It’s Time To Count The Costs of Child Sexual Abuse

Believethechild “Billions every year are being spent now in concerted efforts to reduce cancer, heart disease, to give people a better quality of life and save a lot of money now and down the line.

We need to be doing the same to tackle child sexual abuse and we need to wake up to its entirely preventable impacts and costs.

Childhood experience of abuse and neglect effects brain functioning and behavior and can lead to an increased risk of a wide range of problems from behavioral disorders, to depression, to personality disorders . . .”

(an excerpt from The Cost of Child Sexual Abuse )

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It Takes Strength . . .

strength1                                                                                 It takes strength to fit in,
It takes courage to stand out.

It takes strength to feel a friend’s pain,
It takes courage to feel your own pain.

It takes strength to endure abuse,
It takes courage to stop it.

It takes strength to stand alone,
It takes courage to lean on another.

                                                                                It takes strength to love,
                                                                                It takes courage to be loved.

                                                                                 It takes strength to survive,
                                                                                 It takes courage to live.
                                                                                           (unknown)

 

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How Should I React When I Suspect Child Sexual Abuse?

April is sexual abuse awareness month. Take a moment to think about what you should do if you think a child is in danger.

 

Decision-Chart

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A Grown Ass Woman Still Afraid of Telling . . .

Shhhhhh . . .Friday night I found it  impossible to sleep. I had been anticipating the Darkness to Light workshop that would be held the following morning. I was keyed up. I’d waited a long time for  my first child-sex-abuse-awareness training. It would be my first time talking to people “in the flesh” about what we could do to advocate for children and hopefully prevent them from being sexually abused. I never dreamed I’d come away feeling impotent.

I don’t know why I had it in my mind that the attendees would be child sex abuse survivors like me. And I didn’t expect the feelings of shame to return when we watched the film of adult survivor stories. But that’s what happened when I saw the attendees shake their heads in disbelief and disgust. I felt myself withdraw and I wanted to leave. “I can’t do this,” I kept thinking. There was very little class participation. When the facilitator asked, ‘Are there any personal examples of places  we might think are safe, but that we still need to watch out for to protect our kids?’ no one spoke. So I had to: ‘Many years ago I got my son involved with the Big Brothers/Sisters program. They unknowingly partnered him with a suspected pedophile. Luckily, I listened to my son’s instincts when he told me the guy made him feel creepy.’ When I finished speaking everyone stared silently at me. I felt those old feelings again—when I had felt I’d been a bad mother for putting my son in harm’s way. I couldn’t shake it. (I know I’ve been told not to use the word shame when you feel guilty, since shame means you feel you are bad. But it was shame that I felt.

It was empowering to listen to the survivors in the film tell their stories. I connected immediately. It felt like I was with my blogging survivor friends—people who have lived a lifetime of personal wreckage, yet are telling their stories to bring awareness to this end of the child abuse spectrum. We are examples of what happens when a child is not protected from predators. I especially related to the former Miss America, Marilyn Van debur. She told the story of her father being in her bed and hearing her mother’s footsteps coming toward her bedroom door. The footsteps stopped. All three of them froze and were silent. At that moment, all three of them KNEW. And then the former Miss America heard her mother’s footsteps turn and walk back down the hall to her own bedroom. That was the moment she knew her mother had made a decision. And the decision was not her daughter.

The discussion, the real meat of the class, began, and my anxiety kicked into full gear. We had worksheets with questions to answer: Write the name of a child you think is being abused or might have been. (I wrote down a name.) What would you say to the child? (It’s okay to tell.) Then, the facilitator said, ‘if you even suspect a child is being abused you MUST report it. You HAVE to’. I wanted desperately to curl up into a ball and disappear. I felt sick. I felt impotent.

I came home feeling depressed. In my mind, all the work on my recovery was gone; I hadn’t made any progress; and I would be unable to help anyone else. And one thing that I knew for sure: I didn’t want to work with young abuse victims. It would trigger something in me that takes me back to my childhood. I would become that young victim again.

Over the last few days, it has become very clear to me that I must find a therapist to guide me through the inner child work I have always refused to do. This weekend’s workshop brought out that small girl who is still terrified of telling. I found that, even as an adult, thinking about reporting suspected sex abuse, my inner child kicks in. And I hear her crying, “No, don’t tell! You’ll get in big trouble! They’ll say you are making it up. They’ll say you can’t be part of the family!” Now, the rational adult me, away from that workshop is saying, “What the f****! Of course you’ll report it if you know a child is being hurt!”

So, Here’s what I know today:

1. I’m looking for a therapist that does inner-child work.

2. I do not presently know a child that is being sexually abused. (There is a part of me who wonders, when I see a child, if there might be abuse. But, I’m suspicious of everyone because no one knew about my abuse (except my mother), and I always try to look behind the tears or smile of every child’s face to see what my gut tells me.)

3. A person doesn’t have to work the entire spectrum of child sexual abuse to advocate for victims/survivors. I think my strength is talking with adult survivors. Not everyone feels comfortable sharing his or her story. I am. Or at least I’m getting better at it. Staring a child in the eye who is experiencing abuse triggers my inner child. I want to grab them and say, “Run! Hide!” That means I am not ready to work at that end of the spectrum. At least not until my inner child has recovered and healed.  And that’s OKAY.

There is still a lot of help needed in any organization that deals with sexually abused children. Another group called me a few days ago to say they are putting on a big fund-raising theater production next month. They wondered if I could work as a host or in the concessions. I jumped at the opportunity. Isn’t it ironic, the name of the play is “Telling”.

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How Many Of Us Have This Kind Of Moxie?

There’s a lot of talk about making a conscious choice to be happy. It makes sense to us as long as we don’t have any obstacles in our way, perceived or real. This is one amazing woman. . .

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Another Lesson In Vulnerability. Thank You, Friends.

butterflyI was giving up. Giving in. Vulnerability trembled in my chest like a live grenade. Then it felt like a large, stuck object, wedged in my throat. Feeling limp with my perceived weakness, I berated myself for what I felt was another failure: I couldn’t keep up with my 21-Day Challenge and worry about my friends’ imminent death at the same time. Then, word came (by a group text, of course) that my friend was gone.  I knew I hadn’t been the friend I should have been. We’d missed out on so much because I had stayed wrapped up tight in my protective cocoon. The weight of her death was more than I could carry.

Brene Brown says vulnerability is a good thing. She calls vulnerability a strength, not a weakness. A while back I posted Brene’s TED Talk video on Shame and Vulnerability . She says research shows that “connection is the basis for human life and shame unravels connection.” I know first-hand that shame is a survivor’s most powerful emotion.

I’ve talked at length in my posts about my lifelong tendency to isolate myself. This comes from the shame that Brene talks about. Survivors feel unworthy of connection—with family, friends, neighbors, classmates . . . So I asked myself, what has enabled me to connect with my blogging friends? The answer is in the comments to that last post. Within minutes after I published it, my Word Press alerts started chiming. And my tears began flowing. One after another, friends whom I had never met and will likely never meet, stopped by to pay their respects. It overwhelmed me. I wondered if my tears came from the loss I’d just had, or from the love coming in. Both evoke emotions that I have had a hard time with: Loss means abandonment and rejection. Love, at first, feels beautiful, but it is soon followed by shame. Shame from feeling like a fraud. And my belief that I am undeserving.

I have to trust my friend, Claire. She is all-too-familiar with where I came from. Her growth is years beyond mine. When she says, “You have not failed. You have no need to haul out the old word storm. Put those old words back in the box.” Yes, I have to trust her.

Vulnerability is frightening. Yet I’m finding out that taking the risk can bring beautiful results. Thank you, my friends.

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When A Friend Dies, All Bets Are Off . . .

friend-diesAll bets are off. There I said it. I failed again. My 21 Day Moving On Challenge is more of a challenge than I can handle right now. Why do I feel guilty? It’s happened before–not succeeding when I’ve tried to focus on taking care of myself. Do I really think someone out there in the blogosphere was following my challenge? That someone out there has been doing their yoga meditation every day? Drinking their 64 oz. of water daily? Stepping outside of their comfort zone and learning to socialize? Yeah, RIGHT.

Maybe starting my 21 Day Challenge was just an escape. I’ve written a couple of times lately about my friend in her final stage of life. Waiting to pass over to wherever it is that those of who DON’T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS go. . . I knew it was risky. Knew it could sabotage me if she didn’t just stay put. I was counting on her to stay put.

I was having a hard time breathing yesterday. Something wasn’t right. Focusing on myself didn’t feel right.  All I could think to post about yesterday was about my difficulty breathing.

Sharon died today at 12:40 p.m.  And I don’t know if I’ll be able to breathe right for a very long time.

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The Link Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Obesity

“I misspoke,” he recalls. “Instead of asking, ‘How old were you when you were first sexually active,’ I asked, ‘How much did you weigh when you were first sexually active?’ The patient, a woman, answered, ‘Forty pounds.’”

He thought he’d misheard. He asked again. She gave the same answer, began sobbing, and added: “It was with my father.”

- See more at: http://www.d2lblog.com/2014/04/03/the-link-between-child-sexual-abuse-and-obesity/#sthash.6xSsy05Z.dpuf

Join the movementAn excerpt from the following article:

“I misspoke,” he recalls. “Instead of asking, ‘How old were you when you were first sexually active,’ I asked, ‘How much did you weigh when you were first sexually active?’ the patient, a woman, answered, “Forty  pounds.”

He thought he’d misheard. He asked again. She gave the same answer, began sobbing, and added: “It was with my father.”

The Link Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Obesity

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Day #7 It’s Okay . . .

breathe1

 

 

Some days, if this is all I can do—it’s okay.

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Day #6 Stop Eyeballin’ It!

writing-a-bookI know better than to think I don’t need to record my daily activity. I’ve done it all my adult life. I’ve been made fun of for my spiral notebooks with my carefully drawn lined graphs. I’ve recorded food intake, exercise activity, time spent on music practice. I’ve recorded the four seasons and how my garden grew. I’ve loved charts and lists. I love wearing a watch ( “Who wears a watch anymore–you have a cell phone!”). My watch isn’t just a watch. It has a built-in timer, pedometer, and pulse meter. I push buttons before heading out for a walk ( not just on the watch). . .In these last few years, I quit. Not exactly cold turkey either. I had to work at not recording things. I started eyeballing the amount of food I ate until I wasn’t eating the right things. I stopped recording my exercise until I wasn’t doing that anymore either. I began feeling guilty for all my “keeping track.” Is something wrong with a person who has to jot down a glass of water, or how long their walk was, or measure that 1/2 cup of rice. Was it OCD? An eating disorder? A need to be in control?

Right now, I don’t care what it was. It worked. I did feel in control. I didn’t feel the need to have a 21 Day Moving On Challenge to start taking care of myself. I dug out an old spiral notebook this morning. That’s all I need to record something.

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