Scotland Is The First Country To Make Period Products Free —This Should Become The Norm Everywhere

Scotland announced it will offer free period products to its population, and like a true idealist, I’m wondering when other countries will do the same. Since the United States struggles to distribute basic human needs like clean water, food, and health care to people who are struggling, I’m not holding my breath for us. But period poverty is a reality that many folks have to deal with each month, and that is on top of the stigma of bleeding in the first place.

Everyone should have access to what they need, and that includes sanitary products. It’s one thing to be stuck for a minute without a tampon or pad if you’re caught off guard, but it’s another nightmare to have to go a whole cycle without something to contain the flow of menstruation. That’s a reality for folks who can’t afford period products.

Before you get worked up about people getting something for free, before you become worried about big business losing money, before you spread your patriarchal bullshit—let me remind you that you probably get free shit all the time, whether you need it or not. Free Frisbee or t-shirt for filling out a survey? Two please! Free hot dog at the ballpark? Fuck yeah! Free lamp with a busted lampshade on the side of the road? It’s free, why not!?

We aren’t talking about people getting extra, or more than someone else. Just like people struggle to keep the heat on in their home, put food on the table, or pay their rent, some people can’t afford to buy sanitary products each month. There are programs set up to help folks make ends meet, and this is just another program to help folks live with fewer struggles. It’s not like tampons or pads or reusable cups are glamorous gifts to brag about; they are necessary for a person to be able to confidently and safely leave the house in order to work or go to school.

In case you were wondered about the logistics of an operation like this, here’s how Scotland is going to handle distributing period products: Schools and universities are now required to offer free period products in all bathrooms. (I hope they are offered in bathrooms of all genders because transgender men and nonbinary folks bleed too.) The Scottish government will make it mandatory for other publicly funded places to offer free period products. And if anyone needs period products for any reason, the government will make sure they can get them for free. The Period Products Bill was passed unanimously by Parliament, which means male members endorsed the bill too. The new law will cost the country 24 million pounds, which is about 32 million dollars.

Reproductive rights are often up for debate, specifically when lawmakers try to regulate a person’s uterus. Birth control, abortion, and menstruation are often viewed as women’s issues, but not all women have vaginas and typical female sex organs. Also, transgender men and nonbinary people need to be included in these conversations, because we are also impacted by what our bodies experience in terms of body parts that can achieve pregnancy or shed blood each month. The common theme in regulating reproductive rights, however, is that cisgender men are often the ones making the rules. It’s more than frustrating to be told what I can do with my body and what tools I should have access to by people who never experience the thing they are making decisions about. No uterus means no opinion that doesn’t support the needs of a uterus.

Having a uterus is more expensive than not. One study found that a woman will spend $6,360 on menstrual products during her reproductive lifetime, or about $13.25 per month between the ages of 12 and 52. This amount doesn’t factor in the cost of what the uterus does to our bodies. I have had cramps and headaches that have caused me to miss work and school. I have had hormonal mood swings that required medication to pull me out of depression and suicidal thoughts. I have had to throw away clothes and sheets because of blood stains. Some folks struggle with endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and endometrial and ovarian cancer. Not only are treatments painful, expensive, and time consuming, but they could impact a person’s fertility. The need for fertility intervention to achieve pregnancy isn’t cheap and is far from pleasant. And while not nearly as significant, the reality of period related cravings can add up too.

Folks aren’t asking for people to buy them new underwear, to cover the cost of a day’s loss of work, or for a stash of chocolate—though that would be nice—but people should have the right to free tampons so they can afford all of the other bullshit that comes with menstruation. Also, if this is strictly a women’s issue, then covering the cost of “women’s” products would help out with the whole women-getting-paid-less issue. Gender equality can’t happen without some equity, and if a bleeder can’t get to work or school because they don’t have the proper protection, then there is little room for fairness.

Free condoms and dental dams are easily accessed in clinics and doctor’s offices, and yet one could argue that a person doesn’t need those things. Just don’t have sex. Easy peasy. Oh? You think you should be able to have the sex whenever you want? Or maybe you think you should be able to protect yourself or others from STIs and pregnancy but can’t afford prophylactics. Bummer. Good thing there are plenty of places for you to find free rubbers and other forms of protection.

Short of removing my uterus—which isn’t usually something that would be covered by insurance unless medically necessary, and even then, good luck—I can’t control the shedding of my uterus each month and neither can half of the population. For the people who can afford to pay for period products, they likely will continue to do so. But for the others who are burdened every month by the cost of bleeding, the least a government can do is make sure they have what they need so they can get through the day without the stress of bleeding money too.

The post Scotland Is The First Country To Make Period Products Free —This Should Become The Norm Everywhere appeared first on Scary Mommy.

‘TIME’ Names Teen Inventor First-Ever ‘Kid Of The Year’

A 15-year-old scientist and inventor has been named Time magazine’s first “Kid of the Year”

Gitanjali Rao, from Denver, Colorado, has been chosen as TIME Magazine‘s first-ever “Kid of the Year.” Rao invented several technologies spanning different fields, including a device that can identify lead in drinking water, and an app and Chrome extension that uses artificial intelligence to detect cyberbullying.

TIME announced the award Thursday, crediting Rao’s ability to apply scientific ideas to real-world problems and her desire to motivate other kids to take up their own causes as the reason they chose her. She was chosen from a field of 5,000 US-based nominees and five finalists.

In a Zoom interview for TIME conducted by none other than Angelina Jolie, Rao explained her scientific process: “Observe, brainstorm, research, build and communicate.”

Rao was placed on the famous Forbes 30 under 30 list last year after she responded to the Flint, Michigan water crisis by creating a device named Tehys, which uses carbon nanotube sensors to detect lead in water. She went on to collaborate with scientists in the water industry to try to get the device on the market.

More recently, Rao has developed a phone and internet tool called Kindly, which uses artificial intelligence technology to detect possible signs of cyberbullying aimed for kids.

“You type in a word or phrase, and it’s able to pick it up if it’s bullying, and it gives you the option to edit it or send it the way it is,” Rao tells TIME. “The goal is not to punish. As a teenager, I know teenagers tend to lash out sometimes. Instead, it gives you the chance to rethink what you’re saying so that you know what to do next time around.”

Rao tells Jolie that she hopes she shifts the societal perspective of what a scientist looks like, or can look like. “I don’t look like your typical scientist,” she said. “Everything I see on TV is that it’s an older, usually white, man as a scientist. My goal has really shifted, not only from creating my own devices to solve the world’s problems, but inspiring others to do the same as well. Because, from personal experience, it’s not easy when you don’t see anyone else like you. So I really want to put out that message: If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it.”

Someone give this girl ALL THE AWARDS. She is undeniably paving the way for a seismic shift in not only what scientists look like, but she exemplifies the value we need to place on newer generations and their contributions to the field.

TIME will choose its Person of the Year next year. In 2019, Greta Thunberg was awarded the honor, becoming the youngest person to win the award at just 16 years old.

The post ‘TIME’ Names Teen Inventor First-Ever ‘Kid Of The Year’ appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Transracial Adoption Frequently Ruins Lives––I Say This As A White Adoptive Mom

The text on the lime green graphic was straightforward and sobering: “Adoption ruins lives.”

In November, which is National Adoption Month, many of us come to expect the heartwarming stories of forever families and the unending stream of statistics about the number of children awaiting adoption within the U.S. foster care system.

As a white adoptive mom with six kids, these are the stories and statistics that I’m used to. The stories and statistics that have become comfortable.

So when I saw the graphic on a message board I follow with the words “adoption ruins lives” – posted in an effort to turn the popular #adoptionsaveslives narrative on its head – I felt instantly uncomfortable. But if ever there was a time to embrace being uncomfortable and acknowledge that uncomfortability is often the precursor to change, it’s 2020. So rather than ignoring those words, I decided to tap into my own culpability and take a hard look at the way that I had furthered this narrative within my own sphere.

It’s fair to say my husband and I were naive when we signed up to become foster parents seven years ago. I grew up with a foster home in my neighborhood and was fortunate to spend several summers playing with and befriending the kids who lived there. As a teen, becoming a foster and adoptive parent simply become a life goal, right up there with buying a two-story house and retiring in Hawaii.

After we accepted our first foster placement of an African-American baby girl, I reveled in comments from friends and neighbors calling us saints and superheroes and quickly dismissed criticism from her biological family during visits about the way I did her hair.

“Shouldn’t they,” I huffed to my husband one day, “have bigger things to worry about?!”

Over the years, as I became more educated about the history of systemic racism in the U.S. foster care system and the potential devastation of transracial adoption for adoptees and their biological families, I felt paralyzed. I needed to do more, both for myself and for my transracial adoptee children. But how?

After George Floyd’s death, while I helplessly posted a black square and hashtagged #blacklivesmatter on Instagram, three of my daughters organized a cookie and craft sale that raised more than $400 in three hours for a nonprofit called Measure that uses data to empower communities and eliminate social disparities. If they could make that kind of an impact in an afternoon, surely I could do something, too.

PixelsEffect/Getty

I started following transracial adoptees like @angieadoptee, @_heytra, @iamadopted, @the_daily.adoptee and @theljsharks, where I learned about things like white savior complex (which I had), the pain caused by the #adoptionrocks hashtag (which I used), and the insensitivity of celebrating the anniversary of the day a child arrived at an adoptive home as the child’s “Gotcha Day” (which I had done).

I learned about the alienation transracial adoptees can feel growing up in predominantly white suburbs (as my children are) and instantly flashed back to my daughter on her birthday two years ago, desperately trying to blow out her candles while a white classmate who was fascinated by her curls intensely toggled her bun like a joystick. I had corrected the girl and restarted “Happy Birthday,” but why hadn’t I admonished her and her mom, too?

I researched suspension rates and found that in Austin, where we live, schools suspend Black students nearly five times as often as white students and that as early as age five, black girls are viewed by adults as more knowledgeable about sex and adult topics, less in need of nurture and support, and significantly older than white girls of the same age. Suddenly the fact that one of my children had been sent to the principal’s office as a second-grader didn’t sit well with me.

I also pored over numbers about the impact of adoption on a child’s mental health and the failures of Medicaid – the insurance that most foster and adoptive children have, including mine – to adequately provide for their needs. I thought about the waitlists for specialists and psychiatrists that we’ve been on for over a year and knew that was true.

Black and brown children remain far overrepresented in foster care, and the system is structured so that it’s nearly impossible for biological families to break the cycle. I looked at the way I had intentionally and unintentionally vilified my children’s birth families and went back to make amends and build new bonds, for my kids’ sake and for my own.

I’ve come a long way, but I know it will be a lifelong education with ups and downs. What I know for sure, though, is that it’s time for us white adoptive parents to stop hiding behind prayers and God’s will and cute hashtags and use our white privilege to help dismantle racist systems that rip so many people’s lives to shreds. It’s time to volunteer, donate, organize, educate, amplify Black voices, offer our children Black mirrors and act as actual allies to effect change. It’s time to seek change like our children’s lives depend on it. Because they do.

Adoption, especially transracial adoption, does frequently ruin lives. And it’s on us to fight to fix it.

The post Transracial Adoption Frequently Ruins Lives––I Say This As A White Adoptive Mom appeared first on Scary Mommy.

NYC Is Reopening Its Public Schools … For White Students

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced with great fanfare that he will reopen the New York City schools for pre-K through fifth grade and students with special needs. For some New Yorkers, this was cause for celebration. Ever since the schools closed in mid-November due to rising cases of COVID-19, a vociferous group of parents were loudly advocating for a speedy reopening.

But reopening the school buildings makes no difference to the majority of New York City public school kids, the approximately 74% citywide who are fully remote for the rest of the school year. In the neighborhood where I used to teach, that number is closer to 80%. According to The New York Times, the families who have opted out of in-person school are overwhelmingly Black, Latino, and Asian—the same communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Basically, when they say “We’re reopening the schools,” they mean the white schools.

As the CDC points out, people of color are disproportionately affected by coronavirus throughout the U.S., in terms of case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths. This is due to a number of factors. For one, lower socioeconomic status means less access to health care, and more underlying health conditions. Another is that people of color are more likely to have jobs as frontline or essential workers, which means more daily risk of exposure to the virus. Talk to anyone who lives in a predominantly Black or Latino community—in New York or anywhere. They’ll tell you what the virus has done to their neighborhood.

The communities that have been most severely impacted by the pandemic are, understandably, now the least likely to send their kids back to school. The result is a two-tiered system, where the white families are celebrating their grand reopening while people of color are looking at another seven months of pandemic-style learning. Is this really cause for celebration?

While remote learning can be challenging for any family, it is especially problematic for households of color. Remote learning often depends on having reliable WiFi and dependable Internet devices. Statistics confirm what I remember well from my days as a teacher in NYC: in communities of color, kids are less likely to have the iPads, laptops, and desktop computers that are common in white New York City households.

Black and Latino kids are also more likely to live in smaller spaces with more family members, which makes it difficult for every child to have a dedicated space for learning. Some of my old students, in the pre-COVID days, used to do their homework on the subway, balancing their books in their laps, because they knew it would be too distracting to try to do it at home.

Michael Loccisano/Getty

The cruel irony is that the families that are most needful of the protections that schools provide—the ones who struggle to afford childcare during the school day, who depend on the schools to feed their kids breakfast and lunch, who want to know their kids will be in a safe, wholesome environment every day—are the families with the most reason to fear the rise in COVID cases. Not only were their communities hit the hardest, but their neighborhood schools are the most overcrowded, least ventilated, least sanitized facilities. (These schools were not properly cleaned pre-COVID days, and a lot of folks doubted that would change, even in a pandemic.) In short, theirs are the buildings that are most susceptible to an outbreak.

The city should be laser-focused on these challenges, and coming up with creative solutions. Maybe not every single problem gets solved, but these are the things the mayor should be talking about in public. He certainly shouldn’t be patting himself on the back because he opened the schools for a paltry 26% of the population. What will he do to improve remote learning? Where is the concern for the majority of kids in the city who are staying home?

Xinhua/Wang Ying/Getty

There is already a significant achievement gap between the upper middle class schools in New York City, which are predominantly white, and the schools in Black and Latino neighborhoods. The predominantly white schools have higher graduation rates, higher GPAs, higher college acceptance rates. The gap emerges as early as kindergarten and it only widens over the years. The new de facto segregation of the COVID era—white kids roaming the spacious, socially-distanced halls of their school buildings, while Black and Latino kids struggle to get their schoolwork done at home—will only exacerbate the existing achievement gap. Next year, when all those kids return to in-person learning, how will the schools help them make up for lost time? How can they compete with the students who have gained on them by almost a whole year?

Mayor de Blasio has basically acknowledged that in-person learning is a superior system, and that the challenges of remote learning won’t be fully addressed by the end of the school year. The idea seems to be that, with a vaccine on the horizon, the problem will more or less work itself out. We will muddle through with this two-tiered system until the pandemic ends and we go back to normal.

 

But in the meantime, what is being done to support the children who are trying to learn at home? The negligence here is inexcusable. Every teacher’s duty is to care for every soul whose name appears on your roster, to move heaven and earth to ensure the success of every child. No educator, no public official, no human being should accept this flagrant racial injustice. To celebrate the (predominantly white) 26% who are returning to school is to ignore the struggles of the majority who are being left behind.

The post NYC Is Reopening Its Public Schools … For White Students appeared first on Scary Mommy.

How My Wife And I Talk To Our Multiracial Kids About Race

What rests in a person’s heart means more to me than what their race is. When I make a person my friend, I do not look at their race before deciding whether they are worth my time or not, and this is what we are teaching our kids. It is a person’s value system, if they are honest and kind, which determines how they will treat me. As we look at a divisive country, broken friendships, and disconnected families because of this election, we are having conversations with our kids about not only what it means to be a good friend, but what it means to look at a person’s heart over their race.

I was ecstatic when Crayola released their skin tone crayons; I immediately went out and purchased a box to bring home to my five-year-old twins. They could finally color pictures of little girls and of our family that physically looked like us. Between the princess Disney movies they watched and the princess books they chose at the library, with preschool teachers who did not look like them and friends who spoke Spanish, they were curious as to why their own curly hair did not match the straight blonde hair of their best friends’ in their preschool class. It took them six months to inquire about why the white tone of their favorite preschool teacher was different than their own. We waited for them to come to us, and when they did, we simply said, “Everyone is born different, with different skin colors. Even within our own family, we all have different skin colors. They are not exactly the same, right?”

Crayola

Using their preschool teacher as an example to drive home our point, together we reflected on how she treated them. These reflections gave us solid examples of how she made them feel. There was a reason she was their favorite: She listened to them. She spent time with them. She let them explore their interests. She played with them. She cared for them. She possessed the same traits we wanted to impart on our kids, so it was easy to explain it to them in this way.

What every child knows is how people make them feel — and at the end of the day, this is what matters the most for them. Then there is the inevitable, the questions they ask will become more challenging to answer, especially about race. In an article for National Geographic, writer Heather Greenwood Davis notes, “Developing empathy, compassion, and a sense of justice at an early age helps kids grow into adults who want to help make the world a better place. For parents, that often means taking a deep breath and having those tough conversations about race and racism.”

 

Oleksandr Siedov/Getty

We were able to package these sometimes difficult conversations about race into conversations that gave rise to a bigger lesson for our kids. When we’re all trying to figure out how to define for our kids what is happening in our world, their world, we should start with what they know and where they are in their own development. Greenwood Davis suggests, “If you hear your child expressing an idea about a group of people that they don’t realize is prejudicial, engage them in an age-appropriate conversation about it. For younger children, you might center the conversation around why the words are hurtful and how they might make someone feel. And though most older kids have been socialized not to make blatantly racist comments, they can crop up.”

We must continue to communicate with our kids about what it means to look at a person’s values, and who they are on the inside. While skin color and race do matter, especially in our current social and political climate, as parents when we talk about progress — when we demand justice for those who have been looked down upon because of their race — we must still teach our kids to look at someone’s heart, and consider how their own actions are making people feel. And as adults, we can be reminded to do the same.

The post How My Wife And I Talk To Our Multiracial Kids About Race appeared first on Scary Mommy.

‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’ Is A Thing, And We Need To Talk About It

24-year old Massachusetts resident Trish Simpson was last seen on Sunday before she vanished. In Michigan, 23-year-old Shakia Jones has been missing for more than a week. And an Illinois-based police department hasn’t been able to locate 24-year-old Bryyanna Nelson since they spoke to her on Monday. 

The names of these young women probably won’t sound familiar, and the reason for it is as unfortunate as it is predictableThey aren’t white.And because they’re not white, the chances of them making national headlines are slim at best. And that’s beyond messed up. 

“The issue of underrepresentation and, consequently, inadequate attention to the cases of missing Black people in America is an ongoing issue that very few attempted solutions have solved,” writes Jada L. Moss in her 2019 article for William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice. “A thorough comparison of the number of Black Americans who are reported missing with the number of times news media reports Black Americans as missing makes it even clearer that underrepresentation is an issue. This disparity, dubbed ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome,’ has more recently become a problem as technology continues to grow to be the primary method for access to current events and news.”

This phenomenon, which sounds absolutely ridiculous, is also painfully true. Criminal law scholar Zach Sommers proved its existence in his 2016 study “Missing White Woman Syndrome: An Empirical Analysis of Race and Gender Disparities in Online News Coverage of Missing Persons,” which was published in Northwestern University’s Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.

“The race and gender disparities are evident across multiple sources and using multiple methods of analysis,” he explains in the study. “The disparities are also quite large and, for the most part, consistent with the differences predicted by Missing White Woman Syndrome… Based on these results and in the words of Charles Ramsey, it is safe to say that ‘something is wrong here.'”

Basically, our media’s all-consuming tendency to obsess over missing white girls and women far outweighs the focus it puts on our country’s Black female victims. Disappearances like those of Elizabeth Smart, Laci Petersen, and Natalee Holloway have been so damn widespread that many Americans practically know their stories by heart. But I can almost guarantee if you tried to name three Black girls or women who have recently made sweeping headlines for going missing, you would sadly come up short. And here’s a big-ass reason why. The intersectional experience of a Black woman translates to her being marginalized twice over for living in both a Black and female body, something that our culture still viciously treats as a double whammy of “lesser than” when compared to the white female body. So it makes unfortunate sense, as truly fucked up as it is, that Black women and girls would be treated differently when being victimized or in crisis.

“‘Missing White Woman Syndrome,’ the media’s tunnel-vision-like tendency to focus on the cases of missing white girls and women, has created considerable racial disparity in the world of missing persons cases,” explains Moss. “This trend — the lack of attention to and popularization to the stories of Black victims — coincides with the familiar narrative of Black Americans being both undesired and unlikely victims in American pop culture.”

This should never have been — and should not continue to be — a reality in our society, but considering the exorbitant amount of evidence making the point clear, it very much is.

The gross diminishment that our media inflicts on Black women and girls who go missing has several other infuriating causes. Many underage children of color are initially deemed “runaways” before their case is fully examined, which leaves them without the ever-helpful AMBER Alert System notifications that can help locals become informed about their disappearance in the first place. Missing Black adults are often assumed to be criminals, gang members, or drug dealers, and further desensitization is unduly placed on them based on where they live, how much or little money their family has, and whether there is a high crime rate in their town. In other words, racial bias is running rampant in these missing persons cases — and it needs to change, pronto. 

Another sad reality is that media coverage is largely determined by the diversity, or lack thereof, in a newsroom. With the vast majority of writers, producers, and journalists being — surprise, surprise! — white, coupled with the very real possibility that certain news outlets consider stories about missing white women more lucrative than any other racial group, Black women and girls don’t stand a fighting chance of having their stories shared.

It should also not be surprising to learn that many Black families are justifiably too afraid of calling the police when their loved ones disappear, since the staggering levels of country-wide prejudice and discrimination that keeps missing Black girls and women from being given the national media attention they deserve are also experienced locally by the victims’ families. “There’s a sense of distrust between law enforcement and the minority community,” Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, tells CNN. This translates to a vicious cycle of underrepresentation and heartbreaking statistics that only further endanger missing Black girls and women.

While it’s certainly awesome that social media has become the new hotspot to create hashtags like #FindOurBlackGirls, #BlackGirlMissing, and #BringBackOurGirls to rally support for Black females who disappear, it should not be up to the general public to establish enough attention to deem a story worth sharing. And while these victims deserve their long overdue spotlight for the simple reason that they are human fucking beings, our oppressive society has made it even more necessary to spread their stories far and wide. Since a major cause of disappearance for Black girls especially is human trafficking, we have got to get our collective shit together. According to the FBI, Black children — largely girls — comprise 53% of all juvenile prostitution arrests, which is more than any other racial group. And that is not okay. 

In terms of creating some kind of solution, Moss calls for new systems designed to tailor fit missing persons cases for Black girls and women. “Systems such as AMBER Alert and general purpose missing persons advocacy groups are still very much needed and desired,” she writes. “However, in a just society, systems, policies, advocacy groups, and organizations tailored toward missing Black girls and women must coexist to ensure that the effects of Missing White Woman Syndrome are felt no more than what is absolutely necessary and to reverse the standard of bias that this phenomenon has created.”

The activists at Black and Missing are also bringing it back to the basics and sharing reminders that need to be on repeat for white people at all times. Diversify your newsrooms. Actively choose to publicize stories featuring Black women and WOC and publish less white women stories to balance coverage out. Stay vigilant about actually finding the missing person. And as if it wasn’t fucking obvious enough, please see the undoubtable value in Black and Brown lives.

I can’t believe I still have to write a reminder in 2020 imploring y’all to give basic respect and empathy to non-white people — especially those who have been victimized — but here we are. Women like Trish Simpson, Shakia Jones, and Bryyanna Nelson simply cannot afford to be placed on the media’s back-burner any longer. We all need to start caring. The time is now.

The post ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’ Is A Thing, And We Need To Talk About It appeared first on Scary Mommy.

A Week Before Thanksgiving, CDC Warns Americans To Avoid Travel

CDC urges Americans to cancel Thanksgiving travel plans

Because the state of our democracy is in shambles at the moment, there’s no cohesive message on what to do about Thanksgiving, leaving local and state officials to gently urge Americans to cancel Thanksgiving. There’s been a whole lotta hand-wringing as mayors and governors get on town hall livestreams and basically beg Americans to reconsider their holiday plans for fear that if they lay out mandates, the #FreeDumb crowds will cause a scene. However, the Centers For Disease Control has come out with guidance on the subject and it’s that you should not be traveling this Thanksgiving during this dangerous pandemic.

The CDC did not mandate that Americans refrain from traveling, but strongly encouraged that Americans cancel their travel plans this week and next, citing rising COVID cases. Case in point: 1,707 people died on Tuesday from COVID, the highest death toll for the U.S. in six months.

“It’s not a requirement. It’s a recommendation for the American public to consider,” Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, said on a call with reporters (via NBC News). “Right now, especially as we’re seeing this sort of exponential growth in cases, and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another, it leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time.”

Put more bluntly, Erin Sauber-Schatz, head of the CDC’s Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force, simply said, “In the last week, we’ve seen over a million new cases. Thanksgiving is a week away.”

That roughly translates to: We’re in a public health crisis, can you just chill, for like, one year?

The formal guidance on the CDC website simply states that “Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19,” and that cancelling your plans is “the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

Dr. Fauci, on the other hand, told USA Today that his “frustration” with those not taking the pandemic seriously “borders on pain.”

“Get rid of these ridiculous conspiracy theories and realize this is a public health crisis,” Fauci said. “We don’t want to shut down as a nation because of the psychological and economic consequences of that. But we at least have got to be consistent in doing some fundamental things, so that’s what concerns me. We’re in a vulnerable position.”

The good news (well, it’s bad news for the airlines) is that United Airlines just announced “an uptick in cancellations” and a freeze on new bookings for Thanksgiving, which means Americans might actually be listening to science.

Stay safe out there, wear a mask, and practice social distancing.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.

The post A Week Before Thanksgiving, CDC Warns Americans To Avoid Travel appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I Was A Victim Of Clergy Sexual Misconduct

Around this time of year, leaves begin to change brilliant colors, trees shed their growth, there is a crispness in the air. It is also the time that the anniversary approaches of when I experienced horrific spiritual trauma at the hands of my trusted church leader.

You see, I was the victim of clergy sexual misconduct.

This happened four years ago in in the city I call home, Roanoke, Virginia by (a now-former) Bishop of the my church, the Mormon church. This man is still active in the church and enjoys full rights and privileges, despite multiple women having complained about and reporting his problematic behavior.

I have been very public with my story. I will continue to be public about my story. I have shared it with news outlets, on podcasts, in written articles simply because it is simply SO shockingly unbelievable that it is believable—because it is ubiquitous. It is ALL of our stories as survivors; sadly, my experience is far from unique or isolated.

I have completed many years of therapy and in-depth trauma work because of how this situation of spiritual abuse and religious coercion impacted my life, my self-worth, my dignity, me. None of this is my shame to bear … although the responsibility of healing the trauma it has caused me is mine to carry and sort through. And that work is ongoing forever and really tough sometimes. 

In a recent article on Betrayal Trauma Recovery, an organization that aims to help women in abusive situations find safety and peace, Dave Gemmel, Associate Director of the NAD Ministerial Association, states, “Clergy sexual misconduct is a betrayal of sacred trust and can be on a continuum of sexual or gender-directed behaviors, either a lay or clergy person with a ministerial relationship, whether they’re paid or unpaid.” Clergy sexual misconduct is not limited to sexual harassment or sexual assault of a clergy member on lay member but also involves a much larger broad-scope of definitions.

It has taken me years to unpack the trauma shoved on me from a reckless, unethical, irresponsible and misogynistic bishop who I trusted to keep me safe.

A bishop who, instead, told me to “submit” myself to him so he could “fix me” because he has “a special way with women.”

A bishop who told me that I needed to divulge intimate details about my personal and private sexual history to him.

A bishop who told me to be more sexual, while also being more submissive.

Over these years, I’ve come to learn that not everyone believes my experiences with this bishop. Some are even outspoken about how I am the dishonest one. Is it difficult to believe that someone you trust that think has the spiritual power to speak for God has treated someone else inappropriately and has engaged in abusing this power?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

And what do I stand to gain by coming forward with what happened to me? Nothing. Absolutely not a thing. But I stood to lose a lot—and I have lost a lot. The alienation by some in my former faith community has been devastating, along with “friendships” that could not survive the dissonance placed upon them. My name dragged through the mud by some more vocal members who are close to this bishop and defamation of me by this bishop himself. I tell you, it’s been an absolute dream come true (and that is sarcasm).

Admittedly, it is so difficult to let ourselves believe something like this about people we know and trust, likely because we may have had positive experiences with the abusive person ourselves. Abusers are not all good or all bad. This is a myth. Instead, they are abusive people that do abusive things, and sometimes they are abusive people that can do good things. They also don’t abuse everyone they meet. Instead, they assess, groom, exploit, and abuse certain ones.

So no, not all people have to believe my experience. And that is okay. It doesn’t take anything away from me if others choose not to believe that this happened to me. I do not have any overwhelming need to be believed by everyone, because being believed does not validate my experience or my trauma any more or any less. And here’s a fun fact: They weren’t in the bishop’s office with the door closed late at night when this happened. I was.

So often we don’t want to see what our minds cannot make sense of. This is how and why abusive people continue to hold positions of power and how they continue to encounter, access, and abuse victim after victim after victim after victim.

Later, after I went public with my story, I learned that this Bishop paid the only partial witness to this event (a family member who saw me before and after the incident and knew how upset I was) nearly $20,000 of member donations and sacred tithes for no apparent reason other than what I suspect is to keep him quiet and ensure that this person will never corroborate my story. The layers of unrighteous abuse of authority can often be compounded, one upon another, when victims choose to come forward in an already traumatic and difficult situation.

So what can we do about clergy sexual misconduct?

1. Make sure your faith community has safe policies and practices in place that everyone knows and that are posted in all locations within buildings, etc. One thing that completely failed me in my situation was the fact that my faith community had NO safe measures for a lay member to report an abusive or rogue bishop. This is a huge red flag.

2. Advocate for diversity among church leadership. This includes women in roles and positions in the very highest of the leadership tiers and all throughout. No decisions about female church members should be being made without their involvement. Dave Gemmel goes on to state, “If you just have one gender, you only get half of the picture. If there are only men on these committees, you’re half-blind. Many times, women can pick up on things that us men are clueless to.” This is another area that failed me in my church organizational system. There was no other woman in a leadership position that I could go to that was not presided over by a man. In fact, only those with the priesthood can hold leadership positions with independent, autonomous decision making authority and the only people that can hold priesthood within my faith are males. This is a huge red flag.

3. Do not expect and do not go to your clergy for therapeutic counseling of ANY type. Therapeutic counselors receive years of training— even if a clergy member has received pastoral training this is still not enough to equate to the specialized expertise that a therapeutic counselor has. Dave Gemmel explains, “Formal training of pastors and, particularly, lay leaders do not equip them to engage in therapeutic counseling.” This is another way in which my faith community failed me. I was taught that our bishops speak for God and have a the spirit of discernment. So naturally it made sense to seek his advice for personal problems I was experiencing in my life. Naively, I substituted my religious belief in priesthood and magic discernment for real, substantiative, concrete education and training in ethics and pastoral care because this is what I was taught from a young age. This is a huge red flag.

4. If you must be with your clergy for some reason always, take a trusted person with you. The door should remain open at all times. Never meet with them alone and maintain boundaries of appropriateness in all communications. This is another way in which my faith community failed me. I was alone at the church late at night meeting with this church leader. When I finally left this meeting, I ended up running out of his office in tears, but there was no one to see me or witness what happened. This is a huge red flag.

Overall, I have learned more about how destructive spiritual trauma can truly be to a person. The effects are so damaging and can last lifelong. They aren’t leaves that shed with ease in a new autumn season. I was so ashamed and so broken—it was even hard to put into words what happened to me at first and for months after.

But now, I can say this with an unequivocal conviction of fortitude and stoicism: I was the victim of clergy sexual misconduct. It was not okay and it was not my fault.

The leaves are still changing brilliant colors, trees are still shedding their growth, and there is still is a crispness in the air. My trauma is also still here.

The post I Was A Victim Of Clergy Sexual Misconduct appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Doug Emhoff Is Quitting His Job To Support Kamala Harris When She Becomes VP

Doug Emhoff is set to leave his job as a lawyer to support his wife’s role as VP

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are set to make history when they step into their duties as President and Vice President at the end of January, but their spouses are also breaking all sorts of barriers and shattering stereotypes. Jill Biden has previously said that when she assumes her First Lady duties, she’s not going to quit her day job teaching at a community college (as she did when Biden was VP), which would make her the first FLOTUS to keep her full-time job. And Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff is going to leave his private law practice to focus on his role at the White House, and yassss, normalize stay-at-home husbands! Equality starts in the home, even if that home is the White House!

A spokesperson for Harris and Emhoff told the AP that come inauguration day, he will cut ties with DLA Piper, his private law practice, from where he’s actually been on a leave of absence since Harris joined the Biden campaign over the summer. Emhoff hasn’t officially selected his title, though Biden has referred to him as the “second gentleman.” Also, Emhoff is already breaking boundaries by becoming the first Jewish spouse of a president or a vice president.

Between Emhoff and Dr. Jill Biden, this is one modern pair of political spouses. During an interview with CBS in August, Dr. Biden — an English professor who holds a doctorate in education and kept teaching throughout her eight years as Second Lady — said she had no plans to ditch her job when her husband becomes president.

“If we get to the White House, I’m gonna continue to teach,” she said over the summer. “It’s important, and I want people to value teachers and know their contributions, and lift up the profession.”

Emhoff, on the other hand, has worked as a lawyer for most of his life, and is still working with the transition team on what causes he’ll support and tackle in the White House. For example, Mike Pence’s wife Karen promotes art therapy and focuses on military families.

“We’ve been waiting for this sort of gender switch for decades now,” Kim Nalder, a professor of political science at California State University-Sacramento told the AP. “There is a lot of symbolism from a man stepping back from his high-powered career in order to support his wife’s career.”

It’s progressive, it’s awesome, and the country is ready for a second gentleman with big “wife guy” energy in the White House.

The post Doug Emhoff Is Quitting His Job To Support Kamala Harris When She Becomes VP appeared first on Scary Mommy.

NYC Will Now Send Mental Health Experts Instead Of Police To Certain 911 Calls

New York City’s new mental health teams will now respond to mental health crises — not ill-equipped cops

It may have felt literal years have passed since the unjust and tragic death of George Floyd, but it’s been a mere six months; and since, the May 25 killing has sparked national outrage and nationwide protests, with many calling to defund the police. And one of the aims of the defund the police movement? Sending mental health experts — instead of ill-equipped police officers — to respond to 911 calls that are both mental-health related and nonviolent. In response, one major U.S. city — where at least 16 people struggling with mental health issues have been fatally shot in the last four-and-a-half years — is finally making said move.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that the city will now respond differently to New Yorkers experiencing mental health crises. Beginning February 2021, the new Mental Health Teams of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) health professionals and mental health crisis workers will now be dispatched through 911 to respond to mental health emergencies in select communities.

“This is the first time in our history that health professionals will be the default responders to mental health emergencies, an approach that is more compassionate and effective for better long term outcomes,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray in a prepared statement.

According to the city’s press release, the new Mental Health Teams will take the place of NYPD officers and FDNY Emergency Medical Services Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), who currently respond to nearly all mental health 911 calls. The new Mental Health Teams will not only use their physical and mental health expertise and experience in crisis response to de-escalate emergency situations, but they will also help reduce the number of times police will need to respond to 911 mental health calls. The Teams will respond to everything from behavioral health problems such as suicide attempts, substance misuse, and serious mental illness, to physical health problems.

In situations involving a weapon or imminent risk of harm, however, the new Teams will respond with NYPD officers.

One in five New Yorkers struggle with a mental health condition. Now, more than ever, we must do everything we can to reach those people before crisis strikes,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “For the first time in our city’s history, health responders will be the default responders for a person in crisis, making sure those struggling with mental illness receive the help they need.”

Of course, the new program was has been met with some criticism.

According to Patrick J. Lynch, president of Police Benevolent Association, the NYPD’s largest union, the program will “undoubtedly put our already-overtaxed EMS colleagues in dangerous situations without police support.”

“We need a complete overhaul of the rest of our mental health care system, so that we can help people before they are in crisis, rather than just picking up the pieces afterward,” the PBA statement reads. “On that front, the de Blasio administration has done nothing but waste time and money with ThriveNYC and similar programs. We have no confidence that this long-delayed plan will produce any better results.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The post NYC Will Now Send Mental Health Experts Instead Of Police To Certain 911 Calls appeared first on Scary Mommy.