Today was a good day for justice. Today was a good day for the Schipsi family, relatives, friends and the Santa Clara community. It could not have come soon enough. Fragile hearts were on the line. Today the judge ruled on whether to allow Bulos (Paul) Zumont to post bail. He has been charged with the first-degree murder of Jennifer Schipsi, a warm, generous and loving woman whose life was cut down in a violent act. Today, the prosecutor revealed a small glimpse into the kind of man that is on trial for the murder of Jennifer.
Today we found out that Paul was arrested and convicted of a domestic violence related offense in Washington State in 1994. While in CA, Paul added another two convictions for domestic violence related crimes against Jennifer. In fact, he was on probation for domestic violence at the time of Jennifer’s murder. We also learned that police found the human growth hormone in his home during the search of his property. By his own admission, Paul was using the drug. This drug is known to cause aggressive behavior. Today we were reminded that domestic violence breeds in families. While on the stand testifying in Paul’s defense, his sister acknowledged being a victim of domestic violence. I sensed it was something that slipped out. She blurted it out in the context of domestic violence not being a “big deal”.
I felt great sadness for this woman. Even at this point in our history, some women and men continue to hold on to the notion that domestic violence is part of life, “no big deal”. It’s a no big deal that robs a person of her soul, her spirit and chips away at her ability to believe in anyone ever again. It strips a person of trust and joy. Yet, it’s no big deal. Some small good could come from this horrible ordeal. Perhaps Paul’s sister will find that domestic violence is a big deal, that no one should have to live a life in fear of another human being. It is unacceptable and people who beat up other people in the name of love must be held accountable and face consequences.
Perhaps if when Paul hurt Jennifer the first time, his family would have expressed their disapproval and refused to collude with Paul, perhaps we would not need to sit in this courtroom. If when he turned to them for protection, they would have said, no you must face the consequences. We will still love you but you must stop this behavior.
Today I witnessed the connection between his family’s tacit approval of his prior bad behavior and his action in court. While sitting down at the defense table, Paul raised his middle finger in an offensive gesture directed at the mother of the slain victim. He smirked. Does Paul believe he will never face consequences; that he can walk through life shredding the lives of others and not pay for his deeds? Is that what he learned from his family?
If so, today Paul had a rude awakening. Today the judge denied his bail request. Today, justice was served and it’s just the beginning. If you would like to attend hearings and support the Schipsi family, please email me at email@example.com.
February 10, 2010
I am currently reading the book “Half the Sky” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. In the first few chapters, the authors cover forced prostitution and sex trafficking particularly of very young women. They frequently note that adult women choose the lifestyle and therefore are not in greatest need of assistance (paraphrased). First let me state that I really like the book. It has exceptional stories of women rising from the ashes and using their horrific experience to contribute to the greater good. On the whole, the book’s stories remind me that we are survivors. I also agree that childhood sex trafficking is abhorrent.
So you might ask “what is my problem?” Well, I want to explore the proposition that women choose prostitution. For some women, prostitution is a choice. But based on what? I believe the word choice is a misnomer. I think it is the result of the mainstream economic system’s deliberate (and successful) maneuvers to keep women from engaging in and benefiting from the established labor force in a meaningful way.
I parallel this to the mainstream economic effort to keep African Americans from participation. It would seem that we have an entire underground economic system in our country for them that exists primarily as a substitute to achieve economic sufficiency and attain wealth. It exists because African Americans have been systematically denied access to mainstream industry.
The problem with both alternatives lies in their danger. Selling drugs, other contraband and prostitution are a means to an end. These industries mimic “above ground” business in many ways however, except that violence is part and parcel of these industries and embedded in the rules of the game. Both underground economic systems wear on the psyche and body. Prostitution is dangerous at best. Incidence of substance abuse and sexually transmitted infection are much higher in the population of prostitutes. Physical abuse is the norm. Likewise, our prisons are full of participants of this underground economic system. In the end, death and imprisonment are the risks of this game.
If the need to maintain this alternative economic system suddenly disappeared and the doors to Wall Street and Main Street opened equitably to accommodate all, would those engaged in dangerous and risky activities choose the alternative systems? So…back to my original question, when we say prostitution is a choice, I ask you, is it really?