Islander's Blog

The World Writ Small

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A neighbor of mine likes to say that this island is simply the rest of the world writ small. If I have mentioned that before, it is because local news stories make it pop into my head. This week it is the awful news that another woman was raped in her own home. We are the rest of the world writ small indeed.

An attack like that resonates in a small community. It dredges up emotions. First, our hearts go out to the victim. We can never understand the pain and anger she must be suffering.

The second emotion is fear. People begin talking about getting a gun, about getting new locks on the doors, dead-bolts, asking what the cops are doing to catch this creep. People begin wondering if a sexual attack is July is related to this week’s attack.

The fear of crime expands itself into larger sociological rumblings. It begins with this sentence: Once there was a time when we did not have to lock our doors. And it quickly morphs into this sentence: When “they” began moving here things began to change.

It is a very slippery slope to begin thinking that way. Fear of “the other” makes us take our eye off the ball. The focus should stay on finding out who did this awful thing and bringing him to justice. The larger issue of immigration, or eulogies for how things used to be here, just serves to blur that focus.

Community is not just a nice notion that centers around getting together with like-minded neighbors on some sunny Sunday afternoon. Community is a challenge.

That challenge requires the heavy lifting of living shoulder to shoulder with people with whom we appear to have nothing in common. Very often it is a challenge that involves the police to sort things out.

In the end we trust that law enforcement will deal with the bad guys in any part of the community, leaving us with the chance to slowly find some common ground.

And so the people who complain that our island has changed are right. It has changed. We must now lock our doors and windows, worry about strangers, be smart about the chances we take.

We are now like every place else. We are the larger world writ small. But we have always been that. What makes this place different is that what happens to one of us still has small echoes in all of us. That is something to hold onto.
– John Stanton

2 Responses to “The World Writ Small”

  1. Mary H. Michetti Says:

    Mr. Stanton, thank you for bring up such an important subject and being clear that sexual assault is a community issue. I have dedicated a good deal of my energy and time for the past 20 years to the education, awareness, and advocacy of victims and survivors of sexual assault here on Nantucket. These issues know no boundries of race, religion, economics, or sexual orientation. Through my work with A Safe Place and my own personal experiences with sexual assault and domestic violence, I am well aware that these issues happen here. And these issues have been a part of the fabric of Nantucket for centuries, whether people want to believe it or not.

    My heart goes out to the recent victims of the home invasion/sexual assaults and I do hope that as a community we can show our support through not being complacent around the issues, but by also respecting these survivors annonimity and healing process, which can take years. It is the survivors right to speak or not about what happened to them, and only theirs. It has been my experience both professionally and personally, that ones’ confidentiality on this island holds little regard to some in this community who feel the need to talk about who and what they want, where ever they want, to the suffering of those victims and survivors. It takes no less than 48 hours before I am asked “Is it true that “so-an-so” was sexually assaulted?” To this I always answer “I don’t know and you shouldn’t be asking.”

    I understand the outrage in the community regarding these sexual assults, there is plenty to be mad about. The child who was sexually assaulted a few weeks back by a family aquaintance, the many unnamed victims of summer date rapes, and those victims who live in the homes of their abusers, in silent suffering, who may sit next to you at church on Sunday or live next door. Sexual assault and domestic violence does happen here, I would bet every day, in one form or another.

    What can be done to stop this? I hear this question a lot lately and I am glad to hear it because this means people are paying attention. But why does it take a very unfortunate series of events to get this community to think about doing something? Threre are prevention stratagies and programs taught to our children in the schools and offered to parents and adults through A Safe Place on a fairly regular basis. It is a small orginazation, with a dedicated staff, who all experience great frustration from time to time when the community doesn’t show up for our outreach by either stopping at our table during April, which is National Sexual Assault Awareness month, or by signing up for one of our presentions, or through just stopping by the office to pick up some information on how to help stop the prevalence of sexual buse and domestic violence on Nantucket. We understand that this is difficult stuff to talk about, let alone acknowledge that it “happens here”, but until individuals begin to do what they can to aid in making this less of an issue, it will continue.

    Some thoughts for how people may help put a stop to the prevalence of sexual assault and domestic violence on Nantucket:
    Don’t engage in relationships that create the atmosphere that these issues are some how funny, or acceptable, speak up if you are offended.
    Stop and ask if someone needs help if it appears they may be in an abusive situation; the worst that can happen is embarrasment.
    Know the resources in the community so you can share these with victims and survivors you may know.
    Never assume that you know what the victim or survivor wants or needs, just be supportive.
    Call the police if you see or hear something that is concerning.
    Never blame the victim, the abuser is responsable for their actions and only them.
    Learn about and support the efforts of A Safe Place, however you can, their work is invaluable but with a staff of 5, we can only do so much.

    There is no shame in being a survivor of sexual assault &/or domestic violence. The shame is in the complacency of individuals and communities in denying and ignoring that this stuff happens everyday, even in beautiful Nantucket.

    Sincerely, Mary H. Michetti, MA, LMHC

  2. Nopque Says:

    Just make sure the security lights you install, per recommendations of the NPD, do not have any bulbs in them that are above 40 watts. Otherwise the “lighting enforcement officer” will be the one peeping around your yard at night.

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