Monthly Archives: November 2010

Improving Intimacy with Leslie Blackburn

FRIEND: how strange & hippy dippy is the intimacy workshop going to be?

ME: not at all and I’ve got video to prove it!

FRIEND: will it give me the ability to carry on a conversation?

ME: it will give you the ability to acknowledge the funny feelings you feel when you make eye contact with people.

FRIEND: sounds like a first step if I ever heard one!

I have been raving about Leslie Blackburn’s work as a sexual healer and transformational guide ever since last spring when I had my mind blown at her “Sacred Sexuality and Female Ejaculation” workshop. The three hours I spent learning from Blackburn evoked an awareness of the possibility for a greater, more sensitive existence. I left feeling the demands of these freshly-opened spaces–an urgent and unplaceable awareness of their need for recognition and nurture. Even though that particular workshop was just an overview of the approach Blackburn takes in all of the engagements through her company, One Space, I knew that I had a transformative experience like none I had ever had before.

These are strong words, and I am well aware that speaking or writing in this way has the tendency to put people off. Like my friend in the text messages, I am normally quite squeamish about spirituality and have spent my life silently rolling my eyes whenever the issue arises. And it is this history of being utterly uncomfortable with spirituality that fuels my enthusiasm about Blackburn’s perspective: she enlightened me, and this guided me to a place of possibility.

Blackburn’s personhood had a lot to do with how and why I opened up to all of these feelings and ideas–had it not been she who presented them to me I don’t believe I would have taken to them easily. So when I ran in to Leslie after her performance at Damned and found out that she was holding another workshop, I asked if I could interview her about it. Perhaps listening to and seeing Blackburn on video could be the straw for someone else who is on the line about going to the workshop and having realizations as significant as I did.

Photo from onespaceconnected.com

Below are two excerpts from our one-hour interview. In the first video, Blackburn talks about the importance of self-pleasure to achieving intimacy with others. In the second video she discusses her workshop, “Improving Intimacy and Connection.” This workshop will take on Sunday, December 5th from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the Detroit Flyhouse in the FD Lofts in Eastern Market. More information and directions to register for the workshop (make sure to do it by Wednesday!) can be found here.

The RAPE/DETROIT Project is Closed Down

detroit-rape-kit-backlog

Regrettably, the effort formally known as “The RAPE/DETROIT Project” was forced into early retirement last weekend when the donation box was removed from its place at The Burton Theatre and returned to management, empty.

Earlier this month I initiated a campaign to raise awareness about the 10,000-count backlog of unprocessed rape kits that was discovered in the Detroit Police Department crime lab when it closed in 2008. The plan was to raise enough money to purchase “Rape Detroit,” a wearable artwork by Nate Czarling, and for me to wear the t-shirt each day throughout December to bring attention to the cause. Thank you to those who engaged me personally and made contributions. Your feedback showed me that there is enough concern and support to continue raising awareness.

Despite this obstacle, The RAPE/DETROIT Project achieved its larger goal of generating an activist-minded network committed to this issue. Together, we are working to raise awareness, gather and share information, and take action at a larger scale. We hold an open invitation to those individuals and entities interested in collaboration and contribution. Contact for details.

Correction: Bad Party, “Rape Detroit” and Intellectual Property

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Yesterday I was informed that “The RAPE/DETROIT Project”—the name I gave to my effort to raise awareness of the 10,000 unprocessed rape kits found in Detroit’s crime lab when it was shut down in 2008—was interpreted as a theft of intellectual property.

Nate Czarling’s “Rape Detroit,” the t-shirt exhibiting on the walls of The Burton Theatre, is an offspring of the song “Rape Detroit” by Detroit-identified band, Bad Party. As explained to me by band member and artist Nate Czarling, the song “Rape Detroit” is about Detroit artists stealing each other’s work, which Czarling and Bad Party see as a common practice.

When I saw “Rape Detroit” hanging as an artwork at The Burton Theatre, I was immediately inspired. It was not my intention to use Czarling’s artwork or idea as if it was my own. In fact, I am less interested in the phrase “Rape Detroit” than I am in the individual words “Rape” and “Detroit,” something that I perhaps incorrectly assumed was communicated by separating the words with a backslash (“/”).

“Rape Detroit” by Bad Party is a metaphor. The kind of rape that I am concerned with is very real and it is important that this distinction is made. Thus, I will no longer refer to my cause as “The RAPE/DETROIT Project,” and I extend an apology to Bad Party for this brief confusion of meaning.

I will continue collecting donations at The Burton Theatre so that I can purchase the t-shirt “Rape Detroit” by Nate Czarling and wear it throughout the holiday season to raise awareness of the City of Detroit’s condescending disregard for its citizens.

The RAPE/DETROIT Project: Spread the Word and Meet Me at the Burton

detroit-rape-kit-backlog

When the state of Michigan closed the Detroit crime lab in 2008, more than 10,000 rape kits were discovered in the laboratory basement, none of which had been submitted for analysis. The rape kits date from 1993 to 2006, and it is estimated that there are still thousands more at large in Wayne County. This means that 10,000 Detroit-bred sexual assault victims submitted their bodies and their trust in the local government and have been waiting for up to eighteen years for medical-legal evidence regarding whether sexual contact occurred, the nature and conditions of the assault, and information that may lead to identifying the perpetrator.

Detroit representatives who attended the National Eliminating the Rape Kit Backlog Roundtable in Washington DC in May 2010 believe that the local media has sufficiently informed the public about the so-called epidemic. Yet, since I became aware of the issue last May, I have come across only one other person who had prior knowledge of the problem.

At its very essence, this backlog is an issue of information–evidence and knowledge. It begs many questions regarding politics at a local, state and national level, women’s health and safety, how government funds are and should be delegated, the effectiveness of rape kits as a means to justice for victims of sexual assault, and so on. In my own research I have not found much consensus between the available resources. As a public we are uninformed and misinformed, and those responsible for informing us (governmental bodies, journalists) are able to slack because as a public, we are unaware. Awareness is a necessary precondition for action. Knowledge is the critical factor that connects the two.

The RAPE/DETROIT Project

Beginning today–Friday, November 12–small donation repositories will be placed at The Burton Theatre as an effort to bring awareness to the rape kit backlog in Detroit. Throughout the rest of November, you can contribute money to help purchase “Rape Detroit,” a wearable art installation by Nate Czarling, whose work is currently on exhibit at The Burton. The piece is priced at $100. Once the asking price is met and the artist is paid, any additional donations will be used to further spread awareness to Detroit’s public and victims. I will wear the t-shirt every day from December 1 to December 31.

The RAPE/DETROIT Project is my effort to bring attention to a cause I have been concerned and frustrated with for some time. It is my hope that by bringing attention to the rape kit backlog, discussions will be sparked and relationships will be forged so that we as a community can move together toward knowledge and action.

“Rape Detroit” will continue to exhibit and donations will continue to be accepted throughout the month of November during The Burton Theatre’s operating hours.  There are 36 showtimes in these next few weeks. I strongly believe that this is a community effort–donating even the change in your pocket acknowledges the political strength of Detroit’s creative class.

A few screenings I would like to highlight as relevant to the RAPE/DETROIT Project are as follows:

Orgasm Diaries: 11/19 and 11/24 at midnight
Sex Magic: 11/26 at midnight
Paris is Burning: Free screening. 11/23 at 9pm

See you tonight.

Community Snapshot: Detroit Police Department and the Rape Kit Backlog

This excerpt was retrieved from the “Community Snapshots” section of Summary of the Proceedings of Eliminating the Rape Kit Backlog: A Roundtable to Explore A Victim-Centered Approach. “Community Snapshots” reviews “eight law enforcement agencies’ experiences in handling rape kit backlogs as they were presented by these jurisdictions at the roundtable. These snapshots illustrate the varying nature of the backlog crisis from one community to the next, while highlighting current efforts to reduce backlogs.”

In Michigan, the Detroit Police Department (DPD) has located at least 10,995 untested kits that were collected between 1993 and 2006. They anticipate that an additional several thousand kits exist from other law enforcement agencies within Wayne County. State officials are conducting an audit of 400 randomly-selected sexual assault kits from this backlog, and those 400 cases will be analyzed to generate a statistical picture of the requirements for processing the remaining kits.

State funding from the OVW Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecutors (STOP)
Formula Grant Program will support the initial approach to addressing Detroit’s backlog. Michigan State University will conduct a study of the initial 400 sexual assault cases selected for the audit, which will be processed over the next nine months. Findings of the study will inform officials of what to expect in dealing with the remaining 10,000 kits.

The team that will audit the 400 cases is comprised of a former homicide detective, a
former prosecutor, and two victim advocates (who were hired with OVW’s Sexual
Assault Services Program funding). Michigan State Police will provide the team with
laboratory personnel. The Michigan State Police will outsource the 400 audit cases in batches of 25 to a private laboratory for analysis, starting with the earliest cases from 1993 and working up toward cases from 2008.

The Detroit Police Department has system-based victim advocates who function
differently from many other community-based victim advocates, particularly in terms of how much confidentiality they can afford the victim. Currently, the plan is for the system-based advocates or law enforcement to make initial contact with victims, since valuable information may be obtained during that initial contact that could be used if the case is prosecuted. With respect to using community-based advocates for initial contact, Detroit officials are concerned about having an unarmed individual making notifications in potentially dangerous situations. As of the date of the roundtable, none of the sexual assault kits had been processed.

Participants were curious about whether Detroit has considered using proactive notices, such as public service announcements or mass marketing, informing the public that the police department is reopening old cases. The representatives noted that the local news media have been covering this story, so information has been provided to citizens.

Michigan officials stated that a protocol on how to address and manage a large backlog of untested sexual assault kits would be useful in their situation. Resources are required for law enforcement, criminalists, prosecutors, and advocates involved with this process because of the sheer volume of the backlog. In January 2009, the Wayne County Prosecutors Office Sexual Assault Group investigated 350 cases in which they interviewed 350 victims during the course of the year. Only three prosecutors performed these duties while also managing other violent crime cases. The plan to process 10,995 cases will have a massive impact throughout the state.