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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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We are all liars.  It sounds grim, I know, but it is true.  It starts with the lies we tell ourselves, and those begin about the time we learn the meaning of the word “no.”  

“What? This is an outrage!  What do you mean that I can’t have what I want?”  We drop to the ground, fists pounding the earth, feet kicking furiously against the injustice of it all.

What we are really objecting to is the realization that we are not singular, separate, or fixed.  The truth is that we exist experientially, and this causes us to resist the physical reality of that very situation.  Why?  Because if we admitted to ourselves that we were, in fact, not singular, separate, or fixed, it would mean that we are of the collective and therefore are dynamic.  And what does that mean to us?  It means that our limbic brain and our neocortex have conspired to convince us to lie to ourselves about the 100% truth of the greatest matter concerning our existence: WE ARE GOING TO DIE.  We are.  I am sorry if this is the first you are hearing this fact.

This could be a tough week to learn that we are going to die: with Neptune turning retrograde and increasing that mutable T-square; with Mars in Scorpio going for the jugular; and with Mercury, Gemini, and Saturn playing head games.  There is more, but do we really need to hear more?  Isn’t it enough to be confronted this week with the greatest lie of all, the one where we convince ourselves everyday that we are not going to die. 

This fundamental fact (I won’t say it again, but you know to which that I am referring) is balanced by our fundamental mind-skewing that allows our reptilian brains to let us go about living while we are able.  How else would we get out of bed?  

How do we do it?  How do we lie to ourselves?  Do we deaden our reality with mindaltering practices, the likes of more then just drugs, alcohol, and food?  Are we caught up in the distractions of how to measure the polarities of good and bad or right and wrong?  Or are we drinking some concoction that allows us to defend against the truth of our own mortality by projecting our own entitlement above all?  Ouch!  But if that sounds harsh, we might want to consider why it packs such a punch.  Just because we figured out how to get out of bed and rise above the truth of our own existence, that doesn’t mean that we are entitled.

Bottom line: the point of this week is not to wreak havoc on our life. The point of this week is to confront our perpetual ignorance.  Let Scorpio take us deep into it.  And this week let’s not just consider it, let’s let the warrior in Mars guide us to confront our own mortalities. This week, let’s fight for our lives for the sake of all goodness.  And then – yes I am a little fired up here – and then let’s decide, and I mean decide, for the sake of of it all decide, each of us decide, “What do we want to do about it?”  What do we want to do about the fact that we are alive on planet earth.  We are not singular; we are a part of a greater ecosystem.  We are not separate; we are a part of a greater ecosystem.  We are not fixed; we are dynamic in a dynamic ecosystem.  

So here it is. The truth of it all always eludes us. How could we possible know anything for certain? We are a part of something so big we can’t even fathom it. And if that doesn’t blow your mind – this stupendous thing we are a part of  – it is changing all the time. And at the same time that it is always changing –  we are always changing too.  Holy smokes, for sure!  

This week let’s drop the idealistic veil, stop distracting ourselves and get real.  Let’s prepare to die with honor, dignity, and love. Let’s stop stepping on ants and pretending that it doesn’t matter.  Let’s stop perpetuating small acts of self-hostility that lead to big shifts in the collective consciousness. Let’s live with honor, dignity and love.  After all, that is the only way to prepare to die a good death.

Okay, this is almost over.  I think I hear hubby coming down the hall.  He will help me up off the floor. Besides my fists are feeling a bit raw and I think I scuffed my pedicure.

 

In the midst of what you see as problematic, it can be difficult to recognize the opportunities. I can help you discover a new way of thinking that will assist you in managing and negotiating life’s obstacles. You will find that this new way of thinking provides you opportunities that you hadn’t previously noticed as well as affords you the confidence and desire to live your life in the driver’s seat.

Tami Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBCCH, HTP is a licensed psychotherapist who practices solution-oriented healing from a deep ecological perspective. Her specialities include hypnosis for anxiety, performance, and creativity. Sessions on-line or in Boulder, Colorado include cutting edge brain therapies that will change the way you think. Learn more at attentiontoliving.com