Hunting Goodwill

560px-DespondentAngelMetCemHeadWander the malls festooned with fake glitter and false boughs of pine, blasting Christmas carols of peace on earth and goodwill towards all men. Peace and goodwill, one has to wonder how we accomplish this wondrous peace and goodwill when one of our nation’s most dominate and viciously protected rights is the ‘right’ to bear arms.

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Goodwill indeed, twenty children under 10 years of age dead, twenty-eight people in all but TWENTY CHILDREN shot to death in their classroom. Twenty mothers and fathers, who will never again kiss their children goodnight, never again tuck them in at night. Twenty parents, who will not see their children grow to adulthood, who will not watch with pride as their children graduate, marry and have children of their own. All their dreams lay wasted at the end of a gun wielded by a twenty year old with access to the legal guns of his mother. LEGALLY OBTAINED GUNS.

The Second Amendment is ensconced in our national psyche, come hell or high water we will hang on to our effing guns. No matter the innocent lives laid in the cold ground, the families in mourning, by God and all his Angels we will keep our guns and our ammunition and our rights to bear it all without interference of any kind. No one will touch those rights, no matter what. My and other people’s personal right to safety on the streets, in the mall, in theaters or in the classroom will sgen577hnever be considered, we do not count in the grand scheme and neither do any other gun violence victims. So long as the Neanderthals in the NRA can convince enough people it is viable they might someday need to protect themselves from the government, or save a life during a mass shooting, or battle a zombie horde by keeping a well-stocked arsenal in their basement and a side-arm concealed, just in case.

Without Registration and without Limitations, we will by all that is holy and by Hell and the Damned, protect our Right to Own our Arsenal, to Conceal Carry and there is not a damned thing anyone can do or say to limit this right. If anyone suggests otherwise they will be demonized, they will be called fanatics; they will be debrided, sometimes painfully so. They will certainly be taken to hard task for their unpopular position; friends and family will drive them into corners with meme that are not defensible in the face of the innocent lives lost.

I have been lashed with it all before and those who have lashed me both friends and family forget sometimes I was left on a dark road with three bullets in me bleeding out and dying but they by God thought it important for me to know I was an effing idiot for my position. So be my guest in the future, call me a fanatic. I am sick in my soul of hearing about gun rights and the Second Amendment. Call me a fanatic, those of you who believe your rights outweigh my rights or the rights of the following:

  • the twenty children and six adults dead today at Sandy Hook elementary school
  • those wounded in the mall last week in Oregon
  • the twelve dead Aurora victims
  • the two teenagers victims of Stand your Ground killings in Florida in this past year (Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis)
  • or tell Nick Rainey the 30 year-old salesman also killed in Florida, with a defendant also using the nefarious Stand your Ground defense
  • Gabby Gifford and the six dead in the same shooting victims of the Arizona shooting
  • the victims at the Sihk Temple in Wisconsin
  • the Chardon victims, Daniel Parmertor, 16; Demetrius Hewlin, 16; and Russell King Jr., 17

These are just 24 months’ worth of random killings or attempts at them. We thought Aurora was terrible, we mourned for a brief moment social media blew up for a minute, apparently not hard enough or long enough. We demanded justice for Trayvon, but barely blinked for Nick or Jordan. The Chardon victims barely made the news, and the Ohio mall was not even a blip on our radar likely because there was no massacre, no random death to titillate us or incite the media for hour upon hour, day upon day.

There are more, there are always more aren’t there? The children lying in the streets of our cities mowed down by illegal guns. The women and sometimes their children, lying in pools of their own blood murdered by their partners by legal guns in fits of rage.  Yes, please call me a fanatic, call me a zealot, call me anything at all I simply do not give a damn what you call me because I am all those things. I will become all those things, I will stop here and now trying to strike a balance between politically correct and my honest belief guns are no longer needful things in the hands of private citizens without limitations, regulation or oversight.

I am tired of all of it, the senseless death, the random violence the terrible and horrifying loss of life. I am tired of children losing their life before they reach adulthood. I am sick of the politics of money taking the front seat to the lives of people. I am tired and worn out, heartsick as I watch news of the shooting of Sandy Hook Elementary and the 26 deaths at the school, plus the shooters mother in her own home and by one of her own legal guns. I am sick to death of those who wrap themselves in sanctity and patriotism, scared to say no more, it is time to change the rules and be damned the NRA and the love affair with violence and guns.

I am bored with the idiotic motto of fools with guns and a love of random and unnecessary violence, ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people’.

Well, I guess Sandy Hook Elementary School just goes to show what happens when a Human is wielded by a Gun doesn’t it?

I am effin’ tired of the idiots who suggest a car is an equally dangerous weapon. Or murder would still happen with a knife if a person wanted murder, yes you azzhats that is true however, a lunatic with a knife could not kill TWENTY CHILDREN in less than 5 minutes.

This morning the bodies of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims have not been moved from where they fell. The children remain on the floor of the school, unreleased to their families, as the school remains a Crime Scene under investigation.

I weep for the families, all of them. I know what my family went through when I was shot and left for dead. I know what I go through even now twenty years later. These survivors, the children will need enormous support systems for years to come. The families who lost children will never fully recover, their loss is unspeakable what they have lost will never be recovered.

I tire of hearing ‘now is not the time, each and every time a tragedy happens and we see terrible loss’, I must ask if not now then when?

Sandpaper on Silk

This has been a rough year, I mentioned that in a previous post and I mentioned some of the reasons why. This year I celebrated (I use this word tongue in cheek) my twenty year anniversary, February 7, 1992 was the day myrubyslippers life changed though at the time I wouldn’t know this single event would be life changing. All year I have been exploring my inner world and the events of my life that created that inner world. Some days I feel caught, as if I am Dorothy but the tornado didn’t drop my house in Oz and I do not have Ruby Slippers.

Nearly a year ago I told the story of February 7th, for those who have never read it feel free to jump over to Crime, Punishment and Victims. As part of that story, I provided this simple table, which I have changed to provide release dates:

Charge Sentence Date Release Date First Eligible Release Parole Date Birth Date Actual Release Date
Att Cap Murder w/ Deadly 8/12/92 3/13/12 3/31/97 12/14/75 3/12
2 counts Att Cap Murder w/Deadly 4/13/93 3/9/27 7/12/00 6/18/76 10/12
2 counts Att Cap Murder w/Deadly Agg Robbery w/Deadly 3/8/93 3/5/27 3/12/00 3/5/76 11/12

Yes, you read the above right, all of my personal offenders are now free. When I wrote On My Knees in October, only one had received his parole approval. Since that writing, something else happened, in November the final blow to my already shattered spirit, shortly before Thanksgiving the last of the three walked free with his parole. I simply could not write then, I couldn’t put fingers to keyboard, it has taken me weeks till now in truth to say they are all free.

Yesterday morning I was in my doctor’s office, we were discussing the weakness in my arm. Why during the course of the day my right arm will suddenly become weak, I suddenly can’t type, why the escalation in pain over the past several months. I adore my Neurologist, for several reasons but mostly because he is patient with me, patient with my complaints. We both know what is wrong, I suspect we both know I cannot continue to ignore the obvious, but he has not pushed me to surgery earlier than I was ready to accept the inevitable, I am not going to miraculously leap up healed. He is also not a pill pusher, which I appreciate even more than anyone could possibly imagine. We now have a plan, I don’t love the plan; I have been avoiding major surgery for a few years, it is likely I will not be able to avoid any longer.

When the first of the three walked out the prison gates, he had served his sentence. It was a mixed set of emotions I felt, but he had served his entire sentence he was done and free. When I received the first notice of parole in October, I was as the title of my post says on my knees. I couldn’t breathe for days; my fury was so hot I lashed out at everyone around me. Then November came, the third letter came. Honestly, I thought this one would be a notification of denial, surely they wouldn’t grant another parole, would they?

Parole

Really? Parole?

  • I can’t sleep through an entire night, because of pain.
  • I can’t sit for more than two hours without tears of pain.
  • I can’t walk for more than fifteen minutes without my right leg going entirely numb.
  • There are times during the day, I can’t feel my right arm, my hand goes numb, my entire right side goes numb. There are times I am in so much pain I want to scream.

Parole?

What have they done to deserve parole?

I have to have more surgery. I have to risk my life under anesthesia for the possibility of life with less pain.

They get parole seventeen years early.

Parole? I am trying to find my compassion button.

compassionbutton

I am trying to find the place in me that agrees this is fair and just. I am trying hard to say this is not about me but simply part of the system. Victims are truly not part of the equation, though we are notified and we are invited to say our piece to courts and parole boards, it isn’t truly about us. We are not part of the criminal justice system; it is not about us in any real sense. I know this, intellectually I know this; my heart doesn’t follow my mind.

When an offender is arrested and goes to trial it becomes THE STATE vs THE OFFENDER

That is the truth; it isn’t really about the true victim any longer. The victim is simply a witness to the crime. No matter how horrific the crime, no matter the terror, no matter the injury, no matter anything at all the victim is simply a witness for the State, the State is in fact the Victim. I always have to remind myself of that simple and ugly truth.

What I really felt that day was what I felt twenty years ago after they were arrested and I sat in the DA’s office talking about their sentencing, I knew someday this day would come. I didn’t know then I would evolve or change, I only knew I was furious and wanted revenge. I told him I didn’t want them in prison I wanted them on their knees in front of me, on a dark street, I wanted the gun they had used to shoot me and I wanted to shoot them in exactly the same way. If they survived as I had, under the very same circumstances they could remain free, if not Que Sera. I was primitive that day. I was primitive twenty years later, it was as if I hadn’t evolved at all and I was a little bit ashamed.

So, back to this has been a rough year. As I line up those dominoes so I can hopefully knock them down. The second letter of parole, yeah that was one, that one knocked me over. That one hurt. Honestly, I don’t often call myself a Victim, I don’t like the word and I certainly don’t like it applied to me. But that day, when I opened that letter Victim was aptly applied to how I felt.

I am struggling to breathe through all these different issues and find my footing. I refuse to allow this year a stranglehold, yes it has been rough, sandpaper would have been gentler. There is light though and it is not a train, my soul takes flight even through these difficult patches of pain, anger and frustration. One by one, I am going to let them go, the dominoes will fall and I am eternally grateful for the wonderful friends in my corner who keep shouting at me…….

JUST BREATH

From Megaphotos, as always dance is my idea of breathing

From Megaphotos, as always dance is my idea of breathing

On My Knees

I haven’t forgiven this doesn’t mean I want them dead it just means I don’t forgive their violence. It also means I think sometimes, those days when crawling out of bed are so hard, I want them to hurt like I hurt. Some days, those days when I think I will breakdown and call the doctor begging for something stronger than Ibuprofen 800 for pain management I think Damn them to hell forever, I don’t want to live my life this way and my fury rises up and I weep. I cannot help the way I feel I am not a saint, my halo has not been granted.

For about eight years, I have been an activist in the criminal justice system. I speak in a program called Victim Impact inside of the Prison system of Texas. I speak to offenders in Federal, State and Juvenile lock-up and to the Parole groups ordered into the program. I do not speak out of hate or revenge; I don’t speak to hammer a captive audience with anger. I speak because I hope each time to touch one heart; just one would be enough for me. One heart that will leave the room with a different perspective on the relationship between themselves and their acts, their victims that includes their own families, their children and of course, the person they directly harmed.

I have spent eight years telling my story. There are some days when I walk into the rooms and look out at the faces I am decimated by their youth. I ask how many have children, they all raise their hands and I consider the lives of my three offenders, just children themselves twenty years ago at the time our lives intersected, each with at least one parent behind bars at the time they kidnapped and shot me three times. Their histories are the genesis of my activism, the framework of my thinking about how we each create the ever-expanding ripples through our judgment, acts, remorse and yes-even forgiveness.

Over the years, I have evolved, I thought. I believe each of us has the ability to reform our life, that with few exceptions each of us has the capacity to change our lives. If I didn’t believe this, I could not walk through the gates of prisons, stand before violent offenders, and say I believe they have the capability to make positive change. If I didn’t believe compassion and empathy existed, even in the most hardened of humans, I could not stand before them and say to them…

“You have the ability to change the life of your children. You have the ability to change your own life by tapping into your empathy.”

Now I have to ask myself is all I do and all I say simply a panacea for my ego or perhaps simply a pragmatic intellectual exercise that I haven’t truly absorbed into my heart and spirit. Perhaps, it is something else altogether. Perhaps what I say only applies to everyone else, offenders and victims together but not to me and not to my offenders. I have run into a brick wall, the wall of my intellect fighting my heart. My heart is winning today. My heart won last Wednesday and has won every day since Wednesday since I opened the letter from the Texas State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

“This is to inform you Your Offender has been granted Parole”

Charge: 2 Counts Attempted Capital Murder w/Deadly

Sentence: 35 years, 20 years

Sentence Date: April 13, 1993

Release Date: March 9, 2027

Parole Granted: October 4, 2012

When I opened that letter I was sitting at my desk, on the phone with my heart sister Red I think I went silent, the tears started, my heart stopped. I am not a Saint. I am barely human. My heart sister didn’t know, I slipped from my chair to my knees and had I not been on the phone with her my primal scream would have shook the walls. Instead all I could do is ask her to stop, stop talking please give me a minute, please let me read to her what I had just silently read to myself. The tears continued as I sobbed, I had already memorized the words though I didn’t have to read them. My life, dammit My Life.

My letters to the Parole Board obviously did not matter. My discussion with the head of the Parole board at Powledge Unit, none of that mattered. Clearly, I could have simply ignored all of that and the outcome would have been the same. My life, all the days I can’t move without wanting to fall to the floor that is worth twenty years. There is something far worse though, something that is causing me to want to crawl into my closet and stay there, re-examine myself closely.

I am not a saint, not that I have ever proposed I was. But I thought I was better than this. Better than demanding my pound of flesh. Better than demanding revenge. I did not realize I had not reconciled my pragmatic intellectual self, the part that believes remorse, rehabilitation and re-entry is not only possible but the hoped for outcome. I did not know this about myself, did not understand I had not brought my heart and mind together that I meant it, but not about MY OFFENDERS. I did not know this would cause me such fury.

I didn’t know I lacked compassion I think this devastates me more than I can even begin to measure.

I didn’t know I was false a sham. This also devastates me.

Nevermore Forever

I sat back yesterday, I watched and I wept. Yes, I wept. In fact, I am still weeping, I can’t stop my tears from falling.

Israelites encounter undrinkable, bitter water on their journey

Every single time I read anything about the Sikh temple murders I start crying again. Not because I am personally related to any of the victims, rather because I am connected through my humanity, through my empathy and through my compassion for their loss.

We should, all of us be connected to them, weeping for them and reaching out to them in their pain with our sympathy. We should all be standing shoulder to shoulder with them offering our human compassion. We should all be offering to mourn with them.

When will it be enough?

When will there be enough innocent lives piled at the door of the NRA and those who do their bidding for sane people to say ‘no more’.

When will we say we have seen enough senseless death on our streets, in our town squares, in our public buildings, our schools and places of worship to demand change and stand up to the bullies. When will we stop, as a nation and a people, kowtowing to these tyrants with corporate money and an agenda that has nothing to do with our safety, our peace of mind and everything to do with xenophobia and fear-mongering. When?

Isn’t enough?

What will it take for us to change the hearts of the heartless?

I am not going to throw statistics out there of all the innocents dead this decade, or even this year; these numbers are easily found. I am not going to rail at those who demand their rights in the face of the horrifying and senseless violence; this clearly falls on deaf ears. I will only say this; I am speechless, heartbroken in truth at the depths we have fallen, the bitter water we drink and call it sweet.

I leave you with this, because this is what the victims will not have –

525,600 minutes or another Season of Love

I am Mute Today

I have been quiet the past few days, in trying to process the horrible news out of Colorado and my own reactions I have been quiet. No, not entirely quite but more quiet than is my norm. Some people who know me well have asked when I was going to jump into my normal forums with both feet and all ten fingers, others have asked why my Facebook page isn’t full of condemnation (there are a few comments). Instead, I have stayed mostly quiet.

Why you might ask, it is a good question. I am not the quiet type; in fact, I am a bit of a firebrand most days. I admit to being quite outspoken on some issues. There are issues in the public domain that chap my ass, cause me great anger and some sleepless nights. Truthfully, there are many such issues these days.

I don’t want to talk about politics though, not today. I don’t want to talk about the public domain at all. I want to tell you why I have been mostly quiet, not even visiting your blogs for the last few days.

I just couldn’t.

I was paralyzed by my own personal sorrow, fear and memories.

All I could think about is how terrified those victims in Aurora must have been. All I could think about was how terrified their families must have felt while waiting for news, was it their mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife or child. All I could think about is my family when I was shot and left for dead by strangers. All I could think about was how I felt laying on the side of a road with three bullets in me, put there by strangers who were not crazy, were not insane and did not have any reason to hate me. 

I was paralyzed and my voice silenced by fear and memories. Each time I tried to write, each time I tried to comment my hands would shake and my eyes would fill with tears the screen would blur, coherency lost to muteness. It has been 7,367 days since I was shot; that is a lot of days. Some days I think it is behind me, some days I don’t even think about it in the sense of bullets flying. Other days I have no choice, the repercussions of that day are with me from the moment I wake up to the moment I lay down to sleep, sometimes beyond that moment.  

Aurora tied my tongue, made me mute in the face of great tragedy. More than this, I could not watch the news without my tears pooling in my eyes and streaming down my cheeks, their salt leaving a trail of bitterness in their wake. This morning I realized part of my sorrow is rooted in the great tragedy that is our national personality. That we are unable to come together even now and talk to each other without rancor, ideology and the drums of political animosity getting in the way of human decency. I saw this in my few forays on social media since Friday, each side standing their ground firmly refusing to step down from their positions even briefly to mourn the great loss of life. I backed down from the fight rather than continue.

I don’t have the heart for it not this day, not now.

Avoidance, Confusion, Consequence of Choice, Manipulation

I am heartbroken, partly because I was rendered mute. I didn’t know my memories were still so close to the surface. I didn’t know they could so easily shake me. I don’t know why this affected me more than other equally horrific acts of terrible violence. What I do know, we are a people that seem to ignore compassion and empathy as valued trait. I know many people on both sides of the argument who individually are wonderful human beings, who have compassion for those they know as individuals and don’t realize their words fall like hammers or fly like bullets, leaving gaping wounds. This is what demanded my silence, that I not stand my own ground even for what I believed was so desperately true, even for what was so personal.

Yes, we come together during times of tragedy, but then we turn our backs returning to our ideology and our rage with equal fervor, thus making certain the next heartbreak will occur and likely with more frequency and greater loss.

I didn’t have the heart for it today, tomorrow I will because I have to!

Opening the Secret Box

I said I would tell my mother’s story, what I know of it at least. I do this not to make excuses for her but to show the lineage of abuse. I am one that believes we always have a choice in our actions, no matter our history, no matter what has been done to us we always have a choice. My mother’s choice was to hold her bitterness and pass on to me her anger, her bile and her self-hate. I was the empty vessel she poured all her stored resentment into; I was bottomless; different from her in my emotional make-up, proof that we can be greater than our environment.

My mother was born in 1920; the first of two daughters to German immigrant parents, her sister would be born four years later in 1924. The two sisters were as different in looks, temperament and intelligence as it was possible to be. My mother was short, stocky even with a ruddy complexion, thin hair and her father’s prominent nose and thin lips. My mother was never what would be considered terribly attractive, when you added to this her plodding intellect and lack of curiosity she was simply an average person.

The two sisters

Her sister on the other hand was handed all the best physical features of her parents, tall and willowy, with average more feminine features and most important an above average intellect. The differences between the two daughters was apparent from a young age, the favoritism shown to the younger daughter was also obvious from a young age.

My mother was raised in a German enclave of Cleveland, Ohio. The house she was raised in still stands today though the neighborhood is no longer as nice. My mother and aunt attended public schools though they generally were not in the same schools due to the four-year gap in their age. They grew up surrounded by extended family and friends and both of them were bi-lingual, speaking German and English. It was a hardscrabble existence during the twenties, work was hard to find, money hard to hold onto but my grandfather supported his family throughout the depression.

Sometime around twelve years old she was molested by a neighbor, he may have been a family member. This molestation went on for months before she told her mother. According to the story I heard, her mother didn’t believe her at first. This man was a ‘pillar’ of the church and the neighborhood and so my mother was punished for ‘making-up stories’. Then something happened, I don’t know the full story of what happened to bring to light the extent of what this man did, not just to my mother but to other young girls in that neighborhood. It was several years though after my mother had told hers what had happened to her. The man disappeared and nothing more was said. This was the first time my mother’s parents failed her.

My mother told this story in a group therapy session where I was present. I was fourteen at the time. I held that story as ‘close hold’ for forty-four years. I suspect it was supposed to make me ‘okay’ with her treatment of me, it did not change my view that we make choices. Even at fourteen I knew she made a choice to pass her anger down to me.

As my mother matured she sought ways to escape, to leave the enclave and the family that so favored her sister and had failed her so completely. Each choice and opportunity was blocked by her parents and met with ridicule. My mother was not one to scream her fury, not like the daughter she would ultimately raise. My mother was in all respects a conventional daughter, obedient to a fault and more than anything else she sought the approval of her parents, most especially her father. One of the choices that still stand so poignant, that she told me about more than once is this conversation with her father;

Mother: I want to join the Navy, be a Wave and see the world.

Grandfather: Only unnatural women join the Navy. I will not give you permission!

Mind you, she didn’t need his permission at that point in her life she was legally an adult. If I remember correctly she was at least twenty-one. Nevertheless, in her mind, without the blessing of her father she could never follow her dream to see the world, to join the Navy. I think she would have been great!

She had already been quashed in another desire of hers; even uglier in my mind than her desire to join the navy was this one:

Mother: I want to go to college I want a career.

Grandfather: You aren’t smart enough for college; I am not wasting my money. Your sister is going to college you need to find a husband and have children it is all you will be good for.

My aunt did go to college and received her Bachelor’s degree. She also married well, according to my Grandparents. My aunt produced three children in fairly short order after her marriage, another feather in her cap. My mother floundered, sought to find safe footing on land in a sea of disapproval.

My Mother & Father on their wedding day 1951

She met and married my father, who did not meet with my grandparent’s approval and was likely the one thing my mother ever did that was an act of rebellion. That marriage was fraught with heartache for both of them; if ever two people were divinely mismatched it was my parents. If ever a marriage was proof of why it is a bad choice to stay together ‘for the sake of the children’ it was their marriage.

Before embarking on the adoption journey my mother suffered five to seven miscarriages. She failed at the one thing her parents had told her she was good for. Her failure would haunt her. Her loss would haunt her and eventually would haunt me as well. Her loss of her natural children was as if thorns had been driven into her heart that never stopped hurting, never lost their grip. Adoption did not change this for her; I did not replace her children though my brother was a balm for her pain. My mother told me once many years ago, she did not want to adopt she only did so for my father but she was glad she had my brother; I believe her.

That is my mother’s story.

Part One : https://valentinelogar.com/2012/05/17/secrets-define-us/

Victim Impact Evolution

Tuesday night I was at the Federal Prison (FCI) in Fort Worth as the single speaker for Victim Impact group. I don’t know if they had other speakers on previous nights or if they will have others on following nights, I do know

FCI Fort Worth, Enterance

the Fort Worth program is unique in several ways from other programs I participate in, here is how:

  1. There is always only one speaker per night
  2. Often the participants take the program more than once
  3. Smaller groups

Victim Impact is intended to help offenders gain insight and understanding into the affect their actions have on others. It is a voluntary program for those on the inside. Those of us who speak are also volunteers; we didn’t volunteer to be victims obviously, only to ultimately step outside of our rage and pain to tell our stories where it might do the most good.

I always have mixed emotions heading into the Victim Impact Groups. My mind sprints down well-worn paths, through dark times in preparation, honestly I never know what I will say or what direction I will go. At Fort Worth FCI the entire two hours is mine, it isn’t the panel sessions where there are three to four speakers, this is my time to shock and awe. This time was different; so much has changed in the last year. Some of those changes caused me to retreat inside myself, to live within my own battered emotional landscape this was part of my evolution. Some were normal justice system; the first release of one of my attackers last month and then within 10 days of each other, notification the two others were entering the Parole system. I am having to rethink my position on a great many things, my normal calm was well, not so calm.

FCI Fort Worth Fenceline, perhaps my own as well

I usually like Fort Worth FCI, I like the smaller groups and for some strange reason I like the interaction; it is less formal, less structured than the other panels. Yes, it is still a Federal Prison and yes I still walk through the gates that clang loudly as they shut behind me and through the yard, always a strange journey; yes, I am still facing a group of offenders and delivering ‘my story’ so they might learn something from it. There was a difference this time though, as I drove the hour to my destination I couldn’t put my finger on it but there was a difference. I don’t usually have speakers’ nerves, this time I couldn’t focus my thoughts, something right under the surface kept beating against the door kept locked tightly, my emotional reserve.

The cliff notes version of what we are supposed to say:

  1. Tell the story of what happened, how you became a victim
  2. Tell the impact of the crime
  3. Make it real and make it emotional

Usually when any of us speak the story is the largest part of our time, all the details all the horrifying gruesome details. I don’t know why this is but for some reason this is what we have taught each other to do, to make the violence real. This is especially true for those of us who are first person victims, there aren’t many of us, but for those of us who are willing to stand up we have been coached and so we follow that three part script.

This time I found myself standing in from of thirty men, some of whom I had seen in the program before all staring at me expectantly and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t follow the script. I had all this time to fill and I simply could not do what was expected of me. My voice has changed; my story has changed in the twenty years since the crime I have evolved and in the year since I had last been at FCI things had happened that had caused me to re-think some of my positions.

MAAT Goddess of Truth and Justice, Courtesy of Wikipedia

I told my story, that hasn’t changed the violence and the facts haven’t changed.

I told the impact on my family and friends, that hasn’t changed it is only the truth.

Then I talked about evolution, my own. I talked about how it felt to know the first of my attackers was out and free. Not about my anger, my fear for him not of him, his entire life lost for a stupid childhood choice. I talked about their choices as well, their children as victims just like the three who shot me. I talked about Remorse and the need to hear the words and see acts of contrition, not simply because these words and deeds move an offender towards early release, but because they are true and heartfelt. I talked about Forgiveness and the truth of it, not that it is due or a right, but instead it is a gift they may never receive, not from any of their victims including their families.

I talked for an hour. After that hour I opened the floor and instead of talking at the group I talked with them. The one question that nearly tipped me over the edge:

Had I ever considered ‘they’ were my victims as much as I was their victim?

My answer was of course NO. His explanation was that by demanding justice, by demanding they remain in prison for their full term, by continuing to ask how the state could consider Parole where there was no sign of remorse I was victimizing. That perhaps they did feel remorse but did not know how to express it; he felt remorse for his bad acts but had difficulty. I simply pointed out that he was taking steps to learn by participating in the Victim Impact Program; but never could he equate my demand for justice as a victimization of my attackers. They got time, I got life.

A comment from one of the participants who had been in the program previously:

You are calmer now, not so angry.

Finally one of the questions that I thought was interesting and generated some discussion:

How do you not hate?

I am going to leave this one open to anyone who wants to answer it. I might come back and answer later, it is funny but I have never hated my attackers.

My plate has been full lately and I am trying hard to find my normal balance, my normal pragmatism hasn’t been in operational mode. It is the season of Victim Impact, I am wondering if I should sit this year out, try to shake what holding me hostage the fence line holding me back.

Original Story: https://valentinelogar.com/2011/12/11/231/

Inside Domestic Abuse

The 112th Congress has refused to reauthorize the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, significant in the original passage it opened the door to what had previously been viewed as private family matters and provided both education and funding to help victims and law enforcement. Never, since its original passage has it been the subject of a partisan fight on the floor of either house of Congress, yet this year it is. The overall tone of the Right, women are of no particular value unless they are in the kitchen, pregnant and silent. The objection to the Bill, is the expansion of services, the boogie man of ‘other’; Gay, Transgender, Native Tribes and Immigrant Women are included in this years re-authorization, we all know none of us are part of humanity and should be served, right?

I wrote this several years ago. At the time, it was wrenching to write. Today it remains wrenching for me to read. To answer the question, I know first hand what it is to be a survivor of Domestic Abuse. I also know how very important this Bill is to all those Women and Men who are now and will be in the future Victims. I ran from an extremely volatile, horribly violent relationship after having been hospitalized multiple times with multiple broken bones, I knew I would not see my eighteenth birthday if I stayed. I had nowhere to go, no money and no support structure; still I ran as far and as fast as I could go.

I survived.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Why we stay, pitiful in our bruised bodies and our excuses, our fear palatable yet even before we are healed we return to the hell that is home. Why do we stay? The question is asked repeatedly, often with a tone of derision. Our answer, sometimes that we love him, sometimes worse that he doesn’t mean to hurt us he loves us. The truth though is harder for us to admit to you when you ask and ourselves; this is all we deserve and we have nowhere else to go.

How did we get here?

Is it because we seek what we believe that we deserve? Do we have a neon sign swinging over our head that says “I am here and vulnerable”; I will take it, whatever you dish out. I will take it and even be grateful to you for staying one more day, one more month, one more year.

Have we been so convinced by our mothers, our fathers, or society that we must conform, not speak out; not fight back that we will take the slaps, the closed fists, the kicks and on our knees begging for it to end still be thinking that he loves us and if only we do better it will not happen again?

Why is it that we stay? 

Why do we make excuses, transparent excuses for the broken teeth, the black eyes, the bruised arms? Why do others believe our excuses? Do they really think that we are so incapable of walking from our beds to our baths that we run into doors once a month or once a week? Is it easier to believe that we are so clumsy that we cannot walk up or down a flight of stairs? Do those who claim to care for us find it easier to ignore the truth than acknowledge that we are in danger?

Why is it that we allow ourselves to be so brutalized? What happens to us that our flight or fight instinct is entirely broken? We find no comfort, realizing even those to whom we reach out for help find us incomprehensible in our pain. Even if we finally find it in our spirits to run, to escape we are broken by the prison of our shame. Our defeat is what we carry with us; our inability to explain our willingness to take what our abuser gave; his love in closed fists, slaps, kicks, hate filled words that tore down the walls of our humanity and convinced us that we had no value in our homes or in the world.

Run, with Nothing but You

The telephone, our greatest enemy each time it rings we jump through our skin; we know it might be him. We know we are still weak and frail; that we have no defenses against his apologies and his protestations of his own weakness. Even through our nightmares; those screaming, cold sweat nightmares; we know that if we hear his sugar coated voice telling us that it will never happen again; we might believe him because we need. Who else will love us now? He has destroyed all that was ever lovable in us. We know that in our heart and soul; in whatever humanity we have left we know that we might listen and might return. It will be good for a while; as good as it was in the beginning. Then it will start again, we know that too; even knowing these absolute truths; we are weak and fearful and lonely.

Our frailty during our initial freedom, so tenuous, unreal to us because there is no one to confirm our existence and we don’t know where to begin. The slightest sound behind us is no longer the precursor to pain. The footsteps on the stairs, not a reason to fear but maybe a friend come to call instead. Bumps in the night no longer herald a rape by the person who promised to love and care for us. Still all those sounds send us into a paroxysm of fear, self-doubt and finally anger that our lives will never be without our abuser because he is inside of us; he has replaced everything  that was good with his vileness. We may have escaped him physically but we will never escape him fully, we think this now and in our hearts know this as a truth. We have lost ourselves to his definition of us, weak and of no value.

Nightmares

Our minds work in miraculous ways. If we can stay gone long enough we begin to heal and rebuild. We can begin to take the abuse he called love and place it in appropriate boxes sealing them tightly and marking them as our hated history. When the boxes are full of our past we can stack them in a room within our mind padlock the door; knowing that some day we might return to examine them to try to understand what led us there; but not today. Today just stack the boxes tightly, shut the door and turn the key. Face each day knowing that the door exists and all the boxes exist waiting for us to be strong and come back to learn; but not today. That we might revisit them in our nightmares and run screaming down the corridors of our sleeping mind; waking in cold sweats and shaking in fear; this we can escape. This will happen for some of us it will happen forever, when we least expect it sometimes at the end of what we thought was a great day. In our nightmares the maniacal horrors of our past will sneak through the cracks of that door we locked to terrorize us; to remind us of what was or what might have been.

Future Glory

Our history does not have to hold us hostage; we can shape our future we can redefine ourselves. We were somebody before they arrived to tear us down. Somewhere else in our mind we have a room with a locked door that contains the “us” before them, before the abuse. We have the key to that door also, even if it is lost in the trash that our abuser has piled on us. We have the ability to unlock that door and find the “me” that was before them. Perhaps we will find there were reasons we let them in, the neon sign that was lifted above our heads inviting them in; we can fix this. Possibly we will only find ourselves in the here and now that we are stronger now, more able to face today because of our past. Perhaps we will only find only that we can let go, say no more and look forward without fear.

Whatever we find we will ultimately know that we are precious, worth more than the blows, the slaps, the kicks, the venom that dripped from the lips of our abuser. We will know no amount of pain masked as love is the truth and abuse is not the reality that we deserve in our lives. We will roar our anger and our frustration at the waste of our days in agony rather than joy. We will cry out our pain. We will whisper our validations of self and finally scream our truths in the wind if no one else will hear us.

We will most certainly stand free of what was told to us as the truth knowing finally it was a lie.   

What Do You See

What do you see when you look at me? Through the years, I have worn many hats, played many roles and had many titles. But when you look at me what do you see?

I have participated in a program in Texas called Victim Impact for several years now. This program is intended to bring together ‘offenders’ and crime victims in an effort to build understanding and hopefully empathy in the offenders. While in some cases the program does bring face-to-face victims and their real offender, this isn’t the part of the program I volunteer in. The program I participate in is part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, sponsored by the State Attorney General. The Victim Impact Panels are conducted inside of Federal and State Prisons, County and State Juvenile Centers and for Paroled Adults and Teens. The intent and mission of the program is the development of empathy and compassion, something that is usually missing in offender’s make-up.

I often ask this question as part of my speaking portion of Victim Impact.

What do you see when you look at me?

  • Woman
  • White Woman
  • Blonde, Red Head, Brunette (depends on my choices it changes)
  • Beautiful Woman (I forgive them this many have been for a long time)
  • Mean Woman (lots of kids in the juvenile centers give this answer)
  • Victim (well they know this so they would see this)
  • Well-dressed woman (I usually dress in work clothes)
  • Rich Woman (I get this one often and always find it interesting, we aren’t allowed jewelry)
  • Tall Woman (I wear 5-inch heels but usually my pants conceal this)

The above are just some of the answers. Notice anything missing from this list? How about the following:

  • Mother
  • Sister
  • Daugher
  • Wife
  • Girlfriend
  • Grandmother

These are all the things necessary to see to humanize me, to make me real. What about the rest of us, how do we look out into the world at others, through the prism of our expectations and experiences? What do we see when we meet others, whether formally, informally or simply through media exposure.

Over the years, I have been brought face-to-face with men who have spent their entire adult lives in prison. When I first started this journey I will admit, my heart was hard and my mind closed, I was there for me I wanted them to feel my pain, my hurt and how my life crashed and burned. But then something changed in me and my heart started to shift. Perhaps it was the first program I did with juvenile offenders, thirty young men in a room; CorrectionsReport.comeach one had to stand and say how old they were, why they were there and for how long. Perhaps it was the first time I met young girls, some as young as thirteen in for prostitution, being punished for nothing less than being exploited, sold mainly by adults and to adults their youth laid to waste. While the young always leave me with holes in my heart and my soul crying for a justice that seems to be sadly missing in their young lives, I think this isn’t the one.

There is always a question and answer period after we speak our truths. There are usually at least three of us speaking on any panel. Sometimes questions are directed at one of us specifically other times someone will just speak to all of us, this was one of those occasions.

At one of the State Penitentiary’s a man stood up and thanked us he was about my age. He proceeded to tell us he had spent most of his adult life in prison. He had three children he had not been there for. One son was in prison, serving 20 years. His daughter would not visit him, hadn’t done so in years, wouldn’t return his letters either. Now his youngest son was facing capital murder and the DA had filed for the Death Penalty, this man would likely never see his child again, as he told his story tears rolled down his face.

What did I see when I looked at him?

  • Father

I had always talked about the need for these men to reach out to their families, who were their victims as much as we were. I had never seen them though, not really. I had pragmatically understood the rules of the game, they couldn’t get into the program without a recommendation from a Chaplin or the program coordinator, it wasn’t a gimmee. They didn’t get a gold star in their jacket for participating; they had to want to be there. But I didn’t see them, not really not till that day.

JungleMagazine.comSo what do we see when first meet another person? Do we define them by their outward appearance? Do we exclude them if they don’t live up to our standards? Do we judge them harshly or simply see through them.

What do we see when we look at another person?

Trayvon and Me

There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.

President Dwight Eisenhower

 

I have struggled with how to write this for weeks now. The escalation of emotions across the nation at the senseless and violent death of a boy on the brink of manhood is something none of us can quite fathom, quite accept and so we seek reasons for why it happened. What is it in our national psyche that causes us to seek justifications for what is inexplicable?

Each time I have approached writing this epistle my heart cracks. I am reminded of the feelings my family felt; the hurts and anger they experienced when they thought they might have lost me to random violence. When I have tried to write, I am brought to my knees, my mind explodes with questions but the most important is why.

Trayvon and Me

26-Feb-2012: Trayvon Martin a Black youth is found shot dead in Stanford, Florida. Trayvon is 17 years old, just a child, his entire life ahead of him.

7-Feb-1992: Valentine Logar a White woman is found shot three times in Fort Worth, Texas. Valentine is 34 years old, a mother of two young sons (read story here The Complete Story).

What do the two crimes; twenty years apart have in common you ask, certainly on the surface they don’t seem to be linked in any way. There is no direct relationship between Trayvon and me, the relationship is one created by my broken heart over the lives lost in our nation, not just Trayvon’ s, but those of the three young boys, not yet men who lost their lives the night they tried to take mine.

My purpose is to draw some parallels, in part because on 13-March-2012 the first of the three who shot me that fateful night was released from prison after serving his entire twenty-year sentence. He was born on 14-December-1975, he was just 17 years old when he was sentenced; he will be 37 years old this year. He has spent more time in prison than free.

Courtesty of News National Post.com

Trayvon died in his confrontation with George Zimmerman. There is a great deal of speculation that race played a part in Trayvon’s death, George Zimmerman determined Trayvon was a ‘suspicious’ character who did not belong and escalated a confrontation which ended in the death of Trayvon. Speculation aside, we know George Zimmerman stole this child’s life, we know this because George Zimmerman confessed to killing Trayvon. We currently have George Zimmerman’s side of the story; we have 911 calls and we have what many believe are questionable police procedures. We know one other thing right now, George Zimmerman is not sitting in jail, he is not out on bond either; George Zimmerman is a free man who after taking the life of a child is walking free in the community.

Why do I draw parallels, why am I so bothered by this story?

I keep wondering what would have happened if the roles would have been reversed, if the color of my skin had been Black and the color of my attackers had been White. Would the outcome been different?

I have read the confessions of my attackers. I wasn’t the only victim; I was the lucky one though. One thing it is important to know bigotry and racial hate runs deep and runs all ways. It isn’t just White on Black, it can be Black on White or any other combination; the difference is we just don’t hear about it as often. In their confessions, one of the key statements was their desire to “Kill White People”; this was their sole purpose.

Three young boys, not even out of their teens lost their lives the night they tried to take mine. Recent history says if our racial make-up had been reversed, the outcome would have very likely been different. I am appalled by this, heartsick in fact.

I do not have survivor’s guilt. My position hasn’t changed on forgiveness, remorse and reconciliation. Nor has my position changed on Justice, we all deserve it.

This means Trayvon deserves Justice.

Courtesy Washington Post

The Martins deserve justice for Trayvon.

This nation deserves justice for Trayvon but more than this, our children deserve better from us.

For our children who are losing their lives and futures before they have the opportunity to reach for it, we have to stand up and demand better. Our young boys and girls who are languishing in failing schools and communities without work for their fathers and mothers, they deserve more from us than our inattention or failure to engage. Our children deserve more than to be cannon fodder for the political warfare we are waging. Our children deserve more than another generation of sharing the yard, we already have three generations behind bars; are we willing to make it four?

My heart is broken, not just for Trayvon and his family but surprisingly for the three young men who tried to take my life. I don’t forgive them their actions, but today I think I hurt for them.

Crime, Punishment and Victims

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