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Welcome to the Official Website of James Landrith
Reflections on Five Years of Healing and Speaking Out
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Rape, Sexual Assault and Abuse
Written by James Landrith   
Monday, 17 June 2013

I have taken it on the chin several times for speaking out and publicly telling my story. I've had to remind myself that there are a lot of silent survivors who feel validated and less alone when they see another survivor speak out loudly.  I’ve heard from men who’ve been raped.  I’ve heard from their wives, girlfriends, mothers and friends.  I’ve heard from women raped by other women.  I’ve listened to their stories, shared their traumas and appreciated their compassion.  I’ve made many new friends and lost a few along the way.

 

I've been called a liar, told "men can't be raped", "women would never rape", been lectured that "erections can't be forced", that “I should have fought back” and outright harassed and targeted by rape apologists and victim-blamers of all gender identification and ideological leaning.  Please don’t bother to tell me that “so and so is not a true X” and such.  Too many of their peers are quite willing to look the other way when they act atrociously.  I’m done with excuses, apologia and disavowals.  Purge your scumbags and distance yourself from them profoundly or you own them.  I don’t give a fuck anymore.  I’m done with all of that.  I know the landscape too well at this point.  No ideology is free of victim-blaming, shaming and minimizations toward rape survivors.  Even rape survivors gang up on other rape survivors on the basis of gender, type of rape, whether they reported or not, ideology or whatever arbitrary thing happens to be what they wish to use at a given moment.

 

I've outlasted the scumbags. They tend to give up when I refuse to slink away in shame.  I've been attacked harder in 2012 than in recent years, but I am still here.  They are nowhere to be found with regard to actually helping survivors.  Those who talk big on the internet are never at a Take Back the Night march, they aren’t on Capitol Hill, they don’t get late night texts from survivors in crisis, they’ve never listened patiently while someone screamed and cried and sobbed inconsolably.  I have never noticed them in a policy planning meeting on sexual violence issues.  They talk big on the internet.  That’s it.  They aren’t even useful idiots.

 

I am not attached to any ideological or political movement.  No one owns me and I work with anyone who is doing something to help.  I have allowed a wide variety of people, publications and organizations to share my story with their constituencies as a public service.  I will continue to do that so long as I believe it can be of assistance to other survivors.  Whatever label you think you can apply to me speaks far more about you than it does me.

 

This month, it will be five years since I decided to face up to what happened to me and say the words: "I was raped.My world was turned upside down and I could not have expected the emotional and media storm that going public would heap upon my head.  My story has been published in multiple publications and mentioned in dozens of blogs.  I’ve been interviewed for print, internet and live media.  The Empowerment Theatre adapted my story for use in a stage production on sexual violence, a video interview has become part of the awesome Precious Porter stage presentation “Love Should Not Hurt” and modern romance author Susan Mac Nicol used my story as research for the rape of her protagonist in the novel “Cassandra By Starlight.”  I’ve been a moderator at one of the largest survivor forums on the internet, became a member of RAINN’s Speakers Bureau and got involved in policy through the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.  I am now working with fellow survivors on Military Sexual Trauma policy and advocacy.  There is always more to do.  There are never enough hands.

 

I’ve had HORRIBLE days when I wanted to curl up in a ball and disappear forever.  I’ve wanted to put my fist through a wall on other days.  I’ve cried.  I’ve been angry.  I’ve been inconsolable.  I’ve lost my cool.  I've dissociated and shut down.

 

I’ve had WONDERFUL days when I heard from a survivor who felt less alone.  I’ve seen them flourish and begin to heal.  I’ve made incredible friendships.  I’ve been privileged to hear many people’s stories for the first time.

 

I’ve learned a great deal along the way.  I’ve paid a huge price for speaking out and I caution that it is NOT for everyone.  If you do feel you are ready, I’ve prepared a few observations and tips below.

 

I would suggest before speaking out that you make sure you've set aside some time to deal with your emotions.  Often, you will feel horrible.  Give yourself permission to feel that way and understand that other survivors who speak out have often felt the same.  You are telling your story to new people.  You are exposing yourself to a much larger group of "insiders."  People will know you have been raped.  They may even know how it happened.  That is hard to shoulder.  My story has been in print, on the internet and covered by podcast and video for MILLIONS to have read or seen over five years.  I still get a panic attack after I disclose to a new audience.  I’ve just accepted that as part of the process.  It is much easier that way.

 

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever read the comments on stories about your rape.  EVER.  Got it?  It will be triggering, humiliating and demoralizing.  There are monsters in the comments.  They are nameless, faceless, cowardly monsters who take sport in hurting people far braver than they could ever be on their best day.  Don't validate them by giving them even a second of your life.  You are not talking to them.  They aren't listening to you.  You are talking to the silent survivor fighting back tears on the other end of the monitor.  You are teaching a parent, educator, family member, secondary survivor and bystander about yet another facet of the survivor experience.  You are speaking to those who are listening and ready to hear your truth.  It is not your responsibility to engage with the dregs of the internet.  They don’t actually care about you.  They have nothing of worth to offer.

 

Understand why you want to speak, before you start booking events.  If you don’t know what you intend to get out of speaking, you should spend some time figuring that out first.  Your experience will not be healing for you and could be detrimental if you go into it lightly.

 

Pick your subject matter carefully and stay on topic.  Don’t try to cover everything in one presentation.  I change my content to fit the organization, event and audience.  Try not to read your presentation like a script.  Learn your content in advance and practice.  It will sound more natural and your audience will notice.

 

Expect that many people will want to speak with you after the event or in between speakers.  They may honor you by sharing their own story for the first time with anyone.  Someone may tell you that your remarks gave them the strength to break the silence.  Be prepared for that.  You WILL change someone’s life for the better.  You may hear from a person months or even YEARS after an interview or speech.  For that person, what you said is new and vital and life-saving.  Recognize how much courage it took that person to contact you.  You don’t owe them anything, but you just might save their life.

 

Whether you choose to tell your story publicly or keep your story private is entirely your choice.  If you are gonna do it, then go into it with your eyes wide open.  Understand that the world is will not always welcome you with loving arms.  Many people don’t want to know you even exist, let alone even listen to you respectfully.  This is a hard responsibility to take on as a survivor. 

 

You may want or need to say To Hell With This on occasion when it gets to be too much.  Do that.  Take care of yourself.  You own this process.  Don’t feel ashamed of getting overwhelmed.  Rape is overwhelming.  PTSD is overwhelming.  Victim-blaming and shaming are overwhelming.  Speaking out opens up a lot of emotions and exposes your wounds to strangers.  That is unbelievably brave and such important work.  You need to take care of yourself first though.  You won’t help anyone else if you are in crisis yourself.

 

It has been a strange and intense five year journey for me.  For those of you who were with me along the way, I thank you.  Many people were incredibly supportive and continue to show me that humanity is not dominated by the monsters and the heartless cynics.  There are more good people than I could have ever imagined.  Thank you all.

 

I don’t know what the next five years will bring, but I am no longer afraid.  I own this process.  I own my future.  Anyone who doesn't like it should feel free to proceed to the nearest exit.

 

About James A. Landrith

James Landrith is a healing rape survivor, public speaker, internationally syndicated blogger, civil liberties activist and the notorious editor and publisher of The Multiracial Activist (ISSN: 1552-3446) and The Abolitionist Examiner (ISSN: 1552-2881). Landrith can be reached by email at:  This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it  or at his personal website/blog.

 


 

Last Updated ( Saturday, 03 August 2013 )
 
Obama Speaks with Forked Tongue on Surveillance
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Civil Liberties and Advocacy Efforts
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
Obama Speaks with Forked Tongue on Surveillance
by Sheldon Richman
 
It’s bad enough the federal government spies on us. Must it insult our intelligence too?
 
The government’s response to Edward Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Agency’s secret monitoring of the Internet and collection of our telephone logs is a mass of contradictions. Officials have said the disclosures are (1) old news, (2) grossly inaccurate, and (3) a blow to national security. It’s hard to see how any two of these can be true, much less all three.
 
Can’t they at least get their story straight? If they can’t do better than that, why should we have confidence in anything else that they do?
 
Snowden exposed the government’s indiscriminate snooping because, among other things, it violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and he had no other recourse.
 
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says Snowden should have used established channels to raise his concerns, but there are no effective channels. Members of the congressional intelligence committees are prohibited from telling the public what they learn from their briefings. Two members of the Senate committee, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, for years have warned — without disclosing secrets — that the Obama administration is interpreting the Patriot Act and related laws far more broadly than was ever intended by those who voted for those pieces of legislation. Their warnings have made no difference.
 
A court challenge wasn’t open to Snowden either. Glenn Greenwald, who published Snowden’s leaks in the Guardian, notes that for years the ACLU has tried to challenge the surveillance programs in court on Fourth Amendment grounds, but the Obama administration has blocked the effort by arguing that the ACLU has no standing to bring the suit. It’s a classic Catch-22. Since the surveillance is secret, no one can know if he has been spied on. But if no one knows, no one can go into court claiming to be a victim, and the government will argue that therefore the plaintiff has no standing to challenge the surveillance. Well played, Obama administration.
 
The administration should not be allowed to get away with the specious claim that telling its secrets to a few privileged members of Congress is equivalent to informing the people. It is not. It’s merely one branch of government telling some people in another branch. Calling those politicians “our representatives” is highly misleading. In what sense do they actually represent us?
 
Equally specious is the assertion that the NSA can’t monitor particular people without court authorization. The secret FISA court is a rubber stamp.
 
When Obama ran for president in 2008, he said Americans shouldn’t have to choose between privacy and security. Now he says that “one of the things that we’re going to have to discuss and debate is how are we striking this balance between the need to keep the American people safe and our concerns about privacy? Because there are some tradeoffs involved.”
 
What do you take us for, Mr. President? Do you say whatever serves your momentary interest?
 
It’s outrageous for Obama to say he welcomes this debate — when his regime is plotting to capture and prosecute the heroic whistleblower who made it possible.
 
The debate would be bogus anyway. No one has a right to make a security/privacy tradeoff for you. Our rights should not be subject to vote, particularly when a ruling elite ultimately will make the decision — out of public view!
 
Americans have learned nothing from the last 40 years if they have not learned that the executive branch — regardless of party — will interpret any power as broadly as it wishes. Congressional oversight is worse than useless; it’s a myth, especially when one chamber is controlled by the president’s party and the other chamber’s majority embraces big government as long as it carries a “national security” label.
 
Obama says, “If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.”
That’s wrong. If the politicians’ only response to revelations that they’re violating our privacy is to ask for trust, then we already have problems.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).
 
The U.S. Base on Diego Garcia: An Overlooked Atrocity
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Wednesday, 05 June 2013
The U.S. Base on Diego Garcia: An Overlooked Atrocity
by Sheldon Richman
 
The largest criminal organizations in the world are governments. The bigger they are, the more capable of perpetrating atrocities. Not only do they obtain great wealth through compulsion (taxation), they also have an ideological mystique that permits them uniquely to get away with murder, torture, and theft.
 
The U.S. government is no exception. This is demonstrated by, among many other things, the atomic bombings of noncombatants in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World II. But let’s examine a lesser-known case, one we might know nothing about were it not for David Vine, who teaches anthropology at the American University. Vine has written a book, Island of Shame, and a follow-up article at the Huffington Post about the savage treatment of the people of Diego Garcia, part of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. Americans may know Diego Garcia as a U.S. military base. It “helped launch the Afghan and Iraq wars and was part of the CIA’s secret ‘rendition’ program for captured terrorist suspects,” Vine writes.
 
What’s not widely known is that the island was once home to a couple of thousand people who were forcibly removed to make room for the U.S. military. The victims’ 40-year effort to return or to be compensated for their losses have been futile.
 
Great Britain claims the island. According to Vine, African slaves, indentured Indians, and their descendants had been living on the Chagos islands for about 200 years. “In 1965, after years of secret negotiations, Britain agreed to separate Chagos from colonial Mauritius (contravening UN decolonization rules) to create a new colony, the British Indian Ocean Territory. In a secret 1966 agreement, Britain gave U.S. officials base rights on Diego Garcia.”
 
But it did more than that. Britain “agreed to take those ‘administrative measures’ necessary to remove the nearly 2,000 Chagossians in exchange for $14 million in secret U.S. payments.”
 
The British kept their end of the bargain. In 1968, Britain began blocking the return of Chagossians who left to obtain medical treatment or to go on vacation, “marooning them often without family members and almost all their possessions,” Vine writes.
British officials soon began restricting food and medical supplies to Chagos. Anglo-American officials designed a public relations plan aimed at, as one British bureaucrat said, “maintaining the fiction” that Chagossians were migrant laborers rather than a people with roots in Chagos for five generations or more. Another British official called them “Tarzans” and “Man Fridays.”
Then, in 1971, the final order came down, reminiscent of a Russian czar expelling Jews from their village. “The U.S. Navy’s highest-ranking admiral, Elmo Zumwalt, issued … a three-word memo.… ‘Absolutely must go.’”
British agents, with the help of Navy Seabees, quickly rounded up the islanders’ pet dogs, gassing and burning them in sealed cargo sheds. They ordered … the remaining Chagossians onto overcrowded cargo ships. During the deportations, which took place in stages until May 1973, most Chagossians slept in the ship’s hold atop guano — bird crap. Prized horses stayed on deck. By the end of the five-day trip, vomit, urine, and excrement were everywhere. At least one woman miscarried.
Arriving in Mauritius and the Seychelles, Chagossians were literally left on the docks. They were homeless, jobless, and had little money, and they received no resettlement assistance.
Remember, this was happening, not in the 18th or 19th century, but in the late 20th century. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the last of the expulsions.
 
The personal toll has been great. The Chagossians remain poor, and many suffer from illnesses traced to their dispossession. “Scores more Chagossians have reported deaths from sadness and sagren,” or “profound sorrow,” according to Vine.
 
Five years ago the Chagossians had some ray of hope when three British courts declared the deportations illegal. But the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom overruled the lower courts. “Last year,” Vine adds, “the European Court of Human Rights dismissed the Chagossians’ final appeal on procedural grounds.…”
 
“A day after the European court ruling, the Obama administration rejected the demands of an online petition signed by some 30,000 asking the White House to ‘redress wrongs against the Chagossians.’”
 
The British were adequately looking after the matter, the administration said.
 
Here is government in all its glory.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).
 
Obama’s Willful Foreign-Policy Blindness
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Thursday, 30 May 2013
Obama’s Willful Foreign-Policy Blindness
by Sheldon Richman
 
Republicans are upset about President Obama’s May 23 foreign-policy address, yet politics aside, it’s hard to say why. “We show this lack of resolve, talking about the war being over,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News Sunday.
 
But four days later in his Memorial Day remarks, Obama said, “Our nation is still at war.”
 
Why did the earlier speech set off Republicans? He acknowledged that terrorism can never be completely eliminated and that a risk-free society is impossible. He conceded that U.S. military action breeds enemies. He admitted that not every foreign violent organization is a threat to Americans. He even quoted James Madison: “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
 
Indeed, Obama said some things that need saying, but will he do what needs doing? More precisely, will he stop doing what shouldn’t be done?
 
The speech provides no reason for optimism. For one thing, his premise is wrong: The U.S. government was on a perpetual war footing before the attacks of 9/11, intervening one way or another in many places. The “war on terror” has just been more visible.
 
Obama says he wants to understand the roots of terrorism, but he just repeats bromides.  “These threats don’t arise in a vacuum,” he said. “Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology — a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West.”
 
But this implies the “extremist ideology” arose in a vacuum. Obama shows no understanding that Muslim violence has been a response to generations of Western and most recently American efforts to maintain hegemony in the Muslim world.  These efforts have consisted in direct overt and covert intervention, backing for brutal and corrupt dictators and monarchs, and enabling of Israel’s repression of the Palestinians. From Osama bin Laden on down, the perpetrators of anti-American violence have consistently said so.
 
Despite Obama’s acknowledgement of the dangers, to Americans and others, of perpetual U.S. warfare, one strains to find signs of change in the speech. He says “our response to terrorism can’t depend on military or law enforcement alone,” but he still envisions a large role for the military: He says the first order of business is to finish the work of defeating al Qaeda and its associated forces.” And, “Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces.” But “its associated forces” is a conveniently vague justification for continued U.S. militarism. It goes beyond Congress's 2001 authorization for military force.
 
While Obama promises only to narrow the use of drones and shift responsibility from the CIA to the Pentagon, we can’t be sure even this will happen – or matter. His “presidential policy guidance” is classified, and he reserves the authority to target alleged militants who pose a “continuing and imminent threat” when he decides that other alternatives are unavailable or are too risky. Yet his administration has drained the word “imminent” of meaning
 
“Before any strike is taken,” he added, “there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.” But he conceded that his administration has killed an undisclosed number of noncombatants. Independent sources say several hundred have been killed -- while entire villages live in terror of the next strike. This will not change.
 
Remember that administration targets are only accused of planning attacks. There is no due process, and an oversight board would not change that.
 
Obama defended his killing of American Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen on the grounds that al-Awlaki had helped plan attacks, but Obama offered no proof, and investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill says the first efforts to kill Awlaki preceded the terrorist plots he is allegedly linked to. And what about the separate drone killings of al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son and other Americans?
 
Obama also renewed his long-dormant call for closing Guantanamo -- but not before the mass hunger strike and force-feedings that the whole world is watching.
 
This all looks more like legacy preparation than real change in policy. Witness Syria and Iran.
 
So why are Republicans fussing? Obama said, “We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root.”
 
For Republicans, that's un-American.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).
 
Bangladeshi Workers Need Freed Markets
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Economics and Financial Services
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Bangladeshi Workers Need Freed Markets
by Sheldon Richman
 
Since November, more than a thousand Bangladeshi garment workers have perished in two tragic factory calamities: a fire in Tazreen and a building collapse in Savar, outside the capital, Dhaka. Bangladesh is a major exporter of apparel to the West and “is set to become the world’s largest apparel exporter over the next few years,” the Economist reports. Wages are lower there than most places, including China, and a large percentage of the 4 million garment workers are women.
 
Are dangerous factories the price of progress? A passionate debate now rages over whether international safety standards should be enforced against manufacturers in the developing world and their Western retailers. Proponents of standards argue that the costs would be small and the benefits great. An Accord on Fire and Building Safety has been signed by major retailers in Europe and a few in North America, but the Huffington Post says that 14 other North American retailers have refused to endorse it.  “Some retailers, like Walmart, claim they are working on separate initiatives to improve conditions and workplace safety in Bangladesh,” the online publication states, but this claim has been met with skepticism.
 
Opponents of government regulation argue that artificially raising the costs of manufacturing in poor countries would harm intended beneficiaries by destroying jobs. If so, workers would face worse options, including life on the streets and prostitution.
 
Unfortunately, the debate is unnecessarily narrow. What needs discussing — and radical changing — is the country’s political-economic system, which benefits elites while keeping the mass of people down. The economists are correct that under the status quo, imposing safety standards would raise costs, cause unemployment, and aggravate poverty. But we can’t leave the matter there. We must go on to examine how the political-economic system constricts people’s employment opportunities, including self-employment, and otherwise stifles their efforts to improve their lives. Thus, a debate over whether garment factories should be subject to safety regulations, while the status quo goes largely undisturbed, misses the point.
 
According to a report (PDF) written for the Netherlands ministry of foreign affairs, most Bangladeshis, unsurprisingly, are victimized by a land system that has long benefited the rural and urban elites. “Land-grabbing of both rural and urban land by domestic actors is a problem in Bangladesh,” the report states.
 
Wealthy and influential people have encroached on public lands…, often with help of officials in land-administration and management departments. Among other examples, hundreds of housing companies in urban areas have started to demarcate their project area using pillars and signboard before receiving titles. They use local musclemen with guns and occupy local administrations, including the police. Most of the time, land owners feel obliged to sell their productive resources to the companies at a price inferior to market value. Civil servants within the government support these companies and receive some plot of land in exchange.
 
Women suffer most because of the patriarchy supported by the political system. “Women in Bangladesh rarely have equal property rights and rarely hold title to land,” the report notes. “Social and customary practices effectively exclude women from direct access to land.”
 
As a result,
 
Many of the rural poor in Bangladesh are landless, have only small plots of land, are depending on tenancy, or sharecropping. Moreover, tenure insecurity is high due to outdated and unfair laws and policies.... These growing rural inequalities and instability also generate migration to towns, increasing the rates of urban poverty.
 
Much as in Britain after the Enclosures, urban migration swells the ranks of workers, allowing employers to take advantage of them. Since Bangladesh does not have a free-market economy, starting a business is mired in regulatory red tape -- and worse, such as "intellectual property" law -- that benefit the elite while stifling the chance for poor individuals to find alternatives to factory work. (The owner of the Savar factory, Mohammed Sohel Rana, got rich in a system where, the Guardian writes, "politics and business are closely connected, corruption is rife, and the gap between rich and poor continues to grow.") Moreover, until the factory collapse, garment workers could not organize without employer permission.
 
Crony capitalism deprives Bangladeshis of property rights, freedom of exchange, and therefore work options. The people need neither the corporatist status quo nor Western condescension. They need radical land reform and freed markets.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).
 
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