The “Harmless” Speech That Hurts Our Children

Tags

,

I squared off with a healthcare provider, yesterday. 

One of our foster kiddos, Alpha, had a medical appointment which involved needles, and a measurable amount of pain and discomfort. 

Was the procedure necessary? Yes. 

What was not necessary was the words of the provider, immediately afterward. 

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” he asked. 

Alpha didn’t say anything. 

“Did you have fun?”

Alpha, looking uncomfortable, didn’t respond. The appointment involved needles, and tears. I feel secure in telling you Alpha did NOT have fun during his appointment. 

I stepped in for him. 

“Alpha, you don’t have to say it was fun, if it wasn’t. It’s okay.”

“Awwww… you’ll hurt my feelings!” said the provider, in a mock whine.

At that point, my blood boiled, and I didn’t hold back.

“Alpha… You are not responsible for the feelings of adults being hurt. Adults can handle their own feelings.” I gently put my hand on his shoulder, and guided him toward the exit. 

The provider was taken aback, and quickly dismissed us.

Here’s the thing…

I’m sure the provider didn’t consider his words before he said them. I’m sure he’s a great human being. In fact, most of our other interactions with him have been awesome (he sees several of our children).

BUT… words like his can hurt our children. 

When children learn they have to please adults (“Say you had fun”), in spite of what their own feelings and bodies tell them (it wasn’t fun, and it hurt), it teaches kids that pleasing adults is more important than feeling safe.

When children learn they are responsible for the feelings of adults (“You’ll hurt my feelings if you don’t ________”), it teaches kids they must comply with what an adult tells them to do, even if it doesn’t feel good or safe. 

This lesson is especially critical when we put it in terms of childhood sexual abuse. 

Telling a child, “Hug your (adult relative), or you’ll hurt (their) feelings,” teaches that child that the adult’s feelings are more important than the child’s comfort. Further, it teaches the child that the child has an obligation to do what the adult wants, to preserve the feelings of the adult.

I know a childhood sexual abuse victim who was forced — as a child — to apologize to her abuser, by her mother, for saying she didn’t like how the abuser touched her when her mother wasn’t around. Because it upset the abuser. 

When I was raped at 14 years old, an adult made clear to me that whatever I did, I couldn’t tell my dad, lest his emotions get out of control, and he do something regrettable. At 14, I was tasked with keeping my dad’s emotions in check.  

Children are not responsible for — nor should they be saddled with feeling responsible for — the feelings of adults, and when we let language like this go, without correcting it, we are setting our children up to be perfect targets for abuse. 

Children should not be pressured or compelled to be “polite” about their experiences, when those experiences cause them pain or discomfort. To allow other adults to suggest otherwise, without correcting it, sets our children up to be targets for abuse. 

A friend recently shared her story, about how she finally told her mother about the mother’s boyfriend sexually abusing her (my friend). The day after the disclosure, the boyfriend was angrily stomping around the house. 

My friend said, “I wish he wasn’t so angry all the time.”

Her mother responded with, “Well, you know what you need to do (to make him not so angry),” suggesting my friend offer herself up as a sacrifice to soothe the emotions of the angry boyfriend. 

Perhaps this is an extreme example. I know it was certainly outrageous, and heartbreaking, for me to hear.

However, people don’t need to implicitly instruct children to submit to sexual abuse in order to groom them for it, through language. 

Words that tell children they are not in control of their bodies groom them. 

“Give your auntie a kiss.” 

“Your grandpa wants a hug. Go hug him.”

Words that tell children they must state they are comfortable and enjoying themselves — when they are not — groom them. 

“Tell your uncle how much fun you had on his boat (even though you were terrified the entire time).” 

“Your cousin wasn’t hurting you… he was just tickling you, and playing (even though you repeatedly told him to stop, and started crying and trying to get away when he wouldn’t).”

Words that tell children they are responsible for an adult’s feelings — and that children have a duty to protect those feelings — groom them. 

“Mommy is going to be really sad if you don’t kiss her goodbye.”

“It’s going to hurt Daddy’s feelings if you don’t go fishing with him.”

It’s not enough to avoid using this language, ourselves. We need to also correct it when other adults use it, and expose our children to it. 
 

 

Advertisements

Don’t Tell Your Dad…

Months after I was raped at 14 years old, I finally got the courage — after a suicide attempt — to tell an adult relative. Highlights from the response:

“What did you expect, hanging out with older boys, and dressing the way you do?

WHATEVER you do, don’t tell your dad… He’ll want to kill the guy, and you don’t want your dad to go to prison, right?”

So… at 14 years of age, I learned that I wasn’t capable of making rational decisions (like who I spent time with) — never mind that I had very little adult oversight to start with.

I learned that visually, I was a slut, because I didn’t have the modesty and self-respect to cover up, so I was — naturally — going to be treated like a slut.

I learned that it was my responsibility to maintain my silence, to protect adults from their own choices.

LET ME BE CLEAR: I couldn’t be trusted to make “wise” choices about my own safety, but I was solely responsible for keeping my dad safe from imprisonment. 

But before I learned all that… 

I learned, when I was 10, not to wear skirts to school, because when I did, I’d get called up to my teacher’s big desk so he could stroke my legs and thighs. 

I learned to wear padded bras, because they acted like armor between my breasts and his fingers. 

I learned that telling a grownup you’re being molested by your teacher gets you labeled a “troublemaker” who can’t be believed. 

I learned that telling your mom doesn’t mean she’ll go to the police (because she may not know she can). It might mean she goes and has a stern talk with him, and he keeps doing it, after gaslighting you (“I never meant to make you feel uncomfortable. I only want you to know how much I appreciate you…”).

I learned that — of all the things best friends can share — sharing abuse is just about the saddest fucking thing in the world. 

And today…

Today I learned that sexual abuse makes people so uncomfortable, some of them would prefer not to associate with its victims. Some of them are happier pretending they can’t see it. 

Today I also learned that my childhood abuse made one of my female classmates feel like an outsider to my social group, because she didn’t get “special” attention from our teacher. She didn’t know that attention was abuse, but it made her feel excluded and unworthy, and fuck him for creating an environment in which kids thought they weren’t worthy, and we were the “lucky” ones. 

But… I also learned today that my circle is wide. I learned I have some pretty amazing folks around me. 

I learned it’s perfectly okay and normal to celebrate literally surviving one more day. 

I learned I’m considered a role model, no matter how much I reject that idealization. 

I learned to make peace with that “role model” thing. Sort of. I’ll work on it. 

I learned how to stop worrying about hurting the feelings of the people who continue to protect my abuser. 

I decided I’m going to learn how to stop worrying about hurting the feelings of the people who furthered my abuse or trauma by enabling, gaslighting, and victim-blaming. (That’s going to take some time, but I start work today.)

I learned how to use the “unfriend” button. 

I learned how to ask for help. 

I learned how to stop apologizing for my truth… even when it makes people uncomfortable.

What did YOU learn, back then?

What have you learned, TODAY?

This #metoo Thing is Awesome, but… Check on Your Peeps, Please!

I’ve spent most of the weekend stuck on a hideous roller coaster of empowerment, outrage, PTSD, and pulling it together to appear functional and happy. 

Wash. Spin. Rinse. Repeat. 

I’m guessing most of my friends have, too. 

Here’s the thing… Friday night, I was on fire! I was so freaking ecstatic that sexual assault, abuse, and harassment were in the spotlight — more specifically, that the overlooking, coverup, and excusing of those things were in the spotlight. 

Finally, FINALLY, everyone was talking about it! 

And that… felt pretty damn empowering. It was like a massive army of warrior survivors, shouting in unison: NO MORE! NOT ONE MORE!

And, man… that’s a pretty high high.

But Saturday morning rolled around, and so did the victim-blaming. I stood my ground, and I lost friends over it. Friends I cared about. And that… was the beginning of a massive spiral into darkness. 

As the #metoo movement caught on, the stories started rolling out. I found myself — in one moment — celebrating the shattering of silence, and — in the next — reliving my own abuse and assault. 

My PTSD took me down, hard.

I ended up in a fetal position, screaming and crying and clawing at my own skin, wondering if living was really worth it, when it hurts so damn much, and when it means living in a world that covered up for and protected a teacher who molested his students. 

But, I had people counting on me. 

So… I pulled myself together, the best I could, and went to work, hours late, without even trying to apologize (because, how can you, when you’re HOURS late?), and plastered on a smile, and threw myself into work. 

And when I got home at nearly 3 a.m., I fell right back into loneliness and despair. 

I was supposed to immediately pack up and head out on a six-hour drive to a work training I’d registered for, but… I couldn’t. 

I literally couldn’t. I stood in my kitchen, willing myself to get going and pack a bag, but I just fell back into sobbing and collapsed to the floor. 

I decided to eat something, and think about packing, but I couldn’t get up. And when I did, I couldn’t eat. And because I never ate, I never packed. 

If you’ve never lived with  mental illness, you probably don’t understand that bit, but in my mind, I needed to eat, first. And because I couldn’t eat, I became paralyzed in regard to the rest. 

I didn’t get in my car. I didn’t drive six hours to the training. That failure would return to bite me in the butt.

I recognized I needed to be surrounded by my support system, and Mr. Wright was out of town with the kids, so… I slept a bit, fitfully, and drove to where they were. It was only a three-hour drive. 

On the way there, I started to feel a bit better. A little more empowered. I talked to Mr. Wright on the way, and we talked about how the tide was changing, and how, someday, it will be seen as unconscionable to excuse sexual abuse, assault, and harassment. By the time I arrived, I was functional and even a bit excited. 

And then… the rug got pulled out from under me. 

Apparently, at the training, I’d been recognized for an award, and it became very obvious that I wasn’t there. 

I wasn’t there because, after fighting through suicidal thoughts, flashbacks, panic attacks, and a 15-hour work day, I couldn’t eat, couldn’t pack, and couldn’t get in my car to drive six hours for an eight-hour training. 

Instead, I had tried to rest my body, and driven three hours to safety. 

My absence embarrassed my team. I had let them down. I had been a notable part of a low-attendance problem, and I failed them. 

I know, because an open letter was posted to “people who were recognized and hadn’t bothered to show up” in a group I’m a member of. 

When it was first posted, I didn’t know I’d been named for an award, so I assumed it didn’t apply to me. I mean, it applied to me, but it couldn’t be about me, because I hadn’t told anyone on my team that I’d registered. 

I commented that folks who didn’t make it probably had a really good reason (I mean, I did… a severe lack of mental health is a pretty good reason, I think, and don’t let anyone tell you — or me — differently), and maybe someone should reach out to those people and make sure they’re okay!

As I wrote it, I wasn’t okay. Not really. I was far from it, but I was faking it, and I had hope.

I wondered if maybe there were others who were crippled by reliving their trauma this weekend, like me. I wondered if any of them were fighting for their lives, like me.

Then, the post was gone. Poof! It disappeared. 

Good, I thought. It was a pretty bullying post. Maybe the poster took my suggestion, and went off to contact those award-winners who weren’t there, to make sure they’re okay. 

And then, I got word that I had been one of those award-winners. 

And THEN, the original poster doubled down, and posted it AGAIN, along with a challenge to “step up” and “show up when we say we will.”

It added, “How do you feel when your hostess cancels on you at the last minute?”

I was floored. I started sobbing. I was outraged. I felt betrayed.

The post hadn’t come down because the poster was off to call everyone and make sure they were okay. I know, because she never called me. 

It was taken down so my comments wouldn’t be read by anyone else, and so she could reformulate the post into (I don’t know?) a more direct CHALLENGE. 

I didn’t comment right away, because I was busy reading the comments from people who said they felt really targeted and shamed by the post, even if it wasn’t about them. 

I was busy reading private messages from people who said the poster was out of line, and the post made them really uncomfortable, and upset. 

I remembered all the #metoo posts I’d seen in the last 24 hours, and I knew some of these people — like me — had spent some time remembering and reliving their abuse. I knew they were at the very least, tender, and — if they were even close to where I was — they were fragile as hell, on the brink of a breakdown, self-harm, or worse. 

And that, my friends, is when I lost my shit.

“How dare you?”

“NO ONE (most notably YOU) called to ask me if something had happened. (It did. It’s continuing. It’s devastating.)”

“NO ONE (most notably YOU) called to ask me if I was okay. (I wasn’t. I’m not. I’m far from okay.)”

“If my hostess cancelled because she was suicidal or her mental health was in jeopardy, I wouldn’t guilt her about doing so.”

Those were just some of the things I fired back. Because, you know what?

I. Was. So. Fucking. Done. 

I did get a call. But not from her. I got a call from a leader who tried to tell me “she didn’t mean it like that,” and that the comments on the post were “volatile,” and didn’t create a team environment. And that comment about suicide was really concerning, and maybe I should get some help. 

You think?!

And I refrained from saying all the things I wanted to say about wouldn’t it be nice if I had a built-in support system, like — I dunno — a TEAM of “sisters” who would support me and ask after me when I go missing? But I didn’t say those things, because I’ve never fit in, and while a lot of the people on my team seem to have that sisterly support, I am most definitely not one of them, because I’m not part of the camaraderie. 

When I go missing, no one calls.

Not until I have to defend myself. 

And then, it’s to gaslight me. 

And today, I spent time on the phone and in person with #metoo people who have been pretty much going through the exact same feelings as I have… all the elation and empowerment and despair and trauma and hopelessness and grief and anguish and JUST. TRYING. TO. SURVIVE all the feelings that go with this movement. 

And that’s sort of soul-crushing. 

Even when we’re moving toward victory, we are still dying. We are still losing. 

Because this shit NEVER GOES AWAY. 

And when we think we have it neatly tucked into a box, it springs up like a terrifying clown out of a Jack-in-the-box, and we piss ourselves and try to stuff it back in, because after all these years, it still takes us by surprise. We crank that handle, and keep cranking it, and we know it’s coming, but it scares the shit out of us every. single. time it pops up. 

I say allllll that to say this:

CHECK ON YOUR PEEPS. 

When you see someone post #metoo, don’t just “like” and pass.

Send them a fucking message. “I believe you. I stand with you. Are you okay? How can I help? I love you. I value you. Thank you for speaking out.”

Copy and paste it, for all I care, but do something. Say something. 

And for the love of God, if someone is missing from a regular activity where you expect to see them, pick up the phone, for crying out loud, and under no circumstances subtweet/subpost/passive-aggressively throw shade at them. 

Spread love. Offer comfort. Don’t let anyone slip through the cracks. 

This is too important for us to let anyone go missing. 

We need one another, and we need you.

Rose McGowan is Storming Hollywood, and Bringing Fiery Hell with Her. I Love Her.

Rose McGowan isn’t messing around. Seriously.

She’s naming and shaming the Hollywood elite who knew about Harvey Weinstein’s abuse of women, and did nothing, said nothing, stopped nothing, stood for nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, you know what? She’s absolutely right.

Anyone who knows about sexual abuse and chooses to stay silent is complicit.

Everyone who knew, had “been aware of vague rumors” (HELLO, Glenn Close), who chose not to hear survivors and victims because it might endanger their business dealings… all those people are complicit.

And it reminded me so very, very much of the acquaintance — an adult in the community when I was a child molested alongside my best friends by our teacher — who privately decried the actions of that teacher after I spoke out, adding, “Somehow, I always knew you were one of the kids affected.”

At first, I felt vindicated. Someone who was around during that time, as an adult observer, knew and believed what had happened to me, and kids like me.

And then… I got angry. I got right PISSED OFF.

How many other adults “always knew?” How many, like several who messaged me privately, “had heard rumors?” How many, like several others, “can’t stand him and what he’s done, but I have to keep the peace because my (insert associate/relative/business name) (does business/is friends) with him, now.”

Well, guess what?

If you knew, and didn’t speak up for children like me… YOU WERE COMPLICIT.

If you now know, and still choose to do business with Bruce Huntoon… YOU ARE COMPLICIT. You are endorsing him as a valued member of the community, IN SPITE OF the tattered trail of children he has hurt.

If you now know, and still choose to be “buddies” with Bruce Huntoon… YOU ARE COMPLICIT.

If you now know, and still choose to “go out on the boat” with Bruce Huntoon… YOU ARE COMPLICIT.

If you now know, and still choose to defend, support, or financially contribute to Bruce Huntoon in any way… YOU ARE COMPLICIT.

Harvey Weintstein put out this S.O.S. email to his colleagues and top Hollywood players:

My board is thinking of firing me. All I’m asking is let me take a leave of absence and get into heavy therapy and counseling whether it be in a facility or somewhere else. Allow me to resurrect myself with a second chance. A lot of the allegations are false, as you know, but given therapy and counseling as other people have done, I think I’d be able to get there. If you can, I need you to send a letter to my private Gmail. The letter would only go to the board and no one else. What the board is trying to do is not only wrong but might be illegal and would destroy the company. If you could write this letter backing me getting me the help and time away I need and also stating your opposition to the board firing me, It would help me a lot. I am desperate for your help. Just give me the time to get therapy. Do not let me get fired. If the industry supports me, that is all I need. With all due respect, I need the letter today.

Maybe… maybe… maybe if everyone “fires” Bruce Huntoon (business-wise, community-wise, support-wise), he, too, will be compelled to “get into heavy therapy.”

Maybe I’m dreaming, but if Hollywood can oust a man like Harvey Weinstein from his very powerful position, and say, “We won’t do business with you, any longer, Mr. Weinstein,” by just a few vocal individuals speaking out, why can’t a community — as a whole — oust a former teacher who’s had his credentials indefinitely revoked?

Why can’t that community loudly and vocally say, “We won’t do business with you, any longer, Mr. Huntoon,” and force him to humble himself to admit the truth?

Maybe, like Harvey Weintstein hopes, “given therapy and counseling as other people have done, I think I’d be able to get there.”

Maybe, he’d be able to “get there,” wherever “there” is. I hope “there” is where Bruce Huntoon faces his victims, admits what he has done, and takes full responsibility for the pain and trauma he has caused. I hope “there” is where Bruce Huntoon gets help and therapy for what is a very serious pattern of victimizing children.

Remember… I was not abused alone. In my case, at least, there were witnesses. My friends and I were witnesses to one another’s abuse. We told what we experienced and what we witnessed to the sheriff’s office, and we told what we experienced and what we witnessed to a pastor who knows Bruce Huntoon.

Can we stop, today? Can we stop being complicit?

The lives Harvey Weinstein has harmed are not insignificant to us, as a society. And they shouldn’t be. Some of our favorite stars are telling us they’ve been hurt by his actions.

Nor, I would hope, are the former children who have been harmed by Bruce Huntoon insignificant. They might just be some of your favorite real-life people. We are telling you we’ve been hurt by his actions.

Where do you stand?

 

Who created you?

Lately, this stream of poetry has been running through my head.

Not “proper” poetry, mind you.

I learned all about the sonnets, and iambic pentameter, and so many different methods of penning prose, it makes my head spin, sometimes. And I’ve written a lot of proper poetry.

But lately… lately, the raw emotion of spoken word has been moving me. It’s been coursing through my dreams, and ambushing me while I’m driving or in the shower.

It won’t leave me alone.

So, today, I recorded it.

It’s my latest “YAWP,” and I hope you’ll find value in my story. Perhaps, it is your story, as well.

Does it move you? Please, give it a “share.”

xoxo

Christina-Marie

 

Dear Committee Members…

Today, at 3:30pm, the Washington State House Appropriations Committee will review HB 1155 — the bill to remove the statute of limitations on felony sex crimes in Washington state.

As many readers know, last month, I testified in Olympia before the House Public Safety Committee, along with fellow survivors that I’m blessed to call friends. The bill made it out of that committee with flying colors, and was referred to Appropriations, where — frankly — all bills get sent.

SO… this is a big, important step, and farther than we got when we tried to pass this legislation last year. I’m celebrating that, for sure! BUT… we are in the middle of a massive winter storm. Mountain passes are closed without warning, or simply unsafe to travel. I will not be able to make it to Olympia to deliver my testimony in person.

However, my local representative is on the Appropriations Committee, and I talked to his legislative assistant, who assured me that if I sent my testimony by letter — along with the letters of others who would like their testimonies heard — he would ensure the committee members received them.

Humbly, this is what I am sending:

Thank you Chairman, and committee members, for considering my letter today.

Did any of you grow up in a small town? I did, too. My friends and I listened to the same music, shopped at the same stores… And, we were sexually abused by the same man.

I was 10, and in sixth grade. He’d have me work on projects for him at a computer terminal, where he would place his hands on me, rub his genitals across my back, and massage my shoulders and my breasts. When I told him to stop, he told me he was just showing me how much he appreciated me. Often, my two best friends were stationed on either side of me, and he would “appreciate” us, each in turn.

It made us feel dirty and ashamed, and eventually, one of my friends told the principal. I told my mom. My other friend told her mom. We TOLD, but it didn’t stop.

The investigation — years later — was handled through the school district, then through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Even in the end, after OSPI determined he’d sexually abused children over nearly 20 years, he wasn’t charged. Even then, system failed us. We had no legal advocates, and we weren’t offered services or representation.

31 years after abusing me, he still lives in my hometown. He doesn’t have to register as a sex offender, even though OSPI revoked his teaching certificate FOR sexual abuse. He still works with children, taking youth in swimsuits out on his boat during the summer for church youth groups, and passing out candy to kids during community events.

By the time I was strong enough — through counseling and support — to tell my story again, it was too late. In 2013, the statute of limitations (SOL) was lengthened, but it was still too late for me, and my fellow victims.

Today, I blog about my experience. Last year, after testifying before the House Public Safety Committee, I used his name — Bruce Huntoon. I began receiving messages from even more of his victims who said, “It happened to me, too.” A remarkable thing happened, as a result of going public… I found my tribe. That is, we found each other. Several of us were witnesses to each other’s molestation, and as we shared our memories, it validated what we’ve always known — we didn’t remember wrong. We didn’t misunderstand. Also, we learned we weren’t alone, and there were so many more of us.

Not one of us understood the effects of the abuse — literally at the hands of our teacher — until it was too late. I mean, the school investigated, and OSPI investigated, and they surely had our protection as a priority, right? We left it in the hands of the system to protect us, and to provide justice, but it never came. We waited, ashamed, and suffering from wounds we couldn’t even identify — some that would take years to fully manifest — waiting on an arrest that would never come.

We spent years just… Trying to survive. In our twenties and thirties, maybe we gained some footing, but most of us weren’t able to connect the dots until much later. Some of us still haven’t.

I’m 41. I’m married, the mom to eight children — six of them girls. My husband… he’s supportive, but… Our marriage suffers. Our intimacy suffers. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of what my teacher did, and I suffer from autoimmune disorders (common in sexual abuse survivors at an astonishing rate — read some of my fellow survivors’ stories… they have them, too).

Some nights, he hardly sleeps at all, because my nightmares cause me to be so restless. I wake up screaming, or I wake up afraid to move, speak, or be touched.

It may be too late for justice for me. It may be too late for some of my friends, who haven’t yet journeyed far enough to speak out. Some are battling for their lives after years of shame and stress, but several did submit letters for your consideration — one who was terrorized and harassed by this man as recently as two years ago. Add us up… I’m giving you letters from just a few. Many more are named in the Order of Revocation, which I am attaching separately. The average pedophile molests 260 children during his lifetime. How many NEVER told about this ONE man?

It may be too late for the children named, and not named, in the findings from OSPI, but please…. Don’t let it be too late for one more child.

For more about my story, visit my blog at barbaricYAWPgirl.com.

Thank you for your commitment to full consideration of HB 1155. Victims in Washington state need to know that when they are strong enough to tell, there will still be hope… and perpetrators in Washington state need to know they will never be safe from prosecution for their horrific crimes.

There is no SOL for murder in our state, and it’s no coincidence that many sexual abuse victims and advocates draw a parallel to sex crimes, calling it a “murder of the soul.” The damage of sexual abuse stays with us FOREVER. We can’t erase it, fully heal it, or make it go away. It leaves scars on our bodies, on our spirits, and on our souls. It affects our loved ones, our partners, and our children.

How can we — as a society — tolerate the idea that if a person sexually abuses a child, if that criminal can “wait it out,” or if they’ve injured, threatened, or intimidated their victims enough to prevent them from speaking out, they should be safe from prosecution?

We shouldn’t, and we won’t.

My tribe and I will keep fighting for this legislation, even if it doesn’t pass this year. We will keep telling our stories, and we will collect even more along the way. We’ll tell, over and over and over again… until we are SEEN as the survivors we are, HEARD as the survivors we are, and VICTORIOUS in protecting every other survivor that comes after us.

Please, don’t make us return next year. Rather, let us get to the important work of helping others to find their voices and to heal. We are counting on you to get HB 1155 to the House floor for a vote, where its strong bipartisan roots can take hold, and flourish into something necessary for justice, and healing for our wounded.

Very truly yours,

Christina-Marie Wright

I also had the honor, and the privilege, of including letters from several of my sister survivors, and I think they are SO INCREDIBLY FREAKING BRAVE and heroic for writing them! I’m moved to tears by the pride I have to stand alongside them, and many days, I don’t feel worthy of them.

I hate being so far away. I don’t know if my words carry the same weight on paper, as in person. I won’t be able to read the body language of the committee members. I feel like I’m resorting to scattershot advocacy… even though, deep down, I know what we have done will be enough. It will be enough for God’s plan, His justice, His time. This was my part, at this time, this moment, right now.

We’d love your prayers, y’all.

 

Here We Go Again

(Cross-posted from Facebook)

Y’all, I could use some strength right now. 
Tomorrow, I’ll be in Olympia, testifying again for the Washington State House Public Safety Committee. The goal is to end the statute of limitations on sex crimes in Washington state. 
I have lost friends since going public with my story — friends who really meant a lot to me. 
I have had people question the authenticity of my story, and even suggest that the claims by over a dozen people who were sexually abused by the man who abused me (we were all children at the time) are part of some elaborate “witch hunt,” and made up. 
I’ve been having very vivid dreams of people trying to stop me from testifying tomorrow… I woke several times last night from nightmares. 
I KNOW this is my calling. I KNOW my advocacy for women includes this very difficult work. I KNOW our stories need to be told. 
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
I need all your positive energies in the coming weeks. Please, rally with me and pray that the testimonies given by me and my fellow survivors will be HEARD, clearly. Pray that the committee will, as they did last year, vote to move forward with this needed legislation. 
Above all, please pray that once it gets out of committee, it receives the support of both the House and Senate, and becomes law in Washington. 
Sexual predators need to know they will NEVER be safe from prosecution in our state.

About that Brock Turner Photo… It Matters, but Not Why You Think

Tags

, , ,

I get, people. Really, I do.

You’re saying that news agencies and media outlets should stop using that All-American, professionally retouched, squeaky-clean head shot:

and use instead his glassy-eyed mugshot:

This booking photo released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office shows Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer who was sentenced last week to six months in jail and three years' probation for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, January 2015.

I understand.

What you’re saying in your pleas is you want the public and the world to see him as he is now — a criminal. A rapist. An unapologetic one, at that.

And, as much as I understand that sentiment (I feel it, too! I really, really do!), I truly believe we need to see the polished, poised head shot.

Here’s why:

The guy who is going to rape or sexual assault most likely isn’t a creepy stranger. He’s most likely a guy you know, or think you know. He is — colloquially — the “boy next door.”

Three out of four sexual violence attacks are committed by someone known to the victim. It’s going to be a neighbor. A “friend.” A friend of a friend. A teacher. A family member. A classmate. A teammate. A guy you go on a date with. A guy you meet at a club and dance with all night.

See the second picture? The guy with the bloodshot, empty eyes? We know to stay away from that guy, or to at least have our guards up. If he’s a stranger — someone you have never had any contact with — if you are going to be raped, there is only a 25% chance that stranger will be the one to rape you.

25% sounds like pretty lousy odds… I know. But, here’s the thing: If we are to believe findings that  18% of women in the U.S. have been raped (a figure which I personally think to be on the low side… I’d wager it’s closer to 35% or more, but I’m not a researcher), it means that 25% of that 18% — or 4.5% — of women are raped by strangers.

That first picture? He’s the guy to be smart about. He’s the guy who might literally try to charm the pants off you, and take aggressive action when he fails. He is the guy who we need to educate against, most aggressively. He is the guy who is tricky, because gosh darn it… he seems like such a nice guy. No one could ever imagine him hurting anyone!

Here’s what I know, from personal experience:

There is no mugshot of the man who sexually abused me as a child. There are, however, years’ worth of professionally-shot portraits of him in my school’s annuals.

The guy who raped me when I was 14 was a friend of a friend, firmly within my circle of acquaintances, and someone I felt comfortable being around. I didn’t feel like I had to have my guard up that night. If anything, I thought he would be someone who would protect me if anyone else tried to hurt me.

I placed my trust in the wrong guy.

When I was raped in college, it was under almost identical circumstances.

When I was drugged and woke up in a hospital, I’d been reportedly poured into a cab by the two businessmen I’d met earlier at a cafe where I’d had a cup of coffee and a sandwich. We’d spent a good deal of time talking about our work, and making small talk. I don’t remember leaving the cafe. Were we friends? No. Acquaintances? Not really. Does this fall under “stranger assault?” Probably. I don’t know if I was assaulted or raped. The hospital didn’t perform a rape kit or toxicology screen, insisting I’d become unconscious due to self-induced intoxication.

Why do I share, and re-share those experiences? Because I need you to understand a few things:

  1. Most of the abuse/rape/assaults I’ve lived have been at the hands of people I knew and trusted.
  2. Early abuse and rape increases the chances of being re-victimized later in life by a huge margin. HUGE.  Studies suggest that sexual victimization in childhood or adolescence increases the likelihood of sexual victimization in adulthood between 2 and 13.7 times. 
  3. The people who violated me looked far more like that first photo of Brock Turner than the second one. Far more. Squeaky-clean, All-American, guy-next-door people.

 

When we get riled and cry out because the world needs to see Brock Turner as the rapist he is, and to do so we must see his mug shot, we are missing the mark. He is just as much a rapist in his suit and tie with a smile as he is in his white hoodie with vacant eyes.

When I chose to sit at the group table in the cafe, alone, I chose the table with the guys in business suits because they seemed more put together and respectable — more trustworthy — than the scroungy guys at some of the other tables with seats available. I thought I was making the safe choice. You know what, though?

Bad guys — scary guys, guys who drug your coffee and take you to hotel rooms — wear suits, too.

Until things change in the world… Until all humans learn, believe, and live the principles that a) consent is mandatory, b) other people’s bodies are not an entitlement to someone else, c) children cannot provide consent, persons with diminished capacity may not be able to provide consent, and persons who are incapacitated are incapable of providing consent, d) rape is an act of violence, and e) perpetrators are 100% responsible and accountable for their acts of violence…

Until then… We need to be on guard.

I’m just as tired of the victim-blaming rape culture as you are. It’s not okay to tell victims they shouldn’t have been drinking, or walking alone, or accepting rides from guys they barely know, or… or… or…

But still, we need to be vigilant.

We need to be smart, and we need to be realistic. It is not succumbing to rape culture to keep our wits about us. It is not succumbing to rape culture to learn to defend ourselves. It is not succumbing to rape culture to listen to the small alarm bells in our minds, rather than dismissing them.

None of that is succumbing to rape culture. All of those things are empowering, and powerful.

When those things fail, and the unthinkable happens, it is kicking rape culture in the balls to speak out, and to refuse to accept any of the victim-blaming rhetoric.

This blog, this re-telling, this journaling, this vulnerability… it’s me, kicking rape culture square in the balls.

 

Read at Your Own Risk

You will read this at your own risk. At the risk of having to question what you think you know about someone in your community. At the risk of having to ask yourself if you are on the side of comfort, or on the side of truth.

You will read this at the risk of having to ask yourself if you are ready to make a stand, and to make hard choices.

You will read it at the risk of having to choose how and when you guard over your children.

You will read it at the risk of having to wonder if someone you know was hurt, and you never noticed, or you didn’t help, or you ignored their claims.

I’m hoping you read it, anyway.

I’m hoping you do the hard thing.

I’m hoping you understand that this is a matter of public record, yet it’s gone unread by many for years.

I’m hoping you understand this document tells the stories of a few… But it speaks for many who couldn’t speak for themselves.

I am one of them.

This document, available to the public, has been treated like a top-security secret.

No more.

Read for yourself, and ask yourself… What action should I take?

If you’re open to suggestions, I suggest you begin with LISTENING to the survivors. We are rallying the troops, and we are speaking out.

We need your prayers, and we need your support.

Next, please ask yourself if you were hurt by the man named in this document, and consider joining us.

Then, please ask yourself if you know someone who was hurt by this man, and support her and give her strength to come forward.

I can be reached by email at:

Mama (at) thegonzomama (dot) com

Read the document, here:

http://www.k12.wa.us/ProfPractices/investigations/ActionTaken/RevocationHuntoon_Redacted1.pdf

Read a news story, here:

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19921210&id=-1xWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=M_ADAAAAIBAJ&pg=4929,8163180&hl=en

His name is not He Who Must Not Be Named.

It is Bruce Huntoon.

The “Morning After” Report

How am I doing after giving my testimony yesterday?

Let me tell you — I hate hearing people say they “can’t” do things. I train my team out of saying it. I train my kids out of saying it.

So, I’ll refrain from saying, “I just _________.”

Instead, I’ll say:

I’m overwhelmed.

I’m tired.

I’m isolated, yet I’m a spectacle.

I’m raw and sensitive, yet I really feel nothing at all.

I feel alone, even though I’m part of a growing tribe.

I feel hopeless, even though others say I give them hope.

I want to scream, “Stop admiring me! Stop thanking me! I’m nothing… Don’t you see that? I’m the same nobody-nothing I’ve always been… Please, look away. Don’t see me. Don’t notice me.”

I’m not holding it together well.

I worry I stirred that pot, when I should have thrown the charred stew out a long, long time ago and forgotten about it.

And… I’m angry.

I’ve had several phone calls from fellow survivors; survivors of my abuser. They are my tribe.

I am ANGRY that we “bond” over the words he used to coerce us, and the ways he touched us.

When I’m not quite sure I’m correctly remembering the excuses and the shame-making statements he used on me, and I’m struggling with the wording of the memory, a tribe member says, “Yes! That’s exactly what he said to me!” and I get ANGRY that he was so “good” at sexually abusing us that he had stock phrases.

I see his social media posts about interacting with the church youth group in my community, and I get ANGRY that I let a pastor make me feel like a BAD CHRISTIAN when I tried to tell him he has a child molester in his church.

I’d love to tell you how the testimony went yesterday, but I ______ (okay… CAN’T) think about it, right now.

I’ll get back to you, soon.