As many of my readers know, I stopped blogging so much because I was able to move on to a new and exciting job doing what I love and care about. I took the job of Associate Executive Director of Community Mediation, Inc. (CM) You can guess on your own that I have already begun infusing Nonviolent Communication into much of the work that we are doing. Since I know many of the folks who read this website also support the work I am trying to do and my hope of training a whole city in conflict management skills, I ask you to help my new organization with this local challenge to raise money. No matter where in the world you live, change has to start someplace, why not CT? Give and help support the work we are doing……
In the past few months, CM has been in the schools teaching New Haven youth peer mediation skills. We have been to various agencies like Madonna Place in Norwich, Public Allies in New Haven, The Children’s Center in New Haven and New Haven Family Alliance presenting workshops based on Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication. We helped to organize and present at the Seventh John A. Speziale Alternative Dispute Resolution Symposium titled, Achieving the Goals of Criminal Justice: A Role for Mediation.
We are currently working with New Haven Police to present community dialogues that will introduce citizens in each district of New Haven to the new NHPD Police Chief, Frank Limon. We are also working with the New Haven Juvenile Review Board (JRB) along with New Haven Family Alliance to provide mediation at each of the JRB panel hearings. We are working to start new programs, expand our mediation services and train more people in our community in mediation, conflict management and facilitation skills.
We cannot do all the great work we are doing without support from you, the community. The Community Foundation has started a new website to make it easier for you to support us. They have also issued a challenge to the community to find 50 people willing to make a donation more than $50.00 to make us eligible to get an additional $25,000 to continue and expand the work we are doing. We ask that you help us with this challenge by making a donation through the new giveGreater website for us. Your money goes toward making New Haven, Connecticut and our world a more peaceful place.
This video really brings the concepts behind restorative practices into a place that shows why they work! I wish more communities would embrace these practices…
In a recent post, I explained how a group of 24 men in Huntsville, Alabama were arrested for alleged sexual misconduct in a sex sting. The mens’ pictures and names were then released to the public via press release by the police. Sadly, I had hoped we would not see a repeat of similar events that happened in Rhode Island, where such attempts to embarrass those arrested as a method of sending a message to the public led to the suicide of one of the men.
Now we are seeing similar endings from another of these public humiliation cases. This time in Tennessee where 40 men were arrested in a sex sting. Again, in some type of action to deter this behavior in others, the mens’ photos and names were released to the public. This public action has led to the death of one of the wives of the men and another has committed suicide. One of the men is now suing the police. Pam Has the story here.
I have to wonder if whatever the police feel they have gained in this was worth all the destroyed lives. I also have to wonder whatever happen to “innocent until proven guilty.” These men should have had a fair trial before being punished by law enforcement officials.
I don’t condone public sex. I think it is sad that these men chose to live in the shadows. I believe they have been driven to this hiding and sneaking around by the same people who complain they do it (Conservative Christian groups like AFTAH). It is a crazy cycle. I favor restorative justice over punitive tactics 100% of the time. Far less lives are ruined when we choose better tactics to deal with those in our community that act in ways that break the law.
Back in 2002, a young man named Stuart Denton was arrested for cruising for sex at a Rhode Island adult bookstore. The papers published his name and picture. He was understandably humiliated and embarrassed. I don’t condone what he was doing as I wish for all of us to treat ourselves better, but I do understand that living in a homophobic world some are driven to live in the shadows. The news reports called these men “disgusting” and a “public health hazard”. People saw these men for the labels they were given and not their humanity. We saw their actions, but not their human side. Sadly, Stuart Denton hanged himself four days after his arrest. Later investigation showed no crimes had been committed by any of the men as they were in private booths.
Now, flash to 2008 and officials in Huntsville, Alabama have arrest two dozen men for cruising for sex in a scenic overlook area. Again, as with the men in Rhode Island, their names and picture are being posted on the internet and they are being kicked with a heavy foot from their closets. They are being painted as monsters by the media and most people will stop at the label never seeing the fathers, brothers and friends these people are. When we label people, we only see the label we give them not the human behind the label. The youngest being 25 years old but the oldest being almost 90, these men are clearly from a time and place where being gay is highly frowned upon.
Sadly, we live in a society that is not interested in restoring the community after a member of our community does something unlawful. We demand they are punished, but punishment does not restore, heal or rehabilitate the community or the offender. Nothing good comes from it except good ratings for the newspapers. I would have hope these men would have been treated with some dignity regardless what undignified things they were doing. Sadly, I can’t hope for such compassion to exist because the media and the far right wing would never let it be so. These men’s names should have never been printed and they should have been sent for treatment.
I believe with all my heart that it is the Peter LaBarbera’s, the AFA’s, the Stephen Bennett’s and the Stacy Harp’s of the world that maintain the culture of the closet in which these men live and suffer. It is this culture that drives men to live these secret lives in the woods, parks, rest stops or adult book stores rather than coming out of the closet and meeting a nice man and settling down. Perhaps running off to one of the two coastal getaways that allow gay marriage.
I hope time changes this to where men with same sex attractions are not living in fear, in the shadows having unfullfilling sex in the brush when they could be having meaningful and loving relationships out in the open. Perhaps, if Mr. LaBarbera rethought his work, he might see he perpetuates the same problems he hopes to solve.
As an afterthought, here in New Haven, CT dozens of men were arrested in a prostitution sex sting. Again, the pictures of these men are being posted for the sake of public humiliation. (A tactic I would call outdated and cruel) I agree with the article that calls prostitution a “very violent crime.” To sell yourself off for sex is to not love yourself. On the other hand, I know that to pay for sex means one may not have the proper self respect, self-esteem and needs some help. Rather than help rehabilitate these men, we are just humiliating them like dogs. I am sickened by how we treat people who do unlawful things when that treatment lacks humanity!
I long for the day we move toward “Restorative Justice” rather than “punitive justice” which just isn’t working.
Hat Tip to Queerty!
A while back I told you about my desire to live a more simple life. I really want to change the set up of my life to be more in tune with what I value in the world. A large part of that was selling my house and getting a smaller place. I have in fact managed to do just that. My partner and I have sold our house in Rhode Island and we are moving to another state where we will have a small 2 bedroom apartment. Being only a half mile from my partner’s new job, we will be able to ditch one of our cars. We can use either public transportation, car pool or get a bike. Any of these choices will help to reduce our carbon footprint on the earth, but also allow us to save money on car upkeep, insurance, gas and energy. We are both excited about this and even more enthusiastic about how doing this together has been rewarding to our relationship.
Downsizing from a 1900 square foot house on 2 acres of land is liberating. We will be making a nice donation to the Salvation Army, and giving away some other stuff to help out friends in need. I am learning that stuff is just that, just stuff. Our new apartment is around 1000 square feet. We won’t have room to continuing lugging around all this stuff. It is time to let it go. Having less stuff means for me, that I can appreciate the things I do have. It means enjoying the solace of knowing that I haven’t got a bunch of stuff taking up space that I don’t need.
It will also be much cheaper to heat and will require less cleaning, this leaving more free time for us to do other things. I am relieved that I can spend my time on things that make me feel alive like photography, music, writing, and friends. I have always loved the quote from Howard Thurman when a student asked him what career he could choose that the world needs. Thurman replied, “Don’t ask yourself what it is the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and do that. What the world needs is more people to come alive.” I am looking forward to doing just that.
Since we are mainly moving because my partner has taken a teaching position at a University, I won’t have a job when we get there. I have more than a few friends in Rhode Island who respect my work here and who have offered to make some calls to help me get a job in my current field, but I am actually content with not having a job right away. As I grow closer to 40 years old, I have really been taking inventory of my life. It goes back to the quote above by Thurman. Am I really doing with my life that which will make me come alive? I don’t know that I am (I also don’t know that I am not.) What is beautiful is that this current situation has put me in a place where I don’t really have to jump into any decisions about it. I can take some time off to think about it.
I really want to teach peace to others who need it. I want to do art festivals and sell my work. I want to take Yoga and learn Thai Chi. I want to spend more time doing mediation. I would value knowing that I am working for the love of the things I do, as opposed to just doing them because they pay for the stuff I can get. I would rather have the smaller house and more time to live. It means enjoying the stuff I have in my life rather than having a life to get more stuff.
I recently presented my first workshop in Nonviolent Communication for a behavioral health treatment organization. I had the participants fill out evaluations about the workshop to give me some feedback on what came alive for them while attending. The answers gave me great inspiration. I was happy to see that what I had done had really met some needs for others. I was even more warmed to see the workshop left others feeling happy. I followed this with a guest appearance on a cable access program where I had a chance to talk about mental health advocacy, the importance of voting and then explained the process of Nonviolent Communication as it was developed by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD. I haven’t seen the tape of the show, but I know that it is airing on Rhode Island cable access for all of July.
This wonderful experience has been followed by the news that I may be going to the International Intensive Training in NVC in December with Marshall Rosenberg. I am very excited as this meets my need to immerse myself in this process, so I can really master it. NVC is way of speaking that connects people to what is alive in them and others. It is also a conscientiousness that helps us live a life that contributes to peace, not violence. I am energized by the idea and the possibilities of that.
To add cherries on top of the sundae of other exciting things going on around me, I got a phone call today inviting me to serve on an advisory panel for a restorative justice mediation program representing the victim perspective of crime. This is a wonderful way to take my experience of surviving a violent crime and turning that pain into the beauty of change, of living Gandhi’s suggestion that we should be the change we wish to see in the world.
That brings me to my final thought today. I realize I have not been writing as much here on the blog. I also haven’t been covering all the exciting events happening in the news for GLBT folks. I have shyed away from giving anti-gay advocates that otherwise would be unknown, anymore of a platform than they have alreay tried to create for themselves. I don’t want to contribute to their popularity. It is a fine line to draw between drawing attention to their misinformation and giving them attention that feeds their drive to spread more misinformation. I think some thrive on the attention we give them. I will remain uneasy about how to proceed with that, but want to make sure the things I do contribute to the well being of others, not make it worse.
I will be posting updates on the move and on my new adventure. I will also soon have more time to look at the other stuff I have not been posting about and deciding if I should post on it some more. Stay tuned….
This story from Rwanda is pretty inspiring. A women has befriended and forgiven the man who killed her family. She says:
Mukantabana admits it was difficult to forgive. She said she did not speak to Bizimana or his wife for four years after the killings. What put her on the road to healing, she said, was the gacaca process.
“It has not just helped me, it has helped all Rwandans because someone comes and accepts what he did and he asks for forgiveness from the whole community, from all Rwandans,” she said
I wish I had more stories like this. I wish the news would cover more stories like this.
I just finished a three-day training today in restorative justice. I am blown away by the vast amounts of things I learned in the three days. I can barely process all of it, my head is so full. I was learning more about victim/offender conferencing or mediation and more about the current criminal justice system than I ever have.
One of the larger concepts I walked away with from the workshop is how completely unfriendly our current justice system is to victims of crime. Even the court process is about the state vs. offender. Victims are left only as witnesses. They rarely have a voice in the process. When they do, it can be limited to victim impact statements that in some states, get this, are limited to 250 words. How do you explain the impact, damage, emotion and loss to crime in your life in 250 words or less? In some higher profile cases, the press is given better seating in the courtroom at the trial than the victims. I had no idea how insensitive the criminal justice system was for the victims of crime and/or their families.
The process is also traumatizing and ineffective when it comes to offenders. The idea that these are humans who made a bad choice vs. the idea these are bad people is often, if not always, lost on the system. We treat them so badly that it is no wonder recidivism is so high. Rather than restoring or making any attempt at changing the circumstances, issues or problems that cause crime, we spend our time punishing the crime. I am learning that doesn’t help the victim, doesn’t prevent crime, and doesn’t rehabilitate the offender. It also costs us a fortune as tax payers.
On the other side of this coin is the process of restorative justice which seeks to repair the harm of crime as opposed to just punish individuals for crime. It seeks restoration of all involved rather than revenge, punishment, or the delivery of what someone deserves to get for their crimes. It doesn’t let people off the hook but instead forces them to take responsibility for their actions and deal with the impact of them. The idea of having victims of crime meet with the offenders of crime makes so much sense. Victims are left with so many unanswered questions that answered, could lead to a more complete healing system. “Why me?” or “Was this random?” or “what were the last words of my loved one?”, “Did they ask for me?” are all questions that many times go unanswered for victims and their families. Restorative Justice seeks to change that.
Restorative Justice is not a new concept. Native Americans, Tribal Communities in Africa and other places have used different types of restorative justice for centuries. Healing circles, mediation, and conferencing are all viable options of creating better outcomes for the victim, the offender and the community. The impact of crime often extends way past the immediate people. If a house in burglarized, it is not just the family that own that house that are the victims. The entire community gets put on fear alert. All become impacted by the crime. Restorative justice seeks to address the full impact of a crime.
I felt so inspired to be part of the training and see the amazing things that are being done is this field. I hope by me writing about this that you my reader will take a look at the process and feel as inspired and energized as I feel.
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"Be the change you wish to see in the world"
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King Jr.
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