Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why Taekwondo Won't Save Girls From Date Rape

When asked what should be done about the high rate of sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses, the winner of this year's Miss USA pageant responded that women need to take it upon themselves to learn self-defense. The pageant winner, Nia Sanchez, is a fourth-degree black belt in Taekwondo. Having lived briefly as a young girl in a woman's shelter with her mother, Miss Sanchez learned Taekwondo to increase her sense of security and self-confidence. She intends to promote the art of self-defense for women in her position as Miss USA 2014.

Although women's self-defense is a noble goal, it may do little to cut down the incidence of rape on U.S. college campuses. 1 in 4 of U.S. women of college age have been raped, according to statistics from here. Other estimates put the rate as 1 in 5, but well-known columnist George Will has argued that even a 20 percent assault rate is preposterously high. Part of the confusion is in the definition of rape and particularly date rape, or acquaintance rape as it is sometimes called.

Date rape is defined as "the crime of forcing someone you know to have sex with you especially while on a date." The term did not even come into use until 1975. The existence of such an offense was questioned because date rapes typically involve threatened rather than actual force, and the threat is frequently in the eye of the beholder. According to some statistics, 84% of men who have committed date rape do not recognize that their actions constituted rape. In contrast, 27% of female victims of date rapes do not realize that what happened was legally rape.

Precisely because date rape frequently lacks explicit violence, self-defense measures like hand-to-hand combat may not provide any protection. In addition, approximately 90% of date rapes involve alcohol. The impaired mental and physical function that results from over-drinking makes it difficult to use self-defense techniques effectively. Women who know their attackers may also feel reluctant to use violence against them or make a scene.

The psychological pressure and manipulation used by the date rapist may completely undercut the woman's motivation to use the self-defense techniques she knows. The man may call her a tease or accuse her of leading him on. He may ply her with alcohol. He may tell her he's through with her or not interested in pursuing a relationship with her unless she succumbs. She may be unwilling to provoke a confrontation that would lead to violence.

A woman may find herself in the middle of an internal war -- should she focus more on protecting herself or on sparing the feelings of her date? If a woman agrees to go out on a date, a basic level of trust has already been established and a woman may expect that her wishes will be honored. The website of one U.S. university has found it necessary to tutor women in the art of rejection:
Don't smile. Sometimes when we are uncomfortable or don't want to hurt someone's feelings we smile when we say no and this does not communicate clearly how we are really feeling.
The website further recommends that women shout the word "Stop!" or cause a scene. The underlying implication is that many young women are reluctant to take even these mild measures to protect themselves. Self-defense classes might not replace an instinctual desire to salvage a relationship with the equally innate response of a punch to the nose. Strength of will in that circumstance matters more than knowledge of the martial arts.

While Miss USA 2014's assertion of female power is laudable, I predict that more martial arts training for women will not adequately stem the tide of campus sexual assault. What more, then, can be done? The White House has launched an initiative to encourage women to file complaints against their schools. Carolyn Moynihan, deputy editor of MercatorNet, has put the onus on parents rather than schools or the government, arguing that the best prevention method is for parents to train boys and girls in chastity from an early age.

In addition, parents of university-age children might want to consider the following:
  • sending their child to an urban commuter college, such as those in the New York City area, and allowing their child to continue living at home
  • choosing a religious school, such as a private Christian or Catholic university, that takes the good behavior of its students extremely seriously
  • at a minimum, choosing to house your son or daughter in a single-sex dormitory
The basic rule of self-protection for young women should be don't be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That includes a man's room, his apartment, an alcohol-laden fraternity party, or even a well-known "party school." Staying far out of harm's way is the best form of self-defense.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

CatholicMom Interviews Me for their Catholic Blogger Series!

The unfailingly amazing Sarah Reinhard, author of 5 books and blogger for the National Catholic Register, New Evangelizers, and many more, interviews me today for the Catholic Blogger series on 

"Yes, I can say I knew Karee Santos when…when she was debating whether she should blog, determining how to build a platform, and, most critically, discerning whether blogging and writing fit into her vocation as a wife and mom.

I’ve long admired Karee’s ability to say no and her enthusiasm for saying yes. Her blog, Can We Cana?, is designed to support marriage and family. She and her husband began teaching marriage prep 11 years ago, and she’s hosted marriage retreats and her book proposal’s been accepted by one of my favorite Catholic publishers.

Karee also writes here at and she has contributed to the National Catholic Register, Faith & Family Magazine, Catholic Lane, and Amazing Catechists. Karee’s passion shines through, and it’s a light to those around her. Enjoy our interview!"

For the rest of the interview, head over to by clicking here!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Of Lust, Love, and Demons: A Review of Tobit's Dog

The Biblical story of Tobit's marriage to Sarah, whose previous seven husbands had been slain by demons, has been cleverly reimagined in a new novel (released April 2014 by Ignatius Press) called Tobit's Dog, by Michael N. Richard. The novel is set in the backwoods of Depression-era North Carolina. The plight of blacks in the Jim Crow South parallels the plight of the 7th- and 8th-century Jews during the time of wars, deportations, and exile that formed the backdrop for the Biblical tale of Tobit.

Tobit's Dog combines elements of a young man's journey into adulthood, a love story, and a murder mystery. Tobias must collect a debt due to his blind and poverty-stricken father, lift the cloud of scandal from his bride-to-be Sarah, and discover who killed Sarah's former fianc├ęs.The novel's plot closely follows the Bible story, with the character Ace Redbone (i.e., the Archangel Raphael) safely delivering Tobias, the son of Tobit, to meet his wife-to-be, his distant relative Sarah. Tobias and Ace together drive away the scourge that has been plaguing Sarah and her family. Tobias then returns to his parents to cure his father from blindness and to present Sarah to them as his bride.

Though mentioned in the title, Tobit's dog Okra is not a central character, nor is the story told mainly from his viewpoint. Interestingly, Tobit's dog does appear in the original Bible story. My 1899 Douay-Rheims translation notes:
The dog, &c. This may seem a very minute circumstance to be recorded in sacred history: but as we learn from our Saviour, there are ... things that appear minute, but which have indeed a deep and mysterious meaning in them.

Tobit's Dog attempts to tease out this deep and mysterious meaning. The character of Okra the dog is a protector, but above all a watcher. His name, the book explains, comes from an African word meaning soul. As the story progresses, the angelic character Ace Redbone praises Okra, saying "What a marvelous beast you are becoming." The book projects the sense that a soul, like the character Okra, that is alert for supernatural signs and guarded against supernatural evil will eventually flourish.

The novel reaches its climax when Ace and Tobias face the demons of lust and greed that have been haunting Sarah and her family. The character representing lust has a friendly face and isn't immediately recognizable. But the demon's defeat comes when Ace confronts it directly with the words "Have you actually believed that I do not know you?" Sometimes the best way to defeat lust is to look it in the eyes and name it for what it is.

Lust is a central theme in the Old Testament Book of Tobit. Unlike in Richard's modern retelling, the Biblical character Tobias defeats the demons himself by using the Archangel Raphael's advice to take his wife to the marriage bed not in lust but in love. In a stirring speech, Tobias tells Sarah:
For we are the children of saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God. ... Thou madest Adam of the slime of the earth, and gavest him Eve for a helper. And now, Lord, thou knowest, that not for fleshly lust do I take my sister to wife, but only for the love of posterity, in which thy name may be blessed for ever and ever (Tb 8:5, 8-9).
These ideas may seem old-fashioned in light of modern sensibilities, which tend to separate sex from procreation. People today like to pretend that making love has nothing to do with making babies. We see sexual pleasure as a great good, but babies as a burden and sometimes as a punishment. For the Jews of the Old Testament, on the other hand, children were always seen as a blessing.

The novel Tobit's Dog reawakens the sense of family members as blessings to one another. Tobit's deep spiritual wisdom and his faith throughout his blindness inspire those around him. Tobit's wife Anna perseveres in her love and care for her disabled husband who is no longer able to work to support her. And Tobias brings back hope to Sarah's entire family when he defends Sarah against the gossip and scandal that had nearly destroyed her. The characters of Tobit's Dog are uplifting examples of every-day heroes who change their corner of the world for the better and show us how we can do the same.

Click here to order the book from Amazon and here to order it from Barnes & Noble. My thanks to Ignatius Press for providing me with a free review copy.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to Stay Married 10 Years and Then Some: A New Series on the Blog!

I'm thrilled to announce a new blog series featuring relationship advice from couples who have been married for 10 years or more!  How to Stay Married 10 Years and Then Some is the brainchild of my awesome husband, Manuel P. Santos, M.D., who has counseled many couples in his therapy practice. Several people have already signed up to share their wisdom and their stories about finding a spouse, navigating the newlywed years, and venturing into parenthood.

Posts from this great series will appear once a month, starting this July. Anyone married 10 years or more can be a guest poster, so please volunteer! All you have to do is send me a family pic and the answers to these six questions:

1. How many years have you been married and how many kids do you have?

2. Name 3 things that have helped you to stay married this long.

3. What role has your faith played in your marriage?

4. What advice would you give people who are dating and considering marriage?

5. What advice would you give newlyweds?

6. What advice would you give new parents or couples who are trying to have children?

If you're interested, just respond in the comments below or email me at And enjoy the series!

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

So I was having lunch with Jen Fulwiler...

A picture's worth a thousand words, so when I went off to lunch with super-popular author Jen Fulwiler and 7 other lovely ladies I was dead set on getting a picture. Except then I forgot. "You've got to Photoshop something," one of my friends insisted. So with Jen's permission and the guidance of my 9-year-old daughter, I produced this expertly-crafted image, which proves beyond doubt that Jen and I were in the same room on the same day having lunch together. Who says old bloggers can't learn new tricks?

Jen and I lunching together. Clearly.
The reason I forgot a picture was because the conversation was so awesomely distracting. We started off talking about recipes, since women do cook. The equivalent for men would be something like "How 'bout those Mets?" The discussion quickly moved on from the genius of bacon-stuffed deviled eggs to who are you, where do you blog, and what was your favorite part of Jen's new memoir/conversion story Something Other Than God, recently released by Ignatius Press.

Jen was actually in New York as part of a book tour and my friend Nona managed to get Jen and the Ignatius Press publicity people to fit us into the schedule. Cardinal Dolan's office apparently tried to set up a meeting between the Cardinal and Jen, but our luncheon had already been planned. "So he got bumped for you," Jen joked. I was shocked that the Cardinal and Jen weren't already, you know, drinking buddies or something, but Jen explained that the Cardinal's endorsement of her book was handled through assistants. (So that's how it works!)

Jen's next stop after lunch was the Pauline Bookstore in mid-town Manhattan and then on to a talk the next day at the office of First Things, a highly influential journal of religion and public life. Jen expressed some nervousness about whether New York City was really her target audience, musing that she might get a better reception in the suburbs. As if the conversion story she relates in her book, which has been compared to St. Augustine's Confessions, would only be of interest to suburban housewives. Not surprisingly, every single book that Jen brought to her speech at First Things was sold out.

Although Catholic readers are of course her base, Jen strongly wanted to reach outside the Catholic bubble with her book. A conversion story, after all, should convince people to convert, and that won't happen unless non-believers read it. So Jen hired a very secular-minded Jew as her editor to make sure that every anecdote was accessible to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. And atheists are definitely interested in Jen's story of how an atheist found God -- on a day that her personal blog was featured on, which has attracted a large number of young, atheist followers, Jen's blog received over 150,000 hits.

Jen said that she rarely meets Catholics outside of Mass and parish events, and that she wondered how missionaries managed centuries ago while they were surrounded by people ignorant of and even hostile to faith in a Christian God. Sounded like a great idea for a follow-up book to me, but Jen insisted that she was staying focused on her current book and on her husband's new business venture. She definitely won't stop networking, though. She's planning on setting up conferences for Catholic women, first in her home state of Texas and then elsewhere, but she's looking for more mingling than meditation. Catholics, particularly those who are well versed in their faith, have a real need to connect with each other on a personal level, Jen has found. "Like this lunch," she grinned.

Forming these close personal connections helps us realize how many different faces Catholicism can wear. Every Catholic can witness their faith to the world just by remaining totally themselves and totally Catholic. Jen abhors the negative stereotype of a "good Catholic" as being an unappealing and hopelessly out-of-touch woman in a floor-length skirt with bib overalls. "I thought about that when I started to convert, and I realized I just can't do that!" At nearly six feet tall with long red hair and a glamour-girl smile, Jen clearly won't be succumbing to the bib overall look any time soon. But, God willing, she'll be attracting a lot of people to Catholicism with the story of her conversion and her beautiful personal witness.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to Listen When God is Speaking to You

God speaks to us constantly through ordinary events and signs, but we aren't always listening. We need to open our ears to hear his supernatural suggestions. As Jesus said, "let him who has ears to hear, hear." How do we fulfill this desire of Jesus?

1. Place ourselves in God's presence. Don't be too busy to pay attention to God.  Take a few minutes to pray every day. Go to daily Mass if you can. Bask in an hour or more of Eucharistic Adoration. Best of all, take a day or weekend away for a silent retreat. God speaks to us in the silence. Particularly if we don't pray or go to Mass every day, a retreat can be a great way to reboot our spiritual life. Are you happy with your life right now? Is God happy with your life right now? A retreat can be a great way to discover answers to problems that you've been putting on hold for too long. And that's exactly what happened on my last retreat.

2.  Be alert to the unusual. I went on retreat a few weeks ago with the intention of listening to God but also figuring that I could finish writing the book proposal that was due to be submitted to the publisher a week later. God's response was to hit me with the worst case of writer's block ever. Having worked for 10 years as a lawyer who read and wrote for a living, I could never have afforded to get writer's block and I pretty much never did. Getting writer's block in the middle of a retreat was equivalent to God launching rocket flares. He was trying to tell me something. But what was it?

3. Don't be stubborn. Knowing that God was probably urgently trying to talk to me, I still ignored him. For an entire day of that weekend retreat, I struggled to eke out sentences at a snail's pace. None of them was worth the paper they were written on. Knowing the deadline was looming, I told myself I had no choice. Then I remembered that my life belonged to God, my intelligence belonged to God, and my book belonged to God as well. He could take it all away in an instant if he thought it jeopardized my eternal salvation. My stubbornness was about as foolish as a toddler's refusal to go to bed. Whatever God wanted would happen eventually, regardless of how much I fought it.

4. Give God what he wants. Despite my rising panic over the deadline, I promised God an entire day just for him. I cried, I prayed, I sought spiritual direction, I went to confession, and then cried some more. Without my work as a crutch and as an escape, I was forced to confront certain experiences in my life that were deeply troubling me. Chronic fear had invaded my mental landscape and it was choking my ability to love God, my husband, and my children. God didn't care about my book at that instant. He cared about the fact that my spiritual life was a mess and I wasn't willing to admit it. He wanted me to abandon myself to him in a radical act of trust. Only by giving God what he wanted would I be able to move forward in hope. Giving God what he wants will always result in doing what's ultimately best for us as well.

So let's try to listen to God's voice and hear with our supernatural ears. Tuning him out will only prolong our unhappiness and our struggles.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Love Notes from God

When I asked which Bible verse makes people feel most loved, the answers were surprising. Very few verses mentioned love at all. Many people were deeply affected by descriptions of Jesus' agony, suffering, and death on the Cross to save us. Others were amazed by all God had promised to give to us and how close he had to be, how far he had to stoop, to give us these gifts. But everyone had a different favorite. It made me realize how intensely each line of the Bible speaks to us. God's strength and love shine through his Word with the power to pierce every human heart.

Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium emphasized that God's love is the starting point for every evangelical effort. Without immense confidence in God's love, a person cannot take God's word to heart. Think of the parable of the sower (who is God) casting his seeds into good and bad soil (the hearts of men). The seeds of God's word only flourish in the good soil. But what makes the soil good? It must be tilled and prepared. It must be made ready.

Some people have naturally ready and open hearts, but many of us are cautious, closed, distrustful, even afraid. We can't always feel the love of God. But we can stir up that love like stirring up a fire that has grown low. We can practice gratitude, we can seek out beauty, and we can feed on God's words of love to us.

Here are some Bible verses that touched others' hearts. Let these verses stir up your love for God. And feel free to add your own in the comments!

1. He knit you together in your mother's womb (Ps. 139:13).

2. Even if a mother forget her child, he will not forget you (Is 49:15).

3. You have ravished his heart (Songs 4:9).

4. As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you (Is 62:5).

5. His plans for you are for good and not for evil (Jer 29:11).

6.  He will refresh you when you are weary (Jer 31:25).

7.  He will heal your broken hearts (Is 61:1).

8.  He will take away your sickness (Dt 7:15).

9. He will wipe away every tear from your eyes (Rev 21:3-4).

10. He will cover you with the robe of righteousness (Is 61:10).

11. He will not leave you lonely (Jn 14:18).

12. He will never forsake you (Dt 31:6).

13. He will stay with you always, even to the end of the world (Mt 28:20).

14. He has come that your joy may be complete (Jn 15:11).

15. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 Jn 4:16).

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