50 Shades of Sexual Abuse (2.6.18)
Well, I’m sick, again with a new cold (?), and still processing the tail end of round 2 of bronchitis since this past fall. I planned to go to bed early tonight, but apparently, I need to write – again.
I’ve been reflecting on the #MeToo movement. I am not a newshound, therefore what I have read to date is probably the tip of the iceberg. I read an article in the past month about some of the women in Hollywood who were sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. I believe them and I am deeply sorry that they were exposed to and had to deal with those horrific experiences. Ashley Judd’s description of what she dealt with in a hotel room with Weinstein was unacceptable behavior to have to negotiate as an employee and/or a co-worker. But it sounds like she got away from the monster. I’m really concernedabout the women who weren’t able to fight back and get out of the trap with Harvey and every other male in a position of power. My heart goes out to every woman in Hollywood who was subjected to these inappropriate, unprofessional, aggressive advances from men at work in powerful positions – and that support and solidarity spreads out to all of the other women who have been subjected to this type of disgusting, demeaning, insulting, degrading behavior since the beginning of time.
I’ve been reflecting on the 50 shades of sexual abuse. On a scale of 1-10, I would say that my sexual abuse experience was a 10, as in the worst experience possible, however there are always people who have experienced worse experiences than what we have experienced. I just read a story yesterday about a woman in Florida named Sherry Johnson, who is 3 years older than me, who was raped, pregnant, and wed by the time she was 11 years old. W-T-F?!? Sherry is now my heroine. Thankfully, my experience did not include violent physical abuse and pregnancy. But I was still violated in my body, my mind, and my spirit, and lived in terror for 12 fucking years in my own house with my own father. Trauma is trauma. The bottom line is all of this sexual abuse sucks. At this moment in time, our society and culture seems to be one huge, colossal fuck up – an experiment that has gone terribly wrong on every level of functioning. Our system of human relationships and interactions is exponentially flawed and imploding.
I’m not an expert on the how’s and why’s of sexual abuse, however I can add my experience and perspective into this national conversation. I’ve had approximately 17 years of 1:1 psychotherapy with 3 quality counselors and I’m still peeling layers and layers and layers of crap out of my system from being sexually abused. My husband claims that the abuse is “baked in.” I don’t know. I’ve done some heavy duty excavating in the past 5 years by myself, again, trying to heal the core of this trauma. I haven’t worked with a professional, traditional counselor in 5+ years, because I felt like I was spinning wheels with the last counselor. I made huge progress in many ways, but I also felt like I barely tapped into the core of the work that really needed to be done.
What has become crystal clear to me from Sherry Johnson’s and my story is that many, many gatekeepers failed to help us. For me, the gatekeepers that failed me were my mother; my family system; my elementary, middle, and high school education; my church; my higher educational system at Mary Washington College (the healthcare center and the counseling center); my doctors; and my religious leaders. Based on what I read, the gatekeepers that failed Sherry were her mother; her church, her religious leaders; her school; the hospital where she had a baby at age 11; the social services system; the idiot pastor or Justice of the Peace that married a child to an adult male; the legal system; etc., etc. Sherry’s problem of being sexually assaulted, pregnant, and wed at age 11 is a failure of every system in our society.
What was and is missing in this entire picture of Sherry’s and my abuse is awareness, education, and conversation about appropriate and inappropriate behavior between people; how to set and maintain emotional and physical boundaries with people; naming, identifying, and understanding private body parts, their purpose, and their function for females and males; self-care and self-love; assertiveness training; learning and understanding sex education – BTW – pro-life stances and policies and protecting unborn children is not the safety net! And these educational programs and conversations need to happen with our parents, our grandparents, our relatives, our teachers, our friends, our religious teachers, our religious leaders, our government agencies, medical professionals, legal professionals, etc. Today, kids with mobile phones and computers can access pornography instantly, but I doubt 10% of the population receives objective, rational, logical information about sex, sex education, responsibilities concerning sex, and understanding the potential consequences of sexual relations and relationships. Sex is simple and sex is complicated.
I don’t have all of the answers today. I’m still exploring. Hopefully, together, we’ll figure this mystery out.