Quick Thought #20 – As a Male Sexual Assault Survivor, I’m Appalled by what the US is Doing to Women

Quick Thought #20 – As a Male Sexual Assault Survivor, I’m Appalled by what the US is Doing to Women

I cannot imagine the kind of harm we are doing to female survivors when we tell them they have to carry their pregnancy to term. That they remain in a condition where they have no choice. States, including my own, that have or are moving toward enacting complete bans on abortion with no exception for rape and incest victims are ripping the choice of how to move forward away, victimizing these survivors a second time. Forcing their own desires on the bodies of women.

If your religion is willing to force the victim of a violent crime to continue to be violated in this way, you need a better religion. You need a better god, and you absolutely need a better heart. You are not righteous, you are an abuser.

Trauma Upon Trauma – Reading about Lauren Book’s Experience with Stolen Images

Trauma Upon Trauma – Reading about Lauren Book’s Experience with Stolen Images

As you might imagine these sorts of activities are severely traumatizing, and Lauren’s response in the article I linked makes that clear. I also want to address the more subtle trauma here though. That trauma comes from those of you who will read this story and immediately respond “well she shouldn’t have been taking those photos”.

I want to be very clear here. That statement is 100% blaming the victim. This is the same exact thing as saying a woman shouldn’t have walked alone at night, or had a drink, or a child shouldn’t have been so friendly with strangers, etc. Lauren didn’t do anything wrong. What she and her husband do inside of their marriage is none of our business, no laws were broken, nothing untoward was going on. She was just a wife living her life and she was hacked. The person who stole these photos was the one breaking the law. The people sharing and selling those photos were breaking the law. Save your moral outrage for them and the people requesting to have these photos used to create fake rape videos because she was a rape victim.

Anyone who can read the entire story and walk away indignant more at her for having taken photos that were perfectly legal and a personal choice instead of the people who have violated her are simply violating her again.

Grief is Hard, and Long
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Grief is Hard, and Long

Something else interests me about grief though and that is the grief that child abuse survivors have because it’s complicated. We aren’t grieving a person we’ve lost, we’re grieving something we never had. A safe, happy childhood or a loving parental relationship that didn’t exist. The lack of any kind of family bonds as an adult, or the inability to trust anyone. Those are things we can, and should, grieve. Often we aren’t given the chance to do that. Other people expect us to “put it behind us” because it was a long time ago. We may even convince ourselves that the best option is to suck it up and forget it, no reason to think about any of that. But, I think there’s a reason to grieve the things we didn’t have as children. They are very real losses. They have very real impacts on our brains and our emotional well-being. We can’t change it now, but we can allow ourselves the freedom to feel grief over it. It’s part of the process. 

What Are We Unlearning from Childhood Anyway?

What Are We Unlearning from Childhood Anyway?

These all ring so true to either my own experience or the experiences of other survivors I have known through the years. One of the biggest hurdles we have to clear before we can really even begin to have a semi-normal adult life is believing that the way we grew up is the way all relationships work. Even all these years later, I still have to remind myself that what I do is good enough, at home and at work. Or that it’s OK to emotionally connect with new people. It’s really difficult to unlearn those lessons from childhood, and yet it’s so freeing to realize that what happened to us, wasn’t because any of these were true. What happened to us was the result of someone else’s actions that are completely unrelated to who we are, or what we deserved.

Why Did So Many Adults Minimize the Abuse in US Gymnastics?
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Why Did So Many Adults Minimize the Abuse in US Gymnastics?

So, when I look at a highly successful program like US gymnastics, like Penn State football, like USA Swimming, like English Youth Football, etc. I think we can clearly see this. Why be such a downer, don’t you see how much good this program, and the people in it, are doing? It’s probably nothing, just some misunderstanding by over-imaginative kids. Nothing to worry about, look at the success we are having in the field, gym, or water. That’s what this is all about. That’s the important thing. The rest of this will pass.

Except in the case of US Gymnastics, these ladies, and dozens of others, have not simply let it pass. They have remained steadfast in talking about it, making sure they can do everything they can to make sure it doesn’t happen to the next generation and reminding all of us that winning at all costs, is not worth the damage that is done to children who are sexually abused.

They are truly resilient, like many of us who have survived sexual abuse, and gone on to talk about it, share our own stories, and live our adult lives. But never confuse that resiliency with how hard it really is to do. Never look at a survivor who has appeared to overcome their abuse, and assume that it’s ok to diminish what happened to them. It’s never easy, and for each one who might appear to have overcome, I’ll show you 5 who are still struggling every single day. You’ll find many of them in prison, or mental health care centers. Still dealing with the aftermath of their childhood trauma without access to the same support and resources that we lucky few have had the privilege to have. Yet they are all human beings, and they were all children once, children who had to suffer at the hands of adults who were more interested in their own pleasures, comfort, and place in their society than they were to consider the damage being done to these children.

Don’t be one of those adults. There are many ways to abuse a child. Larry Nassar did and is paying for his crimes, finally. But there were a whole lot of other adults who abused these girls, by not taking it seriously, not investigating, and not caring enough about them as human beings to protect them. Make no mistake about that.

Quick Thought #18 – Sports as an Example of The Lens We See Life Through

Quick Thought #18 – Sports as an Example of The Lens We See Life Through

Just like in sports though, sometimes it’s not about how the world works, or what mistakes we made, it’s about the other team. In our case, it’s the abuser. They did this. Healing is understanding that, and coming to grips with the fact that our lens is wrong. We’re looking at someone else’s actions and choices through a lens that only sees ourselves. We were abused, maybe when we told someone, we weren’t believed, or maybe even as adults, when we share our experiences we make others uncomfortable. But it’s not us. Other people get to make their own choices, have their own reactions, and choose who, and what, to believe.

What we need to do, is start untying other people actions and reactions, from ourselves. The abuser chose to abuse. The people who refused to help, made that choice, and the people who still don’t believe us, have their own reasons for doing that. None of it has anything to do with us, those are other people making their own choices, playing their own game. We can do everything right, live our life to the best of our abilities and still “lose” in these interactions. It happens. It doesn’t lessen us, it shows us who these other people are, and tells us about their agendas.

We learn from that, and move on. We do not blame ourselves for their agendas.

It does take developing a more mature lens to view life through, and that takes time, and work. Are you up for it? Or maybe the better question, are you tired of blaming yourself?