Dear Ms. Prout,
Yes, I’m writing a letter to a very courageous survivor, dynamite future lawyer and prosecutor in the courtroom. Who couldn’t forget the name, Chessie Prout? I’d like to first of all say that I’m in the middle of poring over your book, and I’m loving it. I love the fact that someone took down at least one predator in the world, and even more so, the guy has to be a registered sex offender. Even more so, I’ve almost become victim but came out on top because, well, how do I say it? I studied lots of cases of sexual assault, and rape, whatever you want to call it. I support the rape survivors, not so much because I am or was one or because I’m not one, but because this is a huge problem. It’s not just a general thing either.
I’d like to throw your attention to a few blog posts I’ve made about how unsafe college campuses might become under the new Donald Trump administration, and I bet they have. Rape culture is permeated in the St. Teresa’s Catholic School dress code, not just that but sex preferences or sexism culture as well.
I’ve done some thinking back, and believe you me, Chessie, the culture of my Catholic school was sexist in its obvious choice of dress code policy. Girls had to be modest, wear pinnafore jumpers in the younger grades, then these ugly skirt things in the upper grades. But that wasn’t all. Boys got pants, and up until my seventh grade year, girls had their thighs hanging out with these knee length primitive looking plaid skirts we had to wear. Girls had to dress like girls to Mass every Friday, no questions, except when the girls got pants, I started wearing those in the winter. Boys had these short shorts, and it’s just not stopping there. They had to cut their hair short, no jewels worn, except a Catholic cross. While I understand you went to Catholic school, I see differences in the boys and girls stuff they wore at STS (St. Teresa’s School) as a sign that they prefer boys over girls, or they stressed a sexist view of girls’ wardrobes. A better dress code would have been something like this:
All students must wear the prescribed uniform which could mean something like a pair of plaid pants for all grades and a polo shirt with the emblem on it. Fine. Gym clothes would be a nonissue. No conservative dress for girls would be prefered, and even worse, girls would be allowed big hoop earrings, except during phys ed. Of course.
Why not drop the plaid uniform and instead insist on blue and white for shirts, and all that. But clothes don’t make the man or woman, right? And they’re just the surface of rape culture in the United States.
Another rule STS should have probably thrown in their handbook would say something like this: This school does not permit sexual violence, harassment, rape, etc., not even based on what a girl a wearing at all. Sex without consent is sex without responsibility. That’s what my old pastor would have said.
But that’s not all. Imagine if my high school had gotten a hold of a rule like this, and went further and taught boys how not to rape. This should be done in health classes all over the States. WHile you did attend great schools, not all the schools in the U.S. are half as bad as St. Paul’s was. I read the book, and I admire your strength and courage and sacrifice to come forward.
It reminds me of a sheriff, Donna Matoon, who worked in Toole County Montana, who instead of taking the easy way out and saying, “Oh, just a bunch of collies in cages, I’ll let the breeder go,” she did the right thing. She arrested the people who hurt 180 collies in Great Falls. It takes courage to come forward and report any crime, which includes everything from robbery to sexual assault to puppymilling and animal cruelty. I love animals, so the thought of mistreated dogs in a cage bothers me a bunch.
Chessie, I want to point now to a problem that you might want to address. Blind females might not be on your mind right now, but I want to tell you that I have been indirectly the witness of several sexual assaults by a disabled man in two different situations. Once, there was a blind man who had nineteen different heart problems who went and assaulted my girlfriend Bree. I heard her story, and I want her to come forward one day.
HEre’s a figure you might not have thought of: 80% of blind females are prone to rape by either friends or family members. I would say that number goes up by 10% when you look at the number of blind and handicapped women who are victims or witnesses to sexual assault. Sex abuse is not a fun topic for me or anyone to discuss, but I’m a fervent supporter of the survivors of such. Bree is one such, and she deserves our backing. Like your attacker, the guy who attacked Bree lied and lied and lied. Believe me, learning about this stuff has taught me to read people’s words, patterns you might say.
A bit about me. I’m a blind woman who lives in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, sort of, and I love Denver’s openness and honesty and the way things are hammering out. I’ve been blind since birth, and have adapted to blindness pretty well for myself you might say. Questions people ask me are things like “Can you open your eyes?” “How do you do this or that?” One guy had a lighthearted question answer to the thought of how do you have sex. He just laughed and answered, “Like everybody else.”
Chessie, I may not know you personally, don’t think I’m trying to be weird. Well, we’re all weird. But after reading your book, I feel called to action. And here’s what needs to happen.
- Females with disabilities should be acknowledged and trusted during a rape case.
- It’s always going to be the attacker’s fault, and when I confront those who tell me that they assaulted females with disabilities, I’m going to demand why. Then go further. Chop them into pieces, with words of course. I’ll say, and you thought this lady’s body was not valued because she was handicapped? Oh my God.
- Females with disabilities will get their day in court so they can confront their attackers as you had to do your own. Every lawyer should realize that just because I have a disability does not make it okay for men and boys to assault me or the rest of my disabled friends. Just because I may be blind, deaf, in a wheelchair, God knows, that doesn’t mean I am not able to have a stable and loving relationship with a partner. Even after an attack.
- Females and males with disabilities should be valued. Just as you felt devalued, you know you are valued yourself. I support your efforts on the general public’s behalf, but boarding schools for blind and disabled people have had rape by staff to dumbfounded students before. You should read some books I’ll recommend at the bottom of this entry.
Chessie, I have read books on the matter of blindness and such. I’ve come to the conclusion though while observing my friends and their relationship habits, their family issues, etc., and all that lies within, that they could have targets on their backs worse than what you had. Imagine yourself blind and in a boarding school, not necessarily the one you attended, but a state school for the blind. There have been rapes and sexual assaults in the 1980s and 1990s at St. Augustine’s Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. The students affectionately call it “The D&B”. While I never went there for school, I came to realize why the blind school model can be so harmful.
For one, staff and other students can assault blind females, whose bodies are seen as the lowest of the low according to the boys and or the male staff. Even boys are fair game. My friends have told me stories of their families asking, “Did anyone touch you the wrong way?” I tell you, Chessie, I read all this in a book called Walking Alone and Marching Together, and it didn’t just cover the assault problem. Two girls died in 1989 at the D&B. Since then, I’m proud to say that some of the students say things changed. Vaill Hall, where the Multihandicapped kids stayed, might have gotten a makeover. But I think the whole blindness school system needed a makeover from the start. Sexual assault on campuses is a real problem, especially for colored blind females. Those classified as African American and totally blind in my observations have more targets on their backs.
Blind people are the most feared by society, but I don’t want people to fear me. Chessie, if I met you on the road, I’d have to tell you personally, and this is serious, that I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I think you would be new to the blind thing, but trust me. You’d get used to it. Yeah, I’ve had to overcome some fears before, but trust me.
Think of it this way. I’m blind. My friends survived unimaginable trauma. I had my own. But hearing the conversations about sexual assault in the campus communities brought to light what could have been my fate at the D&B Boarding school in St. Augustine. My mother had no care in the world whether I liked it or not. She kept threatening to ship me off to blind school, but even public school would have no place.
No place for blind women. Blind people are 80% unemployed, disproportionately higher than the national average. And compounding the stuff that society refuses to talk about, sexual assault, we have a huge problem.
Chessie, I told my story to some people. But now I want to tell you who I am, what’s special about me, my strengths and weaknesses, and you be the judge. Am I valuable?
I have played piano since I was 2 years old. No kidding, I’m not joking. I’ve had many honors and awards, All State Florida musician for twice in a row, and even more, I’ve gotten superiors at Florida Bandmasters Association Solo competitions. Three years. I am smart, love to read, and love animals, and sometimes I think animals are better friends than some people.
Mind you, cats are good at reading things. Dogs are great too, but if I had a guide dog I’d have one hell of a best friend. A best friend like that wouldn’t tell me she isn’t gonna guide me because my hair looked like Ramen noodles or something.
Now, if this doesn’t scream person with a soul, I don’t know what does. When any survivor comes forward, it’s hard. I should tell you that the creepy guy that attacked my friend also begged me for oral, and I remember it vividly. I couldn’t have gone forward because it was across state lines, no DNA, no real evidence. This guy, I don’t want to write his name down at all, though I have in the past, this guy had Borat playing on his desktop, the raciest comedy ever. I remember nothing of the lights, but I do remember this guy and me, my head down. He wanted control, and even when I got home from visiting this creep in Georgia, we had no stability, no love, nothing. He made awful sexual jokes about me, almost to the calliber of a sex assault. He made all my honors, awards, brains, etc., into a trash pit where he could try to inject his toxic crap into. Well, never works, does it?
He’s read this blog, but this guy won’t ever talk to me again because, to tell the truth, I blocked him on everything. As I type this, a siren and firetruck has sounded outside my window. Someone must’ve died or gotten bit or something weird. Always happens this way.
I live in the stacks, the highrise building apartment I share with my loving fiance, who’s been incredibly supportive throughout this time of need. I’m a relatively happy woman, but it just makes me sick to know that nobody talks about females who have disabilities being assaulted by friends or male relatives, juveniles of all things as well.
I hope we can someday soon get to know one another, maybe even partner because believe me, four hands on the keys would make me sing. I would love a duet partner myself, and one day I’d like to produce music and perform some. Who knows. My life’s been torn apart partially because of the abuse I suffered at the hands of El Creepo, if I should call him that.
Anyway, thank you for your incredible memoir. Your incredible story has inspired me, moved me, and lit something underneath that fire that might make any attacker’s head explode.
You go get ’em, Chessie, and I hope you find this blog enlightening and … yes, we’re both going to move and act and find ways to make the world a safer place for all.