So Long 2014 – Embracing the Adventure

Cross posted from my professional blog.

A funny thing happened the other day. I went back and read everything I wrote at the beginning of 2014. It made me laugh, because it was all about how the previous year had been dominated by big events, taking on a big new challenge at work, and spending 10 days on a European vacation, but 2014 would be more about the small day to day opportunities for learning and improvement.

Instead, I finished up 2014 starting a completely new job and living in Oregon. Ha!

That’s why the phrase to describe 2014 for me, and the thing I’m taking with me into 2015 and beyond is to “embrace the adventure.”

Obviously, the new job, and new location, are both situations where we decided to take on new challenges. We’re here because of a professional opportunity for my wife, and I’m at a new company for my own professional opportunity, but it’s not just about work. There’s a lot to embrace about living in a different part of the country, and some of the places I’ll get to travel to for my new job. A lot of it is new, unfamiliar, and maybe a bit scary, but that’s how we grow as individuals, by pushing the limits of our comfort.

We also grow by being open to new opportunities. It would have been easy to say that we didn’t want to move this far away, or to say that I wasn’t really looking for a new job when someone approached me about it. There wouldn’t have been anything wrong with either of those responses, by the way. But instead, here we are, and we are committed to making the most of it. Who knows how long we’ll be here, or where the next opportunity will come from? Obviously, being open to possibilities sometimes means saying yes to something that wasn’t exactly the plan you’ve drawn out for yourself. It’s a chance. Maybe it won’t work out all that well, maybe it will. Either way, I plan on embracing the adventure in 2015, and taking advantage of what is currently available to me.

Besides, doing more interesting things give me more to blog about, right? ;-)

I hope you can find your own adventure, and take full advantage of what life has to offer, this year. Who knows how many more we have?

If you’re looking for the annual photo round up of 2014, that is over on the photo blog!

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.

Brother and Sister Survivor Show How Secrecy Works

The latest episode of the Survivor Stories podcast, featuring Ben Glade and Annaka Vimahi, brought home two important things to know about child abuse:

1. How deep does the secrecy surrounding child abuse run? A brother and sister, 4 years apart, have no idea they were both being abused until they were in their thirties.

Think about that. When we talk about child abuse being a secret epidemic, this is a prime example. Abusers groom kids and do everything they can to keep them silent. Survivors grow up and face all kinds of stigma, so they keep silent, and the cycle just continues. The only way out is to keep talking, and let kids being abused, and adult survivors, know that they aren’t alone.

2. Survivors truly are all around us. We just don’t talk about it and therefore we don’t know how many people right in front of us can identify with what we are dealing with. We need more survivors willing to identify themselves and let it be known that they survived, and have overcome, childhood abuse.

What’s the End Result?

Tomorrow I get to do something that, according to statistics, is one of the things adult survivors of sexual abuse dread the most. I have to have some dental work done.

I was terrified going to the initial appointment for an exam, I’m terrified of going back to have this work done, and I’m terrified of the number of appointments I will have to have to fully complete the work. Luckily, we found a dentist here in Corvallis who specializes in sedation dentistry, so I will actually be sedated long before I step foot in the office tomorrow, but even with that added bonus, just the thought of being in a dentist chair makes me feel queasy.

The only thing that is getting me through this, and the thing I’m counting on to get me through this whole process is the knowledge that the end result will be worth it. I’m looking forward to getting these things fixed and moving forward.

I think healing from abuse is a similar reality. Some of the steps toward healing can be scary, and many of them won’t be all that pleasant. Facing what happened, and facing the self-destructive behaviors we’ve developed over the years to help deal with it can be pretty terrifying. Healing isn’t always pretty. Sometimes, it can be a lot like taking a drill in the mouth, but we do it because the end result is worth it.

A life beyond “surviving” is out there, and it’s possible, but you have to show up to each appointment to get there. Keep your eyes on the end goal and keep moving forward!

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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