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.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2021

World Suicide Prevention Day 2021

So, the thing I want us to talk about this year is not just encouragement to call a hotline or to reach out to a friend for help, or even to tell our stories and erase the stigma around mental health issues. I want us to consider doing more than that. I want us, as a society, to figure out how to provide hope. As much value as there is in all of those other things if I can’t provide some hope that things will get better, that we are working and advocating for things to get better across all areas of our culture, then I can’t honestly say that there is a reason for someone to hope, and at the end of the day, the thing that truly prevented me from taking my own life when I was at my worst, was the hope that life wouldn’t always be that painful.

As it turned out, my life wasn’t always that painful, and even in times of pain, I can look back and remember that.

How do we provide that hope for others who have been beaten down and worn out with life right now? Where does their hope come from?

It’s All So Toxic

It’s All So Toxic

Of course, one of the tell-tale signs of depression, and unhealthy responses to trauma, like abuse, is overly black and white thinking. Going to extremes, if you will. So, it’s easy for many of us to fall into these toxic traps. It’s easy to think that we should feel shame about what happened to us, or that we can somehow rid ourselves of that shame, and anger, by simply refusing to do anything but be positive. But neither one of these is real healing. Real healing, like real emotions, and real people, are messier than that.

It’s still worth it though, as are a lot of those messy emotions and people too. If you let yourself get out of the black and white thinking, you just might see that too.

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?

The Importance of Just Listening
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The Importance of Just Listening

The people who helped me, and continue to help me, are the ones who will ask me questions and then just listen. They want to hear my story, even though they can’t fix it. They know that they can help by just giving me a space to tell my story, without worrying about the need to fight off their attempts at fixing something that may or may not be relevant at all to my situation. (i.e. I’m glad your cousin felt better after a walk in the forest, but that’s not what is happening here!) 

So please, just listen. Make the space around you, even if it’s virtual, a safe space for your friends and loved ones to tell their stories. Find small ways to help, if you can, but also know that by just listening, just sitting with our stories, you are already helping so much.

Why Reading Just The Headline is Misleading

Why Reading Just The Headline is Misleading

The content of the article is pretty accurate, but if you saw the article shared on Twitter, for example, with just the headline, what would your take-away be? Oh, the headline? This is what it said:

“If this happened to you in childhood, you may have mental health problems”

That headline seems to imply the exact opposite of the content of the article. The study they are reporting on, actually says the opposite of that. It implies that we really don’t know or understand all of the causes of mental health issues. For some, it may be tied to childhood trauma, for another person it may be tied to something else, or someone with a lot of childhood trauma didn’t grow up with mental health issues. 

Since we know many, many people only read the headline and then either move on, or share based on the headline alone. I can’t help but wonder how many people are sharing something, assuming that it says that childhood trauma causes mental health issues, when the article actually says it’s more complicated than that.