s jammed; it’s jammed.” That gun was pointed at my chest; what if it had unjammed before I grabbed it out of his hands? Let’s see…No children; no grandchildren; a thirty-year old widow; parents who would have been just a wee bit irritated with the United States Army. There would have been a number of negative consequences.

Let’s look at the “what ifs” from the other side, however. What if Jonas Salk had said, “These experiments are just not working. I guess poliomyelitis can’t be cured.” Or what if Edison had given up on some of his experiments? Or Benjamin Franklin; or the Wright Brothers; or Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates.? I think you get the picture. There are so many cases of “what ifs” that we can say have had positive results. Do they outweigh the negatives when we think about the two young men in Middleborough? No, of course not; at least not to the people who knew and loved these young men. In the larger scheme of life, we have no idea what contributions they might have made.

This, my friends is the miracle of “what ifs.” And, when you really stop to think about it, what if is a miracle. Yes, what if can and often does have negative connotations. What if the settlers hadn’t brought tobacco from England to Virginia, along with their diseases that wiped out so many Native Americans, but on the other hand, what if the plague hadn’t wiped out so many in Europe, would there been more wars of expansion so that people would have places to live?

They are only two little words…”what if.” Should we stop to ponder every single time we used those words, we would go mad. It’s why there is another word in our vocabulary. That word is consequences. Each what if results in a consequence, sometimes good; sometimes bad; sometimes nothing at all…that we know of.

Perhaps this is the frustration of playing solitaire on a computer. I’ll never know what was under that red king. Had I been playing with real cards at the kitchen table, which probably wouldn’t have happened because I’d have been doing something else, but let’s say that I was….playing cards at the kitchen table, that is…I could have sneaked a peek under that red king and probably cursed myself for not having played it. There it is; another one of my freedoms has been taken away by the computer; I can no longer peek to see, “what if.”

In the case of solitaire, this article is somewhat humorous. In the case of the young men in Middleborough, it is tragic. In point of fact, you can find comedy and tragedy throughout. From Jonas Salk’s cure for polio to Robert Oppenheimer’s atomic bomb, there is good and there is horror. Throughout, there is also, “what if.”

Let me close with one more “what if.” At least for the next several weeks, what if we all try to be just a bit nicer to everyone else, and what if we consider being kinder to those we don’t really know. These are tough times and it’s difficult for us not to be completely wrapped up in our own problems, but what if we consider that there are others with problems too, and by being a bit kinder, what if we were able to ease their burden, if only for a moment.

This is a rewrite of an article that I prepared some years ago. I just happened to run across it while cleaning out some files. I like it, and at this time of year, I believe it to be particularly appropriate. I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading it and will take the message to heart. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a joyous Kwanza to all.

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I like life

I like life. I like living. I really do. The sights, the sounds, the smells…even the aches and pains of growing old make living a very interesting thing to do.

I don’t know what death brings. I don’t know if there is life after death. I’m uncertain about whether or not there is such a thing as reincarnation. I have to admit that I don’t much care. My concerns are centered more on life and living and all that entails.

Those of us who live in New England are very fortunate. We live through four actual seasons in a single year. Yes, yes, I know, there are times when it seems that we go from winter right into summer with no or hardly any spring at all, and I’ve heard all of the complaints about not having a spring…it just goes from winter to summer heat. Of course, by and large, that’s just a bunch of malarkey. We’re about to enter one of my favorite times of the year, fall. Fall in New England really makes life something to which we should cling with all of our might. As the leaves change back to their real colors of gold and orange, rust and brilliant red, the world around us takes on new smells and sounds. The oaks are dropping their acorns, and leaving the driveway this morning, it sounded as if the car was running over a bowl of giant rice krispies. It’s no longer the sound of cicadas in the evening. It sounds now more like the birds are packing up for the flight south, and letting every other bird and human know of their plans. Yep, fall is one beautiful time of year, particularly in New England, and it’s a great time to cherish life.

There was a time when I liked the winter. It was sort of a Currier & Ives setting where the white blanket would cover the ground, a time when sledding down hills and throwing snowballs and even building bigger and bigger snowmen was a lot of fun. Those days are gone now. I look on winter as being a season to pass through as quickly as possible. Not even mulled cider nor Christmas gifts can make winter a season I can enjoy. Let’s just say, “It’s tolerated until spring comes along,” but then again, that’s life.

I don’t wish to die during the winter months. Heck, if it comes to that, I’m not sure I wish to die during any of the seasons. Then again, the world is beginning to spin just a little too fast for me to keep up. I’d like to Twitter but I don’t know how, and I understand that e-mail is now out of vogue and that Snap-Chat has taken its place. My lady friend has a laptop, but that’s now out of step with tablets and other electronics. I’m afraid to go into Best Buy or Radio Shack for fear I’ll find myself so far behind, I would be better off crawling into a hole in the ground and pulling some dirt over me for warmth and comfort! Not really, but you get my drift.

Nope, I like life a little bit too much to be doing some damn fool thing that will get me to leave it behind before I wish. My speedometer rarely goes over 70 now and then it’s just to keep up with the traffic in the right hand lane, generally on roads that are posted with a speed limit of 55. I don’t understand that. If the sign says 55 and traffic is moving along at 80, 85, or even 90, why don’t the police install overhead cameras and just send out speeding tickets based on what one was doing and when they were doing it. I don’t know the cost of those “speeding cameras,” but I’ll bet the cost of them could be amortized in no time at all with the money collected from the fines. Ah, well, not my problem, and I don’t travel on those highways all that often anymore…they’re scary.

There are several things about life that we all seem to take too much for granted. Chief among them for me are sunrises and sunsets. If you’ve ever been in a boat as the dawn turns into a new day, and you’ve watched the sun come up out of the ocean, you know exactly what I mean. First you see this tiny reddish-orange stripe. Then it begins to grow into a bigger and bigger half circle, and even though you may be watching it closely, it just sort of pops up above the horizon and there’s the sun. At that hour, it’s still enough of an orange ball that you can look straight at it, and it seems like hours before you have to look away because of its brilliance. Then, at the end of the day, it almost reverses the entire process. I say almost because, well, as the sun is going down, it changes from that yellow to orange to orange-reddish and then, ‘pop,’ it’s gone again…but it’s not the same as when it pops up in the morning. It’s a different kind of beauty. I think you have to experience both to truly understand the phenomenon.

Yeah, I like life. I like living. I really do. The sights, the sounds, the smells…even the aches and pains of growing old make living a very interesting thing to do. I guess, unless God has other plans, I’m just gonna keep on doing it for a while.

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They are lethal

Okay, that’s it…I am officially declaring war on the highway departments of every town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts! They have done nothing to fight the growing menace to commuters or pedestrians.

It’s bad enough that potholes from two winters ago have yet to be repaired, but now there is a new terror to face along the highways and byways. This threat possesses methods of lethality such as we have never seen. It is, of course, the manhole cover, and there is nothing humorous about the manner in which it can kill and maim. As an example of this, I cite Jodie S. Lane who was electrocuted after stepping on a metal manhole cover, while walking her dog in New York City.

Originally designed to provide access to electrical, gas, water, and sewer lines, the manhole cover has evolved into a death-dealing weapon for unwary commuters and even for pedestrians. Does this indicate that I am crediting the monstrous 250 pound cast-iron Frisbee with intelligence? Not at all. I’m convinced that the alligators which once were pets and then flushed away but survived to roam the underground are serving as the force of destruction using the manhole cover as an unknowing foil in a form of payback to the human race.

In point of fact, there is no humor when it comes to what is a part of our roadways infrastructure. Not long ago a 35-year old art teacher, Caitlin Clavette, was killed when a dislodged manhole cover flew through the windshield of her Honda.

Are these common occurrences? No, they are not. Prior to the Clavette death, the last reported fatal incident was in New York State over ten years ago. There is, however, another problem with manhole covers that appears to have escaped the eyes of DOT departments, and that is sunken manhole covers. These are a major problem for motorcycles and a pain in the butt for those of us in cars. I really don’t understand why, when repairing roads, collars are not used to raise the covers to the height of the new paving.

Sunken manhole covers may not be a big deal to most of the driving public. “Watch where you’re going,” some will say. “Go around them,” echo others. “Keep your eyes on the road,” another group of drivers will tell you, and all of that is well and good, and I do those things when I know the roads on which I’m traveling. As for other streets, I have had the steering wheel damn near jump out of my hand going over a sunken manhole cover at night.

It seems like a simple matter to raise these distractions to the level of the roadway. It also raises the question of who is supervising the paving of our roads as well as how often are manhole covers checked for stability. In Massachusetts, they are supposedly checked every two years. You’ll have to pardon me if I raise an eyebrow on that one. When I get in my car to go from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ I already have to face the possibility of drunk or impaired drivers. It would be nice not to have to consider the surface of the road on which I’m driving as another lethal weapon.

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One sad night

Our View – Dick Bishop & Emily Doe

Just imagine if Brock Turner had been Black and a theoretical physics star at Stanford University…that poor bastard would be serving 14 years or more in a maximum security prison somewhere other than California. He might have a clean record, not even a parking ticket, but that’s the difference between being an outstanding athlete and white versus being a star academically and of color. Life sucks, but that’s the way things are in this world in which we live. To me, the most disgusting part of the entire episode is what Turner’s father had to say. In part his letter to the judge says that, “His life will never be the one that he dreamed of and worked so hard to achieve,” arguing that his son should receive probation rather than jail time. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus year of life.”

If ever a father “didn’t get it,” Turner’s dad is the shining example. Your kid was caught by a couple of grad students, and he was banging away at an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. I’m sorry dad, but your kid is a bit of a deviant. Now he’s a registered sex offender for life. So what did you teach him when you were “having the talk,” or perhaps you told him it was okay to take advantage of women in any way he could. Maybe you told him that he should get as much as he could in whatever way he wanted because women would love ‘it’ coming from a potential Olympic athlete. Clue pops: women are not to be disrespected; not to be taken advantage of; and certainly not to be abused by idiots such as you have raised. You say, “He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile,” and I ask “Whose fault is that? “ Owning up, which I understand he never did, and accepting responsibility for one’s actions, which I gather he never did, and being accountable, which he never did, are sure signs of a mediocre person.

What follows is the letter that the victim read in court. I hope you will read the entire thing, but you probably won’t. Be prepared if you do…it’s not pretty. It opens with her response to Turner’s comment that his life has been ruined…ugh.

“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 offence 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.”

May it never happen again. Unfortunately, we both know better, you and me.

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