Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Attn: Rapists Are Not Movie Villians

This post by karnythia on The Angry Black Woman blog tells people what they should already know, but often don't: That rapists are "good" guys. Rapists are often the guys who hold the door open for the elderly, have sisters they love dearly and generally represent the honorable American male. Unfortunately people continue to hold on to the idea that rapists are hiding behind bushes. Rapists are men who twirl the ends of their mustaches and smile menacingly.

This post confirms that they are not usually those men:

"That Time I Talked To A Rapist And He Was Such A Nice Guy"

People who know me well will tell you that I need a keeper. It’s partly my own refusal to stop adding things to my plate (guess who has 2 thumbs & 20 projects), & partly the invisible sign over my head that invites people to tell me things. Complete strangers have told me stories about abortions they regret, relationships they need to end, and on one memorable occasion a very nice old lady told me a story about the time she tried to poison her husband. So I’m used to the things that happen around me. Mostly. Today I met a guy who was clean cut, with a nice smile, super friendly & very much a gentleman in terms of door opening and stepping aside to let me board first.
The first few minutes of our conversation while we were waiting for the bus were the kind of pleasant chit chat you get when people establish that they have military service in common. Some ribbing about our respective branches, a little chatter about the weather, you know just the basics. Then we got on the bus, he sat next to me (I really have to stop using window seats), and kept on talking. He mentioned that his discharge was other than honorable, and when I guessed that it was for fighting he started to nod along, then he shook his head. I think I asked him what it was for, or at least alluded to being curious and he got really quiet.
Now let me say that at no point in this conversation did I feel threatened. He led with smiles and handshakes, he was polite, never once invaded my space, and in fact didn’t even give me a bad feeling. So when he started talking about the party he went to and how embarrassed he was about why he got out I was expecting something like infidelity. Or participating in a really stupid prank while he was in uniform, and winding up on Facebook or in the paper. It turns out he went to a party at a college kid’s apartment. There was a drunk underage girl, and he “let himself” be talked into spending time in a room with her. And two other dudes.
He didn’t go into great detail, but someone caught them during the act. There was screaming, some non military dudes who were happy to restrain them, and the cops were called in fairly short order. He plead guilty in order to avoid a full fledged court martial, and did a brief stint in jail before being released back into the world. He told me all about his remorse, his guilt, and his sisters who don’t know what he did. He’s let everyone who knows him believe he was just drunk and passed out in the room before the assault. But for whatever reason he really wanted to tell someone the truth.
There was a minimal glimmer of understanding that he was making me uncomfortable, but mostly his focus seemed to be on purging his pain. So, 20 minutes of not quite blubbering (his eyes were damp, he wasn’t smiling, didn’t seem to be enjoying the recounting, & his face was flushed but there were no actual tears), and then once we got to the right stop (we got off at the same place, but were headed to two different places) he jumped up to help a couple of elderly people off the bus & generally acted like a gentleman. Again.It was actually really jarring.
Once we were outside he thanked me for listening, invited me to friend him on Facebook (that would be a no), shook my hand again and went on his way. I went to the grocery store, sent a couple of tweets about it & then decided I need to lay it out all for some kind of analysis. Because I have so many questions. Not just about his urge to tell a complete stranger, but also about the way he did it. When I tell y’all we were having the most mundane pass the time on public transit conversation? I mean it. It wasn’t like we even really exchanged names before he told me. Hell the Facebook thing seemed to be an afterthought because I didn’t start screaming, & there was no indication that he thought about whether or not I’d ever want to see or speak to him again.
I know no one can explain what happens to bring these things to my life, but can anyone explain this dude’s mindset to me? The possibility that he was actually traumatizing me didn’t seem to register. And to be honest I’m not sold that the girl they assaulted was real to him either. He said some things about how he couldn’t tell his sisters because they’d never look at him the same way so I assume they are real people to him. But even that was flat, he showed the most emotion when he talked about what it did to him. And yeah, I can guess some answers but if we’re not really people then why the grand confession?

Working Mothers Still Struggle to Find Pumping Space

            Every time Meagan Cavanaugh tries to pump breast milk, she braces herself for the sound of a coworker’s knock on the door. Her breastfeeding room is the same as the conference room at the national non-profit she works for. She has to sign up for a time slot to use the room, like everyone else in the office, to reserve pumping breaks for the next day.
          “Two of three times I’m there, people are trying to get in, completely disregarding that it’s reserved,” Cavanaugh said. “To pump successfully you need to be mentally relaxed and it’s challenging when people are always knocking.”
           The Federal health care law, or Obamacare, includes a provision that will allow women in                  Cavanaugh’s position to have access to private pumping rooms. The legislation requires employers to provide a room other than a bathroom for women to pump milk and ample break times to use the room.
Instead of forcing employers to recognize the health needs of mothers and babies, the law has had little effect on labor practices. Employers are either unaware of the law or fail to meet minimal standards, such as privacy and cleanliness. The federal government has offered state breastfeeding coalitions the funding needed to reach out to businesses and inform them of the new law’s requirements.
            Breastfeeding became important to the health care law when it became labeled a preventative health measure for both the mother and baby. Marsha Walker, lactation consultant and registered nurse, said breastfeeding is vital for babies because breast milk boosts the baby’s immune system to prevent sickness.
             “It’s extremely important to prevent leukemia, cancer and diabetes. It’s not just to prevent ear infections. It’s protection from both common and serious illnesses,” Walker said.
            Breastfeeding also preserves the mother’s health, Walker said, because the chance reproductive cancers and cardiac problems are more likely to occur when the body does not express breast milk.
If better enforced, federal law could level the playing field for mothers, especially low-income women who do not always have the option of staying home after-baby. When the rate of breastfeeding among women aged 19 to 35 was broken down among class, race and education, a 2007 survey by the Centers for Disease Control found clear disparities.
Black women, women with only a high school degree or less and women receiving WIC, a nutritional program for low-income women, infants and children, breast-fed less than other groups.
            Felina Rakowski Gallagher, owner of The Upper Breast Side in Manhattan, a breastfeeding consultation service, said she knows many working mothers resort to strange methods in order to pump milk, such as pumping milk from inside an electrical closet.
            “I don’t know what these employers are thinking,” she said. “They’re hiring women of childbearing age and then they think the cost of maternity leave and all of these other benefits are too high.”
            Babies’ n’ Business LLC helps companies set up lactation rooms, purchase pumps and provide supportive services. A registered nurse and lactation consultant at the company, Jane Balkam Ph.D., said businesses with as many as 4,000 employees need to be persuaded to give extra benefits.
            “Once companies know that it’s a win-win situation it’s not hard to persuade them to make that effort. But there is a lack of understanding in the business community about why they need to do it and why it is necessary,” Balkam said.
            Balkam said federal agencies account for a recent uptick in the number of employers requesting services from Babies’ n’ Business. She said federal agencies that are made aware of the new Obamacare provision are quick to adopt it but many large private sector companies are not aware the law exists.
The law is a challenge for small businesses as well said Laurel Pickering, spokesperson for the Northeast Business Group on Health centered in Manhattan.
            “For small businesses, it’s just a matter of space. We are a small business here and we have 30 to 35 people in the office. Until we redid the office, that was a struggle for us. Now we have room for a breastfeeding privacy room,” Pickering said.
            Pisticci, an Italian restaurant on La Salle Street in Manhattan, employs 33 people. Its manager, Elizabeth Powell, was not aware the regulation existed but she said she does keep a spare office room, which she said employees are free to use for breastfeeding.
            “It’s never been an issue but if needed we would provide it,” Powell said.
Breastfeeding mothers have often found their employers were willing to convert a room into a breastfeeding room but the room did not always meet their needs due to a lack of privacy or cleanliness.
            Working mothers find conditions are much less ideal because their employer offers scant breaks and unclean places to pump milk.
            An assistant editor who works at a major television network said she routinely uses co-worker’s offices when they are out or finds an empty neglected office inhabited by mice. She did not want to be named for fear of angering her employer.
            “There isn’t one place that is the pumping room for me.  I use one room most of the time but last week I found mouse droppings in there. No one should have to work with that,” she said.
            The 37 year-old assistant editor said it is difficult to work in a male-dominated industry with mostly fathers who do not face the same parenting responsibilities.
“It’s hard to be a woman in this business. It’s a hard situation for moms because even my union doesn’t know how to deal with it.  It’s just society in general that people think, ‘You just have to deal with it. It’s not my pregnancy so its not my problem,’” she said.
            Cassandra Adams, 23, gave birth to her child a month ago and plans to return to work as a Walgreens beauty advisor in Grand Island, New York. She said she knows she will have a sterile place to pump breast milk but she will be expected to pump during the lunch and break times she had before she gave birth. Adams said she is not sure she will be able to continue pumping if she can’t balance the break times she has with the pace of her job.
            Though many new mothers have experienced a lack of breaks and clean rooms in which to pump, there are a few exceptions. Lisa Mou, a strategy group manager, works at American Express, a company well known by breastfeeding advocates as one of a few companies that provide outstanding benefits to new mothers.
            The company pays for breastfeeding seminars at nursing schools, offers support groups, and gives employees 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. Once employees return, the company helps them get in touch with lactation consultants. Mou also benefits from the basic breaks and breastfeeding rooms required by law.  
            Mou said she was touched by the company’s effort to reach out to new mothers because she never expected the level of support she received. The company allows her to take work home if she is feeling tired or overwhelmed.
“I had a hard time with my hours and I thought it would be a difficult situation to explain it to them but people were very supportive of it,” Mou said.
            *I wrote this story last spring as I was attending graduate school and did not find the time to pitch it to as many magazines as I would have liked. However, I think it's an important problem facing working mothers, and it should be brought to people's attention, even in a limited space such as my personal blog or a feminist community forum.