Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Thank You, Jessica Weiner

Life has a funny way of sending us all the right messages at the absolute right time. For example, I have found myself drawn to the amazing woman, Jessica Weiner for sometime now. Jessica, has revolutionised the way women should and can talk to one another. Her talents as an ACTIONIST (visit to learn more), visionary and role model are making a huge impact on the world around us.

I read her blogs and visited her web site. But to be honest, part of me was afraid to read her books. Maybe I would have to answer some questions I was long too scared to face. Was I ready to be totally ok...with me?

I read her first two books in single settings. They have awakened a part of me that I was not sure existed and I am so glad to have met. I know her message came to me at the right time. My improved understanding and love of myself will be incredibly important as Kelly and I move forward in our Mission of ending sexual violence. Her lessons reminded me that I am proud to be a work in progress. Proud to know that the road is paved with both lessons and love.

If you want to learn more about yourself. If you seek a personal challenge I encourage you to run...not walk to get your hands Jessica's wisdom. I can honestly say, it has changed my life and I am certain that if you read them with an open heart, it will do the same for you.



Sunday, March 18, 2007

Meet Maggie.

Meet Maggie. Maggie is a friend of mine who happens to be incredibly talented. Maggie is a deft crusader and a brilliant artist. However it is my assessment that Maggie's greatest gift is painting a portrait through film and asking questions we are all often too afraid to ask.

Which is why I love her.

Below is an excerpt of her writing. Fair warning, it is powerful. If today is not the day you want to think deeply...then read at a later date. Maggie's work by its essence will make you think.
Also, stop by or give her a shout out on myspace. She would love to hear from you.



Excerpted from the book War ZoneBy Maggie Hadleigh-West Copyright Maggie Hadleigh-West for Film Fatale, Inc. 2002

I grew up in Alaska, but spent many summers of my life in Louisiana. Both of my parents were from there. And every year, like a siren's call, my parents, brothers, family dog and I, would pile into the car, and head south, for the bickering, barking, deathly tedious, but ultimately rewarding, twelve-day journey to my grandparents' home, in Hammond, Louisiana. And that's where I was living, the winter that I was twenty-one-years old. In a small town, in Southern Louisiana, that I'd been going to my entire life. I was out of college for the semester, and had just moved into a new apartment by myself. My apartment was essentially unfurnished, with no phone, refrigerator or stove. So one Sunday night, about seven o'clock, I hopped on my bike and rode up to Lee's, a drive-through fast food restaurant, to get myself something cool to drink. I bought one of those giant sodas, and headed home, balancing it on one side of my handlebars. I remember having this feeling of nostalgia about my town, as I rode through my silent neighborhood. How sweet it was, with quaint little clapboard houses, magnolia bushes, and old tree-lined streets. The air had that wet pine scent that only Louisiana has. It was rich with my childhood memories. I almost couldn't believe I was living there. On the ride home, I avoided the darker side streets, for a brighter main street, with my mother's voice in my head, reminding me that even though it wasn't late, and this was just a tiny little southern town, I should ride on well-lit streets. About four blocks from my apartment, a man pulled up next to me in a battered little black car, and asked me for directions to the university. So I stopped in the middle of the street, straddling my bike, and began to tell him how to get to the school. The man got out of his car, with his hands in the pockets of his corduroy jacket. When he got close to me, he said, Get off your bike, I have a gun in my pocket. And in that moment, I realized that all of my life, I had expected this to happen. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind, this feeling of inevitability had always lurked. There had always been stories, warnings and near misses. And I knew absolutely that this man was going to rape me, torture me and kill me. And with that realization, the fear overwhelmed me, my mind shut down and I momentarily lost myself. My spirit, intelligence and my will to survive, just slipped away. I've never been able to remember if the man actually physically removed me from my bike, or if I got off of it by myself. But those few moments seem to have been erased from my memory forever. Maybe he touched me, and that's the reason I don't know what happened. The next thing I knew, my bike was off the street and leaning against the exterior wall of a small house, and I was standing on the grass beside it. I remember seeing my bike, like a still photograph, casually leaning against the wall, unlocked, and abandoned on a warm winter night. I remember seeing it, as stranger might, after I had disappeared from the picture. When I snapped back to the present, I asked the man if he was going to hurt me, and he said that he was going to kill me. He told me to get into the car through the driver's side, because the passenger's door was jammed. His car was so small, and I knew I would be sitting just inches from him. I knew that once I got in, I would never be able to get out. And there was no fucking way I was going to let that happen. So I decided very quickly that I was going to run. That I would prefer to be shot in the back trying to escape, rather than allowing him to take me into some unimaginable darkness. On a Sunday night in a dry county in Louisiana, people stay home. So my little town was pretty empty. I began to look around me. Trying to decide which way I was going to run. Which deserted streets had the most light. I was struggling to discern where I was the most likely to find people, or a telephone. I began to visualize my escape route, and the bullet exploding into the center of my upper back. I could see myself falling forward, onto my face. And I thought, just maybe, I would survive the shot. Either way, I was making the choice, not him. Luckily for me, my perpetrator had made two mistakes. He was taking too long, and he had stopped me right in front of a traffic light, which had just turned red, when two cars pulled up to it. And there we were. Two very identifiable people standing under a street light. An obviously very frightened young woman, off her bike, and an older man, possibly menacing her. The man immediately recognized the situation as too risky. So he turned to the drivers, smiled at them, and then turned back to me, laughed, and said, I was just kidding. The cars drove off as the light changed, and in an instantaneous rush, the fear that had consumed my body turned into manic rage. I had somehow managed to hold onto my soda, and it felt like the only weapon I had. So I hurled it at his windshield, as he opened his car door to get in and leave. I couldn't believe that mother-fucker was going to get away with terrorizing me. So I put my hands and the weight of my body on the hood of his car, to try to keep him from leaving the scene. I think I was screaming at him, as I tried to stop him. I meant to somehow hold him there under a citizen's arrest. Later, I realized I had made a classic mistake, because if he was willing to kidnap and murder me, certainly he was willing to run me over. And that night my strength was meaningless, relative to the power of his little car, so he quickly drove around me. But not so quickly that I hadn't memorized his license plate number, or that I didn't have a clear description of him. It's been twenty years since that Sunday night, and still his image is imprinted in my memory. He was a white man. Around five foot eight, medium weight, about 35 years old, with frizzy, kind of wide, dark hair. He was wearing blue jeans and a medium brown, car length corduroy jacket, with a sheep skin collar. I was one hundred percent certain that he had killed women before, and he was going to do it again. But that night after he drove off, I got on my bike shaking so badly I could barely remain upright. I rode to the nearest phone, on a very bright street, and called my aunt. It's always amazed me that I didn't call the police. It just never occurred to me. I wanted my mother. But she was too far away, so I called my closest relative. About ten minutes later, my aunt arrived, and I got into a pickup truck with her and a male friend of hers. As we sat there, I told them what had happened, and almost the first thing she said was, This never would have happened, if you'd been wearing a bra. I remember looking down, at my orange flowered skirt, and thinking forlornly; But he came up behind me. He didn't know I didn't have a bra on. He didn't even know what I looked like. How could I possibly be responsible for him threatening to kill me? I couldn't believe that my aunt really believed that I had seduced that man out of his car and provoked him to such an extent that he would need to punish me for being bra-less. I couldn't believe that they didn't understand that he was going to kill other women. That night I did exactly what I didn't want to do. I asked my aunt to take me home. Home to my empty apartment. Where I didn't even have a telephone to call for help. Where there was no one to comfort me, or reassure me that I was safe. Because I understood, I wasn't safe with her either, even though I knew then, just as I know now, that she loves me dearly. My aunt never suggested we go to the police, or even that I call them. I remember feeling very defensive of my fear. Feeling like I should act bravely. Like the incident was over. That surely everything was fine now. So I spent the night alone. Unable to sleep. Afraid to look out the window, in case he was watching me. Locked inside with my terror. With the morning light, I called my mother from a pay phone. She could hear my fear. Maybe because she couldn't see me, she couldn't convince herself that I was safe. Or maybe her experience was closer to mine than I knew. Either way, she insisted that I telephone the police at once. I was uncertain how to report what had happened, but I called, and told the officer who answered the phone, that I wanted to report an attempted kidnapping. I remember hearing him laugh, and feeling very angry. I told him I could identify the guy. I had his license plate number. I knew what his car looked like. I knew he was looking for women. I could hear the officer didn't believe me. And he asked with a smile in his voice, Well, you're ok, aren't you? Nothing happened did it? I was so surprised, yet his reaction made sense to me. It wasn't so different from my aunt's response. And so I understood. I really had nothing to report, because I was still alive. I hadn't been raped. Or assaulted. Maybe I was touched. But it was my word against his that I had even been threatened. And the truth is, I thought I was ok too. I didn't know that incident would come to be one of the defining moments of my life. I didn't know the anger and fear would reside in my body for so long. That it would seep into the crevices of me, only to surface long after I thought it had leaked out. Or that it would become a touchstone for mistrusting my own judgement. I didn't know that it would contribute to my inability to care for myself in simple ways. Like knowing when I was emotionally safe. Or that I was continuously jeopardizing my physical safety with drugs or alcohol. I didn't know that years later, this memory would mingle with my generalized mistrust of men. But I was an obstinate twenty-one year old, and I kept reporting what had happened. At least five or six times-every time I ran into a cop. Until finally someone ran the license plates to appease me, and they matched my description of the car. The problem for the police was that the car wasn't stolen, so they said there was nothing else they could do about it. But the car was registered to a seventy-year old man who lived about fifteen miles from my town. It made no sense to me. Maybe the old man had a son. Or a son-in-law. Did they really think only car thieves raped and killed women? I wondered if there were other women who were missing, raped or dead in the state? That was as far as I ever got. No one cared enough to pursue it. Eventually, my family advised me to drop it. They thought I was making myself too troublesome in my little town in Louisiana. My family thought that I would be safer, if I stopped talking about it. But I can't. And I wasn't safer. So here I am again. Twenty years later. Talking. Writing. Telling my story. This is not an isolated experience. This aggression. This disregard for the quality of the lives of women and girls. This is our experience. We are not safe. In public. With our families. Or in the protective quiet of our home-towns.

So please listen to us. Listen to what I believe we've always known.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Northern Arizona University

Believe the type. Arizona is beautiful. We were so lucky to spend some time in the great state with some super fly students. The only caveat was the drive home....down a very steep and totally dark mountain. A touch challenging for us city gals. The bloom fell a bit off the rose when we saw all the falling rock warnings and were driving in a soft-top convertible! That said, it is no surprise to anyone that Kelly did all the driving. She is far more adept at navigating new terrain and environments than I. Plus my night blindness would have been a big negative.

Thank you to all the awesome program participants and the student leaders. Your energy helped us make it home safe and sound.


Becca and Kelly

Friday, March 02, 2007

We love Jen G!

So we got to kick it in my husband's home state (Go Steelers), speak to and with some awesome students, visit our good friend Bil's hometown and meet one of our new favorite people Jen G. at Penn State Altoona.

Jen is a no nonsense gal with a sharp sense of humor. Plus, she recently got engaged and we love a good story of romance (and she spilled). We cannot wait for the time when we cross paths again. Hopefully she will bring wedding pictures :)

Please send Jen good vibes as she plans her wedding and keeps her students on their toes.

Becca and Kelly

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Why I Denison University, let me count the ways!

First off, I was ready to move to the community surrounding Denison until I was informed that I could not afford to. It is absolutely beautiful and charming-hence the price tag.

Second, the campus was gorgeous. Simply gorgeous! Really, check it out

Third, John the Associate Dean of Students was all things we adore. Prepared, funny, candid and an animal (dog) lover.

Lastly, we had the chance to do something we rarely get to do but love. Instead of a traditional program we lead a round table discussion where learned about their specific campus issues, individual concerns and various opportunities to enact change and addressed them all head on. It was great to work with and learn from each of the participating students.

Becca and Kelly