#Justice Fails A Survivor When…

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On Monday June 23rd, a passionate group of women started a twitter campaign to raise awareness of how the criminal justice system treats rape, sexual assault, harassment, domestic violence, and trafficking survivors.  The campaign began as a way to ask a seemingly simple question that unfortunately doesn’t have an easy answer.  The golden question is, “who don’t survivors go to the police and put their assailant’s in jail?”

Since the campaign started, it appears as though hundreds of women and some men have joined in to speak out about how our justice system fails victims.  I am the first to admit that I have a lot to learn about Twitter.  When I first heard about twitter, I felt as though it was pretty silly and could never imagine that I would become someone who tweeted.  A few years later, however, here I am.  I wanted to share some of the things I read as a result of this campaign, because I think it highlights the good of social media.

#JusticeFailsASurvivorWhen…

1)  “Police success statistics mean rape cases are dropped”:  Most law abiding citizens probably held the believe, as I did, that when someone breaks the law (and is caught) they will be arrested.  In reality, however, there are many police departments that cherry pick cases in order to ensure impressive crime fighting statistics.  Sadly, while there are some amazing police officers who work day and night to fight crime, there are also officers who don’t have altruistic motivations.  Police officers are people, and when you have people – you have the potential for moral corruption.

2)  “People assume a rapist is innocent because the police won’t arrest him or he wins in court.  No, this just means he got away with rape”:  Again, unless you have seen a criminal get away with horrific crimes time and time again, you might feel as though our justice system is successful at keeping us all safe.  Let me be the first person to tell you, in the event that you haven’t already heard this, most good men will never be accused of rape.  If you know someone who has, you might want to keep your distance because something could be seriously amiss about this person.  Like, for example, that person could go on to kill his own child.  Despite what many corrupt officials would like for us all to believe, women don’t just go around reporting false rape right and left.

3)  “When terms like ‘legitimate rape’ exist”:  This is a term that is so insane that most people would have to hear an official say it to really even believe it was said in seriousness.  When I read it on twitter, however, I absolutely believed it had been said.  I believed it because I have heard equally as ridiculous things said to me by people in powerful positions.  I would challenge anyone to explain to me what this official could have meant by “legitimate rape”.

4)  “Only 3% of rapist ever spend a day in jail”:  This statistic is alarming, because it means that the other 97% of rapists are walking the streets and likely to rape again.  I know from first hand experience that if a dangerous person is not caught the first (or second, etc) time he/she commits a crime, that person becomes emboldened and gets a feeling of being “above the law”.  When a rapist doesn’t get stopped, he doesn’t just decide to stop raping – he continues to rape.

5)  “When even convicted rapists and pedophiles are allowed full parental rights and access to their children”:  This last tweet hit me hard.  When a woman is raped, and there is a child produced from that rape, that child could most likely be forced to visit with their rapist parent.  If the rapist serves any time, which we all know is rare, his parental rights remain fully intact and upon his release he would be allowed to begin his dangerous influence on this innocent child.  Not to mention, the courts will remove the child from the custody of his mother if that mother is incapable of fostering a relationship between her child and her rapist.

Dangerous Parallels:

I think a lot of parallels can be made between how rape is treated in this country, and what is happening in family courts. There was a time when society understood the role of a mother as a nurturer and protector. It seems as though old school misogynist views are being played out in the Family Courtroom and in police stations across the country.  Why are rape cases assumed to always be “he said/she said”?  Why wouldn’t each claim be actually investigated before an officer makes the assumption that the claim is likely false?

While my ex didn’t get custody (because it was clear that he had no means to take care of Prince), when it came to discussion of abuse, the court saw him as a credible reporter.  I came to court with a parade of reputable character witnesses, an impressive history of work, educational achievements, and a clean record.  Luc, on the other hand, was unable to provide even one family member who could speak positively about him.  He had no proof of ever paying taxes or holding any kind of employment, and he wasn’t even honest about how old he was.    Even though these facts existed, our court system still cancelled out both of our comments and chalked them up to “he said/she said”.  Luc was only able to tip the scales when he found a therapist who would support his compulsive and dangerous lies.

 

I have often discussed what I believe is the death of justice.  I applaud the group behind this twitter campaign, because they are trying to resuscitate the justice system.  They are trying to pry open the eyes of those people in our society who refuse to realize how bad things have gotten.  Even though the issues that these women have tweeted about might not be immediate in your life at this moment, there will be a day when every single American will feel the negative impact of the monstrous holes in our justice system.  One day, the child of the rapist (who was forced to spend years being influenced by a violent felon) will show up on your door step.  He will be taking your daughter to prom.

 

 

 

 

My Two Year Bloggerversary

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Two years ago today, I started writing this blog.  For today’s post, I thought it would be fitting to reflect on the past two years.  For those of you who have been with my from the beginning (or just had the chance to read the historical posts), you can likely see how my life has changed tremendously in the past two years.  Sometimes, when I think back on who I was two years ago, it shocks me at how much I have learned and grown as a result of some pretty crazy life experiences.  Here are some of the things I have learned over the past two years that I think are worth sharing on this special day:

 

Don’t Let Chaos Steal Your Identity:  A few short weeks before I created Cappuccino Queen, I was talking to an old friend about how traumatizing my life situation had become.  I explained to him that I had learned that my ex was a suspected serial killer only two weeks after my son was born, and that now I was fighting to make sure this maniac didm’t harm my son.  While I was describing the likely unbelievable chain of events, my friend stopped me and said, “Hera…what happened to Cappuccino Queen?”

To give you brief background, while I was studying in college I had a screen name/email by the title of Cappuccino Queen.  It was a fun play on my cappuccino colored skin, and my name (“queen” of the Gods in greek mythology).  This screen name represented my fun and playful side.

It was clear as my friend asked this question that he wasn’t just talking about my screen name.  He wanted to know where that fun loving, playful version of Hera had gone.  He had noticed that I was losing myself in all this extreme life drama.  Immediately, I nearly had a panic attack when I thought about how my son didn’t know the good version of myself – that version was being smothered by the psychopathic terrorist who was draining the life out of me (aka the man I call “Lucifer”).

From this phone conversation, I realized that I needed to take back my identity.  I needed to remind myself not to let the chaos consume my life.  There are many things that I regret about my 15 months with Prince.  There are many things I wish I had the chance to do over.  What I do not regret, however, is making the conscious decision to show my son the happier version of myself that I thought I had lost.  He knew his Mama, despite the nearly constant chaos we lived in.

Lifetime Movies Are Real:  Five years ago, before I met the devil incarnate, I used to think that Lifetime movies were all about the drama and that stuff didn’t really happen that often.  That believe system changed when my life turned into the sort of terrible situation that I had only seen on Lifetime.  Occasionally on a bored Saturday afternoon, I didn’t mind watching Lifetime.  It was like watching a train wreck that you couldn’t look away from.  Now, I can no longer bring myself to watch these stories because they are just too close to reality.

Improved Psychopath Radar:  If there is any silver lining to being entrapped by a psychopath, its that it teaches you to spot one from miles away.  That man at work who constantly talks about killing his wife?  Stay away from him.  The guy who throws computers a fit of rage?  Yep, he is not someone you want to invite to your family BBQ either.

People Show Themselves In Tragedy And In Good Times:  In the past two years, I have experienced the worst tragedy (losing my son), and the greatest joy (having my daughter and rebuilding my life).  In both the good times and the bad, you find out who your friends are.  Some people, only like to hang around you when your life is going to shit.  The moment you start to rebuild, they disappear.  There are also those people who only want to be around during the good times, but disappear during the times when you need them.  I have learned to hang on tight to those people who can weather the storm, and celebrate your happiness as well.

Ignore Haters/Victim Blamers:  After my son died, and my story showed up in the media, you wouldn’t believe how many people came out of the woodwork to hate on me.  The real trolls of the internet came out and spewed their incredibly ugly hate.  Many people blamed me for getting involved with the psycho, as if I had knowingly dated a serial killer.

Then, when my daughter was born, the second wave of haters came.  Every internet troll with a computer had something to say about their opinion on my choice to become a mother.

In these two years, I have learned the good lesson that if you don’t have some haters – you aren’t being loud enough.

Love Is Powerful:  When I had my son, I didn’t think it was possible to ever love someone as much as I loved him.  The love I had for that little boy (and still have) was incredible.  In the last two years, I have learned that love doesn’t end when someone dies.  I have also learned how possible it is to fall in love again and again.  The moment my daughter was placed on my chest, I couldn’t believe that it happened again.  I couldn’t believe that I was staring at someone that I loved just as much as I loved Prince.

 

Finally, I cannot express to you all more how much I have appreciated my readers in the past two years.  You all have seen me through the biggest challenges in life and some of my greatest joy.  I truly believe that this is the beginning of a community and of a movement.  This blog has allowed me to create something positive out of a terribly negative situation.  It is my goal to continue my son’s legacy – to teach people what I wish I had known before I met Luc – and to try my hardest to save children.

Thank you for following me.  Thank you for being a part of this journey.

Father’s Day For Mama…Who Is Also Daddy

 

Photo by Mary F. Calvert

Photo by Mary F. Calvert

A few months after my daughter was born, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine who is also a Single Mother By Choice (SMBC). I told her I was thinking about what it would be like for my daughter when Father’s Day rolled around each year, or when her school has Daddy-Daughter dances. While I have a father, and a brother, Uncles, and male cousins who would all gladly go to school with Stela on those days, I still wonder how she will feel about just having a Mama. After explaining to my friend that I had been thinking about these “deep thoughts”, she said to me, “Well, I am going to go to school on Daddy-Daughter days. I am not going to send anyone else, because I am Mommy and Daddy.”
After this conversation with my friend, I thought, ‘she is totally right! Why can’t I go to the Daddy-Daughter dances along with all the guys? Why can’t my daughter make me a card at school for Father’s Day?’

While I fully intend on showing up for both Mother’s and Father’s events at Stela’s school one day, I am also aware that it takes a village to raise a child. In my village, there are lots of men – my father, my brother, uncles, and cousins. When I made the decision to have Stela on my own, I also made the decision that I would always validate my daughter’s experience. I plan to show her the world, and I can appreciate the “father figures” she will have in her life.

“Not The Mama”:

Lately, my sister has been joking that Stela looks like the baby from the old television show Dinosaurs who used to scream, “Not the Mama!” My sister is even showing Stela the videos in an attempt to get her to actually scream that phrase.  Up until this week, my daughter was not a fan of my father. I was sure that one day Stela would start to scream, “Not the Mama” whenever he would walk into the room. It had gotten to the point where I almost felt bad for my father. He and Prince were so close, yet for some reason Stela would cry when he walked in the room.

Prince used to crawl to my father as soon as he would walk through the door from work. None of us could understand why Prince could be in the worst mood, but when Grandpa walked in he was ready to be picked up for his evening walk.

Today, I learned my father’s secret to both my children’s hearts. While Prince and my father never told anyone the secret to their walks, Stela came in today with it written all over her face. At first, when my father wanted to take her for a walk, Stela gave him her usual stink eye. Despite Stela’s protest, my father insisted that she take a walk with him. About 20 minutes later, they came back inside and the dynamic between then had obviously changed.

When my mother went take Stela from grandpa, Stela put her head on his shoulder. Then, when my sister went to try and take her from grandpa, she put her hand on his shoulder as to say, “no thanks – me and Grandpa are hanging out.” Just when we were all scratching our heads as to what had occurred, Stela gave us all a huge smile that revealed that she had just eaten some berries with Grandpa. He had found the key to their hearts. Apparently both of my kids enjoy sour wild berries from my Father’s yard.

Grandpa’s Lessons:

I am fully willing to admit that I would likely not give my children sour berries from the sketchy bush in my Father’s yard. That said, the berries can be a representation of the unique parenting style my father brings to the village of people raising my daughter. Prince grew to love Grandpa because Grandpa would let Prince do things that nobody else would let him do – such as: tear up books, taste strange foods, or get extremely dirty playing outside. I feel like I was always taking things away from Prince that I worried would hurt him, and my father was always giving him things to let him try it out.

I am confident in my decision to have Stela on my own. While her experience will not be traditional, she will have her own experiences of value that will write her story on life. And for this Father’s Day, I am going to celebrate being a single mother. I am going to celebrate being Mommy and being Daddy.

We will also make sure we go visit grandpa so that Stela can have some of those nasty sour berries.

 

 

Appreciating Life’s Blessings – Even #ToddlerTerrorists

Baby yoga

Baby yoga

When Prince died, I distinctively remember trying to actively stop my mind from racing.  I had been a toddler Mama, and with that comes a complete change in your brain – at least that is how it felt.  From the moment Prince was born, I never stopped thinking about where he was.  When he became mobile, however, it became almost impossible to get my brain to think about just one thing.  If it was silent, I would always be looking around identifying potential hazards or wondering where he might have crawled off to.

As so many mothers who have lost children can likely relate to, when your child dies your brain does not stop acting as that child’s mother.  When Prince died, my mind raced.  I would look for him when it was silent, only to then painfully realize over and over again that he was not there – and why.  I didn’t feel normal because I couldn’t stop my mind from racing.

Prince toddling:

Prince didn’t start crawling until he was 8.5 months old.  For weeks, he would get on all fours and reach his hand behind his butt as though he was trying to push himself across the floor.  Then, he would do what we called the Quasimodo crawl.  We called it this because he would walk on one leg and crawl with the other.  While Prince was later to crawl than Stela, he loved his independence.  Shortly after crawling, he was walking (and then trying to run).

I frequently had to chase him places as he was always determined to run in the opposite direction.  He would run down the street like a little determined fellow who was so curious about the world.  There was not a moment in my day when I didn’t think about his safety.  For months after he died, I would instinctively look in the back seat of my car expecting to see his face smiling back at me.  It is impossible to turn off your motherly instincts – even after your child dies.

Stela Toddling:

Stela has been threatening to crawl for a couple of weeks now.  This past Saturday, I took her to a gym class where she was able to observe several other babies crawling on all of the equipment.  Stela, being the cerebral little diva that she is, watched them closely.  There were moments when I could almost see little light bulbs going off in her head as if she was thinking, ‘Oh snap!  That is how I am supposed to do that crawling thing!’

A few hours after her gym class, Stela crawled for the first time.  As I sat on the floor with her trying to grab the cell phone, that ended up being the crawl motivator, out of her mouth – I cried.  While for many parents this might feel like a frantic time, I finally feel like I am normal again.  There are still moments when I look around and think about where Prince is, but now my mind also races for Stela.  My Mama brain has kicked back into overtime as my infant is quickly becoming mobile.

My Appreciation:

I complain a lot about the lack of sleep I am getting, and how many hours I spend trying to get my child not to go after all that is dangerous in our home.  That said, I cannot express how thankful I am to have this opportunity to be my daughter’s mother.  From the moments she is punching me in the face at 2am, to the times when she does the Mama dance as I walk through the door after work – I am constantly aware of how precious her life is.  I am constantly grateful that I am able to be her mother.

It used to bother me when I would hear the news talk about the death of a child.  The reporters almost always follow those stories by telling parents to go home, and hug their child just a little tighter.  After Prince died, I always hated hearing this because it would always make me think about the parents who would have to go home without their children – those parents wouldn’t be able to hug their children at all.

Instead of telling all of you to hug your child a little tighter, I wanted to share this all with you today as a way to express what I have gone through.  My hope is that no parent will have to experience the pain that I felt losing Prince in order to appreciate their children the way that I do.  So when you hear my story, it shouldn’t just make you go hug your child tighter.  It should make you realize that you should love your child every day.  It should make you think about how privileged you are to be a parent, and how you should hug your child tight every single day.   It should make those tough moments when your toddler is throwing a fit, and being a little monster (because they all are like this at one point), a little easier.

When Prince was around six months old, I took him into a fast food restaurant to grab a sandwich before running back to the house.  He was tired, and decided to throw a royal fit inside the restaurant.  He screamed, kicked, and caused such a scene that all of the non-parents gave me the stink eye until I left.  I remember how frustrated I was with him that day.  I remember that in that moment I did not appreciate how precious even that time was with him.  Today, I would give anything to go back to that moment, and relive it with him a million times – just to be able to hold him in my arms one more time.