Saturday, November 7, 2009

Just another Aunty Christ rape post. No big deal.

It’s a little alarming to realize I’m telling myself that the call I went on with the homeless woman who got hit on the head and sexually assaulted with a bottle because she wouldn’t give her heroin to the guy who camps next to her wasn’t “that bad.” It wasn’t that bad because I wasn’t there very long, and because the long, frustrating process of trying to find her a place to stay and a way to get there had only begun when she announced that she had to leave the hospital, like, now and start her long, frustrating day of gathering enough change from passersby to secure more heroin. What would have been five hours of sitting and chatting to the patient and making phone calls on her behalf in order to secure the somewhat-satisfactory result of a place for her to stay, given grudgingly by the one resource I have access to, was truncated, ending too quickly for me to fully realize how even-less-satisfactory this result was.

There’s a kind of crocodile-wildebeest attitude that those who are part of the System have toward those who are outside of it, I notice, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I feel instinctively that it’s a heartless thing. We are here to witness and document your defeat, but we cannot help you. That would be enabling your mistakes, which are numerous and which have put you in danger in the first place. So the weak, enfeebled wildebeests fall prey to the crocs, every time. Because, that’s life. Or that’s how you learn, or something. If you saved them once, you’d have to save them every time. Hakuna matata, dude.

Of course, treating someone like a grown up person who can make her own decisions isn’t at all a bad thing, whereas treating someone like a dumb infant sometimes is. American culture is all about the tough love (á là Intervention: “You wanna go get high? Fine, but don’t expect us to be here for you when you get back.”). But it’s also, I want to say, about infantilizing adults as much as possible: TV, religion, Snuggies. Goddamn it, fucking Snuggies. What is the Snuggie if not our warm, fleecy route back to the womb?

What American culture is sadly not about is treating people sympathetically when they most need it. I get it. We don’t want to encourage drug addicts. We don’t want to waste precious resources on the homeless. But why does this manner of dealing with people always feel to me like we’ve decided that some people are fine to deal with and some people are beneath our notice? I guess what I’m really asking is what’s wrong with saying, “We understand that you have two competing needs right now. Go take care of the one, and come back. We want to help you. You are worth helping.”

Probably once I’ve been doing this a little longer, I’ll realize that everyone’s a schemer, and then I’ll wonder what the point is, even—why I’m even bothering to go to the hospital at 3 a.m. to help some damn person who doesn’t really want the help I am allowed to give her.

At one point tonight, I realized that what this all comes down to, what we’re really talking about, is privilege. Before I started doing this work, I couldn’t have comprehended someone not wanting to report a rape because she was afraid her only clothes would be taken away. But it happens all the time. It breaks my heart. Oh, all the things that happen that break my heart—little dignities that we take for granted, withheld.

So while I was appalled to hear Rihanna’s interview about her attack, I have to say, I’m even more appalled at things that happen every day, in my town, to people who we’ve decided don’t really matter, and can leave without a good plan about how they will stay safe, and if they show up on our door later on, we have already told them that we will not help them.


Salty Miss Jill said...

Thanks for articulating, once more. I am going to share your thoughts with my co-workers, if you don't mind.
The world needs more of you.

Aunty Christ said...

You're sweet, Salty. Thank you.

And you too, m'dear.

Eve said...

This post disturbed and touched me. What we're supposed to do is help people. We're not helping addictions or opposing additions, we're relieving suffering. In the cast of the addict, the suffering of needing the next high competes with the suffering from the sexual assault. Regardless of what the client chooses, she is not just a client; she's a person. You see that, you get that... and I hope it doesn't sound Pollyana-ish of me to say that if you manage to hold your heart steady and deal with your clients from the heart, gaze at them person to person, no matter what you do or fail to do otherwise, you've already done more than probably everyone else in that client's life does, when that client is a woman in the circumstances you described.

Aunty Christ said...

"We're not helping addictions or opposing additions, we're relieving suffering. In the cast of the addict, the suffering of needing the next high competes with the suffering from the sexual assault." Exactly! Ugh. I feel like all that should be pretty obvious to anyone working in a helping profession. It's driving me crazy: Why isn't it?

Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Okay, I wasn't expecting this series, but I'm glad that you've posted it. For once, some honesty on this topic and not the usual hand-holding-while-they-sell-you-homilies-and-their-Oprah/Dr.Phil-style-confessional-book. I agree with the others that we need more of you.

Aunty Christ said...

Thanks, JT. I appreciate the encouragement.

George Popham said...

Good to see you posting again. I haven't looked in in months.

Truthful. Utterly lacking in bullshit. I thank you.

I'm now in the process of writing a post about my recent work experience in the much less than affluent school district of Randolph, MA. Much of what you talk about here reminds me of what I've been seeing in the last couple of months, albeit in a different area of social deprivation... The inner and outer dynamics are quite similar, though.

George Popham said...

BTW, your honesty is a wonderful thing... Just six weeks of teaching in public schools has given me a renewed appreciation for honesty, since virtually everything in the public school education process is a tissue of dishonesty - not always lies, but almost always dishonest.

Aunty Christ said...

Hey, George, I miss your blogging! I'm going to look at your post right now. I'm sure you've got a good take on the public education system, and I'm interested to see it.

Yeah, it's depressing to see in action how little a person can matter in this society. That's all.