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Trauma And Abuse

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How do you write about something that people are afraid to see? How do you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

It has been a few weeks since I posted about abuse.  I needed some time to refresh.  It is a tough topic to bring one’s attention to weekly.  It is challenging to discover new ways to talk about a very old topic that simply boils down to three words – it hurts badly.  As I type that, it occurs to me that perhaps the three words are – it impacts everyone.  And now I am thinking that if it hurts badly and impacts everyone, why is there so little discussion about it?  Why is the topic shameful?  Why are those speaking about it either vehemently reduced to blithering cry babies or met with silence, isolation?

Abuse is a taboo subject. Wikipedia defines taboo as “a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake. Such prohibitions are present in virtually all societies. The word has been somewhat expanded in the social sciences to strong prohibitions relating to any area of human activity or custom that is sacred or forbidden based on moral judgment and religious beliefs. “Breaking a taboo” is usually considered objectionable by society in general, not merely a subset of a culture.”

If abuse is a taboo, then perhaps any discussion of abuse becomes an associated taboo.  Maybe it is time to consider that abuse is not a taboo in our society.  It is not vehemently prohibited, most offenders are not held accountable through the judicial system.  The statistics would support that abuse is not accursed as a practice.  And it seems that it is only objectionable in theory and not in practice.  The recent public abuse Malia Obama endured is a good example that abuse is not taboo in our culture.  Or how about the countless things Donald Trump feels free to express regarding the myriad of people he hates.  Maybe abuse is covertly hidden in our fascination with celebrities; it would seem that we love to hate them.

So what is the deal with abuse?  Is it possible we all shy away from the conversation because in our hearts we each know that our potential as humans contains the ability to abuse?  Is it possible that we each know unconsciously that we abuse daily?  Is it overwhelming to consider yourself as an abuser on the continuum of abuse?

It is for me, and I think that is why I needed a break.  Sometime to process my own resistance to my own abusive practices.  My instantaneous knee jerk reaction to a centipede, the illogical action of stomping on the poor creature.  My judgement of someone’s competence that leads me to behave inconsiderately.  My fear that I won’t be heard by another that causes me to lash out personally against them.

Abuse is a far too common practice, and the taming of it will require self-awareness and reflection.  It won’t be easy.  It will be hard.  It isn’t only about what someone else does.  It is about what we each do.


Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist in Boulder Colorado at attentiontoliving.com has challenged herself in 2016 to post weekly about the unpopular topic of abuse. Learn more about Tami at attentiontoliving.com

 

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How do you write about something that people are afraid to see? How do you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

The enigma – millions of survivors of sexual assault with few incarcerated offenders – begs the question:  where are all the rapists?

The legal definition of violence is changing, but is our legal definition of violence our best choice for guiding us in living wholesome lives? Historically, our culture has afforded greater power, material gain, and informal benefits through power structures, cultural practices and systems that favor the idea of masculine superiority over feminine competence.

Masculinity, like femininity, is a social construct. Both identify themselves through manner of speech, behavior, gestures, social interaction and defined roles that include divisions of tasks. While these constructs have widened in definition over time, their mere existence supports a defense of one in favor of the other, and ultimately has produced hegemonic masculinity which shelters the practice of rape and rapists.

Hegemonic masculinity is a cultural idea that is impressed and internalized by the population as the ideal masculine expression. It includes such attributes as heterosexuality, emotional restraint, toughness strength, aggressiveness, competitiveness, and achievement-orientation. Hegemonic masculinity has allowed these attributes to dominate the cultural idea of man and, therefore, woman. A hegemonic picture of a man might look like the easy-going all-star football player, or the select all American ivy league with academic excellence, or the high-powered executive with social privilege. While only a small percentage of the population will embody this picture, it nonetheless becomes the cultural ideal and is reinforced more symbolically then literally. Such symbols have great authority and inform decisions such as how a person who has acted in violence shall be treated informally and formally, as well as how one on whom violence was perpetrated will behave informally and formally.

Therein lies the answer to the question: where are all the rapists? They are among us. Sheltered in our cultural construct that supports gender hierarchy, emphasis on the agency of one gender over the others, and high recognition for stereotyped masculine behavior that leads to privilege and power.

Won’t you consider gender democracy for the sake of a safer, saner world?

Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist in Boulder Colorado at attentiontoliving.com has challenged herself in 2016 to post weekly about the unpopular topic of abuse. Learn more about Tami at attentiontoliving.com

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How do you write about something that people are afraid to see? How do you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

I cried when I read the letter.  The letter the courageous and intelligent woman wrote in response to a recent rape verdict in California.

I can’t even count the number of times I have been sexually harassed or violated. I never stopped to think about it. I never took the time to collect them up and consider their effect upon me. I didn’t want to. When I try now, I remember things I have forgotten, but surprisingly the forgetting of them hasn’t lessened their emotional response in my body. There was the time when I was 13 at a car dealership, there was the time I was 21 in my own apartment, there was the time I was 25 on a downtown street in Baltimore at 4 in the afternoon, when I was dressed in a suit to attend a meeting with the Mayor’s office. Then there is a splattering of random times; lewd remarks and gestures, condescending comments concerning my sexuality, unwelcome touch from people I didn’t know in public places. And still other times.  Times that I am still not comfortable enough with to strike the keys of my computer, to put the letters together to form the words that would make up the sentences of accounts as much as 0ver 40 years ago, but still too fresh to admit.

Yep, my chest is tight. I feel the emotion at my face and I steel myself against tears. It sucks to feel so vulnerable. It hurts to remember being violated simply because someone felt it was their privilege. Why does this happen? This question is most often answered with silence.

In my silence I have been complicit. I have been afraid to admit out loud the things that have happened.  Once at a slumber party, a brave girl told about how someone had hurt her.  A circle of 15 year old girls on sleeping bags stared silently at her until one girl said, “Oh that just happens,” and another echoed her and added, “Don’t make a big deal about it.”  Those girls, like me, perpetuated the silence.  All of us afraid of being judged, afraid of the shame of either what had happened or that we didn’t know how to make it not happen.

Some girls made sense of those experiences by playing them out and crafted their identities around them, some relinquished their senses of security in the world and drew themselves inward, and others, few and unfavored, found ways to speak out against such trespasses.  Honestly, I suppose I have done all three, but where I ended up feeling most whole was simply in the silence of it.   Best to forget about it, best not to make a big deal about it, best to believe it never really happened.  Even now writing this, I fear judgement and criticism.  And not because I have held my tongue, but because I dare suggest that I was hurt by someone’s forward or invasive advances.  Despite being a mandated reported and a trained mental health professional, I still feel doubt about the truth of what I am writing.  “Really?”  Some part of me challenges, “I think you are making this into more than it is.” But I am not.

I remember a discussion after work with a group of coworkers, that led to a particular revelations about the social worker who directed the children’s program at a domestic violence shelter. “You were raped,” we told her and she looked like she was only first learning it, even though a high percentage of the very children she helped had been assaulted themselves. Denial, at first an ally in trauma, but in time an obtuse, thick cloud that distorts our own perceptions about ourselves.

I want to say that while silence allows the perpetration of sexual violence, it is not the cause.  The cause lies in our deep rooted sense of entitlement.  Our percieved right to lord privilege of power over people, animals, and the planet completely destorts our understanding of love and respect.

I cried when I read the letter. I want to tell her that I am deeply sorry for what happen to her and for my small, but significant part in the silence that allowed her to be hurt. I want to say how brave she is, and that I am grateful for and respectful of her strength.  I admire her.

I was raised in a different generation. While the Women’s Movement provided me permission and modeling for speaking out about my right to dignity, I hadn’t been programmed that way. Sex was not a topic for discussion, even as it pertained to procreation.  Sex was alluded to as a woman’s duty.  It was a practical responsibility that straddled a razor-sharp distinction between pleasing a husband and falling into a gutter. Raised Catholic in a small midwestern town, normal feelings of sexual interest or pleasure were diminished to sinful perversions. A female body was either chaste or dirty.

But still, while that does inform my silence, I am over half a century old.  I saw Jodie Foster’s brilliant performance as Cheryl Araujoas in the 1983 gang rape movie called The Accused.  I watched the 1991 televised testimony of Anita Hill.  As a professional and as a woman, I have heard countless stories of sexual violence from woman, men, girls and boys.  I suppose what matters more than my silence now, is joining in with the many voices out there like the young woman who wrote the letter.  She was quoted saying, “This is a reason for all of us to speak even louder.”  And it is.

What is your story?  If you want, tell your story here in whatever way you like. Only this time, we won’t believe that, while the thing that happened is not normal, to talk about it is. It is normal to feel afraid, angry and sad when someone hurts you.  It is normal to tell other people when you are hurt.  It is normal to expose the person who hurt you.

Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist in Boulder Colorado at attentiontoliving.com has challenged herself in 2016 to post weekly about the unpopular topic of abuse. Learn more about Tami at attentiontoliving.com

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How do you write about something that people are afraid to see? How do you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

Global research on non-consensual sex and teenage pregnancy found that cultural prioritization of male sexual pleasure contributed to the rate of teenage pregnancy. Studies showed that young women are subject to emotional pressure and manipulation to consent to sex, and experience high levels of sexual violence including coercive control that limits a teenage girl’s ability to retain autonomy over her sexual intimacy or her use of contraception.

The international evidence found direct links between teenage pregnancy and non-consensual sex with two strong predictors:

1. history of childhood sexual abuse and;
2. current intimate partner violence.

The study concluded that the cultural norm of a male’s sense of entitlement is directly related to teenage pregnancy rates.

Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist in Boulder Colorado at attentiontoliving.com has challenged herself in 2016 to post weekly about the unpopular topic of abuse. Learn more about Tami at attentiontoliving.com

How do you write about something that people are afraid to see? How do you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

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Adapted from Wikipedia

January 1978 is the first reference of the term ‘rape culture’ in national-level American politics.  Rape culture describes a particular society where rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.  Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include:  denial of widespread rape; refusal to recognize the pervasive harm caused by sexual violence; sexual objectification; trivialization of rape; and victim blaming. Research suggests that rape culture is prevalent in cultures where discrimination, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, classism, and religious intolerance – to name only a few – are practiced.

The United States of America is alleged to be a rape culture.  What do you think of that?

Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist in Boulder Colorado at attentiontoliving.com has challenged herself in 2016 to post weekly about the unpopular topic of abuse. Learn more about Tami at attentiontoliving.com

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How do you write about something that people are afraid to see? How do you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

Courtesy of “Understanding the Predatory Nature of Sexual Violence,” David Lisak, Ph.D.

“Most rapists who are prosecuted are convicted on a single count of rape.
However, when researchers have granted immunity to offenders in exchange for
a truthful accounting of their sex offending history the reality of rape emerges. In
one study, the average number of victims for each rapist was seven, and in
another study it was 11. A similar picture has emerged from research emanating from intensive sex
offender management programs. Offenders tend to have very lengthy offending
careers, beginning in adolescence and often spanning several decades. By the
time they are captured – if they are captured – they have often victimized scores
or even hundred’s of individuals.” – David Lisak

Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist in Boulder Colorado at attentiontoliving.com has challenged herself in 2016 to post weekly about the unpopular topic of abuse. Learn more about Tami at attentiontoliving.com

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How do you write about something that people are afraid to see? How do you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

Letters: Church should fight child sex abuse
Courtesy The Inquirer Daily News May 20, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT

“I was raised Catholic and cannot understand how anyone with a conscience or sense of morality can support the Catholic Church in its lobbying against a Pennsylvania bill that would extend the civil statute of limitations on child sex abuse to age 50 (“Chaput to meet with clergy on legislation,” ). If the church leadership were sincere in wanting to stop child sex abuse and help victims, it would not oppose this legislation. According to the article, church officials, through their lobbying arm, have warned that the legislation could prompt litigation and bankrupt parishes. Let it be so. The church has shown that it is unwilling to stop predator priests who damage their victims for a lifetime. It is time for the Catholic Church to show real remorse and pay for its sins.”   – Jane Weiss, Philadelphia

Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist in Boulder Colorado at attentiontoliving.com has challenged herself in 2016 to post weekly about the unpopular topic of abuse. Learn more about Tami at attentiontoliving.com