Tag: false shame

#MeToo and Why It Matters

#MeToo is a hash-tag “movement” that started on social-media several years ago, but is recently more in use.  More people are telling their stories of sexual abuse/ harassment.  More people are talking about sexual-abuse issues.

Some people feel the hash-tag for victims to speak up is not very helpful; those who voice their objection or concern usually go on to say it’s the abusers we should be naming.  I’ve heard a few celebrities express that view, but of the people I know personally, that argument has come more from young women (in their 20’s) than any other demographic.

I’d like to reflect on my current views regarding the pros and cons of telling our stories, (with or without naming offenders), versus keeping silence.  While all the components of sexual abuse and all the issues surrounding the subject are multi-faceted, and this is not a scholarly article on the topic, I plan to simply reflect on what stands out as most important for me right now.

  1. Anytime anyone tells their story of their experience of sexual abuse, they should be believed and affirmed for their courage to speak up.  Speaking up is one of the hardest things for a victim to do; it takes immeasurable courage.  While it’s true that some might tell a story that is untrue or only partially true (research tells us 2% of those who tell a story of abuse tell a false story); however, we also know there are many victims who never tell their stories to police or counselors or researchers or anyone who tabulates these statistics.  Odds are, if someone tells you they experienced abuse, they did.  And because it takes so much courage for true victims to speak up, listeners should always believe and affirm their courage.  Too much damage can be done when victims are not heard; that’s why so many don’t bother to speak out.
  2. It’s the victim’s choice to name or not name their abuser.  The most important thing for the victim is safety.  The next thing is healing, do whatever is best for their own healing and well-being.  All the things a victim does to heal and to grow towards wholeness and thriving are good and valuable because they are for their well-being.  The things we do to heal are not so we can help others or so we can help bring about justice or improve society, or any number of other goods that could later come of out of our healing.  The reason to heal is because you exist, you deserve to exist, and you deserve to become whole.  Because I believe in God, I would add: God created you Good and created you out of Love; your being is sacred because your Creator is Holy.  Any hurt or damage done to you by others does not undo the fact that you ARE Good, Loved-by-God, intended, and deserving well-being, healing, wholeness.

There have been many large impediments to my healing process because well-meaning people have urged me to “forgive and forget” thinking I need to forgive in order to heal.  That’s a myth too many Christians preach and never really examine.  It’s often the case that a victim of abuse must find sufficient safety before they can even begin to express their pain and anger.  Think of a rough, deep wound filled with dirt and gravel.  Would you simply cover it up or stitch it up without cleaning the wound?  Cleaning the wound might be analogous to daring to express one’s anger.  If you don’t properly and adequately clean a wound, even if the body can partially heal, closing or scabbing over the debris-filled wound, it will likely suffer from infection and other debilitating consequences which likely would have been avoided had you cleaned the wound.

I had a biking accident that instructs me a bit about such matters.  I was on a day trip with Out-Spoken.  We were cruising along in 10th gear with the wind at our backs.  Although the road had a slight downward slope, and we could have coasted, we were pedaling fast for the sheer joy of speed with little labor.  Off to my right there was a large school being constructed and one of my cluster-mates pointed at it.  I glanced to see what interested them and I remember seeing construction workers walking along beams up on top of the structure.  I was amazed at their balance and I looked a little too long.  I had turned my front wheel ever so slightly and slipped off the road.  It had an extra deep berm and I made the mistake of trying to turn back onto the pavement.  Before I knew it, I had wiped out and the biker behind me had ridden over my back!  I scraped and bruised all my limbs, but especially my right elbow was ground open and embedded with gravel.  I remember the Out-Spoken leaders called my mom and took me to a local ER.  My mother had to drive quite a distance (I don’t remember what we did while we waited for her), but she met us at the hospital.  The ER doctor numbed my right fore-arm, took dirt and gravel out of my flesh, and I remember hearing the scrubbing of my tissue!  The numbing agent worked so well I didn’t feel any pain, but I could feel the pressure they were using, and I could hear how hard they were scrubbing!  It nearly nauseated me, but I was grateful they were so diligent.  Even so, they weren’t able to remove every particle of debris and to this day (some 40 years later) I still have scars near my right elbow and you can even see bits of something black under the skin.  Thankfully it’s only a visual blemish and I experience no debilitation in that limb.

I’m very grateful that the ER doctor and nurses worked so hard to free me from as much debris as possible.  I’m also grateful for the use of a numbing agent in the procedure!  Even with the protection against severe pain, there was discomfort in the process of cleaning my wound, and I am grateful for the entire procedure/ process because it allowed me to heal more completely.

I have been blessed by God to have been able to receive and engage in stages of healing per my readiness.  Like I said, there have been some notable set-backs, but I have been able to see that most of my life has been directed by God in such a way that I have been protected from scenarios that would have been debilitating to me, and given opportunities where-in I could process the healing for which I was ready.  I credit God for this because no-one else could do all this for me.  I also credit myself for being able to see all this and make use of help.  I think my ability to heal (anyone’s ability to heal) is a testimony to the Goodness with which God created us.  However, even if you don’t believe in God or believe the way I do, I hope you can see and profoundly affirm whatever Goodness you find within yourself.  Find the Good and celebrate it!  (By “celebrate” I mean live it fully.)

This post has alluded to several other matters on which I hope to write, however I had intended to keep these posts to less than 1,000 words, so… more on these matters in following posts!

A special word for my blog followers and readers: THANK YOU!  Thank you for reading my words.  Thank you for listening with your head AND heart!  I find I need to write these words first for myself, and I need to make them available to the public because I refuse to harbor shame, but it is also tremendous GIFT that there are some who actually read my posts!  THANK YOU!

 

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I am a Survivor

I was a victim of abuse, but I have survived.  I am now a survivor, and I am working to thrive.  In The Courage To Heal Workbook Introduction (page 3), Laura Davis writes about the importance of language and what we call ourselves.  In my experience, a victim of child abuse often continues to feel like a victim long into adulthood, and to some extent or in various situations for the rest of their life.  And it’s true that once you’ve been abused, you are more likely to be abused again in some way or another.  Even so, it’s important, in fact essential, to recognize that that first abuse is no longer happening.  As Laura writes, if you were abused as a child and are now an adult, you have survived, you are a survivor.  To say you are a survivor doesn’t say much about where you are today in your healing process, but it says a great deal about you, a great deal about your spirit.

In my own case, I have come to realize that I have too often thought of myself as weak or powerless because as a victim that was a significant experience of my victimization, but the equally significant truth is that I am also extraordinarily strong and capable.  My strength or power of the highest order is that I want to live, that I value my life, that I recognize my being as unique or distinct from others and it is right and good that I should favor my existence.

When a child or youth is abused in any way there is often a false-shame that comes with the abuse.  This is because the child/youth isn’t able to recognize that the adult is responsible for their bad behavior and it is not the child/youth’s fault they have been abused.  The shame is false because the child/youth is not responsible for their abuse, yet it is a powerfully debilitating component of the experience and it is a huge challenge to over-come it.  Yet, hidden within that ugly lie of shame is a kernel of truth: the child/youth is experiencing somewhere within themselves how wrong it is that they should be experiencing the abuse — even though they think about in a wrong way.

Today I recognize that the shame I have felt from being abused is now an energy/perspective I can embrace and convert into tenderness for my younger self — I imagine my adult, motherly, self wrapping my arms around my child-self and saying “Yes, my dear, you are so right: that ugliness you experienced is ugly, but you didn’t create it; it didn’t come from you.  Your innocence was taken advantage of, and you suffered abuse, and I am so sorry.  But your beautiful spirit is still alive and vibrant.  You, my dear, are beautiful.  You are truly amazing.  You are courageous.  You survived with so much original-goodness still intact.  And you can heal.  You will become whole.”

Because I am a Christian, because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my healing process naturally involves the companionship and healing power of my Lord’s Presence.  So I will often end these reflections with a verse from Scripture or a prayer that expresses my experience of the Lord’s healing work in my life.  But if you are someone who is not a Christian, I invite you to seek and find deep within yourself the God-space we each have in our Being.  I’m not trying to be “new-agey” or “tolerant” or “politically correct” or what have you.  I simply recognize that every human-being has within them a Sacred Self.  I believe our Sacred Self is the Image of God, our Loving Creator.  If you currently have a different belief system about this reality, fine, I respect it.  The reason I can is because my faith in Christ reveals to me that everyone, Everyone, has access to the path to God.

So, for today’s conclusion, I simply invite you to find that space within yourself where you cherish your being.  Let your adult self sit with your child self and love her/him, thank your child self for surviving, and embrace her with the grace of recognizing her goodness.