I thought things had changed

The following is a very personal post that I felt was necessary to write after seeing my Facebook feed literally flooded with posts about a specific trial in Palo Alto and its conclusion this past week. We live in a culture that despite all its good things still has so much imbalance.

When I turned my step-father in for sexual abuse way back in 1985, I had total “white knight” syndrome. I thought that since the secret was out, things would get “better”. In many, many ways the three years after my step-father was arrested were worse than the three years he was committing the abuse.

One of the most horrible parts about the whole experience was the “justice” system. While there was little physical evidence of the abuse, other evidence was pretty overwhelming and for various reasons my step-father decided to plead guilty to what he did. He had a really good lawyer and they were able to work out a pretty sweet deal with the prosecution that significantly reduced almost all the charges against him — and his culpability.

I never understood how this was allowed to happen and for years I was quite angry about it.

Today, unfortunately, my Facebook news feed is filled with Facebook shares of a similar story. You can read about the sentence here, but the synopsis is that a wealthy, white boy with a good lawyer was somehow able to convince a judge that even though he had been found guilt of three counts of felony sexual assault, he only deserved 6 months in “jail”. Given California’s jail over-population issue, it’s likely he’ll probably not even serve the entire 6 months.

This story has literally made me physically ill. I feel so much empathy for the young lady who will not only have to deal with the after effects of the assault for the rest of her life, but will also have to deal with knowledge that this judge put her attacker’s worth over her own. The judge said he feared for the attacker’s safety in prison and didn’t feel he deserved a prison sentence given that it was his first offense.

photo-1434873740857-1bc5653afda8The woman at the center of this case, known as “Emily Doe” to protect her anonymity, delivered a really powerful statement post-sentencing that you can read here. What she said at the end was this:

“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. 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.”

To that I would add that I am here too. It’s now been 30 years since my own “trial” with the judicial system. I am proof that regardless of the injustice, life goes on.


First, do no harm

I wish that when the founders were writing the constitution and the bill of rights that they had added a provision that could be looked at as “first, do no harm” or “primum non nocere” if you want to be fancy and use the Latin.

Think about what it would mean if we could apply that philosophy to some of the big issues of the day.

For example, you’re absolutely right that the Westboro Church has the First Amendment right to spew their hate and vitriol in the way that they do. But, what if we could show that because their speech causes mental harm to others. Could we use that as a test as to whether or not their speech should be allowed?

The same with the confederate flag. Yes, I know that those that fly it and think that it should be flown at statehouses, etc. consider it a part of their heritage and again their First Amendment right. But, shouldn’t their neighbors (whether their immediate neighbors in the personal sense or those that exist in the same city or state in the community sense) also be considered?

I could write a whole essay on how this applies to the Second Amendment. I completely understand why the Second Amendment was so important when the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was written. We are a country of revolutionaries and the Second Amendment was absolutely needed at the time. These were people that had suffered under British rule — including forced relocation.

I wonder if the founders had the gift of foresight and could have seen the guns that are available today and how they are being used if the Amendment would have been written in the same way.

When will be able to say that the current gun laws allow for more harm than protection?

Lena Dunham, female comedians should take more responsibility — not less

Some background on what I’m about to say later in this blog post:

  1. Lena Dunham is a multi-faceted woman in Hollywood. She’s a comedian, actress, director, creator, writer and many other things.
  2. Lena created and stars in a popular show on HBO called Girls 
  3. I have never watched Girls 
  4. In the show Girls, Lena Dunham’s character gets naked a lot
  5. Lena has received a heavy amount of criticism due to the fact that her character gets naked a lot — a fair amount of this criticism is leveled at Lena because of her body shape (she’s not a size 0 model)
  6. Lena hosted Saturday Night Live this past Saturday where she got naked
  7. Lena received a lot of Twitter-hate and Twitter-rage about getting naked on SNL
  8. Lena sent a very inappropriate tweet on Sunday night about child / familial molestation and her nakedness
  9. Lena deleted the tweet and apologized
  10. Part of her apology stated “Not if they were a fifty year old man. But by my lights women can have a lot of joke flexibility. Ya gotta get by in this world”

Whew! That’s a lot of background bullet points.

Here’s the thing. Rape jokes should never be okay. Whether you’re a 50-year-old man or a 20-something female comedian.

As bad as rape jokes are, jokes about molestation are even worse and have no place in our culture.

And, a 20-something female comedian — especially one who champions women’s rights as strongly as Lena does in other instances — should be even more aware about the impact of those words.

Lena blamed her tweet on Sunday on being sleepy. And, while I don’t consider that a valid excuse for this type of joke, I do hope she learns something from the backlash about how inappropriate it was.

What’s wrong with America’s judicial system? One judge & two young men

Within the past year, two young men faced sentencing from the same judge. Both had been found guilty of their crimes and the judge had nearly unlimited discretion.

One young man had spent a night out partying — including both drugs and alcohol. He got into his car and by the end of the night had killed 4 people. He had a blood alcohol level of .24 … 3x the legal limit in Texas.

The other young man punched a 40-year-old in the face. He punched the man so hard that the man fell and received a head injury that led to his death two days later.

Both crimes are horrible and resulted in unnecessary loss of life. However, you would that the death of 4 people, including two teens, would result in a harsher sentence than the death of one. You would be wrong.

The drunk driver is rich and white and was able to put on a spirited, although controversial, defense that convinced the judge he deserved treatment over punishment.

The young man who punched another in the street is poor and black. Not only did he not have a team of legal experts able to help his defense, his family was also not able to afford to send him to an expensive rehabilitation camp that might have prevented him from being sent to juvenile jail.

The problems with the sentencing in these cases is less about race and more about the income disparity between the two young men.

Thankfully, this judge is not planning on seeking another term on the bench.


Great moments from tonight’s launch of Start – #StartBook

Back in the fall, after a few months as a Dave Ramsey devotee, I started hearing about this guy Jon Acuff who had written a book called Quitter. I’ve yet to actually read Quitter, but I became a huge fan of Jon’s blog and his point of view.

A few weeks ago, I received an invite to be part of the Launch team to help launch Jon’s new book Start. (affiliate link) I immediately said yes. I had already bought tickets to the Start launch event, and this was just an extra way to get involved.

The Start event was earlier this evening, and it was amazing! I’ve captured many of my tweets over in a Storify post, but I also wanted to put a quick post up about the event.

First, the thing that the tweets can’t convey is how funny Jon Acuff is and how great he is on stage. I’ve seen some of his clips, but never seen a full event and it was amazing. He comes from a very Christian background, and it is so refreshing to have someone be funny and talk about great business ideas without needing to swear and be vulgar. I thought the opening of both the first and the second “acts” were slightly contrived and a bit “precious”, but the almost two hours he spent center stage made up for any of that.

There were really two items that *really* resonated with me the most:

  • Don’t compare your beginnings with someone else’s middle. I do this *so much* with my blogging and other writing. I want to be seen as a “thought leader” and compare myself to others in the space — especially people that are blogging full-time. I need to set my goals instead of comparing myself to others.
  • You have to leave your voices behind. Jon gave a 3-step plan for combating fear (aka the voices in our head): write them down, refute them, and share them with others. I spend a good part of my life feeding the voices in my head. Many were started in childhood and others have been introduced over the years. I need to start combating them one by one.

Jon is announcing on Monday where the Start tour is headed next, and if it comes to your area, it’s definitely worth it to go. I would also highly recommend getting the his new book Start. (affiliate link) It’s available for pre-order now and will be out April 22.


Homelessness and what we should really be thinking about

I was just watching this video with Mark Horvath (@hardlynormal) and the executive director of the Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter, and there were a couple of things that really struck me and felt compelled to blog about it:

  • For every foreclosure sign that you see, remember that there were once faces in those windows.
  • “When you walk in to any church, you have a feeling that you can start over again.”

Location, Location, Location

The Butter PaddleOn Friday night, I attended the grand opening of the new Butter Paddle store in Los Gatos. The store is run by an amazing group of volunteers and any profits are donated to EMQ FamiliesFirst and children in crisis in Santa Clara County. (Full disclosure: I used to work for EMQ

FamiliesFirst, and I’ve done marketing work in the past for the Butter Paddle as part of my job.)

The Butter Paddle recently decided to move from the Saratoga Village downtown area to Los Gatos. Why was this important? Saratoga Village used to be a thriving place with lots of food traffic. However, the economy and other factors have taken it’s toll on the area. There are several closed businesses around the old loc

ation and just not enough foot traffic to draw people in, and parking is not the greatest for people wanting to come visit the area.

What I kept talking to many of the volunteers about was how great the new location for the store is going to be for them. It’s less than a block away from the

Los Gatos Apple store, a couple of doors down from Opa! and right at a busy crosswalk. There’s also a couple of really big parking lots within easy walking distance. The other benefit to being in Los Gatos, is The Butter Paddle is just a couple blocks away from The Happy Dragon — a thrift store also run by volunteers and also supporting EMQ FamiliesFirst. Here’s hoping there can be some synergy between the two stores.

If you’re looking for some great Christmas gifts *and* want to support a good cause, definitely check out The Butter Paddle. They do free gift wrapping (and its amazing) and the volunteers are awesome.

The Ethics of Using Airport Outlets

This post today on the NY Times caught my eye – The Ethics of Using Airport Outlets. With all of our electronic devices (and the fact that many of them can’t hold a charge for a couple of hours), the use of outlets at coffee shops, conferences, and airports is becoming more and more of a question.

I do think that we do need to be more courteous of those around us. If our device has a full charge that will last us awhile, let someone else use the outlet.

However, there were a couple of things that the author said that I disagree with:

With outlets in such short supply, I’d like to see use limits, say 15 to 20 minutes, become the accepted unspoken norm.

While a 15 minute charge might give my blackberry enough juice to last a couple of hours, my laptop would laugh at that short amount of time … especially if I was using it at the same time as I was charging it.

Or, at the least, I’d like to see people only use the outlets for quick charging or for work they have to get done and not just to watch a movie.

Why should working take precedence over someone spending time to watch a movie? It is an airport. I know the concept is foreign to most business travelers, but many people do go to airports to take trips for something other than business. And, maybe she was travelling for business but deciding to take some down time and enjoy herself a little bit.

Rise in teenage pregnancies

 A recent post on Ooph talks about the rise in teenage pregnancy and whether or not TV is adding too much glamour to teenage pregnancy.

Apparently getting pregnant as a teenager in the U.S. gets you a reality show and covers on People and US Magazine. And really? What teenage girl doesn’t long to be a movie star? And? All she has to do is be pregnant for nine months. That’s like, totally less than a year. Cool.

While I was not a teenage mom, my sister was. This was back in the late-80s. MTV still played music and the only real coverage of teenage pregnancy on TV was the occasional after school special.

I do think that media these days makes teenage pregnancy look too easy. The Secret Life of An America Teenager has focused more on the drama than on the reality. And, while I think Teen Mom set out to do something good to shed light on the issue, getting pregnant is now another way a reality-obsessed teen can sell her story.

Here are some of the facts (according to the March of Dimes):

  • Teen mothers are more likely to give birth prematurely
  • 1 in 4 have a second baby by the time the first baby is 2
  • Teens are more likely to smoke during pregnancy compared to pregnant adults
  • Teenagers are also the least likely to get appropriate prenatal care
  • "64% of children born to an unmarried teenage high-school dropout live in poverty"

Unless your mother is Sarah Palin, your sister is Britney Spears, or you win the MTV reality show lottery, getting pregnant as a teen is not as glamorous as TV makes it out to be.