What is the controversy in 13 Reasons Why?

Over the last couple of days Gigglez and I have binge watched “13 Reasons Why” (https://www.netflix.com/title/80117470). The general premise is simple, yet quite complex.  A high school junior commits suicide, but before she does, records a series of audio tapes. These tapes involve all of those that contributed to her decision to end her life. Each person on the tapes are to listen to them and pass them onto the next person.

I think that this may be the most important series that I have watched in quite some time. The level of passion in the work harkens back to Dead Poets Society. Reaching deeply into the high school minds.

I am a fan of what Stephen King says about banned or censored works:

“Censorship and the suppression of reading materials are rarely about family values and almost always about control about who is
snapping the whip, who is saying no, and who is saying go. Censorship’s bottom line is this: if the novel Christine offends me, I don’t want just to make sure it’s kept from my kid; I want to make sure it’s kept from your kid, as well, and all the kids. This bit of intellectual arrogance, undemocratic and as old as time, is best expressed this way: “If it’s bad for me and my family, it’s bad for everyone’s family.”

Yet when books are run out of school classrooms and even out
of school libraries as a result of this idea, I’m never much disturbed not as a citizen, not as a writer, not even as a schoolteacher . . . which I used to be. What I tell kids is, Don’t get mad, get even. Don’t spend time waving signs or carrying petitions around the neighborhood. Instead, run, don’t walk, to the nearest nonschool library or to the local bookstore and get whatever it was that they banned. Read whatever they’re trying to keep out of your eyes and your brain, because that’s exactly what you need to know.” 
― Stephen King

So, as controversy is starting to stir, we decided to see why. What is the idea that “they” did not want us to see?  Was it the sex, drugs, suicide, free thought, bullying, or what? The negative press is asserting that the show is somehow condoning suicide, rape, drugs, and alcohol.  We simply did not find that to be the case. We found it to be illuminating the problems rather than glorifying them.

This series draws you in tightly with a broad spectrum of demographics and personalities. The cast was convincing in their roles.  Their portrayals caused emotional response and reflection for me.  It may be too hot of a topic for the various award giving entities to give the appropriate accolades.

Katherine Langford plays the role of the girl who chose to end her life. The life, death, and everything in between had such vibrancy it was the girl next door.

Dylan Minnette, the male lead, pulled of his role to such quality that it had me thinking of my youth. Back came the memories of the girls that I wished that I had the courage to approach. The cheerleader in math class, everyday taunting my middle school mind.

I think the one who stood out most for me was Kate Walsh. She played the grieving mother, struggling to come to terms with what happened with her cherished daughter. Why did she lose her daughter and could there have been anything that she or the school could have done to prevent it.  I could see in her the pain of all of the mothers who have lost a child. I have enjoyed her work since Gray’s Anatomy, but this role was far beyond the characters that I have seen her in before.  I know that she has kids, and that may have been part of what propelled the emotional buy-in that we saw. It was an utterly stunning role to see her play out.

As the series unfolds and we see more and more of the factors come to light it is difficult to watch as you know what is about to happen.  I am being mindful of spoilers so there is much more that I would like to say, but, it would be better for you to watch for yourself.  The episodes delve into areas that we wish did not exist, and for some, pretend that they don’t.  Guess what people, kids are mean, bullies exist, sex is had (consensual and rape), drugs and alcohol gets consumed.  When you watch this series (and I hope that you do if you have the strength) take the time to watch the follow-up episode.  The breakdown of the rationale for the way that certain scenes were carried out was quite valuable.

My wife and I were both reminded of those that we lost in our youth. The names, and faces from the past. We lost people, almost lost people and have had some that we reached out to when we were worried. In the end we cannot help but wonder how many times we missed a friend in need.  We also have to think about how something we may have said, or NOT said could have nudged someone to a darker place without meaning to, or realizing it.

Where does this leave our society? We need to be more thoughtful in how we interact and raise our kids. We have to be open, mindful, watchful, and communicative.  It is too bad that we cannot instill the golden rule upon our kids and have it stick with them for their entire lives. We are not perfect, nor are our kids.

 

Sextortion – are you aware of it?

As so many are flocking to cell phones and the ages of the users are getting younger, there is a topic that parents need to be aware of.

Sextortion is a form of sexual exploitation that employs non-physical forms of coercion to extort sexual favors from the victim. Sextortion refers to the broad category of sexual exploitation in which abuse of power is the means of coercion, as well as to the category of sexual exploitation in which threatened release of sexual images or information is the means of coercion.[1]

We as a society need to be able to band together to combat this psychological attack against our youth. 83% of the victims are female, and 46% are minors. Like physical sexual assault, it is estimated that only a third or less of the victims report the crime. 60% of the perpetrators knew the victim before the incident.

I have reviewed the evidence of one of these cases personally. No, I will not share that data as the victim does not deserve that. The portrayal below is based on that incident but is sanitized for her privacy. This was properly reported to the appropriate authorities.

Here is how this abuse occurred:

  • Victim received a text from an unknown source
  • criminal claimed that they had nude photos of the victim
  • They also recited her street address, including which room within her apartment was hers
  • the pictures were going to be shared on all forms of social media unless she complied with the criminal
  • the criminal wanted her to disrobe for more pictures
  • on a the second day the criminal resumed texting with a more aggressive tone
  • the same intent of getting more pictures
  • Criminal escalated to calling the victim and pressuring her to an online video chat service in Scandinavia (I believe in Norway) to excuse herself from family to go to a bathroom to disrobe and put herself on display.

As I and my colleagues tried to trace the evidence and find the personal data exposure, we were impressed with the victim’s awareness of protecting her data. She does not have her college address shared with any databases other than Amazon, and even they did not have which room was hers.

Text messages are very hard to trace unless you are law enforcement. Even for them, they are not easy. Because of my role, I was able to provide the FBI with the owner (not the user) of the phone numbers used to text and call the victim.  I was also able to  alert the abuse team at the video chat service so that they could review the actions of their users. Since I did not have a subpoena, I was unable to get data to relay to the FBI.

When the victim returned to campus, she found that her roommates were also victims. Since the issue was clearly involving a local perp, the apartment management was advised. They had a very lame excuse that this was a data breach when someone restarted the internet. I am still stunned with how stupid this answer is. The apartment management company did say that seven women had come forward. This number ended up rising to twenty when published by a local media source. The article was a plea for other victims to come forward. It is my personal opinion that the apartment complex has a rogue employee that needs to be identified, arrested, and prosecuted. So far this particular incident is limited to the complex.

When I asked if the abuse has continued, the victim stated that there has not been a peep since the police report was filed. The situation is getting great exposure on campus so the student body is much more aware.

If you check the links below, you will find that this situation is not isolated, but becoming more and more common.

Parents need the same level of awareness. This is the tool that you need to arm your kids (regardless of how grown that they are) so that they can fend off these pond scum samples.

Obviously the first line is to make sure that they do not have these kinds of pictures TO BE shared in the first place. I also know that this is wishful thinking, just like abstaining from sex before committed relationships. It is talking to them so that they know if they do not have content for the criminals to share, then why co-operate with their demands. Do not delete the texts, call logs or any other evidence. The local police (and likely the FBI) need to be contacted. Take the time to file the report. The perp needs to be caught. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Even if your kids DID have content that could be exposed, this is not the time to blame the victim. They did nothing to deserve this. My thought is to treat that situation as you would when your kid calls form a party/bar after drinking. Get them to safety then discuss when it is more mentally safe to do so. If your kids know without a doubt that you will stand with them, then they will be more likely to tell you of the incident so you can help them through it.

I hope that nobody that you know has to go through this, but the numbers indicate that it will hit close to home.

Related useful links:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/sextortion

https://www.fbi.gov/audio-repository/news-podcasts-inside-sextortion-and-the-lucas-chansler-case.mp3/view

Prosecutors: ‘Sextortion’ Cases Targeting Young Women At Alarming Rate

Sextortion

Date Rape* Drug Detection

There is a bit of a buzz over Undercover Colors.

Undercover Colors is being touted as a date rape* drug detection fingernail polish.

There is a rape crisis organization that is against such a substance. I find their rationale to be ludicrous and shameful.

http://www.newsweek.com/controversy-over-nail-varnish-date-rape-drug-detector-267126

“Rape Crisis does not endorse or promote such a product or anything similar. This is for three reasons: it implies that it’s the woman’s fault and assumes responsibility on her behalf, and detracts from the real issues that arise from sexual violence.”

 

Now if their reasons were more like; the stuff looks awful, it tough to apply/remove, has health concerns then I would be more understanding.

To me the nail polish if it is ever actually developed looks like it will be a wonderful tool in protection. Notice I didn’t say women’s protection? Wouldn’t it be sexist to limit date rape to only female victims?

Too bad contact with these drugs don’t cause 72 hours of limp dick, just to make it interesting.

 

*Let’s be very clear about something. I used the phrase date rape for conversational understanding. The term is simply rape, no reason to sugar coat it or to lessen the impact of the act.