Category Archives: Observations

How We Make It Harder For Kids to Tell

I was dismayed, though not surprised at all, when I saw a number of Facebook users and pages link to an article about an inmate convicted of child molestation being murdered in prison.

The posts were, for the most part, followed by near unanimous comments celebrating the death of a pedophile.

Look, I get it. I don’t have sympathy for the guy either. But we have to seriously think about what we want to accomplish when it comes to dealing with pedophiles, and the message we are sending to kids. Here are some facts:

  • We know children are most likely to be abused by someone they know and trust, someone who is either part of their family or a close friend of the family.
  • We know the abuser is more than likely going to groom the child, and the family, in order to create a bond with the child.
  • We know abusers are manipulative, and use that bond to convince children not to tell, because it would cause bad things to happen.
  • We know Stockholm syndrome is a very real thing.
  • We know these kids have been traumatized and the only way to encourage more children to speak up about what is happening to them is for them to feel safe in telling.
  • We know most abused children do not tell anyone because they don’t feel safe.

So how is running around talking about how anyone who abuses a child deserves to be killed in horrible ways going to help a child feel safe and secure about telling? Are we not handing an abuser a manipulation tool to be used against our own kids? (“Look if you tell, your parents will kill me, and you don’t want to be the cause of someone’s death, do you?”)

Lastly, wouldn’t that death just be adding more trauma onto kids who have already been traumatized enough?

Hey we know you were abused and you’re going to have a hell of a time dealing with everything that goes along with that, so in the name of “justice”, we’re going to go out and kill the sicko and then let you go ahead and add the guilt of someone’s death to your therapy bill, cool?

I’m not going to get into a disagreement over what is “just” and “fair”. That’s not my concern, and it shouldn’t be yours. Our concern should be what is the best way to help this child get help and heal. Adding more trauma doesn’t do that!

Career Advice That Is Relevant to Healing as Well

appreciationIn my quest to try every new piece of social media tech that exists, (that might be a bit of hyperbole, but not by much!) I have penned a piece with some career advice called The Appreciation File over on LinkedIn.

It did not escape my notice, however, that this same bit of helpful advice could also apply to healing from abuse, or helping with depression, or whatever else you might be struggling with.

So, fellow survivors, start hanging on to cards, notes and emails thanking you for something. Then on the rough days, go back through the stack and remind yourself of all the good you have done, and continue to do, all the worth you have and all the value you bring to others. Also, make sure you’re letting people know the value they have, so they can start building their own file!

If you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate it if you went over to LinkedIn and shared the plan with your own contacts! Thanks!

Another Good Reason to Talk About Child Abuse

Going back over 10 years ago to when I first started this blog, the goal has always been to help survivors feel less alone. Last week I was reminded, yet again, of the importance of talking about it.

There was a time in my life when it seemed like I was somehow attracting other survivors to myself. Every time I mentioned being a survivor, or someone found out about this site, they started talking to me about their past and their childhood experiences. I chalked it up to being some sort of secret radar that attracted survivors to one another even when they just happened to know each other through circumstances more than anything else.

Last week, I was working at our annual user’s conference in Vegas, and once again, found myself talking to one of the people that I had previously trained about this and that and whatever. I mentioned having been a survivor of child molestation, and wouldn’t you know it, the response I got was that she was as well.

I realized, this was not just some magic radar that was bringing me to other survivors. I am, literally, surrounded by other survivors, and so are you. We just don’t talk about it, so we don’t even realize how many survivors are in our midst every day. We stay silent, and hide our “secret”, and miss out on the benefits of seeing other survivors.
School of Anchovies
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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.

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