Chris Dumler should resign

In October, Albemarle County Supervisor Chris Dumler was arrested and charged with sexual assault and forcible sodomy. (He was accused of performing anal intercourse with a partner who was non-consensual to the act.) The above linked article describes Dumler as a “stranger to a life of crime,” noting that he’s a lawyer, an Eagle Scout and a volunteer firefighter. Another article adds Army Reservist to his list of credentials as a “good guy.” As if to suggest lawyers, Boy Scouts, firefighters, and Army Reservists – defacto members of the “good guys team” – aren’t capable of committing crimes, or particularly rapey, sexual assualt crimes.

Bail was set for Dumler at $50,000 and was posted by his friend local Democratic leader, and founding member of Virginia’s Women’s Strike Force, Cynthia Neff.

Shortly after his release from jail on bail Dumler issued a statement saying that he intended to fight the charges and mount a vigorous defense, and that he would not resign from his position as county supervisor. Virginia code stipulates that a felony conviction would force him out of his position. He can also be removed if voters in his district petition the court.

Since his arrest in October two other complainants have come forward, accusing Dumler of similar acts of non-consensual anal sex.

Yesterday (January 31, 2013), instead of mounting the vigorous defense he promised in October, he pled guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery, and was sentenced to one year in jail, with all but 60 days suspended, and because the crime is a misdemeanor he only actually needs to serve half of those 60 days. He has requested that he be allowed to serve the 30 days in jail on the weekends. The county has agreed to not pursue charges in the other two complaints.

It seems to me that he accepted this plea, and he says basically the same thing, so that he might continue in his position as county supervisor. And I get kind of angry about the way “justice” works.

Three people have come forward to suggest that an elected official in the county, who seems to be a rising star in the local Democratic Party, has a problem understanding “No.” And I have a pile of problems with this.

1.) Dumler pled so that he wouldn’t risk losing his position on the Board of Supervisors – I think that’s shady. It forces me to imagine that there was probably enough evidence to convict him of felony sodomy charges, but someone sat down with him and said, “Hey, we all want you to be able to go back to your job, so if you plead, we can make that happen.”

2.) He’s an elected official in the Democratic Party – a party that wants me to think they have the interests of survivors of sexual assault, and violence in the forefront of the party. They are the proponents of VAWA which would offer services to more survivors of violence, and of health care reform that would prohibit insurers from denying coverage to survivors of domestic violence.

3.) It’s more of the same bullshit we see all the time. People in positions of privilege getting away with sexual assault. How am I supposed to teach my kid that it is NOT OKAY EVER to push someone into a sexual act, or to force someone into a sexual act, when the whole damn world is willing to look the other way so damn often? How can I feel like my safety is anyone’s priority?

4.) Sexual assault is a crime of dominance. It’s a crime of punishment. It’s a crime of arrogance. It is the assumption that whomever you are hurting exists for the fulfillment of your need. That their body is yours to do with as you please.

I don’t want people like that in positions of power.


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And then there was that time my Tweet made it into Time Magazine

Woah. Thanks to my friend Erin Hunt for pointing it out to me.


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Who doesn’t walk home on the train tracks at night?


I was thinking about this last night on my way home from a meeting. Not the silly part about hurting yourself on a treadmill (although, Maude knows that seems to be true, too) but the part about how risk taking has changed for me over the years. What constitutes a risk has changed for me, not only as I’ve aged but since I had a child.

I took a bunch of stupid risks when I was younger. Most of them were of the sort that put my physical safety in jeopardy: walking home late at night on the train tracks, or through the park, that sort of thing. (Interestingly, you couldn’t have paid me to walk through a neighborhood of fraternity houses on a night they were all throwing parties – mob mentality has always made me nervous.) I walked with my keys tucked into my fingers, and paid very close attention to sounds and my surroundings figuring I would be fine. I didn’t think what I was doing was safe exactly, but like my dad always used to say, “The young, they think they are invincible!” Looking back, sometimes, I guess I was pretty sure I was invincible. (I mean really? Train tracks alone at 3am? Holy shit was I dumb.)

About 3 months after Kidlet was born, he and I were driving home from a friend’s house. It was December so 9pm was DARK, and I remember the night being kind of chilly. About 2 minutes into the 10 minute drive home kidlet started screaming from the back seat. I wanted to stop so I could make sure he was okay, and only yelling because that’s what he did in the car seat. And I remember thinking to myself, I need to stop somewhere where I will be safe. Where there is a lot of light, and hopefully people. I wasn’t on some desolate back road 20 miles from the nearest house, I was driving through a populated  neighborhood.

I chose to pull into a shopping plaza where there was a grocery store that was likely to have people coming and going. I found an area of the parking lot that was brightly lit, and put the car in park. I sat for a second, worried about getting out of the car with the car running to check Kidlet in the back seat; What if someone tried to steal the car? He would go with it. But I didn’t want to turn the car off because I wanted to keep the heat running, etc.  While these thoughts plowed through my head I also thought, Woah. This is a whole new level of feeling like a target. All of a sudden I realized that keeping myself and him safe had become an imperative. It had gone from being a good idea to something that must be done.

And this popped into my head last night while I was driving around trying to find a parking spot. Where’s the risk? I was looking for a spot that wasn’t more than a block or two from where I was going, and on a street that was well lit, without lots of shadows. And then again when I was walking back to the car, where’s the risk? I decided to walk in the middle of the street instead of on the sidewalk because streetlights point into the road and not onto the sidewalks, so there was a lot of light in the road, whereas the sidewalk was relatively dark.

My sense of risk intersects more aggressively now with what it means to be female. With what it means to be short. With what it means to not be in the best physical shape of my life. With what it means to wear glasses. With what it means to be a parent. All kinds of things that I gave minimal thought to when I was 25.

So, take risks now! Just don’t take stupid ones.

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I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about them: Generational evolution and activism

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the phrase, “Young people just don’t get it,” in the last 2 years I’d have at least enough money to buy a nice, used car. I’m tired of it. Let’s all agree to retire the phrase, mmmkay?

First of all, while I have no empirical evidence to support this beyond hearing it out of the mouths of my grandparents, I’m pretty sure every generation says this about the generations following them. “When I was a kid I walked uphill to school in a foot of snow both ways! Kids today, they just don’t get it!” It’s like generational hazing. And it’s basically noise. It has no substance. It’s highlighting a “problem” that doesn’t actually exist. Perhaps what people really mean is “Young people are doing things differently than I did them and I find that unsettling because I want my way to be the best and only way of doing things.” I’m cool with that, it’s honest, and it doesn’t have the silencing effect of, “Young people don’t care.”

Second of all, NO NO NO. It’s just not true. Young people DO get it. Older generations just need to start looking for things that aren’t on the tip of their nose and get their egos out of the way.

This cliche pops up pretty regularly in the reproductive rights movement. Nancy Keenan, outgoing president of NARAL Pro-Choice America has, on more than one occasion, stated that she has concerns about younger generations taking the reins of reprorights activism. In a recent Salon piece Keenan suggested, again, that millennials don’t prioritize abortion rights the way the Boomers do. Of course, she went on to clarify that she’s not talking about the women and men who are committed, only those that aren’t.

What really bugs me about this sentiment is that it assumes that Boomers, as a bloc, care about reprorights more  than subsequent generations. And I think this is based, almost entirely, on the blinders of a cohort.

When you find your activist cohort, you might think that no one but your cohort is involved because, when you’re planning activisty things, your friends are the people that show up, and not people that you’ve never talked to before. Which makes sense, right? I mean, you know that this group will want to be involved, so you call them up and involve them. And then sit around wringing your hands about how “there are no new faces, they must not care.” When, in reality, the new faces that you’re trying to attract are holding their own party, because they got sick of hearing, as Keenan said, “Young people don’t care. Oh, but I don’t mean you. You’re different.” If you’re going to denigrate my cohort, I don’t have a whole lot of interest in participating in your stuff.

I don’t think there is a divide in the reprorights movement, I think there is the way things have always been done, and a new way of doing things. It’s evolution. Which is absolutely necessary in order for a movement to remain relevant.






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Don’t give me this “small government” stuff.

Rachel Maddow on small government. Transcript after the video.

Small government is a great political brand. It looks great on a bumper sticker. People who don’t want the government to help unemployed people, or the elderly, or people without health insurance, who don’t want the government to create jobs , they say it’s because government has to be small. They also want government to be monitoring every pregnancy in the country to make sure the government’s chosen outcome is the result of that pregnancy, under penalty of jail. So, make your case that you don’t want the government to help the economy, but don’t give me this ‘small government’ stuff, c’mon.

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