Ep.2 Lara Naughton – Compassion and Sexual Assault

Tune in to hear Lara’s journey after sexual assault to find both self-compassion and compassion for the man who harmed her. Listen to find out more about her experiences and to hear her thoughts on how to create more compassionate systems for men and women involved with sexual assault.

SENSITIVE MATERIAL WARNING- Please note that this podcast may be triggering for some and therefore, please exercise caution and ensure you have supports while listening to it. Also some audio issues experienced.

[00:00:00] Intro: [00:00:00] Welcome to love and compassion the podcast where we explore different topics that may challenge our current belief systems and the fears that they generate. Our hope is that through dialogue you, the listener will be inspired and motivated in new ways on your own journey to living a more loving and compassionate life. Please welcome your host Gissele Taraba.

Gissele: [00:00:28] Hello, and welcome to this podcast entitled, can we truly have unconditional compassion for those who hurt us, lessons from a sexual assault. My guest today is a new Orleans based writer, teacher and compassion trainer with more than 20 years experience teaching and facilitating workshops and retreats with individuals who have faced challenging circumstances, including homelessness, domestic violence, HIV AIDS, wrongful conviction, incarceration and torture.

She is a certified compassion cultivation trainer through the center [00:01:00] for compassion and altruism, research and education. She’s also the founder of the compassion program at the Louisiana state penitentiary at Angola, as well as the founder of the victim outreach program through the Louisiana board of pardons and parole.

She is creative writing faculty at new Orleans center for creative arts and her writing includes the documentary play, never fight a shark in water, the wrongful conviction of Gregory Bright, which has been performed by bright himself on stages across the country. And of course her memoir, the Jaguar man.

Welcome Lara.

Lara: [00:01:35] Thank you for having me.

Gissele: [00:01:38] Um, I’d love to talk to start talking about your book. You touch on so many issues that are facing women and men today and how we have systems that aren’t moving forward in a compassionate way when it comes to sexual assault. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about, um, what inspired you to write the book?

Lara: [00:01:58] The backstory is [00:02:00] I went and took a, was meant to be a two week vacation and beliefs. And on the fourth day of that trip, I was picked up by a man pretending to be a cab driver. And I was kidnapped into the jungle at knife point where I was robbed and raped twice. So that’s one level of the story. And of course, after that kind of a traumatic incident, you know, I was left with the question of what just happened, but there was another, what just happens that was even bigger that while I was in the jungle with this man who I referred to as the Jaguar man throughout the book, it mixed in with the violence was also this very profound experience of compassion because it was compassionate.

I believe that saved my life. It was very obvious that this man was acting out of his own madness or pain or trouble. It was not personal to me that I knew immediately. I had never met this man before, so it couldn’t have been about me. So really my only [00:03:00] defense not being able to. Uh, to run or to hide or to overpower him.

My only defense was to turn toward him and his pain and try to soothe him so that he would stop harming me. And all of that made a lot of sense in the jungle, but the moment I was safe and away from him, it didn’t make sense anymore. And part of that confusion came because I was living in Los Angeles at the time I flew immediately home.

And I told people what happened. I wasn’t hiding it or ashamed in any way, but the reactions I got were so varied and so angry. And I really started to question my own approach to self defense, right? So the book was born out of wanting to have some control over the narrative to shape it, to make sense of it and how to think about and talk about compassion.

I wanted to have a conversation about compassion in the face of [00:04:00] violence, and I didn’t know who to turn to for that conversation. So I turned to the page and that’s what birthed the Jaguar man.

Gissele: [00:04:10] That’s beautiful. And of course writing has been a tool. It probably was a tool

for you beforehand. Absolutely.

Lara: [00:04:16] Yeah. That’s kind of how I oriented in the world.

Gissele: [00:04:18] Yeah. And I loved how you kind of wrote this story because you kind of use facts and myths as storytelling. Um, and I don’t know if you’ve heard of dr. Jean Houston, who is the author of jump time, and she actually uses myth as a way to heal trauma. She actually has kind of this neat exercise where you think about a traumatic event and then use myth use kind of a fairytale in order to kind of retell your story as a healing tool.

And so I was just wondering whether or not you could share why you had used kind of the facts and myths and whether it was kind of a tool for you to, um, assist yourself

in your healing.

Lara: [00:04:57] I wasn’t aware of her work. So thank you for [00:05:00] introducing me. When I got home from my encounter in Belize, I was really obsessed with wanting to know more about the man, the Jaguar man.

I wanted to understand what was driving him. Why violence was the way he was expressing whatever he was going through. So when I sat down to write a memoir, I felt, I felt really blocked because so much of the truth of my story is about my obsession and about him. How could I write a factual story when I didn’t have the facts name and within the memoir?

What I name is fact is what I at least remember. Now whether or not that’s factual, I don’t know, but it’s, it’s my memory to the best that I can recall. What I use as myth is what I use to fill out the story of who this man is in relation to me,

Gissele: [00:05:56] you very rarely use the word rape or sexual assault in [00:06:00] your book.

You actually kind of use the letter X. And I was wondering if you could share with the audience, why you opted to not use the word.

Lara: [00:06:09] Right. So not using the word rape and using the symbol X instead is I think in many ways related to also your question about myth, you know, when I hear the word rape, I think of the physical act, but after my rape, I immediately had a wider perspective on that.

It was so much more than the physical act. There was also the, the knife and there was the jungle. There was the fear and there was the compassion all mixed up. I wanted a symbol that could be flexible, that I could manipulate to represent different aspects of the experience. And I didn’t want to use the word rape because I thought that would automatically come with a, you know, kind of a singular view.

Of the experience. And [00:07:00] so within the book, I tried to redefine rape or X in lots of different ways to kind of give a 360, uh, view of how I experienced that physical harm, but not just physically. Yeah.

Gissele: [00:07:18] Can you share a little bit as to why you opted for the Jaguar?

Lara: [00:07:23] Yeah. So. Again, the Jaguar, I guess it felt true to the emotional experience of him.

He was very powerful, very predatory and aggressive and taking what he wanted. And we were in the jungle and it also Jaguars are prevalent in the jungles of Belize. And in fact, very close to where he had kidnapped me is a Jaguar preserve. So it seemed like an appropriate again, kind of symbol or metaphor to use.

Gissele: [00:07:53] And it’s interesting because if Jaguars are on a reserve, are they trapped?

Lara: [00:07:59] Well, they [00:08:00] have lots of room to roam just land that is, uh, is a sanctuary so that they wouldn’t be shot

Gissele: [00:08:08] . Oh, okay. So

it’s a protection. Yeah. Beautiful. Cause you had used the facts and myths about Jaguars and I know you were trying to introduce aspects of the individual’s history.

You had mentioned earlier that, um, and you also mentioned in the book that compassion and love saved your life that day. Can you share a little bit more about that?

Lara: [00:08:30] Yeah, that is m belief. I think my response to this man is what eventually helped him to calm down long enough to see me as a person separate from him.

I think. Um, you know, my, my stance was to, to just try to calm him, listen to him. I gave him my full attention.

Gissele: [00:08:52] It’s like the power of loving presence.

Lara: [00:08:55] Love is always going to be the strongest. And it was put to the test in this case. [00:09:00] And it worked now who’s to say it would work in every scenario. Of course, I don’t know.

But in this case where there was, it was a one to one interaction. There was nothing else around us. Seeing him as an individual who needed care eventually helped him see me as an individual who didn’t deserve to be harmed, you know, and he raped me twice, but I don’t want to say, but you know, it took time and he harmed me.

And at the same time he was checking in to see who I was. He became more curious about me and at the end of our encounter, he actually drove me all the way back to my cabana, where I was staying as though he were my cab driver, because he said he didn’t want me to be in a place that wasn’t safe,

Gissele: [00:09:54] right.

Lara: [00:09:55] So confusing. And yet at the same time, it made sense because we had [00:10:00] really come through the violence, into seeing each other as people who needed care. Yeah. And it was hard earned.

Gissele: [00:10:09] I had finished reading your book. There were so many parts where I felt so emotional because lots of stuff was stirring for me. Um, and then actually encountered this 2017 Ted talk by Valerie Kaur. And she talks about revolutionary love. She shares a story about how she started to seek community and how, uh, she had had several experiences of racism. She had kind of like, uh, a friend who was actually considered an uncle who was killed by a person due to a racist act. She talks about how the brother of this man who was assassinated, was able to forgive this murderer. And, you know, they talked to him in the prison and she talks about how we require in today’s society, something called revolutionary love, which is love for ourselves. Love for others [00:11:00] and love for our enemies. It’s important for us to help heal the wounds of those we consider enemies. And I found it really interesting that in your book, you talk about love with teeth and she calls revolutionary love, fierce and bloody. It was interesting to me how you attempted to kind of find humanity in the Jaguar man, and tried to understand his behavior to see him not just this one dimensional abuser. At one point in the book, you said love mixed with your fear gave you power. Um, can you explain a little bit about that?

Lara: [00:11:35] Well, I think it was a self power and I think that having concern and compassion and even this weird, I call it Jaguar love for him is an act of self love. You know, there’s that old expression that hurt people, hurt people.

If I can extend compassion to someone who’s hurting. And they’re hurting ceases or, or at least dissolves a [00:12:00] little bit, they will then be able to be better toward me. So, you know, just, uh, just an offering to somebody else. It’s very much an acknowledgement that we are so connected that I can’t be well, unless you are well, our wellness depends on your wellness and your wellness depends on mine. And so it’s very much a powerful act of self-love to love another, even perhaps, even, especially who we might consider an enemy, but that love that fear, that fear is human. And, you know, in love doesn’t necessarily come without other emotional qualities attached or right next to it.

But there’s something very powerful and the kind of adrenaline driving about loving through the power of fear. If I hadn’t been through hell, it wouldn’t have been so urgent. I might’ve turned [00:13:00] away from that emotion, but it was urgent and there was nothing else I could think to do. So I had to dig in to that love and, and that’s what, in fact, what changed me.

So fundamentally as a result of this. Like there was no time to just sit back and theorize about, Oh, do enemies deserve love. Like fear was the propulsion to the love in my case. Anyway, in that moment, one probably couldn’t have existed without the other. Okay.

Gissele: [00:13:33] Very powerful. You ask the question in your book, if you care for your enemy, is he still your enemy? I feel like in today’s society, we’re just kind of rejecting one another and not really willing to sit in the middle. We’re trying to do kind of with this work and with these podcasts is trying to understand how we can come together. People talk about the issue of rape as being kind of something about power, but you said, you [00:14:00] know, the Jaguar for the Jaguar, this

to me feels incomplete. And I was wondering if that meant kind of the, the thought about how really what you mentioned that hurt people, hurt people in a truly empowered people do not really need to take power from others. I was wondering if that’s what maybe you were referring to her or if there was more to that comment.

Lara: [00:14:21] Yeah. You know, when I hear about rape, the kind of the quick tagline is rape is about power. If the person is trying to exert or express a power over the person they’re violating while that is in fact the experience in my, in my situation, I felt that it wasn’t just about power, but it was about wanting to have enough power to achieve something else.

And in this case, he very clearly told me that he, he was desperately trying to connect. It was power in order to connect with someone. He, you know, he w he [00:15:00] told me about the problems of his life, his problems with the law, the separation from his wife is, uh, he was not allowed to see his son who, who is, you know, the love of his life.

He thought about killing himself that morning. So I had all this information and he just kept saying that he, he just wanted to feel my sense is that he wanted to feel worthy or some kind of softness. So it wasn’t power for the sake of power. It was our to achieve the thing that he was so desperately missing.

And, and that, that second part I think, is crucial understanding of maybe what drives people to violence, that there is this hurt that is manifesting in a violent way, but the hurt itself is trying to be soothed and there are other ways to soothe the hurt. Of course, I think it also. It probably behooves us to define [00:16:00] compassion as well, because I think a lot of them, um, a lot of flack that people get about this radical kind of love is because there are a lot of myths about compassion.

Compassion is recognizing the suffering wishing for that suffering to be released and being willing to help, uh, motivated to help, but compassion in no way means letting somebody off the hook. Compassion is not feeling sorry for someone. It’s not condoning bad behavior. And it’s, doesn’t even mean that there’s forgiveness.

It simply means that you see their suffering and you want to help to relieve the suffering. You know, there are a lot of people who think that if we, uh, if we become a culture or an individual of compassion that some suddenly we are walked all over or we’re harmed even more. But in fact, compassion can be a very empowering way to kind [00:17:00] of live in the world.

And I find that the more I’ve studied compassion, the more I’ve learned about it and the more I’ve cultivated and practiced it, actually the stronger and clearer my boundaries get. I’m actually very able to say no when no is appropriate. One of the myths of compassion is that suddenly people will walk all over you and take advantage of you.

But in fact, compassion can help give us much clearer boundaries. There is that expression that you can be there’s fierce, compassion, compassion doesn’t mean that you are always gentle. It means that your action has the intention behind it to relieve suffering. That action can come and look in lots of different ways.

You know, most compassionate thing might be, uh, in one situation to turn around and walk away to leave. Another compassionate reaction might be to, to get involved, uh, you know, to try to actually be of service. And another [00:18:00] one might be in some cases to use force, to change the course of an action, but always what would be the thing would be the attention to relieve suffering.

And so I think it’s helpful to define that so that there’s not confusion about, Oh, we’re not just saying love someone, no matter what they do. We’re saying, see the suffering that’s at the root cause of this behavior, hold the person accountable and help them move beyond the limited thinking and mindset that is driving this behavior.

Gissele: [00:18:34] You know, I’d like to believe that working from a place of compassion and love is our true nature. People that kind of do these behaviors tend to isolate themselves from others. And they kind of really are preventing themselves from tapping into their own love and compassion. There was a key part in the book that really had an emotional impact on me.

You kind of had a confrontation, what I would call the confrontation with God.

I don’t want to spoil it for people, but I think it was one of the [00:19:00] pivotal moments for me in the book. At least it was. Um, but I do want to share kind of your thought about that. God

should have loved me more and that, you know, that kind of belief that if there’s a God or there’s this kind of universal love, it’s that love is only given to people that deserve it.

Lara: [00:19:18] No, I know the scene that you’re referring to, uh, takes place in, uh, in a church that a friend took me to when I returned home to Los Angeles. And, um, it’s a pivotal moment in the book because it was a pivotal moment in my emotional development. But, you know, I was just feeling like, God, this, what in the world are you trying?

What am I supposed to learn from this? And there are a lot better ways to get my attention. Um, you know, and I was just going back and forth in my mind, I was having this dialogue. It felt like with this, with this presence, you know, and I definitely felt as though I was being, there was this other voice that was [00:20:00] responding to me.

But, you know, at one point I, I just, you know, I, in my, it was kind of rage toward God silently in my head and sitting in this church. I said, well, you know, do you love him more than me? And I got this answer back that I love you both the same. And that just did me in. I thought, no, that’s not okay. I said, God, you’re allowed to love them a little bit like I did, but really you should be loving me more.

And, you know, and I was really, uh, petulant in my mind about this. And, um, and I thought, no, no, no, this is, this is too big. I’m in too deep here. Um, and then, and then it really hit me that if I’m going to understand love, I’m going to understand compassion. I have to be, I have to be willing for him to be loved.

And again, not just in the theoretical sense, but. You know, we’re [00:21:00] loved on earth through other people. And so if God’s gonna love him, it’s gonna, it’s gonna come through others. And one of those others was me and would I accept that? Or wouldn’t I? And that’s where I was left. Um, and then of course it took years, you know, to work on that.

Gissele: [00:21:21] Yeah, absolutely.

Lara: [00:21:22] Questions arrive and arise in these kind of momentary flashes. And then it takes years to work with them. It’s

Gissele: [00:21:31] difficult to get past the hurt. Why should he be free and go around after doing this to people like we have a tendency to want to punish. And at one point in the book you ask a question about when rape became a woman’s issue and you talk about how, um, rape really belonged to his anger and his madness. And then you also got to talk about how all these systems really [00:22:00] weren’t designed to kind of help him get to the point where he would really understand the impact of his behavior. I was gathering some stats for my chat with you in, uh, uh, in Canada, according to the sexual assault center. One in three women experienced some sort of sexual assault in their lives. Something’s obviously not working for both men and women.

Lara: [00:22:26] It is really an epidemic and women are the loudest voices speaking against rape. Um, and all the books on the topic are shelved in women’s studies, sexual assault statistics primarily count the women. And so it’s been made to be this women’s issue. And, you know, and I really resent that rape has become a woman’s issue.

And I, and I just, part of that resentment, Um, it’s just that, I think that we’re, we’re in a loop of, of ineffectivity, [00:23:00] although there are women who rape, ultimately it is a man’s men’s issue. Yeah. And, um, and I think that when we, when we get to the point where we’re willing to listen to men who have assaulted others and to understand what is driving them and what they need.

What they didn’t receive, what sort of messages they received, you know, we’re, we’re getting better in our culture, um, listening to women and listening to their experience, but listening to the, um, to the, to the victim or the survivor does not change the behavior of the offender. So I really would like to turn this on it’s head somehow some way.

And that’s one of the things that propelled me to and go to, into, into a prison and just, you know, figure out what is missing, what has been missing in, in the healing [00:24:00] of people who end up committing these really horrible violences and then suffer the consequences of it for the rest of their lives. Like that’s not working for anyone and it’s not healing women.

You know, it’s putting someone in jail does not heal the woman. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be in jail. I’m just saying it’s not a direct relationship to someone else’s healing.

Gissele: [00:24:26] I’ve been thinking about kind of the whole concept of prison and how historically like our solution to our problems has been isolate and segregate, right?

Like this is how we treated children with developmental disabilities. This is how we’ve treated people with mental health problems, but we’re not really kind of addressing the problems. You talk about how prison is really the place where the sickest people go only to get more pain inflicted on them. One of the questions I wanted to ask is what you thought [00:25:00] we really need to kind of create systems that actually work for both men and women.

Lara: [00:25:06] Oh gosh. From working in the prison system, what I see are competing needs and competing purposes. There’s the purpose of isolation and separation. And in many cases that is appropriate.

Some people would need to be removed from that community. So they don’t cause harm. That is the first purpose of the criminal justice system. Another is punishment and, you know, retribution for caused harm. And then the third is rehabilitation. And what I see is that all three of these are functioning simultaneously, but in many cases at odds with one another.

So once a person has been separated from their community is incarcerated, then they’re offered rehabilitation programs, some incredible programs, at least in Angola. And at the same time, there’s a lingering [00:26:00] desire within the larger community for eternal punishment. And so we have, in many cases, a person whose mindset and behavior is very rehabilitated.

Having served 20, 30 years in prison. And now we’re punishing a person who doesn’t really resemble the violent person of their past. What is it that we intend incarceration to be? Who is it for? Is it for, is it for the individual who caused the harm? Is it for the survivor of the harm competition of, of needs and purposes?

It’s really causing enormous confusion and strife and, um, and chaos

Gissele: [00:26:39] very well. Put, I do find any systems, there’s all these competing needs. Does it feel like we’re making progress in terms of helping people understand and really, truly rehabilitate. I was wondering if you could kind of share a little bit of the work, the compassion work that you’re doing within the prison

Lara: [00:26:56] system, kind of a fortutious [00:27:00] path.

I guess they, when I got home, the first thing I did was to write the book. And again, that was, that was just to find some clarity within my own thinking. And then as the book was about to be published, I got really scared. It’s like, oops. You know, am I sure of what I’m saying? And I don’t really have a circle of compassionistas, you know, to make sure that I can, that I can stand behind what I’m saying.

Like, am I out here on my own? And so I searched and I found a program at Stanford university, the compassion, cultivation training. It’s an eight week guidance and mindfulness based passion training course. So I went and I got trained to teach that course, and really what I was looking for was a community, um, and answers to what is compassion, because I knew I was going to be asked to talk about it and I wanted to talk about it beyond just my own [00:28:00] experience, but I want to have much more education, you know, the science and the research and the philosophy.

Behind it. Um, so I, so I got trained in that. And then as a result of that certification through a series of kind of unexpected and remarkable events, I ended up being invited to Angola out of the blue to speak. And, um, from that moment on, I’ve been going once a week, ever since. And I teach the eight week compassion. I teach that series to, uh, to men who are incarcerated. Um, that’s kind of the main component of the program. We also do shared compassion workshops. We do all day conferences in Louisiana. The idea is to bring people together and talk about the urgent issues within corrections, through the lens of compassion.

It’s been really life-changing for me. And I didn’t even know I would appreciate it. You know, I certainly have been kind of [00:29:00] forced to, to face some questions. I didn’t necessarily want to face or know I wanted to face, you know, like what is justice? Take compassion out of the theoretical realm and look a person in the eye who has been incarcerated for 10, 15, 20 years and apply it in action.

Like these are big questions.

Gissele: [00:29:22] Yeah. It’s challenging work. Yeah.

Lara: [00:29:25] You know, honestly, I have not encountered anyone yet at Angola who’s not willing or interested in being part of those questions and conversation. The biggest learning for me has been more, an unlearning. Unlearning impressions of who people are and who are in prison.

Gissele: [00:29:46] We tend to make a lot of judgments about who people are in, defined them by their actions,

Lara: [00:29:51] a lot of judgments and, and also a dominant narrative that’s promoted through media and TV and movies. It’s just not at all what I’ve [00:30:00] encountered. So it’s been a long process of unlearning before I could even build up new learning.

Gissele: [00:30:06] Would you be able to share maybe some of the outcomes you’ve seen after implementing the compassion training?

Lara: [00:30:13] A lot of the outcomes are similar to the outcomes I’ve seen outside of prison. Hardest part of compassion is the self compassion. That is something I’ve noticed across the board with every group of people that I’ve run the compassion workshops with.

So one of the outcomes has been maybe greater self care, maybe a softer approach to their own pain, sadness, loneliness, grief, shame. I think one of the biggest benefits of the class is creating a shared environment where it’s okay to be really honest and vulnerable. We sit face-to-face sometimes in pairs, small groups or big groups, and we get honest and real about how we’re feeling in that moment.

And there aren’t a lot of opportunities within prison or frankly outside, either for that kind of focused and caring [00:31:00] exchange. People crave that. They thrive on that, but we are so skillful at avoiding that.

Gissele: [00:31:09] Um, so I’m just wondering, uh, what kind of support you you have received from the leadership at the organization?

Lara: [00:31:17] Oh, it’s, it’s been extraordinary support. Angola is a place that, that really welcomes. Um, or let me say it this way. Angola is a place that has, has welcomed me, you know, and I think part of what, what makes me interesting to the, to the participants in my classes is that I do come from a victim experience that, and I share that very openly.

And so, and there’s such a desire. Within Angola to have access to the person, they harmed to be able to apologize, but there isn’t a mechanism for that. And so for [00:32:00] me to be a survivor of a violent crime and show interest in their experience and to be willing to understand it is refreshing new and important.

And so the prison administration has been very welcoming and

Gissele: [00:32:14] I think that’s really instrumental and being able to do this kind of work within the prison system.

Lara: [00:32:19] Absolutely.

Gissele: [00:32:21] Can you talk a little bit about what you think are kind of, uh, some key areas that are missing within the prison system in creating kind of more compassionate and healing places?

Lara: [00:32:34] I mean, I think we’re just stuck in such a, um, such a confusion about what the purpose of incarceration is. I think we have to look at everything from where people sleep, what people eat. I’ve heard people come back from tours and say, it’s impressive because they see men wearing their own clothes, had a bathrobe and a comfortable bed.

And those things help a person feel like a [00:33:00] person. When you feel cared for you begin to care for yourself. When you begin to care for yourself, it’s much easier to care for others. Maybe one of the places to start is outside of prison with our attitudes and assumptions. And so. We’re really asking people who are incarcerated in this country to do a Herculean task of, of overriding and, you know, a harsh, cold, um, environment in order to be a loving person.

I don’t know. I, I’m not sure I did it your question any justice at all, but I think it’s just such a huge question. I don’t know where to begin, you know, because it’s at the individual system level. I think Ear Hustle do a great job. That’s that’s a podcast that comes out of San Quentin in California, where the hosts are talking about the daily life for prison.

And yet it [00:34:00] just, it reminds people outside that, Oh right. We’re talking about individual people. We’re living individual lives very full. In many cases, lives with people, with jobs, within prison, with relationships, with families, relationships that they’re, that they’ve managed to maintain over decades. And you know, when we talk about quote unquote offenders, I think that’s problematic because in many cases, the offense occurred decades ago.

And yet we continue to refer to a person as an offender. Maybe this person hasn’t offended, uh, certainly in any kind of violent or criminal way for the majority of their life. And yet we hold them. We hold them the very, very definition of that person according to that act. I think, you know, if we are going to start changing a system, we’re also going to [00:35:00] need to change your perception of the individuals within that system.

Gissele: [00:35:04] Absolutely. And I think you did a beautiful job answering the question. I mean, these are great points in terms of looking at the environments we’re creating top to bottom in, you know, whether or not we’re creating kind of these dehumanizing systems. Um, in looking at our attitudes is our purpose to punish is a purpose to really rehabilitate and can those two really co-exist together. I think you’ve got us on the journey to kind of really think about how we can create more compassionate places. So thank you. What’s next for you? Is there anything that’s coming up that you would like to share with us in terms of some of the work that you’re doing with the prison system?

Lara: [00:35:40] You know, I am carrying on this and I’m deep in it.

Uh, I teach my full-time job as I teach creative writing, um, at an Arts Conservatory High School. Um, and then, uh, you know I spend my time in Angola. I also work with a victim outreach program. I think that’s really important to [00:36:00] mention as well that my focus is, is, is really on, um, you know, we talk about sides, you know, both sides.

I really don’t see sides. I see lots of people who, um, who are hurting, who want to, um, want to heal, you know? So I. So, not only am I at Angola, but I also work with the victim outreach program. And, um, I’m just going to keep on keeping on.

Gissele: [00:36:31] Thank you for listening to today’s podcast. I’d like to encourage everyone to go buy “The Jaguar Man” available on Amazon. And I’d like to thank you, Lara, for the work that you’re doing. It’s so impactful.

Lara: [00:36:43] Thank you so much.

Critical Reflection Questions:

According to Neale Donald Walsh, Author of Conversation with God: “You are all at root cause for the conditions which exist which create in the robber the desire, or the perceived need, to steal. You have all created the consciousness which makes rape possible. It is when you see in yourself that which caused the crime that you begin, at last, to heal the condition from which it sprang. Feed your hungry, give dignity to your poor. Grant opportunity to your less fortunate. End the prejudice which keeps masses huddled and angry, with little promise of a better tomorrow. Put away your pointless taboos and restrictions upon sexual energy—rather, help others to truly understand its wonder, and to channel it properly. Do these things and you will go a long way toward ending robbery and rape forever.” (Walsh, P. 38 Conversations with God book 1).

How are each of us contributing to the consciousness that makes rape acceptable? What messaging do both men and women receive about worth and about respect and equality?

How are the systems we have created keeping individuals perpetually in a level of consciousness of separation and punishment?

Toolbox Tips!

  • We recommend, Angela Davis’ book, Are Prisons Obsolete? In this book she discusses the connection between poverty, racism, slavery, capitalism and profit making and the prison system.
  • Write to your government leaders to consider restorative justice and more compassionate approaches to crime.
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