Tag Archives: sexual assault

I Know Why Victims Don’t Report

I’m in physical therapy twice a week for lingering issues from having shingles.

Twice a week, I lay down on a black table with an oval shape cut out of it for my face to rest in. I deep breathe as tears burn my eyes while the physical therapist dry needles my shoulder blade trying to wake up dead muscles and nerves.

When I took ballet, I was taught early on about finding a spot across the room to focus intently on while learning to pirouette. You focus on that spot and as your body twirls around, you don’t turn your head until the very last second, and then you refocus immediately on that same spot. I could keep spinning indefinitely, as long as I didn’t lose sight of that spot.

So when I lay down on the table at physical therapy, I find one spot on the floor and focus with all my might. But that’s not the only reason I have to deep breathe, focus on one spot, and meditate while I lay face down and dig my fingernails into the palms of my hands.

The carpet on the floor that I stare at twice a week has the same exact pattern and texture as the couch in my grandparent’s Florida room.

The same couch I focused on while my grandfather would pin me down and rape me on the ground in between the exercise bike and the couch while the television blared next to us.

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I just read a thread on Twitter where a female creative was talking about a bad experience she had with men in a creative space. I am being intentionally vague here, for her safety. In this space, she stood up to these men who argued what consent is. These men argued that according to rules of consent, they raped women.

As I started reading the replies, people called her out for not naming names. And for not naming who had assaulted her. 

Okay, so where to start with this?

One, I talk about my abuse and my assault. I’m not everyone, nor am I every victim. I, and I alone, made that choice. Talking about my abuse and assault gives me control of a situation I had no control in. When I don’t talk about it, shame takes over and I refuse to feel shame for the monstrous actions of someone else.

Here’s the thing — I named who hurt me and guess what? Nothing happened. Not a damn thing. There’s no such thing as a perfect victim. I was a blonde hair, innocent little girl and still people didn’t believe me.

My bladder does not work the way a normal human’s bladder should work, I have to buy industrial KY jelly for the catheters I use daily and I have to pay for a prescription for bladder medicine monthly because of what that man did to me.

And yet, people still do not believe me.

There were witnesses. My grandmother got mad at my grandfather one time because he ejaculated in my hair and didn’t realize it. She was mad because she didn’t want to clean it out of my hair because she didn’t have time to do that and finish making Baked Alaskan for dessert.

And yet, people still do not believe me.

I write about my experiences, even though I know that every single time I do, I will receive hate mail. I get rape threats and hate mail blaming me for every victim that came after me. I get hate mail for not handling my abuse and assault ‘correctly’. As if there is a place on this planet where a trauma like that can be handled ‘correctly’ by a victim. Did I survive? Yes. Then I handled it correctly. Did you survive? Yes? Then you handled it correctly. Hard stop.

Stop putting the responsibility on the victim. If a victim chooses to name their assailant, then that needs to be their choice, not yours.

Let me repeat that for you: If a victim chooses to name their assailant, then that needs to be their choice, not yours.

If you take that away from a victim, you are taking one more thing about what happened out of their control.

Stop asking why they didn’t say anything. There are five million examples and counting of why victims don’t disclose. Even now, as a woman in my forties, members of my extended family have tried to taunt me about the abuse. The abuse they could have, but chose not to stop. 

Don’t bully a survivor into telling the world who their abuser/rapist was. It’s not on the survivor to defend herself and make sure she is safe. Maybe start with believing them. I know why people don’t report — it’s because they don’t think they will be believed.

After the #metoo movement started, I had written an essay for a website that has around 7 million followers. I normally don’t read the comments on pieces I’ve written, as history has taught me that I can’t continue to write what I need to write if I read the nastiness. My husband and I had gone to dinner in New Orleans with another couple on the day it was published. I made the mistake on the hour drive home to open up my email. I was grateful for the darkness outside, so no one else could see the tears stream down my face for the rest of the trip home.

I decided shortly after to focus on writing my book and not on freelancing for the year. I need the break from writing about the worst experiences of my life and the emotional labor that would follow. I had been talking about my experiences for almost twenty years through writing, working, and giving speeches. It felt like since people were willing and starting to share their experiences, it was time for their voices to be heard.

Then, people that I know started chastising me for not speaking up more about it. So many of them were disappointed, they said, and were outraged and wanted for the masses to be vocal about the problem.

I was tired. Bone tired. Some of these people are the same ones who would be uncomfortable and change the subject when they asked what I was working on, or wouldn’t show up to an advocacy event I invited them to, or would tell me I needed to ‘get over it’. 

Where were these people for the last twenty years? Now it’s a five alarm fire for them and I’ve been telling them about the smoke for years. 

All of these conversations would end with people telling me how I should tell my story. How I should do this or that. I am so sick and tired of people telling survivors how to tell their stories. Telling my story thousands of times over the years is thousands of hours of emotional labor and it is exhausting because I have to tell the story on the defense. People want to hear the story in a way they can control through victim blaming questions and statements, as if to further separate the possibility of them being in same the situation by placing blame on something I did or didn’t do. People want to control my story in order to make themselves comfortable.

I am not here to be controlled.

My story, my terms.

I’ve been telling my story for over twenty years. When I want, how I want. I do it because there are little girls out there, like I was, who will tell someone and they will not be believed. I want those little girls to know that there are people like me, paving the way for them to tell their story if they so choose.

And if those little girls grow up and choose to tell their story, it won’t be because I pushed them to. It will be their choice. And I will believe them.

What Are You Willing to be Criticized For?

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and I’ve been playing over and over in my mind a line that the Rector said during the sermon.

“What are you willing to be criticized for?”

This post has been brewing in my head for awhile, months actually. I’ve started and stopped it three times over the last nine months, walking away from it, with just a jumble of thoughts left typed on the page, saved for another day.

This post started after I wrote the piece about Brock Turner, and the dumpster fire that surrounds him and the judge in the case. I revisited it after he was let out of jail, and my piece was syndicated on another website. And then, last week, I went on a rant of thoughts after a piece of mine ran on Scary Mommy.

A month ago, I wrote a piece for Scary Mommy, titled ‘My Grandpa was a Sexual Predator. Thank God My Parents Listened to Me’, and it was published last week.
This piece is the most vulnerable and exposing piece I have ever written about being abused, and I questioned whether or not to even share it on my social media.

The trolls tracked me down and came after me with a vengeance. I have a very strict rule of never reading the comments, and I made the mistake of breaking this necessary rule.

The aftermath of that piece being published is what compelled me to finish writing this post today. So, bear with me, because this rant is long, but important for me to say.

Not only did trolls tear me up, they tore my parents up. Now, I want you to think about this. In order for these trolls to contact me, they had to click on my bio on the Scary Mommy website, go to my blog, find the ‘contact me’ section, click on the email and then write out the email. That’s a lot of effort to email nastiness.

The other phenomenon that has been happening for the last eighteen months, is that every time I write about the abuse, I get a slew of emails offering me advice. I get offers to find me a therapist, offers of hallucinogens to help me move past my trauma, and emails from people smugly telling me that they ‘got over’ their abusive childhoods or when they were raped.

So, I’m going to break alllll of these down for you.

First of all, the details that I have written about are barely a drop in the bucket to what happened. The piece that was published last week had details in it that only my therapists knew, and I was cautious in putting those out there. Frankly, it’s no one’s damn business to know every detail about it unless I want to tell you. I hold some of it back because there are innocent people in my life that I love and am protecting from getting hurt. I don’t have to share details, but I do because there are people out there that need to know that they are not alone in their struggles with the aftermath of abuse.

I also want to be clear that there are only so many details that can be included in an 800 word essay. This abuse and rape that occurred happened more than twenty years ago and some up to thirty years ago. Times are very different, statute of limitations are different, and evidence collection is different.

To clear up all of the readers out there that continue to email me and recommend that I get help, please stop. I retired three therapists and a psychiatrist for goodness sake. I got the help I needed many years ago, which is how I am able to write about what happened to me.

There seems to be some confusion that when people talk about something hard that they have experienced, that they need help. I don’t see it that way at all. I find that the people that need the most help, are the ones who don’t talk about their problems. This does not mean you need to constantly talk about your past. I mean that I am able to have conversations about what happened because I have processed my experiences.

I’ve written extensively about these experiences. About the hurt and the anger. About the eating disorder that followed and my hesitancy to trust others. And yet, I have held back from fear. Fear of what people will think about the recesses of my mind. People are appalled at the fraction I have shared. But if I pulled the curtain back all the way, and the horror show appears, what will happen? Will people think something is wrong with me? The answer is probably and most likely based on the emails and feedback that I have already received.

Envisioning this shame is what has held me back from fully writing what I want to write. From stripping it all back and finishing the next draft of the novel I’ve been working on. I’ve been terrified of what people will think when they see the damage that was actually done.

I’m tired of holding back.

It wasn’t easy to get to who I am. It was HARD. Really damn hard. In addition to the therapists and psychiatrist, there was therapy on the daily, weigh-ins at the doctor, and the entire time feeling the weight of shame for something I did not do. While I left all of the therapy, psychiatrists and weigh-ins behind twenty years ago, the shame is something that has never gone away. I took on shame of someone else’s actions. It’s their shame, not mine. I should feel hurt, and angry, but not shame. I have shame about the aftermath because that was the truly repulsive part. While the abuse and rape were grotesque, the aftermath was the real calamity.

We need to start talking about the chaotic disaster of the aftermath of trauma. Of what actually happens to a person when an intrusion happens to them. We are doing a disservice to people to lead them to believe we can all have a happy ending without trudging through the truly gruesome wreckage that will follow.

People think I can’t get over what happened to me, as if I am paralyzed and can’t move forward because I am telling a part of my story, the story of who I am. We all have parts of our story, how we grew up, who raised us, who was instrumental in shaping our minds, where we went to school and who we hung out with. Experiencing abuse is part of my story, one part that I am not willing to dismiss to make people more comfortable.

No, I’m not ‘over it’, but I am living the life of my choosing, and I moved forward many years ago. If you tell me that you got ‘over’ abuse, you are lying and doing a disservice to anyone who experiences abuse. Stop it with this narrative. No one ‘gets over’ it. Science tells us that brains are fundamentally changed after trauma. When you tell someone they should get over it, you are telling them that if they can’t, they should feel shame for experiencing valid feelings.

I have a lot of people tell me ‘but you look so happy’. I look happy because I am happy. I chose to accept that the aftermath is a disgusting mess, but if I went through it, that I could have my happily ever after. So, I went through it, I worked my butt off, with the goal in mind that I would spend the rest of my days on my terms. When we do not give people permission to acknowledge the hardest part of their story, the aftermath, they can’t get to their happy. Happy endings don’t happen by accident, they happen when you blindingly claw out of the black abyss, claw mark by claw mark.

When I talk about my unsightly aftermath, I talk about it because I know my strength. I have no question that there is nothing that I cannot handle, because I have looked evil in the face and decided how my story would end. I have never felt more confident in my strength than I do today, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes others feel. I will continue to write my truth because there are others that need to hear that you can have the life of your own choosing after trauma.

To the trolls who continue to send me hate mail and question why I write, I say this: You are the reason victims do not report. You are the reason that the cycle of shame continues because when a victim shares details of THEIR story, you question their behavior and not the perpetrator. When you are nasty to people who are willing to tell their story, the victims around you keep their mouths shut because of your judgment and you are implicit in the cycle of abuse continuing.

So, to end this long rant, I end it with saying I know what I am willing to be criticized for. After the hate mail I got last week, I wondered if writing my truth was worth the criticism and hate. It is worth it, and the sign I needed, I heard in church yesterday. I, and I alone, own the ending to my story. I will continue to write my truth and I will continue to talk about the ugly aftermath. It’s important that someone does so that when someone else is in the midst of their terrible truth, they know that they can choose their own ending, too.

This is What “20 Minutes of Action Looks Like” /NSFW/Trigger Warning

Thisis20minutes

Brock Allen Turner raped a woman behind a dumpster. His father, Dan Turner, has said his son’s lenient sentence “is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action” and more stomach-turning excuses, which you can read here.

I read his dad’s statement, and my hands shook for two hours. Then, my whole body started to tremble. TWENTY MINUTES OF ACTION. TWENTY MINUTES OF ACTION. TWENTY MINUTES OF ACTION.

I don’t even know where to begin with the levels of disgust I have for this. I do, know, however, where to begin to describe what “20 minutes of action” steamrolled into my life.

This is what “20 minutes of action” looks like:

I refused to take baths and have exclusively taken showers for the majority of my life.  I hate getting into the pool.

Why?  Because my abuser used to ejaculate on my hair after “20 minutes of action” and then would stick me into the pool or the bathtub and gently clean his cum off.  If someone saw a seemingly loving male relative with me in the pool, they were wrong. He was washing away his evidence of his disgusting behavior, knowing that if my 50 pound body fought back, he would drown me, as he tried to the one time I fought him in the water.

Does this make you cringe? Does it make your stomach turn? It should. And yet I refuse to shut the hell up about it. I will keep talking about abuse because the only people that should be ashamed are my abusers and the people who were complicit in the situation.

My kids, like most children, love to get in the swimming pool. It takes all of my emotional energy to get in the pool with them. All of my emotional energy to watch them squeal with delight in a simple joy of childhood. In those moments, I feel like I am drowning even though my head is above water, suffocating under the weight of the memories that feels like I breathe them into my lungs every time I wade into a swimming pool.

Twenty minutes of action has robbed me of 20 minutes a day where I weigh myself and mentally check my lifelong struggle with anorexia. Twenty minutes of action has cost me 20 minutes a day of joy a day with my kids because I worry daily about someone touching them and am suspicious of all of the people in their lives.  Twenty minutes of action steals 20 minutes a day I have to use a catheter on myself to empty my bladder, a by-product of scar tissue from the abuse and weakened bladder muscle from anorexia. Twenty minutes of action causes 20 hours a year sitting in a doctor’s office dealing with the physical ramifications of those actions. I wonder 20 minutes a day if I’m too damaged for my husband to love me. I worry 20 minutes a day if I am too damaged to parent in a way that doesn’t rob my children of the simple joys of childhood.

I am so sick and damned tired of no one giving a damn about the victims, and only caring about the future of the abusers. If this is you—take a damn seat. You are enabling future abusers and are complicit in their actions.

This is not a drinking culture— this is a culture that rapists know that even if they are outed and caught, the punishment is a slap on the wrist and the majority of people will care more about them than their victims.

As far as his very brave and courageous victim, whose victim statement needs to be read by everyone (read it here), I stand with you. Keep talking. Keep balking. Keep fighting.