I saw this quote the other day, by Cristian Nestell Bovee, on a LinkedIn status, and I thought to myself, what a perfect way to think about overcoming childhood abuse.
There are many who would tell us that the pain of child abuse is so awful that it’s worse than death. That victims of horrific abuse would almost be better off dead. I’ve never been an advocate of that point of view, for this very reason.
As long as you are alive, there is hope. Hope in a better tomorrow, hope for healing, hope for happiness. I don’t care how horrific the abuse was, if you’re alive today, there is hope, because the future hasn’t been written yet, it is up to you.
I found myself nodding along as I read a recap of a presentation given by Connilee Christie, who works with children who report being sexually abused. Especially, this part:
Success often is measured on prosecutions, she said. In part, she said, because it is easily measured.
But that is not how the Children’s Advocacy Center in St. Louis measures it. The center abides by what is called the “Child First Doctrine,” which states:
“The child is our first priority. Not the needs of the family. Not the child’s ‘story.’ Not the evidence. Not the needs of the courts. Not the needs of police, child protection, attorneys, etc.”
“Sometimes that means no prosecution,” she said.
I’ve written before about the difference between “justice” and healing. Just because your abuser didn’t go to jail, or didn’t go to jail for as long as you thought they should, has no bearing on your ability to heal. I see the same sort of thought pattern in what they are doing for children in St. Louis. Yes, it would be wonderful if justice could be served in every case, but that’s never going to happen. We can do as much as we can to try and carry out justice in these cases, but getting a guilty verdict is dependent on so many things that are out of our control, as survivors, or those who wish to help them. It depends on being able to take the stand, having others do the same, having a jury believe you versus the person you are accusing, etc.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t pursue justice, but that can’t be the only goal, and the only definition of success. Success, when dealing with victims of sexual abuse is in getting them the help they need, keeping them safe, and getting them on the path to healing as soon as they are able. The best part, is that we can do that without waiting to see what the criminal justice system comes up with, and we can do it regardless of the results.
A survivor overcoming their childhood and learning to life a full life is just as much of a success as seeing their abuser convicted. But the two are not the same thing. Healing can happen regardless.
Sure enough, last week, one of the first tidbits of information that was given by the military, thus becoming the focus for the tragic shooting at Fort Hood was that the shooter, Ivan Lopez, had been treated for “mental health issues”.
John Grohol has the run down of the various news stories that came out in the wake of that information, blaming these mental health issues, or the lack of proper mental health care, as the reason for the shooting, when in fact, that probably had nothing to do with it. He also explains that the issues he had sought help with, probably had nothing at all to do with this.
We talk a lot about encouraging people to get help when they are suffering from PTSD, depression or any other form of mental health problem, but then we turn right around and make these connections between those who might have mental health problems, and violence.
Imagine if we told people that they should speak out about being victims of abuse so that they can get help in healing, and then every time a violent act occurred, we proclaimed that it must have been a result of them being abused as children, because “you know how those people are”. Would any one want to come forward and admit that they are, in fact, one of “those people”? Yet the media does the same thing with mental health issues all the time. Sure Ivan Lopez spent time in Iraq, and had sought treatment for some sort of mental health issues. So do thousands of other people, every day. Are they all just a mass shooting waiting to happen?
I don’t think so.
I’m going to just go ahead and admit, I was really moved by this clip. I think this is going to be a very interesting, and powerful movie about a survivor, and a family dealing with the effects of child sexual abuse. I’m even more impressed that it will be tackling it by looking at a family where there are male survivors. More male survivors need to know that they are not alone.
You can learn more, and support the project on the Kickstarter page.
The Healthy Place website is looking for some freelancers to work on mental health blogs over on their site.
Like they say on the tv show America’s Got Talent: “So you think you have talent?”
If so, we hope you’ll consider blogging for us. We are looking for mental health bloggers (paid freelance positions) in the following areas:
- Abuse Issues
- Anxiety Disorders
- ADHD in children (parent of a child with ADHD)
- Adult ADHD
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Eating Disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating/overeating)
- LGBT (relating to mental health and relationships)
- OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
- Parenting a child with mental illness
- Sex Issues
If you want to write a blog or do a video blog on another mental health topic, we’ll be happy to consider that.
It seems like a good way to share your thoughts on any of these issues, for those they choose to work with. If you’re interested, head over and check out the requirements!
Personally, I have enough trouble keeping up my own blogs to start another one over there, but it is tempting to be part of that network.
Given the recent post I made about the power of shame to lead people to all sorts of behavioral problems, I wasn’t at all surprised to find a recent study that claims that kids who talk about their abuse and neglect are less likely to suffer from PTSD.
A Penn State researcher finds an interesting differential among kids who developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of child abuse, and those who did not.
Chad Shenk, Ph.D., and his research team found that adolescent girls who experienced maltreatment in the past year and were willing to talk about their painful experiences, their thoughts and emotions, were less likely to have PTSD symptoms one year later.
So that tactic of not talking about and telling kids to put it behind them and move forward and forget it? Yeah, not so good.
Over on Theo Fleury’s website, there is a guest post today by Bob Spensley about having compassion for offenders, whether they be criminals, political oppresors, kidnappers or sexual predator.
Granted, this is not the most popular way to approach those who commit these acts, but I think Bob makes one good point, whether you agree with the rest of his theory or not.
If you are not moving towards compassion, the opposite and some would say more naturally reactive direction would be to feel hatred. What does hatred serve? If, like physical pain felt by nerve endings, it is part of a defense mechanism to let your brain/heart know to change your current situation- then good. Anger would then be useful to keep you safer, and it is good to listen to it. If you’re already in a safe-enough place and the trauma is not in danger of being repeated, however, then the hatred/anger will only serve to make yourself ill.
Reminder- It is not always the trauma event itself that makes you the most hurt. It’s often how people (including yourself) respond to the abuse that contributes to your difficulty (or relative ease) with your personal healing.
In a nutshell, how does feeling compassion for your offender help you to feel better? Once you see it’s the other’s issues and pain, it encourages the thought that the abuse was not your fault and you instantly have more energy to forgive and love yourself. And that’s really the goal in healing. The bonus is that if your intention for them to feel less pain comes to be, they’d be less likely to hurt another. Continue reading