09.27.18 Lets talk vaginas & breasts...

normalize nudity…

normalize nudity…

Lets talk vaginas & breasts. Yet, lets dive deep into vaginas & breasts without shame, embarrassment or insecurity. Shame seems to surround the female body like a nasty cold you cannot seem to get rid of. Women are told from a young age what to wear, what is considered “risqué” & what warrants our bodies being violated. We are forced to cover our nipples yet have our breasts on constant display- open to harassment, gawking & analyzation. We are teased if our breasts are too big, too small, different sizes, non-existent, early developed or late developed. Men seem to think our breasts hang off our chest like handles for them to grasp & fondle as they fall further from grace, without consent or any bit of pleasure. 

Young girls are sexualized because of their bodies while also being humiliated, controlled and/or reprimanded. We hold so much power through our sexuality but if we begin to harness that prowess we are labeled as sluts or loose. Our vaginas literally bring life into this world while also being the brunt of jokes by men who want our vaginas to use and abuse. The constant anecdotes and references about our vaginas smelling like fish, being too dry, looking like meat, being too wet, too puffy, too hairy or too small. While men’s sexual organs are often hidden behind clothing, away from scrutiny & stigma until they take a picture of it and send you a truly unwanted dick pic. 

Women are often so detached from their own vaginas because they have been indoctrinated at such a young age to hide them, not use them, to be a “good girl”, to close their legs & the degradation that comes from all that nonsense lasts a lifetime. We are so scared for our first gyno appointment, we have no idea what that discharge is, whether its typical or not & what the hell does an orgasm feel like anyway. We are ashamed when we get yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis or our periods, whether our smell is normal & ok or doomed to be made fun of in locker rooms & frat houses. We don’t want to go into stores to buy Monistat, tampons or condoms fearing the looks & assumptions from strangers. Condoms; she’s a slut. Monistat; she’s dirty. Tampons; she’s gross. 

Some women are so disconnected with their bodies, that their own flesh feels foreign to them, owned by someone else, unworthy of love, affection or exploration. Mostly, we are not taught about masturbation or self discovery, while many men don’t take the time to transverse a woman’s body either, only worried about their own penis getting into something wet & then quickly out to dry. We are taught that our physical appearance is above all else yet are instructed to “be smart” & not get raped because certainly it is in our control. Our beautiful forms are used as an excuse for rape & assault & we are deemed at fault if we show too much of our bodies. Certainly our bare skin was just asking for that invasion & next time we will for sure wear pants, not make eye contact or close those blinds. 

We are called a tease if we don’t put out, we are forced if we change our mind or branded a whore if we want it just as badly as a man does. We are labeled as liars whether we accuse with freshly made bruises or after decades of emotional trauma & denial. Women are automatically guilty while people simultaneously scream “innocent until proven guilty”- yet only for male perpetrators of course. Dress codes are almost always for women, banned & removed pictures on the internet too; nipples are okay but only if on a males bare chest. 

 Our bodies are constantly demeaned & dissected, starving diets, purging food, cutting skin, sucking out fat, injecting this, inflating that, wanting the perfection that society expects yet isn’t even real to begin with. We are inundated with unrealistic images of body proportions & told to “suck it in”, “cover up” or “get it fixed”. Our brains are just as sexy & potent as our physical forms & just as disrespected & disregarded. 

The female orgasm is like a magical unicorn, something you have read a lot about, so you want it to exist, you think it might exist but you aren’t too sure if its actually real. Women are told to please their man otherwise they will find someone who does or take it from you no matter how hard you fight & say no. Many times consensual sex consists of lying there & taking it without much pleasure for us. Oral sex means putting a penis in your mouth while there are numerous videos on YouTube about how disgusting it is for a man to put a vagina in their mouth. Yet many women cannot climax without that mouth on their vagina, but so many are so insecure about their wonderful fragrant flower, they would rather, just, not. Neglecting their own pleasure while providing for someone else’s. Constantly. 

When will we be able to own our bodies, know their worth, their power & the necessity of its pleasure while holding onto righteousness. When are we allowed to show our skin without fear of being violated, raped, leered at, harassed, scolded or banned? We are disadvantaged because we are women, spoken down to, hushed, pushed aside while also expected to run households, put out, take that, suck this, clean that but above all, shut the hell up. 

Our vaginas are so powerful, so beautiful & so unique. Take that power, own it & use it to your advantage rather than your disadvantage. Reclaim your body, your mind, your worth, your sexuality & desires- demand better, demand something, demand respect, attention & justice. Cast aside the shame that is forced upon us & buy that anti-fungal cream with your head held high. Fight back like hell, against the normalcy of misogyny preserved & so deep rooted in our systems that even our fellow sisters scream LIAR in our faces. 

Women who are so wrapped up in male dominance that they turn their backs & cast shame onto women who are already overflowing with it. Mothers of sons so unable to grasp the inherent sexism in our society & unwilling to even begin to fathom that they in fact, are raising someone who will probably assault a woman in their lifetime. If there was ever a time to support women, it is now, right here, this moment, our time. Believe women. Support women. Elevate women. Because ladies, we deserve nothing less & we demand so much more.

02.09.18 Sam Strange Granted Parole...

Sam Strange 1996

Sam Strange 1996

Sam Strange was granted parole today, after almost 25 years in prison. In my heart, I knew he would get parole but I also was ready for a decision denying it. This was his third parole hearing. Today was not difficult for me. I didn’t have an anxiety-ridden stomach, as I sometimes get; I just wanted to get it done & to get through my statement without crying. I certainly failed at the not crying aspect of my statement. But I got through it & am at peace with what my sister & I said as well as the outcome.

Hearing the gruesome details of how Crissy was murdered is not difficult for me; in fact, I want to know every single detail. I want to know her last moments of life, I think I deserve to know & that I am ready to know. So much was hidden from me because I was a child when it happened, but slowly I am learning more & more about her final moments on this planet. As I listened to Sam describe his role in this crime, things I had known for some time, yet hearing him say it gave it much more weight. I knew he had watched my sister get beaten to death, that he picked up her dead body, cleaned up her blood & dumped her body like trash. But hearing him describe it made me realize just how brutal & graphic it must have been. I have never thought he was completely innocent, since again, I already knew all these things. Just hearing it & fully visualizing what that must have been like, gave me pause. I still forgive him & I stand by my statement.

He talked about some of Crissy’s conversations with him in the last two days of her life; her making fun of white people (she was Mexican), her telling him how rock music sucked & rap music was the best. That the reason they ended up in his room together was because of an Ice T rock/rap album he wanted to play for her. These details, even the graphic ones are healing to me. I stared at Sam throughout the hearing & I saw someone I feel like I know personally, because I kinda do. Through our letters, I have gotten to know his personality, his daily activities & his goals for the future. When I began reading my statement, the correctional officer assigned to our room, couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His jaw literally dropped. The woman assigned to us, as our escort, also had no idea that we were going to speak on Sam’s behalf.

I am super proud of my sister Wendy, who didn’t have to have anything written down & just spoke from the heart. The parole board said that our statements were a weighing factor on granting him parole. As they read their decision, I focused on Sam. He cried as they told him that he would finally get his freedom back. I tried to imagine how he must have felt & what he is feeling now. I am excited for him but also scared. He has so many obstacles in front of him & its not going to be easy but I think he is ready. He has accomplished so much with his time & will be a certified drug & alcohol counselor when he gets out. One organization that will be helping Sam is HealthRIGHT 360, which is one of the organizations we raised money for when my brother Bobby passed away. Very serendipitous indeed.

I think a lot of people will judge my family for our forgiveness & for speaking on Sam’s behalf. For them, I say this; this isn’t your tragedy. People tend to just see the end result & not the last 20+ years of pain & suffering. They have no idea how far we have come & the anger, frustration, rage & revenge we all felt for so many years. I feel like a piece of this devastation has been put to rest. That finally spreading Crissy’s ashes will be another aspect of closure.

I feel for Dawn’s family, who knew Sam well before all this happened & who believe Sam was the sole murderer. I am sure they are devastated & I can only hope, that they find peace & forgiveness as well. But if they don’t, that’s ok too. It’s their journey with the loss of their family member & I send them my love. I am ashamed to admit that I still have residual feelings for Dawn’s mother that I have not fully worked out. I desperately want to reach out to her, so if anyone knows an email or mailing address please let me know. I truly hope Dawn’s family is well.

Sam has a concrete plan for his return to society, as well as a support system in place. He got married last year & his wife has formed a close relationship with my dad. Sam getting paroled was inevitable & it adds to the magnitude of what 2018 will be for me personally. I hope that someday, we both get to a place where we can meet in person & I can look him in the eyes for real. There is a reason why our paths have crossed & I feel fortunate to have been given an opportunity, though a devastating one, to grow as a person. I hope I can someday see Sam fully recovered from the trauma he has experienced & that he lives the rest of his life as fully as he can.

02.08.18 Sam Strange's Third Parole Hearing...

Before you read my parole hearing statement I want you to know where I used to be, how I used to feel & how far I have come. A letter I wrote to the local paper, which was published in 1999.

Before you read my parole hearing statement I want you to know where I used to be, how I used to feel & how far I have come. A letter I wrote to the local paper, which was published in 1999.

Parole Hearing Statement:

My name is Shani Campbell & Crissy was my sister. Sam was accused, tried & sentenced for the murder of Crissy & Dawn almost 25 years ago. I feel the pain & devastation this has caused everyone involved has been explained at great length. And I don’t want to minimize that suffering just because so much time has passed. Because that misery was very real then & is still very real now, for all of us. Suffering such a tragedy, specifically for me, at such a young & compromising age, altered my entire life. And I do feel like expressing that raw reality is still very valid. That my mother’s heart will forever be broken. That my father has spent months investigating his own daughters murder. And that my sister Wendy struggles with a deep feeling of injustice. So I can only speak for myself.

I am grateful for my life. Even the traumatic parts I experienced, for it has made me the woman I am today. I forgive Sam for his involvement in my sisters murder. The last two times we were here, the parole board stated that Sam needed to show remorse for what he has done. And I believe, for the Parole Board, that involves Sam confessing to the actual killing of Crissy & Dawn, which he has never admitted to. I wanted to express to you all today, how I feel Sam has shown me remorse, personally, without outwardly admitting his guilt. Which, by the way, I do not need. I don’t seek his confession to anything in regards to my sisters death, as my forgiveness & compassion for the man who sits before you right now, is not contingent on any of those things. He could admit that he brutally beat my sister to death & I would still forgive him. I would still have compassion for him. And I would still believe in second chances.

Sam has expressed his remorse to me through allowing me into his life. Which he didn’t have to do. Through written letters for the past several years I have gotten to know Sam as a person. Which was extremely important for my own recovery. To see him no longer as a monster but as a human being. Through our correspondence I have learned more about what Sam has done to better himself while incarcerated. He has expressed his hopes & plans for the future. He has never asked anything from me nor have we ever discussed these parole hearings. I have simply shared my life, interests & thoughts with him as he did with me.

I think Sam has come very far from where he started & through some intense & less than ideal circumstances, he has improved his life vastly. I feel he has accepted his role in this crime & accepted the punishment. He has used his time in prison to the best of his ability & I believe, will come out a better man. I know Sam has a family & now a wife, who surely love & miss him. I think about Sam’s younger brother & how he also lost his sibling. How he has a chance to get his sibling back. Something I don’t have. I know how painful losing a sibling is & knowing that they could have a second chance with their relationship, makes me happy.

I respect the board & the medical professionals who can better analyze & judge someone’s ability to be successful in the real world after spending so much time in prison. But I ask, that if Sam admitting he did this crime is the one thing holding him back from his freedom, for you all to rethink that request. Because nothing will bring Crissy & Dawn back. I do believe in consequences, not necessarily the current prison system, but Sam has certainly suffered some pretty immense consequences for his actions. Years he can never recover. And believe me, I realize the irony in all of this, as my 16 year old sister Crissy & Dawn as well, lost their life so brutally & tragically- losing out on so many precious experiences. But again, nothing can change that. Their suffering is over & it’s up to us as individuals to determine how we allow this tragedy to further effect us. No matter how you play this out, it’s just not fair.

So I try to determine, how can we somehow make this terrible situation a more positive one. And for me, locking someone away for the rest of their life, isn’t a positive outcome for anyone. Perhaps it is completely foreign for anyone to understand why I would be asking the parole board to give Sam a second chance. Turning something so inherently negative, into something positive, is what I have always strived for. My suffering was lessened because I chose to make my life better, not because Sam was spending his days behind bars. I leave this decision up to the parole board but please, do not use my suffering as a reason to keep Sam here. So I ask, if you believe Sam is ready, give him a chance to make something positive of his life & perhaps be able to help others that are on the wrong path. He in turn, could quite possibly, save the lives of many people.

Thank you.