rants

Rape and the Police

It’s one of the first things most rape survivor hear when they talk about what happened.  “You have to report it to the police!” or “Why didn’t you go to the cops?”  Yet rape is one of the most underreported crimes in the U.S.

There are a lot of reasons for this.  Shame is a big one.  So is fear.  Fear of being blamed, of not being believed.  In Baltimore, police have been hard at work turning those fears into reality.

The Baltimore Sun reviewed FBI statistics and found that in Baltimore, the number of people reporting rapes to the police has plunged, while the number of rapes thrown out as unfounded is now the highest in the nation: more than five times the national average.

“[W]omen continue to report that they are interrogated by detectives, sometimes questioned in the emergency room or threatened with being hooked up to lie detectors.”

Can you think of another crime where victims are routinely threatened with lie detector tests?  That’s assuming the reports even make it to the detectives.  40% of Baltimore’s 911 calls to report a rape are simply dismissed, often without documentation to explain why.

The response from one of the detectives in the department is a masterpiece of victim-blaming:

“Many reports of rape are made for ‘ill gain, in order to gain assistance or cover up not coming home,’ said one of the commanders of the unit, Lt. Thomas Uzarowski … ‘It’s not an opinion. It’s not anything other than where the facts fall.’”  (Emphasis added.)

Where the facts fall?  Here’s an interesting fact.  Of the 50 detectives who work sexual assault and child abuse cases, one detective by the name of Anthony Faulk Jr. was responsible for 20% of the department’s “unfounded” rape complaints.

To me, this sounds less like facts and more like some of these detectives decided women are liars, and they’re not going to let the bitches get away with it.

I’m not going to argue that false reports never happen.  They’re rare, but they happen.  They’re also the first thing people bring up when they want to silence rape survivors, twisting logic beyond the breaking point to portray rape as a weapon women use against men.

Do people occasionally recant their statements?  Yes … especially when the detective is in their face, treating them like the criminal.  What would you do if you reported a rape and the first words out of the detective’s mouth were that he could throw you in jail for filing a false report?

The police have a difficult, stressful job, and many of them do that job admirably. But this is a problem that exists on two levels.  At the core are people like Uzarowski and Faulk, who take a “Guilty until proven innocent” approach to rape victims.

Then you have the larger group who watch and do nothing.  You think nobody noticed Faulk’s record of dismissing rape complaints?  You think nobody overheard these detectives harassing victims?  Yet it took a report in the paper, and visits from the mayor and the president of the city council to get the police department to admit maybe they should look into their practices.

Baltimore is an extreme example of a problem that exists everywhere.  People attack and harass and blame rape survivors, and most everyone else just ignores them.

And you wonder why rape victims are hesitant to talk about their attack, let alone report it to the police?

Piracy Thought

Thank you to everyone who commented and e-mailed about my ASD post on Friday.  I tried to keep up and respond to everything, but there was just no way.  I read and appreciated them all.

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So on Saturday, Google Alerts brought up an individual who had reposted my entire First Novel Survey on his blog.  Then on Sunday, someone posted a heads up link to an e-book “lending” site.

I’m not a rabid pirate-hunter, nor am I terribly fond of or impressed by DRM.  That said, I spent a month working on that survey, doing the research, writing it all up, putting the graphs and graphics together.

I’ve also sold reprint rights for that article.  I.e., as a professional writer, this is one of my sources of income.  Not a major one, but that reprint sale will pay for a week’s worth of groceries for my family.

If you want to link back to it, great.  Quote a snippet, no problem.  But to copy and post the whole thing without permission?  Illegality aside, that’s a dick move.  An unintentional one, perhaps.  Sometimes this sort of thing happens from ignorance or cluelessness.  But still highly annoying to the writer who did the actual work.

I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the blogger.  Not so with the e-book “library.”  Our so-called librarian even begs for donations on the site, because you see, he has bills to pay.  He goes on to explain that since he (allegedly) bought these e-books, “[the] authors and thieving publishers have received their due.”

This makes me cranky, in part because I’ve been busting my ass even more than usual this month.  I’ve written, revised, and submitted a 4000-word short story, a 2000-word sample chapter for a possible novel deal, and continued to work on Snow Queen.

My “thieving” publisher will read my work, write up editing notes, pay for the book to be copy-edited, typeset, and sent to me for final proofing.  This is before their sales force heads out to do their thing, before the hire a professional cover artist, and before the publicist starts working to build word of mouth.

You can argue that obscurity is a greater threat than piracy, and you might be right.  You can argue that piracy doesn’t actually cost writers sales, that people who download these files probably wouldn’t have paid for the book anyway.  That this could be good for writers, because it can be a way to get new readers.

All of that might be true.  But when that “help” comes from someone who calls authors/publishers thieves for the crime of wanting to be paid for our work?  Someone who at the same time begs for donations to pay his own bills?  I’m perfectly happy to build my career without that kind of help, thank you.

The Obesity “Epidemic”

So Michelle Obama is launching the Let’s Move Campaign to eliminate the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.  “[O]ne in three kids are overweight or obese, and we’re spending $150 billion a year treating obesity-related illnesses. So we know this is a problem, and there’s a lot at stake.”  (Source)

I applaud the idea of encouraging health.  I do karate 2-3 times each week, and do eight-mile stints on the exercise bike when I can.  My daughter does karate and soccer.  My son does a nightly marathon running laps in our living room.

Yet I’m troubled by this initiative.  I’ve visited four elementary schools this year, and spoken to hundreds of young kids.  Most looked healthy to me.  I saw no difference between these classes and my own a quarter of a century ago.  But the Let’s Move site claims that obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years.

Interesting…  The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a commonly used tool for classifying individuals as underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese.  You know what doesn’t get mentioned very often?  In 1998, the BMI was changed, reducing the threshold for someone to be considered overweight or obese.  From a 1998 CNN report:

Millions of Americans became “fat” Wednesday — even if they didn’t gain a pound — as the federal government adopted a controversial method for determining who is considered overweight.

(ETA: Slate has a more recent article on the history of the BMI.  Thanks to alcymyst for the link.)

You know what?  I think I’m going to redefine the I.Q. scale so that anyone with an I.Q. under 130 is considered an idiot.  Voila!  I’ve just uncovered this country’s epidemic of stupidity.

You want to see what overweight looks like these days?  According to the BMI, given my height and weight, I’m officially overweight.  I didn’t retouch the photos at all, except to remove a few red dots on the belly from the insulin pump.  (Okay, I also Photoshopped out a chest pimple.  So sue me.)

More

The Great Rape Conspiracy

comrade_cat posted about an article by Heather MacDonald called The Campus Rape Myth, which takes on the “campus rape industry.”  Warning: reading the article is likely to significantly raise your blood pressure.

MacDonald spews more than 6000 words to “debunk” college rape as a ridiculously overblown myth fueled by false reports, radical feminist research, and slutty college girls.

She’s not alone in her beliefs.  I remember a response to one of my own rape posts, in which a man said he liked what I was saying, but thought I was making up the part about how many of my friends had been raped, because he didn’t believe it happened that often.

As pissed off as I was by this response, I couldn’t help appreciating the parallel … after all, how often do rape victims share their stories, only to be told they’re lying?

MacDonald targets a single article in her attempt to reveal the falsehoods of the great rape conspiracy:

“The campus rape industry’s central tenet is that one-quarter of all college girls will be raped or be the targets of attempted rape by the end of their college years … This claim, first published in Ms. magazine in 1987, took the universities by storm.”

She goes on to point out that many of these “so-called” rape victims didn’t identify the experience as rape, and didn’t even report it!  She also refers to a 2000 study by the Department of Justice.  I assume she means The Sexual Victimization of College Women, which studied rapes over six months and estimated that “Over the course of a college career — which now lasts an average of 5 years — the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions might climb to between one-fifth and one-quarter.”  (As everyone knows, the U. S. Government is a just hotbed of radical feminism.)

Page 23 of the study lists some reasons women chose not to report:

“…common answers included that the incident was not serious enough to report and that it was not clear that a crime was committed. Other  reasons, however, suggested that there were barriers to reporting. Such answers included not wanting family or other people to know about the incident, lack of proof the incident happened, fear of reprisal by the  assailant, fear of being treated with hostility by the police, and  anticipation that the police would not believe the incident was serious enough and/or would not want to be bothered with the incident.”

Gosh, where could they have gotten the idea that people won’t take them seriously if it was friend or date raped them?  How could they think that if they were raped after partying or drinking, that they might be mocked and treated with outright hostility?  Who taught them that unless it was a black stranger with a knife, it doesn’t count as a “real” rape?1

Buried in MacDonald’s article is a valid point.  When working in rape education and prevention, I saw a tendency to toss statistics about without being able to back them up or explain where they come from.  Given how many people refuse to accept how common rape is, I believe it’s important to back up the numbers when possible.

Mostly though, MacDonald’s article is crap.  Sadly, it’s crap a lot of people choose to believe.  Because we don’t want to admit rape can and has happened to people we love.  Because it’s easier to ridicule the numbers — and the victims — than to accept we have a problem.

I’ve mentioned sitting in my college dorm with several female friends when two guys walked by, mocking the 1-in-4 statistic.  “If that were right, it would mean one of you had been raped,” said one.  Unstated was the assumption that this was utterly ridiculous.  How absurd to think that someone he knew had experienced such a horrible crime?

Of course, he was right.  MacDonald does the same thing in her article:

“The one-in-four statistic would mean that every year, millions of young women graduate who have suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience.”

Well, yes.  That’s the point.  And you can either turn your back on those women, or you can open your eyes and try to do something about it.

  1. From MacDonald’s article, “Like many stranger rapists on campus, the knifepoint assailant was black, and thus an unattractive target for politically correct protest.”

Reporting Rape

When writing about rape in fandom two weeks ago, I included the following:

“I’m not saying there’s never a time to talk about criminal prosecution of rape and why people might choose not to endure the ugliness of a rape trial.  I’m saying this is not the time.

Thank you to everyone for not derailing the conversation.  So often when someone talks about rape, the immediate response is some form of “You have to report it!”  I saw this at a few other blogs: “You have to get the asshole arrested!”  Or on the other end of the spectrum, “If you didn’t press charges, you have no right to complain!”

Rape is a crime that rips power and control from the victim.  You know what doesn’t help you regain that sense of control?  When everyone jumps in to tell you what you have to do.  Especially if you add a heaping pile of guilt: “If you don’t press charges and he rapes someone else, it’s your fault!”

Bite me.  Rape is the fault of the rapist.  No matter how hard some people try to pretend otherwise.  Most of the time, when people talk to me about rape, they’re not looking for me to fix it or solve things.  They might be looking for someone to believe them.  They might be looking for support.  Often they’re just looking for me to shut up and listen.

That’s hard.  I feel pissed off and hurt and powerless, and I want to do something.  I want to fix it, and I want to make sure the bastard who did it gets punished.  But that’s not something I have the power to do.

Not helpful: You have to press charges! (More about satisfying my own need to punish the guy and to stop feeling helpless.)
Might be helpful: If you decide to press charges, I’d be more than willing to go to the police with you, and to court if it goes to trial.

So why would someone choose not to report rape?  Rosefox linked to this blog post explaining some of the reasons.  Some police officers are wonderful about sexual assault, but not all.  I’ve known people who reported a rape, only to have the cop refuse to believe them and threaten to arrest them for filing a false report.  Then there are the stats on how few rape cases go to trial, and how few of those result in conviction.

As for the trial itself… I’ve been through the court process for a custody issue.  It was one of the most stressful experiences of my life, and it dragged out for close to a year with hearings, appeals, rescheduled dates, meetings with attorneys, and so on.  Imagine going through that experience as a rape survivor, having to relive the rape again and again in front of strangers, hostile attorneys, and the rapist himself.

Do I want rapists locked away?  Of course.  So what’s more likely to help that happen?  Trying to bully a rape victim into doing what I want?  Or trying to support her (or him), letting her make her own choice and offering to support her in whatever choice she makes?

I also wonder if this insistence on “You have to report it!!!” is another facet of our attitude that stopping rape is women’s responsibility…

Discussion is open and encouraged, but once again I’ll be moderating as needed to keep it respectful and on-topic.

Homophobia in Publishing

Note: I’ve not seen an official statement from The Library Of The Living Dead Press. They locked the discussion forum on this issue. If they do have an explanation, I’d very much like to see it.

Update: LLD Press has posted a statement here.  “…with all the things that are going on in my life right now I didn’t think it all the way through. I became afraid I would upset people by publishing the book. That’s the reason in a nutshell … If any of you don’t know, I’m a huge supporter of the GLBT community. They are my brothers and sisters.”  He’s offered to pay those who wrote stories.

I’m afraid there’s nothing here that makes me change my initial reaction.  How do you claim to be a “huge supporter” of the GLBT community while simultaneously cancelling your GLBT-themed project because it might upset people?

Thanks, kirizal, for the update.

#

So last month, Library of the Living Dead Press put out a call for an LGBT zombie anthology (which sounds like a very cool project, actually).  Yesterday, the publisher pulled the plug on the anthology.  From the editor:

“It is with deep regret that I must inform you that the publisher has pulled the plug on this anthology. It seems that homophobia had reared its ugly head..NOT from the publisher, but with some authors that are contributers to the publisher.”

In other words, it sounds like some of the authors who publish with LLD found out that their publisher was doing an anthology that had teh gay in it, and complained.

I hope there’s more to the story.  I hope there’s another reason this project fell through, some explanation other than the fact that the person or persons running this publisher are a bunch of miserable, cowardly, unprofessional twits.

As for the authors who allegedly complained?  You’re writing for a horror micropress.  It’s okay to write about gore and blood and violence and horror, but homosexuality is right out?  What the hell is wrong with you?

If anyone reading this is associated with LLD press, please pass this link along to the powers that be.  I really, really want to hear how they justify backing out of this project, and whether they have an excuse that doesn’t involve wedging their heads quite so far up their own asses.  I hope so, and I’ll happily post a follow-up with their side of this story, if they’d care to share it.

I know not everyone feels the same as me about LGBT issues.  Some people don’t support gay marriage; some don’t want to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell; and so on.  I disagree, but I recognize those opinions are out there.  But it’s one thing to disagree.  It’s another to announce a project, then turn around and cancel it for no other reason than the homophobia of authors who (presumably) weren’t even submitting to the anthology.

I debated whether a horror micropress was worth the attention of a blog post.  But I’m a SF/F author, and this publisher is a part of my circle, even if they’re a tiny part, and I didn’t feel right letting this pass without condemnation.

I hope there’s a better explanation.  But if not, I hope all those involved with this decision will please feel free to go to hell.

(Thanks to Christian Young for the link.)

Real Men

Catherynne Valente recently posted two essays about gender issues, both of which are worth reading.1

“If you watch these ads, and mainstream sitcoms, you see this place. This place where men and women can barely stand each other long enough to have mutually unfulfilling sex and procreate. Where women are the sole source of everything irritating and wrong in a man’s life, plus she’s never hot enough, plus you have to, like, interact with her sometimes.”

It’s gotten me thinking about masculinity and what it means to “Be a man” in this culture.  The way we’re taught to act with other men and with women, the roles and responsibilities we’re supposed to take on, the things we are and aren’t supposed to worry about….

What a bunch of insane, contradictory crap.  Here are just a few of the “rules” I’ve come up with.

  1. Avoid traditionally feminine activity.  Dishes, laundry, diapers, vacuuming — these activities generate massive quantities of femions that cling to your skin and cause penis cancer.
  2. Hanging out with women is a chore.  Women only want to shop and go to chick flicks.  Men should hang out with other men, being manly together.  (But in a totally heterosexual way.)
  3. Holding a woman’s purse makes you temporarily gay.
  4. Much like the light of a red sun robs Superman of his power, pastels drain a man’s masculinity.  Beware the power of baby blue kryptonite.
  5. Sex is a competition.  (Seriously, WTF people???)
  6. Homosexuality is a fate worse than death.  Lesbians are hot.  This is not a contradiction.
  7. Your daughter, being a girl, will be completely incapable of taking care of herself.  Meet any potential boyfriends at the door while carrying a shotgun.
  8. Your place in Heaven is determined by the size of your penis and the amount of hair on your scalp.

I was planning to transition into my own thoughts about being a man.  What I think a real man should be.  A healthier, better list.  But it didn’t work.  Say you go with “A real man takes care of his family.” Why does this have anything to do with gender?  “A real man protects those who need his help.” And a real woman doesn’t?  “A real man respects women.”  No, a decent human being respects women.  And men.

But I did come up with one guideline.  Because a real man can speak out against sexism and homophobia, and be heard in a way that women speaking those same words might not be.  Because women complaining about sexism are dismissed as ball-busting feminazis with no sense of humor.

I’ve watched it happen again and again.  A woman writes or speaks about a topic and gets ignored.  I or another man speak out about the same thing, and there’s an outpouring of support and agreement.  I still get blown off, but not as often or in the same way as I see happening to women.

Being a man means I’m given certain advantages, including the power to speak out and be listened to.  Being a good man means using that voice to fight this hateful sexist crap.

  1. Actually, everything Cat writes is worth reading.  Why aren’t you following her blog already?

Remedial Publishing Math

Yesterday, Victoria Strauss tweeted a link to The Ugly Truth About Getting Your Book Published, in which Phil Cooke is just the latest voice to proclaim the Awful Truth about Publishing.

The article flaunts various numbers to show that book sales are PLUMMETTING, and everything is AWFUL!  (He also includes strategies for dealing with these awful truths.  Coincidentally, Cooke runs Cooke Pictures, a media/publicity consulting company who will happily help you survive this terrible storm … for a fee.)

(ETA: Phil Cooke commented to say that he does not, in fact, charge a fee for his services.  And then follows up with a sockpuppet.  Sigh…)

For example, “Bowker reports that 560,626 new books were published in the U.S. in 2008, which is more than double the number of new books published five years earlier (2003) in the U.S. These figures include print-on-demand and short-run books, which is where most of the growth has occurred.“  (Emphasis added.)

And then, from point number three, “Average book sales are shockingly small, and falling fast.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have MathFail.  Let me break it down with simple and totally made-up numbers.

Let’s say a decade ago, 1000 different books were published, and each book sold an average of 10,000 copies.  1000 x 10,000 means 10,000,000 books sold overall.

Then print-on-demand technology leads to an explosion of self-publishing and vanity presses.  Ten years later, we have twice as many books being published.  But the average PoD title sells what, 100 copies?  Let’s be generous and call it 200.  Assuming no change at all in traditionally published1 books, we see:

1000 x 10,000 = 10,000,000 traditionally published books.
1000 x 200 = 200,000 PoD books.
10,000,000 + 200,000 = 10,200,000 total books published.
10,200,000 / 2000 = 5100 average copies per book.

Oh noes!  Average book sales have been cut almost in half!  It’s the end of publishing … even though, in our made-up example, traditionally published books are selling just as well as they did a decade ago.

If you want to educate me, show me useful data.  Be specific.  Don’t just flash around misleading and utterly useless generalizations.

Want another example?  “A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore.”

MathFail Redux.  If you sell a book to Tor or Baen or DAW, you have an extremely good chance of having your book stocked in an average bookstore.  “Sell” to Publish America, and your chances are closer to 0%.  But lump everything together, and you can get your average to be nice, scary, and utterly meaningless.

“Here’s the reality of the book industry: in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies.”  And how many of those titles are out of print?  Specialty books?  Vanity Press?

It’s true that publishing is in a rough place right now.  Print runs really are down, overall … but not necessarily to the extent implied in Cooke’s article.  Things are changing, and we’re working to keep up and adapt.  It’s not the end of print, the end of publishing, or the end of the world.

  1. I hate that phrase, but can’t think of a better one right now

Covers Gone Crazy

So apparently this is the week for cover art kerfuffles.  We start with my own publisher DAW, who put out the anthology The Dragon and the Stars.  This is an anthology of “18 original stories melding the rich cultural heritage of China with the imaginative realms of science fiction and fantasy.”

In DAW’s defense, I believe the budget for their monthly anthologies is significantly smaller than for original novels, which I suspect is why they tend to go with stock art for the former.  And artistically, I like the look of this one.  I just wish they’d gone with stock art that showed a Chinese dragon instead of a western one.

Cover number two comes from Bloomsbury, who you might remember as the publisher that whitewashed the cover for Justine Larbalestier’s book Liar.  After much outcry from author and fans, Larbalestier’s cover was changed.  Now Bloomsbury brings us Magic Under Glass.  To quote the Book Smugglers review:

“Nimira is supposed to be dark-skinned! The book trailer captures that and is true to the book (check it out here) but the girl in the US covers is definitely white.”

It’s deja vu all over again.

Last but most certainly not least, oldcharliebrown points out the Baen covers from the Flandry books by Poul Anderson.  Young Flandry came out last month.  The cover for the forthcoming Captain Flandry is similar, aiming for that same demographic of young boys who for whatever reason can’t get real porn online.

I know many publishers have multiple imprints, but when did Baen launch their “Orgies in Space” line?  I’m all for not judging a book by its cover, but even as a teenaged boy I don’t think I could have brought this one into the house.  As a grownup wanting to introduce my daughter to SF/F, I’m embarrassed for my genre.

Click on any of the thumbnails for larger versions.

Please keep in mind that authors have little to no control over their cover art.  Larbalestier was able to push for new artwork for her book, but she’s a fairly high-clout author and was able to rally reader/fan support.  Generally, the author has little input into the cover.

So, what do you think?

Criminal Minds on Diabetes

From this week’s episode of Criminal Minds, “The Uncanny Valley”:

“Diabetics metabolize everything they consume differently.  Food, drink, drugs … it all gets broken down into blood sugar.”

Ignoring the fact that not all food and drink gets broken into blood sugar (Coke Zero, anyone?), you’re telling me my drugs all turn into blood sugar too?  Guess I’d better start taking insulin with my cholesterol pills from now on.

The show also asserts that diabetics can metabolize drugs faster, and thus our victim could shake off the paralytic.  (Which was being received via an I.V. drip.)  This struck me at first as either poorly researched or poorly explained.

So I spent this morning digging up research so as not to come off as an idiot when I wrote my rant, and what do you know.  I came across a 2007 study from The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases which states:

In fact, type 1 diabetes not only leads to activation of drug metabolic genes, but also has a profound effect on the metabolism of certain drugs. Mice with induced type 1 diabetes rapidly clear their systems of a compound that induces temporary paralysis, while normal mice cannot.

From that same article, “Controlling the diabetes reversed the effect: when insulin was given to the mice, the CAR-induced genes turned off. “  So in theory, since this woman was off her insulin, there might have been a window where she would have thrown off the effects of the drugs before falling into a diabetic coma.

I’m not finding anything to support the idea that drugs all break down into blood sugar, though.  That one still strikes me as goblin dung.  According to the article above, a diabetic with out-of-control glucose doesn’t clear the drug by breaking it down into sugar, but because (in mice, at least) this activates certain genes that clear the drug from the system.

So, I’m cranky about the “Everything turns into sugar” bit, but it looks like they did the research on the rest.  Thanks for that, Criminal Minds — the widespread laziness and misinformation spread in most books and shows when it comes to diabetes is a huge peeve of mine.

On that note, if any of my writer friends are ever doing a story that includes diabetes and have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.  I’m not a doctor, but I can give you the basics and tell you what it’s like to live with the damn disease.

Also, I think I have a man-crush on Dr. Reid.