Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Happiness Highway

We've all been there. So much isn't wrong in your life, yet you're just not happy. Dale Carnegie said,
It isn't what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing
that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.”
Turns out he was right. Here's research on a very simple way to increase your happiness. It doesn't cost anything. Takes just a couple of minutes. Works best when you're already not happy. And has a ripple effect in making other people happy.
The folks in the video were so happy they were crying.
Like all things, what you get from it varies upon how much you put into it. So don't just watch the video. Watch it, think about it, do it... and tell someone. I know I've got some words I think but never say that I'm going to share tonight with a couple of people in my life... then give them a big hug.
 I'll do it for them,,, for me.. and because the world needs more happiness.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Have you got something in common with these wildly successful people?

An article in today's Huff Post touts words of wisdom from 8 mega-successes on what they wished they'd done differently. As I read through each one, I'm reminded of my New Year's resolutions each year to make time for what's really important. We've all heard it, but reading the same message over and over creates an eerie echo that makes me want to go home right when the office closes (not 2 hours later), bake focaccia bread and pasta with homemade pomodoro sauce, then spend the night playing Scattergories with my family. What about you? And if your regrets center on someone who has passed, take comfort in John Lennon's mother's words to, "Let it be."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

You've probably heard Maurice Chevalier singing Thank Heaven for Little Girls... it's a favorite for  the father/daughter dance at weddings. The French singer croons about how delightful little girls so quickly grow into beguiling women who will bat their eyes and break your heart. Yup they do grow up fast, but little girls aren't women... they're children and shouldn't be prematurely 'womanized'.

A few days ago, in my blog post Misleading Lolita, I discussed how we're closing the gap between childhood and womanhood by sexualizing little girls.  I'm not the only one concerned about this trend. Today I read that the French Senate has voted to ban beauty pageants for girls under 16... anyone violating this rule could face stiff fines and up to 2 years in prison. The legislation has not yet been adopted, but the proposal sends a clear message about exploitation of girls. The bills author, legislator Chantal Jouanno states this is a women's rights issue.

While entering children in beauty pageants, dressed in makeup, high heels, and pageant clothing, may not seem like a global concern, it speaks to the larger issue of child exploitation. Certainly worldwide, the sexualization of young girls results in abhorrent practices such as rape, trafficking, and  child brides.

I applaud the French for the courage to take a stand on this women's rights issue.  They're not demonizing beauty pageants; but they are sending a message that these events should be age appropriate and the participants should be old enough that they can  understand and consent to whether or not they wish to participate. It will be interesting to see what happens with the proposed legislation.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

All I want for Christmas

What might an 8 year old boy want  for Christmas? A toy helicopter? A remote control car? Sounds right.

But for one boy there was something he wanted even more... for schoolmates to stop bullying his sister. As often happens, the twins' mom wasn't aware of the extent of the bullying until reading her son's letter to Santa. Sometimes as adults it's hard to relate to how much bullying can devastate a child. Reading the boy's letter to Santa makes me realize how powerless a kid can feel when faced with bullying. 

How big a problem is bullying? The statistics are startling:

  • 56% of students have witnessed a bullying crime while in school.
  • 71% of kids report bullying is an ongoing problem.
  • 10% of students drop out of school because of bullying.
  • There's a strong correlation between bullying and suicide.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Your kids...what's in their text messages?

"She was absolutely terrorized on social media." That's what the NBC news report said of a 12 year old girl who committed suicide. Other girls in her class were texting continual messages like, "No one likes you.' and 'You should kill yourself.', and Go die.'

As an adult, I can't even imagine how tortuous it would be to be taunted and humiliated not only in person, but also everywhere I went via social media. But as an adult I would have the options to pick up and move away. Kids don't have that option.

If you think  bullying is just a typical part of growing up, watch the video. Technology has given bullies power and access never before seen.  This is a serious problem...and often we don't know about it until it's too late.  12 years old is too young to feel such pain that death is the only escape.

Parents- want to know more? The Center for Disease Control created a tip sheet to help parents recognize and talk to their kids about electronic aggression. It's worth a read.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Raped Again

"No wonder, considering what has happened since". those were the words Washington Post columnist, Ruth Marcus, used to describe why a US Naval Academy alleged rape victim was reluctant to cooperate in the investigation of the incident. The scene described is all too typical of so many sexual assaults...a party gone bad with alcohol-fueled decisions, pervasive sexual license, social media drama, morning-after realizations, and life-changing consequences for all involved persons. This incident involved military recruits, but the same scenario gets played out every week with college students, high school students, athletes and business associates.

We weren't present the night of the incident, so we don't know if the victim was forcibly raped, too incapacitated to consent, or a willing participant. Those decisions require more detailed facts than the news reports offer. Journalists protect the identity of this rape victim by not releasing her name but, without question. we've already formed our opinions of her. Consider:
  • the court process itself is invasive, publicly humiliating and re-traumatizing  for the victim. Many victims have said, "On the stand, I felt like l was being raped again." 
  • even before a verdict has been determined, there is often more judgment about the victim than the accused. 
From just the limited information in media coverage of the case, we're already forming opinions about the alleged victim. Consider:
  • all news stories indicate the victim was drinking excessively and the next morning had limited recollection the night before
  • during the hearing she was asked  whether she was wearing a bra or underwear, how wide she opens her mouth during oral sex, and if she had consensual sexual relations the next morning with another Academy football player in the same house where the alleged assault took place
  • new reports indicate she is being disciplined for underage drinking 
  • her credibility has been cast as questionable as she initially was reticent to cooperate  fully with the investigation, then later testified that a medical exam did not result in any diagnosis, and
  •  that she has been pressured and harassed in person and via social media since making the allegations.

Contrast this with what we know about the men accused of gang raping this woman:

  • their identities are not protected, thus we know their names. This is embarrassing, will follow them throughout life and is unquestionably career changing. But it also humanizes them. We've even seen their photos, clean shaven men in military dress uniform
  • they are football players
  • all 3 accused men are older than the victim, thus not guilty of underage drinking. The question of whether they provided alcohol to the inebriated underage victim, a criminal activity, has not been addressed
  • one of them had a previous 'casual sex' relationship with the alleged victim in the past and asked her to lie to his current girlfriend denying a sexual encounter on the night of the alleged rape.
  • all three men have denied any wrongdoing.
When I look at media coverage of sexual assaults, it disturbs me how the focus right from the start is often more on the victim and her character and decisions than on the accused. Even when a guilty verdict is rendered, so often it's the actions of victim that we recollect. It's no wonder victims are reluctant to report and cooperate in the prosecution. No wonder they feel "raped again."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Welcome to college?

St. Mary's University in Nova Scotia achieved a moment of infamy when their students' Frosh Week bonding activities included a rally with a planned, scripted chant about rape.
SMU boys... we like them young
Y is for your sister
O is for 'Oh so tight'
U is for underage
N is for No consent
G is for grab that ass
What's the point of Frosh Week? To orient new students to school, create social connections, and set the tone for the year. 80 student leaders lead hundreds of incoming freshmen joined in the chant... but no one ever considered the message they were giving to new students... that forced sex is fun and part of the college experience. This wasn't a sudden 'What was I thinking?' slip;  one of the student leaders says he's been shouting this same chant since he was a freshman in 2009. Welcome to college life!
One in four college women is sexually assaulted; one-third of those are freshmen. The period between freshman orientation and Thanksgiving is the highest risk period for sexual assaults on college campuses. Much energy on campus goes into awareness and rape prevention activities...but how can they possibly be effective when, from the moment students set foot on campus, there are clear message from  that rape is just part of the college experience? St. Mary's isn't the only college with these traditions. After a student's blog brought the St. Mary's incident such international attention, students at other colleges in Canada and the US have talked about similar experiences.
There's a good side to this story. St. Mary's (and I'm sure many other universities) will be taking a hard look at freshmen orientation practices. That's good. But I continue to be perplexed. From the time they're in elementary school, students are showered with programs on character education, bullying, and being an ally... how is it that 800+ bright kids and youth leaders can shout joyously about rape- year after year!- and only one student  speaks out against it?
Related posts:
Talking to Teens about Sexual Assault

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fear and Everyday Heroes

It's 9/11.

Forever that day will have a haunting meaning for Americans. We've healed, for the most part, since that September  11th, but we still carry scars that have changed us . Since then there have been many other tragedies, most recently the bombing in Boston. Everyone responds differently. For some  people the sense of loss, violation and fear permeates every aspect of their daily lives...  and others reach toward healing and understanding.

I just watched a video on Upworthy   that at times makes me cringe, makes me want to cry, helps me understand how difficult it is for people of certain ethnicities to carry on each day in the US, and leaves me absolutely inspired and in awe of how every day people stand up for what's right. They are our heroes.  Don't miss the inspiring words of the soldier at the end; his words echo with the principles upon which this country was built.

All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to stand by and do nothing.
Edmund Burke
Share the video. We need to see the struggles and the scars and how we can make a difference.

Monday, September 9, 2013

America Wants to Know

George Zimmerman is having more than his 5 minutes of fame lately. After the Trayvon Martin trial ended, we've heard he was pulled over for  speeding, and now the news reports that his wife called 911 because of a domestic incident in which he assaulted her father and threatened her while holding a gun. The news coverage of the domestic incident even has the recording of the 911 call for us all to hear her terrified call for help.  Why do we listen to the call?  Simply because we're curious.

I recently read a Dear Abby column that addressed a serious concern. Some victims may be reticent to call 911 because they don't want their call to  become public knowledge. Abby took a hard stand that safety is far more important than privacy. But I think the issue is much deeper. Why do we feel we need to know the details of crimes... even at the expense of the victim? I often notice that whenever a local paper covers a rape, the public clamors to know the details, Why was the victim in that location? Why was she out so late? Often the on-line chatter is focused almost entirely on the victim, instead of the assailant.

Sometimes victims of relationship and sexual abuse choose not to engage the criminal justice system, simply because by doing so their very private victimization will become public. A rape victim may feel that a trial will not guarantee justice and will instead keep the assault present in her life for the months, sometimes years, until the case is closed. For some victims healing means moving on, and the court process not only hampers this, but continually re-traumatizes  as the rape is repeatedly revisited.  These are hard choices victims need to make--- justice in time (maybe) or closure now. But they have the opportunity to  make this choice about their privacy.

Not so when the crisis is happening. When someone is in fear and calls the police, they don't have time to consider if that call will jeopardize their privacy. More and more, the news reports provide the details of these calls... or as happened with Sheila Zimmerman, we hear the victim's frightened voice as the actual 911 recording is released to the public. When a victim calls in crisis... in fear, she/he presumes communication with an emergency responder... not with every person who watches the news or reads the paper. Would the caller make that same choice knowing that their fear and the very private details of how they were violated might become tomorrow's headline story?

America wants to know... but do we need to... and should we? At the expense of the victim?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

This is Worth a Minute of Your Life

According to the A.C. Nielson Co. the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV daily  In a 65 year life that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.*

 By 65, the average person will also have seen 2 million TV commercials. With an average length of 30 seconds, that means we spend about 1 million minutes of our lives watching TV commercials... wow!  Would I actually choose to spend 1 million minutes of my life watching ads for fast food restaurants, the latest new med to bring you up, down or asleep, big powerful trucks, or beer? Unlikely.

What if watching a  commercial made you want to be a better person. The folks at Guinness have done just that. Watch this touching and unforgettable commercial. It's a beautiful way to spend a minute of your life. You can't often say that about a beer commercial. Sláinte!

*Norman Herr Ph.D, California State University, Northridge

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Misleading Lolita

I'm showing my age here, but it seems that our culture is robbing our young girls of their childhood and pushing maturity on them in their early teens. And they're not winning either way.

Fashion trends like Victoria's Secret's  Bright Young Things campaign encourage teens or even tweens to wear revealing or seductive clothes.   But as we've seen recently in the Montana  rape case, when a young girl is sexually victimized her appearance can be used to excuse the actions of the adult perpetrator.

Here's an interesting article, The Six Ways We Talk About a Girl's Age, that explores our often confused and contradictory social biases about being a girl.

Related posts:
Montana Rape case;

Friday, September 6, 2013

It Works the Other Way Too

A new study from Columbia  University links teen drinking to viewing pics of others drinking on facebook or other social media... a new digital take on peer pressure. About 40% of kids have seen pics on their social media sites of other kids drinking...and there's a  correlation between social media and risk behaviors. Deseret news summarizes the report with these startling statistics:

 "Teens who use social media are five times more likely to use tobacco,
three times more likely to drink alcohol and twice as likely to use marijuana." 

A survey of parents showed that parents weren't attuned to these influences;
  • 87% said social networking won't influence their child's drinking
  • 89% said it won't influence drug use, and
  • only 64% of parents monitored their child's social networking

But despite its bad rap, peer pressure can also be a good thing. Most kids are making good decisions... but they often hear so much about the other decisions that they think they're tin the minority. They're wrong. Through their Strength in Numbers campaign the Shenendehowa Community Coalition is working to change that. They've polled their students and are giving them the facts in a really memorable way. Here are just a few:
  • 71% of Shen students thinking drinking regularly is uncool
  • 86% did not get in a car with a drunk driver, and
  • 96% do not drink and drive.
We know kids are influenced by what they see on social media... let's give them the real facts.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Women Don't Do This as Well as Men

  • Nearly 14 million women do this to excess regularly every month. And who are they? Those with incomes over $75,000, women 18-34, and high school girls.
  • Our bodies don't adapt to this as well as men's bodies, and we're more likely to have serious, even deadly, problems.
  • This activity ups our breast cancer risk, and
  • I'd add this activity is a contributing factor in the majority of sexual assaults. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sometimes Raising Your Voice is the Right Thing to Do

Sometimes public outrage makes us take a second look at things. A few days ago I wrote about a statutory rape case in which a teacher was sentenced to a mere 30 days for having sex with a 14 year old student, who later committed suicide. The judge imposed such a minimal sentence because he opined the child was "older than her chronological years" and "was as much in control of the situation" as the teacher who raped her.

Protesters brought the issue to national attention, calling for the judge's resignation. Well, according to the Huffington Post that sentence is being appealed as it does not meet the state's minimum mandatory sentencing for this crime.

This is not the first time that protesters have challenged  a judge's sentence that minimized the actions of a rapist by blaming the victim. In 1997, women in the Italian Parliament rallied in outrage when a judge blamed a teenager who was raped by her driving instructor for the assault because she was wearing tight jeans. That incident launched Denim Day, an international day of recognition about sexual violence and a call to action.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Molly... don't invite her to the party

New York City's mayor canceled the final day of the Electric Zoo concert as two concert goers died and four others ended up in intensive care...all due to overdoses of  MDMA, also known as, Ecstasy or Molly. This isn't a new drug; it was originally synthesized for medical purposes in the early 1900's but the 1970's drug culture launched the recreational use of MDMA  to achieve altered states of consciousness. The club scene in the 1980-90's resurrected the drug's  popularity under the name Ecstasy.   

And  where and how Molly is used  contribute to the drug's dangerousness. The signs of impending overdose include hyperthermia (excessive overheating), inability to sweat, and confusion; combined with the euphoria, loss of inhibition,  and altered state of consciousness the user loses the ability to monitor his/her level of functioning. The drug is often used in large crowded rooms such as dance clubs; these conditions exacerbate the overheating and dehydration that can lead to potentially fatal hyperthermia. Even after the drug has worn off, Molly still poses a risk. Days after using Molly, the individual may experience low moods or depression. 

With a new name, Molly use is once again rising ; popular music includes references to the drug. Throughout the decades, whenever MDMA resurfaces, there are reports of young people dying (sometimes the first and only time they've used the drug.) This is one dangerous fad... and it's risks should be taken seriously. Just ask NYC.