This Post is Definitely, Absolutely, Positively Not About Mike Pence

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I don’t normally jump on the latest topic that’s flying around on social media. And I’m not going to jump on Mike Pence. (I mean. I’m a pacifist. Jumping on people is frowned upon.) What I do want to talk about is something I’ve mostly seen people talk around instead of about.

Some people believe that men and women should never be alone together. That might mean they never ride in a car without a third person, or that might mean they can’t even eat dinner together in a public place.

People who have this rule have it for different reasons. I’m not going to talk about all of those reasons. (If someone wants to defend their reasoning, I’d love it if they wrote their own post. Link it in the comments, if you want).

I’m going to talk about the reason I have personal experience with.


Here’s a journal entry I made when I was 16 years old*:

After we were done at the job site [my dad and a few other adults took the youth group on an MDS trip], we went to a Waffle House by our motel. I took a drink of my water and then dumped two Equal packets into it and Nick asked, “Why’d you do that?”

I told him the water was bland, but he said water couldn’t be bland. It can too be bland.

Then we heard a crash and turned around. Joe had spilled his Mr. Pibb all over Angela and Daniel. It was hilarious.

After we got done eating, me, Andrea, and Nick wanted to go watch TV but all the adults were taking forever. So we decided to walk back to the motel. When we were leaving, Candace yelled, loudly, “Y’all need to leave the door open!”

I just stood there, like, “Huh?” I thought maybe I had the only room key or something and she didn’t want to get locked out.

Then she said, “You know, boys and girls. Together.”

WHAT?!?!?!?!

I tried to make a joke of it, so when we were walking back, I told Andrea, “Hey, are you excited for our big orgy? Do you want to share Nick?”

That’s when I realized Nick was literally right behind me, so I real quick said, “Just kidding,” just so we were clear. I need to stop saying everything that pops into my head.

Anyway, it didn’t even matter because Candace sent other kids out after us and they were mad because they didn’t want to sit in the motel room and watch TV, but they had to because of us.


And then I talk about watching Volcano, but that’s another story.

I want to break this down a little.

At first, we were just a group of kids, being kids. There were absolutely zero sexual thoughts going on. My focus was on bland water and Mr. Pibb accidents. When we went to leave, it never even occurred to me that something sexual might possibly happen while I was watching TV. At that point in my life, I’d never even had a first kiss yet. Never held hands. Nothing.

The woman who didn’t want us to be alone is the one who sexualized that situation, which I tried to defuse with a dumb joke (because, let’s be real… that’s always been my way.) It was embarrassing for her to say that, especially in front of everyone else in our group. And, since my father was there with us, it wasn’t that she was “in charge” of me for the trip or anything like that.

I’d only known that boy for a couple of months. One of my friends was walking over with us. Maybe she thought we were playing a trick with that… I’m not sure. We just wanted to watch TV. It’s an innocent activity.

The suspicion that we might get up to something gave us the impression that we were dangerous to one another. The lack of trust was insulting. The idea that my awkward self might tempt him down some dark, sexually deviant road was mortifying.

I wasn’t Kristy in that moment. I wasn’t a sister in Christ, which is how Christian men should see me. I was a female body that could be the object of sinful lust. I was something to be protected from.

About a year later, this woman was teaching our youth group. She was an advocate for courtship, which required a chaperone to accompany any boy/girl pair. She extended that to adults as well, and gave us an example.

The example she presented was a time, a few weeks prior, when she’d been in the church doing something and my dad had walked in. She told us all she felt extremely uncomfortable being alone with him like that, for the whole, maybe 5 minutes he was in there. My dad was the pastor. Of course he’d be walking into the church sometimes.

How do you think you’d feel if a woman told a group of your friends that she was uncomfortable being alone with your father? What does that make your father sound like?

I pressed her a little on it, asking if he’d actually done anything inappropriate. She said he hadn’t. It was just his presence that made her uncomfortable. Why, though? Because her belief was that you couldn’t trust a man and a woman, alone together. Something might happen, even if the risk was extremely low. And, even if nothing sexual happened, it wasn’t appropriate, even for a congregant and a pastor to share the same space for a few minutes.

What sharing her “caution” did was make my father sound like the kind of creep who would make a woman uncomfortable. (If you knew my dad, you’d know that’s a weird thing to say about him.) What sharing her “caution” did was make me sound like the kind of girl who’d jump a boy the second the motel door closes.

It’s hurtful and shaming.

I can’t speak for every single person out there who’s been touched by the “no boy/girls alone” rule. I can speak for me, though. The idea that this rule isn’t ever used to prevent temptation is just wrong. I’ve got a copy of my very first orgy joke that proves that’s exactly how this rule can be used. This was my introduction to the rule, and when I talk about it, this is where I’m coming from. If that’s not how it’s played out in your life, well, great. But you can’t tell me it hasn’t played out this way in other people’s lives.

*Names have been changed.

6 Important Stalking Facts Everyone Should Know

6 Stalking Facts

You know a woman who has been, is being, or will be stalked.

1 in 6 women have been stalked at some point in their lives.1 These women believed they (or someone they cared about) would be harmed or killed by their stalker.

How many women do you know? 1 in 6 is a high number. There’s a very good chance you know one of these women. However, many stalking victims are hesitant to tell others about their experiences with a stalker. They might be afraid you won’t believe them, or that you’ll blame them for their stalker’s behavior.

By raising awareness about the reality of stalking, you can show your friends and family members that you’re behind them.

Stalking 1

Men can be stalked too.

1 in 19 men have been stalked at some point in their lives. While women do stalk men, most stalkers (of either gender) are men.1

Men may be hesitant to speak up about their experiences because they’re afraid of looking weak, especially if their stalker is a woman. But these men aren’t weak. Stalking is intrusive and dangerous.

Most victims know their stalkers.

When people think of a stalker, most have this picture in their head of some creepy stranger, skulking down a back alley, taking picture of an oblivious woman.

In reality, two-thirds of women are stalked by a current or former partner. A quarter of women are stalked by someone they’re acquainted with, even though they never had a romantic relationship with them. Only about 13% of victims are stalked by strangers. 1

Stalkers don’t just follow a person around.

Stalkers are creative in the ways they terrorize their victims.

Sometimes they follow the victim. Or they might call non-stop all day long. They might break into a victim’s home.

They often leave items for the victim to find. These aren’t romantic trinkets. A stalker might break into a victim’s house and leave a glass of water on the kitchen table. The message to the victim is, “I can get to you any time I want.”

These types of incidents are difficult for victims to report. Victims are often afraid the police won’t take them seriously if they call to report something as seemingly innocent as a glass of water on their table. If the police officer doesn’t know the incident is part of an on-going stalking case, he might not take it seriously.

Stalkers often threaten their victims with physical harm or death. They sometimes threaten the victim’s friends and family members as well.

Stalking victims are forced to face each day, not knowing what might happen to them or to their loved ones.

Stalking kills

Stalkers kill.

All death threats should be taken seriously.

76% of women who are murdered by their current or former partner were stalked first. 85% of women who survived an attempted murder by their partner were stalked first.2

Only 10% of female murder victims are murdered by a stranger.3

Stalking is a serious red flag that a woman is in danger of being murdered, especially when she is being stalked by a former partner.

Stalking is illegal.

All 50 states have anti-stalking laws. However, some states have stricter laws than others.

“Some state laws specify that the victim must have been frightened by the stalking, while others require only that the stalking would have caused a reasonable person to experience fear. In addition, states vary on what level of fear is required. Some state laws require prosecutors to establish fear of death or serious bodily harm, while others require only that prosecutors establish that the victim suffered emotional distress.”4

Stalking is difficult to prove and restraining orders often do nothing to protect victims. Unfortunately, proving a stalking case can be a long process, during which the victim is continuously terrorized. It’s important for victims to have a strong emotional support system during this time and a safety plan in place.

 

More information is available from the Stalking Resource Center.

 

Sources

1 – Michele C. Black et al., “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report (pdf, 124 pages),” Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010. (https://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf)

2 – Judith McFarlane et al., “Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide,” Homicide Studes 3, no. 4. 1999 (http://www.victimsofcrime.org/docs/src/mcfarlane-j-m-campbell-j-c-wilt-s-sachs-c-j-ulrich-y-xu-x-1999.pdf?sfvrsn=0)

3 – Shannan Catalano et al., “Female Victims of Violence,” Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009.

4 – Shannan Catalano, “Stalking Victims in the United States – Revised,” Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012. (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1211)

#Triggered Jokes

January 2000 - About 6 months after the first break in. You know what makes you grumpy? Not being able to unpack your belongings for 4+ months because you don't have a permanent home yet.

Three months after my family uprooted ourselves and moved across the country to escape the man who repeatedly broke into our home and threatened to murder me by setting me on fire and burning me alive. I guess all the nightmares and fire and noise-triggered panic attacks I experienced for years after this were pretty funny when you think about it.

“Sherlock sucks.”

#Triggered

He posts it as a joke. He’s making fun of all the little internet kiddies who use “triggered” when they really mean “I don’t like that thing you just said.”

But those little internet kiddies aren’t reading his comment. I am. And those kids misappropriated that word from the people who need it. Those kids aren’t triggered. They’re irritated. They’re offended. They’re angry. They are not triggered.

What is a Trigger?

When a person has lived through a trauma, sometimes they develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This isn’t the “trauma” of having your favorite TV show cancelled. This is serious, you really could have died, trauma.

These are people who’ve survived wars, survived terrorist attacks, survived sexual assault, survived murder attempts. We’re talking some hardcore shit here.

When you’re faced with a life-or-death situation, part of your brain kicks in to protect you. Your heart rate goes up. Your system gets flooded with adrenaline. Your breathing changes. Because you need to either fight off something that wants to kill you or you need to run like hell away from that thing that wants to kill you.

And you can’t control how fast your heart races. I mean, go ahead. Try telling your heart to stay at exactly 90 BPM. Didn’t work? Well, it doesn’t work for people with PTSD either. They have no control over how their body reacts when their PTSD symptoms are triggered.

And that’s what “triggered” actually means. It doesn’t mean you’re mad. It doesn’t mean you’re offended. It means your PTSD symptoms have kicked into high gear.

Some symptoms of PTSD hang around most of the time. A person might be extra jumpy and always scope out the nearest exits when they go somewhere new. Other symptoms lay dormant until they’re triggered.

Acorns trigger my symptoms.

When I’m in my house at night and an acorn falls on my roof, I know it’s just a stupid acorn. I’m not delusional or anything. I know it’s not anything dangerous. But that sudden thump on my roof when it hits activates my fight-or-flight response. My heart rate goes up. My breathing gets shallower. My eyes go wide. I’m reliving the same terror I felt when I was 18 and my life was actually in danger. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you have some idea of what I’m talking about. It’s not fun when you aren’t in control of what your body is doing.

My conscious mind knows it’s just a stupid acorn, but my unconscious mind was trained a long time ago to spring into action when it perceives a threat. A loud noise is perceived as a threat.

There was a period of time in my life when not being hyper-alert might have gotten me murdered. This same heart-racing reaction, 17 years ago, could have saved my life. Now, it’s a nuisance. But, again, our hearts don’t listen to our commands.

A trigger can be anything that jerks a person with PTSD out of the present and smashes them up against the wall of their past trauma. It’s violent and it’s ugly.

I’m lucky. I don’t actually trigger all that easily, and when I do I’m pretty good at coping with everything until my body chills the eff out and goes back to normal.

What the #Triggered Joke Says

When I see someone post #Triggered as a joke, it tells me they are not a safe person for me to be around. They don’t understand the long-lasting effects of being traumatized, or they just don’t care.

And you know what else is a trigger for me?

Christians.

I already have a hard time trusting anyone who claims to be a Christian. I was traumatized by a group of Christians, after all. A #Triggered joke from one of them is like kicking me when I’m already down.

Oh, I get that they don’t mean it “that way”, but let’s get real. “Trigger” means something. Just because some kids use it incorrectly doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a real meaning.

But, Kristy, how can you get down on people who just don’t understand how damaging those jokes can be? Ignorance is innocence, right?

Well, this is me, explaining how damaging those jokes can be. And I don’t attack people when they do it. I try to educate them, but most people tend to be pretty damn resistant to be corrected on this one. I guess defending their joke is usually more important than saying, “I’m sorry I was an asshole to all the people out there who have uncontrollable and painful reactions to traumatic triggers.”

One of the factors that contribute to developing PTSD is a lack of social support after a traumatic event. And one of the contributing factors in healing from PTSD is positive social support. Which one do you think a “triggered” joke looks like?

It’s Just a Joke

Is it a joke that I was almost murdered? That when I was still just a kid, I woke up every day, wondering if that was my last day? If I’d have to kill or be killed?

Is it a joke that when I hear a noise at night, my body immediately jumps to, “I’m about to be murdered!”, even though I’m sitting there telling myself that that’s a ridiculous reaction?

Is it a joke that some vets can’t go to fireworks shows with their families because it takes them right back to a time when they were in a life-or-death situation, maybe even when they saw people being killed?

Triggers aren’t comments that offend us or upset us. Triggers are things that make us feel like we’re about to die. How is that funny?

But, Kristy, I’m not making fun of people with PTSD. I’m making fun of those kids who misuse “trigger”. Really? By making #Triggered comments that those kids won’t see, but people with PTSD will? By making a joke that further supports the misuse of that word, as if those kids are the ones who get to define it?

It’s Not My Problem

No, it’s not your problem. Lucky you.

I can’t speak for every single person who’s experienced a traumatic event, or for every person who developed PTSD symptoms after it, but I can speak for me. I don’t expect people to tip-toe around me. I don’t ask people to avoid talking about stalkers or assault or Christians. Sometimes people say something that sets me off on an unwanted heart-pumping adventure through my mental issues. But, that really isn’t that person’s problem. It’s my problem, and I deal with it on my own.

I can’t expect everyone to know what might trigger everyone’s PTSD. Hell, half the time people with PTSD don’t know what might trigger their PTSD, so we’re never going to be able to do that.

What I can expect is people to show some compassion and respect for people who have PTSD. To not make fun of people who were strong enough to survive whatever it was that could have killed them. To not make fun of people who are unexpectedly ambushed by their past, and have to learn how to live like that. It’s not easy to do.

Maybe you didn’t know making that #Triggered joke was such a big deal. Well, now you know. I forgive you. Now, do better.

Or don’t. Say what you want, but know that your words affect other people. It’s your call whether or not that matters to you.

For more information about PTSD.

Mandatory Year-end Blog Post 2016

2016 started rough. I was still working on the first draft of my memoir, and writing a book is hard, y’all. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and I once managed to get my car out of a snowbank using nothing but McDonald’s bags). I feel like a wizard should show up to tell me I’ve fulfilled my destiny or some shit. Except I’m still revising a little, so the wizard will have to come back sometime in 2017.

Honestly, I haven’t done much this year besides write, read, watch Kimmy Schmidt, and eat insane amounts of wintergreen Life Savers. I have a super glamorous life.

 

Top Five Most Viewed Posts

What Does Being Stalked Look Like? 

Last year, my parents found several rolls of undeveloped film. When they developed them, we found a whole roll of pictures that were taken while I was being stalked. While working on my memoir, I pulled out all the pictures my family has of just before and after this time as well. Seeing a visual timeline spread out like that hit me harder than I thought it would. It was like watching my life fall apart. When I shared some of those pictures, I didn’t think people would be very interested in them. I’m still not sure why this post was so popular. Maybe it helps drive home just how young I was. Maybe people just like seeing me in tie-dye (I know I do).

 

When Supporters Strip Rape Victims

header imageVictims are often stripped of their voice. Because of fear or shame or people who won’t listen. It’s important to allow them to speak about their experiences, on their own terms, without projecting our own assumptions onto them.

Sometimes I write a post because I’m frustrated with a trend. This was one of those times.

 

The God Who Suffers

God knows what it’s like to be abandoned by the people you love. God knows what it’s like to be falsely accused. God knows what it’s like to be humiliated and shamed. God knows what it’s like to suffer.

While I don’t fully understand the Trinity (who does?), I have a much deeper appreciation for it. I’ve grown more attached to the crucified Christ through that.

 

What Does Forgiveness Look Like?

What does forgiveness look like when you’re still broken? When you’ll never not be broken? How do you forgive someone who doesn’t think they did anything wrong?

If you ever get down on yourself for being slow to forgive, just remember it took me 15 years just to get started. (Bonus: Y2K fantasies)

 

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Creeds

Credit: Steve SnodgrassChristians all over the world, in different traditions that wouldn’t normally agree on much, stand up together on Sunday mornings and as one body recite the same words Christians have recited for centuries. And that’s a powerful thing to be a part of.

More evidence that I’m some sort of denominational Frankenstein’s monster. (See? I know the monster’s name isn’t Frankenstein. How impressed are you right now?)

I’m Just Getting Warmed Up

Credit: Amy

Credit: Amy

One of my cousins posted this Medium article today.

I’m not exactly crying, and the language goes a little further than I would sometimes, but yeah. A lot of women are feeling this right now. I’ve been the most competent person in the room, but was interrupted and talked over by men who didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. I’ve been the woman who worked harder and contributed more than the men at my level, and was still valued less. I’m her too.

Maybe I’m coming across as extra obnoxious lately, but I have two daughters and a whole generation of girls coming up in life right behind me. Do you think I want any of these girls living through my experiences? I can’t afford to ignore sexism anymore, even when it pops up among people I really like. So, I’m fine with coming across as extra obnoxious. I’m fine with ruffling a few feathers. I don’t have time to sit here and hold your hand and teach you how to treat women like human beings. You’re a grown ass adult. Figure it out.

In case you really need a little help, here’s a quick tutorial:

  1. Find a human being.
  2. Treat this human being the way you would want to be treated.
  3. Now, add a uterus.
  4. Congratulations!

I don’t care if you call yourselves egalitarians or  complementarians or some hybrid of those two. I’m just as valuable as you are, and you will listen to what I have to say. And if you refuse, I’ll make you listen. Y’all, I haven’t even scratched the surface of obnoxious yet, and I’m not even close to being alone out here. It’s going to be a long four years if our culture doesn’t shape up fast.

You want me to stop harping on this and shouting so loudly about sexism?

Stop being so fucking sexist, and I will. Until you do that, I’ll be here to fuck shit up.

Frivolous Outrage

I only have so much outrage to rage with. No matter how much my hero/martyr-complex kicks in, I can’t carry every flag.

What I believe is important isn’t necessarily what someone else will believe is important. Our life experiences do a lot more to shape our belief systems than we like to think.

There are some issues that most of us can agree are important. Issues that deserve our energy. Issues that should cause outrage.

And then there are issues that probably don’t deserve our energy.

Over the past few years, I’ve watched wave after wave of social media outrage over one ridiculous thing after another. What gets a person fired up says a lot about them.

You know what getting outraged over some little thing (when there are so many issues out there that are more deserving of your attention) says? That you have a pretty damn easy life.

If you didn’t have such an easy life, you’d have a better understanding of what actually deserves your ire.

Like food insecure and starving children in your community. Yes, your community. Just because you haven’t met them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Like systemic racism.

Like the way women are objectified and devalued.

Like the way men are taught to adhere to a narrow view of masculinity.

Like the way gender and sexual minorities are discriminated against.

Like the way our society punishes poverty.

Or the many other worthwhile causes out there that could have a positive impact on our society.

But, no, you go ahead and spend your energy getting all irate about some tiny, little thing you’ll easily forget by next week. Because that’s the important issue here.

But these inconsequential things do seem like important issues to people who’ve never had to face actual struggles head-on. This is where I use the P word.

Privilege.

If you have the energy to latch onto some here-today-gone-tomorrow bullshit, then congratulations on your awesome, largely-trouble-free life. People who are out there dealing with actual problems can’t go around getting all worked up about every little thing that crosses their path. Because their energy goes to, you know, dealing with actual problems. Maybe they’re busy figuring out where their kid’s next meal is going to come from. Maybe they’re caring for a dying relative. Maybe they’re moving their garbage bag of belongings from one homeless shelter to another. Maybe they’re busy filing for bankruptcy because of their outrageous medical bills.

Maybe, instead of getting outraged over every single distasteful thing you run across, you could stop for a minute and express some gratitude for having such a great life that those little irritations even register. Because, let me tell you, when you’ve got a severed limb, you ain’t gonna notice a mosquito bite.

And, for the Christians out there, this is absolutely an issue for us. When we’re out there raging about that pesky mosquito while people are suffering and dying around us, what sort of witness is that?

I get it. Sometimes things rub us the wrong way and we just want to vent about it. That’s cool. Just be aware of how you come across when you do that, and make sure you also pay plenty of attention to real issues as well if you’re going to devote time to mosquito swatting.

Be thankful you’re in such good shape you can notice that little bite, and then think about helping the person with the severed leg instead of bitching about how itchy you are.

All The Things I’ve Done Since I Died

Sixteen years ago, this week, I found an obituary with my name on it. Here’s what I’ve been up to since I died in 1999.

I lived in Indiana.

I started smoking.

I bought my first car.

I got lost in a cornfield in Iowa while trying to find the gas station the sign on the interstate promised me was out there somewhere.

I lived in Kansas.

I voted in my first presidential election.

I was cast in two plays because I was the only person who could speak with an authentic southern accent.

I lived in Michigan.

I met wonderful people.

I met less-than-wonderful people.

I went back to college.

I ate cake at my wedding.

I flew on an airplane for the first time.

I read all of the Harry Potter books.

I quit smoking.

I went to the top of the Space Needle.

I built a house with my husband. Well, I watched people build it.

I gave birth. Twice.

I found out I’m mysteriously talented in accounting, even though I hate math, and people will pay you to be good at accounting.

I saw Mount Rushmore.

I watched the Evolution of Dance video.

I lived in Washington.

I fulfilled my childhood dream of seeing the Redwoods.

I got lost in a pitch black lava tube cave because my sister doesn’t double-check her flashlight batteries.

I drank wine on a yacht that was sailing around Vancouver harbor. (I also spilled some of the wine while telling a story because I talk with my hands a lot.)

I learned how to hard boil eggs.

I visited Mount St. Helens.

I binge-watched the new Doctor Who.

I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to my daughters.

I got into stupid arguments.

I got into valid and important arguments.

I learned how to make coffee (depending on who you ask).

I wrote a book.

I ate junk food and watched TV and went to the movies and sat through meetings and shopped for presents and yelled at the computer and filed my taxes and bought socks and left crumbs on the counter and decided not to drink milk on its expiration date and laughed at jokes and helped with homework and fell asleep on the couch and broke my iPod and forgot to set the alarm clock.

I lived.

Trigger Warning: This Post is About Trigger Warnings

Credit: Lishmay

Credit: Lishmay

TRIGGER WARNING: Wolverines

All right, kids. Let’s talk about those awful trigger warnings the dirty, dirty liberals are out there throwing around in order to censor everything that isn’t rainbows and puppies and pansexuals.

I’ve read a lot of opinion pieces, mostly from people who don’t have emotional triggers because they haven’t been through any sort of major trauma. Well, I’m traumatized just enough to have triggers, but I’m also the kind of person who doesn’t shy away from difficult material. So, now you get to hear from me.

What’s a Trigger?

A trigger is not “something I don’t like”. I hate canned chicken. I hate it with a fiery passion. I want to shoot every can of chicken straight into the sun. But that doesn’t make canned chicken a trigger for me, because I was never traumatized by canned chicken. Canned chicken never broke into my home and attacked me.

A trigger is really associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. What happens, is a person with PTSD can come across something that reminds them of their trauma, and it brings on an uncontrollable physical reaction. I don’t mean they get a little upset and misty eyed. I mean that no matter how much they tell themselves they’re OK, their body believes they are in imminent danger and their fight or flight instinct kicks in. I don’t know about you, but I find it’s pretty dang hard to concentrate in a literature class when my body is itching to drop kick a bitch.

A few years ago, I was sitting in my office, taking a quick break from some reports I’d been working on all day. I hopped online to check the news and read a breaking story about a teenage girl who’d just been kidnapped by her father’s friend after he killed her mother and brother in a house fire. Now, that hit a little close to home for me and my uncooperative body shot off into a heart-racing panic attack. I had a hard time concentrating and didn’t get much done for the rest of the day. If I’d known what the story was about before clicking on the link, I’d still have read it, but I’d have waited until I got home so it didn’t disrupt my whole day.

How Do Trigger Warnings Work?

In reality, almost anything could be a trigger. Maybe your attacker was wearing a red ribbon, so now red ribbons trigger that panic response. We can’t blanket the world in trigger warnings for every little thing. What we can do, though, is catch some of the more obvious triggers.

Literature that includes abuse and sexual assault can easily trigger a person who’s been through either. I mean, if your father was ripped apart by wolverines, and then you sat down in class and had to read a short story about a father who was ripped apart by wolverines, don’t you think that’d upset you to the point where you had a hard time participating in the class discussion about it?

But what if the syllabus warned you ahead of time? TRIGGER WARNING: Includes a father being killed by wolverines.

You’d have weeks to prepare yourself. Maybe you’d read the story ahead of time, on your own, so you didn’t have to worry about having a panic attack in the middle of class with all your peers watching. You would have time to process your emotions on your own before tackling the discussion in class. It would mean you could participate more effectively in class.

Now, I think a wolverine trigger warning’s stupid. There aren’t many people out there who’ve had a wolverine rip apart a family member. But, there are so many people out there who’ve been raped and abused. A trigger warning on material that includes those topics would catch a huge number of people.

In a college setting, a trigger warning wouldn’t mean those people get to skip that material. That’s not how this works. All it means is they’re warned ahead of time that it’s going to be difficult for them. Because if you know something difficult is coming up, you can come up with a plan for how to handle it.

My Personal Expectations

A lot of opinion pieces paint people like me as whiners who want to be victims so they don’t have to do any actual work and don’t ever have to challenge themselves to learn about things they might not like.

Well, sure, there are people like that out there, but it’s not the rape survivors. It’s not the veterans sitting in class with PTSD. These people just want to learn without being startled by a panic attack in the middle of class. They just want the same shot at learning that everyone else in the class has got.

Personally, I don’t expect to see any trigger warnings for my issues. Delusional hippie religious stalkers aren’t exactly a plague on our society, so trigger warnings about that would just waste ink.

What I do expect to see are rape and abuse trigger warnings. Because, guess what. Those are a plague on our society and until that changes, we’ve got a lot of legitimately traumatized people out there.

Drive It On Home

Trigger warnings aren’t for things we don’t like.

Even if there’s a trigger warning, we still have to study the material if it’s on the syllabus.

Trigger warnings help people prepare for handling material that could harm them (because, face it, panic attacks aren’t cool).

Trigger warnings don’t hurt anyone. If a subject doesn’t cause you severe emotional distress, then ignore the warning.

See how easy that is?

And one more quick comment for any Christians out there. If you have the opportunity to reach out and help “the least of these” by typing a few extra words, shouldn’t you?

Mic drop.

When Supporters Strip Rape Victims

I’ve been following news about the Brock Turner rape case. (And, let’s get this straight. It was rape.)

I’m encouraged by the public outpouring of support for the young woman he assaulted. People want to express their outrage over Turner’s too-light sentence and that’s a good thing.

But we should be careful about speaking for and over victims.

“Her life is ruined.”

“She’ll never recover from this.”

I’ve read comments like these about this particular woman, and so many other women who’ve been raped, assaulted, and abused.

Let me tell you something about being a victim. It strips you of power—of agency. When you’re in the middle of it, you’re not the one calling the shots and making decisions. Someone else is in control of you. Someone else is forcing you to play a role you don’t want.

And you’d think once the violence ends, that’s over. You get control back. Except society has its own role you’re expected to play. Now you’re a victim. And for some reason (maybe out of a desire to shield and protect) people think they get to speak for you. That they get to frame your life.

This woman wrote a strong letter, which she read aloud in front of Turner.

You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.

Victims are often stripped of their voice. Because of fear or shame or people who won’t listen. It’s important to allow them to speak about their experiences, on their own terms, without projecting our own assumptions onto them.

If a victim says, “My life was ruined,” she is absolutely allowed to say that. She lived through the experience, so she gets to express herself in any way she needs to.

But you don’t get to say it. Because you don’t know.

You have no way of knowing what she’ll do with her life in the future. A rape survivor isn’t just a rape survivor. She’s a lot more than that. Don’t strip her of the rest of her identity.

Do you have any idea how many people have been assaulted in the US? Over 293,000 people every year. Do you honestly think that none of these people will go on to do great things? That all of these lives are ruined?

How do you think it makes a rape survivor feel when she hears, “Being raped ruins a woman’s life”? Don’t you think that might further strip her of agency? She wasn’t in control of her life during the rape, and now you aren’t allowing her to be in control of her life after the rape. You’re saying that another person’s actions will always steer her life.

Maybe she’ll have a hard time moving forward. Maybe she’ll never quite be able to move forward. Or maybe she will.

You don’t know. Because it didn’t happen to you.

We rightly crack down on people who say, “Oh, why doesn’t she just get over it? It wasn’t so bad.” But let’s crack down on people who swing the narrative too far in the other direction too.

Is rape a serious and terrible crime? That’s an emphatic yes. I’m not suggesting it’s less significant than it is.

What I’m saying is the only person who gets to decide what a rape survivor does with her life is her. She gets to be in control. Not us.

Don’t Patronize Me

First of all, I love my children. Let’s get that out of the way, right up front. My kids are the coolest, funniest, most creative, most compassionate, most Dr. Who-watchingest kids I’ve ever known. They bring so much joy into my life, it’s ridiculous.

I take good care of my kids. Let’s get that out of the way too. I feed them, clean up their vomit, help them with their homework, remind them, “You are not actually Batman and can not jump from the sofa to the recliner.”

I work hard to make sure they don’t grow up to be total assholes. Like, seriously, that’s the whole goal, right? I teach them to love others, to be generous, to practice empathy.

Being a mother is an important and rewarding part of my life, but it’s not my whole life. It might not even be the most important part of my life.

I’ve lost you, haven’t I?

Look at it this way… how long am I going to live? I’ll probably make it to about 85 (unless I take up BASE jumping). How many of those years will I be raising children? Roughly a quarter of that time? Am I really incapable of doing important things during my other >60 years on this earth?

But motherhood is forever, you say. Well, that’s true. I don’t suddenly stop being  a mother when my kids turn 18. Though, priorities do shift after your children are grown up and making their own decisions in life.

For now, parenting my children is a top priority for me. But that should apply to all parents of young children—fathers included. We don’t often hear about how fatherhood is the most important thing a man ever does, but we hear that all the freaking time about mothers.

Being a “good mother” isn’t all a woman with children can aspire to.

We don’t expect fatherhood to be enough for men, so why do we just assume that motherhood is enough for women? I’ll straight up tell you, being a mother isn’t enough for me. I can be a good mother and a whole lot of other things.

If you feel like being a mother was your calling in life, who am I to argue with you? I’m not judging other women here. I’m expressing my own frustration, and that has nothing to do with how other women choose to live their own lives.

I don’t appreciate having my entire identify defined by the fact that I have two short people running around, asking me for “just one more snack”. I don’t appreciate being patronized by people who say a woman’s most important work is parenting her children. What about all the women who’ve made huge contributions to society as a whole? Are you going to say it’s more important that they raised children instead of doing things that have benefited us all? Do we look at fathers who’ve done great things for society and think that their work as fathers was the most important work they’ve done?

So don’t pat me on the head and tell me how important motherhood is. I know I’m just a silly, irrational, overly emotional woman and all, but I already know that parenting is important work. I don’t take my work as a parent lightly, but I don’t take any of my work lightly.

If we want to talk about what’s most important, what could possibly be more important than doing God’s work? Is any Christian out there going to tell me that wiping snot and teaching fractions is more important than following God if he calls you to more than that?

Sometimes God calls mothers to be more than mothers. Sometimes motherhood isn’t the job. It’s a job.

Some mothers heal the sick and save lives. Some mothers fight for justice. Some mothers spread the gospel. What’s more important than that for a Christian?

Sometimes God calls fathers to be only fathers. Sometimes it isn’t a job. It’s the job.

Parenting (by both mothers and fathers) is important. I’m just tired of hearing about it being a woman’s most important role. It sounds like a way of saying, “Oh, come on now, sweetheart. Can’t you just be happy with this? Why reach for more?” and when I do reach for more it’s all, “You mean you’re willing to sacrifice your children to be successful? Don’t you love your kids?”

Should I be willing to sacrifice my children’s well-being to achieve my goals? Of course not. I’m not talking about working 60-hour weeks to maintain an affluent lifestyle. I’m talking about following your call, not achieving financial success. Women are capable of following more than one calling. We can be called to motherhood and something else—just like men can be called to fatherhood and something else. And you know what the most important thing I do for my children is? I teach my daughters they’re allowed to be more than just a wife and mother when they grow up.

But, Kristy, women are just naturally more nurturing. They’re so much better at taking care of children. That’s why we “honor” them as mothers. It’s God’s plan/how we evolved/how-we-evolved-because-God-wants-women-at-home-with-the-kids. For thousands of years, women cared for the children at home while the man went out.

Yeah. You know what he was going out to do? To hunt for some meat. So, go shoot me something big and scary and then we’ll talk.

By following their call, what men are doing isn’t hunting or providing for their families. What they’re allowed to do is reach beyond their family to do good for society as a whole. It’s okay for them to follow their call and reach for a level beyond survival, while women are just expected to ensure the next generation makes it. Women are expected to focus inward, on the family, while men get to focus outward on the rest of society.

That’s some serious bullshit.

Men should feel comfortable focusing inward on their family just as much as they focus outward. It’s important for fathers to actively parent their children. And women should feel comfortable focusing outward just as much as they focus inward. The kids aren’t going to starve to death or knock over a liquor store just because Mom helps victims of sex trafficking.

Hey, maybe there are mothers in your life who love it when you tell them their most important work has been raising their families. I believe some women are called solely to motherhood (just as some men are called solely to fatherhood) So, great. Go tell them that. Just don’t apply that to all women and try to peddle it here.