The Need for a Cultural Shift on Gender-based Violence

The Free Press WV

November 25th kicked off the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. At no time has this work been more necessary than now. From rampant sexual harassment to sexual assault, domestic violence and sexual trafficking, women across the globe and in the U.S face gender-based violence at horrifying rates.

I’d like to start with my recent personal experience, although it was definitely not the first time I have experienced it in my 45 years. I share these experiences because while there has been important attention paid lately to men in power abusing women who are their subordinates in the workplace or other realms, it’s essential to remember that “everyday” men also commit these same acts of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. Not because their work position affords them any particular power over a woman but because the general sense that they are entitled to do and act as they please is prevalent in how many boys and men are socialized. Not long ago, I experienced unwanted sexual conduct from someone half my age. He had no social power over me other than the fact that he’s a male in a culture in which some males are taught that things are theirs for the taking. Likewise, on my campus I have been catcalled by boys recently out of high school who feel entitled to yell repulsive things. A 15-year-old girl I know was harassed by much older men while wearing a caroling costume for a holiday event. This is ubiquitous, so normalized that people are surprised by all the allegations that are emerging. We should not be. Horrified, yes. Outraged, yes. But not surprised.

Here is why we should not be surprised: Statistics have long shown the scope of these problems. Studies have found that some one-third of American women experience sexual harassment in the workplace. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly one-third of the world’s women has endured physical or sexual intimate partner violence. Domestic violence kills more women worldwide than civil wars. Far more people in America, largely women, have been killed by their partners than were U.S forces in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined. American women are twice as likely to suffer domestic violence as breast cancer. In the U.S., more women are injured from domestic violence than from car accidents, rapes, and muggings–combined. A woman in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). Women and young girls are sold into sexual slavery, not just overseas but on American soil.

They are often recruited from websites like Backpage and Craigslist with promises of lucrative modeling or acting jobs. More than 3,500 sex trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center in 2016, a figure that far underestimates the scope of the problem given that most instances are not reported and a girl can be trafficking multiple times per day.
Males in powerful positions are even more able to exploit and demean women and those they see as powerless, as these people fear they will lose their jobs, their reputation, and even their lives if they resist or if they tell anyone. This is tremendously clear with the spate of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault allegations being levied against politicians, media moguls, and celebrities, including but sadly not limited to Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, Roy Moore, Al Franken and of course, Donald Trump.

What are we to do? The good news is there is a lot that is already happening. New laws are criminalizing revenge pornography, helping to stop males from sharing provocative photos and imagery as a means of controlling women. Women are speaking out about the harassment, abuse and assault and refusing to be silenced. Legal settlements like the recent one in Seattle that three women who were sold into sexual slavery when they were 13 to 15 years old were awarded against Backpage. Activists are continuing to strategize and build on the energy and momentum from last years’ Women’s marches.

In South Florida, I am fortunate to be able to work with a non-profit organization, No More Tears, which helps victims of many of these forms of gender-based violence. This unique organization is entirely volunteer-run and provides comprehensive services that allow victims to heal and to build happy and healthy lives. Additional information about No More Tears is available at I am also co-organizer of the College Brides Walk, a dating and domestic violence awareness campaign that reaches several thousand high school and college youth. More information can be found at

We know more such organizations are needed nationwide.

It is my hope that the increased conversation about these issues is indeed a cultural tipping point. Enough is enough.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology.

Pat’s Chat

The Free Press WV

Someone noticed that I left some very important information out of this paragraph in December 03, 2017 Pat’s Chat:  “Sad to add to this that another Burnsville High School classmate died on November 20th, 2017.  Family and friends were received at the Hardman-Paletti funeral Home in Weston on November 28.  Interment followed at the K of P Cemetery in Burnsville, WV.  He was in my brother, Sam Wiant’s class and Sam always looked forward to seeing [him] at the annual Friday afternoon dinner and reunion.”  Many people simply don’t READ my Chats, they just skim them.  Calvin Williams, who was at the funeral for Eloise Williams Everett on Saturday, December9, told me about the missing information in the Chat.  Martha Bell Taylor was also there and she said she hadn’t noticed anything missing.  When YOU read it just now, did you notice anything missing?  I didn’t add his name, Jimmy Barnett!  I think it may be about time for me to retire from doing the Chat, what do you think?

I want to tell you that the funeral for Eloise Everett was very well done.  Her daughters are beautiful and her sons strong and handsome.  We had very little contact over the years since we graduated in l951, but it is nice to see that her life seems to have been a rewarding and pleasant one.  I am so glad I attended her funeral.

My brother, Harry (Sonny) wrote that years ago Pat and Mary Ann had paper dolls and sometimes the dolls were found beheaded!  “The family puzzled for years about who would have done this terrible deed?” he wrote.  (We didn’t wonder, really.  It was same person who used to chase our girlfriends, Diana Kay and Beatrice Ann Kelley around with the hatchet he got for Christmas saying that he was going to cut their heads off!)  Robin, my daughter, remembers that her brother, Scott, took apart one of her talking dolls to see how it talked.  It was the kind you pulled a string and she would talk.  Well, she never talked again!  Brothers can be so bad, right?  Yet life would be dull without them and I love them so much now and miss them.  Sonny is across the country in Washington State and Sammy is in New Market, Virginia.  We don’t get to see them nearly enough anymore, but Mary Ann and I live only five tenths of a mile apart from each other here in Buckhannon, WV.

The Free Press WV

The Free Press WV

Darlene Parker and Sheri-Lyn Sapp took some of the children from our church to St. Joseph’s Hospital to deliver baskets of baby needs they had put together for new babies.  Sheri-Lyn took some pictures which I am sharing.  Robert Michael Furr, Annie Furr, and Bridgett Cutright are shown as they brought the baskets.  Before they could enter the unit, though, the nurse gave Annie a mask because she had a runny nose.  Everyone was happy.

I like to read, especially f the story is not long and involved and would keep me from the tasks at hand, or worse, keep me from getting enough sleep.  “Best Little Stories from the American Revolution” by C. Brian Kelly is a book of just such stories.  Near the end of the book is a short story about Jack Jouett of Virginia, sometimes called the Paul Revere of the South because of his forty-mile nighttime ride in June of 1781 to warn Thomas Jefferson that a British raiding party was on its way to Charlottesville in an effort to capture him.  Jefferson was the outgoing governor of Virginia, a member of the rebel Virginia legislature who had been driven out of Richmond.  The husky young Jouett – six feet four or so – eluded the raiding party that day (although Daniel Boone did not and was held overnight in a coal cellar and paroled the following day).  Jouett was westward-minded and followed Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road into Kentucky blue-grass country.  Now, here is the part I want to quote because it brought to mind a picture that made me laugh.

“On the trek west through the untrammeled wilderness of the day, it is said, Jouett was startled one day to hear a woman screaming in distress.  Hurrying forward to a lone cabin in the woods, he found she was being beaten by her husband.

“Leaping into the fray, he knocked down her consort-assailant, only to have the wife turn on him with a long-handled iron frying pan, which she brought down on his head with considerable force.  So much force, in fact, that his head punched out the bottom of the pan leaving Jouett with an iron ring around his neck.  He had to travel another thirty-five miles to find a blacksmith who could free him of his frying-pan necklace.”  I would love to hear from any of my readers who have ever heard of Jack Jouett or the comical picture of him with his iron-ring necklace.

Every true Christian has a right to be happy, and ought to be happy.  Faith in God should bring joy.  Why not?  Our sins are forgiven!  Happy Holidays, Everyone!  Christmas and New Year’s and all the in-between days put your confidence in Jesus and look for joy.


Reopening the doors of perception

The Free Press WV

In a time of endless war and triumphant cynicism, I found myself the other day unexpectedly walking through the doors of perception. Yeah, those doors.
“You know the day destroys the night/Night divides the day/Tried to run/Tried to hide/ Break on through to the other side . . .”

The words, the music — the Doors, the voice of Jim Morrison — ignite not just the Summer of Love but a crazy something I don’t dare call hope, because those days of cultural and political revolution overdosed and imploded, didn’t they? War won. The Vietnam War dragged on, millions died (or thousands, if the only death toll that matters to you is that of U.S. soldiers), MLK and RFK were assassinated, the Cold War quietly morphed into the War on Terror and eventually the 911 attacks gave the military-industrialists the “new Pearl Harbor” they needed. Today’s military budget is securely bloated.

Knowing this, I was blindsided by the impact a remarkable exhibition I recently attended with my daughter had on me. And the star of the show was born in 1757.

The show, running through next March at Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art, is called William Blake and the Age of Aquarius. Curated by art history professor Stephen Eisenman, it draws a link between the poetry, art and philosophy of Blake — an anti-authoritarian proponent of free thought and free love, a believer that every human being has a direct relationship with God — and many of the activists and artists of the ’60s, from Allen Ginsberg to Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix.

Blake spoke a complex truth. He embraced a far-flung, wildly loving philosophy of life: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

These words, from Blake’s poem “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (the title itself shows the convergence of forces he revered), gave Aldous Huxley the title of his book The Doors of Perception, about his experiences with mescaline. Then they gave Morrison the name of his rock band. And eventually they gave millions of young people, coming of age as a pointless war simmered and raged and Jim Crow stood its ground at the schoolhouse door, a glimpse at a world beyond the cruel and small-minded order that ruled the day.

This was not a simple world that flickered momentarily. This was not a tranquil, easy peace: “We chased our pleasures here/Dug our treasures there/But can you still recall/The time we cried/ Break on through to the other side . . .”

The cultural breakthrough was only partial. The political breakthrough still, often, feels to me like a complete dud. The Vietnam War went on for eight years beyond the 1967 Summer of Love; it finally became unfightable and ended in retreat and 16 years of proxy wars and “Vietnam Syndrome.” The American public was sick of war and the pointless sacrifice of young men and women. Then the powers that be ended the draft; and they saw in Saddam Hussein the perfect face of evil. In 2001, the towers went down.

And once again an extraordinary door of opportunity opened. But the country’s leaders had no wisdom beyond their own agenda of global hegemony.

Stephen Glain quotes Richard Clarke, counter-terrorism adviser for Bush 43, in his book State vs. Defense: The Battle to Define America’s Empire, recalling a cabinet meeting on Sept. 12, 2001, in which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: “You know, we’ve got to do Iraq. There just aren’t enough targets in Afghanistan. . . . We need to bomb something else to prove that we’re, you know, big and strong and not going to be pushed around by these kind of attacks.”

As it turns out, I had come across that quote, in an excellent essay by Danny Sjursen, the day before I went to the William Blake/Age of Aquarius exhibit, and it had become seriously lodged in my consciousness — not as a surprise or a shock, just as a banal “of course.” The world was trembling, international compassion flowed, and the leaders of the world’s most powerful nation were plotting in utter ignorance a war that would make them look big and strong.

As the president soon put it, America’s mission was to “rid the world of evil.” They concocted what might as well be called the War To Promote Terror.

And the ’60s — the Summer of Love, the peace movement — is sandbagged by history’s cynicism, or so it has seemed until I saw the exhibit at Northwestern. Suddenly I felt the raw hope of those days come back to life: the outrage and the music and the possibility. The doors of perception reopened. And there was William Blake.
O for a voice like thunder, and a tongue
To drown the throat of war!

When the senses
Are shaken, and the soul is driven to madness,
Who can stand?

Many people were standing. Politicians, even at the national level, dared to run on peace platforms and hippies stuck flowers in the barrels of guns. Oh, the cliché of that. Indeed, one of the pieces in the exhibit was a 1967 photo by Marc Riboud, taken during the march on the Pentagon that year, of a young woman confronting a soldier’s bayonet in her face with a flower. In the context of the exhibit, this wasn’t a cliché. It was courage.

Robert Koehler, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

Is anyone ever wrong anymore?

The Free Press WV

A recent whim prompted me to reread Stephen Ambrose’s “To America,“ a collection of reflections on the historian’s craft and many of the topics and individuals Ambrose wrote about during his prolific career.

The book might have been titled “Second Thoughts,“ because virtually every chapter describes some significant issue on which the author changed his mind over the years: his estimation of presidents such as U.S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon; Harry Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb; the “robber barons” who built the transcontinental railroad; the reality of Soviet tyranny; and several more.

In many cases Ambrose relates how he came to dispute conclusions that his university professors and advisers peddled to him in his younger years. Elsewhere, he takes issue with his own previous views. But in each instance, he explains the evolution of his thinking, and the grounds for it, without defensiveness or embarrassment.

When the book appeared, early in this century, one would not have found such admissions especially noteworthy. In 2017, they take on a more striking cast, because ours is an era when it seems no one ever confesses to being wrong. Moreover, everyone is so emphatically right that those who disagree are not merely in error but irredeemably so, candidates not for persuasion but for castigation and ostracism.

Social historians will need some time and perspective to determine exactly what led to the new closed-mindedness, but some of the causes seem plain. One is the effect of narrowcasting, in which people find the sources of information (or the sources’ algorithms find them) that fortify their existing viewpoints and prejudices. “Confirmation bias” has mutated from a hazard of academic research to a menacing political and social phenomenon.

Meanwhile, those institutions of higher learning – the adjective now almost needs quotation marks – that should cultivate and model openness to debate and refutation too often have become bastions of conformity and thought control.

John Maynard Keynes is frequently credited with the aphorism, “When I find I’m wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?“ Today, the problem may less be an attitude of stubbornness than that fewer people than ever recognize their mistakes in the first place.

In a well-documented fashion, steady doses of viewpoint reinforcement lead not only to a resistance to alternative positions but also to a more entrenched and passionate way in which thoughts are held and expressed. When those expressions are launched in the impersonal or even anonymous channels of today’s social – or is it antisocial? – media, vitriol often becomes the currency of discourse and second thoughts a form of tribal desertion or defeat. Things people would not say face to face are all too easy to post in bouts of blogger or tweeter one-upmanship.

So honest admissions of error are more eye-catching these days.

In recent years, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward has recounted how, a quarter-century later, he had come to a very different interpretation of Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon. And how he wasn’t the only one; Sen. Ted Kennedy, who excoriated Ford at the time of his decision, joined Woodward in that assessment, and conferred an award for political courage for the act they had once deemed a corrupt bargain.

A few months back, the world lost Jay Keyworth, nuclear scientist and presidential science adviser to Ronald Reagan. Keyworth had assembled the evidence to advocate an anti-ballistic-missile (ABM) system, which establishment opinion of the time relentlessly derided as “Star Wars” – a fanciful and impractical notion, and one in conflict with the then-sacred doctrine of mutual assured destruction.

Now, with one rogue nation perfecting both weapons and rocketry capable of annihilating U.S. targets, and another perhaps only years from joining it, the conversation is all about the effectiveness of our ABM system and why the heck the government hasn’t made our national safety more certain. We’re still waiting for that conversation to include, “Thanks, Jay. You were right, and we weren’t.“

Ambrose wrote his book near the end of his life. In fact, it is dedicated to his cancer doctor and nurses. Maybe such honest introspection comes more readily under the imminence of the great event. But our everyday exchanges, and indeed the life of our republic, would be greatly improved by the more common utterance of those three magical little words: “I was wrong.“

Mitch Daniels, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, is president of Purdue University and a former governor of Indiana.

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