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Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Fan Mail

This reader was inspired by last week’s column to send me a fan letter, and it made me feel so good I just had to share it with y’all:

I have never emailed to ask a question, but I wanted to let you know that you have helped me in multiple ways.  I found your website through Scott Greenfield a number of years ago, and have been a reader ever since.  My wife and I regularly discuss your blog posts and Twitter comments, and more than a few discussions have been started based on “what would Maggie say?”  Our daughter is now 14, and she states that she is clearly somewhere on the LGBT spectrum (she just isn’t sure where yet); the perspective you bring has helped us deal not with our own feelings (we love her to death for who she is), but with how we deal with how others treat her.  You and Scott are my first two clicks every morning, allowing me to ground my day with two anchors that help guide my thinking, and have greatly shaped the way I view the world around me.

Oh, and I LOVE the woodworking.

Thanks for everything!

After all the time and effort I’ve put into this blog for the past eleven years, letters like this really give me the inspiration that helps me to keep it up.

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Where Are They Now?

In my early essay “Marilyn“, I explained that “because of the use of stage names, the discretion inherent in our profession, the mania for privacy forced upon us by its suppression and the fact that we’re all independent contractors, it is essentially impossible to keep in touch with working girls once the business relationship has been severed.”  In the 15 years since I closed my escort service, that has been less noticeable to me for the simple reason that as an independent, I don’t have close, regular contact with as many girls as I did when I was a madam.  But it still happens from time to time; I become fond of some young woman I meet through work, and then she moves on to a new career or a new city and I never hear from her again.  It occasionally happens with clients, too; I’ll see a guy only once or twice and we talk about some difficulty he’s going through, then I never see him again and I’m left wondering whatever happened to him, and whether he managed to resolve his problem.  But lately, in the process of preparing and editing the two Ask Maggie volumes, I was struck by how many of the people I gave advice to never wrote back to let me know if things were better, or if my advice had helped at all.  Now, obviously, they don’t owe me that; in fact, one of the reasons people write me is that I’m not a part of their lives, so they needn’t be ashamed of sharing very intimate details.  If I were someone they had to interact with on a regular basis they might never have been able to confide in me in the first place, so it’s not surprising that they don’t reach out again after I’ve answered them.  But part of empathy, at least in my psychological makeup, requires caring enough about others, even strangers, to want to understand and help them; while some letters merely require information or the sharing of wisdom, others tug at my heartstrings, and I can’t help wondering what became of them afterward.  So please, do me a little favor:  if you’re one of the several hundred people whose letters I’ve answered over the past decade, and my advice was helpful to you, please take a moment to reach out to me when you get a few moments to tell me how it went.  You certainly don’t have to, and I won”t think any less of those who don’t.  But there is a soft spot under my battle-hardened exterior that would appreciate knowing I helped.

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Our cause…isn’t just ours after all, but rather a vital part of the rights of all individuals to control their own voices, bodies, and lives without the interference of violent busybodies.  –  “Sex Worker Rights Day 2020

The landscape of sex worker rights activism looks very different from the way it did when I wrote my first essay for this occasion ten years ago; then almost nobody outside of Asia celebrated the day, and now it’s observed worldwide.  Sex worker activism in the US is no longer the domain of a small number of activists; vast numbers of sex workers now speak out online, belong to various activist groups, and politically mobilize to oppose prohibitionists, who not so long ago could count on their lies going unchallenged by any but a vocal minority.  The War on Whores has alienated enough people that a majority now support decriminalization, and support for sex worker rights is no longer the kiss of death for politicians.  The evolution of “sex trafficking” hysteria into a new Satanic Panic has many of the hacks who once eagerly spread prohibitionist wanking fantasies distancing themselves from the mythology and even debunking the tales they until-recently represented as facts.  As I wrote last year, “The younger activists, those in their twenties and thirties, have got this, and they are more than capable of carrying it; it’s time for older activists like me to move into a more advisory role…”  As part of that shift, I think it’s time for me to stop writing new essays on this topic, lest I grow irrelevant due to repetition.  Besides, I’ve already written plenty:

2011:  “International Sex Workers’ Rights Day
2012:  “Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs
2013:  “International Sex Worker Rights Day
2014:  “Sex Worker Rights Day
2015:  “Hands On
2016:  “The ‘Active’ in ‘Activism’
2017:  “Out and Proud
2018:  “365 Days of Activism
2019:  “More Than Ever
2020:  “Sex Worker Rights Day 2020

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or fear that our cause is hopeless, I suggest you read all of those in order; you may be surprised just how much things have changed for the better over that short span, and just imagine what the political landscape will look like in 2031 if things keep developing at the same rate as they have for the last three years.  We still have a very long way to go, and the fight will never be completely over until we as a species discard the wicked dogma that consensual behavior can somehow be a “crime”, and the pretense that inflicting violence on people is somehow “helping” them.  But it’s important to recognize the progress we’ve already made, and to draw from it hope for a better future.

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In the late Oughts, while we were building our house in Oklahoma, I received a phone call from a scientist who worked in wildlife conservation for the state.  He explained that a gas pipeline was going through our neighbors’ land; I already knew this because I had previously rejected the company’s offer to put it through mine, because the amount of compensation was inadequate to make up for having a 12-meter-wide path of destruction cut through my property.  The size of the right-of-way was the reason for the call; it seems our part of the state was one of the most important habitats for an endangered species of giant burying beetle, and this scientists’ job was to put out bait to draw the beetles out of the construction zone.  What he wanted was permission to come onto my land to throw out chicken leg quarters so as to attract the beetles, which bury small carrion (such as dead birds and squirrels) to lay their eggs in so the larvae have a food source.  I readily agreed, not merely because it was interesting, but also because I figured the more endangered species on my property, the more protection I’d have against gas companies trying to force their way in.  He didn’t have much luck with the bait, but mere hours after his final visit I happened to look down into the hollow where our water cutoff valve lay and saw a dozen of the critters, apparently unable to crawl or fly out of the piece of PVC pipe that kept the sides of the hole from collapsing.  So I dutifully called him to report them; I told him I wasn’t afraid to touch them, and could take them out one by one if he wanted.  He explained that since they were endangered, it was illegal for me to even touch them, and he asked me to put in a small slat of wood so they could crawl out (which they quickly did, each spreading its wings and flying off when it reached the top of the stick).

I thought about this last week because I saw a conversation on Twitter about the Fermi Paradox, with the participants expressing their opinions for why we’ve never seen any evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations.  One not-unusual suggestion is that some authority (a galactic empire or whatever) has declared us off-limits to contact, but that generally raises the objection that it’s egotistical for us to believe we’re worthy of that kind of protection.  But if intelligent aliens are at all like us, that might not matter.  Now, I’m not talking about a Star Trek-type situation in which most civilizations look like humans in makeup and everybody is of roughly the same general level of technology; I’m not even proposing a species like the one in my story “Millennium“, whose attitude toward less-advanced races is…let’s just say far too human-like for comfort.  All I’m suggesting is that if intelligence is rare, advanced spacefaring civilizations might consider all of it valuable, and could conceivably think of any intelligent species confined to a single habitat as “endangered”.  Most Oklahomans have probably never even noticed burying beetles, and few of those who know about them probably give a damn whether they go extinct or not; however, our governments have established laws to protect all endangered species, no matter how insignificant or unpopular to the general public.  They are, in fact, willing to expend considerable effort and resources to protecting such species, regardless of whether those species are relatively interesting or important in any way.  In other words, it might not be at all egotistical to imagine humans as a “protected species” to an advanced extraterrestrial civilization; they may not care about us specifically, but rather their own principles.  In other words, they may treat all young civilizations that way, even those they perceive as creepy little carrion-eating insects.

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The Constitution…also prohibits the government from using its immense authority to coerce private actors into censoring on its behalf.
–  Ben Wizner

A False Dichotomy 

Despite the authors’ use of prohibitionist terms like “trafficked into” (meaning “sold to”), insistence on pretending that Western cultural norms apply as clearly in impoverished Bangladesh as they do in middle-class London, and offensive presentation of cops and politicians as “rescuers”, the truth in this article still comes through:  that for girls in a brutally poor, overpopulated, patriarchal culture, sex work is often (as the authors themselves express it) “the least bad option”, even when those options include the monogamous marriage so beloved of the majority of white savior types.

Out of Control (#946)

What is wrong with doctors who do this?

A Stanford pediatrician has pleaded not guilty to…[trying to molest] an underage girl he met on social media…Dr. Dylan O’Connor…[sent] her [dick pics and]…requested [nudes] from…he[r, after which she apparently told her mother, who called the cops to set]…O’Connor [up].  He allegedly…brought a blanket and condoms with him, and [told cops he had]…a sex addiction [despite knowing as a doctor that there is no such thing]…

The Widening Gyre (#1005)

The “things on cars” branch of “sex trafficking” scarelore is driven by a kind of inversion of Occam’s razor:

Brittaney Strupe [of Ohio]…got engaged [on Valentine’s Day] and had plenty of leftover red roses…So [she]…her sister and daughter…[decided to] go to Walmart…[and put them on] vehicles [as a gift to others.  But when] customers and Walmart employees began to discover them [everybody succumbed to collective hysteria and]…called the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office…[which started spouting ridiculous fantasies about] human traffickers…on Facebook [where]…Strupe…[saw it and]…call[ed] to [explain, after which the cops vomited out “if you see something, say something”]…

“The mentally disturbed do not employ the Principle of Scientific Parsimony: the most simple theory to explain a given set of facts.  They shoot for the baroque.”  –  Philip K. Dick, Valis

Torture Chamber (#1040)

When government is in charge, things can always get worse:

…As a once-in-a-generation snowstorm walloped the Lone Star State…already-dire conditions inside Texas prisons…got even worse…33 prisons lost power and 20 had water shortages after the state’s electrical grid failed…prisoners ha[d]…no options to stay warm…there…[were] ne[ither enough]…extra blankets and jackets to…go around…no[r sufficient staff] to [distribute them because]…fewer [screws] showed up to work…staff [didn’t bother] to pass out medication…and…the food…bec[a]me [even more] inedible and…unidentifiable [than before]…prisoners with [secret] phones sent pictures of their increasingly pitiful meals…more than a dozen prisons lost some or all of their access to water…so…the toilets are overflowing with waste…Advocates for prisoners say these problems have been years in the making…

See also the final item below.

You Were Warned (#1046)

Australian politicians are just as invested in demolishing the internet as US ones:

Back in September…Facebook publicly sa[id] that if Australia went forward with its ridiculous attack on the open internet, and instituted a “news link tax” on Facebook and Google, that it would block news links on Facebook in Australia… and basically everyone ignored it.  So…when Facebook announced that it was no longer allowing news to be shared in Australia (and relatedly, no longer allowing the sharing of Australian news services on Facebook), it should not have been a surprise.  And yet…almost everyone started blaming and attacking Facebook…[the] company…deserves lots of blame for lots of bad things that it does.  But this ain’t it…the simple facts of the situation are that Australia — pushed heavily by Rupert Murdoch — has decided to put in place a plan to tax Google and Facebook for any links to news…This is fundamentally against the principles of an open internet …”search engine optimization” and “social media management”…[exist] because everyone else in the world has figured out that having prominent links on search engines and social media is valuable in its own right…[the Australian government’s position] is like saying that not only should NBC have to run an advertisement for Techdirt, but it should have to pay me for it.  If that seems totally nonsensical, that’s because it is…

You Were Warned (#1082)

Congress won’t stop until it controls the internet:

For the third time in less than five months, the U.S. Congress has summoned the CEOs of social media companies to appear before them, with the explicit intent to pressure and coerce them to censor more content…[using the pretexts of] “falsehoods about the COVID-19 vaccine” and “debunked claims of election fraud”…[politicians claim] that “these online platforms have…[enabled] grim consequences for public health and safety”…House Democrats have made no secret of their ultimate goal with this hearing:  to exert control over the content on these online platforms…[even though] Congress violates the First Amendment when it attempts to require private companies to impose…speech restrictions which the government itself would be constitutionally barred from imposing

Torture Chamber (#1093)

“Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, so I can torture and deport them”:

In Louisiana and Texas, immigrants seeking asylum are facing dire conditions [while locked in cages due to last]…week’s extreme cold.  At the South Texas Family [Concentration Camp]…parents and children have been living with overflowing toilets, thirst, poor hygiene, and [insufficient] heat…Twenty miles away, at [another] ICE [concentration camp, prisoners]…who complain…about the cold face…retaliation [from screws who] are turning on fans to make it colder…[some] have [even] thrown blankets into the garbage after [prisoners] complained…

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A few days ago I got a new subscriber at the top level, and it made me realize that it’s been too long since I thanked all of you for your support.  As I explained several years ago, “There’s something very comforting and flattering about getting those regular emails month after month; they say to me in no uncertain terms, this person admires you and cares about your work…I really do value those small but very regular payments, [and] not just because they help pay my bills…”  Of course, now that I’m semi-retired (and a year into the pandemic) the “paying the bills” aspect is even more important than it once was.  Of course, I value all of my subscribers, even those who can’t spare much or who find they need to cancel after a year or two.  But there’s a special place in my heart for those who subscribe at that top level, especially considering that a couple of you have been on board for seven years now!  I don’t really have any kind of premium system set up (as I’ve said before, marketing isn’t my strong suit), but I’d like to give my dollar-a-day guys an extra gift: if any of you don’t already have all of my books, please let me know and I’ll send you Kindle copies of the missing ones.  I know it isn’t much, but it’s at least one small way I can let y’all know how much your generosity and loyalty mean to me.

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Diary #555

I’m glad I was out at Sunset for this snowstorm (the deepest Seattle has seen since 1969, though not as severe out here on the coast), because as I’ve observed before, “when [Seattle gets snow] everything basically stops and absurdist-theater levels of hysteria ensue, complete with ridiculous terms like ‘Snowmageddon’ for a few inches of accumulation“.  By the time I drove back into town yesterday, the snow was all melted and with it all the extra-stupid driving (leaving only the ordinarily-stupid driving), but I can only imagine what it was like on Saturday, given that this is what it looked like out back at Sunset that morning (as you can see, the animals were active out there before I dragged myself outside).  The extra accumulation we had that night resulted in the shitty awning over the hot tub sagging badly, but as we’re planning to tear it down as soon as that part of the roof is in place, I hardly think it matters.  Since I have a proper rural pantry rather than something designed by authoritarian sociopaths, there was no need to go any farther than the barn and henhouse to take care of the animals.  And when one doesn’t have to go out in it, a moderate snowfall is actually kinda pretty. 

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Unspeakable

When one studies primitive cultures, one finds they always believe that words have magic power, for example the idea of a True Name, or not speaking the name of God aloud, or whispering certain words so as not to tempt evil spirits, or the idea that the very act of writing is a form of magic; consider that the Egyptian Thoth was among the greatest gods because he invented writing, and the Germanic Odin was said to have crucified himself to induce the vision that led to the discovery of writing.  We really haven’t changed much.  Take offensive words, for example; any reasonably-polite person will avoid words that he believes might offend his listeners, but many people nowadays are so terrified of the magical power of words that they avoid using a “bad” word even in the context of discussing the word itself rather than using it offensively.  And so we are forced to endure endless kindergarten formulations such as “the F word”, “the N word”, “the R word” (which I encountered for the first time this week), etc, as though the speaker or writer thought even spelling the word in question would summon Voldemort or Hastur the Unspeakable.  But such asininities are ultimately futile; I mean, is there any English-speaking adult who doesn’t recognize “f***” as “fuck”?  Of course not; the bowdlerized form merely becomes a synonym for the unholy combination of sounds.  This is what is called the “euphemism treadmill”; any euphemism eventually becomes the semantic equivalent of the Forbidden Word in the brains of listeners, so that it, too becomes contaminated and must be replaced with a new euphemism.  The process only stops when the negative associations do, and there is no shortcut.  It’s why I use old, new, clinical, and vulgar terms for whores mostly interchangeably; slapping a nice label on a stigmatized group doesn’t make oppressive laws and ugly propaganda go away.  For example, though many reporters are now using “sex worker” instead of “prostitute”, they might as well use the latter because the way they use it (ie the tone, accompanying adjectives, infantilizing statements about us, etc) is no different. The words aren’t the problem; bigotry, hate, and evil laws are.  It’s the same for every oppressed minority group, and subjecting someone to the fucking Inquisition because sinful sounds slipped forth from his larynx will change nothing except to make the world a poorer, uglier, nastier place.  So please, stop wasting your damned energy policing other people’s speech, and start using it to speak against policing others.

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Diary #552

I have never believed that special events necessarily require inviting a lot of people over; even when it’s just my family, I’ve always liked doing small special activities on certain nights or occasions.  Longtime readers may recall that I prepare a lot more feasts than most Americans do, all around the year, but I’m talking about even smaller and more frequent events, “micro-events” if you will.  For example, around the beginning of last autumn Chekhov proposed we do “Friday night movies”, in other words every Friday we watch some old horror or monster movie from the ’30s to ’70s, mostly from Universal, Hammer, Amicus, American International, etc; last Friday it was The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and our next will be X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes.  Once Daylight Mismanagement ended we added “epic movie night” on Sunday, featuring 3-hourish type spectacles (recent picks include the three Lord of the Rings installments and Fiddler on the Roof).  This past Sunday was Spartacus, so I made pizza because that’s how I roll.  Not only are these micro-events fun, they also help family members to remember what day it is without the usual weekday/weekend factory/cubicle grind most folks rely upon to keep that straight.  We’ll truncate our epic movies once Daylight Mismanagement restarts in March, then suspend them completely once the days start to get long, because I’m just not in the mood to watch long movies with sunlight streaming in the windows.  But hey, that’s something to look forward to picking up again in the autumn.

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Fuck Polaris.  –  Cathy Reisenwitz

Tales from the Dark Side

It’s a bad idea to even discuss such fetishes in writing with any amateur you don’t literally trust with your life:

…unverified screengrabs of…lurid text messages allegedly sent by actor Armie Hammer between 2016 and 2020 were posted by the Instagram account @houseofeffie…In one, Hammer professes his desire to “bite pieces off of” the recipient and eat her heart; in another, he says, “I am 100% a cannibal. I want to eat you. Fuck. That’s scary to admit. I’ve never admitted that before”…the screengrabs have not been verified, and Hammer himself has denied that they are legitimate…[NYC dominatrix] Empress Wu says…she was relatively unperturbed by the alleged…sexts: “they seemed pretty typically male dom-y, if not a slight bit extreme.”  (For what it’s worth, Hammer has talked openly about his fondness for kink in a 2013 Playboy interview, and was [criticiz]ed for liking a rope-play tweet in 2017)…But…[because] Hammer’s exes have come forward to allege inappropriate or nonconsensual behavior…Empress Wu says that the discourse surrounding [his] transgressions should focus less on his alleged kinks and more on the alleged consent violations

Original Sin (#321)

This steaming pile is such a sad regurgitation of all the usual anti-porn nonsense that I’m not even going to bother to quote it, but the link is there if you want to look for yourself.  It’s all there: the claim (rooted in US Evangelical Christianity, as you can see by clicking on the subtitle for the state of this propaganda eight years ago) that “sex trafficking” is caused by porn; the numbers pulled out of some prohibitionist’s rectum (though, interestingly, not up to date with the latest impossible “Walk Free” fantasy); the cop sharing his misogynistic masturbatory fantasies with anyone gullible enough to listen; the claim that all sex workers were molested as children (or that we still are children, sometimes both); the uniquely Floridian innumeracy (such as referring to two cases as “countless”); the mindless repetition of the latest high-profile propaganda from some arch-prohibitionist; the quotation of obscure fanatics in non-peer-reviewed publications as “experts”; the wholesale infantilization of adult women and the accompanying invalidation of our economic, sexual and psychological agency; and of course the usual list of astonishingly-vague “signs of trafficking” that could apply to half the human race.  For more of the same, peruse the tags “The Puritan Recrudescence” and “The Pro-Rape Coalition“.

Safe Position

Though this is becoming a safe position, we still have a long way to go:

[Politician] Tishaura Jones…in…her campaign [for mayor of St. Louis]…said she wants to “destigmatize and decriminalize sex work.”  Her campaign political director, Matt Rauschenbach…[appears to think all sex workers are drug-addicted, homeless survival workers; her opponent Lewis] Reed [shared his disgusting sexual fantasies about]…children…[candidate] Andrew Jones [bloviated about]…human trafficking and [compared women to inanimate objects, and]…fourth candidate…Cara Spencer, said [consensual sex is]…a serious problem [and emitted Swedish-smelling mouth farts]…

Held Together With Lies (#996)

Cathy Reisenwitz on the awfulness of Polaris:

Polaris is a Washington, D.C.-based [NGO that]…operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline (est 2007) which ostensibly exists so that sex trafficking victims can call for help and rescue.  In reality, the majority of the calls to the hotline are from “community members”…[and] most…are either nothing or adult, consensual prostitution.  When Polaris gets a tip…they send the information to [cops] and ICE.  Every “rescue” of sex workers through Polaris is an arrest by police or federal agents…Polaris forces women to stop doing sex work through arrest and the threat of imprisonment or deportation…Polaris [has] claimed, without any evidence whatsoever, that “all” of the 9,000 [Asian] massage businesses across the US “have some element of trafficking”…This is part of a growing racist assault on Asian business owners in the US…Polaris…“strongly opposed” a bill to decriminalize sex work in DC…Not only are they lying about their actual goals, but their tactics actually work at cross purposes to their stated goals…

Incidentally, this heading was rather arbitrary; Polaris is one of the most aggressively dangerous of the rescue industry propaganda mills, and its “National Human Trafficking Hotline” generates the absurd numbers quoted extensively in copaganda and puritans’ wanking fantasies by the simple expedient of counting every single call, whether from a cop, prohibitionist, reporter, hysteric, or anybody else (no matter what the reason for that call), as a “sex trafficking case”.  It’s also one of the chief culprits in promoting the racist myth that sex work is somehow akin to historical black chattel slavery; its name derives from the fact that escaping slaves in the antebellum South followed the star Polaris to keep moving northward toward freedom.  If you’ll search “Polaris” on this blog you’ll get scores of hits across many headings.

Stupor Bowl (#1017)

This pathetic public promotion of misogynistic masturbatory material appears to be all that’s left of the once-popular “gypsy whores” myth:

[Lying pigs] in West Florida have a[bduc]ted more than 70 people [over the past] month…[using the bogus excuse of] human trafficking …[they absurdly claimed it had something to do with] next month’s Super Bowl game [even though that is still weeks away]…the sting…[involved male cops fantasy-role-playing female sex workers] online…and [sows badly cosplaying] as prostitutes, resulting in the arrest of 71 men who [failed to exercise due diligence in seeking consensual adult] sex…[Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad] Chronister [then embarassed himself by loudly oinking creepy sexual fantasies involving women]…”forced to sell their bodies against their will”…[and made furtive movements in his pants while talking about] sex workers…being raped [but omitted the fact that most such rapes are committed by his own herd of swine]…

Winding Down

France becomes the first European country to start this conversation:

France is Europe’s biggest cannabis consumer, despite having some of the continent’s toughest laws against the drug…[so] a group of [politicians]…have launched an initiative to…encourage the French political class to be more open to the idea of legalising [it]…a citizens’ consultation [was] launched on January 13…[and] more than 175,000 people responded…compared to an average of 30,000 responses to such consultations…[the] objectives…[are] to better understand the French public’s views about cannabis, and to understand what government policies on the drug people want…

Social Distancing (#1094)

Another example of how “lockdowns” cause far more harm than good:

In Colorado’s three largest cities, rising number of homicides…attributed in part to the COVID-19 pandemic…tell a startlingly grim story of domestic violence…More than a quarter of those who died in Colorado Springs were victims of domestic violence…In Denver…aggravated assaults tied to domestic violence jumped more than 40%, totaling more than 1,000 in 2020…New Orleans-based data consultant Jeff Asher analyzed crime rates in more than 50 [US] cities.  Using data through September, he saw a 36.7% increase in murder rates…the largest one-year increase in murder in the nation’s history…

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