*Please note – This is a copy of posts from my old blog. The old blog was redesigned to point to this one, but not before I got all the old posts transferred. What is here and the next few posts to the “Posts from The Old Blog” are copies of what I did thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and many thanks to Tracie Nall at FromTracie for telling me about this. The links probably do not work and the pictures may not show up and to my dismay, the comments are lost. I will try to reconstruct the links, but I apologize for these posts. ~Jackie
This weekend, as most people know was Halloween. Most kids just thought about what they would dress up as and how much candy they would get. I am relieved to know that some police had children’s safety in mind and didn’t care at all about the costumes or the candy.
On Saturday, a woman at work said she heard in Milwaukee registered sex offenders couldn’t even have a pumpkin in their yard for Halloween. I thought that was a bit over to top at first because I’m one of those, “Gosh darn it, sex offenders are people too” kind of people. Then I thought about it for a minute and decided it was actually in kids’ best interest if sex offenders aren’t encouraged to have festive Halloween decorations in their yards.
Police officers and parole officers visited all the homes of one hundred and seventy five registered sex offenders in Milwaukee on Halloween. According to the story, one sex offender was found with an unaccompanied trick or treater in his house. It seems extreme, but it looks like one child was saved from a life scarred by abuse.
I used to have such a hard time with that with my dad. I didn’t want people to know he was a registered sex offender because after all, he was my dad and was a person. I wrote a poem about his house and the things that were in there and how everything looked normal. I didn’t want people to be mean to him, but I didn’t want him to be around any other kids either. It was so hard to reconcile all of it.
Yes, sex offenders are people. But first and foremost, they are sex offenders. They chose what they did. Even if it can be argued that they have a sickness and were abused themselves, it isn’t enough. They chose what they did and their victims are left to deal with it. My first priority has to be protecting kids.
When I was in seminary, Rev. Madison Shockley came to speak to us in chapel. Because my friend was in charge of chapel and knew there was a strong change I’d fly into a rage when Rev. Shockley spoke, I had some warning. Rev. Shockley is the pastor at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, California. In 2007, a two-time convicted registered sex offender approached Rev. Shockley and asked to join the church. He said in his speech at Eden that he had always felt his church was open. This situation challenged how open the church really was.
People in the congregation volunteered to escort the man when he was in the building. The congregation talked a lot about the impact of allowing this man to join their church. People were given an opportunity to speak, including victims of abuse. Rev. Shockley said that many of the survivors in the church were in favor of allowing the man to join.
I got a second to speak with Rev. Shockley after he spoke and I gave him a copy of the O Magazine in which my story had been published. We did not have much time to speak, but I was still angry, not at Rev. Shockley, but at the whole situation. Victims are repeatedly told to just be quiet about the abuse and try to move on. Offenders are brought back into society and just told not to do it again. I cannot sort out the disparity or unfairness of those two perspectives.
Victims of child sexual abuse often spend the rest of their lives trying to fit in and feel normal again. Perpetrators blend right in.
There is a place in the world for sex offenders to be welcomed, but I do not know where it is and I don’t know that I could be a part of that place. The one positive I see is that the sex offender is known instead of unknown. There is some relief in that.
I often check facebook while I’m writing. It gives me just enough of a break to refocus my work. Today while writing this, two things struck me. The first was a post by TAALK – Breaking the Silence that Surrounds Child Sexual Abuse. The TAALK Tip #34 as posted today on facebook is as follows:
TAALK – Breaking the Silence that Surrounds Child Sexual Abuse on Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 12:09pm
Tip: Don’t allow yourself to have a “them and us” attitude. Perpetrators walk among us; they are from every race, religion and socio-economic sector; they are somebody’s son and somebody’s daughter; and they are often somebody’s husband, wife, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or cousin. Child sexual abuse knows no boundaries.
Statistic:30-40% of victims are abused by a family member.
The statistics are even higher for someone that the victim knew – a close family friend, coach, teacher, minister, older friend, babysitter, etc.
The second thing on facebook that struck me today was my friend Shelley Haynes‘ quote from the Dalai Lama. “We should practice by showing one another love and helping one another. It is a mistake to pursue happiness and to seek to the avoid suffering by deceiving and humiliating other people. We must try to achieve happiness and eliminate suffering by being good-hearted and well-behaved.”
I find myself having to make choices as I read this quote. To whom should I show love? Who needs my help the most? Sometimes I can’t be good-hearted in the face of what I see in the world. I see too much suffering and not enough happiness and I don’t believe the suffering goes away just because we try to ignore it.
I know that child-molesters are people too. But I choose to help protect them kids whenever I can. They deserve safety and happiness and sometimes they need help to keep away from the suffering. I choose to not always be well-behaved in helping them stay away from suffering. For too long, well-behaved women have been defined by their ability to keep quiet. I’m choosing not to be quite and therefore, will probably not be viewed as well-behaved. At least I can live with that!
Last week, I wrote a submission for the Survivor Archives Project. I am going to be a featured survivor and will share the link when that happens. What I like about this project is the level of hope it is trying convey. It isn’t a false hope or anything sugar coated. It is about men and women who have been in awful, unimaginable situations, and they persevere. They press on, they survive, they heal, and then they try to leave an imprint of healing for others. These men and women are taking the awfulness of abuse, not just sexual, but emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual, and trying to paint a picture of what can be. People can and do survive. They may be a basket of broken pieces for a while and may have lifelong ramifications from what was done to them, but they are living and thriving.
One of the other things that amazes me about this project is I know a lot of these women. I consider survivor Vanessa Kennedy to be a dear friend even though I’ve never actually met her. Through the information super highway, I have been given access to other survivors and their stories of pain and healing. And it isn’t like I was given access without their permission. The survivors who are writing for this project want others to know that they aren’t alone. They have written about their pain not in a grandstanding fashion to make others look at them with pity or to treat them differently because they had a bad childhood. If you read these stories, it is a reminder that LOTS of people have bad childhoods. Most of them don’t turn into psychopaths, rapists, murders, or abusers. Most of them try to live with what has happened to them and have a life that involves other activities and interests. The subtext of Survivor Archives Project is “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” How beautiful and how true.
I am proud to be part of this project and thankful to Joanna Doane and the other project creators. All of them have a story to tell which touches on the pain of others. They tell what has worked for them, and what hasn’t, and how to keep going, even when everything is really bad.
Writing for this project also makes me realize that I have gone through a tremendous amount in my relatively short lifetime. It isn’t that I deny that or think that I didn’t, but I read these stories and think that the other people have done so well and do so much for survivors. I hope I will be a credit to the project. It is easier to say how great other people are doing and not be able to claim that I have done pretty well myself. I guess that’s just one of those self-confidence without being arrogant things I am still working on.
Writing for this project also reminds me of my friends who are survivors. They are not just survivors of sexual abuse, but physical abuse, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, bad marriages, natural disasters, cancer, and the list goes on. Life does not have to be this way, but for most people, it seems that it is and living means trying to figure out what to do with all of the things that happen to us.
Part of living is also about making choices. We all do that everyday and sometimes don’t even realize that we are doing it. Some choices are so easy, and others are so hard. Some of the survivors from the Archive Project talk about choosing one spouse and then circumstances causing them to make another decision. They made the initial decision, lived with it for a while, then made a different one. I think there is a huge lesson to be learned in that. Once we make a decision, it is ok to realize it wasn’t the best one we made and try again. Sometimes we need to change the decision because of a realization about ourselves, or the other person involved, or a change in circumstances. Life is filled with changes and new choices and we can only do the best we can do with each change and choice.
So, if you are feeling a little overwhelmed by life today and need some realistic stories with endings of hope, please check out the Survivor Archives Project. I am honored to know some of these folks and commend their stories to you. If you have a story you’d like to share and let others know they aren’t alone in their pain and experience, please consider writing it. It will be healing for you and for others. It also helps spread hope. One thing the world can always use is more hope.
I watched the movie “Prince of Tides” again over the weekend. I absolutely love the book, but for once the movie is pretty good as well. This is one of the few books I have read more than once. I think Pat Conroy is an amazing author.
The pain in the movie is so palpable. Everyone is trying to deal with abuse by not dealing with it. They all really want to believe that if they just don’t talk about it and go on, it will really go away. The main character, Tom, is about to lose his wife. His twin sister has tried to kill herself on several occasions. Their mother is a bitter, hateful woman who believes if she has money, nothing else in her life matters.
Tom, his twin Savannah, and their mother were raped by three escaped convicts. Then their older brother Luke kills the convicts. In the movie, he shoots two of them. In the book, the deaths involve a tiger. Their mother tells them to clean up the mess and never think about it again.
I used to watch this movie because then I could cry at their pain. It was so realistic and brushed the edges of my own. I could cry and say I was crying at the movie. I was really crying for them and myself, but the movie was a cover for my own pain.
I spent a lot of time crying in seminary. We had chapel three days a week, and it often felt like I cried during those periods of worship, and just about any other time that suited me. For a little while, I felt like Fiona Apple’s song “Please, Please, Please” was my theme song. “I’m so tired of crying, You’d think I was a siren.” I’m so glad Miriam introduced me to it. I just felt like I couldn’t stop crying. I’d cry in class, in chapel, at lunch, in my apartment, by myself, with friends, with strangers. I guess I was making up for all the times I hadn’t cried and had just held it in. I was crying for all the times it wasn’t safe to cry.
Having times when it is not safe to cry isn’t solely a phenomenon of survivors of sexual abuse. I think our whole society is based on the fact that we don’t take the time to cry and mourn our losses at a time when it is appropriate. We are allowed to cry at funerals, but not for too long afterward, or we are seen as mentally unstable and just unwilling to move on. We are allowed to cry at weddings, but only if it is tears of happiness for the joy of the new couple. We can’t cry for our own marriages that may have failed. Women who have lost children or were never able to have them can’t cry that those children will never be able to get married.
We have societal rules about crying that are so strict, it is almost impossible to know when emotion of any sort is appropriate. I think society as a whole would prefer that we not have emotions because then no one has to figure out what is causing the emotion and we can keep living as if everything is perfect.
The other thing that always gets me about “Prince of Tides” is Tom’s struggle to name his abuse. He has a sarcastic response for everything and says that is the Southern way. When he tries to tell the psychiatrist what happened to his sister, he says he wasn’t doing anything while she was raped. After minutes of struggling with language, trying to be masculine, not wanting to cry or admit weakness, he finally says, “I didn’t know it could happen to a boy.”
This is another flaw in our societal character. We can barely admit in public that women are raped and abused, but God forbid that we admit men and boys can be abused too. It happens. Actually, it happens a lot. The statistics are one in seven boys are sexually abused before the age of eighteen. I do not know the statistics on men who are raped after age eighteen, but like so many other things there are people who never say a word or may never recognize it as abuse.
We have so much education to do. And we have so many injustices to stop. One way to educate yourself further on the issue of male sexual abuse is to watch the documentary “Boys and Men Healing.” I have not ordered the film and watched it in its entirety yet, but what I have seen of it and read out it, it is certainly worth the time. Another good organization that helps educate men and woman about abuse is (Wo)Men Speak Out. Chris and Ophelia are amazing. They have so many wonderful things to share.
So if you haven’t ever watched or read “Prince of Tides” and need space to cry, it is a good opportunity. Educate yourself about sexual abuse if you weren’t abused, and heal yourself if you were. Healing yourself brings healing to the world. You are worth it.