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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book reviews, LDS, religion

Repost: Martha Beck’s Leaving the Saints…

This is a reposted book review I wrote for Epinions.com in May 2006. It’s being reposted as/is.

“The choice to believe or disbelieve, that’s what makes you free.”

I didn’t know it when I purchased it last week, but the book I’m going to review today, Martha Beck’s Leaving The Saints: How I Lost The Mormons And Found My Faith (2005) made a lot of waves when it came out last year. Of course, having never been a Mormon myself, I had no reason to be scandalized by the subject matter in Martha Beck’s book, nor did I have an inkling that I would be reading a somewhat scathing indictment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I didn’t know anything about Martha Beck or her famous father, Hugh Nibley. While I don’t claim to be anywhere near an expert on the subject of Mormonism, I have known a few members of the church in my lifetime and most of them have, at least on the surface, been fine people. In fact, I even married a member of the LDS church, although he very recently formally resigned from the faith. In any case, I was looking for something interesting to read when I found Martha Beck’s book, and indeed, I did find something interesting.

Leaving The Saints begins in the early 1990s, as Martha Beck and her husband, John, decided to move back to Provo, Utah after their second child, Adam, was born with Down Syndrome. They left their home in Massachusetts, even though Martha was finishing up her doctoral degree in sociology at Harvard University. The Becks longed for the security and sense of community they would get in Provo, Utah, where both John and Martha had grown up and where many of their family members still lived. They knew their son, Adam, would be universally accepted by their neighbors and they would be around people who would understand and support them. Like most of the people living in Provo, the Becks were devout Mormons. Martha Beck is the daughter of the late Hugh Nibley, a very famous and much revered man in LDS circles.

Beck writes that when she and her husband arrived in Provo, they were given the sort of enthusiastic welcome they had been expecting when they made their decision to move. Both Martha and John Beck started teaching at Brigham Young University (BYU); Martha taught on a part time basis while she finished up her doctorate. Before too long, she and John welcomed their third child, a girl named Elizabeth. For awhile, the Becks assimilated into life in Utah.

Beck became disenchanted with Mormonism when she started to discover how much the LDS church influenced the curriculum at BYU. She watched many of her most brilliant and talented colleagues get fired from their jobs simply for voicing opinions that undermined the church’s teachings. She both experienced and witnessed blatant gender bias on the job and claims that the church actually censored controversial topics. Despite the fact that she worked in what she describes as a very repressive environment, Beck counseled her students to question whatever didn’t ring true to them. However, according to Beck, BYU was not the intellectual bastion it was purported to be, as professors anxious about losing their jobs stifled themselves in order to keep church officials happy.

The bigger bombshell within this memoir, of course, is the fact that Beck openly accuses her father, the beloved Hugh Nibley, of sexually abusing her when she was a child. She writes about the memories of the abuse, which she recalled after she and her husband moved back to Utah. She also writes about some of the physical evidence of the abuse which was supposedly discovered during medical exams. Because Hugh Nibley was so well regarded within the LDS church, this aspect of the memoir is particularly scandalous, and if what Beck writes is true, quite damning.

Beck confronted her father before he died and intersperses the story of how that meeting went between anecdotes about her marriage, career, children, and the local culture. Toward the end of the book, she writes the story of how she and her husband left Mormonism and Utah. Evidently, the couple was forced to start their lives anew once they resigned from the faith. By Beck’s account, they were lucky enough to have the ability to start over elsewhere; apparently, other LDS members who doubt the veracity of the church do not have that luxury, mostly due to career or family constraints.

I found Beck’s writing to be very colorful and interesting; in fact, it was also often very funny, even as she lambasted the LDS church and made serious sexual abuse allegations against her father. Although at times Beck’s writing has a sarcastic, angry flavor, she’s able to temper her edginess with humor and warmth. Beck uses a lot of hyperbole to get her point across, which may actually make her account less believable to some readers. After all, when a person often exaggerates in order to make a point, it becomes harder to know where the exaggeration stops and reality begins. However, even though Martha Beck accuses her father of molesting her, I still got the idea that she still loved him and on some level, respected him. Even as she confronts him, she still is able to relate to him in a bittersweet way.

Before I read Leaving The Saints, I had heard of Hugh Nibley, but I didn’t really associate anything with him, positive or negative. For instance, I did not know that Hugh Nibley was a revered LDS apologist and scholar, nor did I know anything about his distinguished career at Brigham Young University, the premier institution of higher learning among devout Mormons. More importantly, I had also never heard of Martha Beck, herself a Harvard educated scholar, author of several books, Oprah Winfrey darling, columnist, and life coach. This is important, because in the few days it has taken me to read Beck’s book, Leaving The Saints, I have run across a number of different opinions about the book. Some people have praised it, calling it a moving, well-written memoir and heralding Beck as a brave heroine for sharing her intensely personal story. Other people have called the book an unfair, inaccurate, and hurtful attack against the LDS church and Hugh Nibley. I want to note that many of the people whose opinions I’ve read have had some direct exposure to the LDS church, either as current or past members. Again, I’ve never been a member of the church, so I’ve based my opinion only on how I feel about the book, instead of trying to determine whether or not Beck has written the truth.

Frankly, whether or not Leaving The Saints is an entirely true account, I found it a fascinating and engaging read. It appears to me, however, that if Beck did not write the truth, she paid quite a price for writing this book. First of all, Martha Beck and her husband, John Beck, are now divorced, a fact that she does not reveal in Leaving The Saints. John Beck has even posted a negative review of Leaving The Saints on Amazon.com, claiming that she lied about some of the content. Secondly, Beck’s family has publicly come out against her, accusing her of lying about the alleged sexual abuse. I don’t know if Martha Beck is telling the truth or not. At this point, I have no reason to disbelieve her, since I don’t know anything about her aside from what I’ve read. And again, since my religious faith is not being attacked in this book, I have no reason to criticize what Beck has written about the LDS church. I can only base my opinion about her allegations against the church on what I’ve heard and read about from other people. Based on those aspects alone, I’m inclined to believe at least most of Beck’s story. Even if what she wrote isn’t entirely true, it’s still a hell of a story.

That leaves me to explain the title of this review. I found the above quote toward the end of Leaving The Saints. John Beck had just resigned his church membership and it had been all over the local news. Martha Beck was still a member in good standing and was moderating a women’s issues forum being held at BYU. The forum was discussing domestic violence and sexual abuse in a roundabout way. Some of the attendees were getting upset, claiming that no one on the panel had ever experienced sexual abuse and therefore none of them knew what they were talking about. Martha Beck had, up until that point, been portrayed to the women as a blueblooded Mormon above reproach, even though her husband had just left the church and privately, she was often “counseled” about her outspokenness. As the angry women in the crowd continued to grumble among themselves, Martha Beck stood up and announced to the attendees that she was an incest survivor. And after she told them about her personal experience as an incest survivor, she said those empowering words, “Choose to believe or disbelieve, that’s what makes you free.”

The aftermath of Beck’s public confession was not exactly what she had expected it to be. After the conference, she was swarmed by appreciative women who thanked her for sharing her story. Now that her story is in print, many others have also thanked her for sharing her story. It’s clear to me that even if Martha Beck hasn’t told the truth, she has helped a lot of people who have lived with the shame of sexual abuse and moved many others who haven’t lived that unfortunate reality. If she has unfairly tarnished her late father’s name, I suspect she will answer for that someday.

I doubt most devout Mormons, especially those who admired Hugh Nibley’s work, would enjoy reading Leaving The Saints. Martha Beck certainly does not cast the LDS church in a flattering light and I suspect that many Mormons will feel that she is attacking their beliefs. Personally, I liked this book. Now that I’ve finished it, my husband Bill will read it and hopefully he will add his own review from the perspective of someone who has direct experience with Mormonism.

Martha Beck’s Web site: https://marthabeck.com

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission on sales made through my site.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, rants, social media, stupid people

“No means no”… being assertive is not a crime.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about how I don’t apologize for occasionally being an “asshole”. Looking back on it, I think I should amend that title. You see, I was raised in an environment in which I was somehow taught that being assertive is an affront to other people. I’m not sure where it comes from, either. My mom and my sisters are all assertive people. My dad was, too. But I was the youngest, raised by a southern, conservative, religious, Air Force veteran who insisted that I needed to have “respect” for him. I am naturally a bit obnoxious and outspoken, and as a child, I often got chastised for being myself. I think the end result is that, as an adult, sometimes I hesitate to stick up for myself when it’s perfectly fine to do so. Sometimes, I even feel guilty for “talking back”.

In that “asshole” post I wrote the other day, I wrote about two incidents in which I found myself at odds with conservative white men on Facebook. The first incident was regarding a guy who, five days after I posted a response to a friend on her Facebook page, decided he needed to confront me about my comment. When he demanded an explanation from me, I responded “You should have asked me five days ago.”

Most people would understand from that comment that I am not interested in engaging. But this guy is clearly pretty dense. Because he came back with a snarky comment, not taking the hint that I wasn’t going to be arguing with him. Again, my response was very clear. I wrote something along the lines of, “I have zero desire to talk to you. Leave me alone.” Most people, having been firmly asked to leave someone alone, will back off and find someone else to bother.

That wasn’t enough for this person, though. He continued to try to engage, and asked me why I had responded to him. And I asked him, “Why did you? I responded to this thread days ago. Just let it go.” Again– clear as day. I was saying “no” to him. He engaged a fourth time and I wrote, “Give it up.” After the next comment, I finally hit the block button. I don’t actually like to block people, but sometimes it’s necessary. And yes, I realize I could have just ignored him, but that would leave him free to keep tagging me in posts.

The sad thing is, he probably thinks he’s “won” by being so annoying and disrespectful that I finally felt the need to force him to leave me alone. If that’s how he gets his kicks, I guess I’m happy to oblige in helping him. I have to wonder about guys like him. Why can’t they simply respect another person when they clearly ask them to stop harassing them?

Before I blocked him, I took a look at the guy’s page. People always do this, don’t they? You get into a scrape with someone and you check out their Facebook page just to see where they’re coming from. From a few seconds of looking at his page, I learned that this gentleman is conservative politically, lives in the Midwest, and is divorced. If this is how he treats strangers on the Internet, I can see why he’s divorced. He clearly doesn’t have any respect for other people. I suspect that he doesn’t respect women, especially. Anyone who isn’t a Trump supporter ranks even lower.

It might have been fun to resort to insulting the guy, but it was clear he was playing a power game with me. And I didn’t want to play. I made it very clear that I didn’t want to play, even before the temptation to resort to insults arose. I didn’t want to waste time and energy coming up with clever insults against someone who obviously doesn’t respect me as a person. I can see on the other thread he engaged in, he doesn’t respect other women, either.

Next thing I knew, I was ruminating about what kind of upbringing this guy must have had. What was his mother like? Where did he learn this habit of trying to force women into arguments with him, demanding that they defend their opinions when they’ve made it abundantly clear they aren’t interested? Is he like this when it comes to his offline relationships, too? Does he demand that his romantic partners engage with him, even when they’ve made it very clear that they want to be left alone?

This clearly applies to sexual assault and rape. It also applies to interactions online.

Maybe that might seem like a stretch to some. Men who are very overbearing and insistent toward women, hectoring them in an attempt to force them to interact, may only be that way in a verbal sense. But as I sat there pondering this person’s disrespectful actions toward me, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d go as far as to assault a woman for saying “no” to his advances. Assuming he’s not gay, I wonder what he does when she says she’s got a headache or isn’t in the mood. Is he going to keep nagging, whining, and badgering until he finally tries to take what he wants by physical force?

I suspect what this guy really wants is attention. He might even be horrified that I wonder if he’s capable of rape. It seems to me, though, that if a woman clearly says “no” and a man keeps poking, it’s not that much of a leap to assume that person has serious issues with boundaries, much like rapists do. If someone can’t respect a person who clearly asks to be left alone, even if it’s just online, what are they like when the objects of their attention are within an arm’s reach of them? Hopefully, they are a little less bold about “reaching out” in that case. I still wonder, though.

Maybe I should have asked him if he has boundary issues offline, too? Imagine the reaction I would have gotten if I had asked him if he makes a habit out of ignoring people who ask him to stop bugging them. What if I’d thrown in an insane or accusatory comment about sexual assault? He probably would have reacted with outrage, and there would have been a huge shitshow, which no doubt would have attracted a lot of lurkers and comments. But I suspect that would have only made me look unhinged and caused offense. I think it’s a fair question, though. If someone explicitly makes a reasonable request to be left alone, and another person refuses to honor that request, it says something loud and clear about the person who won’t take “no” for an answer.

Which brings me to my next point… One of the reasons I didn’t want to engage with this guy is because he was pestering me on a mutual friend’s page. I don’t know the boundary challenged guy at all. I also haven’t met our mutual friend offline, but she and I both like horses. That’s how we have a connection. We “met” on a second wives and stepmothers Web site we both used to frequent. I don’t pay much attention to most of her political posts, but the one that I did comment on had triggered me because of a grammar error. Otherwise, I let her post whatever she wants to about Trump and Limbaugh, without any input whatsoever from me. I’m mainly interested in her ponies, goats, donkey, and horses, and that’s about it.

Boundary challenged guy probably knows her personally, and they obviously have a stronger bond. I don’t feel comfortable having pointless arguments with mutual friends on other people’s Facebook pages. I figure that kind of drama should be hosted on one of the involved parties’ pages, unless the “host” gives their express permission. Also, it was pretty clear to me that his mind is made up on matters involving conservative politics. My mind is also made up. You will never convince me that Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh have done great things for America. So there’s no point in having a discussion. But really, when it comes down to it, I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my opinions. When I say “no”, I mean it.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not still sometimes hard to say it. I still sit here after a confrontation like that and ruminate, asking myself “WTF?” I mean, if I had known that leaving a comment for my friend was going to result in an uninvited correspondence with one of her friends, I surely would have kept scrolling. I find myself scrolling a lot lately… which makes me wonder why I haven’t ditched Facebook yet. I stick around for the people I know around the world who I enjoy keeping up with. But every year, with every unpleasant or unnecessary negative interaction I have with some stranger online, I wonder again if keeping up with my friends is worth it. Then I contemplate kicking more people off my page. 🙂

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