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Josh Duggar Admits Molesting His Sisters – Thoughts about the Victims’ Needs

I’m still processing my feelings about Josh Duggar’s acknowledgment that he molested multiple people, including some of his sisters.

It makes me angry that he’s not going to face criminal repercussions for his actions because the statute of limitations has run out. (I believe every state should eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal charges in any sex crime and allowing any victim to bring civil charges against his or her attacker at any time.)

Image from Facebook

Image from Facebook

It baffles me that Josh told his now wife Anna and her family that he had molested children and she still married him.

I feel bad for Josh’s victims, especially his sisters. I suspect they were told that they had to forgive him and move on, act as if nothing happened. Some reports say the girls have had counseling, but I have serious doubts that they received proper treatment. Sexual abuse is devastating to a person and can have long lasting effects. Trust me I know – my sexual abuse ended over 20 years ago and I’m still in therapy.  I’m still learning that my feelings matter, that I’m worthy of love, and that it’s not my job to maintain the perfect family image.

The situation with the television show sickens me. Here is a family that is putting themselves out there as having strong morals, and yet they have these dark secrets that they’re hiding. And they have the audacity to criticize other people’s lives and say that gay couples are a threat to children all while they have a sexual predator in their family!

There are elements of this family’s (and their community’s) dynamics that I find unsettling. In general, I have no issue with people who have strong religious beliefs, believe in modesty, or have strong family ties. However, I remember watching an episode of 19 Kids and Counting (or however many kids they had at the time) where the girls were showing how they saved money by doing their perms at home. One of the girls said that they all have long hair because their dad likes long hair. What about what they want? Shouldn’t they get to decide how long their hair is? It really bothered me when I saw the episode about Josh and Anna’s wedding where Anna’s father blatantly said that his daughter was going from following what he said to following her husband. What about what she wants? These statements seemed perfectly normal to them when they said it and it makes me wonder if young women in this community understand that what they want matters and how they feel is valid and deserves acknowledgment.

I saw an article headline that said TLC is considering removing Josh from the show. They’ve removed the show from the channel’s lineup, but I think they need to cancel the show entirely. Josh said he “acted inexcusably” by molesting multiple minors; I’d say he acted criminally and with complete disregard of human respect when used these girls for his own satisfaction.

His parents’ official statement called his behavior “very bad mistakes.” Mistakes? Mistakes?? A fifteen year old who forgets his homework or breaks curfew makes mistakes. A fifteen year-old who sexually assaults multiple people has severe problems. Sending him away for four months and then creating a reality show where you expect your daughters, who were molested by him to maintain your wholesome perfectionistic family image and be ok with being around him in any setting is disgusting.

It seems like ethical thing for TLC to do would be to cancel the show to give members of this family time and space for the healing they deserve. I hope if any of his victims ever want to take the public stage to discuss their experience as sexual assault survivors, that they have the opportunity to do so in a loving accepting environment.

In the larger picture, this country needs to acknowledge that there’s a big problem related to childhood sexual abuse. One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys in the U.S. has an unwanted sexual experience before age 18 – and the problem isn’t going away. The perpetrator often isn’t a stranger hiding in the bushes; it’s someone the child knows and trusts. These children who have been betrayed and violated deserve empathy and care for what they’ve been endured. Ignoring the problem and explicitly or covertly telling them to stay quiet victimizes them more and perpetuates the problem.

Traveling without Tech

London from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral!

Hello from London!

I spent last weekend at an SEO conference in London called Ungagged. (Yes, poor me, I had to accept a trip to London to talk about social media law.) Initially, I thought the trip would give me another opportunity to practice minimalist packing, but it gave me a much richer experience of traveling without a cell phone.

Before I left for this trip, I contacted my wireless provider and added a small global package to my phone. Unbeknownst to the clerk or me, they gave me a plan that doesn’t work in the UK, so when I arrived I had a cell phone that was worthless as a phone. I could still connect to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, but otherwise, my phone was an oversized pocket watch that was set to Arizona time with a built-in camera.

Whenever I wasn’t in the hotel, I felt like I was back in the late 1990’s when I had to go back to the computer in my college dorm room to check my email. Actually, it was better than that because I had a pager in college so there was always a chance my hip would start vibrating. I bopped around London virtually tech-free. Many times I left the hotel without taking my phone with me and when I did take it, it was only to be able to take photos.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

I loved walking along the Thames River, looking at the various shops. I navigated only with the recommendation from the concierge – not even a map or a guidebook to direct me. I figured if I got lost, I’d stop at a shop and ask directions. It was quite freeing to travel untethered to my phone – nothing to distract or direct me. I simply followed the streets and whatever whims moved me. As I walked along I thought, “This is what being a tourist used to be like.”

My hotel was located near St. Paul’s Cathedral which has a dome that towers above much of the surrounding skyline. When I wanted to return from whence I came, all I had to do was turn around and head in the opposite direction. If I moved in the general direction of cathedral, I knew I’d get back to my hotel eventually. I was never afraid of being “lost” in the city.

It was so wonderful and relaxing to leave my phone behind and enjoy London. I suspect I got to see and experience more of the city merely because I wasn’t distracted by notification chimes or tempted to bury my head in my phone. It’s definitely a practice I want to adopt more often.

Return to Costco

Photo by Leslie Easton (Creative Commons License)

Photo by Leslie Easton (Creative Commons License)

Last weekend I went to Costco with my white board sign to pick up a prescription for Rosie the basset hound. The staff was obviously alarmed by the fact that I was carrying my white board sign. (My behavior otherwise was completely innocuous, quiet, and polite.) The clerk escorted me out of the store after I had completed my transaction. Non-members of Costco are allowed to use their pharmacy and to purchase alcohol; however, the staff member told me that next time I needed to inform the clerk working the door of my non-member status so they could escort me in and out of the store.

That made sense. I can understand why Costco only wants people who have paid for memberships in the store, eating the samples, and making purchases.

Fast-forward to this weekend. Rosie needed a refill for one of her other prescriptions (it’s hard to predict when you’ll run out of doggy eye drops) so I returned to the same Costco as before – this time sans white board sign. I presented myself to the greeter and told her (with my best British accent) that I was not a Costco member and that I wished to use their pharmacy. Without hesitation, she pointed toward the pharmacy and let me proceed unaccompanied.

Photo by Mike Mozart (Creative Commons License)

Photo by Mike Mozart (Creative Commons License)

The pharmacist said it would take approximately 15 minutes to fill Rosie’s prescription and he handed me a larger Costco pager device that would ring, vibrate, and light up when it was ready. I was allowed to walk through the store to observe the other patrons and their carts piled high with large quantities of goods. The idea of buying such large quantities of one thing in a single transaction baffles me.

When the pager went off, I returned to the pharmacy, completed the transaction, and walked out without incident.

Costco Lessons to Date:

  • They don’t want you to be in the store with your whiteboard sign.
  • They will allow you to be in the store unaccompanied when you don’t carry a whiteboard sign.
  • They will allow you to be in the store unaccompanied if you use a fake British accent.

Hmm…do you think they’ll let me use the pharmacy if I walk into the store wearing fairy wings?

Kicked Out of Costco

Ignite Phoenix 17 Speaker's Bootcamp by  Brandon Larkin (Creative Commons License)

Ignite Phoenix 17 Speaker’s Bootcamp by Brandon Larkin (Creative Commons License)

My friend Alan made me a white board sign – it’s two small white boards screwed to a stick of wood. It’s basically a reusable protest-style sign. I love it. It’s a fun way to make a statement without saying a word.

(I’ve been saying for years that I need a shirt that creatively conveys the message “Stay away from me” for the days that I had hate everyone but have to leave the house but it’s so creative that people want to talk to me about my shirt. Now I have a customizable sign that I can use instead.)

Rosie needed a refill on her glaucoma eye drops and our doggie ophthalmologist said that Costco pharmacy had the cheapest price, so off I went with my sign to get her meds. I don’t need to buy anything by the vat or gross, so I’m not a member of Costco. It’s a warehouse of consumerism that I usually find overwhelming. (You can use their pharmacy even if you’re not a member.)

I walked in a 9:30am when they opened to drop off her prescription. The front of my sign said, “I bite. I really do.” My friends wrote that on my sign and I left it there – but it’s true. I do bite. The back said, “Be Awesome to Everyone.” It’s always fun to watch the reactions when you violate social norms. I walked in, dropped off Rosie’s prescription, and walked out without incident.

Fast-forward three hours when I returned to pick up Rosie’s meds. It was high noon at Costco – the peak of free sample time. By then I’d changed my sign to say, “Stupid should hurt” on one side (hat tip to Improv AZ’s Fake Protest Flash Mob) and “Stop doing things you hate” on the other (hat tip to Gary Vaynerchuk). Based on the parking lot, I should have written “Cool kids return their carts.”

As I walked through the door, I think someone said, “Do you have a membership card?” to me, but I was completely oblivious to the staff. I was on a mission to get Rosie’s meds. One of them caught up with me at the pharmacy where I’d lowed my sign and was politely waiting for the tech. I think she thought I was “special needs.” She was very deliberate with her words and explaining that the store was private property and when non-members use the pharmacy, they need to be escorted, but that I couldn’t bring my sign in the store again. (She had no clue that I’m the lawyer who literally wrote the book on flash mobs and pranks.)

I finished my transaction and she escorted me out of the store. She even carried my sign for me. She seemed to soften a bit when I said I was there to get my dog’s glaucoma medication.

So now we know – when your awesome friend makes you an awesome white board sign, stores may not appreciate it as much as you, even if you’re quiet, polite, and legitimately there to make a purchase. And they might suspect you have a mental disorder.

I Wish I had a more Walkable City

 

One of the things I love doing during The Undeniable Tour was taking walks. I often spent my first evening in a new city getting my bearings by walking around the neighborhood. In many cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle) I could easily find a grocery store, drug store, coffee shops, things to do, and plenty of people watching within a mile of my hostel. I loved it. I barely drove when I was in the cities because it was more convenient and more fun to walk. My friend to relocated to Seattle from Gilbert, AZ said they gave up their car because they could walk to most of the places they needed to go. For everything else, there’s public transportation, taxis, Uber, and rental cars.

Phoenix Arizona Downtown Night Aerial Photo from Helicopter by Jerry Ferguson from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Phoenix Arizona Downtown Night Aerial Photo from Helicopter by Jerry Ferguson from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I didn’t have any plans last Friday night and I decided I wanted to get out and take a walk around 7 p.m. And then I thought about what’s in my neighborhood within walking distance and there really isn’t much, so I loaded up Rosie the basset hound and we drove a few miles to Tempe to walk along Mill Ave. She loved all the new smells and letting everyone love on her. (My apologies to the staff at The Handlebar. I let her walk into the bar when a group of patrons near the door was excited to see her.) I enjoyed getting out to relax in the warm night air.

It’s ironic that Phoenix, a desert city, is so spread out. You would think that the hot weather would inspire builders and people to want to stay close to work and day-to-day conveniences. With a walkability score of 38 (out of 100), that is definitely not the case. (Phoenix’s bikeability score is 52.) The walk scores for my home and work zip codes aren’t that much better, at 49 and 54 respectively. I looked up Tempe since I lived near the Phoenix/Tempe border and they fared better with a walk score of 50 and a bike score of 75.

I think there is hope for Phoenix. It appears that more people are moving closer to the city and there seems to be a higher demand for conveniences within walking distance and effective public transportation. I’m lucky than I’m not as dependent on my car as others since I lived right next to a bus stop and I’m close to two light rail stations, one of which that has a park and ride. I’m starting to consider what I would have to do to be able to bike to work, especially on the days when I don’t see clients and I’m just working in my office. I friends gave me some recommendations about the best way to transport my laptop with me.

One of the things that’s missing from many neighborhoods is having grocery stores, drug stores, and similar conveniences close to home. Even downtown Phoenix and many places along the light rail lack these essential businesses. Our transit system is doing a great job at getting us to major venues and town, but they’re not necessarily getting us to where we need to go on an everyday basis.

For now, I will have to drive most of the times that I need to go somewhere but I hope that will shift and Phoenix will become a place where transit lines and bike-friendly routes will become the most desirable locations for day-to-day conveniences.

Carry that Weight: Accused Rapist calls it Harassment. I Suspect it’s Natural Consequences.

Did you see the story last week that Paul Nungesser is suing Columbia University? He’s the student who is accused of sexually assaulting Emma Sulkowicz (and other students), which inspired Emma to create the performance art piece called “Carry that Weight” after he was cleared of responsibility in regards to her alleged rape by the school.

Visual arts major Emma created this piece for her senior thesis where she committed to carrying a mattress everywhere she went as long as she attends the same school as her accused attacker. Paul is suing the school, claiming that “Carry that Weight” is a harassment campaign against him and as a result, its damage to his reputation and job prospects. He also claims that he has been on the receiving end of pervasive threatening behavior by other students who call him a “serial rapist” when he attends school events.

(I must use terms like “accused” and “alleged” because this is a situation where the suspect has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing in a court of law. Please don’t interpret this to mean that I don’t believe Emma or any others who speak out about being sexually assaulted.)

Protester with Placard by WeNews from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Protester with Placard by WeNews from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This development in this situation leaves me frustrated and emotionally torn. On the one hand, I am a strong advocate of the idea that people are “innocent until proven guilty.” I believe in this ideology because I don’t want to see that justice system manipulated or people being punished based on one person’s word. I believe when a person is accused of a crime, they deserve in their day in court and that it’s the prosecution’s job to build the case against them.

On the other hand, my limited experience with the criminal justice system has taught me that sexual assault cases are very hard to prove. As a lawyer I find myself regularly quoting Tom Cruise’s brilliant line from A Few Good Men: “It doesn’t matter what I believe. It only matters what I can prove.” Sometimes justice can’t be done because the evidence isn’t there to paint a clear enough picture of what happened. That doesn’t mean that the victim isn’t telling the truth. Studies show that very few people lie about being sexually assaulted.

If Paul attacked Emma or any other student (and I believe he did), part of me endorses the idea that he and others like him that get away with sexual assault deserve the natural consequences of their actions. They deserve to have tarnished reputations and to be called out for the wrongdoings that they committed. It’s too easy for a rapist to go unpunished because there isn’t enough physical evidence and/or the statute of limitations has run out. And then they can turn around and victimize the person again by claiming they are being defamed when the victim has the strength encourage to call out their attacker for what they did.

Given that Paul is suing Columbia University and not Emma directly, I think he’s just trying to get money out of the situation. I would not be surprised if he filed this lawsuit in the hopes that the school will pay him a comfortable settlement in exchange for dropping the case.

Person + Passion + Social Media = Change

I saw two films over the weekend: The Hunting Ground and #chicagoGirl. Both of these documentaries featured young activists who are fighting against horrible problems – sexual assault on college campuses and abuses of power in Syria respectively. The something that I find it so captivating about both of these films is none of these activists waited to be asked to help. They just started doing what they thought was right, at many times putting themselves in danger, and doing what they have to do to try to make a difference.

I love seeing this type of passion in people – working on a cause every free moment, even at the expense of schoolwork, a social life, or sleep. This is when you know you’re working on something that matters, when you sit down to work on a project for an hour and the next thing you know six hours have passed. I love when I’m in this zone.

Fire Sparks by Kirrus from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Fire Sparks by Kirrus from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The other thing I love about these films is seeing how social media allows people all over the world to connect and work on a cause. In #chicagoGirl, we see how 19 year-old Ala Basatneh is a major player in the Syrian Revolution by coordinating activities from a Chicago suburb and posting videos that end up on news stations like CNN. In The Hunting Ground, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino use platforms like Skype to connect with other survivors of campus sexual assault and teach them how to file a Title IX complaint against their school if they don’t handle their case correctly.

It is so incredible to see what every day people are able to do with social media. It’s a platform that anyone can use to raise awareness, connect with others, and promote change without having to ask permission from the government or any other type of authority. I absolutely love it.

The problems related to campus sexual assault in the Syrian Revolution are ongoing. If either of these issues are important to you, please get involved however you can. And if there is another cause that you have passion about, don’t wait for an invitation to get involved. Join and online community related to your issue, and if there isn’t one, start it.

The Hunting Ground Sheds Light on the Realities of Campus Sexual Assault

I saw the documentary The Hunting Ground tonight, which sheds light on it the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. Many schools appear to under-report the problem and deal with it in effectively, many times discouraging victims from going to the police.

This situation is so frustrating because it appears that schools are focused on maintaining their reputations which increases the likelihood of getting and maintaining donors, in particular in regards to athletics and fraternities. The statistics regarding campus sexual assault are shocking and astounding, especially given that studies have shown that less than 10% of reports are false. In many cases, it appeared the school was more focused on silencing the victim then dealing with the problem.

They even featured an interview with a person who had been convicted of campus sexual assault and he described perpetrator’s pattern of behavior. It appears that the majority of people on a college campus do not commit sexual assault; however, those who do, attack multiple people.

Everyone Knows Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted (From the One in Three Exhibit by Stacey Champion)

Everyone Knows Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted (From the One in Three Exhibit by Stacey Champion)

One of the most devastating statistics presented was if this situation doesn’t change, over 100,000 college students in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted next year.

Now, I have to temper all of this information with the fact that the accused attackers are innocent until proven guilty and sexual assault cases are difficult to prove, especially when there is weak physical evidence. I can accept this as long as law enforcement does a thorough job with their investigations. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

After the film, I walked up and down Mill Avenue for a while. For those of you who were not familiar with Arizona State University, Mill Avenue is at the border of the Tempe campus where there are many bars. I found myself wondering, “How many ASU students will be sexually assaulted tonight?”

Based on what I saw many young women wearing, crop tops appear to be back in style. Of course, no person deserves to be raped regardless of what they were wearing (or drinking). But I wondered how many attackers will take advantage of this fashion statement to grab or fondle someone without consent.

Systematic problems like this make me so frustrated because it feels like the deck is stacked against victims and their allies. I don’t know what it will take to make universities step up and admit that this might be a nationwide problem and covering it up or pressuring victims to remain silent is not going to fix it. There has to be a way to make it more painful to try to dismiss this problem rather than deal with campus sexual assault effectively.

I applaud what Annie Clark and Andrea Pino are doing to encourage victims to file Title IX complaints against their school if they do not properly respond to reports of sexual assault. Until those complaints are reviewed, the lawyer in me may also suggest survivors to consider getting a restraining order against their attacker and suing them for civil damages in addition to filing criminal charges against them.

Dedicated to Making Rosie’s Life Awesome

Pirate Puppy - March 2015

Pirate Puppy – March 2015

Rosie and I had a follow up appointment with her doggie ophthalmologist a few days ago. It was mostly good news. On the upside, the pressure in Rosie’s remaining eye is well within normal range. Rosie will still be on 3 medications but we were able to reduce the frequency of some of her doses. I was encouraging; Rosie is such a trooper when it comes to taking her medications.

On the down side, our doctor reiterated that it will only be a matter of time until Rosie gets glaucoma in her left eye and she will go completely blind. I also learned that the medication that keeps the pressure in her eye down also gives her tunnel vision. The vet tech said the way Rosie views the world is like looking through a straw.

I didn’t realize Rosie’s vision was so limited, but that makes certain things make more sense. When my friend came over a few weeks ago, Rosie took longer than I expected to react to his presence. It wasn’t just that she had to see him with her good eye, she also had to get him within her limited field of vision.

Knowing that Rosie has limited vision and that she will eventually go blind makes me want to dedicate more energy towards making her life awesome. Staying within familiar places and making sure people and things are in front of her good eye probably gives her security but I also want to make sure she can experience all she can while she can. I hope I get the chance in the near-ish future to take her on a trip to the west coast so she can go to a dog beach.

I suspect if I knew I was going blind, that I would make it a priority to see and do certain things. I don’t know if Rosie knows she is going blind and she can’t tell me what’s on her “visual bucket list,” so the only things I can do is love her, be mindful of her limitations, and do my best to guess at what a basset hound would enjoy.

Traveling Reveals What’s Important

So great to see Tyler and Katie in Portland

So great to see Tyler and Katie in Portland

I spent the last 2 weeks on the road with The Undeniable Tour. I flew to San Diego and drove to Seattle, doing a speaking engagements and mostly staying in hostels along the way. I lived out of a small suitcase in the backpack, and I could have brought less if I didn’t have to dress like a professional or be prepared for such a wide variety of weather.

Hanging out with Clinton in Hollywood

Hanging out with Clinton in Hollywood

When I step back and reflect on my adventurers from a personal perspective, I see that traveling with such few possessions and traveling by myself reveals some of my core values. I hand selected my speaking engagements, lodging, who I interacted with, and how I spent my free time. It’s been a long time since the last time my days felt like they were my own and not dictated by deadlines and to-do lists. I often drove without music or the news playing in the car so I had lots of time to be alone with my thoughts.

Even though I am a gregarious performer, I’m a very simple person when it comes to my tastes and what’s important to me. I like super soft fabrics, memory foam mattresses, hot coffee, and excessively hot showers. I like to be near the ocean even though I hate getting sand in my shoes. When I had down time during the tour, I often went for a walk, read my book, or slept. I wish my city was more walkable.

Reunited with Sarah in Seattle

Reunited with Sarah in Seattle

I enjoyed chatting with my fellow travelers in the hostels, but I wouldn’t say that I socialized with them. I was in each city for only a couple of days at most so I was picky about who I spent quality time with. I’m really glad that this trip allowed me to see so many of my friends, some of who I hadn’t seen in close to a decade. There have been several times I’ve contemplated putting a map of the U.S. on my wall and marking where all of my friends live with push pins to help me remember who to look up when I’m on the road.

Living out of the suitcase reminded me how little I need to be happy and comfortable. It made me want to continue my diligence in regards to living a minimalist lifestyle. Since returning to Phoenix, I’ve added a few things to my donate-to-charity pile.

This trip definitely showed me that it’s important to periodically take a break from my everyday routine and surroundings to reflect on who I am, where I’m going, and what’s important to me. As much as I enjoyed sharing information and ideas with my audiences about how lawyers and law students can use social media and the blogging in their professional careers, the weakest gained from this trip for me personally was it gave me some time and space to think about my priorities.