Me Too

I am one of the many women who have experienced harassment only to have my complaints thrown to the wayside.  The man who harassed me was a member of my synagogue.  He and his wife invited me to stay with them for a while as they knew I did not have a place to stay.  I was excited that members of my synagogue would be so kind.  I was in the process of conversion and I was hoping to learn how a Jewish household was run, how to prepare Jewish food and celebrate holidays.  I thought I might be able to help them out as well as their house and yard were big.

The first few weeks I was there they were away on a cruise and I watched their dog.  Upon their return they became different people than the ones I had met at synagogue.  They had always been friendly and kind.  Now that I was living with them they suddenly changed.  They began taunting me with things they found out about me.  Nothing bad, but these were things that only my landlord who had sent me into homelessness would know.  I realized they must somehow know her, probably through the senior services office she had worked at.  A friend invited me out for a drink on my birthday and I was treated as though I was a minor, even though I was 54 at the time.  I was told I wore children’s clothing, they insinuated that my ex’s family only pretended to like me, and on and on and on.  It got worse instead of better.  I knew through experience not to over react and leave, as I had no where to go.  They knew this, and it was winter in Seattle.  I bit my tongue at all of their verbal abuse and weathered out the winter.

The abuse was not only at home.  He was active in the same political groups that I was and tried to sway their opinion of me for the worse rather than the better.  This had an impact on my employment as the people involved in the political groups were also my employers.  At Torah study they mocked me and carried on theatrics to make me look bad.  I had no idea why they were doing these things to me and I was very hurt by it.

I moved out of their house and their abuse continued at political functions and at synagogue.  I decided I could no longer be a door mat.  I went to a demonstration at a Macy’s store by employees.  I decided to join them as I had once worked their and agreed with their objections.  While I was in the picket line he showed up and eventually walked up to me.  I told him in a calm tone of voice, “I am going to ask you nicely to leave me alone.”  He tried to say something and I repeated my words.  He walked off and I hoped he would respect my wishes.

Instead of respecting my wishes, his abuse became worse.  The theatrics at synagogue continued, and he and his wife constantly insinuated that I needed to be made homeless.  The only reason I could think of that they acted this way was my former landlord. A convention was held in Seattle over a weekend.  He tried to approach me, and I reminded him I had asked him to leave me alone.  At one of the sessions he sat across the room from me, which I found acceptable.  He them moved to a seat next to the woman I was sitting with.  I reported this to the convention staff, yet he continued to harass me. At a meeting of the King County Labor Council he signed that he was going to take my seat away from me, which he was successful at doing.  He took away my career at the union.

I take my time spent worshipping and studying Torah at synagogue very seriously.  Having someone like him constantly harassing me was devastating, especially after what happened with the union.  I complained to the synagogue staff about his behavior.  nothing was done and the behavior continued.  He sometimes acted like a small boy pestering a playmate and he often had a grin on his face.  The continued harassment began to take a toll and was causing depression.  Instead of being a victim I decided to take action.  I tried to serve him with a restraining order.  The police said they were unable to find his house.  I went to court anyway and the judge did not do anything.

I finally moved away from Seattle, for many reasons, that being one of them.  I am still dismayed at all he was able to  do to try and destroy me.  I spoke up and complained about what he was doing to me, something I would not have done in the past.  No one would help me, they continued to support him and treated me like I was a pain in the ass.  Members of my synagogue signed that they were going to make me homeless.  Retaliation for speaking out.

I have not in my past accused a man of harassment.  It took a lot of courage to speak up and to try and do something about someone who was not only harassing me, but trying to destroy my character and good name and was successful at it.  I spoke the truth and was treated as a nuisance.

I am glad the women of Hollywood have been more successful than I at calling out bad behavior and that action is being taken.  Nothing makes one feel so small as to have the courage to speak up and then to be ignored.  It is time that we stop ignoring those who speak up.  I was not sexually abused, but harassment is harassment.  I think in horror about those who are sexually abused and ignored.  It is an ill our society needs to fix as it leaves permanent scars.


What is Causing Widespread Homelessness?

In this day and age to have to rent instead of being a home owner puts you at risk for becoming homeless.  In the city of Seattle some crooked landlords are creating and adding to the problem of homelessness.  Being able to charge higher rents may be the cause.

My story begins in 2009 when I rented the basement apartment from a woman named Hla Yin Yin Waing (aka Wang Helmstetter).  I made the mistake of not insisting on a rental contract, which I will never do again.  Our verbal agreement began with an agreed upon amount for rent and the stipulation that I would pick her children up from school and watch them until she arrived home around 6PM.  That would give me the day to work on my photography business, which I was trying to start after attending fine art photography school.


Wang Wang

Unfortunately Wang began asking for more and more favors until I was waking the family up at 8AM, helping get the children ready for school, driving Wang downtown to her job at the senior services center and driving the children to 2 different schools.  I then had to pick them up and take them to their after school activities, come home, cook them dinner and wait for Wang to get home around 9 or 10.  It was a full day and did not leave me time to work.  All of this was done for free and she demanded rent.  At first I could pay with my unemployment money, but when that ran out I had nothing.  She demanded more and more and I felt I had to do it to keep a roof over my head.  I had never  been homeless.

I reopened my unemployment claim and began paying her rent again.  I told her I could no longer be a nanny to her children as I needed to look for work.  That is when she really got ugly.  She intentionally flooded my apartment, which began to smell from the water damage.  She told me when it happened that she was not going to help me.  it was an attempt to get me to move.  She began putting pressure on me about what I was going to do when my unemployment ran out.  She began with holding my mail, coming into my apartment when I was and was not there.  if I had a date or plans she would call me and say she was coming home late.

I finally moved to Denver to get away from her controlling behavior.  My nightmare with her did not end there.  She started a campaign of hate against me stating to people that I owed her money, that I was crazy and convinced people that I need to be held back so that others more worthy than I can fill job positions.

I have mostly been homeless since that time.  I moved back to Seattle in 2013 where I was harassed by Asians on a daily basis.  I was hit on the back of the head on the bus by an Asian man, I was ran off the road, harassed on public transportation and a bus driver refused to pick me up until I started standing in the road so he would have to stop or run me over.  My complaints to police went unnoticed.  Public transportation finally put up signs against harassment.

An elderly couple from my synagogue let me stay with them for a while.  At first I thought it was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I soon learned otherwise.  They began emulating my landlord whom I believe they met through senior services where she taught classes on how to do to others what she did to me.  They knew things only she could have told them.  They tried simulating the flooding of the basement, which ended up almost getting me killed as I was going to plug in a hair dryer but at the last minute change my mind.  Had I done so I would not be here now.  I do not believe it was intentional, but the flooding was.

Hla Yin Yin Waing is now the Executive Director of a non-profit organization called the Center for Ethical Leadership.  I believe this organization conducts classes on how to do to others in Seattle what she did to me.  I know this from a Facebook post where she and her organization were recommended for just that sort of thing.

if people are being manipulated into leaving or eviction, that is causing the number of homeless to rise.  She is emulating Ang Sung Suu Kyi the leader of Myanmar who uses the same techniques to control the muslim minority there called the Rohingya, where a genocide of these people is now occurring.

If we want to end homelessness we need to stop supporting organizations that are creating homelessness.  Before you donate money to an organization be sure you know what they are actually doing.  In looking at the Center for Ethical Leadership’s website the explanation of what they do is vague.  Be sure an organization can provide concrete figures and results of what they provide.

Let us make 2018 the year we begin to end homelessness.

Let 2018 Be the Year the US Tackles its Homeless Crisis. (part 1)

The United States has a homeless crisis. In the year 2000 it was estimated that nearly 3.5 million people were homeless and each year the numbers increase. In order to address this problem the way that non-profit agencies are structured needs to change.  States need to decriminalize the state of being homeless as giving tickets and locking people up in jail does not fix the problem and rent control needs to be implemented.

After a long term relationship ended I was living in Denver and found myself in the situation of being homeless after not being able to pay the rent on my apartment.  It was the first time I had to use social services and it was an eye opener into the world of poverty and homelessness.  I never imagined I would end up in that situation having a master’s degree and a lot of work experience.  But there I was and in that experience I learned a lot.

The first service I signed up for was food stamps.  I was surprised that when one uses food stamps they are not allowed to purchase hot food.  Apparently our government does not feel that the poor should be allowed to eat a warm meal, however one can buy a gallon of icecream.  In Denver in order to be on food stamps one has to volunteer at a non-profit agency for a certain number of hours per month.  I had no problem with that as I already volunteered at a food bank.  However as I learned more about homelessness and the non-profit agencies serving them, the issue of volunteers has a downside which I will discuss later.

I volunteered at a food bank a couple of times a week.  I served as a social worker in an office where I would see people before they got their food with any other services they may be in need of.  I was in a unique position because I tried a lot of the services before recommending them to others.  That is when I learned the horrible truth about non-profits set up to serve the homeless.  I went to several agencies that promised help online or a pamphlet I had received.  I would make an appointment with the agency and show up to the appointment on time or walk in depending on the agency.  A volunteer, many of whom were food stamp recipients, would hand me a sheet of paper with the names, addresses and phone numbers of other agencies that would be able to help me.  I would take the piece of paper to other agencies where I was greeted by a volunteer, again a food stamp recipient and handed another sheet of paper with names, addresses and phone numbers of other agencies who would be able to help me.

The only help most of the agencies gave me was to hand me a sheet of paper referring me to another agency, but I never actually received any help.  I saw that most of these agencies were staffed with food stamp recipients and not social workers with master’s degrees on that subject.  Actually most of the agencies I went to did not do much.  I do know however from my master’s degree in management that non-profit agencies receive funding from the United States government and that funding is based upon the number of people served.  Each time I went in and was given a sheet of paper with names and numbers of other agencies, that particular agency could mark me down as a person being served.  The executives of these agencies were being paid salaries while the agencies themselves were staffed with food stamp recipients.  The executives were being paid for doing nothing, and our government was paying them to do nothing.  There is no incentive to get people off the street and back on their feet if employees of social service agencies are paid based on the number of people served.  If they actually were successful at their job, they would lose their job.  The homeless are sent around in circles from agency to agency and receive almost no help.  

In Seattle I volunteered at my synagogue’s homeless shelter for women.  I would drive a van downtown to pick them up at a shelter there to bring them back to the synagogue where they would spend the night.  When I would enter the shelter downtown often the staff would be screaming at the top of their lungs at the homeless women.  One time the police were there for some reason and one of them looked at me and said, “Oh my God!”  The staff at places that serve the homeless need to be educated and trained and not to view their job as disciplinarians.  The homeless are people not animals and should be treated as such.  If the police are appalled you know it is bad.

If we restructure the way non-profits are funded there may be more incentive for these non-profits to serve the poor and homeless and help them get back on their feet and into housing.  The people who serve the homeless need to be qualified social workers and not food stamp recipients who have no interest in helping the clients at a non-profit.  Until this happens the number of homeless in cities all across the United States will continue to grow.  We need to hold the agencies helping the homeless accountable for the services they are providing and to make sure their clients are not just given a piece of paper referring them to another agency, but that their agency actually does provide the help and services they advertise themselves as providing.

We as citizens, both wealthy and poor, need to demand from our government that the structure of non-profit organizations be changed.  The wealthy do not want to see the homeless living on their streets and the homeless want homes, not pieces of paper referring them to another agency.  Let 2018 be the year that the United States tackles its homeless crisis and becomes a model for other countries.


Unwanted Harassment

When it comes to harassment women have a hard time in getting the harassment to stop.  The legal system does not have a system set up that would allow women peace of mind by legally forcing a harasser to stop.  When we have a president who has committed offenses himself there is little hope.

For about 2 years I experienced unwanted harassment from a man and no one would do anything about it.  I asked him nicely to leave me alone to his face at first.  He agreed he would leave me alone and walked away.  However the harassment did not end there.  I ended up going to the police, my rabbis and members of the political organizations to which we both belonged.  I was unable to get help from anyone.  I ended up being treated like I was the one doing something wrong.

What is harassment?

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of harassment is:  to annoy persistently,
 to create an unpleasant or hostile situation for especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct.

Being Harassed at Synagogue

In my case my harasser would come to my synagogue and harass me during our Torah study and services.  This happened at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle, WA.  I complained to a rabbi and office staff that this was taking place.  They listened to me and did absolutely nothing, even though his harassment was witnessed by others and recorded on video.  Instead I was treated as though I was a pain in the neck, I was unreasonable.  Meanwhile the harassment continued.

The rabbis at Temple de Hirsch went along with the harassment and participated in some of it themselves. I wondered where in the Torah does it say that a congregant who only wants to go to synagogue to pray and attend services should be harassed.  I wondered why religious leaders would teach others, especially young men, that it is ok to harass women if you do not like them because nothing will happen to you and all that will happen is that the victim will be humiliated and embarrassed in public.  I felt I was being punished for standing up for myself.

The problem comes down to money.  My harasser had a lot more money than I do, so he could do more to support the synagogue.  His bad behavior would be overlooked because he donated a generous amount every year and apparently I do not matter at all.  I feel I should have been able to attend synagogue without being harassed.

Using Legal Means to Stop Harassment

I tried using legal means to stop his harassment.  I filed a restraining order.  According to the court the police were unable to serve my harasser.  I went to the appointed court date anyway.  The judge was a man and has no sympathy for me.  He laughed and said nothing would be done.

The Emotional Toll of Harassment

Constantly being harassed by someone you repeatedly ask to stop takes a huge toll on a person emotionally.  First of all for someone not to heed your repeated requests for the harassment to stop has mental issues that need to be addressed.  It makes a person feel unsafe to know that anywhere they go that person may show up.  I felt like I was being stalked.  Knowing no one would help me make him stop made me feel helpless and I began experiencing depression.

In the end it was one of the reasons I moved to California from Washington state.  I think I have made the right choice as the women of Hollywood are fighting back.  They are setting examples and being role models for other women who are experiencing unwanted harassment.  The worst thing a woman can do is to be silent about abuse or harassment.  No one should experience abuse or harassment and the culture is shifting to protect those who have become victims.