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The following essay is the opinion of the author, the author of this piece wishes to remain anonymous

13 reasons13 Reasons Why (stylized onscreen as Th1rteen R3asons Why) is an American television series based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and adapted by Brian Yorkey for Netflix. 

 

WARNING: content includes descriptions of sexual assault and suicide, minor show spoilers not exceeding what can be seen in trailers and online synopses

I need to write about 13 REASONS WHY.  Never in my life have I seen something that so closely represents my experience as a teenager since MY SO-CALLED LIFE.  And while these shows may not depict your exact high school experience, I believe there is at least one character in the show you can deeply relate to, even if it’s only through one particular event in that character’s arc.  For me and 13 REASONS, it was the central Hannah Baker and her classmate and cheerleader Jessica combined.  They were very much “me”.  In many instances and ways: too many to list.  For years, I have maintained if social media was as big when I was in HS as it is now, I most likely would have ended up like Hannah Baker, and countless other students who have chosen to end their lives. But for me, this goes beyond my connection to this story and its characters because of how much it seeps in to the real-life experience of so many high school students in the U.S., particularly girls.

It is interesting watching this show as an adult and being triggered the way I have.  It has opened up traumas in new ways, but has also actually offered a newish way to help heal.  My dad always advises me to hug the little kid inside me, that she is who I need to love and heal.  Viewing this show as an adult opens up an opportunity to do that through recognizing your compassion for the characters and realizing they are like you, that you deserve that very same compassion. It has also allowed me to watch something both as a teenager and adult, on two personal timelines simultaneously, in a way I have never experienced.

Speaking of adults and kids and experiences, I loved the depiction of this dynamic in 13 REASONS.  Many of the adults are open with their children and are truly there for them, yet as in real life, their kids don’t come to them, or only try briefly before feeling discouraged or scared.  Kids often harbor their peer trauma and try to deal with it within their ranks. I had adults I could go to, and I even knew it then, but I didn’t go to them.  It shows that no matter how hard you try to be there for your kids, often they don’t reach out, even with major things like rape and abuse or suicide.  I do not think this is always necessarily due to an age or generation gap, but often just the way we communicate, miscommunicate, or don’t communicate at all. This is also depicted amongst the kids themselves, and is true to real life, and amongst adults. But sometimes the kid just chooses not to communicate out of shame, and this is key, but shame so deep seeded it is very difficult to recognize and heal.  So much conflict can be resolved if we just ask questions and talk about it before we decide to react.  No matter our age.  I cannot even count how many times I avoided being angry or sad, saved relationships, and even avoided feeling shameful, just by opening a dialogue.  It is astounding how much easier and better my life got once I started practicing this.  13 REASONS covers this beautifully.  …As for the shame in youth in real life thing, I am still trying to figure that out.

The beginning of the show foreshadows the need for communication and threads it all the way through the narrative to the end, providing far more than 13 reasons why it (communication) is so important.  And throughout the show, we see different ways shame can derail communication.  It shows how we can sometimes try to bury our shame by going back to spaces with our rapist or abuser.  People often wonder why someone would do that; hang out with or around someone who assaulted them.  Part of it is trying to regain some semblance and dignity, part of it is not having the proper tools to love yourself, and part of it is because you somehow think it’s your fault.  It’s a strange way of subconsciously, and partly consciously, trying to convince yourself that if you can make it through this, then everything is ok, and you’re also not causing drama because even though you were raped or abused, you feel like it’s your fault, so if you say anything, you think you’ll just sound like you are trying to create drama, and you definitely don’t want to take on more blame.  13 REASONS covers this beautifully.

One of the rapes depicted in this show happens at a party.  A girl is drunk and passed out when a popular jock goes into the room, locks the door, and rapes her while she is still unconscious and can barely move.  She doesn’t have clear memory of the incident, but there were witnesses, and they didn’t stop it from happening or tell adults after. This happened to me when I was 15, drunk at a party, with a popular jock, and I had to learn about the details from a friend who was friends with my rapist. (And just like in the show, one of these three people is no longer alive). My memory wasn’t totally clear either, just bits and pieces, just like with this character.  He (the person who raped me) bragged to my friend that he “had sex” with me.  My side of the story was a little different as I woke up to my body being thrust as I was vomiting and watching the ceiling bounce.  I couldn’t move, and could barely speak. The next thing I knew I was on the bathroom floor in my friend’s sister’s clothes.  I learned later she changed my clothes and washed mine and put me in the bathroom.  That was the only help I got for that at the time.  I did go up to the rapist in the hallway at school and tell him to stop bragging about what happened because it constitutes as rape, but even though I knew better and had the knowledge of how to help myself in a situation like that, approaching him the way I did was the extent of the capacity of me helping myself that time.  That time. 13 REASONS covers this beautifully.

The second time I was raped, was very similar to the rape of another character, except this person was my friend prior to the incident and I was 19yrs old. I was completely conscious and sober. I don’t want to give too many spoilers of my life or the show, but here is that moment where you stop struggling.  You don’t yell, you don’t say no, you don’t even move.  You almost become compliant.  Because you are frozen.  There comes a point when trauma is too much for our brains to bear and they just shut down.  It’s part of what causes that feeling of being dead inside.  Your brain shuts down and you can’t feel, because if you did, you wouldn’t survive. Part of you doesn’t anyway. This person also bragged to his friend who I happened to sometimes be having sex with casually and consensually. I received a phone call from this person a day or so later making fun of and shaming me, not knowing my side of the story.  There is more to this one.  Much more… I never truly got help for this one aside from time and personal attention to myself, not only did mutual friends tell me they thought I was lying even though they said they had previously witnessed this person put pills in girls’ drinks, the actual adults I told didn’t offer much help either (not that I would have taken it at the time anyway). 13 REASONS covers this beautifully.

In both of these instances, there were witnesses of some degree, friends knew, and said or did nothing, some even added to the trauma, and I didn’t communicate what I needed to heal to anyone. In the grand scheme of my life depicted from the outside, these things never happened. They were isolated to that moment, and even though it was like everyone knew, it was like no one knew. It went mostly unacknowledged. No one was punished, no one spoke up, and I wasn’t helped.  What/who do I blame? No one and nothing but shame and lack of communication, and only partly the rapists themselves, who in some fashion are products of their environments in one way or another.  All of this, 13 REASONS WHY covers beautifully.

You may be wondering how someone could be a victim multiple times, as I am sure people wonder about the character Hannah Baker. Or why the police weren’t contacted.  I asked my therapist once, even adding how can it happen to someone who is a fighter, and I learned that someone who has been assaulted once, is more likely to be assaulted a second time than someone who has never been assaulted, and so on.  The latter has to do with trauma shutting down the brain as I mentioned earlier.  And in the high school world, kids can smell trauma like bloodhounds and so very often take advantage of it.  Today it is enhanced today by social media.  These traumas are now documented, serving as a reminder for the victim that the whole world can now see and share.  Reliving something in your brain is bad enough, but when you can visually see it over and over again on a screen, and everyone else can too, it has to do a number on the brain in ways I can’t imagine, especially for a teenager or kid. It was unbearable for me without this factor.  13 REASONS WHY covers this beautifully, however, a tiny bit more attention (though done fairly well) could have helped with the why kids and rape victims don’t choose police contact, but they do cover how the cruel documentation on our phones and online can later help.

Though growing up in a world of social media can add more pressure and a new level of bullying for students, including pushing them as far as suicide, it also brings us things like this show, and people being able to connect and share things that let others know they are not alone with topics rarely discussed in other generations, as I am doing now. It is interesting living on both sides of life with and without social media, similar to being engrossed in Hannah Baker’s story as both a teen and adult. Our current knowledge and regular use of technology helps us and hurts us in our real-life communication, as it depicted in this series…  Communication: from kids to adults, and across and throughout nations.  One of the most important things in our lives, and a crucial central character 13 REASONS WHY covers beautifully.

Process Press is dedicated to poetry, essays and short stories concerned with pressing social issues. We currently accept submissions on a rolling basis.

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We consider:

Short poems, no longer than a single page in length.

Essays and short stories no longer than 1500 words.

 

To submit to Process Press fill out the form below. Do not put your entire work in the pitch section – simply tell us a little bit about the work and we will contact you via email with further instructions if we are interested in exploring the work further.

 

#fridayreads #womenwriters

https://www.dailyworth.com/posts/4249-i-crowdfunded-my-divorce

darwin_colorPersonally, I have always been a huge fan of Charles Darwin. A really big fan. When The  American Philosophical Society invited submissions from poets and artists prior to their February 2010 events to commemorate Darwin, I was ready.

A poem I started as a teenager came to mind the moment I read about the call for submissions. The Network for New Music was asking for poetry that would be transformed into new classical music compositions for a project they called Dialogues with Darwin. Eric Daino was one of the musicians that chose my poem “Sand Walk”. You can listen to the entire song here.

If you know me at all, you know I was not done there. Made one more submission and a poem I wrote, among many other works, was selected by Lisa Anne Auerbach and designed by Roman Jaster. Their interpretation of my poem Variations, thank you very much. can be seen at the link, the entire project can be seen at The Tract House.

There are many things about scientific exploration that directly effects art. The levels of science in art are extensive. Not only does science aid in the production of pigments and devices, but in understanding of light and sound, making science itself a fundamental part of creating many arts. In this instance, Charles Darwin and his thoughts on childhood illnesses (which took the life of his daughter), his work on observing nature, and the thought processes that accompanied the revolutionary ideas he was able to express, were my inspiration.

St Valentine

If you have ever heard, or read, a story about Saint Valentine, you would hear many things. That he is a composite of two or three men. All we know of one of those men is that he suffered, along with many others, in a part of Africa under Roman rule. The other two are said to be buried outside of Rome. What we know of all martyrs is that they all suffer greatly and die for their convictions. While there will always be questions, there are a few things about Saint Valentine, whether a composite or not, that are recorded.

 

St-Valentine

To begin with, in the early 200s, Christianity is not exactly like it is now. Think more, communal love fest in the midst of war. Just a few hundred years after the death of Jesus and instead of his followers dwindling from twelve guys, it was growing and the Roman Government was having none of it. In fact Claudius Gothicus was having none of any of Rome’s nonsense anymore. The first soldier Emperor to rule the Roman Empire, he was ready to whip everybody back into shape and go on about their fighting to control as many areas of the world as possible.

vday4A lot of things have been said, that Claudius banned all marriages so that more men would go to war, that he banned only marriages within certain religious sects, that he was merely aiding Christians in some way, and / or that he was involved in religious conversions. It is the idea that Valentine betrayed the law for love that has grown over time. For breaking one or all of these laws Valentine was sentenced to be beaten to death and then his head removed.

The message Valentine sent, whether through marriages or by assisting others, the feast of Saint Valentine is intended to be an expression to our loved ones and to everyone, of our deepest devotions and convictions to them and the world around us.

 

 

card_177_valentine_010610-D619--front-for-webO Saint Valentine,

Lover of Christ and of the Church,

We ask your intercession that we may

Learn how to love God above all things.

To selflessly love one another.

O glorious Saint Valentine,

Pray for us that

We too may have the

Steadfast faith of martyrs.

 

Selections of recent writings

“It is estimated that up to 65 percent of those in prison in Philadelphia are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of any crime. Many of them simply cannot afford to pay their bail.”

– from Bail an injustice for Philadelphia’s poor

http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/essayworks/85093-bail-an-injustice-for-philadelphias-poor

“The advertising itself is not the problem; content co-created by sponsors is. And which content is co-created is not exactly clear. Broadly supposedly wants to remain above advertising influence, while the site shows countless images of women rubbing Vaseline on their hands and wearing Degree deodorant on their smooth armpits — juxtaposed with articles about women’s bodies, including photos of blow-up dolls and advice on how to love your own vagina. (Because it is just assumed that all women don’t?) Nearly every other article is about some kind of eroticism that women need to know about — relationship advice with burritos (because, how funny — burritos), holding séances and how identifying as witches is helping trans people.

I mean, witches.

And of course horoscopes.”

– from Despite growth of women’s news sites, a void in women’s news

http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/essayworks/85652-despite-growth-of-womens-news-sites-a-void-in-womens-news

“…images of women rubbing Vaseline on their hands and wearing Degree deodorant on their smooth armpits — juxtaposed with articles about women’s bodies, including photos of blow-up dolls and advice on how to love your own vagina. (Because it is just assumed that all women don’t?)”

http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/speak-easy/speak-easy-feature/item/85652-despite-growth-of-womens-news-sites-a-void-in-womens-news&Itemid=219&linktype=hp_speakeasy

My latest essay – part of a discussion on education in Philadelphia happening at WHYY Newsworks’ Speakeasy

http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/speak-easy/speak-easy-feature/item/74297-charter-and-district-schools-should-not-be-at-odds-my-family-relies-on-both

My latest essay includes a 200 year old letter from Thomas Jefferson, religious tolerance, LGBTQ rights and a local university in a discrimination controversy. 

http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/speak-easy/speak-easy-feature/item/71019-eastern-university-alumni-fighting-a-request-to-discriminate&Itemid=219&linktype=hp_speakeasy?linktype=mst_share

Since an inhumane death sentence was carried out in Oklahoma on April 29, 2014 there has been much talk of Clayton Lockett. It reportedly took Lockett 43 minutes to die. Every time I read that I think about Stephanie Neiman, the woman Lockett buried alive. How long did it take her to die after being raped and shot by Lockett and his accomplices? Why was the suffering of young Stephanie Neiman not national news? The President, while saying he agreed with the punishment, said he found the execution deeply troubling and intended to look into it with the Attorney General. Was there a president talking about how to make the world less troubling for the family, friends and community of Stephanie Neiman?

As the family member of a murder victim, I think of victims first. From what I understand, the necessity of the law is to make right for those who have been wronged, to set a balance back in society, and for there to be finality. It seems to me, that the execution of Clayton Lockett has not achieved any of those goals. This case has inflamed the issue of the death penalty, it has set society out of balance, and those who have been wronged have not been made right or whole. More wrong continues to occur.

When I read about Stephanie Neiman, I am reminded of myself. She and I both played saxaphone, we are close in age, and she worked with churches as a teenager. In a statement attributed to Stephanie’s parents, Susie and Steve Neiman wrote that they were “thankful this day has finally arrived and that justice will finally be served.” While no one knows exactly when this was written, the language suggests it was prior to all of the media attention that subsequently followed Lockett’s execution. Her friends and residents of the town where she grew up in, Perry, Oklahoma, have said they have no sympathy for Lockett. A woman named Marilee Macias told an Oklahoma television station His little 30 minutes of lying there in anguish, if he was even feeling any anguish for 30 minutes, does not compare at all to anything Stephanie went through or her family.” 

Even when an execution is carried out ‘correctly’ according to the law, the family of a murder victim is regularly re-victimized. This happens through countless hearings, appeals, more hearings, more appeals, and much of the time the families go, to insure the voice of their loved one is not lost. The process for the Neiman family to find what they thought would be justice, the murder of Lockett in return for his murder of their daughter, has already taken 14 years, and unfortunately with this botched execution still in the news, it does not seem to be over for them yet.

Law makers on all sides of the death penalty issue are talking about how to proceed, including in Missouri where a man so set on hurting his ex-girlfriend he escaped from jail (he was there for domestic violence) to beat her with a hammer may be executed Wednesday May 21st. A Utah representative says he intends to bring back firing squads as an option to avoid issues with drug injections. There is really only one answer to how to solve all of the issues surrounding capital punishment. Abolish it.

Trials, hearings, appeals, they can go on for decades. These things force families to relive probably the most horrific moment of their lives over and over, and the legal system promises that if they do this they will see justice, but the constant reliving and re-victimization in itself is not just. When life without the possibility of parole is an option, this problem of constant re-victimization is solved. Once a person admits their guilt or is irrefutably found guilty, the families should be allowed to focus on honoring their loved one as best they can and moving on as peacefully as possible to their new lives.

When my cousin was murdered, the death penalty was not an option. The man who killed her was released into his town, the town where my aunt still lives, in 2010. The state of Vermont gave my cousin’s life a clear value, ten years of life from the person who killed her. It will never seem fair or just. Mine is not the only family to feel this way. There is a story I once heard of a young woman in Delaware, who jumped in front of her brother when someone set out to kill him. Had her brother been the one killed, the premeditation of the crime who have brought a capital case, but since the young woman was a bystander and not the intended target, since she interfered in her brother’s murder, her murderer spent maybe a decade in prison. I’m not sure of the exact time, but when the father of the murder victim told me the story, the man who killed his daughter and attempted to kill his son was already back on the streets. And all of these families went through the same: trials, hearings, appeals, and then paroles.

All states, and even the federal government, should be working from the perspective of restorative justice and protecting the rights of victims. Too often I encounter the families of murder victims who have been terribly disillusioned by the system of law meant to assist and protect them during their most vulnerable and difficult times. Too often the true meaning of justice is lost with process, the victims’ names are lost within procedure, and a life is given worth by those who have the least say in assessing that life’s value. It is time we start working harder for the victims of murder and their families. They deserve it.