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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.)

Is the U.S. Government Causing & Perpetuating the Obesity Epidemic?

I recently re-watched the documentary Fed Up about how the U.S. government has basically subsidized the obesity epidemic in this country. It continues to perpetuate the problem through policies and regulation that enhance the financial success of certain food industries at the expense of public health.

In the 1970s, we were told to decrease the amount of fat in our diets. This resulted in the creation of low-fat and fat free products where a fat was replaced with sugar. And it’s sugar that is largely responsible for our problems with obesity, diabetes, and other related problems according to this film. We have our society of people who don’t understand what proper nutrition is and it doesn’t help that our school system is feeding them junk food and tells them that French fries and pizza are vegetables.

Exercise is not enough to combat the problems caused by our horrific diets. This problem is not to be resolved unless we drastically reduce the amount of processed food that we eat.

After watching this film again, I scrutinized the labels on foods in my pantry. Now, I have a pretty healthy diet. Besides putting sugar in my coffee, I didn’t think I had that much extra sugar in my diet besides the sugar in my morning coffee. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, baked chicken, cottage cheese, and I thought most of my processed foods were on the healthier side. I was surprised that the second ingredient in my rice squares cereal was sugar and the first ingredient in my gluten-free barbecue sauce was high fructose corn syrup. (I’ve been more mindful about avoiding gluten in the last few years because I think I’m sensitive to gluten.)

Sugar by Moyan Brenn from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Sugar by Moyan Brenn from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Now that I’ve seen this movie again, I want to be more mindful about avoiding sugar (with the exception of my morning coffee). I want to limit my portion sizes of certain foods that contain excess sugar and eliminate others altogether – like protein bars. When it comes to sweet foods like jam, barbecue sauce, and desserts, I can at least use brands that don’t use high fructose corn syrup and use these foods as something to have on a special occasion.

In my gymnast days, my teammates and I avoided fat like the plague while we were indulging in sugar filled foods like Snackwell cookies and artificially-sweetened diet sodas. Based on the information in this movie, we would have been better off having an apple and a glass of water.

I’ve asked my friend who is a bariatric surgeon about what I should eat to manage my appetite. He suggested that every meal should contain fiber, protein, and fat; and there should be no limit on the number of fruits and vegetables you can have. In his experience, one of the best things a person can do for themselves is learn to cook. His patients that learn to cook instead of eating processed foods are the ones who have the most long-term success with weight loss. And when you cook you understand what you’re eating and I think you take more pride in what you make for yourself.

Some people may say that it’s their right to fill their body would junk food, and would agree with that. However, just like with cigarettes, I would endorse the government imposing taxes on unhealthy foods. These funds could be used to offset the government’s cost of health care and/or providing healthy lunches to children in school. I would support this, even though it would mean I would have to pay more for some of my favorite treats that I still occasionally indulge in.

If you haven’t seen Fed Up, see it and decide for yourself what role you want the government to play when it comes to your food.

Nobody Knows I Have an Eating Disorder

Warning: This post may be triggering to some people. Please seek help and support if you need it.

Photo by SLR Jester from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Photo by SLR Jester from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

From the outside, many people would say I’m young, successful, adventurous, and happy. I’m a daring entrepreneur and an outspoken writer. They have no idea that I struggle with an eating disorder.

As a size 4, I’m small but not emaciated. I don’t have the stereotypical eating disorder “look.” Most people don’t know that you don’t have to be severely underweight to have a serious illness that attacks your mind as much as your body.

They don’t understand how hard it is for me to eat. Most of my meals and snacks are carefully planned to keep my calorie count low. They don’t know how often I make a mental list of everything I’ve eaten that day to make sure I haven’t had too much. If I could give up food completely and just wear a calorie patch every day, I would.

They don’t know how I critically examine myself in the mirror, yearning to see more of the bones of my rib cage, shoulder blades, and collarbones. I don’t want to be horribly underweight, just “a little bit thinner.” They don’t know how important it is for me to be able to touch my fingers around my wrists. That tells me I’m still small enough. They don’t know how guilty and disgusting I feel when I’m having a “fat day.”

They don’t know how soothing it feels to devour a carton of ice cream or a big slice of cake, only to have that feeling overtaken by tremendous anxiety and shame – so much that I stick my fingers down my throat until I throw up again and again. There is no moderation in my world.

Burdened by Shame by John Hain from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Burdened by Shame by John Hain from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I once described my disorder as having a Get Out Of Jail Free card. I can eat whatever I want without worrying about getting fat. (Never mind the toll it could be taking on my internal organs.) It’s like being able to drink and being able to make yourself instantly sober again.

Every day is a struggle for me. My mind is filled with anxiety when it comes to deciding what to eat, when to eat, and when to stop. I constantly deal with the fear that if I start eating I won’t be able to stop, and if I over indulge myself that I’m going to get really fat. And in my mind being fat means I’m undisciplined and possibly out of control, which is ironic because having an eating disorder means I’m out of control when it comes to managing my emotions. So I use food to manage, medicate, and escape my feelings instead.

Having an eating disorder is painful – both physically and emotionally. It is truly an illness; it’s not a diet; it’s not something I do to get attention. On the contrary, it keeps me depressed and isolated from the people I love because my shattered self-esteem tells me no one cares. And intellectually I know that’s not true. But this disease doesn’t care about intellect. I can’t think my way out of it.

Having an eating disorder is a bitch.
And most people have no clue that I have one.

To Post or Not To Post

WordPress Buttons by Alexander Grounder from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

WordPress Buttons by Alexander Grounder from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t make decisions easily. I mean, watching me try to order a sandwich can be painful. Once a decision is made, it’s made and you’re probably not going to budge me from my position but getting to that point can be a challenge.

There are a lot of things that I write about that never make it on the blog. When I’m writing about something that I’m really fired up about, I know I’m not always in my most logical mind. (As the great Rocky said, “Anger robs thought.” This fits me to a T.) So before I hit “publish,” it’s not uncommon for me to kick the draft out to one or more people to get feedback before I share it with the world. I lovingly call these people, “The Committee.”

At any time there are probably about 10 people I consider part of The Committee, and depending on the posting question anywhere from one to all of them will get a copy of what I’m thinking about posting before I decide if it goes out. I had so many strong emotions coursing through my veins as I wrote the post, I Can’t Stay Silent Anymore (probably my most daring post to date), so I knew I needed a second and third opinion before releasing it. Here are some of their reactions – mostly paraphrased. (I’m only referring to them by first initial to protect their identities.)

B: Sleep on it and see if you still want to release it in the morning.

E: Why are you hesitating? Posting this is not a bad idea.

R: It’s a thoughtful post. Go with your gut.

P: It’s an excellent post. Who better than a victim to truly state the outrage and expose the injustice of the ways this is handled in our society? If you want to put it out there–go for it. The world needs to hear it.

J: I don’t have time to read this right now. I have a massive brief due.

(That last one was just to show you that my Committee is composed of real people whose worlds do not revolve around me.)

I feel very lucky that I have amazing friends and confidants who let me vent, support me when I’m doing the right thing, and tell me when I’m wrong. I couldn’t do what I do without you.

I Can’t Stay Silent Anymore

The way sexual assault is handled in the U.S. makes me so frustrated. Sexual abuse and sexual assault is so pervasive – the CDC estimates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused and the number of women who are sexually assaulted in their lifetime is devastatingly high, and yet it’s something that is almost never discussed. I saw the trailer for the documentary about sexual assault on college campuses, The Hunting Ground, last tonight and it filled me with fire.

I get so angry when I hear about child molestation by church priests, the abuse by Jerry Sandusky, and the pervasiveness of sexual assaults on college campuses. I’m not angry just because people are being attacked, but because the institutions who are responsible for the victims’ safety are protecting the perpetrators. They are more concerned about maintaining their reputations than doing what’s right. Are they completely oblivious to the devastating effects of sexual assault? Do they know that they have shamed people into silence and attack them for speaking up? It makes me so angry and frustrated at “the system” that it’s hard to find words to express it. I just want to scream at them.

To every institution that turned a blind eye or blamed or shamed of victim who was sexually assaulted under their watch – Fuck You! I don’t believe in protecting perpetrators or the people that protect them.

As a survivor of sexual assault, my heart goes out to these victims and fellow survivors. I suspect I know your pain, your anger, and your shame. We live in a world that tells us to stay silent about being victimized and traumatized, to “get over it.” The people who say this are too uncomfortable with the fact that this happens everywhere and to all types of people, so they try to ignore it. They push the problem onto the victims when it’s really them who have the real problem.

The survivors of sexual assault have a challenge – to deal with the damage of the trauma we’ve been through. And if you’re a survivor too, you know how soul crushing and devastating it can be. This isn’t something we just “get over.” We live with it for the rest of our lives. It’s our responsibility to do what we have to do to take care of ourselves, whatever that looks like. And for some of us dealing with this deep trauma doesn’t take weeks or months; it takes years, maybe even a lifetime.

I’ve been silent for too long, shamed by individuals, institutions, and cultural norms. Speaking only for myself, I feel like I’m at a point where I can’t say that survivors should feel empowered to speak out whenever they need to an to call out individuals and institutions that perpetuate this problem, unless I’m willing to speak out too.