(Good morning, good morning! While I’m away, I wanted to share with you some pieces from my book, Writing Ourselves Whole: Using the Power of Your Own Creativity to Recover and Heal from Sexual Trauma, which is coming out next month! I’ll post one of these a week, on Friday mornings. Be easy with you, ok? And please keep writing…)
From the section “who asks to hear your story?”:
“What happened to you? What was your childhood like? Want to tell me what brings you in today? How are you doing? Why don’t you like me to touch you there? Why are you so quiet/loud/scared/angry/sad all the time? How come you have so much sex? Why don’t you like surprises? How come you won’t have sex with me? What happened that night? Why don’t you want to talk about it? Do you want to tell me what happened to you?”
The fog has baked off already — it’s just a cottony grey rim along the coast. The birds have finally discovered the feeders I put out a couple of weeks ago, and they’re jockeying for position, seniority, the most seeds.
I watched the movie Spotlight this weekend with my sweetheart’s brother’s family. Her cousin was one of the members of the Spotlight team who investigated and finally brought the story of long-term church cover-up of abuse and pedophilia in the Boston diocese, by Cardinal Law and others. After it was over, my sweetheart said, “Do you think it’s still going on, that sort of covering-up?” Someone else asked another question immediately or made another comment and the conversation went in another direction. I’d sat there in silence for a moment after she asked anyway. I couldn’t imagine that she really believed that maybe it wasn’t just the same all over the world. My immediate answer would have been loud and definitive, maybe discomfortingly so, the way I can get: Of course it’s still going on–in the church, in private homes, in other places of worship, in just about any institution you can imagine in which adults have power over the bodies of others, adults are abusing that power and then pretending like they didn’t do anything wrong or calling the children crazy or engaging in wishful thinking when the children try to tell someone what’s been done to them, or acting like it’s their right to take whatever they want whenever they want, like, say, our troll-in-chief has a habit of doing.
But there was something else that got me thinking after the movie was over. There were people, those higher up at the Globe and those working for or still supporting the church, who were worried about interrupting the work of the church, worried about this story somehow breaking the church in the eyes of the people. But that didn’t happen. Not in Boston, where it was found that some hundreds of priests had been sexually abusing children throughout the city for decades while the church did nothing but move those priests around and try and keep the victims quiet (sometimes, like in the case of Cardinal Law, moving the offending protectors to the Vatican itself), not anywhere else around the world where the church has engaged in systematic despoiling of a community’s or parish’s children. The church survives, continues with its “work.”
(This week, I’m offering my own contribution to the extra:ordinary project (stories of everyday survival and resilience) — what does it mean to have to try and find your way back into a humanity you are afraid doesn’t want you, or that you don’t deserve, after you escape from trauma or violence? How many of us are living that question right now?
Be easy with you as you read; I talk somewhat explicitly about sexual violence and psychological manipulations in this piece.)
(This week’s contribution to the extra:ordinary project (stories of everyday resilience and survival) comes from Jenni M. In her piece, Jenni gives us insight into what it’s like to be a child of a military family, as well as another side of military abuse. So many thanks, Jenni, for your fierce words of survival, recovery, vulnerability and strength.)
The military is wide-open space for children being abused. It’s already Government-sanctioned and employs people specifically to be violent, and for the military-raised children, there is no protection, as the military keeps its own secrets. I am a military brat and I learned early on that child abuse was something to be hushed up, not told about, and never reported. I learned this when my best friend came to school with bruises on her face and I told my own parents, one who was a dad doctor and one mom teacher, about what I saw and they said, that’s a family problem we don’t get involved. They would be legally mandated to report the abuse then, and now, yet no matter what physical signs there were on my friend that they would physically see, they never reported anything as it was well known that the offender would just get a talking to by his commander and then he would go home and beat his family more for causing problems within a military career. This saturated me to the bigger realization that whatever was happening in our own household, this was of no consequence to anyone else either. And there was a lot going on.
I survived my parents craziness, their divorce, their hostility, anger, inability to communicate, and then I became a teenager, then was quickly sexualized by society and my mother.