Gladiolus: Red Ruffle Top + Black Skater Skirt

Somerville, MA
imperfect idealist
red ruffle top outfit
red gladiolus trader joe's
red ruffle top outfit
Top, thrifted | Skirt, Forever 21 | Shoes, Target | Necklace, street vendor in Oxford, UK | Gladiolus, Trader Joe's

It's been months since I've done an outfit post. I actually left my DSLR in the US because I only used it once over the summer--for these photos, actually.

Like many other bloggers, I've gradually drifted away from extended outfit posts and moved towards smartphone snaps on Instagram. There's something nice about putting together a whole photoshoot and editing portrait-quality images though (though a post full of photos of yourself does feel slightly narcissistic haha). 

You won't be seeing many more (if any) DSLR photoshoots for the next couple months--partially because I don't have my camera, partially because I have so many non-fashion related things to say. My posts might be serious and editorial-style like my previous post on sexual assault, or they might be endurance running or travel related. 

I'm still figuring out what's ahead (as usual) and hope you'll stick around.

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From a Survivor: What I Wish People Understood about Sexual Assault


what I wish people understood about sexual assault

The life of a sexual assault survivor is volatile. There are days I feel overwhelmingly angry; I want to fight the injustice and change the system—the system that allows 994 of every 1000 rapists to walk free (rainn.org). Other days, I just want to live a normal life—a life untouched by sexual violence. Every minute I spend striving to attain justice, every dollar I spend on legal proceedings, every night I lose of sleep—these are all resources the perpetrator has robbed from me. Sexual assault steals and continues to steal.


Justice is rare, and that is the very reason there needs to be change. I think justice begins with education—there are so many misconceptions surrounding sexual assault. Since coming forward as a rape survivor in March, I’ve learned a lot about the criminal justice system and the way people respond to sexual assault allegations. These are the most pressing observations I’ve made since then.

Reactions to Sexual Assault Accusations



1. “Sexual assault accusations are motivated by ulterior interests.”



Those who dismiss sexual assault allegations as revenge or political conspiracies show a flawed understanding of false accusation statistics and the emotional burden it is to come forward as a survivor. It’s estimated that only 2-10% of sexual assault allegations are false (National Sexual Violence Resource Center). Statistically, that means there is more than a 90% chance that any individual accusation is true—so you should be deeply troubled when someone you know is accused of sexual assault. It is not the time to brush the allegation away, proclaim “innocent until proven guilty,” and move on with your life.
Furthermore, sexual assault accusations are HARD to make. You’re not only sharing one of your most traumatic and dehumanizing experiences; you’re also making yourself vulnerable to retaliation, doubt, and hate. You are putting your integrity on the line.
Another important point: no one wants to be known as a sexual assault victim. No one wants to relive and be defined by their trauma. There are many reasons for survivors to keep their stories to themselves; so when they do share, you really should listen.
2. Logically inconsistent reactions

Many reactions to sexual assault allegations are logically unsound. Here are a few:
  • People who rally behind #stopkavanaugh and #webelievesurvivors but remain friends with known sexual abusers.
  • Those who tout feminism and celebrate international women’s day yet don’t believe women.
  • Friends who assure you “I believe you and support you,” but continue to interact comfortably with the perpetrator and their supporters.
  • People who declare “innocent until proven guilty” and call word-of-mouth developments “hearsay” outside a court of law.

Every action has a consequence. In the aftermath of a sexual assault allegation, remaining friendly with the perpetrator and their supporters has a consequence. It sends the message to the survivor that the assault didn’t happen. Cutting off or ignoring the survivor also sends a message—the message that survivors should remain silent.
These reactions are steeped in self-interest. People readily vocalize their support for survivors, but are unwilling to change their lives to actually execute that support. I get it—it’s a shock to discover that your friend committed sexual assault. It’s uncomfortable to cut friends off, especially good ones, ones with whom you have history. But in failing to hold sexual abusers and their supporters accountable, you are betraying survivors. Over 98% of criminal trials allow rapists to walk free (rainn.org). The justice system is failing survivors, so it’s all the more essential that we do what we can to hold sexual abusers accountable in our daily lives.

I’ve also noticed an unusual fascination with the concepts “innocent until proven guilty” and “hearsay” when it comes to sexual assault. While we normally believe a friend’s word, sexual assault seems to be the exception. Don’t get me wrong: it's smart to be cautious and to get the whole story before making judgments. The problem with “innocent until proven guilty” and “hearsay” is that it often becomes an excuse to remain “neutral”—to avoid taking sides and to go on with your life as normal, continuing to interact with the accused and their supporters. Neutrality does not exist in sexual assault. Again, when you continue with your life as normal, you are acting as if the assault did not happen, which only enables the perpetrator.
3. Himpathy

This is another response to sexual assault that is a slap in the face to survivors. Kate Manne coins the term in her article “Brett Kavanaugh and America’s ‘Himpathy’ Reckoning.” Himpathy, she says, is the “inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicide and other misogynistic behavior.” Remove the “powerful” before “man,” and the concept remains prevalent.
When I came forward with my story, a close friend berated me for being so “vengeful,” proclaiming that there was “no defense for rape accusation” (it’s important to note that I did not even name names). He lamented the so-called ruin of the perpetrator’s reputation while ignoring the assault itself and the pain I’ve faced. That was himpathy, and this is rape culture.
When we show disproportionate sympathy to male perpetrators, we implicitly value their lives over those of female survivors. People are quick to say that an accusation will ruin a man’s life, but what about the permanent stain it has left on that of the survivor?
4. “He helped me through my sexual trauma, so he can’t be a rapist.”

The misconception that rapists have to be “bad” people, or have to be uneducated on issues of sexual assault, is still very much prevalent. The sad truth is that ANYONE can be a sexual abuser—a doctor, a famous writer, a movie producer—EVEN those who have helped others through sexual trauma.
Victims are actually most commonly assaulted by romantic partners or acquaintances. Twenty-five percent of rapes are committed by a current or former romantic partner, and 45% are committed by an acquaintance. Seventy percent of the time, people we know and probably trust are committing these sexual crimes (rainn.org). Anyone is capable of losing control and fulfilling their selfish desires at the expense of another human being.

5. Why survivors don’t report (or wait a long time to report)

Donald Trump proclaimed that if Professor Ford’s allegations against Brett Kavanaugh were true, either she or her parents would’ve immediately filed a police report. The reality is that most survivors don’t report, and even if they do, many wait months and years after the assault. Professor Ford waited 35 years to come forward. Roy Moore’s accusers also waited decades.
Many survivors choose not to report because they might face gaslighting, blame, or retaliation. Others wait to report because they initially don’t want to admit they’re a victim—trauma takes a long time to process, sexual assault is heavily stigmatized, and survivors may simply want to maintain the image of a put-together life. (For more reasons survivors don’t report, this Huffington Post article is pretty informative.)
One of the biggest deterrents, however, is that survivors may have to relive their trauma for NOTHING to happen. In this next section, I want to point out four systemic problems in the criminal justice process that pose significant barriers to survivors, making justice even more difficult to attain.

Systemic Problems in the Criminal Justice Process

1. Double standards help the perpetrator and cast doubt on the victim.
For a perpetrator, you might hear reasoning like: “Oh, he graduated with honors, he’s not the type to rape.”
At the same time, you might hear this for a survivor: “Oh, she graduated with honors, she doesn’t fit the profile of the typical victim. If she was really raped, her grades should’ve dropped.”
(Rather than: “Oh, she graduated with honors, she doesn’t seem like the type to make a false accusation.” Not that academic achievement and integrity are directly correlated, mind you).
Just like there’s no “typical” rapist, there’s no “typical” survivor either. A victim’s life doesn’t need to fall into shambles after sexual assault. We all have different ways of dealing with trauma—personally, I fought to maintain the life I had before. I saw it this way: the perpetrator would only be robbing more from me if I didn’t push ahead as best as I could. I wasn’t going to let him win.
2. Mental health around the time of assault is used to discredit the victim.
Even more contradictory: many people expect survivors to look like a “typical” victim and deem them uncredible when they don’t, yet penalize them when they have PTSD, depression, or other mental health issues—EVEN if these issues began around the time of the alleged assault, and should logically be used as supporting evidence that a traumatic event did, in fact, take place. In court, it may actually be argued that because the complainant has mental health issues, they can’t give a faithful testimony. Another double standard.
3. Rape accusations are considered defamation per se.
When survivors come forward, they put themselves at great legal risk. Rape accusations are considered defamation per se, meaning that the accused don’t even need to prove damages to sue for defamation. While reporting to the police is protected under the law, reporting to campus Title IX offices is not. Students have actually been sued for making Title IX reports.

This is not to deter survivors from filing reports—truth is, after all, the best defense. Defamation lawsuits are long, costly, and gnarly for both parties, so the perpetrator would need to think twice about filing as retaliation. Just as it’s difficult to prove that a sexual assault did occur, it’s complicated to prove that it did not occur.

4. The accused can refuse to give a testimony until charged (if charged).
I find this final policy most disadvantageous to survivors. When a survivor files a police report, the alleged perpetrator can refuse to give a statement until they are charged with sexual assault. If the perpetrator is charged, they have access to any statements or evidence that the survivor has submitted to the police. This makes it exponentially difficult to catch the perpetrator in a lie because they can remain silent until they’re charged, then make up a story based on the evidence.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

For more information on sexual assault, you can visit RAINN.org (the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault network), or contact your local rape crisis center. Several national and local legal resources also exist for survivors, such as the Victim Rights Law Center in Massachusetts. The VRLC was especially helpful in clarifying some of the legal points in this post.

Race Review: TARC Spring Classic 50k

Weston, MA
tarc spring classic 50k
Photo courtesy of Chris Wristen @ MassUltra

In April 2018, I ran the TARC Spring Classic 50k. (Yes, oops—this race recap is 6 months late).

TARC (Trail Animals Running Club) is Boston-based running group that holds several longer distance events each year. You don’t have to be a member to join any of their events—you can simply sign up online and pay a very nominal registration fee (the 50k cost $20, which is much cheaper than the $100+ you can pay for a marathon). Their Facebook group is also super active, and people are always asking for and giving advice, as well as organizing group runs.

Getting there: 

The race is in Weston, about 20 miles outside of Boston. I didn’t have a car, so I pulled all the stops to find a ride there. I posted in the TARC Facebook group, another running group, and then began searching the entrants up on Facebook to message them and ask (there is a list of entrants on the registration page and I’m a creep haha). I ultimately got a ride there through my sleuthing, and got a ride back by asking if anyone was heading to my neighborhood.

Course: 

The race was composed of five 10k loops, which was both good and bad. The pros were that we’d know what to expect after the first loop, and that there was a sure spot for the handful of spectators to gather. The con was that it isn’t super interesting to run in circles. The TARC website says that the trails are mostly flat, but I found them actually kind of hilly. There are definitely a handful of non-negligible inclines. There are lots of roots too, so be prepared for those. There was also a very muddy spot within the first mile—bring extra socks and shoes.

Gear: 

I ran in synthetic leggings the whole time and switched between a cotton long-sleeve and synthetic t-shirt (temperatures were still kind of chilly at about 40-60 degrees fahrenheit throughout the race). I chose synthetic socks in case the course was wet or muddy (which it was). For shoes, I wore Salomon trail running shoes for the first 2 loops, and my Brooks for the final 3 (the Salomons were giving me blisters). I also brought my camelbak since the only aid station was every 10k.

Actually ran in these road shoes for most of the trail race...
Guess I wasn't used to these trail shoes yet...


Fuel: 

They have each runner bring something for the fuel station based on the first letter of your last name. There was a wide variety of replenishments, from doughnuts to hummus sandwiches to candy to oranges to salted potatoes. They also had water, soda, and powerade (there was no gu though). I always grabbed something to eat in-between and brought 3 gu.

Results: 

I finished in 6:53:02 (12:38/mile), which was much slower than I anticipated (part of it was perhaps that the course was inaccurate, so I ended up running almost 2 miles extra). I was hoping to finish in around 5:30—while I was on-track for the first two 10k loops, I quickly lost energy and ended up taking some longer food and poop breaks between loops 2-5 (that’s why my NikeRun app reads a time 30 minutes faster). This was also one of the few races where I walked some stretches. I noticed quite a few runners walking up hills, and I quickly realized that the “I have to run the whole way!” road racing mentality might not apply to the trails.

Up until recently, I thought that maybe my overall running performance had simply gone downhill. For the past couple years, I’ve struggled to run paces I used to hit with much less effort, and many of my runs felt heavy and cumbersome. This race was definitely during one of those sluggish periods. Overall though, I was glad just to have finished the race alive and in once piece haha. I’m not sure if another trail race is on my agenda in the near future, but I’m glad I tried this one out.

My mom is always the cutest
All smiles post-race


Tips + Summary: 

  • The entry fee is cheap at $20 and the sense of community is strong.
  • If you’re looking for a ride, check the entrants list (for all races, not just the 50k) and message those based on hometown nearest yours. For a ride there, ask anyone regardless of their race (the 10k, half marathon, marathon, and 50k all start around the same time). For a return ride, try to find someone once you’re there (so you don’t make anyone wait or have to wait for someone to finish).
  • The course is a bit hilly and root-ridden, so you might go slower than you expect. 
  • Come prepared with extra socks and shoes in case of mud.
  • There is no gu—bring your own.

Hope this helps this year's 50k hopefuls—happy running!

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