The Truth Matters

I’ve been disturbed by recent events in the media, and in our online communities. Disturbed not because we are talking about issues of child abuse and/or sexual assault, but disturbed because too many people are so attached to that agenda, that they are undermining it with their actions.

Simply put, it is never acceptable that someone lies about these things. Never.

As survivors, and as the survivor community at large, we depend on one thing, that the truth is on our side. That no matter how difficult it is to talk about abuse, and share our stories, it’s the sharing of those stories, and their underlying truth, that allows for healing. We talk a lot about shining a light of truth in the dark corners of sexual abuse, of bringing a difficult truth to light by talking about what happened to us. And then, when confronted with someone who has, obviously, simply made up details about being assaulted, we choose to “support” the greater message.

No, no, no, no! You cannot support an agenda that is wholeheartedly in favor of telling the truth with lies. There is no room for false accusations in our community. They undermine every single thing that this community should stand for. It disgusts me to see anyone quoted in the media about how the truth in any specific case “doesn’t matter” because the story represents a “larger truth”. No, it doesn’t. It supports the very opposite of our agenda. It shows that we are willing to lie to punish those with whom we disagree, that we are willing to allow others to lie to increase the numbers on our “side”. That’s not a movement toward healing, that’s a movement toward terrorism. (The fact that there are those who would also commit violence against any individual, or group, associated with any claims, true or not, only adds to the terrorist analogy, and should never be supported either.)

Look, you don’t have to like fraternities, or support one parent’s right in a custody argument over another, or think that men seeking out drunken “hookups” are a good thing. That doesn’t give anyone the right to make false accusations in order to punish those people. If we are going to have zero tolerance for anything, it should come to those who would undermine the entire survivor community by lying in order to get what they want. I don’t care how small the percentage of false accusations might be, one is too many, and none should be excused.

This is why, no matter how many times people send me petitions to sign, or causes to support, I rarely ever share them. I have no idea whether they are true or not. I’ve seen far too many claims of abusive fathers, or neighborhood predators that turned out to be nothing more than stories made up by those wishing to do them harm. I’m not interested in harming innocent people, or in ruining my own credibility, by passing on stories that cannot be verified in any way, no matter how much they might fit my agenda.

It’s time to put the truth first, and our agendas second. If the truth is on our side, and in the case of child abuse, I firmly believe that it is, then we have no business plying falsehoods. If your agenda can’t withstand the truth, maybe it’s time to rethink your agenda instead.

What Is There to Say About Adrian Peterson?

Reposted from my Sports Blog.

As a survivor of child abuse, I’m just not sure where to start with this whole Adrian Peterson story. I’ve been thinking about it all weekend, and trying to figure out what to say about it, and I think finally I do have some thoughts.

First off, let me just get this out of the way. Yes, lots of us can look back and say “my parents did this”, or “my grandparents used a switch” what’s the big deal? As Cris Carter said on TV yesterday, it’s 2014, we know better now, and those people were wrong to do what they did. Going out and getting a switch and beating your kid with it to the point where you draw blood and leave some vicious marks on their legs is wrong. (I won’t link to the photos, but trust me, they’re not pretty.) Stop trying to defend it. If you were beaten with a switch, you were abused, whether you feel like it was abuse or not. Whether it’s been going on in your family for generation or not. This doesn’t represent the “weakening of America” this represents a step forward in preventing injury and later issues for children. I do think we can have a reasonable disagreement over light spanking in certain circumstances, but beating kids with a switch should not be a normal part of any child’s life!

The tougher question is what to do about Adrian Peterson. I think it’s fairly obvious that he is a victim of his own upbringing. When he needed to be disciplined, he got beaten with a switch. This is a textbook example of repeating the cycle of violence. Adrian now has a chance to learn better, and to stop the cycle, because he’s been reported for child abuse.

This past weekend, he was inactive for the Vikings. That makes sense to me. He was indicted on Friday and had to go to Houston to turn himself in and post bail. That all occurred, and he didn’t play.

Now it’s been announced that the Vikings are going to let him play while the legal process runs it’s course. For most of us, if we were charged with a crime, after posting bail, we’d probably go back to work and await the rest of the legal process to continue. But, being a professional athlete isn’t the same as a regular job. You’ve got the extra media attention, you get the public relations nightmare of having this guy go out and represent your team on Sunday and so on. That throws a lot of other things into the fire. (By the way, if you want to know why Ray Rice was released by the Ravens only after the video went public, think PR. They stood by him and his suspension when they judged that the issue would blow over and people would root for him again, then when the video was released, they re-thought that idea and released him.)

As far as I see it, the Vikings are perfectly within their rights to play Peterson while they await the legal process. They would also be within their rights to release him outright and never let him play again. That’s their choice, and it’s your choice to make up your own mind about whether what they are doing is right or not. You can choose to protest the Vikings decision to let him play next week, boycott the team and the NFL, or any other option available to you. If enough people think it’s wrong to play him, and that response hurts the Vikings bottom line, it might just get them to change their mind. That’s how free markets work. As a survivor, I’d like to think that anyone convicted of child or domestic abuse would not be allowed to play any more, but what to do until they are actually convicted? I don’t know.

What I hope, more than anything, is that this situation and all of the publicity will help us understand the damage done to children by outdated, barbaric practices. Perhaps enough people who still view getting a switch as normal will begin to question these beliefs and end the cycle within their own families. I think we can all agree on that!

Irrational Fears?

That’s what Bruce Schneiner suggests is at the root of a story about a woman in South Carolina who was arrested for letting her 9 year old play at a park while she was at work. Now Bruce is an expert on security, and risk assessment and I tend to agree that we don’t assess the risks very well, especially when it comes to very emotional topics like protecting children.

Lovely Sunday in St. James Park. Oh, if you like the deck chairs, you can sit in one, for a price. ;-)
Now, without knowing the kid, the park, the neighborhood, the people in the park, or anything like that, I can’t say how much of a risk this truly was. I was allowed to walk to a neighborhood park as a 9-10 year old by myself for Little League games, so I don’t find the idea of a 9 year old hanging around a park by herself to be as shocking as some others might. I also know the truth about child abductions and abuse, that the vast, vast majority of them are the result of someone the kids already know, not the random stranger on the street. But, the random stranger on the street abducting a child does happen from time to time, and perhaps in this situation, leaving the kid there wasn’t the safest thing in the world. But, it also sounds like maybe there weren’t a lot of options here, which is a whole other blog post that I’ll let someone with kids write!

No, what I want to talk about are the irrational fears we have as a result of media attention. You see it’s the rare and random crime that gets the media attention precisely because it is so rare and random. A child being abducted due to custody disputes, or a child being abused by a family member, doesn’t grab headlines the way these other stories do, so you don’t notice it as much. Unfortunately, our brains are hardwired to pay attention to the risks that we see and hear, and those are the ones that make big news, rather than the risks that we take everyday.

So, it’s the “stranger danger” risks that grab our attention, because the stories are horrifying, but also because it’s the type of risk we feel like we can do something about. Managing the real risks of children being abused is hard. Figuring out how to keep kids safe from the much more likely risk, the people already around them, requires a lot more work and good ideas. But people don’t want to acknowledge the real rate of victimization, or imagine that kids are being abused by people they already know! It’s too scary to think about!
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TED Talks on Mental Illness

In light of yesterday’s news about Robin Williams, lots of folks have been reaching out on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to share their own stories of depression and other mental health issues, or make sure folks know where to go to get help, and that there is help for mental illness.

I even shared out my post from a couple of years ago about my story with suicide on Twitter and Facebook as well. It has been heartwarming to see so many, from all walks of life, coming out of the darkness and sharing their own struggles. I hope it’s something that continues. We all could do with feeling less alone.

TED Talks shared this playlist that I thought many of you might want to take a look at.

7 talks on the struggle of mental health.

There’s quite a lot there, real stories from real people dealing with metal health issues. Exactly more of the kinds of stories we need to be talking about if we hope to stop losing good people to the lies their illness is telling them!

Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds

Dr. Robert K. Ross giving a Tedx Talk at Ironwood State Prison. In it he talks about the long lasting effects, physical and emotional, of repeated childhood trauma. He also talks about courage and resiliency that can not only overcome the trauma, but better ourselves through it.

I have to admit, some survivors are some of the most courageous and resilient people I know. Others are the most self-destructive people I know, and some of those turn into the former category. This helps explain what is really going on.