Tag: silence

#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 Know Because It Happened To Me

“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted.  Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality.  You can say: This did happen to me.  It was that bad.  It was the fault and responsibility of the adult.  I was — and am — innocent.”

(TCTH, p.27)

I know people who don’t have any comprehension of what it means to have been sexually abused as a child/youth, and in their ignorance they somehow (almost always) leap to “why didn’t you tell anyone?”  There are many answers to that question, but one of the things that is so offensive about it is that it possibly implies the continued abuse is the fault of the child/youth because, in not being able to tell someone or to get an adult to believe/understand them, then maybe some of the fault is with the child/youth.  Why isn’t the first question adults ask in the face of abuse stories, “who was the jerk?” or “where were the adults who should have stopped the pervert?” or “why is society so blind (and to some degree complicit)?”.  Or better yet, rather than ask a question that would put the victim on the defense or responsible for explaining perverted-adult-behavior, simply say  “I am SO sorry you experienced this terrible offense against you!”

I will be writing much more in future posts about my experience of having my experience trivialized/ distorted, but for now I simply want to say to my peers, my fellow-survivors: now as an adult, I am so sorry you experienced this heinous offense against your sacred, innocent person.  And I am so grateful you survived.  I pray you will find the strength within to advance your healing; I pray you will find wholeness.

Break the Silence


“No matter how committed you are, it is extremely difficult to heal from child sexual abuse in isolation.  Much of the damage experienced is the result of the secrecy and silence that surrounded the abuse.  Trying to heal while perpetuating that lonely silence is nearly impossible.”  (TCTH, p.22)

*TCTH = The Courage To Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

I can’t be silent any longer.

There is so much in the news these days about sexual abuse against children and youth.  Every time I see or hear one of these stories my body goes into excruciating tension and my stomach hurts violently.  I want to vomit.  I want to turn my body inside out and reject the whole world.

I was sexually abused by a teacher for seven years. I was 10 years old (soon to turn 11) when it started, and 18 before I was able to say a clear “No!”  The abuse started as unnecessary and inappropriate touching during clarinet lessons.  The abuser gradually advanced to more explicitly sexual acts.

My parents, my community (school, church, town) didn’t know much if anything about what was going on until I became suicidal.  And then, whether they knew that part or not, they thought of it as “an affair.”  To this day there are people who think a teacher can have an “affair” with a student.  That makes me so sick to my stomach.  I need to vomit out (reject vehemently) the lie that anyone who has power or some form of authority over you can have “an affair” with you.

When a teacher or boss or anyone with power/authority over you makes sexual advances on you, that is NOT any kind of mutual relationship.  Even if the child wants some form of attention (in my case, I wanted a music teacher who would help me develop my talent), it does NOT mean the child/youth wants or agrees to everything the abuser of their vulnerability does.  That’s the initial abuse: the pervert takes advantage of your innocence, naiveté, vulnerability.

Before adults voice idiotic opinions about adult behavior perpetrated on children or youth, they should learn about predatory behavior, they should read about sexual abuse, they should learn about how those of us have been abused during formative years suffer for the rest of our lives.  Even if we survive, even if we figure out how to “thrive,” the abuse from those years has damaging effects for the rest of our lives.  The psychological damage is often hidden, but extremely painful.  But too many adults don’t want to know about these matters; it’s just too ugly or too awful to think about.  Or for some adults, those who have experienced some form and some extent of abuse, they don’t want to think about these things because they aren’t ready or able to face their own pain and issues.  For some adults, they don’t want to learn about abusive behavior because they realize they do some of the same crap, but they think it isn’t “that bad.”  For too many mostly-healthy and for-the-most-part intelligent adults, they don’t want to face the facts about abuse because they don’t know what they can do about it, and it’s just easier to ignore or deny the reality that children and youth in their community are being abused by trusted adults, some of those adults being people they know!

For the longest time I have been silent.  There are all kinds of reasons I have been silent.  But I can’t be silent any longer.  I have to begin.  I have to speak.  That was my first problem.  I couldn’t speak out.  For the longest time I was completely alone.  My voice was paralyzed, shut down.  By the time I got any help from caring adults, my story was narrated as a “sinful” “affair.”  I was made to confess my “sin.”  I went along with that because it was a way to get away from the abuse and a way to survive, a way to literally live.

Can you imagine knowing a 10-year-old girl who is being touched and conditioned to receiving more touching by a 23-year-old teacher, and thinking that’s okay?  Can you imagine knowing a 13-year-old girl who has never been kissed on the lips before being forcibly kissed by a 26-year-old teacher, and calling that some kind of mutual relationship?  Can you imagine a 14-year-old girl being sexually violated by a 27-year-old teacher and calling that an affair?  Can you imagine discovering your daughter has been secretly cutting herself and has attempted suicide several times, and when you investigate how to prosecute, a judge tells you “it takes two to tango”?  Can you imagine that the only thing you can do is to keep your daughter at home and to have a restraining order issued against the abuser?  And the abuser continues to teach???  Can you imagine?  Maybe not today.  But that’s how it was for me and my parents.

It doesn’t matter how mature the child seemed intellectually.  It doesn’t matter how gifted she was musically.  It doesn’t matter how much she wanted a father-figure’s attention to help her advance in her potential as a human-being.  It doesn’t even matter if she learned to experience some physical pleasure in the unwanted sex.  That experience of combining pleasure with abuse is one of the most debilitating forms of abuse there is.  When you are abused in your formative years, the abuse is not just a series of acts you experience; the abuse is that you are formed by perverted behavior, and that no adults in your life managed to protect you from it.

The fact that ALL of the adults in my life failed to protect me from sexual abuse is part of the profound pain that I have to overcome.  The fact that some of the adults were completely inept and even did further harm to me has made the abuse that much more complex and difficult to address.  The fact that the abuser continued to attempt to contact me every where I lived, and was able to do so BECAUSE they had been embraced into my former religious community and had access to my information, should tell us all so many things: and I will be telling them.  I’m done being silent.

There is so much more I have to say, that is my story to tell and that I must say.  There is so much more I will say.  There is so much more that must be said.  I will be silent no longer.  I am no longer a victim.  I am a survivor, and I will tell my story.

I will try to provide some links for those who want to learn more about these issues, for those who need help for themselves or loved-ones, and for those in crisis.  I will provide those links in a future post and will make that post an easily accessible page.  For now, I recommend ASCA: Adult Survivors of Child Abuse.  http://www.ascasupport.org