Giving voice to survivors of sexual assault

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College TownMissoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You’d have to be living under a rock this year to avoid stories of entitled, young male athletes sexually assaulting young women and serving little or no jail time for such crimes.

Missoula, Montana may not be unique in the number of young women who are vilified or simply not believed when they step forward naming their assailants. Jon Krakauer gives those young women who’ve survived rape a powerful voice, one we should all listen and respond to.

Whatever we are teaching young men, it shouldn’t be that they can get away with rape. From prosecutors to communities, we all have a responsibility to clearly and definitively say, ‘this is not okay’. Perhaps, we’ve woken up in the wake of cases like Brock Turner’s outrageously light sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman. Judging by the reactions and words of his father — diminishing rape to a mere ‘20 minutes of action‘ — as well as some of the reactions and character assassinations all too common in Missoula and elsewhere, we have a long way to go.

Whilst Krakauer pens a particularly difficult book to read given the understandably horrendous descriptions and details throughout, it’s an incredibly important read. We need to listen to those who come forward after being sexually assaulted. We need to approach their assaults from a place of belief and seeking truth and justice rather than giving their attackers the benefit of the doubt. Otherwise, the shame and guilt and fear each woman experienced in the immediate aftermath of their living nightmares will never heal. They will never find peace.

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Day 48: Proekt 365 (El Día del Maestro)

Day 48: Proekt 365 Día del Maestro

Day 48: Proekt 365
Día del Maestro

This post could easily be entitled ‘Like father, like son: part 2’. But, I’ve opted for Día del Maestro for a reason: today is the birthday of my beloved father-in-law, El Maestro.

If we could, we’d be spoiling him rotten today. Hell, we’d declare it the week of El Maestro and throw the man a parade if we could! Alas, half a world away, we can only send him loads of love from this side of the globe, and that we have in abundance.

He’s a rare treat of a man. Kind. Incredibly witty and bright. Compassionate to a fault. Moments of both brilliance and extreme silliness abound when he is near. Thoughtful. Contemplative. A brilliant cook. And, a great father judging by the quality of the man he raised. As nervous as I was meeting him for the first time, that quickly subsided and all that replaced it was a sense of being home and of being completely accepted as a member of his family. If only I could return a gift that carries a fraction of what that has meant to me.

My only wish is that I spoke Spanish. I’d love to take a class in physics from him—the man is obviously loved by his students and colleagues alike given the number of accolades he’s received and students who continue to surround and adore him. He is El Maestro for a multitude of reasons.

¡Feliz cumpleaños, El Maestro! We’ll save the homemade brownies for you, we’ll always find the Russian mustard for you and our casa is forever your casa. Thank you for being the most awesome father-in-law a girl could ever ask for. ¡Felicidad felicidad felicidad! Besitos x

Day 16: Proekt 365 (Like father, like son)

Day 16: Proekt 365 Despite distance and time, the similarites are profound

Day 16: Proekt 365
Despite distance and time, these two are so much alike

‘Like father, like son’. That phrase has been on constant repeat this week much as it was this past summer when my father-in-law visited us. Neither time nor distance can alter the similarities between these three generations of men. Perhaps, ‘like father, like son, like son’ is more appropriate.

The Jr Cuban is a young man now, and his own young man at that. He’s changed so much in the few years since we’ve seen him last and has ‘grown up’. His own young man he may be, but he is definitely The Jr Cuban. Witnessing the little cues and hints that he is my husband’s son through the unconscious expressions and behaviours is such a treat. As one example, they both wore the exact same expressions when I was taking a series of photos yesterday. Exactly the same. How does that happen, particularly when The Jr Cuban is with us far too infrequently?

This summer on a long walk with the elder Cuban (aka El Maestro) when he was visiting us, I witnessed my husband (The Cuban) doing exactly the same thing his son does when they are peripatetically bonding. It was an instant and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It made The Jr Cuban’s behaviour so much more relevant and meaningful. There have been other moments when I’ve seen all three of them exhibit subtle cues that they are indeed all part of a longer thread separated only by time. Each observation brings a mixture of smiles and tears — these seemingly insignificant behaviours are normally the things I love most about my husband (and also those which drive me crazy at times!).

Like father, like son, like son.

It’s a shame all three of them can’t be here at the same time. Of course, it’d also probably be the end of every last hair on my head since getting out the door requires infinitely more patience than I am ever going to be capable of (which also makes me smile!). Still, any visit is better than no visit at all. And, I’m loving this one.

I may not ‘get’ 95% of what is going on (my Spanish is non-existent, and they speak incredibly quickly). But, I see that they ‘get’ one another. At the end of the day, that’s most important. From their adoring concern for Che Fufu, to discussions of the best type of cheese for pastelitos de guayaba, parkour and more pressing and touchy (as well as necessary) topics, the sound of these two bonding (The Cuban and Jr Cuban) is like music. And, a sweeter melody exists nowhere. (Well, except perhaps the dulcet tones of El Maestro and The Cuban bonding… .)

I love these men who are now my family. Oh, what a family it is.

A tribute to the Fuller men

I have never met my own father. Father’s Day as celebrated in the US has always been about the father figures in my life, largely my grandfather and my uncle. Neither one my father, but both served as the best substitutes a girl growing up could ever need.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was growing up. Each summer until I was 14 or 15, I would spend with them. From the time I was 7, this would often involve trips to various destinations across North America in a fantastic motor home they bought for their retirement. My grandfather would mostly drive, although occasionally my tiny little grandmother could be seen behind the wheel of that great big huge thing. It was grand. We’d drive from historical site to national park, all the while my grandfather quizzing me on state capitals and past presidents and other factoids which I still remember without blinking.

I also remember his lovely imitations of Santa Claus with a deep East Texas twang on the cassette tapes he’d send to me before Christmas, advocating on my behalf that I had indeed been a good girl and deserved more than a lump of coal in my stocking. He was the perfect grandfather and I can’t help but smile when I think of him. He spoiled me rotten, and I worshiped him.

My uncle lies somewhere between a brother and an uncle. We are very nearly polar opposites on just about everything in life. From our beliefs to our politics to our interests to what we do for a living. I love him dearly because of and in spite of these differences.

Because he and my grandfather shared a dental practice, I would hang out there when I was very young. Just out of dental school, my uncle was working on my mother and a rather common occurrence rendered half of my mom’s face black and blue. It was harmless, but has provided our family with much laughter and chiding in the years since. However, as a four-year-old precocious sh*t watching my uncle at work a few days later, I said something like, ‘are you going to make that nice lady all black and blue like you did my mommy, Uncle Ralph?’ He simply said, ‘Out,’ at which point I left the room. His hygienist at the time stifled laughter I’m sure. But, he did not. And, the patient certainly didn’t.

One of my fondest memories of time spent with my uncle was during a visit home several years ago. He plays golf regularly with a group of very close friends. They’re all a hoot and I certainly cramped their style as the only woman in the bunch. I tagged along with him as his ‘caddy’ (even though they take advantage of the golf carts), and they all behaved as fine Texas gentleman do. It was a bit chilly on the back nine, but lovely and quiet and still in the spring morning. Deer roamed freely through the course (this is Texas, after all), and one of his oldest friends played through 18 holes with him that morning. It was lovely.

He was so happy on the golf course and it was a joy to see him so relaxed and in his element. We went home after a few cocktails in the clubhouse and made ribs (his finest meal by far and a real accomplishment on the BBQ). I helped by making the trimmings. It was one of my favourite days spent with just my uncle. And, I cherish it.

The memories I have of these two men are countless. I love them both dearly and think of them often. The two men are more alike than either’d care to admit, most likely. Proud, strong, stubborn, intelligent men surrounded by equally strong, proud, stubborn and intelligent Southern women. Poor fellas, as we say in Texas.

Happy Father’s Day to my Papa (Ralph Shaw Fuller, Sr) and my Uncle Ralph (Ralph Shaw Fuller, Jr). Thank you both for always being there for me. I love you both dearly and miss you terribly.