Karin Mitchell's books on Goodreads
Between Families Between Families
reviews: 5
ratings: 8 (avg rating 4.75)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I was listening to a story on NPR this morning. They were talking about rape on college campuses and talking about how it came about that it became the college's responsibility to deal with the issue.

Essentially what happened was that this 19 year old girl was raped and killed her in dorm room around 20-25 years ago. Her parents lobbyed for and got a law passed that requires college campuses to disclose to parents and prospective students all reports of crime that occurs on campus. The thought is that no one will go to school at the violent schools and it puts it on the schools to make their college safe.

When I first turned it on, they were talking about this young woman who had been drunk at a party and had 2 guys walk her home who then raped her. She passed in and out of consciousness throughout the act. Prior to this incident, she had been a virgin in a 4 year relationship.

The girl talked about how she hadn't intially thought of it as rape. Until, she was in a lecture one day where the professor was talking about rape as a method of terror used in war times. The professor sharply turned the discussion to campus rapes and talked to the students about how they could and should report the rape to the dean.

This young woman went straight from class to the dean. The boys said it was consensual, and the case went no where.

My freshman year of college, a good, good friend of mine was involved in a similar situation. Probably one of you was too. The odds are good/bad. They say 1/5 college girls is raped.

So my friend didn't tell anyone at first. It was a guy she was friends with. She slept with quite a few boys that year, regardless of the very attractive and attentive boyfriend she'd left back on the farm. But later she told me, and another friend of ours. Outwardly I was supportive. But inside, I wasn't sure if I believed her.

She was stupid enough to get that drunk. She probably just had sex with him and then regretted it. One part of me seemed to say. But the other side knew she was a friend and that it was likely that she was right. She'd been honest about the other atrocious sexual mistakes she'd made. Why would she lie about this one?

So while I struggled with whether I fully believed her or not, he kept at it. Rumors began floating my way that this guy had done it to other girls. Many other girls.

And my doubts faded out as the rumors grew and took up residence. The last night before we all packed it up and left for the summer, I went out with my girlfriends. We got piss ass drunk and played drink or dare poker. It involved finding a strange guy off the street to wear a tail we made for him, someone wearing longerie to smoke a cigarette and I may have peed on a fire hydrant. (which as a side bar is a bad idea. Not like peeing on a snowy carhood is a bad idea, that's a sliding problem. This is more of a spraying problem. Yuck. I have terrible ideas sometimes.)

We went out to some parties and on our way home we found the little rapist himself. We yelled at him. We taunted him. We started slowly and cornered him. Knocked him down. Punched and kicked him. Tormented him. He denied everything, made disparaging comments and I lost it. I don't remember all this real clearly, but I do remember that we beat him up. Maybe pretty badly. I remember kicking him while he was on the ground and screaming something like "Do you like being taken advantage of when you're too drunk to defend yourself?" He was drunk.

I should feel bad about this but I don't. I feel like we supported her. She cried afterwards and smiled and thanked us. She got to confront him. Which was more important than the beating. But the beating felt good. Righteous.

But our violence likely did not stop Barry from doing this to other girls. Younger girls. He'd certainly spent his freshman year learning how to take advantage of freshman girls and I wouldn't guess this made him stop. But who knows. I transferred.

Anyway, as I was listening to the NPR story, I thought of what college campuses could do to lower than number of rapes on college campuses. I don't think it has a thing to do with the girls. Yeah, we shouldn't get hammered around boys we don't know, or put ourselves in bad situations, blahblahblamethevictim, nothelpfulblahblah.

Ever notice when there's a moral to these college rape stories that its always about what the woman should have done differently?

Unless I'm mistaken, its rarely the woman who did the raping, why are we always talking to women then?

When my brother and I were teenagers, my mom had conversations with us about rape. My brother had a friend in high school who was raped. I never knew the details but I think her rape sparked some discussion about the boundaries of where consent stops and rape begins.

My mom didn't just talk to me. Didn't just warn me to be aware of my surroundings and careful of who I trusted and how much I drank. She talked to my brother too. She talked about how its a man's responsibility to be sure that the woman he has sex with is able to consent. If she's really, really drunk, he should say no. Because it could come back to bite him later. Even if it seems like she's consenting. She's in no position to consent.

Why aren't the colleges having these discussions with men?

I can imagine if this were any other kind of crime, we wouldn't be focused on the victims. We'd be focused on how to stop it by stopping the people committing the crime.

What if this had been a very different news story? A story where Barry got up and told how he'd had sex with my friend and thought it was ok because she was drunk but who cares, right? Because his big brother at his fraternity had said it was no big deal and he's older and done it a hundred times so why make such a deal about it?

And maybe that would spark another boy talking about how he'd been acused because this girl one time didn't want to but he convinced her. And then some other guy might pipe in about how that happened to his sister and she got pregnant and it ruined her soccer scholarship or whatever. Or there might be a professor there to guide the discussion and say what men really should do in these situations. Try and explain what is and isn't ok. Call them out, let them know where the moral compass needle points.

But that's too radical for a college campus, right? Maybe we should stick to our 1/5 success rate of blaming the victims and telling girls what to do to keep themselves safe and then verbally lashing them when what they do doesn't work. But 1/5 doesn't seem like a very high success rate. I slipped through, barely. But some others didn't. And I'm not really in the habit of leaving my girls behind.

Teach me to fly

What if we threw dreams like parties?
We'd invite all our friends
stand there holding plastic red cups of homemade margaritas
chat up a stranger
"Great dream, huh?"
"yeah, I've never skied on telephone wires or talked to pandas."
"True, but did you see her neighbor's kid snuck in to throw a temper tantrum?"
If mine was good enough, you'd invite me to yours, right?
Maybe then I'd finally stop losing my teeth and you'd teach me to fly.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Today in court I recommended reunification for the first time. There are a lot of bad/sad/terrible/distressing stories I come across working child protection. This case was no different. Drugs, DV (to the point where someone was charged with attempted murder.) Lots of problems.

It wasn't the kind of case that should see success at the end necessarily. But I pushed. And the mom tried. She really did. And I pushed. And today, it all worked out. At least for today.

For today, I got to do something good for a family. And it felt really right. Every attorney in the room hugged the mom after the judge made his rulings. And she cried and cried. I held out. When I left, I thought I would but I didn't. She was still crying when I left. It was really, really moving.

It was possibly the best moment in my professional career yet. And I just thought it deserved a moment to be written about before moving on to all the other tasks/investigations/meetings/phone calls etc. of my day.

Wednesday Weirdos: This is too fucked up not to post

So remember this Wednesday Weirdo post? If you haven't read it, you should read it first so this will make sense. Mainly just the parts about the guy with the long hair whose car I peed on, though.

So the guy whose car I peed on? Killed a girl.

UPDATE: Hazelwood police investigate shooting death of woman | St. Louis Globe-Democrat

He's not so good looking these days. He killed his 18 year old girlfriend who he lived with. He was THIRTY FIVE YEARS OLD! He shot her in the head.

I got drunk and peed on a guy's car who is a murderer! Oh AND cut his long hair off!

Soooo fucked up.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Remember this post where I talked about the word retarded? Well, I've been reading "The man Who Mistook his wife for a hat" which was first published in 1970, so keep that in mind. The book is about different brain malfunctions and hyper functions and all kinds of interesting stuff. A better, more updated version if you're into this kind of thing (and I really, really am,) is Phantoms in the Brain. Anyway, toward the end of the book he's talking about his work with "retardates." Yup you read that right. Re-tard-ates.

So the word is off-putting for sure. But aside from that, there's also a general tone of superiority in the section that almost gives you the impression the author thinks of people with mental retardation as being subhuman. Like a different species or something. And then he gets into how cuddly they are.

So he starts the section off with stellar words like "retardate" and "idiot" and then gets into how childlike the "mind of the simpleton" can be. But over the course of the section titled "The Mind of the Simpleton," the author seems more and more focused on identifying and drawing out the abilities of these people who are in a sense trapped by their own uniqueness. By the end of the section he's "communed" with a pair of twins who delight in coming up with lengthy prime numbers and has helped them progress to 22 digit prime numbers. He's helped a man who cannot communicate verbally, develop his talent for drawing. And you start to think maybe he's not so superior after all.

And I wonder if we all feel this way to some degree. If you've worked with people with limited abilities in some areas of their life, I think its likely you'll have felt exhilarated to discover hidden talents and successes and yet haven't felt on the same level as the person you've worked with. Its akin to when someone tells you bad news. No matter what the news, some part of our minds says, "that isn't me/that won't happen to me. I'm different." Better, different, separate, stronger, smarter, whatever.

Maybe that's why almost any description of mental retardation comes across as condescending. We all think, "that isn't me. That would never happen to me," and so it comes across as an us/them description. Every time.

On paper, logically, rationally, I think "we're all people. We're all equal. I'm no better than you or anyone else." But internally, emotionally, part of me always thinks "That isn't me. I'm better. It won't happen." Not consciously exactly, just somewhere hanging out is a separateness. But maybe I'm secretly an elitist. What about you?

In other news my retardate dog has been having diahrea and eating his own shit lately. Yeah, it sucks. Its a dog's instinct to "clean it up" but that doesn't really work out well. Fuckin gross.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Quotes!

"shouldn't you pharmacist (whos supposed to be all smart and not kill you) be able to look at your patient profile and realize that you don't need to warn a male to stop taking a drug if they become pregnant?"
"Aw, Pablo, I didn't even know you were trying."
"shouldn't your pharmacist (who's supposed to be all smart and not kill you) be able to look at your patient profile and realize that you don't need to warn a male to stop taking a drug if they become pregnant?"
"sorry Karin, wasn't intentionally removing your comment, just realized I hadn't actually used proper grammar in the first post..."
"I understand. You're not out of the first trimester so you're not ready to tell everyone yet."

"No time to make fun of South County rednecks tonight. Busy taking down my Christmas tree."

"thought she saw a poodle earlier outside Target, but it was just a pair of Ugh boots with pom poms."

"We should make a movie about the band... a cockumentary if you will."

"D is chasing an angry midget who stole an apple."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What to say, what to say

This dad called me recently with concerns about his daughters. They're twins. His wife found them standing on a wet bathroom floor giggling. Sounds like normal twin girl stuff, right? The wet bathroom floor and the giggling was apparently because they were peeing on each other and thought it was hysterical. He did not think it was funny.