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Ruth’s Soapbox

Fixing the Jury Duty System

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure/obligation of serving jury duty at the Phoenix Municipal Court. In general, I’m in favor of the jury duty system. Having a case decided by a jury of your peers with a judge in place to ensure that the case is conducted properly is formula for fair results. My friend and colleague who is a judge told me that most of the time in his opinion and experience, juries make the right decision.

Screen in the Jury Duty Room at 9am

Screen in the Jury Duty Room at 9am

Even though I was unhappy about having to give up a day of work to be there, I understand why jury service is important. I appreciated that the prospective jurors were given free parking and access to a free coffee and cocoa machine in the jury waiting room. They even tried to make it entertaining by playing movies and having handouts of word searches and Sudoku games available.

The problem with jury duty is related to the fact that many cases don’t settle until the last minute. The court doesn’t know how many cases will actually need a jury. They only know how many cases might need a jury. There was a screen in the jury waiting room that kept us abreast of how many cases were left to start or settle that day.

Screen in the Jury Duty Room at 2pm

Screen in the Jury Duty Room at 2pm

One of the most frustrating aspects of the day was knowing that I couldn’t serve more than one day. I work in an eat-what-you-kill environment so if I don’t work, I don’t make any money. I cleared my calendar for one day of jury duty but the next was as full as ever with client work and meetings. If I wasn’t selected for a jury by lunch, the chances of a case selecting a jury, presenting all the evidence, and the jury deliberating and reaching a verdict before 5pm was low. I felt like my afternoon was a waste because I knew I couldn’t serve on a duty for a 2-day trial and the environment wasn’t conducive to getting any real work done.

If I could tweak the jury duty system, these are some of the changes I would implement:

Secondary Screening of Potential Jurors. Upon arrival, jurors should be given the chance to complete a form explaining why they couldn’t serve on a multi-day trial if requested. Those forms would be reviewed by an appropriate person at the court who would determine who has a valid reason. If those people aren’t selected before the lunch break, they will be released. Knowing that certain jurors will be released if not selected in the morning might motivate lawyers and defendants to start their case in the morning.

Decide on Trial the Day Before. The parties have until the last minute to decide if they will take a plea and whether a jury will be necessary. If the parties are forced to decide the day before, the court will have a better idea of how many potential jurors are needed for the next day. On my day of jury service, there were seven cases that might need a jury, but only one panel was called.

Courthouse Co-working Space. With movies playing in the main jury waiting room, it was too loud for productive work. There was a “quiet room” but it was too small and much of it was like a medical waiting area rather than a practical work space. The quiet room at jury duty should be more like Co+Hoots with copious table space and outlets and soundproof walls so outside noises won’t cause disruptions.

I never made it out of the jury waiting room during my day of service. I impatiently watched the screen showing how many cases were left to begin that day, especially in the afternoon, since I knew I wouldn’t be selected for jury service. As soon as the person in charge of the jury waiting room announced at 3:30 that we were being released, I was out the door in a flash.

National Coming Out Day Still Matters

Happy National Coming Out Day! For those of you who are reading my blog for the first time or up and living under a rock, I am bisexual. If you have a problem with that, well then, that’s your problem.

Still Fighting by  aprilzosia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Still Fighting by aprilzosia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

A few days ago I wondered if this holiday is still necessary. Same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states and it seems like every year, I hear about a high school selecting a gay teen homecoming queen or an LGBT duo as the cutest couple. It’s clear as a country we are making progress.

I kicked this question out to my friends on Facebook, and the overwhelming response was, “Yes, National Coming Out Day is still necessary.” Even though same-sex marriage is legal (and really we should just start calling it “marriage”) discrimination is still a big problem facing the LGBT community. Even in Arizona you can be fired because of your sexual orientation – so your employer’s wedding gift to you could be a pink slip.

It seems that more families are accepting when a loved one comes out as LGBT, but there are still a lot of people who face abuse, abandonment, and violence as a result. People who are LGBT make up at most 10% of the population, yet up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT.

It is my responsibility to determine what is right for my life; and as long as what you’re doing is not illegal or harming anyone, I’m not going to tell you what you should do in yours. I won’t tell you what religion to follow, whether you should have a child, or what you find attractive, but unfortunately, there are still closed-minded people who think that everyone should live as they do and that the government should enforce it. These tend to be the people who support the First Amendment except when it conflicts with their agenda.

As I thought about this post, I was reminded how lucky I am. I have an education and I work in an industry where my sexual orientation has never been an issue. (If anything, it’s been an asset.) I am part of an amazing community that loves and supports me. But there are lots of people who are not so lucky, who are dependent on their family financially because they are under age and those who will be ostracized from a community that claims to love them if they ever disclose that they are LGBT.

I’m glad to say on this National Coming Out Day that the U.S. is making progress towards equality in regards to sexual orientation and gender identity, but we are not there yet. (As a planet, there is still much work to be done as homosexuality is still a crime that is punishable by death in several countries.)

My Family Hugs my Rapist

I woke up at 3am the other night (yay for insomnia), and as usual, I grabbed my phone off the nightstand to check my messages. When I checked Facebook, I saw that my cousin had posted the photos from this year’s family reunion. I have not attended an all-family event since 2011. That was the year I gave myself permission to stop subjecting myself to the anxiety that comes with being around my rapist-brother if I’m not comfortable being around him. Since then, I have not attended a family reunion, been home for Christmas, and I un-RSVPed for my other cousin’s wedding earlier this year.

Greeting by  Rose Valdivia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Greeting by Rose Valdivia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

My entire family (and the internet-accessible world) is on notice that my brother molested and raped me for years, and yet they still invite him to all the family events. And judging by the pictures, they are happy to see him. The idea of being in the same room with him makes me nervous, but they happily hug him. They even let him hold hands with my 3 year-old little cousin. That churned my stomach. I wouldn’t let him be within 10 feet of my dog.

My family baffles me. I am sure they have no idea how painful and frustrating it is for me to see them hugging him and knowing that he’s a welcome presence in their lives. What the fuck is wrong with them? How can they stand to be around him? It makes me wonder if they don’t believe me. I suspect some of them think, “We don’t know what really happened (we weren’t there), but we love and accept you both.” They don’t understand that by accepting him, they don’t accept to me.

You can’t you say you believe that he raped me and then gleefully invite him to a family celebration. The two don’t comport; and actions speak louder than words.

A friend asked me how common is it for families with sibling sexual abuse to side with the abuser. A quick internet search didn’t yield any statistics on this question. One study indicated that sexual abuse between siblings is 5 times more prevalent than parent-child sexual abuse so I’m sure I’m not the only one in this situation. This doesn’t make me feel better, but it’s validating to know I’m not alone.

I wonder if my family actually cares about me or if pretending that everything is ok is enough for them. Based on their actions to date, I suspect it’s the latter.

Worth reading: Responding to Sibling Sexual Abuse: What to do and Why by Boz Tchividjian (written in response to questions he received after the disclosure that Josh Duggar molested his sisters)

Self-Preservation for September

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams, used with permission

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams, used with permission

I was laying on my therapist’s couch the other day (yes, I see a therapist and yes, I lay on his couch), when I looked up at him and asked, “What the fuck is wrong with me?”

One of the things I love about my therapist is he will lovingly but bluntly let me have it when such a response is warranted. This was one of those times. He basically said that I am a perfectionistic, anxiety-filled, traumatized, recovering addict who refuses to put self-care above escapism and achievement. And if I keep pushing myself so hard, one of three things is going to happen:

  • I will have a heart attack,
  • He will be forced to hospitalize me,
  • I will learn to cut myself some slack.

Sometimes it’s hard to accept that I am human with limits, and even harder to accept that I am a human with multiple potentially terminal conditions. I have “muscled” through many of the challenges in my life to date, and unfortunately that is at best a temporary solution – survive for now and worry about the consequences and long-term effects later.

Well, now it’s later.

I’m at the point in my life and my recovery that not taking care of myself is probably not an option. I wouldn’t be surprised if I am one of those people who should be on a massage table or an acupuncture table once a month, not as an indulgence, but as a necessity. And it’s not that I don’t know about self-care; I just suck at consistently applying these principles to myself.

Did I mentioned that, because of our conflicting travel schedules, I don’t get to see my therapist again for nearly a month? It’s not that I can’t go that long without seeing him, I just don’t like to. Looking at it from an optimistic perspective, this is giving me the opportunity to take on more responsibility for taking care of myself and to rely more on my support system (because I also suck at asking for help too). I think this will also be a month of more – more music, more sleep, more gardening, more exercise, and more hugs – less mindlessness, more mindfulness.

A friend suggested that my default answer for the next month should be “No.” I appreciate her advice, but I know that can’t be a hard and fast rule. There are too many awesome opportunities, things that I really want to do. My challenge will be being thoughtful about the opportunities that I accept.

Josh Duggar Facing Lawsuit for Molestation – My Thoughts

I saw the news story that one of Josh Duggar’s five molestation victims (the non-family member) is preparing to file a civil lawsuit against him. The first thought that crossed my mind when I read this was: “Good!”

On one hand, I’m annoyed that the statute of limitations has run out on the criminal case in this situation; however, the silver lining of that is that no one can invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked questions about what happened. I am curious to see who all will be named in the lawsuit, if it will be just Josh, or if claims will be brought against his parents, church leaders, and the police as well.

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 things that is annoying about being a sexual assault survivor and an advocate for victim’s rights, is the fact that there are statutes of limitations in many states that forbid victims from filing criminal charges or civil lawsuits against their perpetrators if they wait too long. In my situation, my statute of limitations to bring criminal charges ran out the day I turned 26. My abuser will never face criminal charges for what he did to me. There is a good chance that my statute of limitations has also run for civil charges, depending on how you look at the situation.

Even when the criminal statute of limitations has run out (in states that impose such limits – though I disagree with this too), perpetrators should still be held responsible for the physical and emotional damage they cause. If I ever become a political activist, I would want to dedicate my energy to changing the law so that sexual abuse and assault victims can always file civil suits against their perpetrators. If the victim can prove to a court of law that the perpetrator is responsible for harming the victim, then that person should be responsible for paying the victim financial damages that will offset the cost of their medical bills, therapy, medication, and pain they may endure for the rest of their lives.

The applicable Arkansas law gives victims a three-year window in which to file a civil lawsuit for childhood sexual abuse. This may mean that only one of Josh’s victims will ever have the chance to pursue damages for the harm he caused. If his other victims (his sisters) decide they want to file a lawsuit later, they may not be able to, and that is a tragedy.

Statute of limitations have their place – we don’t want someone waiting ten years after a fender bender to request money for their physical injuries because by then it could be too hard to determine what caused the victim’s injuries. However, that is not necessarily the case in sexual assault cases. Yes, the person bringing the case will still have the burden of proving that the perpetrator is responsible for causing their injuries, which may be more difficult to do the longer the person waits to file a lawsuit; however, the passage of time shouldn’t be a knocks to bar that attempt to get justice.

I hope Josh Duggar’s victim files a civil lawsuit against him and everyone else who contributed to her injuries. I’m curious to hear what will come out in public testimony if this case goes to court.

If you have been the victim of sexual abuse or assault, please know that you are not alone. If you need help, there are amazing organizations out there like RAINN and 1in6.

Thoughts on the Duggar Girls’ Interview about being Molested by their Brother

empty..  by mirasview from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

empty.. by mirasview from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I watched the interview that Jessa Seewald and Jill Dillard did on Fox News about the recent media attention around the fact that Josh Duggar molested five girls when he was a teenager. Four of his victims are his sisters, including Jessa and Jill. I’m going to make no comments or judgments about anything these young women said during their interview. They are entitled to their experiences and I respect whatever thoughts and feelings they have.

The only place I disagree is with Jessa’s statement that she dislikes that people are calling Josh a pedophile and child molester. She may use whatever term she wants, but I will continue to all him a child molester because the label fits the behavior. But I won’t call him a pedophile at this time since pedophilia requires a sexual attraction to children, and he hasn’t disclosed having these feelings.

One thing I noted about this interview was that only two of Josh’s sister-victims decided to be interview, the married ones. It made me wonder if the other two decided not to participate because they were afraid it would hurt their chances of finding a partner and getting married in the future. I hope that is not the case. I hope they don’t feel any shame or guilt because this story has become widespread.

Coming out as a sexual assault survivor is a personal decision and I hope none of the Duggars felt obligated to disclose that they were victimized by Josh. I make no judgment about any of the girls’ decisions to speak out or remain silent at this time. I’m simply making an observation about this situation.

I know what it’s like to feel shame about surviving sexual assault and it’s not a sensation I wish on anyone. I hope these girls and the other children in the family have the support they need and a feeling of peace and security about themselves.

If you want to read it – here’s my earlier post about Josh Duggar being a child molester.

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.

Ruminations on the Road

Relaxing for a moment at the Trees of Mystery

Relaxing for a moment at the Trees of Mystery

I’ve been ruminating about my sexual abuse and the person I used to be for the last few days. I’ve had memories of my past and parts of others’ stories of abuse (real and fictionalized) entering my mind at random times. They’re nothing compared to full-blown flash backs which leave my completely paralyzed until the memory has run its course but they are thoughts and ideas that invade my brain and random and often inopportune times.

It came on fast and strong while I was walking through San Francisco. Ruminations are not new for me but they are something I haven’t had an issue with for a few months. Memories and ideas by themselves are not harmful but they can be distracting, and at times distressing. I told myself, “Ok sweetie, calm down. It’s ok that you’re having these thoughts but you’re scheduled to speak in an hour. Perhaps you should focus on that.”

I got through my talk just fine, but that random invasive thoughts continued to enter my brain whenever I had down time. As I was driving north towards Oregon, I tried to step back and look for themes running through the memories. I noticed my thoughts had underlying issues of anxiety, rejection, vulnerability, being attacked, and craving comfort. I grew up in northern California and I wondered if being near the places and people that are connected to the time of my abuse and the maladaptive behaviors I engaged in to cope with it was stirring me up emotionally.

I wonder if the thoughts will subside the further away I get from California. Perhaps I’m getting emotionally agitated because The Undeniable Tour is almost done and I have so much crammed into the back half of this trip. I guess time will tell.

Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert for President 2016

American Flag by Uhuru1701 from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

American Flag by Uhuru1701 from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’ve been listening to NPR so I’ve been doing a decent job keeping up with who has launched a steering committee or otherwise looks like they’re considering running for President of the United States. And so far, I’m not impressed. I haven’t seen anyone who I would want to vote for; nobody seems to have the “total package” for what’s required to be the political leader of this country.

For full disclosure, I am a registered voter.  I think I’ve missed one election in the 17 years I’ve been eligible; it was a minor school board issue and I don’t have kids. My right to bitch is fully intact.

I am registered an Independent – the largest political non-party. A 2013 Gallup poll found that 42% of Americans self-identified as politically independent.   This tells me that a lot of people are unhappy with both political parties. This is why I’m a registered independent – I think Republicans and Democrats are too extreme. I agree with each party on some issues and completely oppose them for others.

Because so many Americans are unhappy with both parties and so far, all the potential candidates are inadequate, 2016 is the perfect year for an independent duo to challenge for the presidency. I believe Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert could run as a successful campaign and be effective leaders. I am completely serious, and yes, I’m aware that it’s ironic to be this serious about a pair of comedians.

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear by Cliff from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear by Cliff from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Stewart and Colbert could do what a lot of potential candidates are doing right now and start a steering committee or something to collect funds which don’t have the same restrictions as campaign fundraising through something like Kickstarter. I don’t think they would raise money as quickly as The Oatmeal did for his Exploding Kittens game, however, I think they could raise a lot of money. A lot of people trust these political comics a lot more than traditional politicians – just recently a poll said people trust Jon Stewart more than Bloomberg and The Economist. These people are known for saying it like it is, and calling out the ridiculousness of others’ behavior.

With other presidential campaigns, the vice presidential candidate is often forced to campaign with the presidential candidate because they don’t have as much influence on their own so it’s not worth it to separate them to cover more territory. But with a Stewart /Colbert ticket, they could divide and conquer and get massive crowds everywhere they go. The challenge for them would be can they fund this type of campaign.

I could see a Stewart /Colbert ticket having a daily podcast or at least a weekly one, YouTube videos, and taking full advantage of social media platforms to campaign and reach more people much more effectively than other candidates have in the past.

Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show this year and at last I heard he is unsure what he is going to do next. I think he should run for President. I know he doesn’t identify as a politician, he’s someone who makes fun of politicians. And I think that’s what makes him so appealing – he’s not a career politician, he’s all about restoring sanity to the country, and he appears to have a good heart. I’d rather have that guy in the White House then someone who is self-centered, riding a party platform, and doesn’t seem to really understand what’s going on in the USA or the rest of the world from the perspective of the average person.

I’ve never worked on a political campaign or financially supported a presidential candidate, but I would support a Stewart/Colbert ticket. I think if these guys ran, we would get the biggest voter turnout in recent history. We would get more people watching the debates – those debates would be hilarious.

I am one person with a blog. I know I have no influence over these guys, but I hope the people who do are telling Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to give serious thought to running. As the Klingon proverb says, “Great men do not seek power; it is thrust upon them.” As long as you keep being sane and thoughtful, where you lead, we will support you.

Why Does the AZ State Bar Charge for CLEs?

Arizona has one of the highest bar dues in the country and it’s a mandatory bar so you can’t be an Arizona lawyer unless you’re a member (although the Arizona legislature may change that this session). We’re also required to complete 15 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) each year, including 3 hours of ethics training.

Photo by Ellasdad from Flickr

Photo by Ellasdad from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I just paid $475 for this year’s bar dues. That’s just the price to maintain my license.  (For anyone who still paying off their law school debt, $475 = 1900 packages of ramen.) The State Bar also offers a variety of CLEs, and recently there have been a few that I’ve been interested in attending either because I wanted the information or I thought it would be a good forum to make connections with other lawyers.

But I’m not going to CLEs that are put on by the State Bar of Arizona and here’s why – they charge for them. Why does the State Bar of Arizona need to charge for CLEs? In my experience, they don’t pay their instructors to teach and they own their building so they don’t need to rent space. So why are they charging $39 to $129 to let their members attend an educational event?

As an outsider looking in, it appears that the State Bar is milking its membership for money any chance it can get. I’m already unhappy with the way my State Bar is running the show. (The legal industry is a self-governing profession and I voted in the last Board of Governors election so I’ve maintained my right to bitch.)

Now there may be a legitimate reason why the State Bar has to charge for CLEs. I responded to a recent announcement about an upcoming CLE with that very question because I am genuinely curious why they charge. If there’s a real reason, I’ll respect it. So far they haven’t responded.

I can’t change the fact that Arizona has a mandatory State Bar (for now) or that we have mandatory CLEs, but I can put my money where my mouth is and get my CLEs  elsewhere – like ASU CLE. They don’t pay their CLE instructors to teach either but all the money goes towards law student scholarships. And ASU Law School alums get to choose what they pay – so I could get my CLEs for free if I was so inclined. (Hat tip to ASU Law for thinking about their students educational needs after they graduate.)