Gimme Some Truth and Get Mad

“I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth”

~John Lennon, “Gimme Some Truth.”

Thursday, May 26, 2016’s breaking news mid afternoon is going over the firing of the University of Baylor’s head coach Art Briles. It’s all over sports media, 24 hour news cycles, and the number one trending topic on Twitter. I’m dismayed, disgusted, horrified, appalled, and feel angry. Point blank; I’m mad! I’m mad to read about another tarnished athletic program. I’m mad about elitism being shown. I’m mad about the sexism that can be found in this story. I’m mad about the personal, professional, and political integrity shown forth regarding this story. I’m mad as a woman. I’m mad as a former higher education professional.  I’m mad as a recent survivor of sexual assault.

Mostly I’m mad that this all could be prevented.

In November of 2011, the world of college sports was rocked to its core when shocking allegations came forth regarding legendary head football coach Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions. The allegations led to a grand jury investigation, indictment, firings, a long trail of horrific sexual abuse, incarceration, a penalized University program, and reform across the board when it came to reporting of sexual violence. At this point in my professional career I was affiliated with an office at a fellow Big Ten University. Our acting leader mandated we read the Grand Jury report regarding what happened at Penn State University. I had to walk away from it several times and put it down. We were expected to comb through this gruesome document as a point of learning, prevention, and further reform that was to come down the pipeline; and it did come down the pipeline.

Years later my role in Higher Education at this University was helping to run Summer conferences held in the residence Halls. A very well crafted piece of literature was handed down to full time employees and signed over viewing expectations of reporting any sexual violence, abuse, child abuse etc. It may have been a piece of paper; but I saw it as progress. My signing this meant my position at the University was to uphold the law and integrity of which this University wished to stand for. I was grateful to see information dispersed at all levels of administration of what was expected, and what professional consequences would happen if reporting lines didn’t not happen in the event of an instance.

The thing that puzzled me was my personal integrity would have always superseded any title, position, or power when it came to do the right thing in reporting wrong doing. Especially wrong doing that included violence, sexual violence, child abuse, or anything pertaining to these categories. I can recall a specific conversation with my ex regarding the Penn State story. There was an assistant coach who witnessed an event of sexual abuse against a minor and neglected to report. My ex stood firm that as a person, you always do the right thing, regardless of your position. I was really proud of him in that moment and of how he processed this event with me.

Sexual violence survivors that find the courage to report their assailants often times find themselves revictimized. You involve media and a national story and this further complicates the stigma and embarrassment of the survivor. A survivor who deserves complete and total anonymity during their healing. One of the hardest parts of my journey through surviving sexual assault last Fall was the public message indicating “a 31 year old female was attacked and sexually assaulted near campus.” There were further details on this story and the alert was meant for public safety. The trigger and damage this did to me was insurmountable. I choose to be open about what had happened to get ahead of the speculation. It still hurt and is forever in print.

What the administrators and coaches in the athletic department at Baylor did was similar. According to the reports out there, victims who came forward were not properly reported to the Title IX or campus police. Alleged perpetrators of rape were dismissed. The survivors ( a term I prefer to use over victims) were not heard. This now being a national public story means they will be further re-victimized every time this story is told over and over again. Even if they try to keep their anonymity, others will know who it was. A Big Ten town newspaper told my story and made me feel re-victimized. These women will have CNN, Twitter, ESPN, magazines, online publications and more putting daggers into their already exposed selves. I really feel for them here. They don’t deserve this.

A decision to pursue athletic glory over integrity has once again marred a University, an athletic program, a coach’s career, and more administrators. Penn State happened nearly 5 years ago. What have we leaned since then? How are reporting lines helping victims at University’s? How are those brave enough to come forward being re-victimized by reporting structures, media, social media and more?

I am mad, are you? Use your anger over another headline tarnishing those with integrity in Higher Education to demand reform. Look at your own policies while you have summer down time (or are supporting conferences /campus on campus.) Be angry another “stereotype” in college sports was just affirmed. Male dominance and elitism were supported. Get mad about it. I am!

I am currently in a corporate role between Higher Education opportunities. I am consulting on speaking on sexual assault and violence on campuses. I am mad enough about this to collaborate with my Survivor Speaking coach and see what education from this we can bring forward. I witnessed the hurt of those on campus who were victims/survivors of sexual violence. Its a vulnerability that can be transformational and detrimental at the same time.

 

 

Lastly, have compassion for the true victims here. The administrators at Baylor University that esteem themselves with integrity and would have properly reported this situation. The alum of this University dismayed to hear about this. The current students and incoming freshmen who will be abuzz with this. The players on the athletic team that do not condone sexual violence. The women who will be going through a national media nightmare while trying to heal from a sexual assault.

I’m mad, and you should be too.

Advertisements

“Fear, Falling & Flying”

“It will be just like Starting Over”

~John Lennon~

 

Have you ever felt that moment that can be described as nothing short of surreal? A realization that things are living up and reality is approaching? A paradigm shift? An “oh shit this is happening” moment? Have those butterflies in your stomach lingered to a permanent state? Has a goal that you desire but evokes fear come into fruition? To your satisfaction and horror?

I have and am currently paralyzed in this moment. I have an opportunity to share my voice, further explore my advocacy, and put my passion into reality in the near future. I am a survivor of a horrific stranger assault six months and twelve days ago. I have wanted to speak out on this for the past few months. I’ve wanted to speak out on my experience, findings on how sexual assault cases are reported/handled, view on the justice system through the lens of a survivor, and on so much work that I feel needs to be accomplished. I have yearned for a voice, a “dog in this fight,” a way to publicly use my god given talent for public speaking to a hopefully better this situation. I think about ways I can be doing more when lying awake in bed at night (and then jot them down in the notebook I keep on my nightstand.) When I set out to run long miles, I let my ideas flow and process them through my mind. I live and process these thoughts, ideas, and goals 24/7.

I am now frozen in the dichotomy of my aspirations, hopes, fears and dread. My dreams and realities are beginning to line up, and overlap for what I wish to accomplish.

Let’s revert back to who “Kate” used to be. In my past personal and professional life; I literally grabbed the bull by the horns everyday. If a volunteer was needed; I enthusiastically raised my hand. An impromptu speaker, emcee, or presentation needed to happen (which does happen quite a bit in Higher Education) I was that person. I was always eager to jump in. I struggle with a vicious cycle of perfectionism, but have always done well with on the spot public forums as needed. If I saw a voice wasn’t being heard, or knew someone didn’t wish to speak up; “I went to bat for them.” As this” Kate”, never been afraid of a challenge, never backed down from a conflict I felt needed resolve, or was able to stretch the truth to someone when asking for my advice. I can recall a former  male coworker/friend of mine looking at me in our employee break room and saying, “Kate you and I are the kind of people that are going to speak up when needed or when we view things as wrong. That means we are always going to butt heads with others. We are probably going to bump head with authority at times. You should just embrace it. The world needs people like you and I.”  I have to admit I scowled at my friend/colleague who was supposed to have let me vent at that moment. Further reflection and absorption rang true in my mind. This is who I am/was; might as well embrace it!

There is a huge part of that “Kate” that still lives inside of me. That version of me has gone through some serious, life changing alterations. Some very painful alternations. I have experienced professional heartbreak (which was a major personal set back for me.) I’ve had to learn to cope with debilitating anxiety I never used to have. I’ve had to cope with trauma. I’ve been judged for how I have dealt with this trauma. My heart has shattered to pieces by personal friends and romantic natured relations who have literally turned their back on me. Turned their back on me during my darkest hour. I don’t have my cozy nest of my own space decorated to make me happy. I ate my words by doing both things I said I would never do. I said I would never move back to my hometown or work for the prominent company everyone works for in my hometown. I have done  both in the past six months. (Mind you its a beautiful town and a fantastic company, I just wanted a different destiny for myself.) My public speaking awards and most of my life are in boxes waiting to spring back into my world when the time arrives. I’m not the same 20 something who didn’t have a fear in the world. I put myself out there: personally, professionally, and politically. I was deeply hurt in all three arenas. I silenced that “Kate.”

I don’t believe in silencing anyone through cultural norms. This especially applies to what women (and strong women who threaten the status quo.) To follow that belief; I have started to slowly let the old “Kate” back out in increments. My external and internal scars have made it painfully difficult for me to be vulnerable, true to myself, and to truly put myself out there. Slowly, I have reached out. I have spoken out on things I believe in. I have professionally presented in front of a large crowd (first time in a year!) I have started to find my inner voice come back out. I have met a group of supporters online that have helped pull that inner voice back out. I have challenged my physical strength through exercise to attempt to find inner confidence. I have read, researched, blogged, and plotted out ways I can express advocacy for fellow survivors of sexual assault and violence. I’ve structured plans on how this is going to tie in my goals for graduate programs, how this is going to bring me back to my love of working with college students/higher education, how set plans are going to pull myself back out. I’ve been doing my own personal homework.

I finally put myself out there and signed up for my first personal public speaking event to tell my story with sexual assault. My story in a way to heal, educate, and hopefully help reach someone else who is also feeling lost. This has spurned speaking with a journalist about the tragedy that is the prosecution from the county this happened to me in. I’ve agree to go on the record, put my name behind my words, and stand up for what I believe is/was wrong.  I’m aligning my reality with my goals. My desires are coming to fruition.

I am scared to death. I am putting it out there and forcing myself to be vulnerable by stating I am scared to death I am going to fail. I am terrified I am going to fail others, fall flat with how I wish to work towards this cause, worried I am going to ruffle feathers at the University I still have connections at……I’m “shaking in my heels” kind of scared.

I know deep in my heart this is exactly what I need to be doing for myself and to follow my own goals. I could sit behind a computer at a 9-5 job, pursue a few hobbies, and just “be.” I would never be happy doing these things. I am reflecting back to the first time I spoke in a training course with over 400 students. It was unbearably humid in August, the venue was having air conditioning problems, and I literally felt like I was going to vomit. I was brand new into a relationship, and had been out to dinner/drinks/socializing with that person later than usual on a week night. I wasn’t fully rested.  I was in a new personal relationship, a new professional role, a new transition of identity from where I was and comfortable at a few months prior. The nausea and threat of public humiliation of getting sick in public was ominous.. My soon to be other half sent me text messages of encouragement and got me to smile. I spoke to my inner self, pushed aside thoughts of self doubt, and quite frankly, rocked that presentation. I did it then and I am going to have to motivate myself to do it again.

I can’t be alone in these feelings of fear and self doubt. I have to leave some lingering questions for you all. What is something you would push yourself to do if you could silence your own thoughts? What passion in life would you really pursue if you weren’t afraid of failure? What would your really say to your friend, spouse, partner, sibling if you weren’t afraid of judgment and rejection?  How would you put yourself out there? Put yourself out there as your true self? How would your life be impacted? How are you holding yourself back from growing as a person?

I know in my gut I am moving in the right direction. My challenge to reset myself knowing I can be hurt again is the most raw and authentic thing I have ever done.

The world is my oyster and I’m looking for a throw up bucket at the same time.

Got Tums anyone?

 

 

 

 

Broken Wings to Flying

broken_angel_wings_by_madretierra-d31e0bo.jpgYou live you learn, you love you learn
You cry you learn, you lose you learn
You bleed you learn, you scream you learn

~Alanis Morissette, You Learn~

The number thirteen has never been arbitrary to me. I came into this world on Sunday, May 13th, 1984. Nearly three weeks late on Mother’s Day. As I child I would count to thirteen of specific things to separate them out and make this number a good omen. I was aware of the stigma of black cats, the number thirteen, and superstitions at a young age. I will be sitting at my desk wearing the grey/pink striped maxi dress I set out in 13 hours from now. Its been 13 years exactly since I started my amazing journey at Michigan State University. One of my favorite shows, Grey’s Anatomy was just renewed for its 13th season. My first childhood friend Keith Herman was born on April 13th; exactly a month before I was. I’ve learned to clear my mind during meditation for a solid 13 plus seconds (this took MONTHS!) In thirteen days from today it will have been six months. Thirteen days from this moment will bring me to the half year anniversary. The anniversary of my horrific sexual assault.

Thirteen.

Although my number is thirteen, I have to stop and reflect on six months. SIX MONTHS. Half a year has gone by. How is this possible? How did I get here? What did I learn? Am I okay? Have I moved forward? Do I acknowledge this? As a victory, as a small notation in my planner? As what? I may not want to, but I have to acknowledge how very many things I have abosorbed, hated, cried about, accepted, loved, embraced, failed at, exceled at, and integrated into my life the past six months. The past six months that in thirteen days changed who I was forever.

Deep Breath.

Here Goes.

  1. People will still let you down and hurt you. One of the hardest parts of my journey post assault was the people I thought would forever be there for me no longer being in my life. I have this image of myself as a baby robin that has fallen out of its nest and broken its wing. A baby robin can fly again with proper nurturing, healing, and support. I had a supposed good friend tell me when my “wings were healing” that they “could no longer be engaged in this friendship anymore with me. That I am not a terrible person and should know that. This is too emotional for them and they can no longer engage.” This was after I thought I was going to come into town, reconnect with this friend, and even stay the evening at their home (confirmed over the phone as okay.) This person avoided me for a few days after this conversation and finally responded to me after blocking me on all forms of media (yes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it.) I finally emailed this person directly and asked “why?” I got my response. I replied that I wish to respect how a person feels and the boundaries they need for their own emotional needs in their life. I cannot put into words the amount of hurt this caused me or the tremendous set back this caused me in my journey to heal. This was a friend who trusted me to watch their children, I openly shared everything with, I texted back and forth quite frequently, I picked up (they don’t like to drive), used to work with, and I thought was forever going to be in my life. I may understand on some levels why they chose to protect their own feelings and emotional stability; however I will never understand their approach. I stand behind what I said in writing in this same email, “I wish you would’ve stated to me how you were feeling before taking such drastic measures so I could have been supportive to you as a friends.” I still let this friendship “divorce” and person cross my mind daily. I know me. I’m a loyal friend to a fault and have to acknowledge the deep hurt I experienced. I never thought someone could kick me while I was down or my “wings were healing…..”
  2. Moments of happiness accompany moments of guilt. I’ve had this happen so many times. I have a great day, things click, I feel confident, interactions with others go well, and I smile to myself about the blessings I have in life. Then I have the burden of guilt that comes with it. I question myself. “Am I allowed to be happy?” “Whoa, can I feel this way. Does this mean I’m forgetting?” When something tramatic happens to a person there is a blank slate placed in the person’s mind (in my opinion) and its often filled with negative, binding, overwhelming thoughts of how I should feel. I’m not supposed to smile at my reflection as I notice my new concealer covers my scar and I am starting to resemble who I used to be. I’m not supposed to feel content, happy in the moment, or catch myself laughing along with others at something humorous. The dichotomy of these feelings blending together can be overwhelming. Grief for my former life comes with guilt associated with new happiness.
  3. I still have hope. I experience butterflies for the first time in about a year this past week. Butterflies associated with presenting in front of others for the first time in a long time. Presenting and public speaking is a huge part of my professional identity. I relish in it. I’m confident in saying I am good at it! I gave up on this portion of my life when this happened. I had a physical scar and an emotional scar to my soul that ran deeper. I never thought I would be comfortable in front of an audience ever again. These butterflies proved to be a beautiful reflection for my soul. Somehow in my pain, my healing, my attempt to move on; a seed was planted. A small seed of hope that I failed to recognize. A seed that proved to be a late bloomer…but a bloomer. The self-actualization/self-realization that I still had apsirations and hope for myself was one of the most postitive points in my healing process to date. I still have a voice that believes in myself. I still have hope for more. Even more important, the seed planted carries roots growing that I am worthy of and deserve more.
  4. I make people uncomfortable. Lets just call a spade a spade. I am open about what happened to me. I acknowledge it. I address it. I write about it. I have a streak of teal in my hair as a symbol of advocacy for sexual assault awareness. My not sweeping this part of my life under the rug makes other people uncomfortable at times. My growth and attempt to move forward openly isn’t as well received as I would have hoped. In an evaluation setting, a person of HR status said to me, “you have a streak of green in your hair.” (Mind you I have had this since November, but depending on how I wear my hair could be overlooked.) I casually stated, “You mean my advocacy streak?” He stated yes, that streak of color in your hair and inquired the meaning of its advocacy. I replied matter of fact, “My streak of teal is two fold. It stands for Sexual Assault Awareness in April and Ovarian Cancer Awareness in October.” My response as a knee jerk, “Good for you!” The burning of this person’s cheeks were a blatant physical indicator to me that I had made this person uncomfortable.   I am aware that both of my causes that I strongly advocate evolve around women’s issues. one is due to the physical make up of men not having ovaries. The other is that we further stigmatize male sexual assault survivors and “demonize” women as the victims of this. I am aware that hair is not a protected class in the State of Michigan (thank you Dr. Tina Riley for my CHRS from MSUHRLR certification training!) I am also aware that the more openly I wear my advocacy and show for cause; the more uncomfortable about it. Is it I make people uncomfortable, or perhaps issues segmented towards women make people uncomfortable? I say this on Equal Pay Day April 2016 as the only person in my professional setting to ask if this is recognized. I was generally curious, and the question make others uncomfortable. My advocacy, openness about being a survivor of a brutal physical, sexual attack, a physical attack on my right ovary (a sex organ) make people uncomfortable. I think I am going to try to trend the hash tag #awkwardsilence or the 80’s song lyric #enjoythesilence! Get comfortable with the uncomfortable people!
  5. Social Media has become my backbone. I am tremendously overwhelmed by the amount of online support and new online friendships I have formed. I anticipate the day I meet some of these people and cannot wait to hug them and let them know how very much they have helped me grow as a person. I have a support system nearly 24/7 at the touch of my fingertips. Thank you to all of those who have been there for me. I look forward to my weekly chats and touch points with people. I consider these folks to be my friends and lifelines! I encourage anyone struggling and wanting to reach out to what survivor conversations are out there to tune into a few. The hash tag: #SolidarityChat is a weekly chat every Monday done by Hannah Stein. This is a fabulous group of individuals who cover these tough topics and connect. I look forward to it, engage, process, and use this as an important way to heal. I’m forever grateful for Social Media and opening up my eyes to other victims/survivors out there.
  6. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I was a nanny the summer I was 20 years old. This was not a typical nanny situation, and I will also reflect on this as one of the hardest jobs I will ever have in life. I was a nanny to a family that had lost their mother in a horrific auto accident in January of that year. I started working for their Father, son at 6 1/2, and daughter of 3 that May. This family had grandparents (maternal) that had moved across the street and a grandmother (paternal) who lovingly went by the German variation of Grandma “Omi” that I spent a great deal of time with. This family was also in the process of building a beuautiful new home on Lake Michigan’s beach. There was a lot going on. Early into this position I had spent the morning with Omi and the little girl at Omi’s house (down the road.) A crazy storm came through, turned the sky black as night, ripped trees from their roots, caused us to loose power, and sent a large tree crashing down 6 inches from the home we were in. Omi called her son (my boss) immediately to come check the damage as it was over. He was already on his way. She and I were both very shook up as the 3 year old was napping in the room where this happened. Her son calmly hugged his child, and told his mother, “We will just have to get a chainsaw to chop this up later this week.” Totally calm. When he left, Omi looked at me and stated in her warm accent, “When you have been through the things my son has, you don’t sweat the small things or make a big deal.” This moment has forever stuck with me. I now understand it. I am a planner and bit of a control freak. A stain on a shirt, delay in travel, meeting that runs over and more used to rattle me. I no longer care about these things and can now assimilate with my former supervisor. Trauma and grief change a person. The things that used to make me fret and worry are no longer the large scale items I used to create stories about being problems in my mind.  Moments that used to cause my high strung, perfectionist self to unravel no longer hold the same meaning to me.
  7. I am forever Changed. I have had stubborn moments of utter denial that I have changed as person. You must understand, I used to fear change. Change meant my planning might not be going the way it was supposed to. Change means I have to accept I am human. Change made me very uncomfortable. Change brought out triggers in my myself that also initiated my go to “withdrawal/put up walls approach.” Its the oddest thing, I am not afraid of confrontation when going to bat for a cause I believe in or for a person that doesn’t have the courage to speak up. I am often the “go to person” for matters of difficulty that need to be discusses and have a them of change or advocacy. Applying these same rules to myself have never been the case. I have a different perspective on change now. I still have growing pains, I still have anxiety and stress about the unknown, and I still have curiosity about what could be. I will face days I have firm denial anything happened. I have had these days.  Days I wish my fears weren’t my reality. I am changed. I cannot be the person I was before. I can’t be that person ever again. That person had never lived through what I went through. I have had to dig deep and embrace change. After all; “you plan what you can and adjust to the rest…”

These are a few thoughts I have had after a busy, complex, somewhat overwhelming, emotion laced week. I had a thought today. Do I wish this never happened to me? The answer is of course. The second internal question was further complex. Do I regret my journey since then? I don’t not for a second. I embrace some of the lessons, heartache, and realization I’ve encountered. I go back to the salon tomorrow to get my highlights redone. Something I’ve been doing since I was 16 years old. Here is the thing though, now I get my teal streak touched up. I didn’t even blink or think about it while getting ready for tomorrow. Who I am as a person was drastically changed 13 days to six months ago. The person I’m growing into is going to be even better. I’ll be even better and with a fabulous streak of teal in my hair. I’m “toughasteal” and working towards 13 days to 6 months…