Earth Day..recycling the same lip service

This week marks Earth Day in the United States. While I love the Lorax story, and feel Dr Seuss was a man ahead of his time, I think Earth day has evolved into little more than lip service and a chance to have parties/events. I love free stuff as much as anyone of course. I believe issues should start by being solved locally and moving forward into bigger expanses of government/areas. Federally (worldwide) at issue is global warming and the people that chose to deny it. This is not something only local efforts can stymie. This needs to be taken seriously by several powers that be.

Statewide, in my home state of California, the most pressing issue is our current drought situation. While other states have had flooding, blizzards and rain, California has had lovely spring weather all winter. I’m not complaining. I hate the rain. I hate the cold. However we need it and thats why there are seasons. Not to mention that’s how there are crops, water, indoor plumbing….In California, everyone is aware of the looming drought but it seems people just are (figuratively) standing around and looking at each other, wondering whose going to do something about it. In the meantime, farmers and people dependent on water supply are in hysterics. Whats wrong with this picture?  Governor Jerry Brown has barely acknowledged it. In January Governor Brown declared a drought emergency and signed some legislation to make water transfers easier from county to county. This was one step in what should have been a series of measures to deal with the drought situation. My own town and county have remained mum on the idea of conserving water. There is n mandatory conservation. No one is suggesting closing a pool or easing restrictions placed by HOA’s to keep lawns pretty & green for the sake of home values. Nothing. Unfortunately the result could well be that we will soon not have a choice in the matter. While the governor cant be expected to produce rain, he & local governments, can take  more measures to conserve what water we do have. This would be the best way to celebrate Earth Day locally in my opinion.

 

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Distracted Driving Awareness Month …are you paying attention?

In  addition to all of the other things we are supposed to be aware of this month, the National Safety Council has declared April “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”

I know that I certainly am aware of distracted drivers. Every morning during the school commute, I point out to my kids the drivers I see that are texting, talking on the phone and in some cases, people texting while bicycling in traffic.  And these are the people I see in a short morning car ride.  In previous years,  I worked as a crossing guard for a local elementary school. I can honestly say from the standpoint of someone whose job it was to ensure kids’ safety that this job was a challenge every single day. Distracted drivers on the roadway have nothing on hurried, multitasking  parents driving in a school zone. I had the experience of nearly being run over by a slow moving vehicle whose driver was staring down at her lap. Had she hit me, I seriously doubt she would have even known.  There is incredible disparity in our priorities when we are willing to put lives at risk just to carry on a conversation or send a quick text message. We truly have become a society that is attached to our electronic devices. Thankfully the laws have caught up with the times. Bottom line, it is illegal to text and drive, folks. Last month, a local teacher lost her life in a car accident caused by a distracted driver. In 2011, a small child in Rohnert Park was killed by a driver who was  texting. For her blatant disregard of the law, the driver received probation and community service. While I commend the laws on the books, I think its safe to say they aren’t discouraging anyone. Driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal agency reports that sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent — when traveling at 55 mph — of driving the length of an entire football field while blindfolded. The gravity of these statistics is ignored by the vast majority of drivers on the road today. I commend the  changes that have occurred,  but in light of statistics drivers who choose to disregard them should be punished in the same vein as drunk drivers. I dont know of anyone who received little more than community service for driving drunk.  The risks should  have the same potential consequences. Until drivers fully realize this, the epidemic–and it is one–of texting/driving will continue.

Until that happens, I urge pedestrians to be pro-active when crossing streets and bicyclists to stay in designated bike lanes. And to those driving vehicles on the roadways…put down your phones and drive.

Senate Blocks Paycheck Fairness Act…again

Last week the Paycheck Fairness Act was voted on by Congress. For the sixth time, it did not pass. Was it previously voted on the other 5 times possibly in the Colonial period? No. It was voted on & failed to pass based on the votes of modern day Congressional representatives. Every single member of the GOP, including all female members, voted no. Its bad enough that supposedly rational men entrusted to pass laws dont see a need for fair pay…but what of the women? I have to say, I find that even more appalling. Women should stand up for women. ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE WOMEN IN POWER. But that’s just my opinion.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is proposed legislation that would add procedural protections to the Equal Pay Act of 1963  and the Fair Labor Standards Act as part of an effort to address the male-female income disparity in the United States.  A Census Bureau report published in 2008 stated that women’s median annual earnings were 77.5% of men’s earnings though the cause of the gap is widely disputed (….)  On April 9, 2014, in another (almost) straight-party-line vote, the Paycheck Fairness Act, was again blocked by a Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Democratic Majority leader at the last minute changed his vote from a “yes” to a “no” in a procedural move in order to bring the PFA up for debate again (Good job Senator Reid).

 

This is a summary of the Act, it sounds fairly straightforward:

“Paycheck Fairness Act – Amends the portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) known as the Equal Pay Act to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages.

Revises the exception to the prohibition for a wage rate differential based on any other factor other than sex. Limits such factors to bona fide factors, such as education, training, or experience.

States that the bona fide factor defense shall apply only if the employer demonstrates that such factor: (1) is not based upon or derived from a sex-based differential in compensation, (2) is job-related with respect to the position in question, and (3) is consistent with business necessity. Makes such defense inapplicable where the employee demonstrates that: (1) an alternative employment practice exists that would serve the same business purpose without producing such differential, and (2) the employer has refused to adopt such alternative practice.

Revises the prohibition against employer retaliation for employee complaints. Prohibits retaliation for inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing the wages of the employee or another employee in response to a complaint or charge, or in furtherance of a sex discrimination investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, or an investigation conducted by the employer.

Makes employers who violate sex discrimination prohibitions liable in a civil action for either compensatory or (except for the federal government) punitive damages.

States that any action brought to enforce the prohibition against sex discrimination may be maintained as a class action in which individuals may be joined as party plaintiffs without their written consent.

Authorizes the Secretary of Labor (Secretary) to seek additional compensatory or punitive damages in a sex discrimination action.

Requires the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to train EEOC employees and affected individuals and entities on matters involving wage discrimination.

Authorizes the Secretary to make grants to eligible entities for negotiation skills training programs for girls and women. Directs the Secretary and the Secretary of Education to issue regulations or policy guidance to integrate such training into certain programs under their Departments.

Directs the Secretary to conduct studies and provide information to employers, labor organizations, and the general public regarding the means available to eliminate pay disparities between men and women.

Establishes the Secretary of Labor’s National Award for Pay Equity in the Workplace for an employer who has made a substantial effort to eliminate pay disparities between men and women.

Amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to require the EEOC to collect from employers pay information data regarding the sex, race, and national origin of employees for use in the enforcement of federal laws prohibiting pay discrimination.

Directs: (1) the Commissioner of Labor Statistics to continue to collect data on woman workers in the Current Employment Statistics survey, (2) the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to use specified types of methods in investigating compensation discrimination and in enforcing pay equity, and (3) the Secretary to make accurate information on compensation discrimination readily available to the public.

Directs the Secretary and the Commissioner [sic] of the EEOC jointly to develop technical assistance material to assist small businesses to comply with the requirements of this Act.”

 

These things all sound simple enough right? Good and rational for modern day times? Yes? I think so. Unfortunately the GOP. Republicans dismiss the bill as an election year ploy that would “invite frivolous lawsuits.” (Probably by other Republicans, or their corporate donors). The bill’s failure came a day after Mr Obama issued two executive orders aimed at reducing gender disparities in government workforce pay. (Bravo, Mr. President). Honestly, I think the fact that “fair pay” is even an issue in the year 2014 unbelievable. It should not be difficult to pay PEOPLE to go a JOB regardless of gender. It just shouldn’t.

In the 20’s, most women stayed home. That was the way things were. Men got jobs that paid a “family wage” whereas women often could find little jobs working for “pin money.” Well, folks we are long past “family wages” and “pin money.” We must bring the needs of society up to the times. Women are often paid less, earn less..and in cases where there is only one person raising children (single parent household) , that person is typically a woman. Women shouldn’t just earn fair pay because it’s the right thing to do or because we need to get with the times. Its a matter of survival too. Women are the majority of those in poverty. Women are the majority of public assistance recipients. There are a hundred different things at play that connect to fair pay. It is sad and incredibly unfortunate that the GOP is so short sighted as to not see how fair pay for all will has greater affect on all.

 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month should be every month (part 3)

I feel like sharing a personal anecdote. I enjoyed the 3 part series on eating disorders & delving a little deeper than just a one blog rant. I intended with this blog to steer away from anything personal (Just the facts ma’am) but it was fun to weave some story into it as well. This isn’t too deep, dark or personal so don’t worry. Its more of a cautionary tale. Or a “It Could Have Been Me” moment.

For people who question a woman who ask “what was she doing drinking?” “…going home with him?” “…flirting with him?” and all the questions that some women who experience acquaintance rape deal with, I can tell you, people sometimes just don’t know  or think something could happen to them because they  “know” the person. And no means no right?

So okay, many years ago,  I was 22 years old, newly single having just ended a 2+year relationship. I wasn’t looking to date, just people to have fun with. I’m not a one night stand person & have always been upfront about that with guys. Some people of course think if THEY are getting hot,  maybe a girl will be getting hot too…yeah, not me, I can put the brakes on just fine. I mean what I say. I say what I mean. So anyways..yes, newly single, still navigating the single world. I’d just lost a good friend in a car accident as well, so “fun” was definitely something I was aiming to do in effort to keep myself occupied.Being 22, this involved clubbing, bars & parties…. Typical for anyone of that age. One night, I was working the closing shift at my job  at a bookstore, when this guy I casually knew walked in. I did not know “Jack” that well but he was a friend of my friend who’d just passed away & he was cute and kind of flirty… so I was slightly flirty in return. I was off at 11p and “Jack” invited me to meet up at a nearby bar so at 11pm – for me back then, the night was still young!- I met up with Jack. He had a friend with him. It was relaxed and chill, I drank a few things and probably was a bit buzzed by the end of the night, not fall down sloppy drunk but definitely good & happy. Jack told me he lived downtown and was within walking distance. He asked if I wanted to go over to his place to “hang out.” Now,  okay I get it. It was probably not the best idea to go to his place at 1:30-2am after drinking a few solid drinks, but we had been having a good time just chatting , hanging out, etc. I felt safe b/c he had a friend with him and frankly, other than being a little flirty-flirty earlier he didn’t seem overly interested in me.  And remember, I was newly single. I was 20 when I met my previous boyfriend and had almost excursively gone to any drinking type engagements with him and never had to worry about safety issues.

 

So off we trotted to “Jack’s” house. It was a quiet building which was odd for a complex downtown on a Saturday night, but he assured me there were neighbors. He did not have roommates & his friend had not gone with us. I was feeling a little unsure of the situation but he had been perfectly nice so I felt I had nothing to worry about. Anyways we go in, he pulls out some pretzels or whatever, and we sat and chit=chat, very chill right? We were chatting & mid-conversation he just started kissing me. Maybe I should have expected that, but I was honestly surprised, but not entirely put off. I kissed him back, we had a little  fun but nothing beyond PG. At some point he did imply he wanted sex & expected me to stay and provide that for him. I told him it’d been fun but I didn’t do the one night stand thing. At which point nice “Jack” turned into not so nice “Jack” (Jerk?) He got up and locked his front door. I’m not sure what he thought he was doing other than trying to intimidate me, but honesty at that point I had had to deal with a few stupid guys in the past month or two and had just about enough of the single life. What’d I do? I got up, unlocked the door & walked (stumbled, staggered…) out.  I lived about a mile and half from downtown which I found was very empty by 3am. I proceeded to walk (stumble…stagger..) home cursing myself along the way. “Jack” caught up with me in his car & offered me a ride home. At that point I took the ride cause I was already debating the merits of walking home at 3am half drunk. So we get to my house, I thank him & get out. I go up to my front door, unlock it …and “Jack”s walking right on up with me. I thank him again and start going in. “Jack” stands in my doorway and proceeds to yell at me about being “overly moral” or something like that. He essentially implied  I’m obligated to sleep w/ him since I turned him on (um, sorry? thanks?) and took up his Saturday night. He proceeded to rant and rave some more before I told him I wasn’t going to be lectured into sex, it was in no way a turn on for me, that his rantings might wake up other people I lived with & if he didn’t leave I was calling the police. He stood in my doorway a few moments longer & said a few more choice words before finally leaving. In retrospect, I’m glad he wasn’t aggressive and backed off when I threatened him because I had been worried about what he’d do if he called me on my bluff. Because no one else was home. And my phone was in the next room.

Thankfully this story ends more or less well, but it might not have if “Jack” had been more aggressive or truly angry over hearing the word “no.” Sure it wasn’t smart of me to drink with him or go to his house, I’m sure he thought something would come of it but you know what? He didn’t have the right to harass me and yell at be and guilt me for saying no, either. I seriously went to bed and cried. And I never talked to “Jack” again.  (PS I plead naivete here. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say….)

I give you this story not because I really feel like getting deep and dark but b/c people see the statistics 1 in 4 and wonder  if they are true and how these things happen. In a short  survey (a mental tally) of my friends, I’d say those statistics are true. As to “how this can happen”?  Sigh. All too easily.  I’m just glad in my case, “Jack” took my “no” and went home.

 

. Stay tuned for part 4 …how to teach people to respect boundaries, the word no and other fine things you shouldn’t do. “How Not to Be a Potential Rapist 101” (Answer: “Dont be a rapist” The End)

 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month should be every month (part 2)

 

So I would like to follow up my previously posted “guidelines” on avoiding sexual assault with myths and facts because I feel these are important to know & share. Knowledge is power.

Also although these facts/myths seem to use “man” as aggressor its important to state women can be the aggressor as well as men victims. Consider these gender neutral.

Myth: Rape is caused by lust or uncontrollable sexual urges and the need for sexual gratification.

Fact: Rape is an act of physical violence and domination that is not motivated by sexual gratification.

 

Myth: Once a man gets sexually aroused, he can’t just stop.

Fact: Men do not physically need to have sex after becoming sexually excited. Moreover, they are still able to control themselves after becoming aroused.

Myth: Women often lie about rape or falsely accuse someone of rape.

Fact: Statistical studies indicate false reports make up two percent or less of the reported cases of sexual assault. This figure is approximately the same for other types of crimes. Only one out of 10 rapes are actually reported. Rapes by someone the victim knows are the least likely to be reported.

Myth: Women provoke sexual assault by their appearance. Sexual attractiveness is a primary reason why a rapist selects a victim.

Fact: Rapists do not select their victims by their appearance. They select victims who are vulnerable and accessible. Victims of sexual assault range in age groups from infants to the elderly. Sexual attractiveness is not an issue.

Myth: Sexual assault is a topic that only concerns women, and men do not have to be concerned about sexual assault.

Fact: According to recent rape crisis center statistics, men, both straight and gay, suffered 10 percent of the sexual assaults reported in the United States last year. In addition, men have wives, friends, sisters, mothers and daughters who may someday need assistance in coping with sexual assault. Rape is a concern for everyone.

Myth: If a woman really did not want to be raped, she could fight off her attacker.

Fact: Even if the rapist is not carrying a weapon, the element of surprise, shock and fear or the threat of harm can overpower a survivor.

Facts About Date Rape

Here are some data collected from a national study of college students:

  • One in four college women have either been raped or suffered attempted rape.
  • 84 percent of the women who are raped knew their assailants.
  • 57 percent of the rapes occurred on a date.
  • Women, ages 16-24, have four times higher risk of being raped than any other population group.
  • One in 12 male students surveyed had committed acts that met the legal definition of rape.
  • 16 percent of male students who had committed rape took part in episodes with more than one attacker’s gang rape.
  • 75 percent of male students and 55 percent of female students involved in date rape had been drunk or using drugs.*
  • 33 percent of males surveyed said that they would commit rape if they could escape detection.**
  • 25 percent of men surveyed believed that rape was acceptable if the woman asks the man out,  the man pays for the date or the woman goes back to the man’s room after the date. ***

* Koss, M.P. (1988). Hidden Rape: Incidence, Prevalence and descriptive Characteristics of Sexual Aggression and Victimization in a National Sample of College Students. In Burgers, A.W. (ed.) Sexual Assault. Vol II. New York: Garland Publishing Co.

** Malamuth, N.M. (1986). Predictors of Natural Sexual Aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 953-962.

*** Muehlenhard, C.L., Friedman, D.E. & Thomas, C.M. (1985). Is Date Rape Justifiable? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 9, 297-310

Facts About Sexual Assault
  • One out of four women is sexually assaulted at some point in her life.
  • One out of six men is sexually assaulted at some point in his life.
  • Every 15 seconds, a woman is beaten by her husband or boyfriend. (FBI Uniform Crime Report, 1991)
  • Two to four million women are abused every year. (American Medical Association)
  • 95 to 98 percent of victims of domestic violence are women. (Bureau of Statistics)
  • Approximately 25 percent of all women in the U.S. will be abused by current or former partners some time during their lives. (American Medical Association)
  • 82.8 percent of sexual assaults occur before the victim reaches the age of 25.
  • 78 percent of sexual assault victims were assaulted by someone they knew.
  • Up to 57 percent of rapes happened on a date.
  • More than 66 percent of sexual assault victims reported NO visible physical injuries.
  • More than 50 percent of victims and 70 percent of assailants had used drugs or alcohol prior to the assault.
  • Fewer than 20 percent of crimes of sexual violence are reported to the police.
  • Approximately 2 percent of acquaintance rapes are reported to the police.
  • Only 2 percent of reported sexual assaults have been determined to be false reports.
  • One in eight college women is the victim of rape during her college years. One in four is the victim of attempted rape.
  • 95 percent of these rape victims did not report the rape to officials.
  • 25 percent of women were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, partner or date during their lifetime.
  • 84 percent of the women knew the men who raped them; 57 percent were on dates.

* Koss, Mary P., and C. Gedycz, and N. Wisniewski. “The Scope of Rape Incidence and Prevalence of Sexual Aggression and Victimization in a National Sample of Higher Education Students.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical psychology. 55(1987), 162-70.

** Thoennes, Nancy, and Tjaden, Patricia. “Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings of the National Violence Against Women Survey.” U.S. Department of Justice, November 199