Tag Archives: sexual abuse

Sharing the Trauma: Steubenville Aftermath

20 Mar

When I first learned of the convictions of the two high school football stars in the Steubenville rape trial, I felt a bittersweet sense of relief and victory: justice had been done. A precedent had been set. Our society is finally moving in the right direction. Feminist happy dance.

Then everything went to hell.

First, CNN validated everyone who blamed the victim by spending the immediate aftermath of the trial bemoaning that the rapists’ lives were ruined by the verdict. CNN’s facebook page resounded with angry demands for an on-air apology, which the network tepidly acknowledged in an evening follow-up segment in which their talking heads focused on the victim’s suffering and repeatedly stressed that obviously, their sympathies lay with the victim and not her attackers. Online petitions boasting hundreds of thousands of signatures are demanding on-air apologies by both Candy Crawley and Poppy Harlow. So far, the network has not responded.

Then came the news that two teenage Steubenville girls had been arrested for threatening the victim online. One of them  threatened to kill her. The police department has had to assign security to the victim and her family. Other Steubenville classmates took to social media to denounce the victim for ruining her attackers’ lives.

This morning I learned that a thirteen year-old girl  is pressing charges of sexual assault against two eighteen year-old high school football stars, this time in the town of Torrington, Connecticut. Twitter is already inundated with Tweets condemning the girl as a “whore” and “young ho” who got what she deserved for hanging out with older boys.

I’m a female, a feminist, and a survivor; I know that sexual assault happens all the time in high schools. I know that no girl is too young to be safe from sexual predators. I know that classmates tend to blame the victim. What has caught me off-guard is the fact that major news networks and a chorus of adults’ virtual voices hold the victims responsible. I’m especially galled by the people who try to hide it by first saying the victims’ parents are also to blame and then throwing in something about how the attacks wouldn’t have happened if the girls hadn’t “acted stupid.” If you’re going to be a rape apologist, I’d rather you be honest about it.

Last week, a feminist activist named Zerlina Maxwell went on Fox News to dispute the argument that the best way to prevent rape is for women to arm themselves. She said that rather than telling women to carry firearms, we should be teaching boys and men not to rape. She subsequently was targeted online with misogynistic, racist invectives. People called her a bitch and a nigger. They told her that they hoped she’d be gang raped and killed.

http://www.thenation.com/blog/173298/rape-not-inevitable-zerlina-maxwell-men-and-hope

It’s been a very triggering week thus far. I’m compelled to stay informed, to add my voice to the discourse to defend the victims and denounce those who would hold them accountable. My husband keeps telling me I need to unplug. I keep agreeing with him and wading deeper into the virtual firestorm. I’ve spent decades keeping my mouth shut, both about things that happened to me and to people I loved who didn’t want to publicly accuse their attackers because they knew that in all likelihood they were the only ones who would be punished if they did. Fuck keeping quiet. This violence thrives in silence. I’m going to yell.

My PTSD is rattling the bars, testing the barricades. I squeeze my eyes shut and will it back. I try to detach. I imagine closing a box and placing it on a shelf. I know that when my recovery group meets tomorrow we will weep for ourselves and for all the damaged, terrified girls and women out there whose fear to speak up is being continually reinforced by the news and social media.

I know that grieving is necessary, but that it also needs to lead to something productive. Because I cannot bear to just sit here wallowing in despair. Not after an adolescence in which I was repeatedly assaulted and blamed myself. Not after so many of my friends and loved ones have been victimized and I could do nothing but comfort them and hope it wouldn’t happen again.

I used to lie awake at night and visualize how I would torture and kill my foster sister’s stepfather, my friend’s boyfriend, those asshole club guys who raped my friends in a car on a night I couldn’t go out because I was grounded. I still think, if only I hadn’t been grounded, I could have saved them.

I try to focus on the silver linings: so many people have spoken up to support the victims and castigate those who blame them. This issue is now in the limelight, which could result in policies and educational outreach to address the problem in middle and high schools.

I try to keep my trauma in check. But I can’t just tune out what’s happening. I can’t try to ignore it.

I don’t know what to do.

Sharing the Trauma: Convictions in the Steubenville Rape Trial

17 Mar

As I read about the convictions of the two teenage boys in the Steubenville rape trial, I’m filled with sorrow, relief, and appreciation. I am inspired by the sixteen year-old girl who after months of being pilloried in her community, on social media, and in the national news, faced her assailants in court and testified for two hours about her ordeal; I doubt they would have been convicted otherwise, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for her bravery and for what her actions have done for other victims of sexual assault.

The Christian Science Monitor ran a great article about the reactions this case has stirred in sexual assault survivors. So many people’s trauma has been awoken by this case. I couldn’t bring myself to completely read many of the articles about it, and broke down crying more than once as I learned about not only the cruel brutality exhibited by these boys, but of the complicity of her classmates who saw a young girl’s victimization as sport and the adults who held her responsible  because she had the audacity to drink alcohol and “boys will be boys.” An individual’s cruelty is one thing, but the social acceptance and support of it, the willingness of adults and the media to excuse the perpetrators and blame the victim, are more than I can bear, in part because it hits so close to home; when I was fourteen, my father told me that I shouldn’t hold someone accountable for what he did because he was from another culture where such behavior was accepted.

I hope this serves as a wake-up call that we are not so different from India, that we obviously have a lot of work to do to educate our children, peers, and ourselves about the ramifications of sexual assault and what constitutes consent. I pray that that sixteen year-old girl achieves a measure of peace after this nightmare. I pray that her assailants come to appreciate what they did and use their experience to educate others. And I pray for the strength of all of us who understand too well what she’s gone through. Take care of yourselves: don’t isolate when your trauma resurfaces. Reach out to friends and resources–a list of hotlines and organizations appears at the bottom of the article. Remember that by working through our trauma towards healing, we make it easier for others who’ve been victimized to realize that it’s not their fault, that they can reclaim their lives, and that they are not alone.

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2013/0316/Beyond-Steubenville-rape-case-inspires-action-angst-among-victims-video

What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel?

9 Mar

Once, during a heated fight with my husband, I felt a flashback coming on and fled the room. He followed and found me in the bathroom. I had wedged myself between the toilet and the wall and curled up into a ball on the floor. “Please don’t hurt me,” I said. He’s asked more than once why I invariably react to his anger with anxiety, even when it isn’t directed at me. He’s never done anything violent, not to me or in general. Why can’t I just allow him to feel angry? Why must I become skittish and immediately try to placate him? It makes him feel as though he isn’t allowed to have that emotion. (He articulates this easily because he’s a trauma-free, emotionally balanced individual, or as I call him, “a unicorn.”)

The immediate answer is that witnessing a loved one’s anger can be triggering. Anyone who’s lived with domestic violence knows that when your abuser starts losing their temper, it’s wise to hit the deck. It doesn’t matter whether the anger originated with you or how insignificant the infraction was. That rage is always lurking just beneath the surface, and the slightest provocation can unleash it.

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“The Sanctuary Model”

20 Feb

http://www.sanctuaryweb.com

Consider this one-stop shopping for educating yourself about the multitudinous psychological, neurological, emotional, physical, behavioral, interpersonal, intergenerational, and societal effects of trauma resulting from abuse, particularly domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse. Their website describes the Sanctuary Model as “a theory-based, trauma-informed, evidence-supported, whole culture approach that has a clear and structured methodology for creating or changing an organizational culture” and goes on to define a concept called “safety culture” as a model for treating trauma that works to provide four levels of safety: physical safety, psychological safety, social safety, and moral safety.

http://www.sanctuaryweb.com/safety.php

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“What to Do If You Were Sexually Molested As a Child” –Excellent Article

16 Feb

Read this. Read it even if you’ve spent years discussing and working on your trauma.

I highly recommend exploring the whole blog. I don’t agree with absolutely everything the author says, and I do wish that he or she would put up a page about him/herself (I’m inclined to believe the author is female, but I could be wrong). BUT I have found helpful information and insights in every article I’ve read on it. This one is especially good, in part because it advises you about what you should look for, and look out for, when treating your trauma–psychiatrists and therapists can mess you up more if they don’t know their business. I learned this the hard way when my shrink pushed desensitization therapy too quickly and I ended up agoraphobic and paralyzed by panic attacks and dissociation for an entire summer.

http://www.kellevision.com/kellevision/2013/01/what-to-do-if-you-were-sexually-molested-as-a-child.html#more

“Attachment and the Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma” by Laura K. Kerr

6 Feb

Attachment and the Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma

Last one, I promise, but if you have a family history of trauma I urge you to give this a look.

“Sexual Abuse and Mental Health Sequelae” by Anita H. Clayton

3 Feb

http://www.primarypsychiatry.com/aspx/articledetail.aspx?articleid=682

This article blew my mind. It looks at the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and the development of mental illness, as well as the risks of revictimization. I highly recommend it.

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