The Accused: Seeking Justice, Not Blame. 

Twenty-eight years ago, The Accused was released in theaters. It told the harrowing story of Sarah Tobias, who is gang-raped in a local bar. 
The film was based on the real-life rape of Cheryl Ann Araujo, that occurred at Big Dan’s Bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1983.

Araujo went to the bar to get cigarettes, and after refusing to leave with two men, a third man grabbed her from behind and put her on a pool table, where several men took turns raping her. She heard other men cheering on the assault.

When the case eventually went to trial, the defense lawyers grilled Araujo about her personal life, suggesting that she deserved the attack. 

Four men were convicted of aggravated raped, while charges against two other men were dropped. 

Shortly after the trial, Cheryl and her family moved to Florida to make a fresh start. Three years after her ordeal, she died in a car crash at the age of 25.

Like her real-life counterpart, Sarah Tobias is portrayed as having asked for her attack, by dressing in revealing clothes, and by dancing seductively around the jukebox.

The “blame the victim” defense is ridiculous to me. I understand that they have to come up with something, so how about just saying, “My client is a scumbag who exerted his power over the victim.”

I’ve read articles about the burglary and rape of an 80 year old woman, and the recent rape  and murder of a 9 month old baby girl. These horrible stories illustrate that it’s never the victim’s fault. 

I hope that anyone who has been a victim of rape, or any other type of sexual abuse will tell someone they trust and be able to seek justice!


My Connection With Hannibal Lecter 

Looking at these pictures, you wouldn’t think this baby or Hannibal Lecter would have something in common….but they do. Both required medical attention. On July 8, 1981, the baby had his first Cerebral Palsy-related, heel cord surgery. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Lecter complained of chest pains and was taken to the dispensary for an EKG. He then got too close to a nurse. This absolutely absurd, but awesome post gives a public answer to a question my mother asked me years ago, that, yes, everything in my life revolves around movies.

My Cerebral Palsy Mobility Aides

I have used several types of mobility aides over my 37 years of life. 

I had my first walker until I was about five, and then I was given my first set of crutches. Over time, I was able to open doors myself, thanks to the rotating cuff. I even got a hole in one during a putt putt game with my parents. I tried to use the actual club, but the crutch got in the way. 

In middle school, I used an inverted walker which was wonderful. I felt like I could do anything while using it, since knowing it was behind me actually helped my balance. Sadly, the walker didn’t last past middle school due to a growth spurt. 

So, back to the crutches I went and stayed with them through high school. I basically “skated” down the school hallways, since they were somewhat slick. The other students thought this was pretty cool. 

After graduation, I got lazy (not something I’m proud of) and began using a wheelchair when I left the house. 

I had my last CP-related surgery on April 16, 2003, and after I was cleared to put weight on my legs, my doctor asked if I would be using crutches. My reply was, “How about a walker?” He said, “Would that make you more comfortable while walking?” I replied, “Yes” and he wrote a prescription for me. 

I am now on walker number three, which I jokingly refer to as my “convertible” since it folds up when not in use. I also continue to use a wheelchair whenever I go shopping, or if I go somewhere with large crowds. 

To the geniuses who developed these mobility aides, I say, “Thank you!”

Honoring Dad (Or Superhero Without a Cape)

I’ve been thinking of my Dad all day long. He was the greatest provider, always making sure we had all we needed, or wanted. He cheered us on during ball games and majorette festivals.

He walked both of his daughters down the aisle and served as his oldest son’s best man. He made sure that I got the best possible care for my CP.

He loved and spoiled his seven grandchildren. He made sure to be there for every birthday party, school performance, ball game, and anything else they were involved in. My oldest nephew even got him to play a PlayStation football game one time….lol.

He loved our mother with all he had. Every Christmas and wedding anniversary, he tried to get gifts that were “just right” for her.

Dad was a huge fan of James Brown, and one of the memories that has made me smile several times today, is him playing “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” loud on the stereo while lip-synching the words into a hairbrush, and doing James Brown’s dance moves in the middle of our living room.

Today may mark the day that dad left us physically, but he will live on in our hearts and minds until the time comes for us to be together again..

Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies ~ Love..

Jodie Foster at the Oscars 

I posted a headline on my blog that this is a place for TV and CP. I seemed to have left out the TV part lately, so this entry is my return to entertainment related posts.                                        

March 29, 1989:

Jodie Foster won her first Best Actress Oscar for her role of rape victim, Sarah Tobias in, The Accused. 

The other nominees in her category were:

Glenn Close for Dangerous Liaisons                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Melanie Griffith for Working Girl                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Meryl Streep for A Cry in the Dark                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Sigourney Weaver for Gorillas in the Mist                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Close may have seemed like the shoo-in, given that she was overlooked the previous year for her performance in, Fatal Attraction, and the Academy loves to make-up for past goofs. 

Foster won on the strength of her National Board of Review and Golden Globe wins for Best Actress. 

March 30, 1992:

Jodie received her second Best Actress Oscar for her performance in, The Silence of the Lambs.

She starred as FBI trainee Clarice Starling, opposite Anthony Hopkins in the role of Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

The other Best Actress nominees were:

Geena Davis for Thelma & Louise                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Laura Dern for Rambling Rose                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Bette Midler for For the Boys                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Susan Sarandon for Thelma & Louise                         

Foster also received Best Actress awards from the Golden Globes and the New York Film Critics Circle. 

The Silence of the Lambs was nominated for seven Oscars, and made Academy history by becoming only the third film to win the “Big Five” Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay).

Thanks (Again)

I’ve been reflecting on my recent post, and I realized that I forgot to thank my nieces and nephews. They have followed their parents in the helping Ryan out department. Thank you for helping with getting food for me during holidays, and for being near me as I try to conquer my version of Mt. Everest (steep sets of stairs).

Thank you for “getting me”, and for loving me just as I am. I’m thankful that you feel comfortable enough to ask me questions about CP, I just hope I’ve been able to give you answers that made sense….lol.

The joy of being your uncle is amazing. I get to be a kid again, and you all give me an excuse to watch SpongeBob! I have enjoyed acting as a “horse” for each of you over the years.

Thank you to those who felt the need to make fun of me in school. This seems strange I’m sure, but through your actions (which I never saw firsthand) I was able to really focus on God and the five people at home who saw me as a person, and not a punchline.

Thank you mom and dad for never allowing me to view CP as a bad thing. It’s because of the two of you that I can feel so positive about living with this condition. You both set an amazing example. 

I’m grateful that you all never felt the need to pity me. The love you show me daily makes it very easy for me to hold my head high.

To me, the great thing about helping to raise CP Awareness, is that, even though we may face different challenges related to CP, we can come together and share those experiences and feelings.

By doing so, we are proving to ourselves and others that we have value.

And above all else, WE MATTER!

Cerebral Palsy Through the Years! (With Thanks)

Since this month is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, I’ve been thinking a lot about what having this condition means to me.

I was born two and a half months premature, and due to loss of oxygen during my mother’s contractions, CP made its presence known. The doctors didn’t hold out much hope of me surviving a premature birth, and when my father asked if he could go back and say goodbye to me, the doctor felt it wouldn’t be a good idea and told him to go home and wait for the call that I had died.

Over time, my twin sister was thriving, but I wasn’t. Mom talked with the pediatrician who would tell her repeatedly that there was nothing to worry about, that I was behind in my development due to the fact that I was premature, a twin and a boy.

Mom knew there was more to it than what the doctor told her. When she would sit me on the couch, she put pillows around me to keep me steady, but when she moved them I toppled over.

Tired of getting the same excuses, my parents were finally put in contact with a doctor who had an answer that made sense.

In 1981, my parents took me to the office of Dr. David Santrock. He took one look at me and knew right away what was going on with me.

He told them that I had Cerebral Palsy. My parents finally had an answer and were relieved that the guessing game of “What’s wrong with Ryan?” was over.

My early school years were spent at a “special” school. I remember one teacher asking me if I ever wished for something. I told her that my only wish was to go to the same school (and the same class) as my twin sister. 

Part of that wish came true in the fall of 1988. My sister was waiting outside her school as I was getting off my bus. She said that her teacher wanted to say “Hi” to me, so we went and spoke to her teacher, and as we left the classroom, my sister said we were going to go to the principal’s office to tell her that I wanted to transfer to the school. The principal told my dad that the only way my transfer would be possible was by having a student switch to the other fourth grade class. She said that a student had already volunteered to switch in order for me to transfer to the school. That student was my sister.

During my elementary and middle school years, I was offered physical and occupational therapy at school. I loved being in class and then, all at once, seeing one of the therapists walk in the classroom knowing they were coming for me. Sometimes, they both came on the same day!

Now comes the dreaded, WHY ME? portion of my post. 

I was 8 the first time I asked God, “Why me?” The following year, I was alone in my bedroom looking for something in my closet. I don’t know what brought it on, but all of a sudden, I blurted out, “God, why did you do this to me?”

Instantly, I felt horrible for having asked Him that question. I remembered my mother telling us that we were never supposed to question God. Ashamed, I told myself how lucky I was to be alive and that I would never again ask, “Why me?”

I’ve often wondered about the toll my having CP had on my siblings. All three have been there to help me whenever I’ve needed it, whether it be in school, after I had surgery, or fixing me something to eat. So I can assume there wasn’t any resentment about taking up mom and dad’s time. (But then again, we all know what happens when you assume….lol..)

My CP hasn’t been a picnic for my parents over the years. My mother felt that it was her fault, since she smoked during her pregnancy. I can’t stand to think of her blaming herself for something that was God’s plan for me.

They both had to put up with those close to them basically telling them they had no business trying to raise me. When I was little, they were told that if I were with another family, I would be walking in no time. Then, in 2002, another person said that if they had gotten me to the “right doctors” I would have walked. After this person left our house, my parents asked me if I felt that they had done everything they could to get me to the right doctors, and to get the best treatment. Without pausing, I said, “Yes, you guys did everything right for me.”

I can’t understand why people would make my parents question their parenting of me. I guess it’s easy to do it when you’re on the outside looking in.

Now comes my Cerebral Palsy acceptance speech:

I want to thank God for blessing me with Cerebral Palsy, TV producer Norman Lear for putting actress Geri Jewell on The Facts of Life. Watching Geri tell the girls on the show that she had CP, in my head, I said, “Oh my gosh! She’s just like me.” Geri Jewell, thank you for being my first CP role model, and for showing a little boy that he wasn’t alone. John W. Quinn, thank you for serving our country for 20 years, all the while keeping your condition a secret so that you could live out your dream. To all the people I’ve been in contact with on Facebook and the #CPChatNow Twitter Chat, thank each and everyone of you for sharing your stories and your eagerness to raise awareness for CP.

To my brother: I thank you for being the best big brother ever! I wish that I had been able to go outside and play various sports with you, but then, we found other ways to bond.

To my sisters: Thank you for being “little mothers” to me growing up. You tied my shoes for me till I was 10, and you made sure I was taken care of getting to classes safely in middle school and high school. The three of you also made sure to take care of people picking on me, although the picking bothered you all more than it did me.

Mom: Thank you for giving me life and for being my voice before we knew CP was the answer. Thank you for loving me! I’m sorry about the scar….lol.

Dad: You are still my hero! You took me to all my doctors appointments, surgeries and baseball games. You are the best!