Friday, March 31, 2006

A moment of blog-silence ...

Take a moment of blog-silence ...
... for all those who were killed after being sexually assaulted and for all those who lived but couldn't find a way out of the abyss they were thrown into. You aren't forgotten.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
If you need help for yourself or someone you know, call:
It's free and confidential.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:59 PM   2 comments links to this post

Leah's Life: Some Interesting and Powerful Online Resources

Leah's Life: Some Interesting and Powerful Online Resources
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:05 PM   0 comments links to this post

Ex-police officer who sexually assaulted motorists sentenced

From 2001 to 2003 former Albuquerque police Officer Christopher Chase committed sexual assaults against motorists while on and off duty.

Like many who make a plea deal, Chase entered an Alford plea which does not admit guilt but acknowledges that enough evidence exists to convict. In some ways it is like a guilty plea, but it allows him to escape taking personal responsibility for his crimes.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:53 PM   0 comments links to this post

Vermont considering minimum sentences for aggravated sexual assault

The Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee is debating a proposal have mandatory minimum sentences for cases of aggravated sexual assault.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:40 PM   0 comments links to this post

Lifetime GPS tracking proposal for child rapists

The Wisconsin Legislature's budget committee has recommended lifetime global positioning tracking of criminals on supervised release for first-degree sexual assault of children.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:29 PM   0 comments links to this post

After Innocence, a documentary

This film raises questions about the role of human rights in our criminal justice system and how just letting the wrongfully convicted out of prison may not be a sufficient response. Featured prominently in After Innocence is the Innocent Project which has helped to exonerate people through the use of DNA testing. The issue came into focus for me after watching last night's broadcast of ABC's Primetime about false accusations.

I know a tiny bit about being falsely accused, but that's a subject for another post.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:57 PM   0 comments links to this post

Ethical interrogations and the rape victim

If an interrogation results in a confession, why should rape victims care about the ethics of the interrogators? Because of the chance that the confession was a false one.

Rape victims can be harmed by false confessions in the following ways:

1) The same techniques that can lead to false confessions can lead to false retractions. And false retractions can lead to criminal charges against crime victims.

2) If the wrong person is arrested, the cops will most likely stop looking for the person who actually committed the crime.

3) The more rape convictions are overturned because of false confessions, the more those who don't understand the seriousness of sexual assault will see most rape charges as a lie perpetrated by men haters.

4) The worst of the scum know about these techniques and therefore have better defenses against them, including directing the cops to some unsuspecting and innocent person.

So how does someone get you to make a false confession?

Two components are necessary.

1) They tell you they have evidence that proves your guilt when that isn't true.

One tool for doing this, according to the ABC Primetime episode that aired last night, is the Voice Stress Analyzer. A Pentagon study asserts that the $10,000 machines are no more accurate than flipping a coin. The ABC program asserted that many police departments use the machine as a prop.

2) They get themselves in a position of authority over you and keep you under tight control until they break you. (Aside: this technique reminds me of my first husband when he was after an apology.)

This strategy may seem justified when dealing with violent scum, but if the cops don't have real evidence they are only guessing about who is scum. Or they feel pressured to wrap up a high-profile case and decide it's worth it to cut a few corners ethically.

Although not necessary, frequently they feed you the details needed to make the confession convincing. (I believe this should be considered evidence tampering.)

FYI: Because of the problems that can happen when witnesses are fed information, there is a specific protocol designed for the questioning of young children.

So why should cops worry about the ethics behind these techniques when they are sure they are interrogating criminals who don't deserve any better?

1) Lying under these circumstances contributes to a belief that cops can't be trusted or that cops are abusive. It is certainly a contributing factor for why many rape victims decide not to file a police report.

2) The technique is effective when your goal is to hear what you want to hear, but your goal should be to hear the truth or details of the suspect's cover story that can be refuted with evidence --whether you like what you hear or not.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:00 AM   0 comments links to this post

Violence against women and the culture of team sports

This article looks at how the Duke University rape case fits into the culture of team sports. While much of it is familiar, Harvard Sociology Professor Jason Kaufman has some intriguing insights about how attributes that are helpful on the field can be harmful off the field.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:53 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 30, 2006

techboard: MySpace cleans up its act

Hopefully, the removal of objectionable profiles from MySpace will be a good start at making it harder for rapists to get access to potential victims.

techboard: MySpace cleans up its act
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:43 PM   0 comments links to this post

Holly's Fight for Justice: Abuse in Relationships!

An excellent post on how to recognize emotional abuse and what to do if it's happening to you.

Holly's Fight for Justice: Abuse in Relationships!
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:43 PM   0 comments links to this post

Rape: an absolutely unfortunate situation for all parties involved?

In an article about the Duke University rape case, I read the following comment made by a high school coach that speaks volumes.

"It's an absolutely unfortunate situation for all of the parties involved."

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Rape is never equally unfortunate for the rapist as it is for the rape victim. Rape is one or more deliberate choices made against another human being not something that happens to them. If it weren't a choice, rapists wouldn't be able to pick their victims.

Neither is it equally unfortunate for those who do nothing when they see friends attacking or raping.

Friends don't let friends rape. Repeat after me. Friends don't let friends rape.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:29 PM   0 comments links to this post

Global Efforts to Combat Sexual Trafficking workshop set for April 21

The Human Rights Program at the University of Minnesota is hosting the following workshop on April 21 that is open to the public. Note: registration is required and space is limited.

United Front for Children: Global Efforts to Combat Sexual Trafficking of Children in Travel and Tourism

Here are some useful links to those who can't attend the workshop:
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:07 AM   0 comments links to this post

One who got away

With all the stories about sexual predators who succeeded at abducting their intended victims, it's great to read a story where the targeted victim had been given advice that helped her.

The 14-year-old Ohio girl told Toledo police she was abducted at gunpoint but escaped with the help of a hammer she found in his car.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:35 AM   0 comments links to this post

Laws May Limit Where Sex Offenders Can Live

This proposed law for Minneapolis looks like it finds a balance between the rights of those who have to register as sex offenders with the safety concerns of parents.

The problem they have now is that certain neighborhoods in Minneapolis are getting an influx of sex offenders who may have been pushed out of other communities or neighborhoods.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:35 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Red State Feminist: If It Happened In A Different State, It Didn't Happen!

Not good news for the safety of women.

Red State Feminist: If It Happened In A Different State, It Didn't Happen!
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:22 PM   0 comments links to this post

A War on Christianity -- or Christians behaving badly?

Instead of seeing investigations and questions about inappropriate or illegal behavior -- even by those who call themselves righteous -- as a normal and healthy action in an open society, conservative Christian activists have labeled all questions about possible wrongdoing in their midst as acts of war.

I'd dismiss this chest-thumping as simply annoying except that by calling the situation a war, they are implying that "true" Christians are justified when they participate in violence against those they label as enemies of Christianity.

The premise that opposition to any action or belief held by any conservative Christian is opposition to Christianity is deeply troubling even if it doesn't lead to physical violence. It implies that conservative Christians accurately reflect God and the purest form of Christianity.

But we all fall short of the glory of God.

Instead of drawing Christians who have been used or exploited by their fellow Christians closer to their faith, this warmongering pushes them away.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:36 PM   2 comments links to this post

Girls just wanna have fun ...without getting raped

Interesting blog entry

I agree that there are problematic statements and faulty conclusions in the Concerned Women for America audio feed. I can't agree that the women speaking should be dismissed as conservative crackpots. Their concern for girls seems genuine to me.

However, if women shouldn't party, drink or have premarital sex because that increases the odds that they'll be killed by a man they let near them, then women shouldn't marry for the same reason. Neither should they get pregnant since murder is a leading cause of death during pregnancy.

I bumped into scary guys when I was the most careless with my life and my safety, but I was in the most immediate physical danger when I was married to someone who presented himself as a good Christian man. I met him in church and nobody at that church ever said a negative thing about him -- until after my divorce.


Those who knew about his darker side thought we had to get married. (Why else would any woman agree to marry him?) So to save me from the possible shame of being an unwed mother I wasn't told about his history of abusive behavior.

The sad thing is that for a long time I felt like an absolute failure for getting out alive.

Here's the audio in question:
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:43 AM   0 comments links to this post

White House deck shuffle - VP going overboard?

Wouldn't it be interesting if Karl Rove is working to get Cheney out and his pick for the next GOP presidential candidate in as GWB's VP so they can use the leverage of the executive branch in the '08 election?

That would certainly explain the actions described in this story:
timesonline article

Fascinating, whatever happens next.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:49 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Race, entitlement, and rape

Another story where the perception of who is good (college athletes) and who is not (exotic dancers) feeds into a society where we want to put rapists to death on one hand and where we want to blame the victims or deny the criminality of rape on the other.

pinkofeministhellcat blog entry
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:21 PM   0 comments links to this post

What's wrong with the "Battle Cry for a Nation" rally

A whole lot according to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and others, including blogger Shakespearessister.

As someone who got caught up in that type of religious fervency as a teenager, I know why teens could gravitate to leaders who vow to take up the fight against evil. Before you condemn those teens, look below the surface. How many of them, like me in my late teens, are struggling to find some way out of their personal abyss?

What do we say to them? "Your struggle to overcome the forces that are dragging you down is a stupid one"? Do we scorn them and multiply their feeling that the world is out to get them?

Or do we empathize with the fears that drive them even when we can't agree with the positions they hold onto like life preservers?

My opinion of the leadership is far less sympathetic. Just because the leaders are Christians doesn't mean their actions are right or even motivated by a pure belief in God. I've met my share of "Christian leaders" who got a very unholy high from being able to control so many others.

So how do we know which leaders to trust and respect? By asking questions. Is the leader motivated by a deep love for those they lead or is that leader using followers as pawns? Each time new leaders emerge, I pray it's the former because if it's the latter, they are harming those they've promised to defend.

Isn't it ironic that in many ways radical Muslim clerics and Christian battle leaders share the same disdain for America as a whole?
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:37 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 27, 2006

Proposal to put sex offenders to death may backfire

South Carolina is proposing a law that would sentence repeat child molestors to death.

The death penalty may seem like it's exactly what those who abuse children deserve and the only negative consequence is the slight risk that offenders will kill to silence their victims. But is that the case?

What if the person being charged is the grandfather of his victims? What impact will it have on the victims if they feel their testimony will lead to the death of a family member? And if the penalty is death, will more abusers get not-guilty verdicts because juries feel the punishment is too harsh?

This death penalty proposal seems to be a quick fix that doesn't require us to put real effort, money or thought into complex prevention strategies.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:18 PM   0 comments links to this post

CDC expanding sexual violence prevention beyond victims and advocates

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report Sexual violence prevention: beginning the dialogue is now available on the web.

The community-health strategies outlined in this report are to be used by all participants in the Rape Prevention and Education (RPE) grant program. However, everyone who cares about how we as a country are addressing this problem should read this 16-page document.

The strategy looks to help people avoid becoming a victim, help people avoid becoming a victimizer, and help change the influences and attititudes that have been shown to contribute to the problem.

Here's a link to the CDC report:
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:47 AM   1 comments links to this post

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Recognizing the heroes nobody sees

To recognize the power of just a few unseen heroes, you need to know how I coped (or failed to cope) with being raped by my boyfriend.

My initial response was to turn into a zombie (my shock was so deep it took a second rape for me to realize the first time hadn't been fluke), but the zombie phase ended the second I learned my boyfriend had another girlfriend. I sent a scorching Dear John letter.

My ex-boyfriend treated me like I was a runaway pet that needed to be lured back. The nicer he acted the wilder I got. Whenever I felt like it, I stuck my thumb out and hitched rides. Doing so made me feel free. I even hitchhiked halfway across the state to go see Edgar Winters in concert.

The trucker who picked me up on the outskirts of my hometown told me that he would be fired if anyone learned he'd given me a ride. To say I was unimpressed with the risk he was taking would be an overstatement. I thought that statement was his way of letting me know the ride wouldn’t come free. I was more puzzled than relieved when he let me out without making any sexual demands.

I made it to the concert and thought only of my joy at being able to do what I wanted. The feeling lasted until a cop pulled over as I stood on the shoulder of the freeway with my thumb out. I resented being told that I was breaking the law and resented even more being directed off the freeway toward a dinky road only the locals knew existed. As I searched for my next ride toward home, I cursed that stupid cop who didn't have anything better to do than hassle me.

After what felt like forever, a family gave me a ride until our paths diverged. When they refused to leave before I got another ride, I told them I could take care of myself. To my annoyance, they stayed until I got a ride from someone they approved of. The newest ride mattered so little to me that I don't remember anything about the driver or the vehicle.

Once I was back home, I delighted in reliving the concert but the trucker, cop and family were oddities not worth remembering. Fast forward to 1995 when I received microfiche from my hometown newspaper for the spring and summer of 1974. To help bring the events around my date rape into focus, I wanted to know exactly when key events happened, like what movies were playing at the local drive-in movie theaters. At fifteen, going to the drive-in without my parents was a major milestone.

As the pages of the old paper rolled past, one and two paragraph articles about girls who didn't come back after going out hitchhiking elsewhere in the same state barely registered. Even though I'd never run away (by my definition anyway) I'd met quite a few girls who were runaways so I wondered if the articles were about any of them. The article where some parents speculated that the multiple disappearances were related seemed like parental paranoia.

Then I read a headline about 2 women disappearing on the same day from the same park. My scrolling stopped. I had never heard about this event that happened on the other side of the state from where I lived. Buried in the article was a mention that one of the women might have left with a man named Ted.

Reading gave me chills for the first time in my life. I knew who dunnit. Ted Bundy, serial killer.

His case was so high profile that I and nearly everyone knew what he'd done, but I'd never thought about him as a danger to me because he was locked up when I first heard his name.

Suddenly I remembered my anger at being harrassed during summer of 1974 by that cop enforcing the no-hitchhiking laws. He hadn't been trying to make my life difficult, he'd stopped because girls like me were going out and never coming back. Ditto for the trucker and the family.

I'll never know how close I came to not living to see my sixteenth birthday. But I'll always know there were heroes who wanted to save me when I was at my worst.

There be predators out there girly, but there also be heroes and heroines doing their best to protect you.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:30 AM   1 comments links to this post

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Romance Writers of America’s RITA and Golden Heart finalists announced

To many, romance novels don’t seem worthy of award status. But those who dismiss all romances as fluff or worse are making a serious mistake. They are either judging the entire genre based on the worst examples or more likely they are judging the genre based on what they assume lies between the covers of every romance.

Romances explore relationships and seek some sort of positive resolution to those relationships.

Some romances make their readers laugh at their missteps. Others give readers a glimpse of what true love is supposed to look like. Some just give a few hours of pleasant distraction. As we as a society change, the romance market changes.

I’m proud to be a member of RWA even though my manuscripts don’t fit neatly within the genre and are as frequently hated by contest judges as they are loved. The realities of my life experiences bleed into my fiction, even when the work isn’t autobiographical and I wouldn't have it any other way. But it’s my belief in hope for flawed characters like myself that most links me to RWA. As the RWA communication committee chairperson, I get to foster communication and respect among a wide spectrum of writers who disagree as often as they agree.

For more information on the romance genre or RWA’s awards, visit:

Still don’t like romances? No problem. Stories focused on romance may not be your thing or you haven’t found characters and/or situations you can relate to.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:49 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 24, 2006

You say relationship, I say something unprintable - let’s call the whole thing off

In the short time since I started blogging, I noticed the number of times sexual relationship is used in news articles to describe criminal sexual contact between an adult and a minor.


Would we say a child had a financial relationship with the bully who repeatedly took their lunch money?
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:44 PM   1 comments links to this post

Teen missing for 10 years saved by the power of belief

With my history of being exploited by someone I trusted at age 15, I can relate to Tanya Kach even though my situation pales in comparison to hers.

To most of us, kidnappers, rapists and exploiters are nasty people in every way and are in short, evil. They aren’t people we can like or even believe we love. They never treat us better than we treat ourselves. They are never "good people."

Kach told the truth to convenience store owner Joe Sparico after befriending him for 10 months. Even though he had a sense that something was wrong, he didn’t believe her at first.

Thankfully, Sparico cared enough to call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. If it took Kach 10 months to tell Sparico that she wasn’t who he thought she was, I have to wonder how many other people before Sparico failed to believe Koch.

Would you have believed her? Would you have dismissed her as a kook? If you didn’t know what to believe, would you have known who to call?

Here’s more details on Tanya Kach’s story:
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:23 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Abu Ghraib dog handler gets 6 months for refusing to be “soft and cuddly”

Sgt. Michael J. Smith, 24, was found guilty on Tuesday of abusing Iraqi prisoners. But it’s his just say no to "soft and cuddly" defense that jumped out at me. According to news reports Smith testified that he wished he’d been trained on how not to get into trouble with his superiors.

His motto for real men seems to be:

Real men shouldn’t be afraid to inflict pain and suffering when they feel justified and believe they won’t get caught. Real men can’t be bothered with ethics or the importance of respecting the rights of others.

I’ll cheer the men who aren’t afraid to be seen as "soft and cuddly" and if a man believes Sgt. Smith was in the right, he can be a real man far away from me.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 5:33 PM   0 comments links to this post

Survivors Can Thrive!: Survivor Aid--Dream to Reality

Here's something that may be of interest to sexual assault or sexual abuse survivors.

Survivors Can Thrive!: Survivor Aid--Dream to Reality
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:35 PM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Minnesota Nice human trafficking

Wouldn't you love to be a venture capitalist able to support great businesses and able to deny funding to the rest? Or a consumer who has the power to boycott unethical businesses?

If you pay for sex, you are an investor in the human stock market. Some reports say it's a billion-dollar-a-year business worldwide. And you've gotten in at the ground level.

With that perspective, you may not want to read this story told by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and WCCO TV, respectively:
(if the direct links stop working, a search of the archives may be necessary)

But you never got anywhere near those two St. Paul girls believed held as sex slaves. You didn't pay to have sex with them or anyone like them as far as you know. Maybe not, but that's the power of your consumer dollars.

Five people were arrested in connection with the case last week when police raided a home to rescue one of the girls. But the Johns will likely escape without arrest or conviction in this case and others like it.

Those who force or coerce others into prostitution are depending on a steady supply of people like you to hand over your money. You can give them what they want or you can cut off funding to human traffickers.

The next time you're tempted to invest, repeat the following until the temptation passes:

"I will screw human traffickers' business plans not their victims."
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:04 PM   0 comments links to this post

Men preventing rape, what a concept

For anyone who feels like victims, survivors, and those who are most likely to become victims, are the only ones working to prevent rape, here's a program that might change your mind.

The Minnesota Men's Action Network: Alliance for the Prevention of Sexual Violence
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:31 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

We can learn from the female teacher who pleaded guilty to having sex with student

As I watched Debra LaFave (the Florida school teacher accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student) on the news today after her plea deal was rejected by a Florida judge and the prosecutors dropped the charges in Marion County, I realized something.

Equality isn't always a good thing.

The solution to the imbalance between the number of male and female sexual abusers isn't to increase the number of female perpetrators until we reach parity. If this is what's happening, what to do, what to do?

Don't buy the excuses from men or from women. Don't minimize the harm based on the gender of the victim.

In essence Ms. LaFave said that "bipolar made me do it." That isn't truth no matter the state of her mental health, it's rationalization. And rationalization attempts to turn rape and sexual abuse into criminal-free crimes. If we buy into the premise that there is no criminal, the existence of the crime is undermined.

It also makes us feel powerless to prevent these types of crimes.

For those who say the boy was lucky to have sex with a hot teacher, I say you are feeding the rationalizations of those who choose to use.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 5:08 PM   3 comments links to this post

If spring is here why am I still shivering?

Today is the first full day of spring, but today doesn't look any different than the last couple of days and it is in fact colder than many winter days. On dreary spring days I wonder if meteorologists know anything at all. Look at how often they're wrong. But they know something I often forget.

Spring can arrive before we feel it.

That's also true of surviving rape. But that doesn't mean it's safe to throw off our protective gear, emotional or physical. Spring blizzards can be deadly especially if we aren't paying attention. But that's easier said than done when you feel like a zombie or are in overwhelming pain.

In recovery, spring blizzards often come from people.

There are far too many people who see those lost in their personal blizzards and who instead of helping them, delight in exploiting their vulnerability. Rape survivors can become rape victims again. This happened to me, but I was so detached that most of the time it didn't matter. I was caught in an internal blizzard and if the dangers were out of sight or blurry, they didn't exist in my world.

Then there are the shelters that only provide temporary protection. Mood-altering substances can shelter you even as they rob you of the momentum to trudge through the blizzard toward true shelter. People in genuine helping roles can abuse their positions. I didn't see the dangers and I took responsibility for that.

Too much responsibility.

I didn't create the blizzard. I didn't bring out the predators and exploiters, they were already there, waiting.

Remind yourself of that fact whenever you are tempted to put the responsibility on the victim -- especially if the victim is you.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:09 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 20, 2006

Reading people - recommended reading

This book is one I recommend for writers or anyone who wishes they'd read someone else before that person caused them headaches, heartaches or worse. It also made me think about what motivates my own behavior and why others react to the same situation in ways I have difficulty understanding.

Reading people : how to understand people and predict their behavior-- anytime, anyplace
by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius Phd and Mark Mazzarella

FYI Much of Ms. Dimitrius's expertise comes from being a jury consultant.

Here's a link to an excerpt from the book:
(I found it through my public library's website so try doing a library search if this link stops working or doesn't function for you.)
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:41 PM   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Why the anniversary of the Iraq invasion takes me back to the 1970s

From the moment I watched the shock and awe three years ago, I wondered if this conflict would do to the soldiers in Iraq what Vietnam had done to so many soldier decades earlier. Since no one in my family or circle of family friends served in Vietnam, I shouldn't have known their pain.

I wouldn't have known their pain if I hadn't been raped.

Like every other student in my junior high school, I'd learned some of the facts about the war that wasn't quite an official war. Despite news coverage, what happened half a world away had never had a deep impact on me.

Then because of my restlessness and my need to avoid my ex-boyfriend, I went walking whenever I could and when summer break began between junior high and high school, I soon bumped into others who seemed to be just as restless. Without knowing why, I found kindred spirits in many newly returned veterans. Their anxiety and distrust of authority equaled or exceeded my own. Their need to self-medicate also equaled my own.

They weren't all harmless even to my standards at the time, but many of them helped me lose that feeling that I was the only one on the outs with everything that had once seemed right and normal. I still wonder about some of those ex-soldiers. Have they found peace or has Vietnam scarred them in ways they still don't understand?

On that evening three years ago, I began to wonder what would happen to a family that had been broken by Vietnam if a member of their next generation went to Iraq. That curiosity turned into my latest completed manuscript, HOME FREE. Even if this story never gets published, I'm glad I wrote it. In fiction at least I found some answers to my nagging questions.
It was the least I could do when it was one of those veterans who helped me pull myself out of my self-destructive spiral and who may have prevented me from doing something that could have ended or greatly shortened my life. I didn't know how to say it at the time, but thanks. You'll always have a special place in my heart.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:04 PM   1 comments links to this post

Getting addicted to hope without losing your realism

In a comment posted by Lucy Monroe last night, she mentions that hope is addictive. I agree. (Hence the last part of my blog name.) But like any addictive substance you gotta use it properly.

I was definitely addicted to hope when my first boyfriend returned my feelings (or seemed to). But I didn't even think about the need for a reality check. I hoped for the best and couldn't see any reason I couldn't get what I wanted. I was so hopeful in that relationship (us together forever) that I dismissed anything that threatened my hope. I didn't see that he wanted me, but didn't truly cherish me. Even though he told me repeatedly that he loved me (he did -- in the way a man loves his television), my needs were important to him only as much as he could use them to get what he needed and wanted from me. My hope was a tool he used to manipulate me.

For a long time, I swung back and forth between blind hope and blind cynicism. I was definitely juiced up on cynicism when my ex-boyfriend/rapist scolded me for my wildness a few months after we broke up. (He was a friend of my brothers so he was at my house regularly so I avoided being home whenever I could.) If my tongue had been a knife, my response would have severed an artery. Letting him have it felt good, but bitterness turns corrosive and can weaken your structure.

I've come to believe that healthy hope is the belief that things can get better mixed with the knowledge that the road to getting what you need and hope for can be rocky and dangerous.

For hope to work, you need to protect yourself, be careful how you treat others and keep moving forward even if it's inch by inch.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:42 AM   1 comments links to this post

Saturday, March 18, 2006

My book CHERRY LOVE is in the top 50 in this list of books/publications on dating violence.

When I did some searching for my name and my work, I found the following link. Currently, I'm number 47. Not bad for a book that's long out of print.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:16 PM   2 comments links to this post

Healing through thinking the worst of yourself.

Say what, Marcella? (Maybe I am as crazy as I once thought I was.)

Stick with me for a moment. When I was searching for a way to show people what my experience with date rape was really like, every story I could find was told from a perspective I couldn't relate to (too clinical, etc) or the characters were too polarized. The victim was pure (and I'm not referring to physically) while the rapist had evil in his heart and in his eyes.

I might have been a virgin but I had never been the personification of purity itself. If I was going to open myself up in an attempt to communicate what I'd been through, I realized I couldn't whitewash any of my actions or refuse to see the good in my ex-boyfriend/rapist.

I had to look into my personal abyss.

Actually, I had to dive in until my abyss was as real and as close as the walls, ceiling and floor around me. Despite fear of what I might learn about myself, I forced myself to remember every detail of the moments where I felt the greatest shame. I opened myself up to pain when I wanted only to shut down. At times it seemed like I was only punishing myself. But once I started writing, I made a promise to myself that I would see this through to the end.

It was worse somehow to relive the best moments of that relationship and to remember so clearly what I loved about that guy. (Man, he knew how to French kiss. A pure girl wouldn't like something so shallow, would she?)

I wasn't writing in order to heal, but a funny thing happened as I unlocked all those memories and turned them into a story. I began to see why I took too much blame for what happened. Sometimes I was manipulated into taking the blame. ("You led me on.") Sometimes I simply believed what most people around me believed. (All rapists are wild-eyed men who jump out at you from nowhere. The people you know can all be trusted. It's the girl's job to stop the guy when he's trying to go too far.)

The healing effect wasn't limited to my feelings about my rape, it included a change in attitude toward irrational actions I took later. My craziness had roots and I had finally started digging them up. The more roots I exposed, the less power they had over me.

I still have some craziness in me, but now I let it out through humor and through stories.

The paradox is that by letting myself think the worst of myself, I found the self-respect I'd lost so long ago.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:27 AM   1 comments links to this post

Friday, March 17, 2006

The purpose of this blog is to explore the messy process of getting from point A (abyss) to point B (hope) without ignoring all of life's glorious messiness.

At the age of 15, my life took an abrupt turn when I was raped by my boyfriend (he would say he simply made a executive decision). Being raped was bad enough, but being told it happened because he loved me (he was powerless to resist me, hah!) really messed with my head. If I hadn't found out he was cheating on me, I might have felt I had no choice to marry him since I naively believed no other man would ever marry me.

At the time I thought I was alone in what I experienced and so like many others, I kept the facts of what happened to me to myself.

For 20 years.

This despite trips to Planned Parenthood, appointments with mental health counselors and one on one sessions with several pastors before I turned 18. All of them saw me as someone who had been sexually active. The advice was birth control, imagining my mother in an empty chair and repentance, respectively. My diagnosis after that was that I had gone crazy.

It was the Mike Tyson date rape trial and the ignorant comments I heard about that situation that finally made me determined to express what date rape really felt like. When I began writing my story, I gave the characters fictional names and used composite scenes mostly so I could tell the emotional truth of what happened to me while hiding my personal shame. Also I didn't want to write a memoir from an adult's perspective. I wanted to write a story from the perspective and knowledge I had at the time. I wanted readers to see the world from that limited perspective.

A key lesson I learned from writing my story is that hindsight is NOT 20/20, it is colored by what happens later. In the first draft, my boyfriend was an obvious rapist in every scene. Only he wasn't. He was consistently manipulative, but often in the nicest way.

When my novel CHERRY LOVE came out, I tried desperately to explain to a local reporter that I knew what I wrote, but the protagonist wasn't me.

Imagine my shock when I read the following headline:


I seriously thought I'd have to relocate. Then something bizarre happened. Women started approaching me and telling me that my story was also theirs. The condemnation I expected for losing my virginity never materialized. One woman who read CHERRY LOVE told me that I had captured what had happened to her down to the words her rapist used to excuse his behavior.

Having my shame out in public for all to see was the start of my healing. I'm not completely free of the abyss yet, but the hope is winning.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:00 PM   15 comments links to this post