Off-Topic: Why I Work for CPS

CPS has been plastered all over the news lately. From headlines about children dying to caseworker turnover, there seems to be no end in sight to the negative media attention that CPS is getting in Texas right now. People have every reason to be outraged, but here is my argument:

I work for CPS because I am a strong enough person to handle it. Every day I talk to children about abuse and neglect, and every now and then I hear some god awful stories. I work for CPS because through the system, I have the power to do something about those horror stories. Through CPS, I can keep families together and have the opportunity to educate parents. I work for CPS because so many other people can’t, and I love the job that I have.

That being said, people have every right to be outraged with the system. It’s flawed, as all systems are. People have every right to be upset about children dying and being beaten. It’s upsetting. We are not wired to find this behavior acceptable. What is unacceptable is people berating the system when they do not, and never will work for it. If you are not a strong enough person to do my job, please do not tell me how to do my job. Child welfare needs some serious attention and revamping, but unless you have some legitimate solutions and the funding to do so, do not tell me how to do my job. I am a human being, not a robot. Caseworkers burn out so quickly because we have incredibly high case loads, and policy changes happen frequently, making our job a little harder to do sometimes. CPS is not perfect by any means. We get a lot of things wrong, but we do a whole lot of things right too. It is impossible to catch everything, and it is difficult to prioritize cases when we have so many that need attention.

Every now and then the public gets a wind of the spirit of raising awareness, and temporarily are passionate about a cause. This is one of those moments. Unless your spirit of raising awareness turns into legitimate advocacy that calls for informed, educated, and researched change in the system, please hop off the bandwagon. Unless you have the political pull or money in your pocket to influence this change, please refrain from telling me how to do my job.

There are a lot of bad caseworkers. There are also a lot of great ones. I am blessed to work with some of the most caring people in the industry, and we do a lot of good for a lot of children. Families involved with CPS may not like us, but I sleep just fine at night knowing that I’ve helped at least 1 child in this world. The public may be demonizing us for things that we cannot always control, but please don’t forget that parents are the ones making terrible decisions, and parents are the reasons why these things are happening. CPS intervenes and we do the best we can, so unless society can once again adopt the mentality of “it takes a village”, and do it right, my job will always be necessary. No matter how much I wish it weren’t. Bringing pitchforks to the CPS party is not going to change anything. The only people that have the power to change things are employees and advocates, and the people with the money. So please, if you’re truly invested in child welfare, call for reform of the system. Not the firing of caseworkers and supervisors. Not the firing of whoever. Call for actual money to be spent to reform the system. Our children need to be kept safe. So please, by all means, help me do it. Maybe then you can tell me how to do my job.

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Check Yourself: Planned Parenthood 101

Over the last year or two there have been several attacks on planned parenthood, both violent and smear campaigns. The words ‘Planned Parenthood’ are pretty hot-button, and people don’t usually like to bring it up in casual conversation. But it’s important to know the facts about Planned Parenthood, and here they are:

In a budget allocation that Planned Parenthood released from the 2013-2014 fiscal year, it should be noted that 42% of the services that were given at clinics were in regards to STD/STI testing and treatment. The next largest allocation of services falls under providing contraception, at 34%. 11% of services were described as ‘other’ women’s health services, which can be classified as a mammogram or pap smear. 9% of services were devoted to cancer screenings and prevention. 1% of services fell under a completely separate ‘other’ category. Have you done the math? That leaves 3% of services provided as abortion services. Right, wrong, or indifferent, Planned Parenthood is not solely an abortion clinic, and appears to be doing everything in their power to educate young people and prevent them from needing an abortion in the first place. Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice is not something that I’ll be getting into this evening, but it needs to be known that these are the real allocation of services. A whopping 3% of services nation wide were dedicated to abortion. Hundreds of thousands of women received HIV tests and other STD tests. Over 1 million women received emergency contraception, which resulted in over half a million unintended pregnancies being averted. And still, only 3% of services are abortion related.

You don’t have to agree with abortion. But facts are still facts. Planned Parenthood does a whole lot more good than it does harm, and that is evident in the way that they allocate their services. At Planned Parenthood, men can receive a vasectomy. They don’t discriminate, and are rallied around the cause of making parenthood enjoyable for those who choose to parent, and making sure that it comes at the right time for every individual who comes in their doors.

 

To be or not to be, that is the question.

After a seriously long summer filled with work, very little play, and very little posting to this blog (oops), I’ve finally come up with the inspiration to write again. I’ve been watching this nightmare of a show called “Virgin Territory”, and it’s given me a bit of inspiration. So we’re going to talk about the big V.

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First and foremost, your virginity is simply that. Your virginity. Your virginity does not define the content of your character. Simply because you have it does not mean that you are “pure” or “clean”, it simply means that you have not had sex. I understand the connotations of purity behind virginity, but it deeply disturbs me that both men and women alike are praised for being sexually “pure”, but are not pure of heart, mind, or spirit. Being a virgin does not guarantee that you’re a good person. I’ve known plenty of virgins who are terrible people, and plenty who aren’t. Please, do not wrap up your identity in the state of your virginity. It should not define who you are.

Second, your virginity is something that you hold the power over. You can choose what you do with it, but know that there are always some, no matter how big or small, emotional ramifications that come along with sex, regardless of your gender. Sex is intimate, sex is fun, and sex is special in many situations. If you wish to wait until you’re married, that’s great! If you just want to wait for the right person, that’s great! If you just want to “get rid of it”, you have the option to do that, but be aware that it may or may not be something you regret later on, and always, always, always protect yourself! Your virginity shouldn’t be something that hinders you. It shouldn’t be something that you feel an intense need to be rid of. Different people have sex at different times in their lives. And I guarantee you that if you are determined to have sex, you’ll have it. Again, the status of your virginity should not define you.

Third, you never have to do anything that you don’t want to do. (Except chores, and things like that. But you knew this.) If you get anything from this post, please know that your body is yours, and you have the right to do with it what you wish. Don’t ever let anyone pressure you into having sex if you’re not ready for it, and don’t ever let anyone tell you that your worth and your virginity are interconnected. They aren’t. Because you are a living, breathing human being, you are valuable. Because you are who you are, you are valuable. What you do with your body is your business, and yours alone. If you want to have sex, go for it! Just remember to protect yourself from pregnancy and STD’s. If you don’t want to have sex, please, don’t! No matter how you identify, no one should ever pressure you into having sex. Your buddies do not know better than you. Your girlfriends do not know better than you. Wait until you feel you’re ready.

If you can’t buy condoms, you’re probably not ready to have sex. But, as I’ve stated before, no one else can tell you when you are or aren’t ready. Prepare yourself, be aware of your states age of consent laws, and have contraceptives on hand. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do, and don’t be afraid to leave a situation you are uncomfortable with.

I’ll say it again, purely because I know so many people who have felt useless after losing their virginity, your worth and the status of your virginity are not intertwined. You are valuable and worthy of love, regardless of the choices you make regarding your body. At the end of the day, no one loves you any less simply because of what you choose to do with your body. Virgin or not, celebrate your sexuality, and do with it what you will, because it is one of the greatest gifts that life has to offer.

Let’s Talk #SurvivorPrivilege

I’m a little late on this train, but I’m going to force it to keep rolling for just a few hundred more words.

As I’m sure you may have heard, George F. Will of the Washington Post adamantly believes that victimhood is a “coveted status that confers privileges.” Not only is this the most outlandish thing I have ever read in my entire life, but it strikes a nerve in me. It makes me fume. There is no crime that confers privileges for the victim. With that said, sexual assault is likely the most devastating thing a person can personally experience. In many ways I (personally) feel it can be worse than murder. There are survivors, and they have to live with it in their own personal hell for the rest of their lives. Sexual assault deprives people of their livelihood. It brings about a “damaged goods” stigma that makes personal relationships excruciatingly laborious. The worst part? The estimates on how many women are sexually assaulted vary, but it is widely acknowledged that it is under reported, and only 3% of rapists ever spend a day in jail.

I’m sorry, Mr. Will, what privilege do these young men and women have of remaining sleepless at night, terrified that either their attacker or an enraged citizen will harm them? What privilege do they have when they can’t go into large, public spaces because of the crippling fear of looking their attacker in the eye? What privilege do they have when their own parents don’t believe them? What privilege do they have when they get email and facebook message, prying into their trauma just so they can establish an opinion on whether or not the assault was “legit.”

What a disgusting world you live in, Mr. Will. You live in a misogynistic, spiteful, truly privileged world in which you hold the power. And if that doesn’t sound like hell, I don’t know what does.

My beloved survivors, do not believe this old, white man who is full of crap. Find comfort in that you are not alone. Chances are that among your social circle, there is at least one other young lady who has similar experiences. Take comfort in that conversations are happening. People are standing up where we once remained silent. Action is on the brink of happening, and I wholeheartedly believe that.

You are not damaged because someone committed an unspeakable act of violence towards you. They’re damaged because they do not realize their thirst for power. You are not damaged because of your experiences. Changed? Yes. Certainly we are all changed when we encounter trauma in our lives. Damaged? Never.  No one has the right to strip you of your livelihood.

Survival of sexual assault is difficult. It will be a daily battle. There will be tears. There will be fits of rage, often targeted at those you love the most. There will be doubters. There will be assholes. There will be George Will’s. Every single day will feel like an uphill battle. But if there is one thing I know to be true in this life, it is that things get better. It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen in a month, or maybe even a year. But one day at a time, you will make it.

Off-Topic: Why I’m A Feminist

Alright world, I’ve been seeing a lot of anti-feminist movement articles on the internet lately, and I’m here to tell you, and justify why, I’m a feminist. Get ready for a lot of bold text.

1. Feminism never has been, and never will be about hating men. Feminism is about equality for all people, regardless of gender or ethnicity. Are there women that exist that hate men and think women should be superior, using feminism as a disguise? Absolutely. The extreme voices of a few are often much louder than the rational voices of many. The same is true in every avenue of life. The loud minority tends to give the silent majority a really bad name. Feminism is not a bunch combat boot wearing lesbians that hate men, it’s a bunch of people, men, women, white, and black, that care about the progression of societal acceptance and equality for everyone. 

2. Rape culture is a real thing. All I need to prove that is all of the tweets about the Stuebenville rape cases. The thing is, many people don’t understand exactly what rape culture is. Rape culture is, in essence, victim blaming. It’s alleviating the rapist, whether a man or a woman, of their crimes and placing the weight of it on the person who has been violated. Rape culture is the silent regard to what a woman was wearing when she was raped, or how drunk she was. Rape culture is congratulating a man that was raped on the sex that he did not ask for or want. Rape culture places the blame of the rape entirely on the victim. Are there sketchy situations you can go into? Absolutely. However, not a single person on this earth is not guilty of forgetting to use their better judgment. Guess what? Even when we make bad decisions, it does not and can not ever justify someone violating us. Rape culture is the comments section of a news article about a rape, where people repeatedly say, “Oh well look at what she was wearing. She was practically asking for it.” It’s when people say things like, “She’s ruined his future.” Rape culture is forgetting about what the survivor of the rape is dealing with, and focusing on how “unjust” it was for the survivor to report and prosecute their rapist.

3. I get paid less than men, simply because there is a stereotype that my gender is weaker, less intelligent, and not suited for a professional work environment. Even though these have become subtleties now, there are still repercussions of stereotypes for working women. Why don’t I get paid as much as a man? If I’m just as qualified, or more qualified, there is no reason for me to be making less. If I lack the qualifications a male counterpart has, I can understand a wage gap. But 77 cents to every dollar? And that’s just an average. Ethnic minorities will make far less than I would as a white woman. 

4. White privilege is also very, very real. Am I ashamed of my privilege? I’m not going to lie, sometimes I am. I did nothing to deserve the privilege that I receive of making more money than a woman who isn’t white. I did nothing to deserve to be more socioeconomically privileged. I have done nothing to deserve having a lower chance of living below the poverty line. The only thing I managed to do to get these things was happen to be born white. And that’s not something I’m proud of. I have not worked for harder for these things. I have not done a damn thing to make myself more privileged. Society sees the color of my skin and gives me those privileges. It’s repulsive, and I wish that we could all start on a level playing field.

5. Abuse is not just an issue that pertains to women; it also pertains to men. And yet, society largely ignores domestic abuse when a woman hits a man. It’s ignored when a woman violently assaults a man with her words, and her fists. Yet, the second that a woman is on the receiving end, everyone is up in arms. This is an issue that should be treated equally. Women are just as capable of harming men as men are capable of harming women. Feminism is about equality, so why don’t we get angry when women abuse men? Those men are perceived as “weak” and “fragile”, and thus treated as less than a person when it gets out that a woman, who is “supposed” to be “weak” and “fragile”, has harmed them. That’s horrible.

For now, those 5 bullets should do. In all, feminism is not what the mainstream media makes it out to be. Feminism is about equality and social justice. Feminism is about filling the gaps between men and women. Feminism is about filling the ethnic equality gaps. It’s about fighting for a better world, where people are allowed to express their thoughts and feelings. It’s about a world where people are not blamed for the violation of their bodies. It’s about allowing people to do want they want, so long as they aren’t harming anyone else in the process. It’s about allowing people to love who they love, because what harm has love ever done? Feminism is about equality. Not crushing men with my big fat combat boots while making out with every girl I see. 

I Don’t Know How I Got Pregnant! Why Abstinence Based Sex Ed Doesn’t Work

First of all, let me address abstinence and the strong feelings that tend to come with it. I understand. I understand that people who promote abstinence based sex education really do have the best intentions behind it. No one wants their child to have sex before they’re ready/can handle the consequences/outside of marriage. Everyone wants their child to wait as long as they possibly can so that they’re not exposed to the tremendous risks that come along with sex. This I wholeheartedly understand.

What I don’t understand is why we continue to promote it, when studies have shown over and over again that it isn’t working. The social factors alone are evidence enough that these policies are not working. The United States has the highest teenage pregnancy rate out of all the developed countries, and the highest infant mortality rate of the developed countries. The lack of women’s health and reproductive rights in this country is outrageous, especially since the U.S. tends to be portrayed as a global superpower. If this is true, we’re making a mockery of ourselves with the way we’re handling these things, like women’s health, that really should be considered non-issues. The average birth rate per 1,000 young women ages 15-19 in the United States is 34.2 (2010). Here is a handy little map so you can compare numbers geographically. You’ll notice that in the southern states, this number rises dramatically. In Texas, my home state, the number is 52.2. In Mississippi, it’s 55. Wait, what? That’s such a large amount of young women getting pregnant! Get this, only 22 out of the 50 states require sex education and 20 require HIV/AIDS education. Only 19 of these states require medically accurate information. And even then, it’s stated that the definition of “medically accurate” can vary. Yikes. I even looked at a website called abstinenceworks.org, where you can see where your state stands on sex education. The language associated with states that don’t comply to their preferred method of teaching borders on ludicrous.

Here is what sex educators, legislators, parents, and voters need to know. No matter what you do, teenagers always have, and always will have sex. If they’re going to do it, I would rather them have access to the resources that will protect them from contracting an STI, or becoming pregnant. In centuries past, adolescents were marrying by the time they hit puberty, so sex outside of marriage was a non-issue. However, the age at which people are getting married is slowly getting older. The average age men marry is almost 30, and women are typically married around 26 years old. The economy is tough, jobs are even tougher to come by. It doesn’t always make sense for these young couples to get married when they are not financially stable. Since the average age of marriage is getting older, it makes sense that adolescents aren’t waiting to have sex.

Think about when you were a teenager. How often did you actually listen to the things your parents were telling you about love, life, and relationships? Chances are, you didn’t pay much attention. We make our own decisions and learn from them, whether we regard them as mistakes or not. Abstinence sex education works the same way. Don’t you wish your mother had given you all the information in regards to that bad boy that you were totally into? Don’t you wish she’d given you some solid, factual information on the content of his character (and maybe criminal record)? When you’re presented with all of the facts, you are able to make an informed decision that greatly impacts your future. You wouldn’t make a major move to a completely different city for a job offer without reviewing the position, looking into the company, and determining whether or not it would make you happy, would you? The same basic concepts apply.

So, my friends, I encourage all of you to advocate for these ridiculous trends to change! We hold the power to change things. So lets get to it.

Hey Girl, Do I Have Your Consent?

Today we’re gonna address this super fun topic called consent. Basically, consent is what needs to be given before you can continue a sexual act, whether intercourse or otherwise. Consent is vital, because if you do not have consent, then what you are doing can be classified and prosecuted as rape. No one wants to go there! Our culture tends to avoid talking about consent, so here’s what both men and women alike need to know:

In the United States, every single state has different age of consent laws. Age of consent refers to the age that you are legally able to consent to sex. If sex is had before that age, it could be prosecuted as rape if charges are pressed. You should know where your state stands on the age of consent! Many young men and women find themselves on sex offender registry lists for having sex with a minor, even with their verbal consent. Even with this verbal consent given from both participating parties, it is still illegal if one of them is under their states age of consent. If parents decide to press charges, they can. Few states will consider the age gap between the two participating parties within a couple of years, but generally an age gap over 2 or 3 years will still be considered statutory rape. In absolutely no state is the age of consent under the age of 16. For a deeper look at your states particular age of consent laws, click right here.

Now, what about alcohol and consent? This is where things can become a little murkier, since we aren’t always taught when two people are able to consent to sex.  A great rule of thumb is that if the person you wish to have sex with has had more than one alcoholic drink, you should probably wait to have sex until you’re both in an environment free from intoxication, and where you can both talk about your boundaries, what you’re comfortable, etc. The fact is that we don’t know other peoples limits. A 300 pound, 6’4″ football player will more likely than not have a higher tolerance than someone that weighs 150 pounds and stands at an average height. Different people metabolize alcohol differently, so no two people have exactly the same tolerance level. If a person is passed out drunk, is slurring their words, can’t walk in a straight line, throwing up, or showing any other signs of extreme intoxication, having sex with them is considered rape, and would be prosecuted as such. 

Another important thing to note is that consent can be retracted at any time, by any participating party. If you feel unsafe, you have the right to speak up and stop what you’re doing. If your partner(s) do not respect those wishes, they’re getting into sexual assault territory. You have the right to say no when you’re uncomfortable. It is not teasing, and you do not owe anyone sex! Draw the line when you’re no longer comfortable or feel safe. Sexual coercion is never okay. Just because you’ve done it before does not mean that you have to do it again. Just because you’ve started does not mean that you have to “finish”. When you’re uncomfortable, let it be known. Consent can always, always, always, be retracted.

For some more excellent information on consent, brought to you by the lovely Laci Green, go ahead and skip to :30.

 

Also, this.

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I know, I’m using bold face for everything today. It’s an important topic! If you get nothing else out of this blog, then please understand consent, what it looks like, and what is rape and what isn’t. We consistently teach women not to get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape. Why it’s this way, I may never understand. But we have the power to change that. Many rape cases can be entirely avoided just by providing accurate information about laws to young men and women, and when a person can consent to sex and when they can’t.

If you ever need clarification on what rape constitutes, look no further. The new definition of rape, provided by the United States Department of Justice Attorney General, is “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” This is the actual definition of rape. This is what the United States recognizes as their legal definition of rape, and is what rape cases will be tried based off of.

Rape happens most often between two people who know, and even trust each other. These kinds of violation of trust happen to too many men and women. RAINN (the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) estimates that 2/3 of rapes are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows, and 1 in 6 women have been raped during their lifetime, and 1 in 33 men. In general terms of sexual assault, which ranges from molestation, indecent exposure, rape, attempted rape, and so on, the numbers come closer to 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men.

Consent is so extremely important, ya’ll. Without proper consent, you get sexual assault. If you’re unsure, just ask! With consent comes safety and trust, all important to the equation of having safe and informed sex. If you have any more question, please, please, please ask me!  I’ve provided a little light reading on consent, just so you have access to those resources!

http://www.uhs.uga.edu/consent/

http://healthandcounseling.unca.edu/what-consent

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/January/12-ag-018.html