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Monday, August 26, 2013

Andrew Pyper: Writer of things that go bump in your brain

Image of Andrew Pyper from Google


Andrew Pyper's books are not just read, they are devoured. You cannot read anything he has written and simply walk away when the last page is turned. Andrew Pyper creates stories and characters that stay with you long after the tale ends. He truly writes things that go bump in your brain, and it is my honor to present my interview with one of my favorite authors, Andrew Pyper.


1) A reviewer of your first book Lost Girls said it was as if Alice Munro and Stephen King had a secret love child. What inspired you to write such a memorable tale?

I had just graduated from law school, an experience that left me a bit depressed and wondering what I was going to do next with my life (I was damn sure I wasn't going to be a lawyer).  So I moved to a small town where the rent was cheap and started to write a story about a cokehead lawyer taking on the first murder trial of his career.  The set-up was fairly conventional: a murder mystery/legal drama.  But as I went along, the more ghostly and monstrous elements introduced themselves.  The presumed victims started to haunt the lawyer.  A local myth of a Lady in the Lake who pulls swimmers down enlarged to become pivotal to the story.  The supernatural creeped into the conventional realism all on its own.  When I was finished, I didn't know what I'd made.  A legal procedural/ghost story/psychological thriller hybrid?  It was kind of a monster in itself.  But obviously it was where my own interests and inclinations wanted to take me - the netherworld between genres.  In varied ways, I've been there ever since. 

2) Your most recent novel, The Demonologist was just named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by Amazon.com. Did you know how well-received The Demonologist would be?

It's been gratifying (and rather surprising) to see how the novel has been received.  But the thing is, you never know.  I certainly don't, anyway.  There's a little game I play before a book is published where I wonder what the one thing about the story will bug (some) readers most?  Because there's always one.  My guesses have never been right.

3) You seamlessly combine horror, humor and redemption in many of your novels. Do you draw off experiences in your own life for inspiration, and if so, can you tell us about one or two of those experiences?

A couple people close to me have said that the protagonists of my novels are the versions of myself I would have become had I taken a different course in my life.  This is the sort of insight I would never have come up with on my own, but it seems right to me.  Each novel is an exploration of an alternative reality that is, emotionally if not factually, very close to my current life, its dominant concerns and anxieties.  I think I need to draw on that dynamic of "near-miss," of fear, a kind of There But For the Grace of God Go I consideration of how lives - the lives of others as well as the other lives we ourselves might have lived - are separated by an extremely thin membrane.  In that sense, all experiences - even the most horrific, the most seemingly "unimaginable" - are always closer than you think.

4) Are you at all concerned about the adaption of The Demonologist into a feature film, or do you have faith that the screenwriters will stay true to the haunting qualities of the story?

Naturally, if they make the movie, I'd like it to be good.  But what is "good"?  Me being satisfied?  Huge box office?  Critical praise?  It's like trying to hold an oyster.  I'm quite happy standing apart from the process, letting the moviemakers make a movie, with me cheering them on from the sidelines.  It's because, invariably, films are different from books.  They are their own organism, with their own rituals and culture and expectations.  It actually relieves a lot - if not all - of my worries on the matter when I remember this.  

5) Classical literature plays a part in many of your novels, most notably Milton's Paradise Lost in The Demonologist. Who are some modern (or not so modern authors) you read and like?

My reading is all over the place, so my answer here may not have any apparent through-line to someone else, but there is one to me.  In different ways, I love - and love to draw on - Henry James, Stephen King, Alice Munro, Conrad, Ovid, Martin Amis.  That's this week, anyway. 

6) Simon and Schuster will be publishing your next two novels, the first of which is Ash. Can you tell us a bit about your latest work?

I don't want to get in trouble here by saying too much!  Ash is about fraternal twins and near death experience.  What would happen if you died and returned to life, only you brought something else back with you.  Someone.

7) Finally, you have a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humor about your own notoriety. Is it difficult to remain humble when people compare your work to Ira Levin's and Willam Peter Blatty's?

I have two young kids who, when I come downstairs after a writing day, will stick their tongues out and cross their eyes and mimic a monkey punching a keyboard and say, "Oh, look!  Guess who was working!"  Around here, humble is the only option.  

Visit Andrew Pyper's website and Facebook page for more information on all his books and upcoming events. 

Please note: Andrew Pyper very kind to agree to this interview. Having this published here on Poking at Snakes in no way means he agrees or disagrees with any of the political pieces here. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chelsea Manning

Image from Zazzle.com

In a statement released by his attorney, PFC Bradley Manning announced that he will begin transitioning from a man to a woman, asking people to now refer to him as Chelsea Manning. Out of respect for that request, I will be using the name Chelsea Manning in this piece.

Whether or not you agree with what Chelsea Manning did as Bradley Manning, whether or not you agree with the sentencing that was handed down Wednesday, one thing is clear: we must respect this decision. Transgender people are maligned, abused, attacked and murdered all over the world simply for trying to be the person they feel they were meant to be. Imagine waking up every single day, knowing the skin you're in feels wrong. You are unable to fulfill your true potential, because you are never comfortable with yourself. And then imagine that the only way to solve this, the only way to finally be happy, will open you up to hate and violence and cruelty.

Chelsea's announcement is naturally the subject of many articles online, and with anything written online, there are comments. People who would probably never in their lives support violence or rape are suddenly posting some of the most vile things I've ever read. A self-professed liberal Facebook page shared a status that accused Chelsea Manning of some sort of "publicity stunt," and "doing" this to get out of going to prison. The gist of the comments I've read is: if "He" wants to "feel like a woman," "he" can get "raped in prison."

Who thinks like that? Again, whether or not you agree with what Chelsea Manning did as Bradley, whether you support the sentencing or not, it is never okay to wish harm on another human being, especially someone who is making this kind of decision. Do these people think it's easy to transition from one sex to another? Do they think this is a decision made lightly? That you get a few shots, take a few pills, have a little surgery and voila-you're done?

Gender reassignment surgery is one of the most heavily regulated procedures in America. No, not by the government; by medical facilities, psychologists and physicians. There are a battery of psychological and physical tests one must go through just to be considered for the surgery. The hormones are incredibly expensive. A person has to learn to live as the opposite sex, and understand that there will always be an irrational fear of anyone with the courage to transition.

Yes, courage. To purposely put yourself through this takes courage. To have the self-awareness you need to pass those psychological tests takes courage. You can't "fake" them, you just can't. The people giving those tests and analyzing your readiness are professionals, trained to know if you're fully prepared for this journey. I've never felt that I am in the wrong body, so I can only imagine how terrifying that would be. I can also only imagine how frightening and liberating it would be to finally have the chance to live in a skin that did not feel awkward or suffocating or just wrong.

Chelsea Manning is most likely one of many people who will transition from male to female this year, and from female to male. It is my sincere hope that all those brave individuals will, at the end of their journey, be able to look at themselves, both inside and out, and smile. If only the rest of the world could do the same.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bill O'Reilly: New White House Dog Too Foreign, Too Black

Photo from I love it when I wake up in the morning and Barack Obama is President

The Obama family welcomed a new member to their brood this past weekend, a Portuguese water dog named Sunny. Sunny is about a year old with all black fur and is already the other most famous dog in the world. But to Bill O'Reilly, Sunny is just one more sign of everything wrong with America.

Recently, Mr. O'Reilly has had at least one meltdown on air attempting to prove the majority of all crime in America is committed by young black men. White young men do not go to prison at the alarming rate young black men do, and since there is no racism in America anymore, it must be because young black men are being raised differently. O'Reilly posits that the fault lies with the disintegration of the African American family.

Echoing such conservative luminaries as Neil Boortz, Mark Levin, David Duke, Bryan Fischer, Michelle Malkin and Steve King, Bill O'Reilly believes that abortion and the liberal agenda are forcing African American men to abandon their families in droves and/or encouraging African American women to have multiple children out of wedlock. Also, gay marriage and Benghazi.

O'Reilly brought all of this together on his program Monday evening while addressing the addition of Sunny to the White House. Wearing his journalism/wizard hat, Bill wondered aloud about Sunny's nationality. "Why does the president refuse to adopt an American dog?" he asked, gazing sadly into the camera. He went on to correctly point out the color of Sunny's fur, then launched into a 12 1/2-minute long speech about his favorite dogs.

Several breeds Bill O'Reilly feels would better represent the Spirit of America are the Labrador retriever, the French poodle, the Chihuahua, the Newfoundland, the Scottish terrier and the German shepherd. He opined about Snuggles, a Pekingese he had as a child.

"I went to Catholic camp one summer, and every week, Snuggles would send me a letter. I knew my mom wrote it, but Snuggles always managed to put her little paw print at the bottom of the letter. At the end of each day, after being relentlessly teased about my freckles, that paw print made me smile. When I got home, Mom told me Snuggles had gone to live on a farm with a very nice older couple, where she could herd chickens and help with the horses. I never saw Snuggles again."

Viewers got a rare glimpse at Bill O'Reilly's soul Monday night. We've always known it was a little dark, a little murky and smelled funny, but Monday evening, we saw why. Bill O'Reilly just misses Snuggles.

(This is satire. Give him a week...he'll go here)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The question's the same, but the answer has changed

Image from Google

I belong to Klout. I don't know why I belong to Klout because I'm not sure what it does, but I signed up for it at some point. And every once in awhile, Klout sends me an email, letting me know I have a question to answer, usually about writing or blogging. It's always the same question: what do I need to start my own blog? My answer, however, has changed.

A few months ago, I would have rambled on about finding your passion, discovering what feeds your soul, maybe gone on to templates and layouts and ended with "Just write!" Today? Today the answer would be a bit less enthusiastic because if I knew three years ago what I know now, I probably never would have started writing online.

Today the answer is you need a thick skin. You need to be the person who thinks "Why, yes, that Carly Simon song is about me!" You need to be able to withstand the hate and the cruelty lobbed at you day after day, article after article. You need to weather betrayal and lies and personal attacks the likes of which you have not experienced since high school. You need an ego the size of Montana.

Can you look in the mirror and repeat "They're wrong" over and over when people tell you your spouse should leave you or is probably cheating on you? That your child should be taken away from you? That you're ugly and stupid? Do you know who to call when you receive a death threat that includes your home address? Can you withstand the person who comes to read an article you spent two days researching and four hours writing simply to pick it apart like a vulture on a corpse, until nothing is left but bones drying in the sun?

Do you understand the Internet gives insignificant people power, power they do not have in their normal lives? Online, the meek twenty-something year old living in his or her parents' basement becomes MachoMike or WhitePrideGirl. The sociopath of whom the neighborhood children are afraid suddenly has access to hundreds of websites. Including your blog.

The frustrated <insert political affiliation here> who doesn't have the courage to write their own opinions down will find you, stalk you and harass you. Blogging about jazz? Someone who hates jazz, who thinks it's the worst thing since Hitler will find you, stalk you and harass you. Love desserts? Trust me-a dietitian with a chip on their shoulder will find you, stalk you and harass you. It doesn't matter what you write, what you love, how good you are. Someone will always hate you.

There is one aspect of writing online I adore: interviews. I really enjoy interviewing people, and if I'd never dipped my toe into the cesspool that is blogging, I would have never been able to meet the authors, musicians and activists I have. I made a video that started a movement. I got to run around right in front of the stage, taking photos of Collective Soul. Josh and Steve Snyder-Hill are on our Christmas card list.

The satire is fun, except when people don't understand it's satire. I do like the way I write; one minute grammatically perfect and the next, just making up my own words and phrases. Others hate that, as I have discovered over the past few months. If I could, I would write for Wonkette because they do the same things I do, just a lot funnier. And I would still bother people for interviews.

But it hurts to get hit every single day with hate and derision from people who have no idea what it's like to do this. First you outline, then you research, you find links, you edit. If you write for someone else part time, as I do at Quiet Mike, someone else edits and finds the final graphics. And God forbid either you or your editor miss a semi-colon or forget a capital letter, because all the work you put into that piece will matter not a whit. All someone (or quite a few people) will notice is the mistake. The content goes right out the window. Or people just read the headline, pick out a few key words that contradict every single thing they believe, and wham, bam, thank you, ma'am, you're ugly, stupid, your mother should have had an abortion, you need to be shot/beaten etc.

What do you need to start blogging? Therapy, body armor, alcohol, something to punch and someone to remove all the sharp objects from your office. Also, glue your computer down so you are never tempted to pick it up and throw it out a window. If you start a blog and suddenly realize this may not be for you, don't worry. Someone somewhere with a thesaurus and a slightly masochistic personality will pick up the slack.



Saturday, August 17, 2013

Suing the Bush administration: The interview that fell on apathetic ears

Image of Inder Comar and Sundus Shaker Saleh from QuietMike.org


For over a decade, I, you, we, everyone has heard liberals screaming that George W. Bush and members of his administration need to be charged with war crimes. Most of us believe they should be dragged in front of a court and made accountable for the Iraq war. So when Quiet Mike's own Michelle Simmons published an interview with an attorney suing the Bush administration on behalf of an Iraqi woman, I was ecstatic.

This article should have blown the roof off. After all, attorney Inder Comar is doing exactly what liberals claim to want done-trying to charge the men and women responsible for the lies and the misinformation that led to the worst war since Vietnam. Mr. Comar is a hero. Or at least, he should be.

Michelle's article has, as of Friday evening, a total of 1128 views. That's it. Those views come from Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit and Google+. 1128 total views. We even made a meme, given that people often have very short attention spans online, and it helped a little, but not as much as any of us thought.

For all the breast beating and petition signing and hand wringing liberals have done over the past decade or so, one would think Michelle's article would have been featured at Current TV, Huffington Post, MSNBC, Think Progress, everywhere. Maybe Glenn Beck could have mentioned how awful it is to try and charge poor W with war crimes while playing a violin. But none of that happened. Crickets happened.

Michelle made a great comment early Friday morning-this is why liberals lose. We are apathetic, we want the same thing conservative voters want. Spoon-fed news and politics, don't make us work too hard and JESUS don't make us get up. We can't read an article over 500 words without twitching and that article better rate 90-100 on the Flesch Reading Ease scale or we're just going to ignore it and watch cat videos.

I used to be this kind of liberal. Oh, I'd sign your petition, but I didn't really do anything worthwhile. And seeing the dismal response to Michelle's article has made me wonder why I bother now. She worked incredibly hard to get that exclusive interview, Inder Comar took time out of his schedule for the piece, and apathetic liberals viewed it 1128 times.

So, thanks guys for confusing the living daylights out of us over at Quiet Mike.org. We were convinced this piece would explode because for over 10 years, all we've heard is how George W. Bush and his administration should be tried for war crimes. Well, there's an attorney doing just that. Why don't you care?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A life not lived

Image from Google

I rarely write anything aimed at a specific demographic. My pieces are typically not approved for younger eyes, but this one is. If you have a young adult, maybe 12-18 in your house, please ask them to read this piece.

You know the "It Gets Better" campaign? Celebrities from all walks of life telling kids that life gets better? Have you ever watched one of those videos and wondered if the person making the comments has any clue what it feels like to be drowning in darkness? I have. When I was sixteen, on my sixteenth birthday in fact, I tried to kill myself so I do know what that feels like. White noise, constant sadness, fear, angst, rage and confusion were my life every single day. And on that day, a day when I should have been happily celebrating, I took a bottle of Naprosyn and a bottle of Darvon. My dad found me and took me to the emergency room. I went blind for two days.

But here I am. Damaged, oh heck yes, but I'm here. If my dad hadn't discovered me, half conscious, my life would have ended in a brick house on Knox Avenue in Minneapolis. I would have had a life not lived. My son would never have been born, my husband and I would have never met, I would not have interviewed authors and musicians. Everything would have stopped on my sixteenth birthday.

When someone like me tells you it gets better, you can trust us. We're not just "whistling Dixie" (Google it, it's an old fart saying), we've been there, we've lived it and we survived. I wasn't bullied, I was mentally ill. My official diagnosis was borderline personality disorder, and I lived over thirty years before someone figured out what was wrong with me. I've been on medication for schizophrenia, psychosis, anxiety, you name it. And I'm still here, symptom free for about six years.

If you're being bullied, I've posted some links at the end of this piece. If you're depressed, lethargic, moody, failing classes you were acing last year, I've posted other links for you. But I need you to read the next part very carefully, okay? It really does get better. High school is four years of your life. Four flipping years, then it's over and you're on to college where you'll meet people with whom you have so much in common. Are you LGBT? Four years. Like art instead of sports? Four years. Dress all in black and think Marilyn Manson is awesome? Four years. Repeat it. Four years. I know-it seems like a lifetime, but it's not. And you can make it.

Whether you realize it or not, you are loved. I didn't realize it, and that ate a hole in my soul for decades. People would miss you. Your mom, your dad, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles would mourn you. And you would end up with a life not lived. What do you want to be when you grow up? What are your dreams? Don't give anyone else the power to take those dreams away, to quash your passion. You are important, you are part of a generation that can change the world. You just have to get through four years.

Finally, trust someone. Sometimes parents say and do all the wrong things because they don't understand either. Remember, we're only human and we will screw up. If you can't talk to your parents, find a counselor at school or contact a local hotline. Take the steps you need to take in order to start feeling safe. Many schools are taking bullying and adolescent depression more seriously. 

Here are the links. Use them whenever you need to, and if the person on the other end of the line wants to find you help in your area, let them. Take care of yourself. We need you to grow up and help make the world a better place. Deal? 

If you're an LGBT teen being bullied or having thoughts of self harm or suicide, The Trevor Project can help. Click the link to go to their website.

If you are being bullied or know someone who is, StopBullying.gov has resources, phone numbers and links to local assistance.

If you are struggling with depression, the National Institute of Mental Health offers great information, resources and phone numbers for immediate help.




Do most Russians really agree with Dmitri Kisilev?

Image of Dmitri Kisilev from The New Civil Rights Movement.com

Dmitri Kisilev is the Deputy General Director of the Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting company, and he recently appeared on the country's most popular news program to address Russia's anti-LGBT laws. Kisilev shared his opinions, saying:

"I think that just imposing fines on gays for homosexual propaganda among teenagers is not enough. They should be banned from donating blood, sperm. And their hearts, in case of the automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life."

In other words, if a homosexual is killed in a car accident, their heart should not be harvested for organ donation but ripped from their body and buried or burned. Why, I don't know. Maybe Kisilev believes if a straight person receives a gay person's heart they will suddenly become gay.

According to numerous sources, a recent poll in Russia states that three of four Russians agree with people like Kisilev and Putin when it comes to the LGBT community. Out of one hundred people polled, seventy four do not believe society should accept homosexuality.When I first saw those results, I did a little research, because I wondered if a poll in Russia is the same as a poll in America. As I was looking into this, my dear friend Serena was doing the same by reading the Pew Global Attitudes report.

It turns out there are mitigating factors when it comes to people's responses to questions about homosexuality, one of which is wealth. The more economically secure a country, the more likely the respondents to these poll questions will be supportive of societal acceptance of homosexuality. Another is secularism. A theocratic nation will obviously have less favorable views on "alternative lifestyles" than a secular nation.

But I was still wondering about the Russian poll results. What are the odds that the seventy four people who responded negatively regarding societal acceptance of homosexuality were telling the truth? In a country where anything supporting LGBT rights is considered spreading homosexual propaganda, punishable by jail time, how many of those seventy four people responded to the pollster dishonestly? Self-preservation must have kicked in for at least a few. Imagine the thoughts that might have raced through the mind of someone contacted to answer the question.

Tell the truth and end up in jail. Lose my job, maybe my house, perhaps my children will be taken away from me. Or lie to protect myself and my family. I find it very hard to believe that a majority of Russians feel perfectly fine about oppressing an entire group of people in their country, given how many Russians have been oppressed over the past few decades. Dmitri Kisilev's comments were met with resounding applause. Well of course they were; what choice did anyone in the audience have?

Americans on the far right and far left are constantly screaming about our "fascist government." Let me share a little secret with you. If our government was truly fascist, you wouldn't be able to stand on a street corner with your "OBAMA IS HITLER" sign without being arrested or just shot in the face. You wouldn't be able to tell the truth when approached by a pollster, because everything you say would be shared with the fascist government. You would live your life in fear, lying to yourself and everyone you know because you realize anything and everything you say, do and believe can be used against you at any given time.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe seventy four out of one hundred Russians really do hate the LGBT community. If they do, if that poll is an honest representation of Russia, I have an explanation for that as well. Maxim Tesak. You know the adage "The enemy of my enemy is my friend?" Tesak may be a neo-Nazi and his beliefs may be frowned upon in Russia, but this is a man who has convinced many Russians that all gay men are pedophiles. His lies and hate are assisting Putin and his government in their war against the LGBT community. Putin's enemy is the LGBT community so Maxim Tesak is, by default, Putin's "friend."

I do not believe most Russians truly, in their hearts agree with Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Kisilev. I think Russians are afraid to tell the truth, to stand up to their repressive and fascist government and I really believe most Russians are sickened and embarrassed and saddened by what Putin and his supporters have done to the reputation of their great country. Wouldn't you be?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The garage where crickets go to die


Image from Google

For two years, I have watched helplessly as crickets seek shade in our garage only to perish. They hop in, trying to escape the burning prairie sun and stop, frozen in place. Within 24 hours, they're dead.

We have ants, flies, bees, mosquitoes, spiders, aphids, beetles, wasps, hornets all over the place. Those insects enter and leave our garage without a care in the world (except for the wasps and hornets-they better care), crawling and flying freely in and out. Crickets come in but they never leave. And we have no idea why.

There is no colorless gas flowing through our garage, no toxic ooze slurping up through the cracks, no nuclear waste buried under the concrete. We wander around without any suffering any ill effects, so why does our garage kill crickets? I have a theory. Demons.

What if our garage sits on an entrance to Hell? Perhaps the previous renter got himself the real Necronomicon, bought supplies on Amazon.com (now Washington Post.com) and opened a gate to Hell. You've seen the movies where some kids think it would be an awesome idea to perform some ritual standing underneath a swing set in the backyard and WHAM: creepy fog, a horrible booming sound and suddenly a crack appears, filled with fire and voices muttering in some ancient language. That could totally have happened here.

It's boring as everything in this town-we don't even have a movie theater-and the winters are long and cold. The guy who lived here before us could have just gone stir crazy and decided anything is better than February in a town of 10,666 (SEE?) residents. But why are the demons only killing crickets?

Crickets are considered good luck by many Asian countries, they don't bite or sting people and they make the most adorable sounds. Crickets are sort of the warm fuzzies of the insect world. Demons hate warm and fuzzy. Okay, they like warm obviously, but only when it comes to temperature, not when it comes to cute things. Demons despise cute. Otters, wombats, quokkas, cat videos and it seems crickets, all qualify as demonic targets. Thank goodness the bunnies never come into the garage, or we'd have blood all over the walls and bunny parts on the hood of the car.

Maybe we need an exorcism. Can you imagine the phone call? "Hello, Vatican? Yeah, we think we have a gate to Hell underneath our Chrysler Pacifica and demons are killing crickets so could you send a priest over to the...hello? Hello?"

There are 4 dead crickets out there right now, and I'm terrified. Something's going on, something wicked and dark and evil. You can't make me believe this isn't demonic, you just can't. And you know who's to blame whenever things like this happen, right? I never thought I'd write this, never thought I would believe it in a million years, but I blame (and I'm truly sorry) Pat Robertson.

You senile old bastard, what did you do to our garage?



Sunday, August 4, 2013

I have a friend who was falsely accused of rape

Image from Google

About twenty-five years ago, a man I've known for quite some time was arrested and charged with rape and domestic battery. He was trying to break up with a woman he'd been dating, and her response to this was to falsely accuse him of sexually and physically assaulting her.

My friend did not have the money to hire a private attorney, so he was given a public defender. The judge would not allow him to present any witnesses discrediting the "victim" and my friend was told by his lawyer to plead No Contest. He'd spend thirty days in a county jail and be required to take anger management classes.

What no one told him-not the police, not the public defender, not the prosecutor and not the judge-is that for the rest of his life, he would be labeled a sex offender. He would be lumped in with paroled pedophiles and paroled violent rapists and parents who had sexually abused their own children. He would be considered a monster. And wherever he went, he would be required to register with the police. My friend would fill out the same forms that a man who raped children or a woman who molested her daughter filled out.

There are many things my friend cannot do because he is a registered sex offender. He and his wife can never be foster parents. He cannot volunteer at his kids' school. He can never be a teacher or a coach. And every time he interviews for a job, he gets a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. My friend spends sleepless nights wondering if the company, once they find his criminal record and sex offender status, will suddenly find someone else "more qualified."

In my entire adult life, my friend is the only person I've met who was falsely accused of rape. I have met one woman who lied about being raped. That's it. But once or twice is once or twice too often. Ruining someone's life because you're pissed they're breaking up with you is a kind of pathological I can't begin to understand. Lying about being raped is despicable. Especially when you consider the harm that lie can cause.

Actual rape victims, the men and women who wake up in the middle of the night with that monstrous memory (or memories) running through their heads are harmed by people who lie about being raped. The liars make it much more difficult for us to receive justice or to even find the strength inside to try. You know the management tool used to explain customer service? How one person can visit a store ten times, and if out of all those visits they have just one negative experience, that's the experience they will remember and share with their friends? It's exactly the same with false rape allegations.

What we hear is that "it happens all the time," women "lie constantly" about being raped, "men can't be raped" and on and on and on. I'm not going to use national statistics on this, I'll use my own. In twenty two years, I have met one man who was falsely accused and one woman who lied. Out of thousands of people, two. That's not "all the time," it's not "constantly." It's two people, once whose life was destroyed and one who just made her rape up to get attention.

Rape is traumatic, it's painful and it can damage a person for a very long time. A false rape accusation can also damage a person for a very long time; in the case of my friend, until he's sixty years old. He could try and get the charges removed, the conviction overturned, but he would need tens of thousands of dollars to hire a private attorney and a private investigator, he would need to take time off work to travel to the state where the false accusation was leveled and he would need the woman who lied to recant.

My friend cannot do that. He cannot afford the price, both physically and financially that dragging all this up again would cost. He hates going back to this event, as much as a rape survivor hates going back to theirs. If you think about it, he is as much a victim as I was when I was raped. He's told me that very few people know about what happened to him. His wife does obviously, and she believes in his innocence, often to the point of musing about what she'd do if she ever met "that woman." His kids don't really know the whole story and they never will.

False rape accusations are like a pebble in a pond. Filing one does not just affect the person you're trying to hurt with a lie. You are taking advantage of a system designed to help actual victims of rape, and you are damaging that system. You are taking the police and the criminologists and the medical personnel and the prosecutor and the crisis counselors away from helping REAL victims. You are the reason short-sighted people say false accusations happen all the time.

For my friend, his sixtieth birthday cannot come too soon. He has spent almost all of his adult life as a registered sex offender because a woman wanted revenge. And that woman with her lies quite possibly made it more difficult for an actual rape victim to receive justice and may have made it much harder for the legal system to put a real violent predator behind bars.

It doesn't happen all the time. But when someone falsely accuses another person of rape, each time someone chooses to throw that pebble into the pond, the ripples touch more than just the object of their anger.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Why my husband is cancelling his PayPal account


Image from Google

I opened a PayPal account on June 19th. I moved money from a bank account into the PayPal account and sent some of it to a friend, leaving a whopping $4.00 resting quietly, doing nothing. I was not planning on using the PayPal account for quite some time so I logged out, logged out of the email I used only for PayPal and went on my merry way.

Imagine my surprise when, on a whim, I logged back into my PayPal account and discovered something called Bill Me Later attached to it. What the hell was this? I never signed up for anything called Bill Me Later, I had no clue what it even was. Bill Me Later is a credit card that it seems PayPal likes to attach to your account without your permission or authorization. And I can prove it.

See, I have a screen shot of the page I am taken to when I try to view a Bill Me Later statement. That page tells me I need to SIGN UP and ACTIVATE the service. Yet, somehow I owe Bill Me Later $25. Oh, and the Bill Me Later service was added to my PayPal account on June 17th. I opened the PayPal account on June 19th. Is it magic?

No, it's consumer fraud. I Googled this to see if others had experienced the same thing and oh my goodness, yes they have. Some contacted their state's attorney general, others their state representatives while others hired private attorneys or filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau. I filled out an ICE report, sent a form into our attorney general, am planning on contacting a lawyer and because of this fraudulent activity, I was forced to put an alert on my credit report.

My husband has a PayPal account, but after we sell our electric car, he's closing it and he's telling PayPal why. As of today, August 1st, PayPal has not responded to any of my emails other than sending me automated responses. They refuse to fix this, they refuse to acknowledge their fraudulent and illegal activity, but from what I've been able to research, they almost never do.

If PayPal wants to play this game, fine. I have the contacts, I have the resources and I have the proof. Perhaps PayPal is accustomed to dealing with people who tuck their tails between their legs and go away scared. Maybe PayPal thinks I cannot live without them. Or that I will just give up. I've fought monsters far bigger than PayPal, and if they think I'm afraid of them, they've got another thing coming. PayPal should be afraid of me.