celebrities, law, true crime

Bill Cosby has been sprung from the joint…

Last night, I was startled by a headline about the man who was once called “America’s Dad”. Bill Cosby, who has spent the best part of the last three years in a Pennsylvania prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, was released from the joint on a technicality. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Cosby’s 2018 conviction for sexual assault, for which Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in a maximum security prison. As of September, Cosby would have served the minimum time of three years.

He’s out of the jug.

Cosby was released because of a “non-prosecution agreement” he had with a previous prosecutor who had decided not to prosecute Cosby for sexual assault. The agreement meant that Cosby should not have been charged. Although more than sixty women have come forward to allege that Cosby had also victimized them, the statute of limitations has passed, making any future prosecution unlikely. According to The New York Times:

In their 79-page opinion, the judges wrote that a previous prosecutor’s statement that Mr. Cosby would not face charges, which paved the way for Mr. Cosby to testify in a civil trial, meant that he should not have been charged in the case. It was a 6-to-1 ruling, with two of the judges in the majority dissenting on the remedy, which barred a retrial.

In 2005, Cosby was investigated following allegations from Andrea Constand that he had given her drugs and sexually assaulted her. Former Montgomery County district attorney, Bruce L. Castor, had stated in a press release, at the time, that he had found “insufficient evidence” to criminally prosecute Cosby. Ms. Constand then brought a civil suit against Cosby, which they settled in 2006. Cosby eventually paid Constand $3.38 million. In the course of that civil suit, Cosby made incriminating statements against himself, based on assurances by Castor that he would not be held criminally liable.

In December 2015, Bruce L. Castor’s successors reopened the criminal case against Cosby, just days before the 12 year statute of limitations would have expired. Over 60 women had come forward to accuse Cosby of sexually assaulting them– the case was gathering steam just as the #MeToo movement was heating up, which no doubt increased pressure for Cosby to be convicted.

Cosby had admitted during the 2006 civil suit that he had given “quaaludes to women he was pursuing for sex”. That evidence was used in the criminal case against him in 2015, but because he’d had that agreement with Castor, he never should have been charged. Consequently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that “…in light of these circumstances, the subsequent decision by successor D. A.s to prosecute Cosby violated Cosby’s due process rights.” 

Although I know a lot of people are disappointed that Cosby was released, personally, I don’t have much of a problem with it. Cosby is almost 84 years old, essentially blind, and extremely unlikely to repeat his crime. I doubt any women will be visiting him in an attempt to bolster their careers. I also doubt any women with sense would accept drinks or pills from Mr. Cosby. Any women that would do that should have their heads examined.

Cosby definitely should have been prosecuted years ago, but he wasn’t. And it does sound like his rights to due process were violated. Since I would hope for fairness and due process if I, or someone I love, was ever accused of a crime, I expect proper due process for other people. That includes people who are clearly guilty, which I believe wholeheartedly that Cosby is.

We should all remember that the fact that Cosby was released from prison on a technicality doesn’t make him any less culpable in his crimes against women. His reputation and career are now pretty much ruined. Hopefully, he’ll go home and live out his remaining years quietly with his faithful wife, Camille. Unfortunately, I don’t think Cosby will keep quiet. He’s always fancied himself someone with something to say, and I suspect being released from prison will embolden him. In fact, after being released, Cosby “called in to local Philadelphia radio station WDAS-FM, where he said the audience needed ‘clarity, they need guidance.'”

“Because this is not just a Black thing,” Cosby said. “This is for all the people who have been imprisoned wrongfully regardless of race, color, or creed. Because I met them in there. People who talked about what happened and what they did. And I know there are many liars out there.”

Camille Cosby, made some shameful comparisons of Cosby’s case to that of Emmett Till’s. Emmett Till was a black fourteen year old boy who was lynched in 1955 after being accused of “leering” at a white woman. Mrs. Cosby also blamed the media for “demonizing” Bill Cosby– although Cosby had no issues using the media to promote his long and successful career. It just doesn’t wash… but at least now that Cosby’s been released, some of the accusations of racism regarding his case might be put to rest.

As for Bruce L. Castor, he’s gone on to bigger things. This year, he served as a lawyer for Trump during his second impeachment trial. Castor says that he feels “exonerated” by the ruling allowing Cosby his freedom. According to The New York Times, Castor said:

“I was right back in 2005 and I’m right in 2021… I’m proud of our Supreme Court for having the courage to make an unpopular decision.”

Except Cosby actually admitted to drugging women he was pursuing for sex. Castor didn’t find sufficient evidence in 2005 to prosecute “America’s Dad”, but clearly Cosby was guilty. I don’t quite understand why Castor would congratulate himself for not finding evidence against Cosby in 2005, when it’s quite clear that Cosby had a long standing habit of sexually assaulting women and getting away with it.

I do think it’s good that Cosby went to prison. I’m sure that experience was very humiliating and educational for him, although upon his release from the joint, Cosby is claiming that a lot of people who have been imprisoned are innocent and have been victimized by “liars”. That may be true. There may be people in prison who don’t belong there. However, I don’t believe Cosby is among the innocent people who were falsely imprisoned. He openly admitted to drugging women he was pursuing for sex. Cosby’s release is strictly because court officials screwed up– not because someone “lied”.

I think Andrea Constand should be commended for bravely coming forward and doing her part to stop Cosby from hurting other women. If Cosby were younger and still posed a serious threat to women, I might be much more outraged that he’s been released from prison. But I honestly don’t think he will continue his habit of drugging and raping women. As a general rule, I think prison should be for people who are violent and pose a threat to others. That’s just my personal opinion.

I know a lot of people think Cosby should continue to rot in prison to serve as an “example” to others. But in my experience, people who are narcissistic criminals aren’t influenced by what happens to others. They think they’re above it, and they don’t ever expect to get caught. Cosby got away with his crimes for years. Why shouldn’t he have believed that he’d continue to get away with what he was doing? He didn’t learn from watching O.J. Simpson go to prison, did he? I notice we *finally* don’t hear much from O.J. anymore.

And look at Trump. Trump openly admitted to assaulting women and countless women have accused him of assaulting them, including a teenaged girl. Yet he was the president, and many people still want him to lead the country, despite his dismal record and obviously terrible leadership. Unfortunately, Americans are often hesitant to punish powerful, charismatic men. The proof of that is in the Jello Pudding Pop…

Anyway… while I empathize with everyone who is disappointed that Cosby is out of prison now, I don’t see how being outraged about this will make things better. What’s done is done. Cosby can’t be prosecuted again for this crime. That’s a feature of our legal system. So my being outraged about Cosby’s release will do nothing more than raise my blood pressure. Given the state of the world today, and the rising numbers of people getting sick with new variants of COVID-19, I figure I have bigger fish to fry. So since I can’t do anything about this, I wish Mr. Cosby luck, and I hope he stays out of trouble. He would do well to STFU and be grateful, too… maybe show some humility. I don’t think he will, though. His kind never does.

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book reviews, mental health

A belated review of The Hospital: How I survived the secret child experiments at Aston Hall…

Apologies in advance for this book review. I purchased The Hospital: How I survived the secret child experiments at Aston Hall in 2017 and read it sometime in the last couple of years. I was astonished by this book about Barbara O’Hare and ghost written by Veronica Clark. But somehow, I never got around to writing a review. I can’t believe it, actually, because this book was one that was hard to put down. I remember gliding through it with ease, which is more than I can say for a lot of the books I’ve been reading lately.

The Hospital is not a good book because it’s a happy story, although I do think it has kind of a happy ending, in that the person it’s written about managed to survive her long and arduous ordeal at Aston Hall in England. Aston Hall, thankfully, is no longer. However, this story takes place in the not to distant past, as O’Hare was a patient in the Laburnum Ward at the now defunct hospital for about eight months in the early 1970s.

From the outside, pictures of Aston Hall make the hospital look like a respectable place– solidly brick with big, white framed windows. And yet, what went on behind those imposing brick walls was truly horrifying. The hospital was led by Dr. Kenneth Milner, who, according to some of his former charges, was horrifically abusive and performed sick experiments on children. O’Hare’s account alleges that she was frequently drugged and abused by the staff at Aston Hall.

Although Aston Hall was a psychiatric facility, Barbara O’Hare was there, basically because she was abandoned by her family– first by her mother when she was a baby, and then by her father, who was a drunk and a “tinker”. Barbara’s father used to denigrate her all the time, calling her a “tinker’s daughter”. He couldn’t look after her, or her brother, Stephen, who was born to one of Barbara’s father’s many girlfriends. Barbara’s father eventually placed his daughter in foster care, where the maltreatment got even worse.

Barbara’s first foster mom was abusive and cruel, so Barbara ran away and was later put in a children’s home. She ran away from the children’s home, on a quest to find her long, lost mother, who had left her when she was eleven months old. Deemed a “difficult” child, Barbara was then put in The Cedars, which was a home for challenging or troubled foster children. While she was at The Cedars, she was visited by Dr. Kenneth Milner, who wore tweed, stroked Barbara’s hands, and asked her if she would like to come to the hospital. He had treated her with sympathy, and led her to believe that if she went into the hospital, she would be taken care of and would get “better”. That’s how, at age 12, Barbara became a pediatric mental patient at the hands of an abusive mad man.

I don’t know how or why I didn’t write about this book when I first read it (edited to add: I have since found my original review, written in January 2017– this review is not a repost, though). I do remember being blown away by Barbara O’Hare’s horrific story, which is well handled by ghost writer, Veronica Clark. I was born in 1972, which I know was a long time ago… but it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago. It’s crazy to think that someone my sister’s age was locked in a mental hospital in England, being tortured by people who were supposed to be qualified to provide medical care. Barbara had been lured into cooperating with Dr. Milner with the prospect of being a patient. She had visions of wearing slippers and comfortable nightgowns, being cosseted by nurses and comforted by a kindly physician instead of being locked up in the glorified children’s jail that was The Cedars. Instead, what she experienced at Aston Hall turned out to be way worse than the remand center.

While Barbara was at Aston Hall, she was allowed visits with her father. She tried to tell him about the abuses that were going on there, some of which were of a sexual nature. Unfortunately, Barbara’s father didn’t believe her, so the abuse continued until one day, while she was at home on a furlough, Barbara told her father’s girlfriend about what had been happening to her. The girlfriend managed to convince Barbara’s dad not to send her back to Aston Hall. But the damage was done, and Barbara was left with many lingering psychological effects of the terrifying and extreme child abuse delivered by supposed caregivers.  Barbara later went to a Catholic home, where she was subjected to more abuse, although none as bad as what she endured at Aston Hall.

Aston Hall closed in 2004, having been used as a hospital since 1926. Many people, besides Barbara O’Hare, have come forward to speak about the horrific abuses that went on in the facility at the hands of Dr. Milner, who died in 1975. It’s been alleged that Milner used barbaric methods to study his subjects, including stripping them naked, restraining them with bandages or strait jackets, and drugging them with sodium amytal, sometimes known as “truth serum”, a drug that was frequently used in World War II.  It had a sedating effect, which was augmented by Milner’s use of ether.  Aside from being drugged, Barbara was also sexually abused.

While The Hospital sounds like a lurid account, and it kind of is, the story is true and absolutely horrifying. The victims who have come forward to complain about their “treatment” at Aston Hall have received compensation, and I’m sure the money is useful to them. But I wonder if any amount of money is enough to compensate for the mental, physical, sexual, and emotional abuses these children faced in the name of “mental health” treatment. That kind of abuse doesn’t just affect people who have endured it; I’m sure that people close to Barbara O’Hare have also suffered tremendously.

I would recommend The Hospital to anyone who is curious about this story. I don’t know why it took me so long to write about it. All I can think is that I was totally shocked by this account and blown away that it was going on in the 60s and 70s. It sounds like a story from the Dark Ages. If you do decide to read this book, be prepared to be triggered. It’s not an easy story to handle, especially if you have abuse issues of your own.

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Duggars, true crime

Josh Duggar is getting out of jail today…

I woke up this morning to the news that Josh Duggar will be temporarily released from jail today. Six days ago, Josh turned himself in, his wife Anna at his side, having been busted on federal charges for two counts of receiving and possessing images depicting child sexual abuse. Before I went to bed last night, I read an article that provided more details about Josh’s case. Federal agents found about 200 images on Josh’s computer, which was heavily rigged to deceive his wife, Anna. All of the images involved very young female children, some of whom were toddler aged. Despite all of that talk about the Duggars monitoring Internet usage and avoiding “wordly” things like pop music and television, Josh has developed some very sick obsessions that he’s accessed online. And despite his training at the School of the Dining Room Table, Josh is surprisingly tech savvy. He knows how to go to the dark, sleazy underworld on the Internet to satisfy his sick obsessions and perversions.

Frankly, as much as I dislike prison as a punishment, I think prison is exactly where Josh belongs. Prison should be reserved for people who are dangerous, and I think Josh has proven that he is VERY dangerous, especially to young children, the most vulnerable people in society.

Ugh… I can’t believe I watched the whole thing… Josh is truly disgusting.

According to a live stream video put out by Duggar expert, Katie Joy, who runs the Without a Crystal Ball YouTube channel, Josh’s computer had software on it called Covenant Eyes, which was supposed to send Anna information about the sites Josh was viewing on the Internet. But Josh also had his machine rigged with a TOR browser and a Linux system that allowed him to access the dark web, where there were no “eyes” on him. There, he was engaged in some very dark and shady activities that are about as far away from Christlike as a person can get.

People magazine reports that Josh will be released to “close family friends”, Lacount and Maria Reber. The Rebers say they don’t know Josh very well, but they are close to Josh’s parents, Jim Boob and Michelle, whom they know through church. The couple felt they should help the Duggars, even though Maria Reber says she’s only familiar with the charges against Josh and doesn’t know the details. Federal probation officer, Diem Nguyen, testified that Maria Reber had expressed concern that Josh would be released into her home, since her husband works full-time and she would be left for several hours alone with Josh during the daytime. For that reason, among others, Nguyen recommended against letting Josh out of jail.

The Rebers have a 22 year old daughter who gives piano lessons, but she will have to find another place to deliver her lessons. The Rebers also own firearms– big surprise– but no firearm safe. The judge did indicate that she wanted the weapons out the the Rebers’ home, since it would obviously not be a good thing if Josh decided to play with them while facing decades in prison.

Josh will have to be supervised 24/7. He’s not going to be allowed Internet access, must surrender his cell phone, and will be wearing a GPS monitor. Josh is not allowed to be around any children who aren’t his– and if he does see his own children, with whom he will be allowed unlimited contact, it can only be in the presence of his wife, Anna. He cannot see his minor brothers and sisters or his nieces or nephews.

I can’t help but remember Mark Salling, an actor who played Noah Puckerman on Glee. Salling was facing a prison sentence because, like Josh Duggar, he was in possession of images depicting child sexual abuse and had also been accused of sexual assault against an ex girlfriend, whom he sued for defamation of character. Salling was eventually forced to settle with his ex girlfriend, whom he was ordered to pay $2.7 million. When he was arrested in 2015, Salling was found to be in possession of over 50,000 illegal images. In 2017, Salling pleaded guilty to the charges and probably would have been sentenced to 4 to 7 years in prison. He also would have had to go to a treatment program and register as a sex offender. However, Salling never got sentenced because on January 30, 2018, Salling committed suicide by hanging himself.

While Josh Duggar is definitely not Mark Salling, there is a concern that he might try to commit suicide if he has access to weapons or any other means. Personally, I doubt Josh would ever try to commit suicide, mainly because I think he’s probably a sociopath. I suspect he thinks he will beat these charges, even though the evidence is extremely compelling and federal charges are notoriously difficult to refute. According to Katie Joy, who reportedly has many contacts within the Duggar family, Josh’s attitude during the bail hearing was surprisingly lighthearted. And the fact that he used the same easily guessed password for his regular accounts, such as banking, as he did for his porn sites, tells me that he’s unbelievably arrogant and never thought he’d be caught. And of course, he’s also a Christian, and a lot of Christians think they’re blessed and God is smiling on them… especially if they’re famous and wealthy, like Boob is.

I don’t know what life was actually like for Josh when he was growing up, but one thing I have observed is that Josh has always had access to his parents and their vast resources, even though his sex pest proclivities have caused significant issues for the Duggar empire. It’s because of Josh’s molestation scandal that 19 Kids and Counting was scandalized and canceled. Of course, that show was really just rebranded into one about the adult kids as Jim Boob continued to collect all the money on behalf of the adults… and I did notice, before I quit watching several years ago, that Boob and Michelle were becoming more and more visible on camera. But the point is, Josh hasn’t been shunned or excluded from the family circle.

Contrast that to what’s happened to his sister and one of his victims, Jill Duggar Dillard. Jill reportedly isn’t allowed to visit her family unless she has permission from Boob. She basically had to sue her father to get paid for her time on Counting On, and what she was paid basically amounted to minimum wage. When her sister (and fellow Josh victim), Jessa, went into labor with her latest baby, Ivy Jane, Jill had to ask permission to be able to go onto Boob’s property to help Jessa give birth. Jill and her husband, Derick, are definitely set apart from the family. Granted, I think part of it has been their (wise) choice– and they are now in charge of their own lives, which is how it should be. But the point is, Josh is definitely someone with deep and troubling issues. He’s been enabled, while his much healthier and less threatening sister, Jill, has been ostracized. And while Boob may find Jill a threat because she’s not living life according to Boob’s standards for women, it seems to me that if you really have the truth, it can’t be threatened because someone decides to wear pants, get a piercing, or seek therapy. If the Duggars had sought real help for Josh, back when he was a teenager, perhaps they would not be in the horrifying situation they’re in at this time.

I don’t understand the thinking of a lot of devout Christians, anyway. Or, at least the ones who profess to be Christians, yet vote for vile, disgusting, self-serving cretins like Donald Trump and revile people like Joe Biden. I’m not naive when it comes to politics. I know both of our major political parties in the United States are equally bad. But not all people are created equally in terms of their characters. For me, it’s pretty obvious that Donald Trump is a selfish, abusive, criminal. Any man who brazenly speaks about other people the way he does, with no shame or compunction whatsoever, is not someone who ever should have been allowed to lead– particularly the most powerful nation on the planet. By contrast, I see Joe Biden making decisions that clearly indicate that he cares about someone other than himself. It seems to me that Republicans who purport to be Christians are basically full of shit, and are only concerned with money and the appearance of being “blessed”, as well as keeping women under control. And the more I hear about the Duggars and the type of people who are their “friends”, the more I think that segment of society is corrupt and evil, despite all of their talk about emulating Jesus and worshiping God.

Well… we’ll see how well all of this works out for Josh and his family. I suspect that he may wind up back in the clink before too long. Even if he’s got the best intentions of being a model defendant, I suspect he’ll screw up before long. He can’t help himself, and he’s obviously very manipulative, dishonest, and sneaky. I really hope Anna wises up and finds herself a divorce attorney soon, before something truly tragic and irreversible happens. I know she was raised impoverished, in a cult. I know it seems like it would be impossible for her to break free of the Duggar trap. But I also know that there are many people who would help her in a heartbeat, if she would just reach out and ask.

Now to move on to cheerier subjects.

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movies, politics, religion

Colonia– how a 2015 movie helped me understand a Sting song from 1987.

Yesterday, after writing my second and mostly original rant, I decided to watch a movie. iTunes has a bunch of them on sale, so I often look to see what I can get cheaply. A lot of times, I get films I’ve already seen a bunch of times– guilty pleasures that never get old. Every once in awhile, I find a movie I haven’t heard of, but I’m intrigued by the description. Colonia, a 2015 film that was mostly made by Germans, Brits, Frenchies, and Luxembourgers, was one of those films I hadn’t heard of, but got sucked into because of the description. Plus, it only cost me $4.99 to buy it, although at this writing, someone has uploaded the whole film to YouTube.

A trailer for the film, Colonia.

The plot

It’s 1973, and Lena (Emma Watson), a German flight attendant for Lufthansa, and her German boyfriend, Daniel (Daniel Brühl), are in Chile at a time of political unrest. The Chilean president, socialist Salvador Allende, has been forced out of power due to a military coup. Allende would die on September 11, 1973, as the government was taken over by General Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet would seize power from civilians, suspend the constitution, and impose martial law.

Daniel supports former President Allende and has given speeches to Chileans. Pinochet’s secret police, Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA), rounds up people who are loyal to the deposed president. Daniel gets abducted by DINA. Lena decides to track him down, eventually finding out that he is being held by a secret organization called Colonia Dignidad, which turns out to be a religious cult run by a German lay preacher named Paul Schäfer (played by the late Michael Nyqvist). Against the advice of wiser people, who warn her that if she joined the cult, she will not be able to escape it, Lena decides to join Colonia Dignidad in an attempt to find her boyfriend.

The UK Trailer for Colonia.

Lena does find Daniel, who has been tortured with electric shocks and acts as if he’s disabled in order to escape scrutiny. But she’s abused by the leaders of the cult, to include a vile old woman named Gisela (Richenda Carey) who calls the women “cunts” and forces them to work without food or water. The couple befriend a nurse named Ursel, who is pregnant. They try to escape the compound, which is a heavily guarded fortress. Ursel is killed, but Daniel and Lena manage to get to the West German embassy, where they are betrayed. However, against the odds, they manage to leave the country with incriminating photographs of Colonia Dignidad, as the Lufthansa pilot takes off without official clearance from flight controllers, and spirits the couple back to Germany.

Paul Schäfer

Adding to this film’s intrigue is the story of Paul Schäfer. If you read this blog regularly, you might know that I find religious cults fascinating. I think a lot of them are just plain evil. Paul Schäfer was born in Bonn in 1921. Due to an accident with a fork, he lost his right eye. He later told people that he lost his eye due to a war injury during World War II; as Schäfer did serve as a medic in a German hospital in occupied France. Later, he was influenced by the American Baptist preacher, William M. Branham, who also influenced Jim Jones. Branham advocated a strict adherence to the Bible, which Schäfer also demanded of his followers.

Schäfer became a lay preacher and opened a children’s home in Siegburg, but was later run out of Germany because he was accused of molesting two boys in his care. Schäfer subsequently relocated his ministry to the Middle East, where he met the Chilean ambassador to Germany, who invited him to Chile. By 1961, Schäfer had moved to Chile, where his cult took root. The Chilean president at the time, Jorge Alessandri, granted him permission to launch the “Dignidad Beneficent Society” on a farm outside of Parral, in southern Chile. The society, which was founded on Baptist principles and anti-communism, eventually turned into Colonia Dignidad– the place where Daniel and Lena ended up in the film, Colonia.

The character, Paul Schäfer, appears just after Daniel has been tortured with electric shocks. Daniel is shown strapped to a metal bed frame, naked except for his underwear. As Daniel recovers from being beaten and repeatedly shocked, Schäfer shows up and comforts him, hugging him and speaking soothingly to him. As a viewer, I am led to believe this is how the cult leader gets Daniel into the compound, where he and the rest of the followers are forced to work. Males and females are kept apart, and children are separated. Although it’s not explicitly shown in the film, it’s implied that Schäfer molests boys. Indeed, the real Paul Schäfer was found to have molested hundreds of boys over his forty years leading the cult. But Schäfer colluded with the Pinochet regime, arranging to smuggle in weapons from Germany, since shipments bound for his ministry were never inspected by customs because they were for a “charity”.

Schäfer also conducted torture and took care of executions for the Pinochet regime, as he also ran a hospital. After a hunting accident, which required Schäfer to undergo medical care at a hospital in Santiago for months, Schäfer came back to his fortress and forbade all festivities. In 1966, a teenager named Wolfgang Kneese managed to escape the fortress and spoke to the press. Schäfer got another teenager, name of Hartmut Hopp, to accuse Kneese of sexual misconduct. Hopp was rewarded by Schäfer, who allowed him to study medicine. Hopp served as a physician in the hospital; he also prescribed sedatives for Schäfer, who would use them to subdue his victims, boys he raped who were sent to his colony.

In real life, Schäfer duped locals into following him until he finally lost favor when Pinochet stepped down in 1990. The next leader, Patricio Aylwin, stripped Schäfer’s ministry of its charity status and cut off funding for Schäfer’s hospital. In 1997, Schäfer disappeared, as he was up on child sexual abuse charges. He was tried in absentia in 2004, and found guilty. Schäfer was also wanted in Germany and France, having also been accused of child abuse in both countries. In March 2005, Schäfer was finally found hiding out in a townhouse in a gated community about 25 miles from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was arrested and sent back to Chile. In 2006, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually abusing 25 children. He was also fined 770 million pesos, which was to have been distributed to his victims. He died on April 24, 2010 at age 88 of heart failure.

Lena gets verbally abused.

I wish Colonia had gone more into detail about Paul Schäfer. In fact, I think they should make a movie about him, to show how a charismatic man who preaches about Christianity can turn out to be pure evil. In the film, Schäfer is explicitly shown abusing women– forcing them to listen to a boy soprano sing “Ave Maria” in front of a room full of angry men. Schäfer would make a woman sit alone in front of the men, then viciously debase her in front of the men, who would grow more hostile until they were driven to attack her. He would sniff her, calling her a harlot and a slut. He forced the women to bind their breasts. The child abuse was sort of alluded to, but in the film he appears to have been a misogynist, more than anything else.

My thoughts

Before yesterday, I knew nothing at all about Chilean politics. In fact, the only thing I knew about Augusto Pinochet was that his name is in an old song by Sting. His song, “They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo)”, was on the 1987 album, Nothing Like the Sun, which was released when I was fifteen years old and in the tenth grade. I didn’t know anything about American politics in 1987, let alone what was going on in Chile. But now that I’ve seen Colonia and was curious enough to learn more about the film, that song makes a lot more sense.

Gee… now I know what this song is about.

They Dance Alone by Sting

Why are there women here dancing on their own?
Why is there this sadness in their eyes?
Why are the soldiers here
Their faces fixed like stone?
I can’t see what it is that they despise

They’re dancing with the missing
They’re dancing with the dead
They dance with the invisible ones
Their anguish is unsaid
They’re dancing with their fathers
They’re dancing with their sons
They’re dancing with their husbands
They dance alone They dance alone

It’s the only form of protest they’re allowed
I’ve seen their silent faces scream so loud
If they were to speak these words they’d go missing too
Another woman on a torture table what else can they do
They’re dancing with the missing
They’re dancing with the dead
They dance with the invisible ones
Their anguish is unsaid
They’re dancing with their fathers
They’re dancing with their sons
They’re dancing with their husbands
They dance alone They dance alone

One day we’ll dance on their graves
One day we’ll sing our freedom
One day we’ll laugh in our joy
And we’ll dance
One day we’ll dance on their graves
One day we’ll sing our freedom
One day we’ll laugh in our joy
And we’ll dance

Ellas danzan con los desaparecidos
Ellas danzan con los muertos
Ellas danzan con amores invisibles
Ellas danzan con silenciosa angustia
Danzan con sus padres
Danzan con sus hijos
Danzan con sus esposos
Ellas danzan solas
Danzan solas

Hey Mr. Pinochet
You’ve sown a bitter crop
It’s foreign money that supports you
One day the money’s going to stop
No wages for your torturers
No budget for your guns
Can you think of your own mother
Dancing with her invisible son
They’re dancing with the missing
They’re dancing with the dead
They dance with the invisible ones
Their anguish is unsaid
They’re dancing with their fathers
They’re dancing with their sons
They’re dancing with their husbands
They dance alone
They dance alone

Turns out Sting was right. Mr. Pinochet left power just a few years after this song was released.

But anyway… while I think Colonia could have been a better film, and it was really just based on true events, it did lead me to learn more about Chilean politics. And now, I finally have more of an understanding of what “They Dance Alone” is about. I may or may not be moved to learn more about this subject, which isn’t a bad accomplishment for a film. A lot of people gave Colonia bad reviews, but I think if a movie inspires someone to do research, it’s done something pretty amazing. So, for that reason, I can’t pan it. I do think it’s kind of misleading, though, and I think it would have been a better story if the focus had been more on Schäfer, rather than Daniel and Lena. Also, bear in mind that a lot of the movie was filmed in Europe, with only a few scenes filmed in Argentina.

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rock stars, true crime

R. Kelly… the making of a monster.

The first part of today’s post is reposted from my original Blogspot post from January 2019, when I binge watched Surviving R. Kelly, which aired on Lifetime at the time. Two years ago, Bill was away on business and I found myself watching too much TV. Last night, I finally binge watched the second part of the series, which aired in early 2020. I’m reposting my thoughts about the first part, because I think it’s relevant to the rest of my thoughts about this case. The featured photo is a screen grab from Dave Chappelle’s parody about R. Kelly’s abuse.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks watching more television than usual.  Yesterday, I binge watched Surviving R. Kelly which recently aired on Lifetime.  Although I am a musical person, I never paid a whole lot of attention to R. Kelly.  The only thing I remember seeing about him was a Mad TV parody song and a South Park episode.  I don’t think I’ve ever even seen Dave Chappelle’s take on his outrageous behavior toward young black women and girls.  Oh, and of course I’ve heard some of his music.  There is no denying the man is musically gifted.  Unfortunately, he’s also a predator.

R. Kelly as depicted on MadTV.

It was interesting watching that series, especially since I’ve also been watching shows about cults.  I’ve also started reading a book about a woman who was raised in the Children of God cult, which I blogged about last week.  Consequently, I now have cults on the brain.  I even dreamt about them this morning. 

After hearing some of the stories of the people who have been caught up in these restrictive groups, I’m beginning to think most of my problems are really small.  Imagine, being so warped in your thinking that you allow someone like R. Kelly to lock you in a bedroom and force you to use a bucket for a toilet.  Imagine letting someone like him do the most demeaning things as he calls you vile names and forces you to debase yourself.  The women were all young, beautiful, and talented, and most of them hoped he could help them launch their own careers.  I suppose on one level, they might have been trying to take advantage of a man with power that they wanted to share.  But then R. Kelly used his gifts to harm them.

People made a lot of jokes about R. Kelly back in the day… it was no laughing matter.

I think, aside from the stories I heard from the victims themselves, I was most affected by what their families were saying.  I can’t imagine the anguish they felt, especially the ones whose daughters basically disappeared.  I remember one mother saying that when a child has died, you know what’s happened to them and you know they won’t be back.  It’s much worse when a child gets involved in a “cult” that separates them from their families.  You don’t know what has happened to them, where they are, or if they’ll be back someday. 

In a way, I think Bill can relate to that thought.  He lost contact with his daughters for years.  They wouldn’t speak to him, and their mother basically prevented him from having anything to do with them at all.  It’s only been within the past couple of years that he’s been able to reconnect with one of his daughters.  So much of what I heard R. Kelly’s victims say, Bill has heard from his younger daughter.  These types of abusers convince their victims that no one will help them and no one loves them, at least not the way the abuser does.  It really does a number on a person’s psyche.

I was angry with my husband’s daughters for years, mainly because they were hateful.  In the back of my mind, I knew they were being victimized the same way Bill was.  But it still made me angry, because I felt like they knew better.  But honestly, I don’t know.  I think being around abusers can really fuck up a person’s mindset.  It’s frustrating for people like me, who don’t have a loving relationship with the victims.  It must be soul crushing for a parent.  I know it was for Bill.  It’s much worse when there’s sex involved.  For R. Kelly’s victims, it was all about sex, control, and power.

I listened to the mothers of R. Kelly’s victims, and a couple of the fathers, too.  Some of the family members had the distinct displeasure of seeing their loved ones engaged in videotaped sex acts with the singer, which later ended up as porn videos for sale to the masses.  I can’t even imagine how devastating that must have been on so many levels.  Perhaps today, I should watch something a little lighter, like 80s era sitcoms.

In any case, Bill’s weird schedule is done for this week.  We’re leaving town tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to it, because I need a change of scenery and a chance to have some fun.  Hopefully, we’ll have decent weather.  Next week, he’ll be TDY in Germany.  The week after that, TDY in the USA.  Then, it should be smooth sailing for the next couple of months. (ETA: in 2021– boy do I miss being this carefree… but I sure hate the long TDYs)

And now, my thoughts in 2021, having seen the second part of this series…

Yesterday, as I recovered from my traumatic morning and irritating visit to the vet’s office, I came home and watched the second half of Surviving R. Kelly, which aired on Lifetime about a year ago. In that series, survivors and R. Kelly’s relatives talked about what went wrong with R. Kelly to cause him to hate women so much.

R. Kelly grew up in a house full of women. From the age of eight until he was about fourteen, Kelly was sexually abused by an older female relative. He was also sexually abused by male relatives. He never said anything about the abuse, but it obviously affected him. As he developed his obvious musical gifts, writing beautiful, inspirational hit songs like “You Are Not Alone”, which Michael Jackson made a hit, and “I Believe I Can Fly”, which is a staple at graduations, a hatred was simmering inside of him.

As I listened to the stories told by R. Kelly’s victims, young women who had been asked to meet him or work with him and were lured into his “sex cult”, I was reminded of so many other stories I’ve heard. In my post from 2019, I mentioned my husband’s experience with his ex wife. Bill has told me many times that he believes his ex wife hates men. That hatred comes from years of abuse at the hands of people who were supposed to protect and nurture her.

This morning, I reposted several book reviews about the Josef Fritzl case. Fritzl, as some may remember, is an Austrian man who kidnapped his own daughter and kept her underground in a dungeon for 24 years. He repeatedly raped and impregnated her. But before Fritzl was a monster, he was also an abused child. He was raised by a woman who beat him. The beatings only stopped when he finally got big enough to fight back. But Fritzl’s mother was also an abuse victim. According to one of those books I read and reviewed, Fritzl’s mother spent time in a concentration camp for refusing to house German officials. She had been cold and abusive before she went to the camp, but was much worse when she came home.

It’s no secret that child abuse, particularly sexual abuse, is devastating and damaging on many levels. Hearing so many stories of people who turned out to be manipulative, cruel, and predatory, I notice how many of them turned into legitimate monsters when they became adults. It’s like they revisit the horrors of their childhood on anyone they can. R. Kelly’s victims were mostly women who worshiped him for his talent and celebrity. He started with them the way many toxic people do… luring them with promises of help with their careers, superficial charm, and “love” that they weren’t getting at home.

Jerhonda, one of the women whose story I listened to yesterday described her mother as “uncaring”. She said her mom literally wasn’t interested in where she was or what she was doing. I was astonished by her story. She is a beautiful young woman, talented and intelligent, who had no adults in her life who cared about what happened to her. She fell into R. Kelly’s clutches. He was very nice to her at first, and seemed to care about her. It was like a drug, that regard that her mother had denied her. Once he had her trust, he her where he wanted her. That’s when Kelly changed and became an abusive monster.

Dave Chappelle makes fun of R. Kelly… This is much less funny now that I’ve heard from the women who were his victims.

Story after story was the same… and when one of the women was finally brave enough to say something to authorities, they didn’t believe her. So many of those women wound up suing R. Kelly and getting settlements that required them to stay silent. One woman named Lanita Carter, 24 years old and the mother of three when she met Kelly, was hired to braid his hair. He barely paid her for her work, but because she was associated with him, she picked up more clients. She fell prey to him, too… and finally had enough when he ejaculated on her face. He asked her for a “head massage”. She said she didn’t give massages, and he clarified that he was looking for her to massage his other “head”. He demanded oral sex and spat on her repeatedly.

Carter woke with her eyelashes sticking together with Kelly’s semen. One would think this egregious assault– especially one that could have significant health consequences would be enough to garner interest from the police. Imagine someone having so little respect for another human being that they’d do something as horrible as what Kelly did to Carter. She wasn’t the only one who received that extreme level of disrespect, either. R. Kelly was notorious for debasing his women with his body fluids. I can only guess it comes from lingering hatred of someone who abused him when he was a powerless child.

But when Lanita told the police about what R. Kelly did, they interrogated her. And when they went into R. Kelly’s home, they demanded that she give them information about the place that only someone who had been there would know. Carter was able to give them the information. They gathered evidence… but Kelly still wound up being sued instead of incarcerated for what he did. And when Carter spoke to the Chicago based personal injury lawyer who arranged settlements with Kelly, she wasn’t believed because– get this– she was TOO OLD! Carter eventually got two settlements from Kelly– one for $650,000 and the other for $100,000, which Carter got because Kelly wrote a song about having sex with the woman who braided his hair. Kelly was allowed to maintain the status quo, victimizing more girls and young women. In her interview, Lanita Carter says that the money didn’t heal the damage done to her.

I was also moved by listening to the women talk about how Black people, particularly women, are discouraged from reporting crimes to the police. This is because Black people are typically “over-policed” in the United States, and calling the police is seen as a betrayal of the community. So predators like R. Kelly, who are already surrounded by “yes people” due to their talent, money, charisma and fame, continue to get away with abusing other people unabated.

R. Kelly comes unglued during an interview with Gayle King.

It wasn’t until the first part of this documentary series was released that R. Kelly was finally arrested and held accountable for his crimes against women. It’s shocking that it took so long and the cooperation of a cable channel to make R. Kelly accountable to the law. He is now in prison, awaiting a trial on federal charges. His music is tarnished, and he’s left so many victims in his wake.

I couldn’t help but notice one victim, Joycelyn Savage, was so entrenched in R. Kelly’s lies and abuse that at the end of the documentary, she was still in Trump Tower. She was still loyal to R. Kelly, and her anguished family continued to pray for her return. Savage is one of several of Kelly’s victims who came from a caring family. I was struck when I heard that Kelly had a place in Trump Tower. It seems rather appropriate that a notorious sex offender would live in a building named after another notorious sex offender and egregious hater of women like Donald Trump. And when I heard her insist that she was “happy” with Kelly, it reminded me of listening to people entrenched in cults.

People are still championing R. Kelly, just as they are championing Donald Trump. R. Kelly is truly disgusting… but the person he is didn’t form in a vacuum. He was a victim of abuse. I’ve heard so many stories about “monsters” who were victims when they were children. This is why I think we must pay more attention to child abuse. It’s not something that should simply be survived. I think about how many people could have been spared the horrors of R. Kelly’s adult attempts to exorcise his demons if someone had simply helped him escape his nightmarish childhood.

If you can stomach watching the series, I recommend it. It’s a good warning about child abuse, as well as becoming too adoring of stars. They have clay feet, just like the rest of us do.

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