Category Archives: Observations

When All Else Is Lost, The Future Still Remains

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.

Going Beyond Prosecution

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.

Challenging Thoughts on Compassion For Offenders

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

Blaming the Victim or Soothing Our Own Anxiety?

I know that as soon as I say anything about blaming the victim, your own thoughts about rape, abuse, etc. automatically get your back up. So be it. I’m not going to say that we should be blaming the victim, but rather, that in blaming the victim people are not engaging in the thought process that we ascribe to that behavior.

Let me give you an example. Teenage girl is raped, various people see the story, some of whom point out that she was drinking/smoking/out past curfew/dressed provocatively/hanging out with the wrong crowd/, whatever. Immediately, others will jump in, claiming this first group is “blaming the victim”, and what a horrible thing that is. They will instead point to society, using terms like rape culture, and misogyny to explain why this occurred.

To me, they are both doing the same thing, looking for a reason why this happened. Whatever you choose to believe is the reason for someone being raped, or a child being abused, or someone being murdered, we all instinctively try to make sense of it, to find a reason why it happened. More importantly, we want to find that reason so that we can convince ourselves that it will never happen to us.

Continue reading

Davone Bess and Metal Illness

Cross posted from my sports blog.

 

As someone who’s been interested in news about mental illness and also sports, I read Greg Doyel’s piece on Davone Bess, and whether the Dolphins had a duty to help Bess deal with his demons, or were free to trade him away and let it be some other team’s problem, with great interest.

On the one hand, as someone who went through a period of mental illness and clinical depression, and someone who was accommodated by a fantastic boss at the time so that I could continue working while getting help, I feel like the Dolphins acted poorly here. On the other hand, I also understand that getting help and following a treatment plan and building a support network, isn’t the employers job, it’s the individuals. The Dolphins couldn’t do the work for Davone, nor could the Browns. He has to do that, and it appears that he might not have. That is absolutely on him.

Of course, I wasn’t there when the Dolphins decided to trade away Bess, so I’m not privy to what the reasoning was. Does it appear suspicious? Sure. Could I make the football case for it as well,? Yeah. Bess was an “extra” slot receiver on the Dolphins, somewhat expendable.

So whether the Dolphins knew what they were doing and were just trying to get rid of a “problem” by dumping him on another team is debatable. Continue reading

Dehumanization

Colosseum

Back in November, as we were making our way around the Colosseum in Rome, I couldn’t help but think about the thousands of people who died in this arena. At the time, this was considered “entertainment”, and was used as a way to sate the mob of Rome. I began to think about our modern day culture and what was different about the way things were then. Sure, things were more barbaric in general, but this wasn’t a war, or a fight for limited resources. This was something altogether different.

This was real live people being murdered, or forced to murder others, for the simple purpose of entertainment. How depraved must the Romans have been to allow this to happen? Of course, I quickly realized that this could also be easily explained by one of the things I learned long ago in the professional world. When you do not see someone as a real person, it’s easier and easier to treat them in a less that humane way.

In the professional world, I used the phrase “People don’t yell at tech support when the person on the other end of the phone is the same person they were just talking to about their kids Little League game. They yell at nameless, faceless, tech support people.”

Looking back at the Romans, the gladiators, slaves, Jews, Christians, and others who were killed in the arenas simply weren’t real people. They might as well have been television characters for all the typical Roman citizen knew about them or interacted with them. So, since these weren’t “people” in the same sense that the people I work with, live with, and interact with, it was easy to start to explain away treating them as less than human.

Unfortunately, that same lesson continues to go unlearned. Whether it be someone who disagrees with us politically, someone guilty of poor taste, someone guilty of something more than poor taste, etc. Once the righteous online mob has a target, there’s no limit to what that target “deserves”, even if we would, in the same breathe, proclaim our undying support for victims of the same exact crime.

When our anger and indignation is up, it’s all too easy to forget that the target of that anger is also a person, not someone who deserves to be raped, shot, hung, and every other horrible thing you can think of. Yes, there are plenty of people who stay vile, stupid things. Some of them thought they were being funny, and some of them just happen to believe stupid things. That’s no reason to wish these things on them, or somehow rationalize that they deserve them to happen.

Bottom line, if no rape or abuse victim is ever to blame, then you can’t also argue that someone deserves to be raped. That goes for public figures who make horribly racist, sexist and even rape jokes, men in prison, no matter their crime, members of the KKK, or anyone else who we don’t like. They may not be people I want to be friends with, or be around at all, but they are people and they have rights as well, including the right not to be raped or murdered.

If we can’t wrap our heads around that, we will continue down the path of the Romans. Where people who aren’t like me aren’t really people. That’s no way for a society to work. Eventually, the mob will find something about you that’s different too.

One Reason I Love the Internet

Light a Candle for me

Last Thursday my grandmother passed away. She had been ill, and was 93 years old so it wasn’t a shock, but it was still a sad occasion, obviously. I was teaching an online course for a client on the West Coast so while I found out during an afternoon break, I wasn’t really done working until close to 8PM my time. So it was a bit later when I got time to return phone messages, after which I turned to Facebook as a way to let some of my friends know what was going on.

When I got there that night, something interesting was in the process of happening. I took a look at the Facebook profiles of a couple of my cousins, and realized that we were all doing the same thing. We spent much of the night looking at Facebook, sharing stories and photos with each other. Even though we are spread all over the place, the technology of Facebook allowed some of us to connect right in that moment and mourn our grandmother, instead of having to wait for all of us to travel to the funeral.

As it turns out, it was also the day that Nelson Mandela passed away, which made it even more interesting. Not only were my cousins, aunts, uncles and I sharing thoughts about my grandmother that night, but much of the rest of the world was also sharing thoughts and stories about Mandela on Facebook and Twitter. I got a really good glimpse at the ability of the internet to connect us during a world event, and to connect a small group over their own event, at the same time.

It was a vivid reminder of why I started a website in the first place and why I still see online social networking as such a powerful force for good in our lives. Sure, it has the potential to be a dangerous place too. Just like any relationship, we have to be careful who we connect with. But it also provides us with a chance to connect with people who share our interests regardless of geography. Whereas in the past when there had been a death in my family, I would find out about it and then spend the evening apart from my family, and only really get to share those stories and memories if I could happen to travel for the funeral, this time all of us could jump on Facebook in different states and across time zones, and connect.

Think about that for a minute. Thanks to the internet, we’ve eliminated the obstacles of distance and finding a mutual time to talk, or the time it would take for mail to get delivered, when it comes to staying in touch. We’ve even eliminated the obstacles of not having someone to share ideas and thoughts with. You’d be hard pressed to find a subject that someone isn’t blogging about, or doesn’t come up on Twitter. When a world event like the passing of Nelson Mandela occurs, we turn to Twitter to see what other people are saying about it, or get more information. When it’s something closer to home, we turn to the same place, where we can communicate with the group all at once.

I’m very glad that Facebook helped me stay in contact with my family at a crucial time, and I’m very glad that being part of the online world has helped me stay in touch with far-flung friends and family. I’m just as glad that being part of this online world has brought people into my life who I wouldn’t have met anywhere else. Both of those things have made all the spam, technical issues, and trolls worth it.