It’s OK to Beat Your Wife or Children in UAE – Just Don’t Leave a Mark

26 10 2010

The highest judicial body in the United Arab Emirates, which has the seventh largest oil reserves in the world, borders on Saudi Arabia, and includes Dubai, says it’s okay to beat your wife and young children…just don’t leave a mark. Here’s the short article about it from the Huffington Post:

Dubai in the UAE - Credit: Neil Emmerson/Getty Images

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The UAE’s highest judicial body says a man can beat his wife and young children as long as the beating leaves no physical marks.

The decision by the Federal Supreme Court shows the strong influence of Islamic law in the Emirates despite its international appeal in which foreign residents greatly outnumber the local population.

The court made the ruling earlier this month in the case of a man who left cuts and bruises on his wife and adult daughter after a beating.

It says the man was guilty of harming the women but noted that Islamic codes allow for “discipline” if no marks are left. It also says children who have reached “adulthood” – approximately puberty – cannot be struck.

The ruling was reported Monday in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National.

You’re probably feeling outraged, right? Of course. We live in a “civilized” society and can’t imagine our Supreme Court saying it’s okay for men to beat their wives and children as long as no physical mark is left on them. It is outrageous. Men are allowed to treat women and children in the UAE and in so many countries in the world however they please and women have few rights. And this is a RELIGION saying it is okay to “discipline” them if you don’t leave marks. Is this really the way that God wants women and children to be treated?

We can sit here in moral outrage because this is Islam and somewhere far away, but these things happen right here in the United States and are sanctioned by Christianity (remember the verse about spare the rod, spoil the child?). I wrote a post called Kids in School: Getting an Education Plus a Beating about how school children in the United States are beaten with barbaric looking paddles in schools…and often for things as benign as being late to class or chewing gum. Corporal punishment of children by parents has been banned in 29 countries, including 22 in Europe, but is still legal in all 50 states in the United States. In our country, if a child has physical marks from being beaten and someone alerts social services, the parents may suffer some consequences, but if the parents are able to cover it up, they may get away with it.

So are we any better than the United Arab Emirates? We still legally condone children being beaten in schools in 21 states and at home in all 50 states and often these beatings leave horrible marks (even from school beatings) and cause children to be aggressive and to have psychological problems. This is legally-condoned assault on children. We have a culture where people are becoming more aware of the horrors that women suffer when they are beaten by husbands or boyfriends, but still men crack jokes about “slapping her around” to friends.

When will women and children in the United States and around the world really be treated equally? Why aren’t they now? Men overwhelmingly make and enforce laws in our country and in other countries. We need more men to stand for and with women and children and protect them. No schoolteacher, husband, boyfriend, father, or any man has a right to hit a child or woman. Women and children don’t need to be “disciplined” through hitting; they need to be loved.





Could You Survive the Worst Thing Imaginable?

25 10 2010

Emma, Katie, and Kyle Coble - Credit: Chriscoble.com

Imagine the worst thing that could possibly happen to you. The worst did happen to Lori and Chris (her husband)  who were on today’s Oprah show. A truck driver coming around a blind curve on a freeway slammed into the back of Lori’s car, which was stopped in traffic on the freeway.

Lori was in the car with her mother and her three children…Kyle aged 5, Emma aged 4, and Katie, aged 2. All three children were killed in that crash and Lori and her mother survived.

Somehow…with the support of family and friends and by making a pact with each other to not kill themselves and instead to help each other out…Lori and Chris got through it and decided 3 months later they wanted to have another child. One year after the tragedy, they had triplets…two girls and a boy! The children are now 2 1/2 and they brought them out…adorable. They said there is joy in their home again, but they still grieve the loss of the first two girls and boy. Amazingly, they forgave the truck driver, who is also the father of young children.

The story has several lessons:

  • That you can survive even the worst thing imaginable.
  • That supporting each other through tough times is important. The couple immediately went to counseling and learned to tell each other what they were feeling. You could tell that they are very close to each other and loving.
  • That miracles do happen. They had triplets who were the same sex as the three children they lost.
  • To hold your loved ones close and appreciate them and realize what a gift every day with them is.
  • That family and friends are invaluable and can love you and support you through whatever you are going through.

The couple has demonstrated unbelievable courage as has Lori’s mother, who was also featured and is also a survivor of the car crash. She of course has grieved not only for the loss of her grandchildren, but every day did all she could to help her daughter and son-in-law get through this unbelievable tragedy.

So when you’re having a bad day, as we all do, think of all you have to be grateful for and hold those you love and who love you tight…both figuratively and in reality. We’re all here to help each other out and in the end, having that love and support is what matters.

P.S. I originally wrote this (with some additions, which I didn’t share here) as an email to one of my daughters. This story touched me so much, I wanted to share it more broadly.





A 16-Year-Old Sexual Abuse Victim…and Now a Murderer

19 10 2010

The clean-cut, all-American looking 16-year-old talking to Oprah on yesterday’s show killed a man on January 22, 2010. Daniel Kovarbasich said he “snapped” after being molested for over 3 years by 56-year-old Duane Hurley and he stabbed him 55 times. He’s serving 5 years probation and sitting in prison until he can get proper counseling; a judge let him out to be on the Oprah show to send a message to other children and families.

In this case…as in most…Daniel was sexually abused by someone he knew…a family friend. He was first approached by Duane when he was just 12 and Duane offered to pay him to help him take care of his dog. Daniel’s parents took precautions: they looked up Duane’s name online to see if he was listed as a sex offender (he wasn’t) and they went with Daniel to Duane’s house each time for an entire year.

Daniel Kovarbasich

Duane not only groomed Daniel, but he groomed the whole family and let them do odd jobs in exchange for much needed money or he’d buy them needed household items. They all thought that Duane was a great guy, began to trust him, and even considered him a friend who was welcome in their home; finally the parents started letting Daniel go over to Duane’s house alone.

The grooming progressed when Daniel wanted to drive Duane’s sedan and Duane told Daniel he’d have to show him his penis. When Daniel wanted to drive Duane’s corvette, Duane said “bigger toys, bigger things” and insisted that Daniel let him touch his penis. The grooming continued and the abuse escalated to anal sex. Daniel hated it, but was afraid to tell his parents due to the shame he felt. He also couldn’t get away from Duane, who would track him down if he didn’t come over.

All this time, Daniel had a girlfriend and wanted to plan something special for their one year anniversary of dating. Duane asked him how much money he needed for that and Daniel said $80. Duane let him know that would cost him; i.e., he’d have to have sex with Duane. That was when Daniel snapped.

There were several messages this family…which also included Daniel’s older brother wanted to convey:

  1. If a child’s behavior changes, something could be terribly wrong. Daniel’s brother noticed that Daniel was acting totally out of character…smoking, acting out, etc.
  2. It is usually a “friend” or relative that abuses a child. They are able to win the child’s and his/her parent’s trust and gain access to the child. Daniel’s parents were shocked that this man won their trust, was their “friend,” and all the while was sexually abusing their son.
  3. Smart child abusers groom children. They win the child’s confidence…and that of their parents…over time. They will do things like offer the child special things the parents wouldn’t…like alcohol or driving a car when the child (as in Daniel’s case) doesn’t have a license. This is a red flag.
  4. Daniel urged children who might now be in a situation like he was in to TELL SOMEONE. The abuse will only progress…it doesn’t get less shameful. Get some help. Get out. TELL.

Oprah is herself a survivor of multiple instances of childhood sexual abuse. I applaud her for continuing to get the story out and to hammer home the fact that it is usually someone the child knows who abuses them.

This is a tragic story…as are all stories about sexual abuse. It all started with the selfish, narcissistic actions of a man who didn’t care what the consequences of his actions were. His actions did have consequences and one of them was that he lost his life. An innocent boy was traumatized and made to perform sexual acts for over three years by a child molester he thought was his friend and his family’s friend. That innocent boy became a murderer because of the abuse and a secret he felt was too shameful to tell. The whole family is suffering and their entire lives will be forevermore impacted.

If you are being sexually abused now or have been in the past, but have never admitted it, tell someone. Get help. Don’t suffer in silence and risk having the abuse continue or your reaction to it spiral out of control. It isn’t and wasn’t your fault and you are not the one who bears the shame. That belongs only to the person who committed the abuse.





Life at a Fast Toddle

31 08 2010

Aren’t toddlers fun to watch? My grandson Sebastian recently turned one. I have so much fun watching him toddle back and forth at his house, mine, the library, the park, wherever. Although his steps may be a bit wobbly, he doesn’t judge himself, hold back, or act fearful because he’s not a perfect walker. He “runs” with abandon, not worrying about whether he is going to fall or run into anything or step on anything. He just does it because he can. He is gleeful and often laughs or scrunches up his face in a delightful look that says “I’m having so much fun!” And he loves having something to carry as he toddles…a basket, a cake pan, a ball, a wooden puzzle piece…just about anything will work. It’s just the act of carrying while walking that is just so cool!

He was at my house several hours yesterday and today while his momma is at a conference and observing and being with him awakens so much in me. I am completely present with him just as I was with his momma and her sister when they were young. I sit on the floor and play with him, dance as he’s dancing, and sit in the sandbox at the park while he scoops sand and watches it fall through his fingers. His attention moves from one thing to another at mind boggling speed, but for the time he’s doing something, he’s completely focused on it.

Sebastian doesn’t fret about where his next meal is coming from or what it’s going to be. He just eats when he’s hungry and says “Nah!” or throws it when he isn’t…sounds fun, doesn’t it? He has no idea when or if he’s going to be taken on a plane, to the park, the grocery store, out for a stroller ride, on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to go downtown San Francisco, to babygym, or to see Oma (that’s me…German for “grandmother”). Everything is fun and he just rolls with it.

And oh…the dancing. A toddler isn’t self conscious and doesn’t wonder if he looks stupid when he dances. He just does it. When I turn on the Raffi CD or he hears something with a catchy beat, he just starts bouncing up and down, twirling, moving his shoulders, and getting his groove on. He can’t help himself…the boy has to dance.

At 12 months, he doesn’t have life experiences, societal influences, and the developmental “maturity” that can contribute to feeling hatred, anger, disgust, sadness, disappointment, resentment, worry, shame, or any other negative emotion. Life is all about possibility, learning, new experiences, wonder, discovery, delight, laughter, smiling, having fun, hugs and kisses, and toddling at full bore.

The more I observe Sebastian, the more I think he has it right. We can be a lot more present to the joys of life by practicing living life at a fast toddle.





Through the Eyes of My Daughter’s Newborn Child

18 08 2009
Circles of Blessing by Ishara de Garis

Circles of Blessing by Ishara de Garis

Awe. Delight. Ecstasy. Contentment. Pride. Gratitude. Joy. These are feelings I have at becoming a grandmother for the very first time and seeing my daughter Valerie become a mother to Sebastian, who entered the world at 1:29 a.m. PDT today.

I remember how awestruck I was to hold Valerie (and my first-born, her sister Julie) in my arms after giving birth. You can see a thousand tomorrows in the eyes of a newborn, but they remind you with their urgent cries for food and love that this moment is all that matters. A new baby doesn’t understand the concept of “Wait until I finish watching this TV show” or “I’m not feeling well so maybe some other time.” A baby knows now…and now…and now and calls to us to be present so we won’t miss the precious moments that so quickly pass.

A new baby is open…to love, to encouragement, to learning, to being. As a parent, you have the privilege and responsibility to influence who this child becomes. A new baby is trusting…that you’ll take care of him, keep him safe, meet his needs, teach him, and nurture him. You have the opportunity with a new baby to share with him the good in your life and the hope to shield him from the challenging.

One has a sense of wonder looking into the heart and soul of a newborn baby, who has no sense of prejudice, hatred, resentment, or ego. That baby is pure and innocent…the embodiment of all that is good and true in the world.

Sebastian's First Photo

Sebastian's First Photo

One considers all the hopes and dreams you have for a child who extends your physical time on this earth by literally carrying part of you in him. You wonder if he’ll play football or oboe, be on the debate team or the chess team, be married and have children or have a gay partner. There are so many possibilities, so many doors that can open, so many forks in the road that can lead him down paths unimagined as you hold him in your arms.

You’ve yet to make the many inevitable mistakes you’ll make as a parent even as you give your very best to this child. You’ve yet to have a teenage child scream “I hate you!” or take the car without permission and wreck it or fall for someone who doesn’t love them back. You’ve yet to have your heart broken as they make mistakes that have difficult consequences and to feel your heart soar as they make choices that lead to unexpectedly good results. You’ve yet to have your child blame you for their lot in life, swallow your pride, and know in your heart you did the very best you could. And you’ve yet to have your child make countless homemade cards that say “You’re the best mom ever” and to ease your load when you’re tired by dressing as combination wait staff/cooks in your high heels and impossibly large (for them) clothes and welcome you to Mom’s Night Out Restaurant with a menu of everything they know how to cook.

At the very beginning there is love bigger than you ever imagined…and the desire to never let these moments and these feelings go.

Sebastian, welcome to the world. You have two loving, caring, accomplished, super intelligent, personable, independent, creative, kind, and grateful parents. May life always be as full of wonder, delight, and love for you as it is right now. Thanks for making me a grandma. I promise to be the very best grandma I can be and to be present to each of our precious moments together. This is going to be fun! I love you, Sebastian.

…Your Oma





That’s SO… Think B4 You Speak

31 05 2009
Source: GLSEN

Source: GLSEN

That’s so…CHEERLEADER! What if you said that when someone said something vacuous? How do you think that would make cheerleaders feel? Or what if you said “That’s so jock” if someone talks like they are dumb…like a football player who can complete a pass, but not a sentence?

Now imagine that you’re gay and people make the comment “That’s so gay!” as if to say that’s stupid or queer or effeminate or whatever. How do you think that makes you feel as a gay person? Do you ever stop to think about your language and how it affects others?

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is running a campaign now called ThinkB4YouSpeak to make people aware of their use of homophobic language and to reduce bullying of gay people. The campaign to reduce bullying kicked off with the 4/17/09 Day of Silence, which I wrote about in a blog post entitled LGBT (Gay) in America, LGBT in Iraq.

This is from the GLSEN website and tells what the organization stands for:

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community.

Dr. Jill Biden, a lifelong educator and wife of the vice president, will speak at the GLSEN Respect Awards, a gala in New York on 6/1/09.

Carl Walker-Hoover - Credit: www.towleroad.com

Carl Walker-Hoover - Credit: http://www.towleroad.com

Perhaps you think that every kid gets teased in school so what’s the big deal, right? Think again. Children are committing suicide after being bullied and called gay repeatedly. An example is Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old Massachusetts sixth grader who hanged himself after yet another day of school bullies calling him gay, making fun of the way he dressed, and threatening him. His mother had called the school repeatedly before this happened. Now she lives with the devastating and senseless loss of her son.

What can you do? Stand up and call people on it when they use language that belittles, diminishes, or bullies gay people. Notify the school if your child is being bullied and make sure that steps are being taken for it to stop. If your child is a bully, educate them on the possibly devastating effects of their actions and let them know that there will be zero tolerance for that kind of language. Educate yourself by reading the materials on the GLSEN website.

Here’s a video from the ThinkB4YouSpeak campaign that makes the point of how ridiculous and hurtful it is to call something gay and what you can do about it.