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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?

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 to you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

It can be challenging to speak about the experience of sexual abuse. Many people who have been sexual abused are not able to speak about it as it happens. Many people wait years to speak of it, some people never reveal it, and others can’t remember the abuse itself until they are well into adulthood.

Many people who have suffered sexual abuse experience a life of generalized anxiety, fear, depression, difficulty with intimate relationships, difficulty trusting themselves or the world around them. Studies show that they are at an increased risk for drug or alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity. Unfortunately, families often take advantage of the abused’s compromised mental health and leverage it as an indicator of the abused’s character, as opposed to the symptomatology of the abuse suffered.

Even within families where sexual abuse has occurred, each family member will cope uniquely with the direct or indirect effects of abuse. Sadly, mothers, when not the abusers themselves, often protect the sexual abuser over the abused, even when the abused is their own child. “According to Martens and Associates (2011) 90% of women in relationships where a family member abuses their child were also sexually abused as children. Data collected from the sexual abuse treatment centers associated with Martens and Associates states that 65% of women who were sexually abused also became offenders. Women often sexually abuse during teen and early 20’s and then they usually stop. Mathews, F. (1996) also states that many self report studies show a high percentage of men say they were sexually abused by women. He adds that a high proportion of rapists, sex offenders and sexually aggressive men state they were also sexually abused by women when they were young. If a woman was abused and hasn’t dealt with the abuse, it will be significantly more difficult for her to believe, help and support her daughter if her daughter discloses abuse because her daughter’s abuse will trigger memories of her own abuse. If the mother was not only abused, but also became an offender, she is even less likely to believe her daughter as she in not only in denial of her own abuse but also her own offending.” (Sabrina Trobak, B.ED., M.A.C.P., R.C.C.)

Because of the myriad of coping  and defense mechanisms utilized by individual family members, the collective family story may not contain the narrative of abuse. Within the system of family silence there is a great deal of distortion about what really has happened in the family. The abused often protects the abuser in order to: 1. Honor the fictional family narrative of a healthy family, 2. To protect the abuser from social judgement, and
3. Out of fear of family rejection.

It is never to late to break the silence.  Breaking the silence is the first step towards healing.  Speak your mind about sexual abuse.  Feel free to say out loud that it is, without a doubt, detrimental to humanity.

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 to you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

Adapted from After Silence After Silence

Angry outbursts and persistent irritability are common states of emotion for survivors of sexual violence. Anger is a natural defense to fear, and the experience you had was likely terrorizing. It is natural to be angry at someone who hurt you.

You may feel angry towards yourself. You may feel that could or should have done something to prevent what happened. You may blame yourself and feel shameful. Remember that what happened was not your fault and you did not deserve it. Sorting out your angry feelings will help you release yourself from the blame and begin to heal.

Here are some things to remember:

1. It takes time to heal. Give yourself the time to heal.

2. You have every right be angry because no one had the right to violate you.

3. When you feel angry, talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. Remember, that the anger you are feeling is normal and deserves your attention just like any other emotion. It is okay to say that you are angry. It is okay to say why you are angry.

4. Express your anger in a way that is safe for you and not harmful to yourself or others. Deep, abdominal breathing with the intention of releasing tension encourages a general feeling of relaxation. Movement of any kind is an excellent way to release anger and clear your mind.

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 to you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

Sexual abuse may result in the most pervasive symptomatology, because it is invasive to the body in a very intimate way and often requires the person abused, to disassociate from the experience.  Disassociation means the person detaches physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually from the experience in order that the experience can feel unreal or as if it happened to someone else.  The trauma of sexual abuse is further complicated when the body responds with arousal sensation while being harmed. This confusion, alongside disassociation, leads to cognitive distortions regarding what happened and who holds responsibility for what happened.

Here are 6 important things to assist in healing:

1. Surround yourself with people who forgive, recognize worth and value it, challenge fear, believe in wholesome living, and trust themselves to contribute to the greater good.

2. Forgive yourself for what happened.

3. Recognize your worth and value yourself.

4. Challenge your fears in safe places.

5. Believe in yourself.

6. Trust that you have a purpose in life that is greater then your experience of abuse.

Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist 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 to you expose an undermining, but insidious practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

Girls sexually abused by their mothers, like girls who are not sexually abused by their mothers, often identify strongly with their mothers. This can make it challenging for a girl who has been abused to see her mother as an abuser. Additionally, it can be complicated when a mother has sexual abused her daughter and provided her care that is healthy. This can make it particularly difficult for the girl to discern the difference between abuse and care. After all, she only knows the experience she has had and it is a blend of abuse and care. Children, and many adults, tend to think of matters such as these in extremes – either a mother is an abuser, or she is a caretaker.

It is natural for a girl to look at her mother as a template for herself as mother. Girls who have been sexually abused by their mothers may fear that they will sexual abuse their own children. This can lead them to feel inadequate and fearful as mothers themselves. What otherwise may have been a healthy relationship, is burdened by the fear of incompetence and potential harm. While the cycle of abuse may or may not prevail, interpersonal relationship experiences of intimacy and trust are compromised. Without the opportunity to heal, the wound of abuse is paid forward.

Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist at attentiontoliving.com has challenged herself in 2016 to post week 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 to you expose an undermining, but insidious practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

 

The truth of all abuse is stored up in our body.  We can repress this truth, but our body will not deny the truth of it.  This is evidenced through physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual symptomatology.

The truth of all abuse is stored up in our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, our nations, the world, and the infinite universe.  Although we can repress it in all those places, the truth speaks through the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual symptomatology.

Our individual and collective minds can be misled, our understandings confused, our feelings distorted, and but our bodies and the collective bodies of sentient and non-sentient beings contain abuse in it’s pristine form.  Until it is processed, abuse will remain the elephant in the room.  Until we recognize individually and collectively the space it occupies, it will remain largely ignored.  It will remain the obvious, but unaddressed truth, until we individually and collectively process the experience of abuse as destructive and replace the practice of abuse with constructive behavior designed for evolution and not diminution of health and evolution.

Can we believe individually and collectively that it is the law of nature to evolve in health  and wholeness? Rest assured that our individual and collective bodies will not forget, until we individually and collective, forgive ourselves for our propensities towards harm, and act in the wisdom of having done so.

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

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artwork by johnnamusing https://lightwasteland.wordpress.com/2008/09/11/call-to-a-wounded-child/

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

Sexual abuse is a common experience for boys and girls. Let me repeat these somber words, sexual abuse is a common experience for boys and girls. One more time, sexual abuse is a common experience for boys and girls. 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused, some statistics site higher incidences. With such numbers, there is a very good probability that a potentially protective adult will have a personal experience with sexual trauma. Without restoration of the abused’s traumatized system, this man or woman may struggle to cope. Their ability to protect another from abuse may be limited by post traumatic symptomolgy. Or worse they may develop defense mechanisms that promote practices of abuse in an effort to normalize their experience or process their rage.

The familial cycle of abuse is perpetual unless interrupted. Interrupt the cycle of abuse. Ask, “Did someone hurt you?” Ask,”How can I help?”

Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist at attentiontoliving.com has challenged herself in 2016 to post week 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 to you expose an undermining, but insidious practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

Incest is sexual contact without informed consent between individuals who share a bloodline. It is a symptom of extreme family dysfunction centered around distortions regarding the meaning of love, affection, and care. Incest propagates in family systems without healthy boundaries concerning equanimity in family power dynamics and age appropriate experiences and responsibilities. The research of Maddock and Larson proposes 4 catagories of incest:

• Affection-based: the incest provides closeness in a family otherwise lacking in nurture and affection. There is an emphasis on the specialness of the relationship, within which otherwise unavailable caring is given and received.

• Erotic-based: the family atmosphere is one of chaotic pansexuality, and it is not uncommon for many members to be involved. Its norm is the erotization of relationships. The term “polyincest” is often used to describe such multiple perpetrator situations.

• Aggression-based: the incestuous acts involve the perpetrator’s sexualized anger. The perpetrator vents his or her frustration and conflicts on a vulnerable individual, and physical mistreatment is often involved.

• Rage-based: the perpetrator is hostile and may be overtly sadistic. There may be great danger to the victim.

Learn more at: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/sexual-offenses/ramifications-incest#sthash.QrQE2L08.dpuf

Are you a mandated reporter? Some states require all residents to assume the legal responsibility to report abuse or suspected abuse. Abuse may include neglect alongside all other types of abuse. Revealing abuse is the first step in interrupting the cycle of abuse. Make it your business to report abuse.

Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist at attentiontoliving.com has challenged herself in 2016 to post week 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 to you expose an undermining, but insidious practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

Physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse erodes and  will destroy a person’s sense of trust. It diminishes someone’s confidence and causes them to doubt their own experiences of demonstrated competence. Where a person may have experienced trust and confidence in the world, abuse will replace those experiences with doubt and hypervigilance concerning their physical, emotional, and mental safety.

Abuse is prevalent in our culture: the adult who uses sarcasm to belittle a challenging person or child, the adult who makes allusive or oblique remarks of a suggestive or disparaging nature to another adult or child, the adult who touches another adult or child in a way that is not suitable in context, or time, or place. These behaviors are harmful in and of themselves, but when they become a pattern of behavior they are destructive.

You can make a difference. As humans, it is likely that we all engage in abusive behavior. Bringing that behavior to your consciousness is the first step in changing that behavior – change your behavior and you change the world. This week consider how you might want to instill trust and confidence in your neighbor.

Tami Boehle-Satterfield has challenged herself in 2016 to post week about the unpopular topic of abuse. Learn more about Tami at attentiontoliving.com