Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: sexual assault

Robin Sokoloff Open Letter

from Bitch Skateboards; graphic portrays the word “bitch” above an illustration of a man shooting a woman

Thank you to Robin Sokoloff for writing the most kick-ass piece of writing I’ve read in the last two years since the election, and UBCA.

Robin Sokoloff

Open Letter For People Looking For Open Letters

I sat down at a sidewalk cafe today, popped open this laptop – ready to send some words to anyone who’s looking for perspective and support out there.

And just like clockwork, when I try to go anywhere or do anything as a woman by myself, I am interrupted.

I am just sitting here, trying to write you these words. I’m typing away. A shadow blocks out the sun above me. Someone is looming above. This is not the first time in a lifetime of men shaped looms.

“Excuse me miss. Hey miss.”

I keep typing.

“Yo ma. Ma… yo I’m trying to talk to you lady.”

I breathe. I keep doing what I’m doing.

“Yo BITCH! What the fuck! You must be some kind a bitch right? Sitting there.”

I remain unmoved.

“BITCH I’M TALKING TO YOU!”

He puts his phone on my table.

I see it. I see where this is going. I see it all.

I pause.

I do the mental math.

I close my laptop. I set it aside.

I flip the table, forcing him to tumble back surprised.

I stand up.

I pause again.

I breathe.

I lock eyes with him.

I look at him and let him see how bored I am. I look at him like he’s an ant. I look at him like he’s obviously no match and he must have been tripping.

I say, “Say it again. No please, tell me again what a bitch I am. Let everyone here know just what a bitch I am so they can hear it and understand you fully that I’m a bitch. What else you got? Just ‘Bitch’? That’s it? What was next? Please oh please, don’t leave me hanging, I’ve been waiting all day for you to interrupt my meal and piss all over me so you can get what YOU need today. Oh hey! Maybe if you say ‘bitch’ some more, maybe just maybe, the people sitting all around me, – no, shrinking all around me while pretending this isn’t happening – maybe one of these nice people will get up and come to my aid or something. I dunno? Sounds crazy right? Why don’t you just call me crazy bitch too, for thinking someone here might care more about a woman’s safety right now than their own pasta.”

No one moves. Still. All of them. Of course. Same as it ever was.

He darts for his phone at my feet.

I push him back. My two hands. On his shoulders. I push him back like we are at the line of scrimmage. That’s what that’s called, right? Football is weird. But now I’m a football player.

He tumbles back again. This has clearly never happened to him before.

He tries again for the phone.

I step on it. Not enough to hurt it, of course. Just lightly enough to say, “Nah, that’s my phone now.”

I cock my head, motioning him up the block; or else.

He runs.

I calmly and quietly pack up my things. I swing my bag over my shoulder. Same as it ever was. I mean, no one at this restaurant seems mildly concerned about my condition, so why should I be.

The waiter shuffles just inside my periphery, to dip his toe in: “Ma’am, your sangria?” – looking to me to make this nice.

“Ma’am, ummm…. are you okay?” Says the patron next to me, suddenly leaping into action now that the action is clearly over.

“Who me? Yes, I AM okay, thanks to your help! Wow, you really took action there, huh? I hope you’re all happy with your choices here today. I hope you’re all knocking back that beer extra hard murmuring ‘oh gee, this Kavanaugh thing… isn’t there anything we can do?!?’ Newsflash my friends, you just missed your chance. You just didn’t ‘do’ anything. So I thank you all.”

I wink at them.

I eye my harasser shuffling along one block up, turning the corner.

I follow.

That’s right, I follow him.

I follow him for a bit.

I follow my harasser some more.

I see him realize I am following him.

I follow him past all the other women who he would’ve tried this on, but is now too busy trying to get away from me.

I watch him awkwardly strategize for many blocks. Change tactics, and wonder who he can ask for help. But he won’t, cause he’s a man. So…

I follow him through 6 Lanes of Canal Street/ Holland Tunnel traffic in both directions.

I keep coming, kinda like it’s Terminator III.

He ducks into a Dunkin’ Donuts, and hides like a child under the window counter.

I stop right outside the store, stand just over him, and stare.

I wonder, how odd, to hide beyond a window, like I can’t see him. Ha!

I stare at him some more.

I stare at him some more.

I stare at him till he stops panicking long enough to realize there’s no way out until I give it him.

I breathe.

I breathe some more.

I light my cigarette.

I take a puff.

I take another.

I shake my head and laugh.

I walk on.

I release him.

I release him.

– – – – – – – –

If you came here looking for hope, I’m not sure I have it. No, I definitely don’t have it. All I have is my survivor’s strength to share, and my continued commitment to transparency where you are all concerned.

I don’t want to give you hope. I want you to wake the fuck up.

I’m telling every single one of you who have been too blah blah blah to believe me, support me, or fight with me – The age of your ignorance needs to end today.

The age where you birth your daughters into a system of violence, and quietly escape to the suburbs as though that will keep them safe, but it will only really stifle their screams just enough so that you can sleep through their torture – The age of your indifference ends today.

The age where you birth your sons into a system that rapes and pillages the generation after you, just as you have, and you find yourself defending a monster because you see a little Kavanaugh in your precious boy king – The age of your convenience ends today.

I do blame you. I do. I’ve been out ringing all the alarms. I’ve been out here weeding out all the weeds, and holding the line so it can inch no further. I’ve been out here defending myself, and defending you too.

And for the life of me, I keep scratching my head knowing you all have children and grandchildren of your own by now and I don’t know what the fuck you are going to do. What you think they are going to do. They are not safe from this. No, not from this – The age where you can hide this from them is over. Heck, the age where you can hide them FROM this is over.

As many of you know, I run Town Stages. That means lots of people in and out, day in and day out. Lot’s of conversations amongst friends, and even more conversations amongst strangers.

If I had a nickel for every seemly nice guy who’s tried to mack on me this week by saying, “So… this Kavanaugh thing, huh?”

And I just stare back. I figure it’s their turn to make this nice.

And they go, “Well, I mean… do you think there is any… absolutely any chance that he didn’t do it? Like what if….. I mean, there’s very little evidence and I was wondering like what if… ”

And I stop him there. I try to help him out. I try to take his side.

“Bro – Humor me. Imagine you were overcome by a bunch of piss drunk men, half suffocated, and brought to the point of ‘about to be raped’, if not actually raped in this manner as so very many women are. Think about it for a sec. Would you tell anyone? How would the people around you act if you said you had been raped? Would your family believe you? Would your job believe you? Would the WHOLE WORLD believe you? Are you prepared to be the laughing stock of every where you go for the rest of your life just to stop one man from having a job? Tell me – Is there a world in which YOU would make this up knowing it would pretty much end your life as you currently know it? And if you actually worked up the courage to tell your story, what would you do if some guy like you, no, millions of guys like you were standing here going ARE YOU SURE???”

He says, “oh…. I …shit. Yeah…. But wait, were the guys that raped me gay or straight.”

I stare back. I blink once, very slowly.

He knows he’s an idiot. He admits he’s an idiot. He just needed a sec.

“Well the thing is, women don’t get a sec when they are being sexually assaulted.”

He stands there quietly.

I stand there quietly.

He tries to change topics, says “Hey… Nice place. You work here?”

“I built it.”

He looks at me.

He looks down.

“Yeah. You weren’t expecting that either, were you….”

He stands there quietly.

And maybe he was thinking, what a bitch.

But what if he was thinking: Holy shit. I’ve gotta get my shit together.

And that’s all I want, men. Get your shit together.

I suppose my open letter for people who like open letters in dark times even though it’s always been a dark time for the people who actually build America, is this: You just pissed off one of the fiercest bitches to ever walk this earth and you still haven’t thought this though. Be afraid. Be very afraid. You left me and my friends with nothing to lose when you had everything to lose. Bad plan. Very bad.

 

“A Sexual Violence Reckoning is Coming In Publishing” Or Is It?

From Bitch Media, S E Smith’s great piece on sexual harassment and assault in CanLit. Where are we now? Where have we been? Where are we going and how will we get there?

As someone pretty much drummed out of a traditional literary career, and who (mostly) speaks their mind, I have to tell you losing hopes of getting ahead is a lot better than the alternative of shutting up. It’s a coming out, if you will. There’s great and abiding strength in it. There’s passion and direction and a waiting army of feminists who refuse to shut the fuck up about the harms that have been done to us.

Nothing will stop us.

A Sexual Violence Reckoning is Coming in Publishinghttps://www.bitchmedia.org/article/sexual-reckoning-in-publishing

Flip the script, UBC Accountable. It’s time

graphic from U of Windsor

Today is a year since the anti-feminist, anti-victim, UBCAccountable letter went up. What a year it has been. What an autumn it has been. Now we’re in the middle of the “me too” initiative, awash in thousands of declarations of womxn’s experiences of sexual assault. I’m embarrassed for Canada that this letter exists, ashamed for CanLit, and scared because of the new chill on reporting that it’s caused. This letter had severe repercussions in my own writing life, and I’m old, published, experienced. Imagine how much worse for you if you happen to be young, unpublished and inexperienced. Imagine how much worse still if you are from a marginalized community with other barriers set against your literary success.

I’m more surprised than ever that women signatories haven’t taken their names off and whispered, chastened, “I’m so sorry. Me too.”

I Show My Dick

unknown source: please contact me for credit

I wrote a new poem. I’m sure you can guess whose voice I wrote it in. Louis CK has been accused of showing his penis and masturbating to colleagues. I watched Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi Season 2 reference to one of his assaults recently, as it happens, and I wondered about the male privilege and disregard for others you’d have to experience to commit assaults like these. What relationship would you have to have to your penis? I bet you’d have to think it was pretty great, at least superficially, wouldn’t you?

 

I Show My Dick

 

I carry my dick in front of me

It’s an easy-glide dick

It’s a strong dick

It’s a big dick

a stand-up dick

It’s a straight dick, it doesn’t bend

My dick’s a trophy dick

My dick’s a race car dick

It’s a stallion dick

an elephant dick

a blue whale dick

In a bag of dicks, my dick perks up

In a bag of dicks, my dick’s a fountain

In a bag of dicks, my dick’s Dick of the Bag

 

-Jane Eaton Hamilton

 

Jackson Katz,The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help

The power of “me too.”

“I draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other. Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they’ve been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, ‘I stay out of prison.’ This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, ‘Nothing. I don’t think about it.’

Then I ask women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands. As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine. Here are some of their answers: Hold my keys as a potential weapon. Look in the back seat of the car before getting in. Carry a cell phone. Don’t go jogging at night. Lock all the windows when I sleep, even on hot summer nights. Be careful not to drink too much. Don’t put my drink down and come back to it; make sure I see it being poured. Own a big dog. Carry Mace or pepper spray. Have an unlisted phone number. Have a man’s voice on my answering machine. Park in well-lit areas. Don’t use parking garages. Don’t get on elevators with only one man, or with a group of men. Vary my route home from work. Watch what I wear. Don’t use highway rest areas. Use a home alarm system. Don’t wear headphones when jogging. Avoid forests or wooded areas, even in the daytime. Don’t take a first-floor apartment. Go out in groups. Own a firearm. Meet men on first dates in public places. Make sure to have a car or cab fare. Don’t make eye contact with men on the street. Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.

― Jackson Katz, The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help”

 

Sweet criminy, Warsan.

Just read it.

The House, by Warsan Shire

“On Assault and Harassment in the Literary World”

After Bonne Nazdam’s recent article in Tin House (Experts in the Field) today’s compilation on LitHub talks about the murky, damaging world of sexual assault and harrassment in the US lit world, with writers like Anna March, Roxane Gay and Porochista Khakpour.

Lit Hub

 

A Challenge to Canada’s Writers and Artists

In this difficult week of MAU (Misogyny As Usual), when Jian Ghomeshi has signed a peace bond after already being acquitted of sexual assault and one count of choking, I’ve read many heartbreaking, raw accounts of women’s* encounters of violence at the hands of men. There is an outpouring of rage in response to the verdicts, and why wouldn’t there be?

Some solutions have been suggested: working to bring our justice system into alignment with the more functional and respectful sexual assault courts of the UK; thinking about alternative justice as a kinder, gentler way to mediate these cases. Personally, I like my idea of victims of this kind of treatment suing the feds over the abridgement of their women’s Charter equality rights, and this is an idea that could go wider and include women whose equality rights are abridged every day by Canada’s hatred of women.

What we need, it seems to me, besides, urgently, an inquiry on misogyny, is our creative people to put their best minds to work at developing solutions. We can’t leave systemic change up to the legal system, where things are hidebound. Lawyers have had misogynistic legal regimes drilled into them like fillings. 

So this is my challenge to Canada’s writers, artists, musicians: come up with ideas and get them out into the public sphere.

I guess what I fear is what I saw after the case itself was complete–women stopped demanding change. We are exhausted, demoralized, literally and figurately beaten back by violence and fear and compassion. We go back to our lives. We think it’s impossible. The system is broken; the system never changes. We realize how little has been altered there over the years and how impossible it is to enact change inside a system that’s functioned as a male-bastion since its beginning.

None of us know what to do, exactly.

But what I’m telling you from my activist days is this: DO SOMETHING.

 

*I note as always that women also suffer violence at the hands of people besides men, and that ciswomen are not the only victims of violence.

Jian Ghomeshi … A Raped Canadian Woman is Worth 1/328th of a Man

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 10.11.36 PM

There are an estimated 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year. That is 1,260 rapes every day, 8,821 rapes every week, 35, 287 rapes every month.*

Count them. 460, 000 Canadian rapes a year.

Imagine that. Imagine your day. You wake, you rise, you shower, you eat breakfast, you go to work, you run errands, you pick up kids, you have dinner, you recreate, you fold laundry, you watch a movie, you check the baby, you go to bed, you sleep. 24 average hours. During that time, one thousand, two hundred and sixty Canadian women are sexually violated. Not in the US. Here. In your own country. Some of them, statistically-speaking, in your own town. Some of them, statistically-speaking, on your own street.

And when you have another day like that tomorrow, the kind of day that roles by without exclamation, a new set of 1260 women will be sexually aggressed upon, and mostly by a new set of men, or by repeaters who excaped punishment the last time.

1400 rapists are convicted every year. So if we got to choose how to arrange those rapes and convictions, we could stack the women raped in one day up against the rapists convicted in one year and this is what we’d see.

1260 rapes/day

1400 convictions/year

So if crime and punishment worked here, all the rapists who rape women in the average Canadian day would be tossed in the slammer. Plus we’d put away 140 more from the next day’s rape burden, which would leave only 1120 unpunished rapes that second day. 1260 the day after that. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day.1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day.

Does this give you any idea why women are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore?

For every rape–and this is me just guessing here–I’m guessing there are 10,000 Canadian incidents of workplace harassment, street harassment, bus harrassment, harassment at home. Indulge me here. Rape and kidnap and murder are the worst manifestations of what’s going on for women in Canada. But lots of smaller aggressions happen to us all the time. Every day.

That’s called the patriarchy, aka “rape culture.” This is where it shows up what a self-sustaining system it really is. If institutions cut off our ability to respond to these aggressions at every step of the way, whether through mocking us, demeaning us, disbelieving us, telling us we’re crazy, calling us whores, saying we asked for them, saying our skirts were too short, we learn. Not to fight harder. But to give up.

Men have a choice about the patriarchy, at least about whether or not they participate and perpetuate it, but women have no such choice. It’s our birthright. The patriarchy is forced on us, force-fed to us with our Cheerios, and every girl and every Canadian woman has to figure out how to deal with it. Every day we teach ourselves how to get through the onslaught. Every day. When we’re 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 or 70, we are still learning how to deal with it.

Think about this. For every rapist we put behind bars, we let 328 go free. Lawyers tell us that we do this in the pursuit of justice. They tell us that we do this because having one innocent man go to jail is worth … anything.

“Anything” is not just an idea. “Anything” here refers to real women with real bodies with real trauma. It’s been proven in study after study that only around 5-8% of accusations are false.

We should be convicting, at the least, 92% of all Canadian rapists.

We actually convict 0.03% of all Canadian rapists.

It’s not acceptable to this country to have a man slip through the cracks and be jailed for a crime he didn’t commit (nor should it be). But it is more than acceptable–in fact, it is the daily reality, the reality our system of justice seeks–that 458,600 women in this country every year get raped without recourse to justice.

Is sexual assault a crime in Canada or not?

I don’t think it is.

This get-out-of-jail-free card worked for the men who formed our justice system and it is obviously an equation that still works.

People say it’s not that simple.

But it is.

If this system didn’t work for men, it wouldn’t be in place.

Ask Jian Ghomeshi. I’ll bet you that tonight he’d tell you it works very well indeed.

Any way you play the numbers they still add up to this:

A raped Canadian woman or girl is worth precisely 1/328s of what a Canadian man is worth.

 

Reading Stats

*I’m using gendered language but acknowledge that men are raped by women, that women are raped by women, that many Canadians do not identify as either men or women, and that trans people are subjected to high rates of all kinds of violence.

 

 

 

YES

I Didn’t Report Because Fuck You

A Shattering Day for Canada’s Survivors

This morning, Jian Ghomeshi was found not guilty on all charges. The judge: “We must fight against the stereotype that all sexual assault complaints are truthful.”

As a survivor who never disclosed to police, I am devastated on behalf of everyone who knows Jian Ghomeshi, who worked with him, who wondered about him or who didn’t have to wonder about him because they (allegedly) knew for sure.

Maybe this verdict is a different experience for people who haven’t been raped or battered, but for survivors, this is crushing. It is crushing not to be believed, to shoulder the burden of both the assault and then on top of it, the disdain from people you both need and are counting on for support and protection. I send respect and admiration for the women in this case who put themselves through the testifying madness in order to save other women from going through what they (allegedly) went through. I’m profoundly sorry, if not surprised, that it didn’t work.

This morning, Canada should be profoundly ashamed of itself.

Canada Is Raping You

The Preludes to Assaults

After the plane got down safely

After I didn’t fall out of the sky when my plane had an emergency landing, my friend and I sat in her living room with just the tree lights on drinking wine in the middle of a snow storm.  You couldn’t see much outside except that white snow mounded everywhere, covering the sharp edges.  It was minus something but with the wind chill -40, which I learned is the same in Celcius and Farenheit.  Two cats, one all white and one all black, curled up beside us or under the tree.  It smelled like apple cider–cinnamon, cloves, cardamom. Blue lights, red lights, yellow lights.  Wrapped presents.

My friend said to me that when the Jian Gomeshi news broke, she kept remembering sexual assaults; they were like zombies breaking out of the ground.  She had one of those moments where things suddenly got clearer–she realized that when women get violated, mostly it’s just another event in a long line of assaults.  We get away as best we can, we brush off, we probably don’t report it (because who in their right mind wants what would happen then?), we may not even think of it for long because it’s happened so many times before.  We just go on.  We’re women.  That’s what we do.  We go on.

The white cat started climbing the trunk of the Christmas tree.  My friend shooed her away.  The cats went outside though I thought they’d freeze like cattle in Alberta fields, from their feet up.  I told my friend that I had a cat once in Cochrane and I slammed the door too fast during a cold snap and her tail broke off.  Verushka, her name was.  The cats came back in and weren’t frozen anywhere.  We refilled our wine glasses.  For a long time, we talked about divorce court, but then after all that, we didn’t want to pour more wine; we just had to go to bed.

 

 

I support you, women of Canada, women who are surviving him

  Red1

a painting of mine from Feb 2014, Paris

There are no cherry blossoms

Leaves flee from trees: handkerchiefs of blood

submerging in puddles

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