Splitting Hairs?

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This morning I opened my daily email from “The Week” to catch up on the “10 things I need to know today.”

I was gobsmacked when I read the following.

5. California bill sparked by Stanford rape case passes
California lawmakers on Monday passed legislation to close a legal loophole that let a former Stanford University swimmer, Brock Turner, receive a sentence of just six months in jail after his conviction of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Prosecutors had asked for him to serve six years, because there was no penile penetration. The bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who had not indicated whether he plans to sign it. Turner, 21, is scheduled to be released from Santa Clara County Jail on Sept. 2. [Reuters, New York Daily News]

Yep. You read it right.

“Prosecutors had asked for him to serve six years, because there was no penile penetration.”

This is maddening. Anyone who buys into it is misinformed, ingenuous and naive.

Is sexual assault less evil if there is “no penile penetration?” NO.  Rape is rape.  Rape is penetration by ANY object.  Furthermore, one does not need to have any penetration whatsoever for sexual assault to be immensely scarring, the aftermath wreaking havoc for the victim.

This topic warrants serious consideration, Everyone.

Occasionally, when people hear about my abuse, their first question is, “Well, did he actually (fill in the blanks)”  This is a headscratcher. It is also intensely irritating.

Whether he did or did not, did that qualify the degree of sexual assault? Does it make it less horrific?  Does it lighten the magnitude of trauma? NO.  And furthermore, who is judging?

The details in no way quantify the impact and aftermath.

Laura and I often hear survivors in our workshops (and everywhere, for that matter) preface a statement by saying, “Well, my abuse was not as bad as yours…”

No, No, No Everybody.

Laura and I consistently interrupt saying, “This is not the hardship Olympics.” There is no competition.

Trauma is trauma. Abuse is abuse; There is no yardstick, no measure, no quantification.

That clip this morning unfettered my passion around this issue.  Penetration vs. no penetration does not define the crime nor the punishment.

Judge Aaron Persky clearly, is unfit to preside.  His ignorant, grossly lenient and frankly,  absurd decision to sentence Brock Turner to six months in jail, makes a mockery of the capability of our justice system to protect victims of assault and rape.

Say It, Survivor (sayitsurvivor.com) continues our charge in educating about abuse and what we can do to try to prevent it.  The outcome of the Stanford Rape Case is an example of what not to do- it is a worthwhile and heartbreakingly infuriating lesson.

That’s All

 

 

HAPPY Officer Paul-IVERSARY!

It has been one year this weekend, friends.

One year has passed since My Laura and I laid eyes on each other after a thirty-five-year separation. A separation over which we had no choice.

One year has passed since I stood on the train station platform with my heart beating like crazy waiting for her to step off the car so I could hug her again.

One year has passed since she and I curled up in front of a roaring fire with tea and warm blankets and finally found all of those missing pieces to the puzzles of our lives.

One year has passed since we sported our white “Invincible” coats and stood camera ready for My Michael to capture a moment we would never forget.

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One year has passed since we ventured to Carlisle to find his grave.

One year has passed since I hurled behind a dumpster.

One year since we met Officer Paul Smith, our hero.

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Everybody’s hero.

One year since we learned that there was, at least, one other little girl he abused.

One year has passed since we held her momma and cried together.

And from that one year that has passed to this very moment

THOUSANDS have said, “ME TOO!”  

We founded Say It, Survivor. 

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THANK YOU TO ALL WHO HAVE BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN HELPING US AND OTHERS.

Especially-

Officer Paul Smith

Chief Fisher

The beautiful girl’s Momma

Susan Elsbree

Michael Ross

S.I, Rosenbaum

Brian Stauffer

MY MICHEL

My children

My Dearest Clare, who has been my closest pal since age 14 who knew my secret from the start

Friends, family and everybody has read Marymorphosis, shared, offered kindness and love

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That’s all.

Peanut Butter is Disgusting?

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Taken at the time of my grandparents visit which I share below. I am seven.

 

This morning I sliced a banana and put a dollop of peanut butter on my plate. All of a sudden my stomach lurched. I remembered something that has not crossed my mind in years.

I was triggered.

Anyone who has suffered trauma is triggered from time to time. Trauma happens as a result of anything that challenges or strays from what feels right to us as human beings. Whether the trauma is the result of an accident, the horror of serving during a war, sexual abuse or any other event, trauma happens.

I was seven years old and in the second grade. I got off the bus at the end of the driveway, walked up and entered my house to greet my mom, Nana, and Grandpa, who were visiting for a few days.

THE Grandpa. My abuser.

Mom asked if I wanted my usual snack, peanut butter in a small orange ramekin. Of course, I accepted.

As I sat there enjoying, propped up on the kitchen chair by The Yellow Pages, and swinging my little legs. Grandpa looked at me, curled his lip and said, “That’s disgusting.”

That moment turns my stomach. Not the peanut butter, mind you, but the way he was turned off by my snack choice.

All the while, he was sexually abusing me.

So peanut butter is disgusting.  What?

I have been thinking all morning about how insanely twisted and skewed that scene was.

My grandparents came to visit often. I remember their visits as a young girl before my abuse had started – before I was seven-ish.

I loved their visits.

I have fond memories of sitting at our octagonal kitchen table with the yellow 70-ish chairs playing Rummy 500. Dad and Grandpa would drink a Knickerbocker Beer and Smoke Raleigh Filter tips, the ashes of which they flicked into the amber, plate sized ashtray.

We had fun.

I remember that Nana was dear to me. She was kind and sweet and spoiled me. When I had an occasional temper tantrum kicking and screaming on the floor, she would gently put her foot on my back and say, “OH! What a nice rug!”

I would soon come out of it and return to my cheerful self. She would give me a chocolate out of the box with the red bow on it. I always chose the candy with the pink rosebud on top.

Grandpa was standoffish. He left me alone for the most part. Then things changed. He took an interest in me.

We would walk to the playground. I would run my little fingers along the chain link fence that abutted the sidewalk. I would pick up the remnant of a deciduous a tree – that little bit that looked like a coat hanger and hold it up to my face as if they were my mustache.

One thing lead to another.

Things changed. He was not longer aloof. He paid attention to me. I was little. I did not know what he was doing.

Grooming.

He was grooming me.

You see, sexual abuse does not always just start with a “BOOM!” Most of the time it happens at the hands of a family member or a close family friend who takes the time and interest to foster the victim.

It happens over time. I may start with things like tickling, or an inappropriate touch or the perpetrator telling secrets as a way to build a bond. The abuser wants to build trust.

Over time, it changes. There is a sick takeover, an overpowering, so to speak.

Dominance.

Children are usually dumbfounded, scared out of their wits and lose their sense of selves. They don’t know what to do.

I knew what he was doing to me was wrong. It felt yucky. But I did not know what it was or meant. Was it the baseline? Did it happen to every little person?

I was ashamed and embarrassed. I did not know how to communicate what had happened to me to my mom and dad. Even if I did have the words, I was too mortified to speak them.

Much like most children, I looked up to my folks. I was a pleaser. I was teacher’s pet and was the only seven-year-old at the YWCA that was brave enough to jump off the deep-end diving board.

I did not want to “upset the applecart,” anger my parents or make a fuss. It was only me after all.

Yup. That is when that feeling started. It was only measly little me.

Way. Back. Then.

In my case, I kept my mouth shut. For years. I did not have the words. I did not know how to tell anyone that that “innocent kiss” did not feel right. I sat on his lap, but I was told to do so. I had to. Most of the time I quickly struggled and squirmed away. Again, it felt yucky.

I would give anything to go back in time and change it all. I wish that I had shouted “no!” I wish that I knew how to say the words. I wish that I had the confidence in myself to tell. I wish that he was locked away.

If I had, my cousin would have been spared. And others would have been spared, too.

I do not feel responsible for the abuse that happened to My Laura and other children. I did not know any better. No one taught me.

I did know enough to warn Laura about what Grandpa might do to her.  But she laughed. She had NO idea what the details of my warning really meant. She laughed. She was little.

To a child,  my words, my warning, the details sounded preposterous.

How can a child effectively warn another child when she, herself, doesn’t have the words?

As adults, it may be uncomfortable to do so, but necessary. Imperative, even.

I am not sure that people think to educate themselves as to how to protect their children. I protected my child out of absolute fear; I was overprotective, and a helicopter but that was because I was keenly aware of the peril.

But I never studied or researched HOW to protect my babe. I made it up as I went along.

Now I know. Now I know that there are tools and sources, and there is valuable information to educate us.

Parents. Everybody.  You can learn the warning signs. You can teach your children the proper language to express inappropriate behavior or violation by another. You can convince them that it is safe to tell. You can cut it off before it begins.

There are no guarantees that you can prevent sexual abuse, but you can arm yourself. Be smart. Be proactive.

And if it has already started, that is not the worst thing. The worst thing is if your child never tells you about it.

I eventually told my parents. My abuse was swept under the carpet; it was not acknowledged by the other family members who were also told.
And neither was Laura’s, except by her mom.

Here is the takeaway.

Smarten up. Don’t be uncomfortable or embarrassed that you will insult someone or hurt their feelings if you are suspicious. Call the person out. Interject if you suspect someone has inappropriate behavior. Listen, speak up.

Join the bandwagon because when it comes to peanut butter and incest, you know which is is disgusting.

That’s all.

 

For more information or to register for a workshop or a lecture, please visit sayitsurvivor.org

 

Sharing “Personal” Information

I spent some time with a good friend yesterday.

I was mentioning how the past year has been one full of changes in my life. Great changes, hard changes, exciting changes.

I shared that the most impactful changes in my life have been around friendships. I have made some incredible friends over the past year, and I am so grateful for all the new people with whom I have connected.

But then I shared the sadness I am experiencing over the loss of some friends over this past year.

These are friends I have known for years. These are friends who I thought would be in my life forever. They seemed to have disappeared. They have stopped being there. They have stopped engaging.

Crickets.

I told her that there seemed to be a direct correlation between me losing my friends and me telling my story.

This year I stood firmly in my truth, in my story, and spoke of my sexual abuse, shamelessly. I made a conscious decision to speak out, to reach out to all who would listen.

And the good that has come of doing so has been humbling. It has been life-altering. Speaking out has helped people.

She said, “Well, you took some very personal information and shared it all over the internet. People might feel that it is just too personal to share. It may make people uncomfortable.”

Ah HA!

You see, therein lies the problem, folks.

I do not see it as sharing PERSONAL information. In my opinion, my abuse was anything BUT personal.

It had nothing to do with me, personally.

I was not a “person” to my abuser. I was his prey. He selected me for no other reason than he COULD. I was available. I would not tell. I was safe, and I was an easy target.

Then I played out a scenario. I played devil’s advocate.

What would happen if an entire family became homeless overnight as victims of an arsonist? What if someone violently set their house on fire? What if they lost everything tangible and were out in the cold. What would happen?

Right.

The media would be all over it like white on rice. Social media would be the gasoline and their story, too, would run ablaze.

People would flock to help them out. People would pull together and pitch in. Money and blankets and clothes and casseroles would abound.

People would feel so badly for these victims. They did nothing to deserve this horrible crime.

My tragedy, my victimization, and that of all my brothers and sisters in survival was no more personal than theirs.

My perpetrator victimized and desecrated my body. Their perpetrator victimized and desecrated the physical structure where they resided.

Victims.

Does it matter how one is victimized?

Think about it. There is no shame in being the victim of arson, right? Those unfortunate people didn’t do anything to deserve it.

So, then, why is there so much shame attached to being the victim of rape? Of sexual abuse?

Because “Sex” is private.

Actually, sex is selectively private.

Turn on primetime. Is sex private?

Nope. Not on primetime.

Now, walk around the mall. Flip a magazine.  Not there, either.

When sex is nonconsensual, that is private. When the topic makes people uncomfortable. Then it is private.

But if a crime becomes shameful to the general public merely because of the nature of the crime, sexual, that is criminal in itself.

Everyone has the right to respond the way they respond. People have very different reactions. I have no right to judge others on how they feel about it if they want to stay silent or ignore it.

I respect that everyone has their story. I believe that everyone is living with the best of intentions.

But for the love of the Good Lord, can we stop saying that sharing this is too PERSONAL? There is nothing personal about it.

Carry on.

That’s all.

 

Honey, I’m Good

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Riding horseback in Ireland. Bucket list- another check!

 

Honey, I’m good.

I have written about abuse, trauma, bullying and how society is so skewed. I have written of the unfairness of things. I have written about love.

Love is my favorite.

Bad things happen.  And we get to grieve.  We have a right to our reactions and our feelings no matter how they play out.  No one gets a say in how we manage. No one gets a vote on how we survive.

The aftermath of tragedy and trauma is stifling. The effects are physical, psychological and social, at least.

The result of my sexual abuse smothered me. Living with it is much like being suffocated by a pillow. For years, I struggled to breathe.  I could gasp, and that kept me going.  It was no way to live.

I just could not get enough air.

My abuse did a tattoo on me.  It wormed its way into the deepest part of me and, like a parasite devoured me.  The worse I felt, the more I fed it.

And much like metastasized cancer this malady took over.

Finally, I decided that feeling broken had to stop. I needed a new baseline.

We have the right and responsibility to come up for air and take charge of our lives and reclaim our joy.

I made a conscious decision, a conscious commitment to put the kibosh on low self-worth, anxiety, and sorrow parasitically existing in my soul. And Honey, that took YEARS. And I am still at it.

I am not fully there yet. I know that it is not possible to squeegee my past so that my screen is clean. But I can squeegee my mirror so that I get a clearer picture of myself, a picture that is not smeared and muddled.

I have said before that there is great power in vulnerability.  One may think that vulnerability is a weakness. It is nothing of the sort. Quite to the contrary.

Vulnerability takes strength. It takes courage, and it takes Moxie.

My cousin, Laura and I have recently co-founded Say It, Survivor (sayitsurvivor.com,) an organization committed to shedding a light on sexual abuse, helping other survivors to stand firmly in their stories and putting an end to this horrible epidemic.

We have had an overwhelming onslaught of love and support.  We have heard from thousands all over the world; People are speaking up, reclaiming themselves and joining our bandwagon. It is awesome.

Often there is the predictable reaction when I share my story. Folks are uncomfortable (understandable,) profusely sorry and express pity.

Another reaction that I have heard more often than not is, “But you are so NORMAL!”  That one makes me chuckle.

But Folks, there is no pity-party happening, At all. Not even a smidge of a pity party.

Then, there is the other side of the peanut gallery. Brace yourself.

There are haters. There are those who believe that we are trying to attract attention to ourselves. These are the people who gaff and roll their eyes and call us sensationalists. There are those who think that this is self-serving. There are those who are aghast that we would bear such “private” information about our past.

“Private.”  That is why we are doing this. We are trying to tell our private stories and encourage others to do so. Privacy equates to secrecy and that in turn evokes shame.

Shame. That is the cancer, the malady I am talking about.

There are people with whom I was close. Friends who I kept for years. I have not heard from them.  That is ok. For some, it is too painful and may stir up their emotions or past. I understand and continue to send love to them. I hope they heal if they have not already.

For some, it is not a “nice” topic.

Some, believe it or not, are embarrassed by me. And that is all good information.

Everyone has the right to their opinions and feelings. I can no sooner judge other’s opinion of me personally or of my charge. I am an activist and people are not going to like me or what I am doing.

That’s not going to change.

I am sad for people who have that perspective.  It must be painful to live with a perspective like that.

I have compassion for them.

In my painful past, where I was suffering from parasitic self-loathing and insecurity I would be defensive and hurt and embarrassed over this.

Laura and I  did not choreograph our dance. It was improvisational.  We did not premeditate what happened at the Carlisle Police Station on January 18. My car turned itself into that parking lot.

Our story is not exceptional nor is it unique. We are not heroes. We are just two women who decided to take charge and find peace in telling our stories to anyone who would listen, And Officer Paul Smith did just that.

Our charge is not self-serving. We have plainly decided to do what I said. We decided to take charge and shake it up like a snow globe.

And every serendipitous turn, every co-incidence were God moments. We are not thankful for our abuse. Not at all. But we also refuse to stay mired in it. We refuse to be victims.

In Say It, Survivor we are working for a greater good. It is healing and empowering to help others.

“Honey, I’m Good.”

Thank you for your kindness and compassion and love. Thank you for the outpouring of support. Thank you for spreading the word. Thank you for holding hands with Say It, Survivor.

But All, please don’t view me broken because quite to the contrary I am better than ever. I am empowered and charged up and ready to take this on.  I am privileged and honored for those who have faith and put their trust in us.

What a privilege.

There is something powerful, cathartic and joyful in putting one’s pain to work. And  ill-wishers shall be ill-wishers.

And I will bear witness to others with kindness, compassion and love.

Love is my favorite.

Let’s change the world, Friends.

 

That’s all.

 

Mary MAMA BEAR

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Adrianne Simeone, The Mama Bear Effect

I love this sentiment.  It resonates.

This website is powerful and useful beyond measure. And I love the name of it, “The Mama Bear Effect.”

In the most literal sense, I am an example of a “Mama Bear.”

I was a single mother since my son was just a wee tot.  He was just three years old when my ex and I separated.  It was not until he was ten when I remarried My Michael and, with his two boys, we became a new family.

Those seven years were a challenging time.

In my eyes, it was my responsibility to overcompensate for our divorce. I stayed married for many years: Much longer than was healthy because I did not want him to be the only child of a broken home.

I finally realized that our family had been broken for years.

Come hell or high water, I was going to make up for it. I was going to make up for the shuffling between homes, heartbreaking transitions, and he had one parental kiss each night.

I overcompensated.

I spoiled him.  I intervened when I should have let him work things out on his own. I was overly protective and keenly aware if anyone looked askance at him. I sided with him almost all the time.

And he ate a lot of ice cream.

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One day, I was meddling in some situation with my child; One in which I had no business meddling. My friend’s husband candidly pointed it out to me by saying, “Mary, STOP being the Mama Bear!”

I shook my head, trying to shake those words around so that I could understand his intention.

I did not KNOW I was the Mama Bear. I was constantly keeping my eye on the prize: Winning  the Mother-of-the-Year Award. It never even dawned on me.

He was right.

I mulled over that for a long time. I journaled about it. I tried to connect the dots. I prayed about it. I finally get it.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse. The trauma and aftermath of which wreaks havoc on its victims psychological, physical and general health. It rears its ugly head in eating disorders, addiction, perfection, low self-worth, low self-esteem, and perfectionism.

I possess many of these qualities, mostly perfectionism, but also another. Being ENOUGH.

I have never felt as if I or my efforts have been enough.

I have always had unrealistic expectations of myself. I needed to be the smartest, prettiest, most successful, thinnest, best- you name it. And the reality is that I will never be the “-est.” And realizing that, after holding it as truth for so long, is a hard pill to swallow.

To me, the ultimate test of being the perfectionist is mothering.

Being a survivor evokes a heightened sense of overprotection. It’s not about holding my child’s hand while crossing the street or making sure that every electrical outlet had that little plastic safety thingy on it.

I had to guard him.

I had to be sure that NO ONE could get to him. I was willing to die a long and painful death to ensure that he would not suffer the way I had.

And there have been many times that this “Mama Bear” exited her cave, claws out, growling and ready to protect her cub.

The trauma of my abuse permeated its way into my parenting skills.

My cousin, Laura and I reported our abuse to the police, an investigation ensued, and Laura’s blog post went viral. Then it became clear that I had to tell my kids what happened to me. In hindsight, I should have had the conversation long before.

A few people asked, “Are you going to tell the boys?”

Of course.

A few people asked, “What are you going to tell the boys?”

The truth.

I will admit that I was nervous.

It was not the fear that they would be upset. It was not the notion that they would feel uncomfortable. I was ready to talk about it openly and shamelessly. I was ready for the hard questions and the answer.

The question to which I feared the answer more than any other.

“Has anyone ever done anything to make you feel uncomfortable? Has anyone ever acted in an abusive manner? “Has anyone ever sexually abused you?”

I held my breath.

“No.”

Glory be. Thank you, God.

We have got to have a heightened sense of the eminent danger to our kids. Because it is happening right under our noses.

Abuse is happening families and in circles of close friends. “Stranger Danger” is an inaccurate cliche that masks a hard topic. Everybody, strangers make up only five percent of abusers.

I have always used the term “Mama Bear” in a not-so-favorable manner. But quite to the contrary, “The Mama Bear Effect” sheds light on this term positively and pro-actively, giving  powerful and poignant information.  The content includes topics like how to talk to your children about abuse, how to prevent abuse and how to detect the signs of abuse.

I love big and try to mend all the hurts. I shield, over-compensate and fiercely protect my kids. I probably won’t change those things, but I will move on with a conscious heart and mind as I parent.

So, now my charge, with my cousin, is to educate others; children, parents and anyone else who will listen. We speak appropriately, clearly, candidly and with conviction about abuse. We want you to speak, too.

Because, everyone, our children’s lives depend on it.

That’s all.

themamabeareffect.org

EXTRA, EXTRA…!

Hello BOSTON!

Here is our story. And our story happened here, in our backyard.

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Boston Magazine, October 2015 “How to Bring a Dead Man to Justice.”

You may think our story is powerful, impactful or moving.  Maybe it is. The sad truth is that our story is NOTHING SPECIAL.

The only thing different about our story is that we are telling it. Shamelessly.

Our story is a common one shared by one in five people. The details of our story may be unique. But the underlying theme is a constant. It happens all around us. Everyday.

All. The. Time.

There are the victims:  mothers, daughters, sons, best friends, neighbors, teachers, bullies, babysitters. It happens here in The Bean, in the penthouse in NYC, on the set of reality TV, in Hollywood, in Tulsa and on the freaking Cosby Show. (I used to LOVE that show.)

And then there are the perpetrators: grandfathers, sons, brothers, actors, mothers, sisters, tennis pros, clergy, best friends, bosses, politicians, actors, professional athletes, boyfriends, girlfriends, college football coaches and on and on.

You name it.

Cut it out, for the love of Pete.  It is time for us to speak up.

Sexual abuse has no place. It is criminal, It is traumatic. It is life altering.

It lurks.

There is a mask that exists. That mask says, “Everything is great.”

It thrives on “Don’t tell. “or ” This is our little secret.”

It threatens, “No one will believe you.” or “I will hurt you if you say anything.”

It deceives, “This is NORMAL.”

STOP is a complete sentence, everybody.

NO TRESPASSING.

Please help us in our mission to put an end to this abuse. Jump on board, everyone.

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That’s All.