Jackie Fuchs – We Hear Ya

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Harvard Law School Motto, Veritas (Truth)

Jackie Fuchs (aka Fox), is the former bass player for the legendary all-girl band, the Runaways. For decades, she’s suffered in silence from memories of  being drugged and raped by the late Kim Fowley, the band’s manager. This sexual violence took  in a hotel room, with other people present (including former bandmates Joan Jett and Cherie Currie). On July 8, a Huffington Post piece brought the story to the public. Jackie is no longer silent.

It is clearly difficult for her to revisit this time in her life – but in interviews she does so with grace and dignity. Please keep in mind that telling the story of a rape includes some measure of re-experiencing the rape, suffering the trauma all over again.

In spite of this trauma and abuse, which took place when she was sixteen, Jackie created a good life for herself. Her Wikipedia bio contains an impressive list of accomplishments. Among other things, she is gifted in mathematics, linguistics, and law (her J.D. is from Harvard). And yet, if Jackie had not been assaulted, and then “gas-lighted” and dismissed by the people around her, and forced to continue having contact with her rapist/manager, who knows what else Jackie might have accomplished in years immediately after the incident?

One of the things that is seldom talked about with rape and other forms of sexual assault, is how it can and does derail everything else in your life for a long time, including your ability to concentrate when concentration is necessary. Sometimes it’s even difficult to get through simple daily tasks. Many rape survivors experience post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A fact sheet from the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault says:

“Nearly one-third of all rape victims develop Rape-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD) sometime during their lifetimes, and more than eleven percent still suffer from it (National Center for Victims of Crime & Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992).”

The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress website says:

“Dealing with the after effects of rape is a nightmare. The physical hurts can often soon be mended, but it’s the inner pain that people can’t see that takes longest. It’s also the hardest to deal with because it’s not like healing after surgery, there is no set time limit. The emotional scars can stay with us a lifetime.”

From what I can glean of the story, Jackie took her pain and her (misplaced) shame, and pushed through it (on a daily basis) to affirm that she was not, and could not be, frozen in time simply as Fowley’s victim. She was smart to leave the band. Afterwards, she moved on, grew up, became the woman she is today. Other people who’ve experienced sexual assault and violence may not have the inner resilience and/or outer support to reclaim their lives. Much depends on sources of stability, community resources, emotional support. Does the survivor have other opportunities to experience stability, love, self worth? Are there family, friends, other forms of validation? Is there money for therapy or college tuition? Importantly, if the survivor told, was the survivor believed?

Not only is there a high emotional cost to having been sexually assaulted, there is a high financial cost as well. Someday I’d love to see someone do a financial meta-analysis of the “true cost” of rape – including lost hours of productivity over a lifespan; the costs spent on therapy (or the costs associated with not having had it); drops in grade point average if the survivor was a student; intersectionalities of income/class/race/gender/age/ableness etc. that compound the impacts of sexual violence; physical and mental health predictions; the financial consequences of living with PTSD, over a lifespan. I’d like to know what it really costs us, as a society, when someone (of any gender) is raped or otherwise sexually assaulted. I want to have a true picture of the “ripple effect” outward from the wronged individual to the families, communities and society in general. I believe what we really have is a tsunami. 

I’m beyond cynicism. I believe that what Jackie Fuchs is doing right now is tremendously important, immensely meaningful. But because we are a money-obsessed, capitalist society, I think we also need the kind of meta-analysis I’ve just described, because until we see the issue of rape and sexual assault for the needlessly, collectively EXPENSIVE thing that it really is, our society will continue to make life easy for predators like Kim Fowley. If every rape survivor could file a civil suit against a rapist, in addition to criminal charges, claiming financial damages based on the kind of meta-analysis I envision above, perhaps it would serve as something of a deterrant for people like Fowley and his ilk.

Perhaps Jackie Fuchs is the person who could begin to draw all of the above together – she’s certainly got the kind of mental acumen, legal training, CV, contacts, and public image that could help make a meta-analysis happen. But whatever does result from the aftermath of her public disclosure, I wish her well. Her music has brought me hours of joy. Her courage has already brought me hours of sober reflection.

Veritas, indeed.

[P.S. I haven’t begun to search for the kinds of studies that address the above – but if you know if any, please send them my way.]

[P.S.S: I deliberately avoid using the term, “alleged rape,” in this blog.]

Complex and Alive: Catherine Ringer

Without striving for it, she is. Complex. And alive. And I also believe she is mostly unafraid. Catherine Ringer sang as part of Les Rita Mitsouko, a band that included her late husband, guitarist Fred Chichin. And still she sings. I recently discovered one of her duets with Iggy Pop, “I Put a Spell on You”. Their chemistry is riveting! Aside from having a versatile and wonderful voice, chemistry is one of Ringer’s specialities. I’ve watched videos of other duets, and there is always an erotic chemistry or an acknowledgement of shared erotic knowledge.

Catherine Ringer and Les Rita Mitsouko are fairly recent discoveries for me, though they’ve been around since 1980. But somehow I missed them at the height of their popularity. Perhaps because they were a band from France and I was living under an American rock without knowing it. A few years ago when I was mourning the cancer death of one of my oldest friends, Marcia Kerwit, I happened to stumble across the original video of “Marcia Baile” – the band’s tribute to Catherine’s dance teacher, the late Marcia Moretto (also a victim of fatal cancer). It was a strange coincidence and the oddly joyful and charming video – with Ringer making sugar skull faces and flipping a mermaid tail – became part of my mourning too, and an affirmation of life, for however long it lasts.

Photo copyright Renaud Corlouer

I keep finding new music from this artist, all on YouTube. I’ve got my favorites and I’ve found a few things that leave me slightly less awed. But in every video, Ringer practically evolves before your very eyes. And though the clothes and image often change – there’s something less practiced and posed, and much more organic. She simply is – at any given moment – and whether she chooses her “is” of the moment as skinny punk, French elegance, or reckless slattern, nothing can stop her from living and singing. She fully enters the song and doesn’t transcend it so much as she allows us to transcend our own stuff and simply experience pure pleasure, anguish, irony, humor, love, or a complex mix of all of the above.

Here are my favorites, in no particular order:

Marcia Baile

Singing in the Shower (with Sparks) – I find this immensely erotic!

Live version of Singing in the Shower – oddly, with little stage interaction between Catherine and Russell Mael.

Y’A D’La Haine Systeme D

Les Histoires D’amour (sung with Vanessa Paradis, whom I haven’t liked anywhere else)

Padam… Padam

Don’t Forget the Nite

Bad Days

Hip Kit (also with Sparks)

Ringer has also composed and sung on movie soundtracks. So far I haven’t heard these pieces, but look forward to finding them somewhere on the internet.

Another interesting thing about Ringer. Before her singing career, she performed in some erotic films. I guess people tried to make this into a scandal at some point – I’ve seen some stupidly ugly interviews, like this one, but Ringer gives better than she gets. As you might expect.