UpRoot

digging up the roots of gender-based violence

Category Archives: from Cristy

Brad Ausmus and Men Joking about Beating Their Wives

Yesterday, Detroit Tigers’ General Manager Brad Ausmus was asked what he does when he gets home after a lossImage (the Tigers, if you haven’t been/don’t care to pay attention, have been in a tailspin from the top of the leader board for the last few weeks), he said:

I beat my wife.”

Then he said: “I’m just kidding,” and “Sorry if I offended anyone.”

He was quick to say it. He was also quick to say he was kidding and faux-apologize.

What we find funny, what we joke about, often indicates our values. In particular, sexist humor is likely to be appreciated by folks who hold sexist values. The quickness with which he answered is also telling. Why did that even cross his mind as an answer to the question? Men who don’t think about beating their partners tend not to, you know, think about it as an answer to a question at work. Why was he so quick to make this “joke”? Why would anyone be so quick to make such a joke, unless doing it actually crossed their mind? And, even if Brad Ausmus had the best of jocular intentions, thousands of people heard him, batterers and survivors among them. Which group is bolstered and supported by his “joke”? Certainly not the battered women he claimed to not want to make light of, but rather the batterers being validated by those words.

Batterers and rapists do actually believe that most dudes are like them, even though we know they are not. And when jokes like this are told, and other people laugh at those jokes, batterers and rapists have their belief that “everyone does it” confirmed. Further, and even more awful, survivors feel more isolated, more to blame and less likely to seek help.

Let me start this next bit by saying that I have no idea if Brad Ausmus is a batterer, or if Liz Ausmus is in danger from him.

But, hypothetically. If a batterer were to be asked, on camera, about how he manages some feelings when he gets home, and he answered exactly the way Brad Ausmus answered, we can be assured that it was a direct threat to his partner.

Batterers don’t make threats they aren’t willing to follow through on, and they can be clever in how they deliver those threats. I once worked with a woman who walked out to her car from the shelter to discover a dozen red roses in the front seat with a big note in the middle that said, “I’m sorry, baby, please come home.” She was terrified, because if the man who was hurting her could put roses in her car, what else could he put there? How did he get in her car when she had the only keys, and how did he know where to find her? Batterers will often use tactics that look innocuous or even sweet and kind to the casual observer, but are clearly threatening to their partner. Passing off “I beat my wife” as a joke leads us to overlook the very real danger in such a comment.

Ausmus’ joke wasn’t insensitive or in bad taste. At best, it was sexist mockery of the real harm batterers do. At worst, it was a credible threat of violence. Liz Ausmus, I hope you are safe. If you need help, you can contact HAVEN any time, day or night, at 248-334-1274.

Cristy Cardinal is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has worked in the field of ending gender-based violence since 1997. Cristy has three kids, all of whom she is happy to share (gross or funny or weird, whatever) stories about any time. She is an avid fabric artist in addition to being a loudmouth feminist. Cristy is the 2012 winner of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Wave of Change Award, honoring excellence in social change and prevention of gender-based violence.

Believe

Tuesday, in the midst of seeing people I respect and love defend Woody Allen, or at the very least, asking for folks to consider that there might be other possibilities and we might not want to be so quick to believe Dylan Farrow, I asked a question.  I asked my friends on Facebook to share their stories of survival with me. And they did, which is remarkable. I was truly awed by their bravery and candor. After each one of them shared, I told them that I believed them. And so did other people. “I believe you” is a simple thing to say, and far too often, we don’t say it.

Yesterday, after seeking their consent, I made this:

believe.jpg

click to see larger view (go on, it’s totally worth it).

 

I am truly awed by how beautiful believing can be.

The costs of not believing survivors are real.

Believing survivors costs us nothing. No one wants to believe that their hero, or their favorite actor or movie director is a rapist. But the truth is rapists aren’t mythological beasts. They are everyday people, like you and me. In order to be good allies to survivors, we have to be willing to believe that the very best person we know is capable of sexual abuse/assault if we are ever confronted with such information.

Believe survivors. Tell them that you believe them. If my little Facebook experiment is any indication, the results will be amazing.

Cristy Cardinal is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has worked in the field of ending gender-based violence since 1997. Cristy has three kids, all of whom she is happy to share (gross or funny or weird, whatever) stories about any time. She is an avid fabric artist in addition to being a loudmouth feminist. Cristy is the 2012 winner of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Wave of Change Award, honoring excellence in social change and prevention of gender-based violence.

Being a Good Bystander Is More Than Calling the Police

In fact, calling the police is the least of it. If we are good bystanders, we are speaking up WAY before there’s ever a reason to call the police.

Let’s think about it. The general idea is to call the police when and if we witness a crime by sight or hearing. Which means an assault is already happening, the harm has already come. It may not be safe to intervene then, and calling the police may not be an option for a variety of reasons (link is a PDF).

What if we could prevent the assault from ever happening in the first place?

We could rewind to:

  • when we heard our friend call his wife a b*tch
  • when we heard our brother tell his girlfriend she can’t go out with her friendsbyst
  • when we saw a guy mixing punch for a party with way too much alcohol, saying, “This is for the girls, man!”
  • when we saw our friend invade a woman’s space, and ignore her requests for him to back up

At all of these times, it’s possible to speak up or step in. “Hey, that’s not cool. Don’t talk about your wife like that.” “Hey, dude, what difference does it make to you if she goes out with her friends? Relax.” Accidentally bumping the table, knocking the punch over. Stepping in front of your friend, and preventing his access to the woman. Or any other of the million ways you could do something that would stop an assault from happening well before it occurs.

We could also rewind even further, and interrupt when we teach boys toxic, violent and misogynistic masculinity.

We could rewind to:

  • when we heard a Little League coach call his team a bunch of “little girls
  • when we saw a man take the credit for a woman’s work
  • when we saw a teacher only call on boy students
  • when we hear someone say that boys can’t wear pink, or dresses, or paint their nails
  • when we heard someone ask about the motives of a woman who was raped, but not about the motives of the rapist

Again, the ways to intervene are many, and as varied as the situations that present themselves. My point is, if we wait until an assault is occurring to intervene, we’ve waited too long. If we really want to address gender-based violence in a meaningful way, we need to step back from the assaults as they occur (though, still providing help and support for survivors as they request it), and look at the way our culture supports the assaultive behavior of batterers and rapists. What do you do that perpetuates rape culture? What do your friends do? What is your role in ending it?

Cristy Cardinal is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has worked in the field of ending gender-based violence since 1997. Cristy has three kids, all of whom she is happy to share (gross or funny or weird, whatever) stories about any time. She is an avid fabric artist in addition to being a loudmouth feminist. Cristy is the 2012 winner of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Wave of Change Award, honoring excellence in social change and prevention of gender-based violence.

The Basics: Unconsented Contact, or Stalking is a Synonym for Hunting

At Uproot, we occasionally do a short intro piece on some of our subject matter. January is Stalking Awareness Month, so we’re featuring this post to bring some understanding to a complex issue.

huntingtigerStalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause any reasonable person to feel fear. Stalking is also what hunters do to their prey.

Far too often, stalking isn’t taken for the serious problem that it is. Many people, my co-workers included, will use it to mean, “I was looking for you to ask you a question” or “I have been waiting for you” or even to clarify that “I am only coincidentally following you right now”. Stalkers intend to make their chosen victim feel afraid. I am sure that when my co-workers are coincidentally following me to the bathroom, their goal is to get to the toilet in time rather than make me afraid.

We also shouldn’t overlook that stalking necessarily means a course of conduct, that is, a pattern of behaviors. Giving unwanted gifts. Showing up uninvited. Doing unsolicited “favors”. Driving by the victim’s house over and over again. In most states, stalking laws include language indicating that multiple incidences are necessary. In Michigan, the law states there must be 2 “unconsented contacts” in order for stalking to have occurred. “Unconsented contact”, according the Michigan criminal code means “any contact with another individual that is initiated or continued without that individual’s consent or in disregard of that individual’s expressed desire that the contact be avoided or discontinued.” So, unconsented contact means that the stalker never asked for consent OR the victim actually said, “stop it!” and the stalker ignored the directive.

So, what are the behaviors that stalkers use to terrify their chosen victims? They are legion, for sure, but here is the breakdown from the Michigan criminal code. Most states have similar legislation.

Following or appearing within the sight of that   individual.
Approaching or confronting that individual in a public place or on private property.
Appearing at that individual’s workplace or residence.
Entering onto or remaining on property owned, leased, or occupied by that individual.
Contacting that individual by telephone.
Sending mail or electronic communications to that   individual. There is specific cyber-stalking legislation too, but this should   be understood to include Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
Placing an object on, or delivering an object to, property   owned, leased, or occupied by that individual.

Another thing to think about is intent vs. impact. The stalker knows what they are doing is wrong, even if they make excuses. They especially know that what they are doing is wrong if they’ve been told to knock it off. Even so, the law says that what matters is how the stalker’s behavior makes the chosen victim feel, or how a reasonable person would feel when targeted by the stalker with the same behaviors. But it isn’t just a matter of the law, it’s also a matter of human decency and basic respect for individual autonomy. Impact trumps intent.

If you or someone you know is being stalked, you can get help. HAVEN has a 24-hour crisis and support line, staffed by people who want to help. 1-877-922-1274.

Cristy Cardinal is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has worked in the field of ending gender-based violence since 1997. Cristy has three kids, all of whom she is happy to share (gross or funny or weird, whatever) stories about any time. She is an avid fabric artist in addition to being a loudmouth feminist. Cristy is the 2012 winner of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Wave of Change Award, honoring excellence in social change and prevention of gender-based violence.

Accountability is a Process, and I am In It: The Finances of Forging Justice

Necessarily left out of Emi’s excellent recount of the ways that members of the NOMAS council silenced and intimidated her and other women of color at Forging Justice was the concern about conference funding. This was left out because it is confusing, and without substantial explanation, could have opened the door for detractors to discredit her. I did not, and do not, want to provide that opportunity.

I entered into the conference with the understanding that NOMAS was going to cover any expenses that were not met by conference registrations. The NOMAS council entered the conference with the understanding that when they provided the seed money at the beginning of the planning, the bulk of their financial obligation had been met.

This is the place we were in when the co-chairs of the NOMAS council approached me on Thursday to cut off the livestream when Emi spoke on the panel. I believed that they did, in fact, have financial leverage over me and the conference. They had no such assumption of leverage beyond partnership for the conference.

On Saturday, I overheard a conversation wherein I learned that NOMAS believed their financial obligation to be met. I did not feel prepared or able to bring up my understanding in that moment. Perhaps I should’ve anyway. I did, however, send a message to three of the council members a few hours later explaining my understanding and asked that they discuss it at their council meeting the following day.

They expressed shock at my guess of the expenses, but agreed to discuss it. When we met on Monday to talk about it collectively, what we all admitted to was a profound and destructive lack of communication. I was not diligent in seeking clarity with NOMAS about the funding for the conference, which led to Emi Koyama being silenced on the livestream and our community believing that NOMAS was holding HAVEN financially hostage to control the situation. Had I sought more clarity, I may have felt empowered to say no when I was approached by the NOMAS co-chairs to cut off the livestream because I would’ve known that money was not leverage they held.

While I firmly maintain that NOMAS had more relative power in this situation, and as such, they were responsible to make sure I understood what exactly they were providing, I did not make enough effort to have concrete communication about finances with the council. I proceeded with carte blanche to make the conference we wanted to have. I could’ve done better in communicating with the council from the beginning in regard to our financial arrangement and our expenses as we moved forward.

I shared this information as soon as I had it with the women closest to the situation, Emi Koyama included. However, I did not take the information public right away. I have an obligation to the organization I work for, and ultimately my accountability regarding finances is to my boss, our CEO and the board of directors. It would have been irresponsible of me to share this information publicly before I had discussed the issue with them. I was not able to have that meeting until today, which is why I am sharing this now.

The day after the conference, I also made the following tweet:

A lesson I learned from @emikoyama this week & wish I'd heard 6 months ago: get the money first. Sigh.

A lesson I learned from @emikoyama this week & wish I’d heard 6 months ago: get the money first. Sigh.

What I was trying to say is exactly what I have said here: that if I had taken care of the money upfront, this current mess might not have even happened, and wow, did I screw up. Twitter being Twitter, with little room for nuance and good faith, that tweet was heard very differently. I want to thank the person who brought this to my attention, and I apologize for misrepresenting the situation, however unintentionally it may have been. I also apologize to NOMAS for furthering any animus against them that was borne of that tweet.

I aspire to be accountable, which by necessity means I make mistakes. I resolve to continue to work on this issue with NOMAS, who have committed to making things right financially. I resolve also to be more direct around financial arrangements in the future, to be completely transparent and have the money attended to before any event moves forward. I also welcome suggestions for continued accountability around this issue.

sincerely (and I mean that),

Cristy Cardinal

Cristy Cardinal is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has worked in the field of ending gender-based violence since 1997. Cristy has three kids, all of whom she is happy to share (gross or funny or weird, whatever) stories about any time. She is an avid fabric artist in addition to being a loudmouth feminist. Cristy is the 2012 winner of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Wave of Change Award, honoring excellence in social change and prevention of gender-based violence.