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An Unreliable Narrator #rapeculture #ibelievejackie

"'Grab its motherfucking leg,' she heard a voice say. And that's when Jackie knew she was going to be raped. She remembers every moment of the next three hours of agony, during which, she says, seven men took turns raping her, while two more...gave instruction and encouragement." 
Here are some non-fun facts about rape victims:

  • 8 out of 10 don't tell.
  • The cost of a rape to the victim is somewhere between $150,000 and $283,000, by the time they're done with medical treatment, loss of time at work or losing their job, and the various effects of the psychological trauma

Rape victims are frequently discouraged from coming forward - in the name of "what is good for them"- then threatened when they proceed anyway.

"'My counselors, members of the Dean of Students office, everyone said the trial process would be way too hard on me,' says Stacy.They were like, 'You need to focus on your healing.' Stacy insisted upon moving forward anyway, even when the wealthy family of the accused kicked up a fuss. - "A Rape On Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA," Rolling Stone @rollingstone

When they do come forward, rape victims face widespread disbelief. 

I believe them.

  • Lena Dunham
  • Dylan Farrow - the Woody Allen accuser
  • Andrea Constand, Tamara Green, Barbara Bowman, Beth Ferrier, Joan Tarshis, Janice Dickinson, Therese Serignese, Angela Leslie, Carla Ferrigno, Kristina Ruehli, Renita Chaney Hill, Linda Traitz, Victoria Valentino - the Bill Cosby accusers
  • The rest of you, whose names we don't yet know and may never know.
Photo by Will de Freitas /Flickr

Privacy, Shmivacy

My childhood was a Seinfeld script. 
"What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong."
"Something's wrong, I can tell."
"No, nothing."
"You're being evasive. She's being evasive."
"Really, I'm fine."
"Look at her, she's like a ghost. Did somebody at school say something to you?"
"Look, I don't want to talk about it."
"A-ha! So something did happen."
"Please, just let me be. I want to go to sleep."
"It's not even six o'clock yet. Nobody's tired at five thirty."
"Well I'm gonna break the record."
* * * 
No boundaries. ZERO BOUNDARIES.
Tough growing up with. Helps on social media.
While it is true that normal people keep their personal lives private, they're not the ones doing digital engagement. Which now includes...everybody who's a celebrity, an influencer or an opinion leader, high profile types and those who aspire to be.
All of the above are abnormal people who hang out too much on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and whose personality is indistinguishable from their persona. That's right, their personal brand.
Guess what? The limbo bar has dropped again. 
In the future you will have very little wiggle room between the person you are at home, and the person you are in public.
And that includes LinkedIn.
Recently I've read several posts on LI that crossed the line from professional to personal. They didn't feel inappropriate at all. Rather, like the execution of a good brand strategy, they told me what the writer's values were - something I'd need to know before doing business with them.
It is scary to be yourself online. There's a lot that people can object to, right? But in the end I think it's better to just put it all out there. I'll take it a step further: I don't trust people who juggle so many masks you can't tell when they're being real at all. 
You want to preserve your privacy. Keep it; I have no desire to be intrusive. But I submit to you that your colleagues will not trust you fully unless they know something of your views and values.
Let me go a step further, because further is where you need to be if you're planning to be a leader. Get ready to give that elevator speech:
What is your life story?
You have to have something to say there. I will say flat out that I am. Jewish & a proud supporter of Israel's right to exist in peace and security as the Jewish national homeland: a Zionist. Wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend. Libertarian, on most things but not all. New Yorker. Foodie and food extremist at times: once ate only almonds for 4 months, cholesterol dropped by half.
That's my smorgasbord of identity. Have you thought about the kinds of things that you will reveal? When and to whom? 
I am not suggesting there is any one right way to do things. In fact I like it a lot when people break the so-called "rules." Whether through writing, art, dance, music or some other way, I am curious at how people push the boundaries, craft their message to break through the noise and find ways to succeed at getting people's attention the right way where others fail. I wonder at who can get away with saying certain things in certain ways, while others can't.
Just keep in mind that your zone of privacy is growing ever more limited.  You can expect that the relatively near future will include things like this:
  • Sites where you are rated by colleagues, for good or bad. (Like an Amazon-type rating system.)
  • Sites where former girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives talk openly about what it was like to be in a relationship with you.
  • Sites that graph your life's connections fairly openly, from childhood on. So that anyone can look you up, and see not only where you live, but also who your associates are. 
It's a scary future, right? You won't be able to hide off the grid, not really. Your comments will further be scrutinized against known data, or at least the kind of data the computer knows.
Sadly for some, gladly for others and ecstatically for the exhibitionists among us, your professional self and your personal self will intersect very closely at some point.
It's better if you reach it fully prepared. 
Photo credit: Donnie Ray Jones / Flickr

What We Get From Social Media That We Don't Get In Real Life


My mom went back to work while I was still a toddler. During the day I stayed in Mrs. Eiler's Family Day Care; she went to the hospital.
Raggedy Ann went everywhere with me. (Photo via Cuddly Collectibles)
One time on the Sabbath our home almost burned down. Friday nights Jewish women light candles, and the candles are supposed to burn themselves out over time. My mom lit the candles and put them too close to the curtains.
I toddled in to tell my sleeping dad that our home was burning down.
I'm pretty sure Raggedy Ann was with me.

I had seven Barbie Dolls as a kid. I remember this, that I counted them, because we didn't have money to buy "useless things" and each one of them was precious. 
Even today I remember their amazing presence. The majestic prom gowns and the twist-ties holding them firmly to the big clear rectangular boxes they were stacked in.
My Barbies wore whatever I told them to wear - even the rags I tore off our old pillowcases and shaped into dresses of my own "design" - and the best thing of all was that they never argued back. (Photo via
I didn't know any other kids. We moved around every year. But those Barbies were a constant. And even when I chopped off their hair, one at a time (to see how different styles would look) they didn't hold it against me.
In fact they didn't say a word. Just looked at me with that blank, accepting, "that's cool" Mona-Lisa type smile. 
Dolls let me forget real life, and make a fake world which ran only by my imagination and rules. 


The local library has a lot of books. I take out a dozen at a time. There aren't enough books in this world for me. Fiction, nonfiction, drama, romance, politics, business, leadership, management and sales. 
I like books and don't mind the Tandy computer my father's given me. It has a green strip across the top where you can type letters and see them on a screen.
The electric typewriter starts collecting dust.
Next follows Wordperfect, at work. At home my dad gives me my first Mac. (Photo via Wikipedia) Although it "dies" more often than I want it too - the little icon with the bomb shows "system error" - it seems as though heaven has descended to meet me.
Putting words in a machine creates a perfect world. 


There is this thing called e-mail I start using. I stay up late to work on my dissertation, on teaching, on writing and eventually projects for work.
By some miracle, I can send words to another person without paper, and they can reply back almost instantly.


For my company, I start a social network on Yahoo! Groups.
It is mind-boggling that there are people in other countries who not only read the stuff we post, but who are experts on the same subject matter, living halfway around the world. 
Conversations among the group happen at all hours of the day. 
One time an expert from the group shows up in person. It's really strange. I had almost begun to believe this person lived in a machine like the Wizard of Oz.


I start my blog.
The idea that I can write whatever I want and not have to ask someone else for permission to publish it is unbelievable.




Kids these days do everything online and in groups. I see them in the mall. Taking selfies of themselves eating frozen yogurt. Group-tapping texts out on their iPhones while waiting for their pedicures to dry. Yelling over the stairwells to each other, pants pulled down in the back to show off hyper-patterned boxers, looking up from their devices just long enough to register the moment.
They're talking on Skype on their iPhones while simultaneously playing group games of Minecraft.
If they're forced to get off the game for five minutes they will begrudgingly head over to the iPad and read their textbooks, which are also connected to the Web.
They're my kids, and everything is a group project. They build rockets, write term papers about India, research the civil rights movement, and make presentations on best practices in PR, all in groups.
They argue with each other on Facebook, then decide that Facebook is annoying and not for them. They go on Whisper and Snapchat and I don't want to know where.
They go to college, and rely on Google Docs the hundreds of collaborators who will painstakingly fix up semester-long notes just before a midterm.


The adults are still playing catch-up. We're sleeping, compared to these kids. But here's what we like:
  • Our friends post pictures of themselves and their kids on Facebook. We like to see what's going on in their lives. Maybe we can be better friends than we were in high school even, when we were too busy competing with each other to appreciate the moment.
  • We search Twitter hashtags to find out what's going on with major social issues like #Ferguson. We have a voice.
  • Sometimes we observe, or even get into an important conversation about something that matters, on Facebook or LinkedIn or wherever. 
  • We document our travels and our ordinary lives on Instagram.
  • Interesting things are found and assembled on Pinterest.
  • "Likes" and shares and retweets, for things that matter to many of us. In an act that validates the way we think. That tells us we're not the only ones out there with that thought/experience/story.
For all these reasons, it's worth pointing out that social media beats branding by a factor of "gazillion." 
When it isn't being engineered or co-opted by the clueless it is fresh, it's real, it isn't owned, it's grassroots and unorganized and relevant and not. 
The authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto (available online for free, because social is about sharing and free) told us fifteen years ago this was going to happen.
Over time I've grown more and more comfortable in social. It's my own little customized tangle of ideas and institutions and publications and people. I get to wind my way through it and make it my own. A dense, green, soothing forest.
Social grants acceptance too. It's soothing and undemanding, a nameless, faceless group that appreciates your presence.
Unlike the judgmental nature of a brand, which is exclusive and puts people out, social is by nature inclusive. It lets everybody in who's willing to play by the rules of the community.
In short, social is a mosh pit. Into which we can fall, and find salvation.
Dannielle Blumenthal is a seasoned communications professional with nearly two decades of progressive, varied experience in the public sector, private sector, and academia. Currently she is a public servant, as well as an independent freelance writer. This blog, like all of her public content, is written in her personal capacity unless otherwise noted. It does not reflect the views of the U.S. government, in whole or in part. Photo credit: Ted Van Pelt via Flickr

Revenge of the Socially Awkward

"Let's begin the staff meeting, all right?"
Everybody rustles to their seats.
"How you doing Joe? How was your weekend?"
"Good. We caught the football game. What a killer."
I do not like, watch or endorse football and am praying this does not devolve into a discussion.
On my left Mary whispers, "Pass me a bagel?"
Wordlessly I take hold of the tongs. They are too narrow. I sit there jabbing at the bagel like it's a slab of leftover turkey that nobody really wants to eat.
Raj reaches over me, a little impatiently I think. He grabs the bagel, a plastic knife and the tub of scallion cream cheese, hands it to Mary, smirks and shakes his head.Incompetent.
"Chop chop, time's wasting. Dannielle, what have you got for us?"
Very few people actually want to hear anything about what I do, much less the ins and outs of a weekly update.
I have no weekly update.
"I'm not sure what you want me to say," I say.
In the corner, Tom had been showing something to Marsha on his notepad, and they were nodding and giggling. Now they, and the room, fell silent. Really? Did she just say that?
After a couple of seconds, "I have a question for Dannielle," says Cindy.
"Of course, go right ahead."
Bring it on, say my narrowed eyes and furrowed brow because Cindy is a shameless, social-climbing ass-kisser not to mention a backstabbing Machiavellian. She's caught my error and is smoothing the moment so she can break out her switchblade.
"Yes, go right ahead, Cindy," says the boss. "Your scarf is very flattering, by the way. I don't mean that in a sexist way, so don't go suing me and all."
He goes on to laugh at his own joke and the group laughs along with him. I imagine his sixteen-year-old asking for the car on a Saturday night. "Yes," he'll reply. "But just remember, you don't get a second chance to put safety first."
And of course, Cindy is literally beaming. "Sexist shmexist."
She throws her head back and laughs like it's the funniest thing ever to say "sexist shmexist."
Again, everybody laughs. What a fine staff meeting!
"No big thing, but Dannielle I was just wondering if you'd paid in yet for the holiday party. I checked and your name was not on the list."
Defense is a very bad place to be.
"Oh. Um, I'll get the money out of my wallet later."
"Thanks for the update. Let's move on, shall we? Who's next?"
Dog photo: This Year's Love. Deer photo: Jarrod. Both photos via Flickr.