Every 109 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.

There is a lot of credible information showing that the rate of sexual assault in the United States is appallingly high. 1 in 5 women is raped in her lifetime and in the 12 months prior to the CDC’s 2012 comprehensive report on sexual violence, 1 in 20 women reported experiencing some form of sexual assault in the 12 months prior to the survey alone. Close to 90% of those rapes and assaults are committed by their partners, their family members, their friends and acquaintances.

We know this is true. I know this is true. The women who are my friends know this is true.

Where do we meet these men who rape us? Who assault us? We meet them at our friends’ houses. At our friends’ gigs. We meet them through our friends, our co-workers, our families.

You introduce them to us. Maybe you don’t know that you’re introducing us to someone who believes he has the right to touch us without our permission.The right to stick his tongue in our mouths when we’ve said no, or turned away, or tried to keep our jaws closed tight. The right to have sex with us–to rape us–when we have not said “yes”.

I hope you don’t.

But if you’ve heard that person defend a rapist by saying that women are teases, or that women lie about assault, or that his life will be ruined by the accusation, then you know that this is not a safe person for your friends to be alone with.

If you’ve heard that person speak admiringly about PUA tactics or whine about the Friend Zone, you should be suspicious that this is not a safe person for your friends to be alone with.

If you’ve heard this person defend misogyny or sexism with some version of “that’s guy talk” or “boys will be boys”, you should not trust this person to be respectful and safe for your friends to be alone with.

This is rape culture. It normalizes the idea that women are tools of male satisfaction. When these ideas are unchallenged, the men expressing them believe that it’s normal and okay to assault women. And then they will assault your friends–my friends, me–with the trust that you think it’s normal to behave that way, and so it is okay for them to behave that way.

Work to make the world safe for your women friends, your sisters, your daughters by making sure that your sons recognize and reject rape culture. Call out that friend who thinks women lie about rape to protect their reputations, to hide an embarrassing liaison, to ruin some guy’s life. Don’t laugh at their grotesque jokes about assault.

Don’t teach your children that a man can brag about grabbing women in a sexual manner without their consent or can claim to kiss them whether they want it or not and be a viable presidential candidate.

That’s Not How it Works

Your vote in this election (or lack thereof) will do one of two things: It will assist in electing Hillary Clinton or it will assist in electing Donald Smith. It won’t create a viable third party; it won’t dismantle entrenched parties; it won’t remove money from elections; it won’t make a statement; it won’t prove a point; it won’t do anything except assist in the election of one of these two people. That is what is on your conscience when you vote or don’t.

I can sleep at night knowing I have supported a highly competent, successful lawmaker who has put forward a strong domestic agenda intended to support social welfare and social justice.

I could not possibly sleep at night knowing I abetted the election of an unqualified liar who pursues hate through an agenda of mass deportation, the banning of persons of particular religions and the prosecution of women who abort or miscarry.

I’m Still With Her

Hillary’s admirers think she doesn’t get credit for her relentlessness, that she gets overshadowed by politicians who can give a better speech but don’t know how to get anything done, that she gets dinged by a press corps that loves to talk about optics but isn’t particularly interested in how policy gets made.

Some of this is fair; some of it isn’t. But the reason it’s important is that relentlessness is core to Clinton’s theory of change. If you want to know her plan for being a good president, it’s actually pretty simple: Read everything, learn everything, work with everybody, and never stop trying to push the ball forward. That may sound obvious, but it’s actually a sharp change from recent presidents and current candidates whose theory of change relied on the power of oratory to mobilize citizens to demand new policies.

Bill Clinton explained Hillary’s political style perfectly — but disguised it as a love story

I’ve had this conversation with a lot of people about Hillary Clinton for two reasons: 1) I believe it’s true of her and 2) I work in the slow, deadly details of social change (well, court reform, but they overlap quite a bit).

When I talk to my friends about being burned out at work (which happens, unfortunately) or when I talk to my colleagues about the next steps in a policy change or when I try to get my donors excited about some marginal improvement we’ve made somewhere, this is the context of what I’m saying. Policy is hard and it’s so slow, most of the time, people don’t see the change.

Then, suddenly, a bunch of people jump on the bandwagon and something, which has taken you years or decades to research, design, and advocate for, just seems to happen. But that is not true at all.

It’s not fair and it’s cold comfort, indeed, to people suffering injustice at this minute. But it’s a critical understanding for someone in charge to have.

Fear of a Presidential Election

A friend posted a link to Black in the Time of Smith (For people of color, Smith is as ‘fascinating’ as being punched in the stomach) by and commented that “why this election matters, and why I might hold my nose and vote for a candidate I dislike.”

“It is not about thumbing your nose at the establishment.” he added, “It’s about protecting the little progress we’ve made.” And I replied: Change is hard; it’s slow and it’s so fragile.

Before I start talking about myself, let me note: Ms. Oluo’s commentary is about something far more urgent than the slow pace of progress and about something more urgent than my personal relationship to social progress. Her acute observation that: We always suspected that the vaguely racist white man would turn violent when his ability to casually oppress was threatened. When his ability to at least see himself as above us was taken away. is painful and critical. Those are the stakes and anyone principled must stand in the way of–must act to prevent–those voices taking power.

I was not responding to Ms. Oluo’s commentary–her commentary does not need my analysis; it needs my listening and I owe it my sharing; I was responding to my friend’s belief that we have a duty to oppose Smith, in order to preserve the incremental progress we’ve made, while we continue to fight for more.

So, at Facebook, a college friend shared an article and commented that this election “is not about thumbing your nose at the establishment. It’s about protecting the little progress we’ve made.” And I replied: Change is hard; it’s slow and it’s so fragile.

Actually, I had typed many many words in reply but decided I was talking too much on someone else’s wall at Facebook and deleted them in favor of the incomplete thought shared above. Now I’m going to try to recreate my original response.

I work for a small court reform organization which aims to improve access to justice in both the civil and criminal courts. When I say “small”, I mean three full time staff and an annual budget below the operating budget necessary to win grants from most major funders. We are successful; in part because we’re focused on relationships, but also because we are not afraid of small progress. We don’t set out to take baby steps; our reform plans are usually sweeping and as inclusive as we can make them.

But institutions, like battleships, don’t turn swiftly or sharply. And culture–whether that’s your domestic relations court division, your neighborhood or your country–does not shift rapidly in the absence of cataclysm. Institutions, and people, need to develop comfort with small change first before embracing large change or, sometimes, even before taking the next small step forward.

That’s what at stake all the time. It’s exhausting.



Fear, Hate and Facebook

gavinNTo which I add:  And it’s important to note, given the fear of immigrants and people of color–as well as the ignorance of cultural history–on display at the convention, that Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara to parents from the Gujarat region of India.

He was not Christian, either.

There is so much upsetting here, so I’m going to focus on this ability and need to dehumanize and subjugate people of color, queer people, and women by denouncing them and their needs and their humanity while simultaneously using their art, their labor, their skills while opposing the policies and systems which might enable those without power and privilege to thrive.

The GOP is so happy saying you, gay man who is foreign from one of those places, believing one of those religions have no value and don’t deserve anything society can provide, but aren’t you happy we like your little song enough to use it?


The unspoken word in “Black lives matter” is not “only”–it is not “more”. If there is an implicit modifier in the phrase, it is “also“. If, when you hear the words “black lives matter”, you also assume an unspoken word, such as “more” or “only”, it’s a good idea to ask yourself why.

Please, sit quietly, nonconfrontationally, and completely honestly with yourself and walk through why this is your reaction. Bluntly, and knowing no-one is going to hear your thoughts or judge you for them, honestly learn why you respond to the statement “Black lives matter” as though it were “only Black lives matter” or “Black lives matter more”.

If you get no further than “BUT all lives matter, that’s why ‘black lives matter’ has an unspoken ‘more’ in it”; or if you can’t come up with a better explanation than “I’m not included in the statement ‘black lives matter’, so it must mean ‘only’ “, I’d suggest you need to keep thinking.

“Think”–the strongest admonishment I grew up with. “Why aren’t you thinking?” And “this is not about you”–the best advice I grew up with. These are your guides here, when you ask yourself why you think “Black lives matter” is a threat or an insult to you or why you dismiss it as something that does not concern everyone.


Is Elena Smiling?

“We add that, when directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, No 15-274, p. 28 (Breyer, J.)

Not “did it?”, but “could it have?”, and the answer is No.

As the Washington Post put it: Supreme Court rules against Texas and for science in abortion case