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

 

 

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.

 

Things that Blow My Dress Up

I LOVE…..

Sleeping under my duvet on a crisp night with the window open so my nose is cold

That tight feeling on my skin after a sunscreen-y, salty and sandy day

Creamed. Spinach. Anytime. Oh. My. Goodness.

Reading a paperback book that gets wet and then dries to be twice its size

Chugging a super cold Coors Light after mowing the lawn- and the little burp that ensues. It is a little bit hysterical.

Women who accept and love and refuse to judge. They are angels of God.

My untamed hair on a beach day.  It is wild and curly and crazy and fits in.  Cause usually, it doesn’t.

Jumping into the pool with my gross and dirty clothes on after working like a dog in the yard on a 90-degree day.

The smell of burgers grilling

My August feet- I am pretty sure  I could walk through fire with them.

I found my cousin.  I never thought I would see her again.

When my guests ask me for the recipe of something I served at a dinner party. And they wait until I give it to them before they leave.

My in-laws.  They make me happy. They make me feel loved.

My daily morning kiss on my forehead from My Michael.

REGINA PIZZA. Cheese. Red pepper flakes. A little sprinkle of salt. God is Good.

A raspberry lime rickey

My snakeskin cowboy boots

My morning walks with Dex

Cooking. All the time. Period.

The fact that I just looked over and saw My Michael busting a move to the Bee Gees.  I wish you were here. Now. To see him.  All your troubles would momentarily disappear.

Laughing so hard that my Pepsi comes out of my nose

That’s all.

 

More “MEAN”-ing

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I called my mother the other day. We were catching up, and we got to talking about MARYMORPHOSIS.  I told her about my post “MEAN”-ing.

Together we recalled how horrible and nasty those girls were to me in middle school.

Then she said, “Oh! Did I tell you that one of those girls ran by my house recently?”

Me, “Really?”

Mom, “Yes. She stopped and introduced herself.  She lives right up the street in that house where  Mr. So-and-So used to live.

Me, “And? Then what? Who was it???”

Mom, “She said that she was awful to you in middle school. She admitted to terribly bullying you.  She apologized to me. I can’t remember her name.”

Me, “She apologized to YOU?”

Mom, “Yes. She told me that she has middle school kids and that she does not want that to happen to them.”

My. My. My.

I wish I knew who it was that owned up to it. I also wish that that woman would apologize to me- not my mother.  I am pretty sure that she could find me, by social media or otherwise.  She could have asked my mom how to find me- right?

I am not holding my breath.

And I am so happy that this bully now is aware of the potential effects on her children; that she recognized her mistake.   I really and truly hope that mean kids spare her children.

My boys start school in just nine days, and all three will be in middle school this year.  I am biting my nails.  I am not ready. I am not talking about the 3″ binders and #2 Ticonderoga pencils ready, my friends.  I am talking about being mentally ready.

Middle school can be a fire pit.

SO many people reached out to me after I wrote “MEAN”-ing.  Many could relate.  Many have children who are victims of bullying. It is an epidemic. And there does not seem to be a vaccine.

It is highly contagious.

Victims are the hosts. And they are eaten alive by their peers who are cowards, hiding behind social media and electronics.

With Instagram and Snapchat kids can post pretty much anything they want.  They can comment any way they want. And with social media like Snapchat, the evidence disappears in about ten seconds.  It is easy to get away with it.

And that child who is on the other side is powerless and victimized.

And those feelings don’t go away in ten seconds.  They may never go away.

Don’t get me wrong, the folded square notes I found in my locker were painful. But social media is a killer. And it can be, literally, too.

I could put my thermometer on the radiator for days and miss school.  But now? There is absolutely no way to escape. Those electronics are inescapable.

My son just told me of how a girl from his grade posted a photo of her family on the beach during their summer vacation.  Some kids commented on her photo in which she was wearing a bathing suit. She was at the beach.

They called her “Shreck” and other names.  She took the picture down.

Another instance? My friend’s son posted a gorgeous image of a rainbow he saw in on vacation in Maine.  He was called “gay.”  Hm.

A child who is very close to my heart suffered from bullying in grade 5.  Several boys would taunt him, stomp on his foot, call him names and steal his lunchbox and throw it across the cafeteria.

bully-obesity

This boy who had always been gregarious and well liked all of a sudden withdrew.  He did not smile. He refused to take his puffy winter jacket off in the hot classroom because he said that it was his “protective armor.”

Doesn’t that break your heart?

Everybody, guess what? That happened recently.

For three months, the mother contacted the school.  The boy reached out to the school on numerous occasions.  Then, the mom put her foot down.

And finally, an action was taken. The parents were called in. The school intended to contact the police if the boys did not cease.

They stopped.

But it took three months for the school to take it seriously and do something.

Although there is a “no tolerance” policy in our schools, it STILL happens.

What are we going to do about this? How can we stop this? We need to educate our kids not only on what it means to be a bully but how it affects others.

Sit down with your kids before that first day of school. Explain that their devices can be a source of entertainment and fun and a way in which to connect with their friends. We need to educate our children that phones can be weapons too.

Tell them to put their weapons down.

Can we model the Golden Rule? Please?

Golden Rule

That’s all.

no bullying

After “MEAN”-ing. A Loving Message

My friends, following is a timely and beautiful piece posted on one of my favorite blogs, Momastary.

What perfect timing!  The topic of one of my recent posts was about bullying. Thanks, G for this letter.

Bullying.

I experienced it. My cousin, Laura experienced it. Now, my son suffers from it.

Please. Please. Please.

Talk to your children. Read this letter to your kids. Glennon gives her permission to substitute her son’s name with your child’s.  We can minimize bullying by being aware and educating our children on what this means and what it feels like to victims.

Glennon is inspiring. She is full of love. She brings good into this world.

We connect with Glennon. Glennon connects with us.  Want to know why? She is vulnerable, honest, real, and she offers a full heart. Consistently.

My cousin, Laura, turned me on to her. Laura took me to see her.

Here is Laura, our friend, Jessica and I waiting in great anticipation for G to arrive at The Old South Church in Boston. Glennon more than delivered.

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Then, by choice, the three of us waited at the very end of the line of many, many women to say hello to G.  It was worth the wait. We loved being last.

Glennon’s sister Amanda was by her side. What lucky women. They have each other. And they share full hearts collectively with all. And they make a difference.

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Glennon says, “Love Wins.”

She is so very right. And so is Amanda.

Thank you, both.

Right on!

That’s all

READ BELOW

http://momastery.com/blog/2015/08/18/before-school-conversation/

Namaste

“Senior Salute?”

I watched the news this morning before my daily walk with my Black Lab, Dexter.  When the clip came on I spit my coffee out.

A senior conquest. Interesting.  Shocking.

Today begins the rape trial for the St. Paul School graduate of the class of 2014.  This Harvard bound student has been accused of luring and repeatedly raping a Freshman girl, a fifteen-year-old child. Owen Labrie of Tunbridge, Vermont allegedly sexually assaulted this young girl only days before he graduated.

And do you want to know why?

He was participating and vying to win a school tradition called the “Senior Salute.”  It’s a sexual conquest in which graduating young men set out to have sex with as many girls as possible prior to their graduation.  They refer to this as “scoring.”

These young men use school walls as their canvas, and their medium is a marker.  They must keep the girl’s names documented.  That is how the boys keep “score,” of course.  The more marker, the better chance of winning!

This tally seems like a good idea.  Credit them for each and every child that they “conquer!”  It is important to keep track of each notch on their belts.  Right?

And the school just keeps painting over those walls.

If you read my post “MEAN-ing”, you will see a remarkable correlation between permanent marker, school walls, and fresh paint.

Bullying. Sexual Abuse. Interesting?

Not so much.

Tuition, room and board at St. John’s School costs over $50,000.00. It is one of our country’s most prestigious schools. Our Secretary of State, John Kerry attended as did some other congressmen, Pulitzer Prize winners, and other illustrious figures.

But who cares?

Sexual abuse does not differentiate.  It doesn’t matter whether it occurs in the most prestigious institutions or under a bridge in Chelsea.  It happens.  All the time.  There is too much silence around it.

And there is always a tin of paint to solve the problem.

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God bless this girl who has had the courage to come forward and out these young men for their conquests.  Imagine her incredible strength and conviction.

The heartbreaking part is that she may need to take the stand.  They will question her. They may cross-examine her. They may doubt her.  They may challenge her truth. And she may not be believed.

And that my friends is criminal in itself.

He has not been found guilty.  I am making assumptions that he is guilty.  Maybe he is not.

Fat chance.

But that is just one woman’s opinion.

These conquests such as the “Senior Salute” are abhorrent.  And they are in keeping with the theme of sexual abuse.  It’s ego based. These perpetrators are on a quest for power and dominance.

And nobody is going to stop them.

Except brave girls. And all of us listening.  ALL THE TIME.

No matter what.

That’s all.