Keep to the Code

This is an official warning that graphic content will be discussed. Rape will be discussed. 

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When I was 21 and a senior in college, I was still a virgin.

When I was a freshman and a sophomore, I wanted nothing more than to lose my virginity. I felt like it was this giant disease I had that infected the world. If you would be more interested in that segment of my story, please read my guest blog here. When I was junior, the urge began to fade.

When I was a senior, I just wished I would meet someone worth taking it instead of just blindly giving it away.

But I remember one night when I feared I might not get that chance…

And if it was not for a good friend of mine, I would have been a victim.

My girlfriends, specifically my roommates, and I had a code: Keep each other safe, and if one of us gets too drunk, take care of the other. For four years I kept to this code and it worked very well. If my friends would get drunk, I would be the one that would pace myself and stop drinking to make sure that the others got home. They did the same for me. It was easy. We knew that we did not want to regret any decisions in the morning. And my one roommate, knew she wanted to keep my virginity safe. I guess you could call her my virginity keeper.

Yeah. My virginity keeper.

One night, she came to visit me at school and we ended up extremely wasted at a party in a three level house. I still considered her my roommate even though she had graduated the semester before.  I just wanted to have fun and I didn’t want any trouble. So we stuck together because that is what we always did. We had met up with some guys and other friends before we ended up at this house….this terrible, creaky, dismal and over-crowded house. I remember one guy that had found me attractive. I told her I wasn’t interested in him, so she made a mental note, despite the drunken state we were both in. We meandered through the levels of the house talking to various people we did not know. We held hands too. I know it sounds silly, but we did to make sure we had a hold of each other. We had made our way into a hallway next to the bathroom of the third level. Loud music was playing all over the house.

That’s when everything changed.

I had to go to the bathroom and she was talking to someone. So I started off on my own. Only because the bathroom was literally ten feet away.

Ten feet.

I got grabbed.

The guy that had found me attractive was pulling me into the bathroom. I knew I didn’t even want to kiss him, despite him putting his lips on my face. I didn’t want any of it. Yet there I was in a bind because of how my arms were pinned. I kept saying, “No. Leave me alone.”

But he kept on pulling and yanking me into that bathroom. I kept fighting to get away and people around me just left me go.

I thought to myself, “No. not like this. It can’t happen like this.” I knew I didn’t want him to take it, and if he was being this aggressive with kissing, I figured it would only go downhill from there.

That’s when she grabbed my arm and started pulling me away. I was in a tug of war between a guy and my roommate. She kept screaming at him and he kept screaming back at her. Until finally I crumpled to ground. That was enough for him to lose his balance and let me go. And I crawled away with my roommate in tow. We stood up and ran down the three flights of stairs. We ran out of the house and hid behind a dumpster because I was afraid he would come after us.

Then finally, we ran some more until we met up with some people and were safely nestled in our apartment.

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Looking back at that moment, I know I would have been in a terrible situation if it wasn’t for my roommate. I could have lost something that I didn’t want to lose.

And you know what’s terrible?

Many girls run into similar situations all over the world. And their friends don’t help them.

We live in a culture. Specifically, we live in a rape culture. And it seems like people don’t really want to talk about it. The fact that society creates and allows rapists to thrive is sad. With that being said, we, as women, know that we have to be strong. But at what cost?

People expect women to just protect themselves. People also expect women not to “put themselves in compromising situations.”

Since when is living your life a compromising situation?

Women shouldn’t live in fear that any day a man could come up to them and force himself on her. That’s wrong. And men should be the ones to change, not women.

But yet, it’s expected for us to change. I remember the night. I didn’t “express interest” or “lead you on” and yet you still wanted to take away something from me, something you felt you were entitled to have. As if I should feel guilty if I had anyway; sex should never be an expectation. You didn’t get that something that you wanted.

Something, thankfully, you didn’t get because my roommate and I kept to the code.

In various cases of rape, I have noticed a growing trend: these girls get left by their “friends.”

I’ve got news for you; a real friend wouldn’t let that happen. A real friend wouldn’t abandon you and leave you in a compromising situation. That whole safety in numbers thing…..it works. Granted, I know that in some cases a man could over power both females, but he would most definitely have a hard time trying to force himself if another person was clawing at his face or gouging at his eyes (which would be my personal attack preference).

I was so pumped last week when I saw various pictures going through my NewsFeed for “Take Back the Night.” I can only hope that it brings back awareness to everyone all over the world that acts of violence like these need to be stopped. There is no way this can continue. Women, for now, we must stick to the code and keep each other safe at all costs. I can only hope and pray that someday society will stop allowing rapists to be sympathized for.

And I can’t wait for the day that we don’t have to fear anymore. I also cannot speak for actual victims because I never have actually had to live through that horror, only the fear that it was immediately going to happen.

This cannot happen anymore.

Men, you should NOT let this happen anymore. The fear, the act…..it MUST stop.

It’s your job to make the change, not ours. You aren’t a victim when you try to be aggressive and take something from us.

In fact, you’re just pathetic.

If any of you need help, contact: Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
A 24-hour phone and chat service to help victims of sexual assault or abuse.1-800-656-HOPE (4673). Visit the site here

Also check out this blog that quite frequently discusses the matters. It’s excellent:
http://makemeasammich.org/

In Defense of Real Journalism

This blog is a companion to the last blog I wrote titled The Boston Marathon Explosion in Pictures.

What would the world be without technology? At the click of a button, people can find monotonous amounts of information. When Alexander Bell invented the telephone, he probably had no idea what that would one day become. Nowadays people can carry mini computers in their pockets that make phone calls. I know because I have the “phablet” Samsung Galaxy Note II. These phones take pictures, surf the internet, transmit data and many other things. In a moment, people can capture anything on a device and upload it to Facebook, Twitter and various other social media environments.

Photo credits to Bill Hoenk of TIME Magazine http://www.time.com

Photo credits to Bill Hoenk featured in  TIME Magazine
http://www.time.com

That’s a far cry from the cameras of old.

Photography is changing and photojournalism is changing as well. Journalists used to hope and pray that they would get notice of an event, whether it be good or bad before their competition found out the information. Nowadays, everybody has access to all kinds of information, so it’s a chronic rush to publish before the competition. But, it’s important to cover the truth and only the truth.

Whether one likes it or not, the journalists cannot always capture the good moments. This world is full of tragedy and it’s up to them to capture those pictures as well.

Time Magazine just released the front cover of their newest edition and it features a little boy crying with blood in his hair. He was a victim of the Boston Marathon attacks. Now many of you may be disgusted by this image, while some of you may be moved by it.

But this little boy is a face of millions of children in the United States; the millions of children that could have been on that cover if they were in Boston that day. This little boy is lucky to be alive and people are upset that he graces the cover.

Why?

Tragedies aren’t supposed to be easy to look at. Tragedies are supposed to remind us that life is precious and that we need to live every day with purpose. Tragedies remind us that we aren’t invincible. The United States may be a great nation, but the people of America need to remember that there is not such thing as invincibility or being untouchable.

But the thing is, it’s always been like this in the world of photojournalism. Even back to the Vietnam War and way before that. Journalists have been capturing the truth for a number of years and they have faced scrutiny for it many times.

Photo credit to Kim Phuc. Found on: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/05/in_pictures_the_vietnam_war_/html/5.stm

Photo credit to Kim Phuc. Found on: http://news.bbc.co.uk/

Many people do not realize the problems photojournalists face. Photojournalists are there to document events as they happen without any interference. Why with no interference? Well, because that compromises the validity of the story. I was taught in my ethics class by Russell Frank at the Pennsylvania State University that it is completely unethical to change a situation or interact in a situation that you are documenting. That is both in writing and in photography. The only, and I mean absolutely only time anyone should intervene is to prevent death. Otherwise, journalists are supposed to be flies on the wall of their situations. Journalists have a duty to their readers to present nothing but truth and facts. No person wants to read a story and find out that the journalist lied, and no one wants to see a picture that was staged or extremely photoshopped. It’s not truth, therefore there is no room for it in the journalism world.

Photojournalists have been capturing those hard moments for a number of years. Quite frequently photojournalists are placed in war zones with the American troops to send images back to their news companies for publication. Sometimes those images can be quite graphic. But that’s their duty. War is not pretty and if any of you out there are so blinded that you think it is, you are sadly mistake. People die, people bleed and it can be hard saying good-bye to your fellow brothers in arms. Some photojournalists have been taken hostage or even killed. Lisa Ling and Euna Lee were captured in North Korea in 2009 and put into a prison until Former President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea to negotiate their release.

How many of you have traveled to document something and been put into prison?

Photo Credit to Eddie Adams during the Vietnam War. Found at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/05/in_pictures_the_vietnam_war_/html/6.stm

Photo Credit to Eddie Adams during the Vietnam War. Found at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/

People also forget that they seek information and sometimes that means getting what you do not want to see. Online mediums often place disclaimers to their graphic content.

But is it really their job to protect people from the truth?

When the planes crashed in to the Twin Towers, Pentagon and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, photojournalists faced similar dilemmas that those of the Boston Marathon attacks faced:
“What am I walking in to?”
“I must separate my feelings from my job.”
“It’s my job to report the whole truth.”

Can you imagine walking out the front door with a camera or a pen and notebook in your hand hearing that these tragedies occurred?

Think about that for one second. Your loved one could be in one of those buildings that may fall to the ground..

And you have to do your job.

Maybe photojournalists aren’t so bad after all. Maybe they’re just trying to make a living like the other millions of Americans in this country.

A lot of people argue that photojournalists aren’t really human when they publish photos that are controversial to others. A lot of people argue that there are certain things people should not see.

But, why is the truth so bad? Would you rather be lied to?

It’s hard to be a real journalist. It is hard to sit at a desk and pound out a story on a daily basis. It is hard to go to a simple borough council meeting and determine the most important factors  to put into a story to give to the people of your town. It is hard to go to a sporting event and cover every single play and get every single player’s name spelled correctly. It is hard to weigh what is important for a reader to know and what is not important for people to know. It is hard to be standing behind a lens and see a dead body. It is hard to look up and see planes flying into a building while fire and ash spew from the sides. It is hard to see people dismembered lying on the ground.

Photo credit to Richard Drew of the Associated Press. Featured at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/09/pictures/110908-about-911-september-9-11-twin-world-trade-center-towers-indelible/#/september-9-11-attacks-anniversary-ground-zero-world-trade-center-pentagon-flight-93-falling-man_39992_600x450.jpg

Photo credit to Richard Drew of the Associated Press. Featured at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com

It is hard to be a journalist.

But if there were no journalists, no one would ever know anything. And if people don’t know anything, then they cannot protect themselves.

The next time one looks at a picture and feels like complaining about its content,

Perhaps you should take a moment and step back and think of how the person that took that photograph felt knowing all he or she could do was capture that moment and hope for the best.

We all feel, some of our professions just don’t allow us the luxury of acting on our emotions.

If you want to check out more images, feel free to not only search, but check out these sites:
http://lightbox.time.com/2013/03/18/a-decade-of-war-in-iraq-the-images-that-moved-them-most/#5
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/09/pictures/110908-about-911-september-9-11-twin-world-trade-center-towers-indelible/#/september-9-11-attacks-anniversary-ground-zero-world-trade-center-pentagon-flight-93-airplane-shanksville_39999_600x450.jpg

The Boston Marathon Explosion in Pictures

This photo was found on the ABC News Website at http://www.abcnews.go.com

This photo was found on the ABC News Website at http://www.abcnews.go.com

As a journalist, seeing the photos released by news organizations of this attack today does not bother me at all. No, it’s not because I am heartless. No, it’s not because I have a strong stomach either. If anything, I have a weak stomach. I don’t find it disrespectful to take these photos because, guess what? EVERYONE needs to know what real life is like! You can’t sugar coat a tragedy and pictures aren’t any more disrespectful than the photo of the girl floating around on social media sites that people say was “Running for Sandy Hook.” SHE WASN’T! Her number showed she wasn’t even running in that race, but people of America are too stupid to investigate that picture and will repost it mindlessly.

But they get upset about blood.

The photo was a fake plastered all over the place of a little girl running in a clearly rural setting saying she died today when an 8-year-old boy died today. That is social media, not real journalism. Because, that was fake.

Photo falsely proclaiming this girl to be running in the Boston Marathon in remembrance of the Sandy Hook victims

Photo falsely proclaiming this girl to be running in the Boston Marathon in remembrance of the Sandy Hook victims

War is real. Terrorism is real. You wouldn’t be the slightest bit upset if it was a terrorist you saw. How many of you felt anything when you saw pictures of Saddam or other terrorists in gruesome fashions? The world is real. You should expect the photos you see to be real. A photojournalist’s job is to capture the raw truth of an image. That’s what you’re getting. It’s not staged. It’s not phony. It’s TRUTH. We are trained with discretion and determine what people need to see. Granted Facebook and Twitter has ruined that because anyone can upload anything now, but the job is to deliver the story. And you can’t tell the story without the blood. You can’t tell the story without the tears.

I mean seriously? Do you expect all the pictures to be of people laying on the ground with no blood and no tears in their eyes at all? Just sitting there??? Is that what you want? An emotionless image that just makes the subjects look like they don’t feel anything at all? I’m just curious. Because that’s not what real life does. People cry. people bleed.

People DIE.

And then act like journalists don’t have souls or boundaries. You wouldn’t even know what happened if you didn’t see the pictures or videos. You would be standing around wondering, “What the hell happened?” Journalists have the hardest jobs. We have to separate our feelings from our work. We have to put ourselves in terrible situations to get the job done. I mean, do you think every photojournalist sits around praying for a bombing or a shooting so that he or she can go take a picture? Do you think that’s what we want to see? Do you think we don’t cry about what we see late at night? No we hope to capture and write about happy moments. But we can’t do that all of the time in this world. We have to show the bad stuff too.

Take it in. And try to make the world a better place so the blood stops. Stop seeing life through a rainbow-colored lens…….obviously, as we saw today, LIFE ISN’T LIKE THAT.

When I get up in the morning, I don’t look for photos of blood and guts from various massacres across the world. However, I think that as Americans we have an arrogance about ourselves that cannot be denied. We don’t want to see war and reality if it’s on the face of our own people.

It is known that most people do not mind seeing pictures of dead terrorists or dead animals. And then people wonder why other countries hate us. We should see reality. No we shouldn’t see it at the age of four, but as young adults and adults we are fully capable of handing the truth. These pictures should show you reality.

This photo was found on the CNN Website at http://www.cnn.com

This photo was found on the CNN Website at http://www.cnn.com

We need to be aware of what we can do to one another.

And we need to change ourselves. But how can we learn if at first we don’t SEE?

The answer is simple: We Can’t

This photo was found on the Business Insider website at http://www.businessinsider.com

This photo was found on the Business Insider website at http://www.businessinsider.com

This photo was found on the New York Post website at http://www.nypost.com

This photo was found on the New York Post website at http://www.nypost.com

For Good

People change our lives. Time changes our lives. Time and people can be valuable lessons for us to learn. It’s funny. I look back at high school and I see the people I was surrounded by and how much time has changed us all. I see some people and think, “Oh my gosh I know them. But it almost feels like a lifetime ago.”

It’s amazing. I look at the person that I was six years ago when I graduated high school and I have changed so much. Naturally, I’m reflecting because my sister is graduating in a few months. Then she will be off to Clarion University to major in Biotechnology and Molecular Biology (Whatever the hell that means, I just hope she makes some serious cash).

I used to party. Well, I don’t do that anymore and I feel sorry for all of those individuals that chronically go out and can’t accomplish anything because they’re too busy partying.

I know the difference between what is classy and trashy, and congratulations DuBois, you have the trashiest people in the world. But it took me awhile to know the difference. For example, as much as I don’t like a lot of country music, country isn’t trashy. Trashy depends on the person and not their specific clique or interest. I’m sure, in fact I am positive that trashy people exist everywhere. However, DuBois is so small that they abound. I used to try to fit in with everyone. And I am content with who I am now. I’m content with being by myself, in fact I crave it. Granted most of my time is devoted to work and I take in precious moments with Kyle. I also take in precious moments with my friends when we can make our schedules mesh.
I give this advice:
1) Being opinionated is okay, especially if you’re a female. Being loud, obnoxious and stupid is not okay. It’s especially not okay if you’re drunk. So if you don’t have anything remotely intelligent to say and you just want to be trashy, keep your damn mouth shut. No one wants to hear what you would do for free shots; no one wants to hear about your sex life. NO ONE. Life is far too short to sound anything but semi-intelligent. There’s an old saying that poses the question of “Why do all of the smart people stay quiet and all of the stupid people speak loudly?”  Do the world a favor, think before you open your flapping jaws.
2) Know when to keep your mouth shut. Seriously, sometimes you should just keep your mouth shut. Sometimes I have problems with this, but I’m learning that silence is golden. If you have something intelligent to say, by all means please share it with the world.
3) DON”T START OR INFUSE DRAMA. Seriously. It’s not hard. What is hilarious to me is that most people who say, “Oh, I don’t start drama” are the ones that do in fact start it. They won’t ever admit it. You want to talk shit and think you’re tough? Congrats, you are all words. Nothing more. That means if you talk crap on Facebook just to see if someone will react to it that you are, in fact, INFUSING said drama. It’s not cute. If someone calls you out on something and you don’t address the issue with that person, you should. If you fight with people who are younger than you, and then pretend to act like an adult…..YOU AREN’T. Especially true if you’re my age. Come on now. And if you fit into the definition of trashy, and you start drama. You may just have your own MTV show.
4) Now, this will sound super judgmental, but I’m gonna say it anyway: Ladies, if you want a man, advertising that you spread your legs for a million guys won’t get you one. You know how I said be classy? Try that. Because if you dress like a  slop, you’re going to attract a pig. If you try being a little lady-like, wear a cute sun dress that doesn’t show your vagina, don’t cake on the make up so you look like a bad science experiment, and don’t fake bake so much that you look like you rolled in Doritos….well, you just might snag a keeper! Try it. If you’re complaining that you don’t have a guy, perhaps you should try a different route. Instead of looking for love in all the wrong places, try loving yourself enough to not be fake. Now, I’m not saying don’t go out and enjoy sex. You can. But when you advertise it like a billboard, it’s detrimental. Someday, you may want to be married, and your husband may be thinking about the 50 some odd penises that were there before him……I mean, think about it. How would you feel if your potential husband had about 50 vaginas on his dick before yours? Personally I would be turned off. Just a thought. If you don’t want to get married and want to just have fun for the rest of your life, then by all means, mount as many dicks as possible. I would also like to write a disclaimer that I don’t really know what lesbians look for in each other. I think gay guys look for in guys what straight guys look for in girls. BUT. Alas, I do not know for sure. Any gays and lesbians may feel free to comment in efforts to educate me.
5) Be natural. Seriously. I keep saying the most beautiful women I have seen are cancer survivors and pregnant women. You know why? Because they’re raw. They’re real. They aren’t afraid. They represent LIFE. It makes the make-up and tanning seem rather unnecessary.
6) Alcohol just leads to problems. Moderation is fine. But if you’re seriously drinking all the time in excess, you have a problem and you should seek help. It’s not “fun” its bad for your health and it’s detrimental to your life in general.

Now I know life is for living and people should go out and experience it.

But remember, people and situations are lessons. Just like it says in the lyrics from Wicked:

I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn. And we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them, and we help them in return. Well I don’t know if I believe that’s true, but I know I’m who I am today because I knew you.

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes the sun. Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood. Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better. But because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

And you will be changed, and hopefully it’s for good.