Thoughts on prevention

As I rehearse, I find answers in the play. For example Bernadette O’Connell, the main character, is a very religious girl possessed of a healthy libido and an abstinence-only sex education.

“One: Necking, which is anything from the neck up, is not a sin… as long as you keep your mouth closed. Two: Petting is a mortal sin and will make you pregnant. And three: This is my tabernacle (indicating her crotch) and only my husband will have the key.”

So you have this distorted human being with all this sexual energy and no idea what to do about it, except repress it because she wouldn’t want to die and go to hell, and who has no idea about the truth or who to trust if not teachers or parents. If she knew anything at all about her sexual nature and that of boys/men, who do we think she would attract into her life?

I have a friend who teaches elementary school in Massachusetts who describes their way of dealing with bullying by teaching character building. Since the earliest grades she has spent 20 minutes at the start of every day on character building. While all bullies do not grow up to become rapists, I think all rapists are bullies. Would we all be better off by spending time building character with our kids teaching them respect, kindness, empathy, boundaries and the skills needed to navigate the changing social environment in their lives. Maybe include human sexuality as well as that of frogs in biology class. So that by the time girls are looking for love and boys are looking for sex they will have a foundation on which to make good healthy choices. It needn’t take up any more time – just replace all the bull shit with the truth.

Back in Rehearsal

In preparing to bring “Asking For It” to colleges in the fall, I’ve been re-visiting the piece and going deeper. The organizations that I’m aligning with are concerned with healing and prevention. I have seen the healing that takes place when I’ve performed the play and also from feedback on the book, so I’ve been looking at prevention. And this is where it gets more than tricky for me given that no one EVER asks to be raped. Continue reading

From July re George Will

After George Will’s heinous column in the Washington Post and other papers suggesting that rape victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, a friend asked my thoughts on the subject. I had read it but there’s so much hate-based stuff out there that I didn’t allow it to penetrate… Until he asked about my thoughts. It’s kind of new being asked about my thoughts so that woke me up… again. I signed the petition to the Washington Post that was circulated by Nita and Shauna, those wonderful activists at Ultraviolet and yesterday George Will’s column had been dropped by the St. Louis dispatch. The Chicago Tribune would not print it in the first place.

As the Dalai Lama said “the world will be changed by Western women.”

“Your thoughts?” This one inquiry triggered in me a deeper connection and sense of responsibility to the college audiences who will be experiencing “Asking For It” starting in Ohio in October in partnership with Cleveland Rape Crisis Center and in NYC in partnership with SAVI (Sexual Assault Violence Intervention program).

In the very beginning, as “Asking For It” was developing, Walter Willison who directed that version came backstage after a performance and told me that there was a man left in the house alone and shaken and told Walter that “this was his story.” Walter thought I should talk to him. My knee-jerk reaction was this: “I’m an actor, I’m a writer, I’m not a shrink.” But I did sit with the man for a while and I have continued to spend time afterwards as both the show and now the book and I have evolved.

Partnering with counseling centers, the brainchild of Actor/Producer Jeffrey Grover, offers a new opportunity for healing. Talkbacks following the performance, followed by a book signing in the theater lobby will open up possibilities of one-on-one communication and access to literature and concrete information, as well as personal contacts with actual counselors if needed.

Hopefully, the President’s task force is making progress with the colleges. As far as I can see it’s really challenging… The college sexual assault groups are not equipped to adjudicate a felony. They’re comprised of faculty administrators, some students and mostly all they can do is expel the rapist. They have the reputation of the school to protect and the civil rights of the accused understandably have to be honored. As far as law enforcement goes, there’s the challenge of needing a preponderance of evidence. They have to think about convincing a jury and a victim can be further traumatized by a less than an empathic assistant district attorney.

This makes the role of the rape counseling centers so incredibly important if one is to heal. To have someone to listen, to understand, to guide, to advise, to advocate. I also have gone back to One Spirit Interfaith Seminary to study InterSpiritual Counseling so I can be more present and skillful with whomever I serve.

I keep looking at prevention. I was thinking I want to move on from the subject of rape in my work and I do. But everything I write eventually brings me to question the roots of misogyny which seem to be the source of a whole lot of what ails us today. I think of all the millions of us who sat through religion classes or Sunday Mass hearing the myth of Adam and that harlot Eve causing the fall – separating man from his God – over and over letting it seep into our cell memory. The work we need to do in the midst of all the 21st century cruelty is on such a deep level but I think we have to go there.

About Bob Costas

I actually wrote this during the Olympics but didn’t remember how to post until now. My brother Rich posted on Facebook that we were hysterical watching Bob Costas last night commenting on the games with Pink Eye. As Rich pointed out we’re not usually ones to laugh at other’s misfortunes (some comments disputed this) but as I was writing about it in Starbucks I was still having small fits of laughter…Oh and I love Bob Costas. First I thought he was wearing rose-colored glasses until I walked right up to the screen and examined it at close range. But it was kind of a relief to see someone doing their work – appearing before a worldwide audience right where they are. So human. I have missed moments with loved ones over a bad hair day. Well, not really – yes actually. My guess was that he had splashed his face with some of the brown Sochi water before they warned him.


A petition worth signing…

The Steubenville rape case helped spark a national conversation about victim-blaming and rape culture. But the victim only got justice because Anonymous leaked significant social media evidence implicating the  assailants — and for distributing those tweets, photos, and video, 26-year-old Deric Lostutter faces more prison time than the rapists got themselves.
Lostutter faces up to ten years behind bars if he’s convicted of  hacking-relating crimes.  Now he’s gearing up for a costly legal battle — and as he calls for donations, we call on you to give him the nationwide support he needs to win his trial.
The Ohio U.S. Attorney’s office and the DOJ are sending a dangerous message to men who stand up : Don’t get involved, or else. Let them know we still stand with Deric: Sign your support for his actions and oppose sending him to prison, now!

MESSAGE FOR U.S. ATTORNEY AND DOJ: We support Deric’s whisleblowing at Steubenville, and urge you to note our nationwide support when deciding whether to charge him for his act of courage.

Men Against Gender Violence

Yesterday I was working on my new play, “Accidental Mummies” and took time out to watch this TED talk by Jackson Kahn. Wow, so inspiring! And just as we are moving forward with an Off-Broadway production of “Asking For It.” Kahn started the “Bystander” project which encourages men to be leaders in their peer groups when it comes to changing the culture of gender violence against women and children and other men – to speak out as one would do when hearing racist or homophobic remarks. He starts out by thanking women who stand up and speak out in spite of being called man-haters and “feminazis,” etc. (which I have to say, has intimidated me) It has been very frustrating waiting for things to come together for AFI to gain traction and reach a wider audience. I released it a few months ago, unwilling to spend one more minute of energy on it. I figured it’s time had passed. There was enough said on the subject, but one of the most powerful moments out of many shared with audience members was when a young man told us after seeing the show that he hadn’t realized until then that he had been guilty of date rape. Unfortunately things haven’t improved that much. Things are terrible in the military, on college campuses, everywhere. It is going to take such an effort on the part of everyone to bring about change. I am feeling re-committed. This is an exciting time to be holding our brothers’ hands and jumping in. Check it out.

Love is in the air

It’s a very emotional time. So much change. I just went back to seminary to immerse myself in Interspiritual counseling studies, which goes beyond Interfaith and into the territory of soul – before we were introduced to religion. It’s bringing up a lot of heretofore undiscovered truth for me. At the same time I’ve started work on a new project and we’re probably moving. Plus I’m trying to establish a presence on social media to get the word out about the book. “Asking For It” has a lovely and talented intern, Rebecca Reimbolt, and Heliotrope Books has the amazing PR person, Nancy Moon, and the trick is that I have to supply them with tweets and posts and tumbles and blogs,



then there’s my homework for counseling and the research for my new project, “Accidental Mummies,” and my day job and certainly not least my family. So tonight I am going to help the grandkids with homework, reading, and bedtime before I hit the gym. Yogi, my dog, is in love. Spring is in the air and life is good.

Income Inequality Leads to Cruelty to Women

 (guest post from Seth)

My theory is that cruelty to women is related to income inequality. It occurred to me when I was imagining what it would be like to integrate women into combat units. Groups of men, like other primates, establish a ranking order. It’s an integral element of social cohesion. In his book “Your Inner Ape”, Franz de Waal described how the incidence of violence increased among a clan of chimpanzees when the power of the leader increased excessively relative to the power of those at the lower rungs of status.

Despite the inequality of their statuses, groups of men establish a stable social order as long as the distance between the top and the bottom remain within tolerable levels. I imagine a squad consisting of 8 men and 4 women. It’s predictable that the alpha male will hook up with one of the more desirable females. The extra stress of frustrated desire on those of lower status will strain social cohesion, probably unraveling it.

Within our current cultural structure, there is more than a vestige of the context in which women are possessions whose beauty confers status on the men who possess them. We can argue about the legitimacy of this fact, or its immutability, but it would be hard to deny it. What is interesting to me is how this dynamic applies to our society as a whole. If women are indeed totems of male status, then it makes sense that males can resent their mates for not conferring sufficient status upon them. If the rest of the man’s relationship to his society is more equal, he will probably not feel that resentment so sharply. However, when he feels so much smaller than the men at the top, he is apt to feel more restive. His mate becomes a constant reminder of his lack of status, frustration is transmuted into blame and is expressed in cruelty.