(and a merit badge for community building)
I'd intended a while back to give Lagusta an abovegroundpool merit badge for being a sharp, funny, kickass, feminist, vegan, local chef extraordinaire, and sharing that experience with the rest of us. But hadn't gotten around to it.
I've been distracted from writing the entry by the fact that my friend is being beaten up, and from figuring out steps to take to prevent things from escalating. I don't want her to be murdered, I don't want her to continue suffering through beatings, and I don't want this guy to hurt anyone else. What I've learned talking to the lovely people at domestic hotlines is that I can't be the one to end it.
Years ago I had a horrible weekend with friends in CT. The whole setting was confusing to me. I was both attracted to and repulsed by the plush lifestyle I was experiencing, where it was okay (and even encouraged) for a pack of adult friends to raid the house, eat and drink and use everything in it, do nothing more important than play badminton and swim in the private lake, and run the well dry. I was meeting one of my friends' little sister for the first time. This fourteen year old girl (again rich, not underprivileged) lived on a diet of morning-after pills, wore pants that were so tight and low that her pubic hair always showed (the tiny bit that hadn't been shaved), and had no interest at all in engaging with any of the [queer] women or gay boys assembled. She only wanted to talk to [straight] boys that were attracted to her and she kept inviting over, but didn't even seem interested in them. I didn't learn much about why she was dour and self-destructive, but it really set a vibe for the weekend. I remember this was the first time I ever saw an episode of Sex in the City, and in this setting, sitting next to this poor girl, who, by the way, I didn't like, but did empathize with, was completely unable to find any humor in the show. I'm sooo not anti-sex, nor anti clothing that someone thinks they might look sexy in. I don't pretend kids aren't sexual. But it messed me up to see this kid so bitter about [clearly unsatisfying] sex already, so defined by it. She isn't alone, of course, but meeting her set the stage for the rest of the weekend.
Toward the end, we played the game Scruples. Round after round, I learned things I wished I'd never had about these people I thought were smart, I thought I liked. The guy I knew best of this crowd ended the game by admitting he hadn't intervened, or called anyone else to intervene, when he once overheard a woman being brutally attacked. After a futile argument that bewildered me, (It wouldn't change anything. I didn't even know her.) I had to leave. It's very possible that screaming woman was raped, beaten, or killed. I've never hung out with any of these people ever again.
Intervening, calling the cops, getting help quick, somehow, is the right thing to do in an emergency like the one my "friend" didn't respond to. From a domestic violence hotline I learned that when physical or sexual abuse is happening (to an adult), and it is not an immediate emergency, it is dangerous to call for intervention unless the victim is on board. If the victim is still seeing the perp, letting the perp into her* space, and he's* angered about being reported, he'll often hurt her worse than usual, or kill her. They recommend that, until she's ready to end the situation, to 1) Set up a code for emergencies; and 2) Keep a journal of incidents with times, dates, and details of the attacks, ideally with pictures of the visible injuries. Because of course the bulk of the injuries aren't visible.
I also recently read about pets in domestic violence situations. Like the people who stayed in their homes with their animals to try and weather Hurricane Katrina, people who are being abused often don't want to leave their animals behind, delaying getting help, most for months. Indeed, those animals often suffer at the hands of the same perps. There are some experimental domestic violence shelters that offer animals shelter as well. The animals have proven to be of great comfort to the women in the shelter where interviews took place. We all know the statistics showing that animal abusers often turn out to be abusive toward other people, too. Now we see that fear of animal abuse (like child abuse) often stops people from getting themselves out of dangerous situations.
And what does this have to do with a New Paltz blogger?
Well, I recently read her writing about the murder of a friend of hers, and that is part of what galvanized me to seek out professional help in dealing with my friend who is suffering. It's important, and also not the first time that Lagusta's writing has been inspiring to me. From discussions of how and why to make your own tempeh to making a bicycle-driven clothes washer, and this morning's reflection on the middle class environmentalist's failings when it comes to development discussions. It is really nice to know there's someone sane and passionate and articulate in the hood, sharing her experiences and thoughts in hopes of making her community/ies stronger.
I'm grateful for her generosity, her anger, her irreverence, and all the times I've cracked up reading her blog. Cuz we all really need that. (Oh yeah, she runs a vegan home meal delivery service and a vegan truffle business. But it's her writing I'm into at the moment.) So the repurposed "My Community" merit badge goes to Lagusta and her blog, Resistance is Fertile. Thanks for bringing your vegan eco feminist chef fury to the Hudson Valley and to the web!
*Obviously, these pronouns are interchangeable. Men hurt men and boys and girls, women hurt other women and girls and boys and men, trannies get hurt by men and women, etc., etc.