Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Our Invisible War

The documentary is eye-opening.  And you would think by now that my eyes are opened!? Yesterday I watched "The Invisible War" about sexual assault within the military.  Horrific reality about the system set up that keeps perpetrators empowered and women silenced and victimized. 

How were my eyes opened?  I had a revelation: why are we surprised?  This dynamic of a system that keeps perpetrators empowered and children silenced and victimized exists everywhere a child is sexually assaulted. 

Sex abuse typically happens within a structure of authority.  The person assaulting the child is usually a person who has authority over that child, i.e. parent, coach, pastor, babysitter, teacher etc.   And to whom does a child reveal?  Someone close to that person in authority.  And what is the typical reaction?  Denial, silencing, investigations that lead nowhere, puny penalties, re-victimization, lack of support and help for the victims.  The military is only playing out what is happening in our backyards and next door.

In the documentary, several of the sexual assault victims filed suit against the military.  The court came back dismissing the case saying, "Rape is an occupational hazard of the military." 

It is no different in our neighborhoods - "Sexual abuse is an occupational hazard of being a child."

It is time to speak up, own up and STAND UP!  Join our movement as we shift our cultural thinking!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Put aside the story assigned to you!

Her eyes tell me she doesn't fully grasp what I'm sharing.  As a young child she was repeatedly molested by family members and she has deep beliefs about her value and who she is.  Hearing that she isn't what happened to her - that the story the molester assigned to her isn't hers - rocks her foundation.

The beliefs based on trauma are so deep that she feels threatened when I offer an alternative.  I get it.  We build our relationships and our world based on internal capacities defined by our experiences.  And it limits us and how we interact and move.  When I suggest that there is more to her, she feels rattled and wonders about this hope.  Can she really become all she was created to be?

Hope comes in strange packages.  It can come in a song, in a whisper from your heart, or in the words of a speaker.  Hearing it is not enough.  The next step is up to you.  What will you do with the hope offered?  Will you explore it?  Will you do the hard work of internalizing it and shifting what you think? 

Put aside the stories others have written for you and discover who you really are!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Victim or Survivor

The language we use in talking about sex abuse is so very important.  Words shape the direction of our lives and our thinking.  The words spoken to us, around us and over us create pathways upon which our lives play out.  Words can build up or tear down, set limits or promote freedom, encourage or discourage, bless or curse.

When we too quickly use the word “survivor” to describe someone who has been traumatized by sex abuse, we are negating the reality of the impact of sex abuse and “promoting” them into a place that doesn’t allow for the necessary healing.  On the outside they adopt the identity of survivor, meaning “I’m Okay”, “I survived it”, while on the inside all they know is fear, uncertainty, intense pain, and loss of personal identity.

It is no wonder the victim of sex abuse hears, “put it behind you”, “why are you still thinking about that”, for we have told them by denying their victimhood that it IS over.  We have told them in the use of our language that it IS all better – you survived!  This is wrong and destructive, and perpetuates and prolongs the damage of abuse.

Saying, “I’m a survivor” is not more empowering than saying, “I’m a victim”.  Victims have more power to get freedom than survivors do because first, victims can place the blame where it belongs – on the person who hurt them.  A victim knows that something was done TO them.  Using the word “victim”, helps shift the sense of responsibility that “survivors” typically carry.

 Secondly, when someone says, “I am a victim of sex abuse”, they create an open space and a direction to travel to the place of being a “survivor.”  That space allows for looking at the impact of sex abuse.  The impact is found in what one believes about self and the world, and is where the real damage of sex abuse lies. 

First a victim, then a survivor, once the impact of the trauma has been cleansed and overcome.

P.S. – Another thought about use of language: I would also suggest we lose the “I AM…”  That denotes identity and connects who you are to the trauma!  You aren’t your trauma! Rather say, “I was victimized by sex abuse” or, “I experienced sex abuse.”