Tarnished for Life: The error in throwing away those who have made mistakes

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[Image: A person walking away from the viewer on some kind of beach, leaving footprints on the wet sand.]

Sometimes human beings do terrible things. They fuck up. They hurt people. They damage things. They do ridiculous, horrible shit. Sometimes they are punished for what they do. Sometimes they aren’t. But no matter what happens to them legally after they do their terrible thing, what do we do with them after they’ve served their time, paid their debt to society, or been declared unable to be criminally pursued?

There’s a polarizing concept in popular culture that once someone has done something terrible, they have no future, but instead should cease to exist. No matter how young they are, how much they could potentially offer the world, no matter how much time they have left on this earth, they don’t deserve to be a part of anything anymore. They should be cut off and excommunicated from the human race. And while this idea might feel justified for those who have suffered and those that know the heinous nature of the crime, this tarnished for life, ceasing to exist idea is not practical and, in the end, not helpful.

While it’s easy and sometimes seems only logical to put people like perpetrators of violence into a box of inhumanity, where they are not one of us decent people but some other category of human, it’s not true. Humans are capable of terrible things. The nightly news tells us this every night. Doing something horrible doesn’t mean you are not a person. It also does not prevent you from existing after this terrible thing has happened.

So what are we to do with people once they have done their horrible deed? Read on any comment thread about any variety of crimes or offenses and there will be someone calling for that person’s murder. But we can’t murder everyone who has done something terrible. Neither can we afford to throw these people away. If you want to honor the humanity of the victims of this terrible act, you have to honor the humanity of the person that also committed it. They are not an other now. They are still people and when their lives are still in front of them, they need something to do with it.

When I was organizer for V-Day 2008 at MBC we screened the documentary Until The Violence Stops. In that movie was a man who was a former abuser. He spoke openly, with tears running down his face, about his shameful past behavior where he beat his wife. He recalled his toddler child once trying to protect his mother from his father. I was stunned. I had never heard an abuser talk about their abuse and the environment they had been raised in that had facilitated this abuse.

While abusers should in no way dominate the conversation about domestic violence, they do need to be included. How are we ever going to stand any kind of crime or form of abuse if all that is examined is one side of the story? This is not to validate the abuse, but to figure out why it happened. What leads to violence? What warning signs are there that someone can become violent? What kind of intervention works to prevent violence? How can someone who has been violent be rehabilitated?

It would be one thing if someone who has committed a crime or wronged someone just ceased to exist after this event happened. But it doesn’t. When someone does something horrible, no matter how horrible it is, they’re still alive. Even if their way of making amends is small, even if all they do is make the world slightly less shitty in tiny portions from behind bars, they deserve that chance. Everyone deserves a chance to improve world and that chance should never be taken away.

I can write about you if I damn well please

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[Image: A person hugging a wall of words.]

It seems to be a strange occurrence that men keep telling me not to write about them. I’ll get into why I think they’re telling me not to do this in a second. But for now, allow me to go over why I can write about you, if I do desire and why you can’t do a damn thing about it.

There are two possible legal grounds for someone to try to sue me about something I wrote in a blog. I will show how each one does not apply to what I write or how I write and that neither claim would be successful if a case if brought up against me. But before I get into that, allow me to make one thing really fucking clear;

When I write about people on my blog, I do not use names without permission. I’ve even given some men codenames for when I write about them so I don’t have to keep calling them by pronouns. However, I also use very little identifying characteristics. It’s to the point where I might write about a conversation and the person who had that conversation would know that I was writing about them, but a stranger wouldn’t. If people accessing my website have no idea who the fuck I’m writing about, then there’s no way to sue me because there is no way that the blog would actually occur damages, except to someone’s ego. And you don’t win court case because your feelings got hurt.

But let’s look at the legal claims that someone could bring against me and why it would be a huge fucking waste of time.

Libel

Libel is the written form of slander. It is when someone publishes negative things about someone in order to damage their reputation. In order to win a case, the plaintiff would have to prove that 1. What I said is not true. 2. I knew it was not true. 3. They suffered damages (such as a loss of a job) because of it.

This would never happen because I don’t lie about people on my blog. It’s called the Scrapbook of Truth, motherfucker. What do you think I talk about on this shit? True stuff. That’s it. And trust me, my life is so interesting that I don’t need to lie.

Invasion of Privacy

Yeah,  you might think that someone has got me here, but think again. First off, proving an invasion of privacy claim would require me to share information that is not well-known, such as a medical status or sexual orientation. What I write about on my blog does not qualify for something as serious as that. I write about guys being assholes on a dating website. The fact that they’re an asshole is probably apparent to everyone around them.

It can’t be a newsworthy item. So, for example, if someone was HIV+ and lying to sexual partners about it and having unprotected sex with them, I would have a right to inform the public so that they could stay safe. However, I realize that what I write is not newsworthy because what I write is not really private facts, either.

But also, the information has to be deemed offensive to the average person. A guy being a dick on OKC is hardly that offensive. And really, no one would care about it that much besides the dude being an asshole.


However, I don’t think that the men who don’t want me to write about them are concerned about the legality of the issue. They’re really just trying to control my behavior. The men that tell me I can’t write about them say that I don’t have their permission, as if I need it or care about it. The idea that I could write something about them, even without using their names or identifying details is embarrassing to them and they feel the need to tell me that I can’t. And I’m supposed to listen to that bullshit.

And really, no one who tells me not to write about them is worried that I’m going to write something nice. No one tells me, “I don’t want the world to know what a wonderful person I am, so please don’t ever write about me”. It’s men who don’t want to be held accountable for their actions in any way, even on a tiny blog like mine. Seeing their behavior in print with my commentary next to it is too much for them.

Now I’m sure people are still worried that I might write about them. So here is a brief list of the ways to avoid ending up on my blog:

  1. Don’t be a total douchenozzle.
  2. See 1.
  3. Read 1 again.
  4. Do you understand what 1 means?
  5. Just read 1 another time to make sure it sinks in.

Seriously. Men on OKC that are polite and act appropriately do not end up on my blog. Men who misbehave do. It’s not a difficult pattern to figure out. So if you don’t want to end up with screencaps and my sarcasm up on the internet, then don’t be pushy, don’t be rude, don’t be ridiculous, and don’t be a douchebag. And come on, have a sense of humor about this. How many people end up immortalized on blogs? Laugh it off and learn from your mistake.

The night I called the cops

stock-footage-police-tape-flashing-lightbar-blue-red-lightsIn 2012 I called the police on my now ex-fiance. I didn’t tell anyone about the incident apart from my mother and his mother. Somewhere in my codependent brain I knew how bad this situation was and I couldn’t handle someone forcing me to face the reality of what happened. I haven’t been ready to talk about it for a long time, but I’m ready now. This is what happened on the night I called the cops.

For some background, my fiance had been getting into drugs. He was smoking pot, doing whippets with a whip-cream canister, and taking spice. He was not just doing this casually. It would take up all of his time when he wasn’t working. Around this part of our relationship he was either asleep, working or high. He had also passed out about the week before and hit his head on a metal box, giving himself a concussion. The doctors couldn’t find any medical reason for it, so it was probably a result of his drug use.

The night before I dialed 911 we had a fight. But it wasn’t much of a fight. I don’t remember how it started, but it was about two hours of him screaming, swearing and berating me. I ended up crying and trying to fight back, but he was on a rampage and I was no match. The next morning he awoke and told me that he had a dream that we had had a fight. I told him that no, that had actually happened. But he didn’t seem to believe me.

The night in question, it was already dark when I become bored. I had been downstairs on my laptop, watching a movie. Something that we did every single night. He was doing whippets on the couch and completely ignoring me. Finally, out of sheer boredom, I went upstairs and picked up some books and started to tidy some things. I’m not sure what part of this bothered him; the fact I left his vicinity or the noise or what, but he started shouting at me again.

After about a half hour, I had had enough. I decided to go back to my parents’ house, about an hour away. I started to get dressed and he started trying to stop me. I’m no lightweight and I certainly wasn’t back then, before my surgery, so we struggled with each other. He put his hands on me in order to restrain me and stop me from dressing. I managed to get dressed, growing every more concerned that he was becoming exceedingly irrational.

Once I was dressed, I tried to get upstairs. He was crying now and took my purse, with my keys in it, and my phone. I was now cut off. He told me that he would kill himself if I left him that night. By now I was terrified. I felt that it was only a matter of time before he hurt me. I decided since I couldn’t get into my car or call for help that I would go to the neighbors’ across the way and get to safety. I screamed as loud as I could, and trust me, I am very loud, and ran towards them. He caught up with me and tackled me to the ground. I continued to scream as much as I could.

Eventually, the neighbor, Shawn, came out to see what was going on. But it was clear he had no interest in helping me. I asked him to call 911 and he refused. I told him that I no longer had my purse or my keys or my phone, and my fiance, in an effort to look like what was going on, wasn’t going on, gave me my phone back. I called the police. While I waited for the cops to come, my fiance spoke to Shawn and told him that I was bipolar. Shawn talked to his wife over the phone and told her that I was just upset.

Finally, the police arrived. And made it quite clear that they didn’t believe me. They separated us, keeping me outside while they took my fiance inside. The cop asked me what happened and I told him through tears what gone on. I omitted anything about his drug use. I knew he had all kinds of drugs and paraphernalia around the house, but I didn’t want to get him in trouble, so I just left that out. I had no marks or bruises on me and the cops acted as if they had no concern for me whatsoever. Inside the house, my fiance had completely regained his composure and told the police that I was bipolar and having an episode. Like a master manipulator, he got the cops on his side.

When the officer who talked to him came out to talk to me he mentioned that I was bipolar, as if that had any relevance to what had had happened. In the end, it was agreed that my fiance would leave for the night. He told them that he was concerned about me driving home in the state I was in, so he would do the noble thing and sleep at work. He left and the cops left and now that I was alone, I called my mom and his mom to explain to them what happened.

After I got off the phone with them, I went back upstairs to try to get some sleep. My fiance then called me. He berated me for overreacting and told me that he wasn’t going to sleep at the plant. He was stopping by McDonald’s and then going to come home. At this point, everyone had acted like I was blowing things out of proportion and I was in no danger whatsoever and I was so upset that I just agreed. Because what had happened clearly wasn’t a real issue, was it?

He got his McDonald’s and came home. That night we slept in the same bed together. I wrapped an arm around him to snuggle up, all still concerned that he was indeed going to hurt me. I had no more fight left in me at that point. I just wanted the night to be over.

Over the next few months, my fiance made it very clear that I had been the person in the wrong that night. He told me that he had a hard time trusting me now because I called the police. He told me that I had never been in any kind of danger and I was silly for thinking that I was. During a couples therapy session he went on about my problem and inability to cope with my illness until I was in tears, telling him and the therapist that I was genuinely in fear for my life.

Of all the things I put up with in our relationship, I have the most trouble forgiving myself for this. I knew something was wrong. I knew I was in trouble. I still couldn’t leave. Somehow what happened to me that night seemed better than being alone and I’m not even entirely sure why.

But this incident did show me that if you ever have to call the cops on a loved one because you are afraid for your safety, you need to leave. There is no excuse for what he did or how he acted afterward. That night was one of the most terrifying nights of my life and the people who should have been there to help me only reinforced his abuse. There’s no logical way I can explain why I stayed after this. All I can say is that I learned from it.

There’s always enough time to be secure

b12Women and men that dated online were polled about their fears and expectations regarding meeting someone that they got to know through the dating sites. Men’s worst fear was that their date would be fat. Women’s worst fear was that her date would murder her.

The difference is staggering. Women are concerned for their safety. Men just hope that their date is hot. But why would women be worried that a man would do them harm? Why would that not only be a concern, but be a primary concern?

The answer is that since they are small, most girls are told that they are victims. They are small, they are defenseless, and they are the chosen victims of men. Men are perpetrators of crime. They are violent, unpredictable, and savage.

Not only that, but we should expect them to assault and attack. A girl walks home with a man she doesn’t know well and he assaults her. It was her fault. She never should have done that. A girl gets date raped. She should have known better than to drink around a bunch of guys. Men are so naturally and instinctively brutal that we should expect them to rape and murder us if we so much as give them an decent opportunity.

This culture of paranoia is not only bad for women, it’s bad for men and society in general. No one should miss out on life because they worry that someone will murder them. But when the violence becomes gendered, the problem compounds. The sad reality of violence becomes something that happens to women as a result of unrestrained men. It damages how both sexes think about themselves and each other.

I regularly read the Dear Prudence column on Slate. One day, her top letter was about a mother whose 13-year-old daughter had gone to a sleepover at a friend’s house and had been awoke in the middle of the night by a man tickling her. The awkward situation wasn’t resolved as the friend’s parents claimed that neither the father nor the older brother had done anything of the sort and suggested that the little girl had been dreaming.

In the comments, one man posted that he would never allow his daughter to sleep over a friend’s house if any male was going to be present in the house at all. Some others rushed to agree with him. But the message here is that all men are dangerous and potential predators while women are safe and would never harm a child. Neither conjecture is true. Both contain stereotypes for each gender and both can lead to misunderstandings

There’s no simple way to solve this problem, but the way we talk about safety needs to change. Women do not need to be indoctrinated into a culture of fear where men need to be seen as dangerous and potentially violent. No one should live in fear from half of the world’s entire population.

Last Dance for Grace, Follow Up

mangum-300x225In Last Dance for Grace, Crystal Mangum talked about serving others, about healing and moving on with her life. How did she do in the 6 years since the book was published? In a word; badly.

Last Dance for Grace failed to set any best seller charts on fire and also failed to change people’s opinions of the accuser herself. Many people who commented on my original In Cold Blog articles posted that they were curious to see what was in the book, but hadn’t wanted to give her any money. Many thanked me for being so in depth about the text so they didn’t need to read the book themselves.

But that’s what I did it for. I wanted everyone to see what Ms. Mangum had to say without anyone forking over their money to a dangerous woman who should not have been out walking the streets. I read it so that you didn’t have to.

But anyway, the only notable things to happen to Crystal since the book came out was her extensive arrest record. In February 2010 she was charged with attempted first-degree murder, five counts of arson, assault and battery, communicating threats, three counts of misdemeanor child abuse, injury to personal property, identity theft and resisting a public officer.

She had gotten into a fight with her boyfriend, Milton Walker. She then threatened to stab him and threw a bunch of clothes into the bathtub and set it on fire, with her three children in the house. Mangum’s 9-year-old daughter had to call police.

In December she was arrested again for violating her visitation order with her children. In the end, she was convicted of three misdemeanors and the arson charge was dropped after the jury was not able to reach a decision on it. Crystal was sentenced to 88 days in jail, which she had already served while waiting for her trial.

But that was nothing compared to what was about to come. In April 2011, Crystal was arrested after stabbing her boyfriend, Reginald Daye, during a fight. When he later died in the hospital, she was charged with second-degree murder. After a lengthy trial Crystal was found guilt and sentenced to a minimum of 14 years in prison. Crystal is currently serving her time behind bars.

During her time there, she was featured on an episode of Wives with Knives. The show was unabashedly biased towards her and experts pleaded with the audience to believe her story of self-defense and having no choice but to murder the man she loved. Crystal acts very surprised that no one believed her claims about murdering Daye in order to defend herself.

But based on her past history of problems with the truth, her past record of violence, her past threats against romantic partners, it seems pretty clear that Crystal was not the innocent victim that she claims to be. After I completed this series of articles in 2008, I wondered how long it would be before Crystal would finally be locked up where she was no longer a danger to other people. It took 5 years and someone’s death to do it.

Vincent Clark is still around, wandering the internet and defending Crystal on random blogs. After the first article went up on In Cold Blog he commented and asked me to stop slandering Crystal. Which, being that my blogs were written, would have been libel, not slander, to begin with. He must have a Google alert set up to her name so he can go out and write to bloggers whenever they mention her.

But for all of the help that Clark claimed to have given Crystal, he and no one else in her support system, stopped her from doing what she did with Milton Walker, then stabbing Reginald Daye. While Crystal is clearly the victim of some kind of mental illness, she is not so helpless that she couldn’t have turned to someone, a friend, family member or a professional and gotten assistance before someone ended up dead.

This woman’s life story is a tragic tale of what happens when the mentally ill are ignored, feel option-less,  and left unprepared to face their lives and the world they find themselves in. If Crystal had had therapy, medication, treatment, who knows what she could have done. But no one saw what was readily apparent to me from reading her book; she had led a turbulent life and needed some kind of intervention to prevent things from getting worse than they already were.

It would take enormous change and an Herculean effort to turn Crystal’s life into anything other than a patchwork of illness and violence. While I’m not that optimistic that Crystal has the ability or the wherewithal to do so, there is still a sliver a hope. While anyone is still breathing, they can change, make as many amends as possible, and recognize their mistakes.