Theology Changes


Dear Readers,

My theology has changed.

I write that with a sense of fear, because it’s hard to let the people we love change.

About ten years ago, I fell in love with a gay Christian. I was melty for him, and I told him so… several times. He was kind to me about it. And honest. I watched him through one season of life in which he intended to remain celibate until he died. I watched him through another season, in which he hoped to someday love a woman and have a family. I believe he is now in a committed relationship with a man, although he and I don’t talk much anymore. It’s painful to stay friends with an unrequited love.

I loved him loyally for about five years. I watched him struggle. I struggled. And I did what I usually do when I can’t figure out my life.

I wrote.

In 2007, I began writing a manuscript about a character named Weston Stark who was living a heartbreaking question: If God loves me so much, why did He make me gay?

I thought it was important for Wes to simultaneously hold two truths. The first truth was that God is real. The second truth is that Wes was, and always would be, gay.

I started by doing research. I did interviews, including a gay Christian who dated men, a gay Christian undergoing Reparative Therapy, a lapsed Catholic who was gay and dating men, a bartender at the local gay bar, and a few others. Absent from my research were interviews with women. I wasn’t opposed to interviewing them, but none really popped up conveniently in my life, while it seemed like there was always another man I could ask for an interview.

Next, I dug into resources at the public library. I watched every documentary I could get my hands on, then I finished up my search with the World Wide Web. The one type of research I didn’t do was digging into the debate of whether God actually hates homosexuality. I’m not sure why I didn’t want to go there, but it was the one place I avoided in my research.

Don’t get me wrong; I knew the verses. For a few years of his life, Weston kept a note card taped to the bottom of his sock drawer, where he didn’t think his parents would find it. On it, was Leviticus 18:22. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

I promise, I knew and still know the verses.

Ultimately, my research led me to the ending of Weston’s story: suicide.

I won’t recount the stats or reasoning behind that ending, but suffice it to say that I didn’t believe I could tell his story honestly with any other ending. I tried.

So, I wrote my manuscript. It was mostly completed by year five, but I’ve tinkered with it off-and-on ever since.

Flash forward to 2017.

At the beginning of the year, I felt really torn about homosexuality. After ten years of writing about it, after loving someone for whom it was often the central struggle of his life, and after researching it to death, I was no closer to harmonizing my own heart with what I believed to be the obligatory Christian stance.

My own stance went something like this: nothing in my heart condemns homosexuality. Nothing in my heart believes it’s sinful. I don’t feel any sense of ick about it. No anger or hatred. I have always had lots of gay friends and I adore them. But when I disagree with something I find in the Bible, I yield to God. Because He gets to decide right and wrong. I don’t get to decide.

Then, I started law school.

I met a friend who asked me all of the hard questions, repeatedly.

I started intensely studying the law and how to interpret and understand it, which has an awful lot in common with studying the Bible and how to interpret and understand it.

I decided it was time for me to go where I hadn’t been willing to go previously : Biblical interpretation.

I’ve been reading a lot. Obviously, I have to read for class, which is particularly interesting this semester because I have my first Constitutional Law class… basically I have a class that’s all about interpreting a text written a long time ago, but which we have to apply today. I have also not lost diligence with my Bible, and I’ve read a few Christian non-fiction books about homosexuality, the history of the Bible, and a memoir of a lesbian who converted to Christianity.

And the thing is, the nagging question isn’t whether homosexuality is a sin. It’s a question that’s important. It’s a question that’s relevant. It’s a question for which my answer has changed: I don’t think it’s a sin.

However, the bigger question really is: how do I read the Bible and get out of it what God wants me to get out of it?

I write all of this because I’m afraid that some of you will look on me with eyes of judgment because I no longer see what you see.

I’m still a Christian. I still rely solely on the mercy of a crucified Savior. I still read my Bible and pray on a near-daily basis.

I just think we’ve been reading the Bible wrong.

Here and now doesn’t seem like the time to go into why I think we’ve been reading it wrong. Mostly what I want to do here and now is be lazy. I could wait and have all of these conversations in due time, as they arise with each of you naturally, but it’s far easier for me to just put it out there and let you bring it up if it’s something you want to discuss.

I didn’t intend to change, nor did I change as abruptly as it probably looks like I’ve changed. I’ve been intensely arguing with myself and God for the past few months, but I’ve also been studying and thinking and praying and worrying for years. I’ve worked it out (and will continue to work it out) with much fear and trembling, and I’ve come to a clearing where I think I’m going to land for awhile.

That’s not to say that my theology won’t change again tomorrow. Sometimes that happens. It’s also not to say that I understand Biblical interpretation. I don’t. It’s a big issue and something I’m going to be actively seeking to understand for the foreseeable future.

In addition to my lazy purposes in writing this post, I guess I’m writing this in the hopes that you won’t assume. It’s easy to assume that all Christians hate gays. It’s easy to assume that the only right way to read the Bible is the way you read it.

But the truth of living a life committed to Christ is so much messier than that. The truth of Christianity is a decade of struggle followed by a realization that what I believe is not what I’m “supposed” to believe. What I believe is the kind of thing that makes lots of Christians really mad.

It’s cool if you’re mad… but I honestly doubt I’ll change my mind if you try to persuade me that I’m wrong. I might be wrong… or maybe you’re wrong. We’ll have to wait to find out for sure.

Peace out, friends.

 

 

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Surviving 1L Semester 1


There are some really hard things about being in law school.

The level of stress I’ve felt exceeds any I’ve felt in my life. Lots of you are aware of my blood pressure issues. A few are aware of the dry heaving. I’ve had a change appetite and lost weight. My sleep patterns aren’t really a pattern at all. It’s competitive. It’s a lot of reading. It’s terrifying to be cold-called in class.

Honestly, the first semester of law school is a wad of stress that is indescribable to the uninitiated.

However, the most important thing that happened to me this semester has nothing to do with classes or rankings.

Law school has been a beautiful mechanism for reminding me who I am.

And the spirit of Mufasa fills the screen:

I have been blessed to maintain most of the relationships in my life for years if not decades. It is a true joy to have such a shared history with people and to love them as I love family. I was reminded of these enduring relationships when I went to apply for a legal fellowship for the summer, and I listed my references and how long they’ve known me. Personal reference: 17 years. Spiritual reference (it’s a Christian fellowship): 12 years. These relationships are an enormous part of who I am, and it’s lovely to be reminded.

I’m also overwhelmed with how supportive the people in my life have been. Like all of my life decisions, attending law school was abrupt and without much explanation. I was hit with a divine whisper and that was the end of the conversation. I consulted exactly two people before signing up to take the LSAT, and had they told me not to do it, I probably would have done it anyway.

And yet, they’ve been there for me. I did not once consider the amount of support and understanding I would need from the people in my life to get through law school. I have that luxury, because they are there for me even when I don’t ask them to be. No one in my life has guilted me when I’ve canceled plans because I needed to study, and I’ve canceled a lot of plans. They’ve listened to me obsess about my blood pressure. They’ve counseled me. They’ve put up with my constant and inept legal analysis of everyday life. They’ve encouraged and been patient in ways I’m not sure I have ever or will ever reciprocate.

I don’t deserve any of you.

Alongside that, I’ve met so many amazing people in school, and they’ve reminded me of certain things about myself that I’ve forgotten or that I’ve refused to believe.

People at school seem to like me. They tell me that I’m nice, open-minded, stylish (who knew?), and that I’m a good student. They laugh at my jokes and don’t make me feel like an idiot when I do stupid things. They send me encouraging text messages when my crazy is about to overtake me, and they help me celebrate my birthday.

My conception of myself so often fills in the blanks with the worst things people have ever said about me: stubborn, conceited, too busy with tasks to spend time with others, judgmental… it’s so easy to believe.

Thank you to all of my classmates who remind me that I’m okay. I pray that as my weird quirks become more visible to you, you’ll continue to like me anyways.

And let’s all lift a glass to surviving 1L Semester 2! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving 2017


Dear Readers,

I’ve been contemplating writing a post about what law school is like, because that seems to be the question right now. It’s the small-talk question. It’s the part of my life that’s new and wonderful and terrible. It’s the all-consuming, aching, needy monster-robot that’s sucking the life right out of me, and making me question everything I know.

I’m convinced that it is best described as IDENTITY CRISIS!, and in  that spirit, and the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are the deepest thanks built into my heart right now.

I’m thankful for…

Mom & Dad, who made me smart, independent, patient, and athletic. You gave me a (slightly off-beat) sense of humor, and a love of Star Trek and “Dance Band on the Titanic.”

Mr. Morrill, who made me a writer.

Dave and Lisa, who have been chosen instruments of God in my life, softening my stubborn heart and planting seeds of grace.

Steve and Lori, who have voluntarily stuck by me longer than anyone else has, through Sin City, wildfires, and soggy marshmallows.

Shasta, who forced me to dance and have fun.

Matt and Ashly, who were my first holiday benefactors, who taught me to love food and wine.

And Roni, who makes me laugh and seems to only see the best parts of me.

Thank all of you for making me the person I am today. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Vulnerability of Not Dating Every Week


Dear Readers,

I’m back for this one post, because it seemed right for you as opposed to the readers at the other place where I’ve been blogging of late. Also, I hadn’t realized how popular Fern Gully, Fitzgerald, and Frappuccinos had become in my absence. When I was actively blogging here, it seemed like no one ever commented, but when I logged back in, purely for the purpose of protecting my secret blogger identity while commenting on a friend’s blog, I discovered a number of comments on my posts about taking the LSAT. Evidently my SEO increased exponentially when I decided to take that long, stupid test.

Interestingly enough, today’s post has a little something to do with the LSAT and law school: vulnerability.

You see, God has been working on me lately, and not in an abstract, over-spiritualized, ethereal way. He’s been intervening on my behalf when I don’t really want Him around. There are some crazy, irritating ways He’s been chasing me, but I’ll keep the details to myself.

What I will tell you is that His interventions have really manifested as touches to one particular heartstring.

My vulnerability heartstring is, and nearly always has been, weak. Brene Brown’s famous TED Talk spoke to me in ways that haunt me to this day, because so much of my life has been invulnerable. Untouchable. Numbed. It kills me when she says that it’s not possible to selectively numb, because that’s exactly what I would do if given the option. I would numb vulnerability, betrayal, and failure, because those are the emotions that overwhelm me. I can’t sit in those for even a moment, without seeking out a glass of wine and some aged, extra-sharp cheddar.

I say all of this, knowing there’s a strange paradox in me. I am perfectly comfortable with financial and physical vulnerability. After all, I quit a perfectly good career without any plan for the future. If it didn’t trigger vehement protestations in my friends, I would run at 10:00 pm every night, with three glasses of red wine in my system, no flashlight or pepper spray, in the wilderness or along a shady street. Because my deepest darkest fears aren’t that I’ll have nowhere to live or be raped and murdered. Honestly, money is irritating to me and being murdered might hurt for the rest of you, but I’d be happy to find conclusion to my time on this stupid, fallen earth.

That all being said, the vulnerability that scares me, that twangs my heartstring and sends me into a dark night of the soul is sustained eye-contact with a person who wants to know me.

I’ve been not dating someone named Zach. It hasn’t been super long that we’ve been getting to know each other. Maybe a total of two months. And we’ve agreed to build a friendship, which is why we aren’t dating.

About half of the time, I love this approach. I hate that dating is so often about finding a person to fulfill romantic needs. It’s not about truly caring or about serving. It’s about finding someone who makes us feel whatever it is we want to feel.

The other half of the time, I’m losing my mind, because I don’t know what Zach is thinking or feeling, and I don’t know if we’re ever going to be more than “just friends.”

I don’t like that he asks these crazy questions about my story – he’s very in to “story,” by the way, which I love – and he looks at me when I’m talking. And he doesn’t just look at me, it’s like he’s trying to see what’s behind my eyes, or something, like he’s trying to know the things I’m not saying. And all I can do is look at my hands, because it twangs the vulnerability heartstring to see him looking at me like that.

Zach is pretty much the greatest thing since the invention of the stove-top espresso maker. He isn’t yet the cheese to my macaroni, because it’s only been like two months, but maybe he’s the almond milk to my latte… or something.

He works for an engineering company, but he wants to go back to school to become a counselor. His favorite hobby: going to Skate Country. He plays guitar and used to do karate. He loves heavy metal and Taylor Swift. He has the diet of a teenage boy, and is not fat at all. He likes to run trails, but I think he runs like 12-minute miles, or possibly even slower. And he’s really kind. That may sound like an insult, or a throw-away, like… well, he’s a really nice guy… That’s the kind of thing you say when you’re about to break up with someone. That’s not how I mean it. I mean that he’s kind.

Every week, we go on a non-date. Our non-date site of choice: Skate Country. I’ve purchased myself a pair of leopard print skates with pink wheels, and we go. He takes his roller blades, and sticks with me at least half of the time, even though I’m really slow. When people bump into me and I wobble, he reaches out like he’s going to catch me. When there’s a special going on, like the dice game or cardio skate, we talk. He asks serious questions that make be give serious answers. Sometimes we sit on those ridiculous Skate Country benches, and I just want to touch him, because we have yet to really break the touch barrier. Because we’re friends.

My conversations with God about Zach and the other indisputable ways He’s been twanging my vulnerability heartstring hurt.

I know that I’m ill-equipped for a relationship. I’m broken and afraid. I numb my heart when I feel things, and I can’t look Zach in the eye when he’s looking me in the eye. I don’t trust men. I hardly think of them as people, because they are mean, and demanding, and shallow. To me, they are generally to be avoided.

And I just hope and pray that when I’m not looking at Zach, he doesn’t see how afraid I am of him. I ask God to hold me in the palm of His hand and prepare me, just in case Zach does become the cheese to my macaroni. Because as much as I hate the vulnerability of our weekly non-dates… the feeling that I might invest in this friendship only for it to continue on in perpetuity as friendship and non-dates… as much as my heart twangs uncomfortably with whatever this is with Zach right now, I’ve learned from Brene Brown that the “whole-hearted” are a people who are exactly what I’m afraid to be. They are a people who risk their hearts, with no guarantees about how things will work out… or not. They embrace the “excruciating vulnerability.”

I hope God is twanging your heart too, dear reader. 🙂

It’s good to check in with you again.

 

 

Goodbye, Aurelia Plath


It seemed obvious to me that Esther Greenwood was an unreliable narrator, as it seems obvious to me that I am an unreliable narrator. The only truly reliable narrator is the omniscient one, who doesn’t participate in the story.

Seven years after Sylvia Plath’s suicide, her mother wrote a letter to Plath’s editor, describing The Bell Jar as representing “the basest ingratitude.” She wrote that, “practically every character in The Bell Jar represents someone – often in caricature – whom Sylvia loved; each person had given freely of time, thought, affection, and, in one case, financial help during those agonizing six months of breakdown…”

Aurelia Plath mothered a brilliant daughter, who wrote what it felt like to lose her will to live… Of course Esther Greenwood was an unreliable narrator. The purpose of the story wasn’t to accurately depict people and events. The author, herself, described the book as “an autobiographical apprentice work which I had to write in order to free myself from my past.”

I really struggle to keep this blog going – not because there isn’t anything to write or for want of time. I struggle because of Aurelia Plath.

It both makes complete sense to me, and yet it also seems completely ludicrous that people feel hurt, anxious, distressed… over the things I write.

It makes sense because it must seem like “the basest ingratitude” that I write about people who’ve “given freely of time, thought, affection…” and I don’t always paint those people flatteringly. Instead, I write my experiences of the hypocrite boyfriend, hated mother, and doctor who mis-administered shock therapy, or whatever the equivalents of those are in my life.

I understand the hurt of Aurelia Plath, and I’m sorry for it.

I’ve been writing this blog for years now, and I’ve enjoyed the sense of connectedness I feel when someone texts me saying that something I wrote was good or that it resonated with them, but I’ve also hated the feeling I get when someone texts me saying that something I wrote hurt them… or maybe nobody even texts me, but two years later, I find out that so-and-so has been upset at me ever since I wrote… whatever it is that I wrote.

I’m tired.

No matter how I tried not to offend, I offended. It started way back when my roommate accidentally squirted a bunny in the face with water from a hose, and somehow the story I wrote about it hurt her feelings. I guess I didn’t make it clear enough that she’s not a bunny-hating evil person. I really just thought the story was blog-worthy because it included pictures of a tiny bunny.  It never once occurred to me that my story of calling around and finding an animal rescue that would take in a bunny that somehow, unbeknownst to us, hopped into our yard would ever be viewed as an insulting story about roommate.

But that’s the way it goes.

I offended with a post I wrote about how I think baptisms should be. I offended with posts about silly things and posts about serious things. I offended by accidentally revealing secrets that I didn’t know were secrets. I offended multiple people who I felt pretty confident didn’t even read my blog. I offended with theology and humor and even my own sadness… I honestly can’t seem to write anything without hurting somebody’s feelings.

This space was originally created as a refuge. It’s Dorothy Jane’s “Sanctuary from the Storm.” I began writing here when I was “riffed”/laid-off from my job. I began because I’d always wanted to write and I wanted a writing space that was mine. However, the longer I write here, the less this space feels like it’s mine. It seems like the purpose of writing here has been defeated and swallowed up by the needs of real life relationships.

I’m telling you this, because this is going to be my last post here, and it seems rude to leave the room without a wave or a nod goodbye. I think it’s time I start afresh. In a new space. Where nobody knows my name.

Thank you for reading. A few of you have stuck with this blog for something like eight or nine years. I’ve never really understood what kept any of you reading, but I thank you for the “time, thought, and affection.” Now, you’ll unfortunately need to call me up and talk to me if you want a life update. 😉

The LSAT, Moving, and Applying to Law School


Before taking the LSAT, I wrote a post about how stressed I was. And I was really stressed. I wrote about the weight of each and every test question, and how my overall score would be impacted by the questions on which I guessed. I whined and worried. I tried to joke about it, but I really was losing my mind.

In real life (not the interwebs), people would ask me how I was feeling and if I was ready, and I would tell them I was stressed, and they would basically try to persuade me that I shouldn’t be stressed, which made me more stressed. Also, I think there’s something to be said for each person having a process of preparation, and mine happens to involve stress… so it’s possible that my stress helped prepare me and helped improve my score, so eff all of the people who kept trying to talk me out of stressing.

Result of my stress: I actually ended up scoring higher on the LSAT than I had ever scored on any of my practice tests. Basically, my score was good enough that I should have no trouble getting in to any law school that is not Ivy League. Also, it means that I should receive some scholarship money.

________________________________________________

You’d think I’d feel pretty awesome, but I’m actually stressed again.

I am now having all of my info sent to a credential assembly service, which is stressful to me. I am also taking more steps towards selling my house. I am also trying to figure out where I actually want to apply, which impacts when I should sell my house…

All of this is frustrating and, well, stressful to me…

Not having the internet at home or a printer at Starbucks, I end up having about 42 extra steps for each piece of paper I need someone to send to the credential assembly service, because I’ll go to Sbucks to use the internet, only to realize that I have to print something, which requires that I also go to the library. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it bothers me. It bothers me that I have to ask a ton of people to send a ton of things somewhere for me, and then I have to wait for them to do it. It bother me that I’m not sure how to make decisions about where to apply. Pretty much every step of this process bothers me.

For undergrad, I only applied to U of A, because I knew that’s where I would go. I knew I’d be accepted. I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere else, and I didn’t feel the need to have backups.

Now that I’m all growed up, I feel I should follow the advice of the experts, who think I should apply to something like 25 schools. Now, realistically, I’m definitely not doing that. I might apply to 8 schools, but it seems like a big, stupid waste of time and stress, because I really don’t intend to move. Applying to Boston College might satisfy some part of me that thinks it would be an adventure to move to Boston, but if I received a full-ride from both Boston College and U of A (which isn’t going to happen, but I’m just saying…), then I would stay in Arizona. Still, I feel obligated to think about all of the places I’m applying, just in case it might be a good idea to move, even though I really don’t want to move.

So, for your perusal, here’s the list of places I may apply… or I may only apply to the U of A again. We’ll see.

U of A

ASU

University North Carolina Charlotte

Wake Forest

Duke

Boston College

Baylor

University of Oregon (or perhaps it’s Oregon State? I can never remember … the one in Eugene)

 

I expect I’ll be accepted to all of those except Duke. How do I even consider so many different possibilities? How do I even think about moving to another state, where I would live without Steve and Lori, my church, Victim Services, and basic knowledge of the city? How do I even think about living in the snow? There’s nothing worse than snow. I’m completely open to going somewhere for a few years, if it’s definitely temporary, but everything I’ve read says I should go to law school in the place where I intend to practice law. Moving to Boston for three years would be cool, but for the rest of my life possibly? I don’t know about that. There’s too much pressure on this one decision.

I know… 1st world problems, eh?

 

When the Bodies Start Piling Up


I wrote this post about two months ago, but I had a really difficult call yesterday, so it seems appropriate to post it now.

Volunteering for Victim Services is really rewarding, but it’s also really hard.

I’ve written about some of the difficult calls before. However, I think the real struggle is that in recent months, I’ve been on two child death calls, a death notification where a young guy was hit and killed by a train, two drug overdoses – one of which was likely a suicide, one DOA with a lot of HIV positive blood throughout the house, two strangulations, at least four calls where the victim had visible, gruesome wounds, and a death notification for a hiker from out of town.

The bodies start to weigh you down.

Add to that the fact that I work for a hospice and have to do death notifications to volunteers on a near-daily basis, and the pressure I was under studying for the LSAT… and it’s a perfect storm of sadness and stress.

I’m not gonna lie. I started feeling pretty messed up after the hiker death notification. He and his family were from out of town, and were in Tucson because they were attending a funeral. And he died. 150 yds from his vehicle. We did the notification for his wife, who was trying so hard to be kind to everyone in the room, but she was clearly in shock. She repeated the same questions over and over again. She kept blowing her nose into a bandanna, and she was trying to take care of everyone around her. There were seven other family members there, and we worked briefly with all of them.

I went home and honestly just couldn’t get back into my life. Before we left, the deceased’s wife said to me, “God is good.”

That’s such a difficult thing to say even in the best of circumstances, because life is horrible and unrelenting. This temporary home of ours really, truly sucks. But within an hour of being told that she’s never going to have another conversation with her husband… never going to hold his hand, argue, or laugh with him again. Within the hour, she said, “God is good.”

And as weird as it is, the fact that she said that effed me up a little bit.

I got up the next morning and listened to a sermon while making breakfast, and, of course, the pastor talked about the story behind the song that says, “It is well with my soul.” It’s a great story, and you should look it up if you haven’t heard about it before… and yet, even having known the story for years, it was as if God was chasing me around with the peace Christians are supposed to feel no matter what. No matter who or what God takes from us, we are supposed to say, “God is good,” and, “It is well with my soul.”

It wasn’t well with my soul.

I could feel the weight of every dead body from the past few months. They were all laying on my chest, restricting the flow of oxygen to my brain.

So what did I do?

I went for a run. Then I went for a walk. Then I drank some wine. Then I did some yoga. Then I wrote. Then, I decided to hell with all of the things nobody would judge me for doing as coping mechanisms… I turned off all of the lights in the house, made a spread for myself on the floor, and pulled out my VHS tape of THE PATRIOT. I popped it in my tape player and spent three straight hours sobbing.

Then I brushed my teeth and went to bed.

Such is the way to set aside the dead bodies and pick up the peace of Christ. God is good. I genuinely hate this place where we live, but God is good.

UPDATE: Yesterday’s call hasn’t sunk into me yet. I know it will. I know it will haunt me for the next few weeks, until it’s replaced with another haunting call.

Yesterday’s call started just before 5:30 am, and didn’t end until 7 pm or so. Then, there was paperwork to do, and I had to return my radio and phone to our office, so I was away from home for something like 16 hours, going non-stop.

During the call, I wasn’t able to eat at all or have any break. Also, because our shift wasn’t supposed to start until 6:00, I hadn’t eaten breakfast or showered or anything. I had gotten up and gone.

The call spanned two different hospitals, a crime scene, and a home. I interacted with tons of people, ranging from the victim and people directly or indirectly related to the crime, hospital staff and people directly or indirectly related to the patient’s medical care, and even a few people at Southwest Airlines. We transported people from a hospital to the crime scene and back, from one hospital to another, and from the second hospital to a home.

Our victim was really, really visibly wounded, which is always difficult to see. She had visible wounds all over her body, and her face was swollen into a misshapen, bruised mess. And she was SUCH a nice girl. Under different circumstances, I could see myself being friends with her. She is nerdy and artsy. She loves steampunk and movies. She hasn’t given up on her dreams yet, like so many people have. She is an extraordinary person, who doesn’t deserve what happened to her – no victim does.