Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal

I write about the things that matter to me. All opinions are my own.

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Friday, October 20, 2017


The deadly gang MS-13 uses the slogan "Kill, Rape, Control."

ISIS, a gang of terrorists that promotes murdering "unbelievers," also helped itself to sex slaves.

In the war in Bosnia in the early '90s, Muslim girls were taken as sex slaves en masse.

During the Holocaust, Jewish women were raped in the camps -- gang-raped, their bodies ripped to shreds inside and out.

Rape happens to 12 year old girls in strict religious communities.

It also happens to totally sheltered boys.

It happens to homeless kids.

It happens to movie stars.

It happens to toddlers and it happens to infants. The FBI just rescued a 3 month old and a 5 year old  sold for sex for a total of $600.

Why do rapists rape? Lots of reasons, but the short answer is because they want to and they can.

They know their victims, and they do it over and over again.

Modesty does not deter them.

So why be modest, then?

Not to prevent rape.

For a Jew, modesty is part and parcel of our value system.

It's about having a healthy relationship with yourself and with God. One where certain things are sacred, certain boundaries are kept, one where privacy is a sign of respect for yourself and for others.

Modesty means we see ourselves as "children of the most high God,” to quote Pastor Joel Osteen.

This is what it means when we read: “Walk modestly with your G‑d” (Micah 6:8) 
"The exact parameters of the requirement to dress modestly depend on the time and place. But the basic idea—for both men and women—is to wear self-respecting clothing, clothing that does not demean the person within by overly accentuating the body, as if it, rather than the soul and its character and qualities, is the primary element of personality." - Chabad.org
As others have pointed out, it's time to end that aspect of Jewish culture which openly or implicitly engages in "slut-shaming."

Slut-shaming -- even to the point of controlling what color lipstick they wear -- is a way of keeping women in the position of victim, even if they haven't yet been victimized, because the meta-message is that it is their responsibility to stop a predator when doing so is frequently impossible.

So let us be clear: It is the predator who is to blame for the sexual crimes they commit.

Not the victim, who so readily blames herself for failing to be sufficiently modest.

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Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. All rights reserved. Photo by voltamax via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

This morning, October 17, 2017, I attended an excellent lecture by Prof. Lara Shane, a faculty member at American University. Prof. Shane is a top-caliber professional -- an alumnus of the Department of Homeland Security, CBS News, and the Partnership for Public Service, which cosponsored the event with the Federal Communicators Network.

The point of the lecture was to help communicators understand the concept of messaging. Although I think most of us know what that is by now, even to the point of excess, it is helpful to have a very seasoned, qualified and intelligent federal communicator break it down in a logical and step-by-step manner.

Prof. Shane incorporated concepts from Chip and Dan Heath's book Made to Stick, and she used a live example of dense government-style writing to show what many of us do wrong.

Professor Shane's Most Important Quotes
  • "Helping the American public is our ultimate goal."
  • "Just because we're communicating doesn't mean we do it well."
Key Point #1 -- You Need A Strategy
  • What is the desired outcome?
  • Who do we need to engage to make that happen?
  • Once they're engaged, what do we want them to do?
  • Why should they care -- how will this action benefit them?
  • Where will they see your message - use multiple channels
(Source: Prof. Shane)
Key Point #2 -- Nobody Believes the Government, So You Will Have To Prove Yourself
  • The audience has to believe that you are offering a credible source of information, but trust in government is at a historic low.
  • Implicit assumptions like "we're the government, we don't have to establish our authority" or "you have to trust us" don't work; actually they are counterproductive.
  • Feds do not seem to understand just how much the public mistrusts the government (during the event, as I was live-tweeting, someone jokingly responded - "let us know if they attempt to brainwash you").
  • Simplifying, even oversimplifying, is fine, but you need to balance that with copious amounts of open data, well organized.
  • Don't insult the public by treating them like they're stupid.
(Source: Me)

Key Point #3 -- If A Tree Falls And Nobody Hears It, The Tree Did Not Fall
  • Speak in the language of your audience.
  • Keep it as simple, clear and focused as possible.
  • If nobody understands you then you aren't saying anything. Too abstract: "broad mission area." 
  • Focus on a benefit to them, e.g. educate parents about emergency readiness -- they want to protect their children.
  • Offer a fun fact, e.g. "did you know that..."
  • Information has to be repeated 15 times to be remembered.
(Source: Prof. Shane)

Key Point #4 -- You're Probably Turning People Off By Making These Common Mistakes 
  • Jargon
  • Over-complexity
  • Unfocused multiple messages
  • Trying to include every single piece of information
  • Too much data and not enough of the human element
(Source: Prof. Shane)

Key Point #5 -- What Motivates People Is...People
  • It's often about emotion and identity, not just self-interest.
  • Focus on humanity - e.g. the problem exists on a large scale (data); here's how this person's life was transformed.
  • Fear only works when immediate action is needed, e.g. evacuation; don't do fear and anger as a default.
  • Think in terms of storylines - "David and Goliath," innovative/creative ways that agency helped solve a problem.
(Source: Prof. Shane)

Key Point #6 -- We Don't Control The Media
  • The media isn't automatically interested; it takes work to get them to pick up a story.
  • We live in a "sound bite" society -- people have a short attention span and you're competing against many other sources of information.
  • Tie your communication to something they care about, e.g. "federal employees are an early warning sign" when it comes to potential disasters.
  • Tie your story to current events, e.g. sexual harassment awareness and response.
(Source: Prof. Shane)

Key Point #7 -- Lawyers Should Do Law

  • Lawyer's job is "to keep us on legally safe ground" (Prof. Shane)
  • Communicator's job requires different skills - "move people to act" (Prof. Shane)
  • "Everyone thinks they're the best communicators. Especially the lawyers" (Prof. Shane)
  • Audience comment (W. Aaron French, on Twitter): "Battling this [attitude] is my professional work."
  • Another audience comment: "The lawyers think that they know everything" 
(Sources: Prof. Shane and audience)

Key Point #8 -- It Is Impossible To Read Some Of These Dense Government Documents (Even The Summaries)
  • No sentence from the federal government should be a paragraph long. (Me)
  • A press release should not read like a dissertation. (Me)
  • Audience comment: "Why didn't the really important things get bullets?" 
(Sources: me and another member of the audience)

Notes & Disclaimers
  • This is not a complete summary. I could not stay for the entire event, but live-tweeted as much as I could (see hashtag #FCNTRNG). For the sake of accuracy, I've tried as best I can to indicate who said what. The categories of information are mine as are the sub-headers.
  • Personal opinion only. As you read this, please keep in mind that event attendees do so in our own personal capacities, not as representatives of our agencies.
  • Public event. No secrets here; the event was live-streamed.
____________________

Public domain. See disclaimer; all opinions are my own. Photo by TeroVesalainen, CC0 Creative Commons, via Pixabay.

I think the worst thing about my most recent experience of sexual harassment was the shock.

I mean, I was literally just sitting there.

I thought we were talking about a report.

Until the words rang out in the air: "I think that you should lay it out like a Playboy."

Before that my colleague noticed something a bit off in the superior's behavior.

"You should be looking at her, not me," he said. "After all, it's her report."

I noticed that I was getting yelled at quite a lot, but I thought maybe it's because I'm annoying.

After the comment, I was literally stunned.

I stumbled out into the hallway, and, one at a time, I told people.

Nobody suggested I report it.

I, myself, had no desire for any trouble.

The injustice of it all burned in my cheeks, in my ears. It coursed throughout my entire body.

A couple of weeks went by and I still had to work on the report.

One day I received an email.

It contained a message highly critical of my work thus far.

Again I felt the anger.

It felt like some other agenda was at work.

I called a meeting, with the executive and my immediate supervisor, a positive and supportive person.

All throughout the room, on my desk, and on the side tables, I put down pieces of the report, critical content and the comments I had received, and planned to discuss this document one page at a time, if necessary.

I sat down at my desk, which was larger than usual for my pay grade.

Across from me sat the supportive supervisor and the executive who had made the disgraceful remark.

So many papers. So much material to go through.

I could feel the anger rising in me.

It was unstoppable, now.

It was going through the roof of my brain.

The executive, perhaps unsatisfied with his earlier stupidity or perhaps the victim of amnesia, opened his mouth and I could see he was about to berate me.

At which I said, "I'm so sorry, sir, but as you know I am simple-minded. All I can recall is that you said to lay it out like a Playboy."

The supportive supervisor looked at me in shock.

The executive who had made the remark turned beet-red. "Did I say that?" Emphasis on "I" and "that."

"Yes, sir, you did."

Needless to say, that job was over, though I tried as best I could to simply carry on, and none of us ever mentioned the incident in question again. And no, I was neither mistreated nor harassed after that.

When the job was over, I walked away with zero fanfare, they threw me a goodbye party, I thanked the executive in question for the opportunity.

And that, as they say, was that.

If you want to know why victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, molestation and rape cannot simply "get over it," it's because they keep hearing those words in their heads: "Isn't it enough already? Can't you just go on?"

My own, fortunately minimal experiences, have led me to understand that many others are going through much worse things. Male and female. Too often, as boys and girls.

It hurts a lot to speak up. It's painful. It's inconvenient. It takes time away from things we'd rather focus on.

But it's a necessary part of healing. It's the only way to get better.

And hearing from you helps other people as well.

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Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. All rights reserved. Photo by SusuMa via Pixabay.