Stalling

I’m stalling. Today, is the annual banking law update CLE. CLE stands for continued legal education, but really it just means over-priced seminar you are required to attend to maintain your license to practice law.

The information presented at this seminar is great. The presenters are top in their field. Some of the brightest minds around, but they are also some of the most boring. Seriously, intelligence pairs well with humor. I’m not sure why their genes split and the humor gene went recessive. I understand that banking laws and regulations aren’t necessarily a sexy topic (I think they are but I’m kind of weird like that), but even the attempt at humor from this group would be funny.

For the next six hours I will do my best to (1) keep my eyes open (no glassy eyes, no drooping eyelids); and (2) appear to be interested and engaged (Perfecting my acting skills. Yes, I know it’s a plastic knife but I’m pretty sure if I press hard enough I can still slit my wrists with it.)

I also get the joy of sitting in a room filled with people, a lot of them I know, but who all pretend they don’t see each other. Why do people do that? Social phobia’s, I don’t really like you, please… I’m trying to be pretentious here?

Finally, the presenters are all attorneys. Have you ever been in a social setting with a group of attorneys? This usually means the day will be filled with war stories. Each will tell us about cases they’ve litigated, and each of those cases will have absolutely nothing to do with the topic. I like stories, but not these kinds, and not for six hours.

For all the petty folks who realize I’m not in the office on a Friday and have a need to say “It must be nice….” or “I wish I could take off on Friday…” please…. please…. come trade places with me (just make sure I get credit for the seminar)!

No Means No

The media is fraught with regular stories lately about how another celebrity came out and named, yet, another abuser. I am glad these individuals are finding their voice and the courage to come forward. But, it has me wondering about our society.

Do you mean to tell me that someone said no, stop, I’m uncomfortable, or any other myriad of words or phrases that indicated that a person should STOP, and yet, that person ignored those words and proceeded with their own agenda anyway? Why would someone do this? Are we really shocked by this? Because if you are, you live in a hole.

How can we teach young people to respect boundaries and the words of another when in almost every other aspect of our lives the word “no” is gleefully ignored?

Sales! Sales! Sales! (Donations! Donations! Donations!)

I get calls from salespeople daily. It doesn’t matter if I’m on the Do Not Call List, they call me anyway. I’ve blocked so many numbers, God, himself, is having trouble making the connection.

I always ask the salesperson not to call me again. Guess what? THEY CALL ME AGAIN. And, the kicker is… the part I love the most is… they get mad AT ME when I become agitated and remind them that I specifically asked them not to call me. No means NO.

I have people come to my home to try to sell products all the time. AT&T is the WORST offender. I even put up a “No soliciting” sign on my front door to ward off these unwanted invaders. What happened? Yep, they ignored it. The only individuals who adhered to the “no soliciting” sign were the neighborhood children with their school fundraisers or the Boy Scouts selling popcorn, and these munchkins I didn’t mind contributing to. But, for the rest of the yahoos, No means NO.

I once asked a woman; “Can you read this sign?” “Oh, I’m not trying to sell you something….” she stated as she launched into her spill trying to (drumroll please) sell  me something. On another occasion,  I opened the door to find a salesman standing on my porch. I explained I had grease on the stove and needed to get back to my cooking. He did what he is trained to do…. he attempted to keep me engaged in the conversation because the longer you’re engaged the greater the opportunity to make the sale. I literally had to raise my voice that my HOUSE IS GOING TO BURN DOWN! Damn it, I said NO! No means NO. Why must I defend my private domain? It is my home. Not a retail outlet.

Wouldn’t it be a novel idea if business was actually built on kindness and mutual respect? Is this concept really so foreign?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Patriarch – Part IV – The Religious Culture

We were sitting in the balcony. Today we didn’t get our traditional back row, but the one just in front of it. The Preacher delivered a three-point sermon. He shows great mastery of his craft. As I sit there I wonder why my soul feels so unsettled at this church. It isn’t the old-bitty to the right who complains about my wearing of jeans to Sunday service. She, I have become accustomed to. But, what is it?

Today was communion day. A large table sits before the platform. It is stacked with shining, silver trays. The ushers take the trays and walk up and down the aisles, passing the bread and juice, ensuring everyone who wants to be served has had their opportunity. The beauty and the reverence of communion is not lost on me as I remember a torn and battered Savior who loved me enough to lay down his own life.

I sit there silently with my thoughts, my bread and juice in hand. The ushers gather back downstairs at the communion table. They take their portions and stand in a semi-circle. The ushers, in this instance, are the elders of the church. Those in leadership roles. The Pastor walks up to the group, and in a soft voice beaming with pride states; “Men, the head of the household.”

Those words fell on me like a ton of bricks. My eyes scanned the bottom floor again. I hadn’t really noticed this before. Those gathered in the semi-circle are all men. All white men. They ranged in age from mid-thirties to mid-sixties. The leaders of the church. The head of the family.

In that moment this question materialized, “Carol, is this what you are supporting?” My immediate response was; “No!” Well then; “Is this what you are intending to support?” This question took deeper thought. What is my intent?

My physical presence shows support. My financial contribution shows support. My silence, too, is acquiescence of support.

We function in a world made up of various systems. These systems have a hierarchy, a pecking order, if you will. You and I have learned to navigate these hierarchies. They exist at work. They exist within the family (core and extended). They exist in the church. Within the systems of justice and politics.

When the world doesn’t make sense, when it feels out of control, people often look to their religion for guidance. We seek a moral code to help guide our steps, to assist us in ascertaining our progress in this thing called life. Moral authority is defined as; “the capacity to convince others how the world should be.” It is a rejection of reality in favor of something else, the way the world should be. Moral codes offer a sense of stability. Authoritarian structures, however, hinder growth and development and encourage abuse.

Patriarchy in the church is considered normal. It’s as routine as turkey on Thanksgiving and hot dogs at a ballgame. It’s the way things are done. It is “the Lord’s program.” Don’t question it, Mrs. Rolke.

In short, Christian Patriarchy is the belief that God has ordained a specific family order. The established hierarchy usually looks like this: The husband leads, the wife submits, and the children obey.  And, if everyone plays their role, the family unit is blessed. Any deviation from this pecking order is seen as an abomination upon God himself.

Christian Patriarchy stresses the importance of male leadership and authority. Some in the church may argue they view women and men as equals. It is a subterfuge. Those same individuals are also quick to believe that those “equals” must adhere to very defined and vastly different roles all based upon nothing more than their gender. Men work and sit in positions of power. Women cook, take care of the home, bear and care for the children.

In Christian Patriarchy, women are under the authority of men. Women are fully expected to accept and embrace this role. I once heard a preacher from the pulpit say; “You younger women need to learn how to start cooking.” This was the defined women’s role at this church. That same preacher told the males they needed to stop retiring because it was financially hurting the church.  This preacher was quick to re-enforce the stereotypes, to maintain the hierarchies, and ultimately his position at the top of the pecking order.

The problem with patriarchal systems is they foster the desire for power and control, which is, ultimately what abusers are after as well… power and control.

Sure, a few women have roles in the church. They are allowed to run the nursery or children’s church. The women’s program. They might even be allowed to sit on the Board, but usually just as the secretary, and that’s only if they have proven themselves obedient enough to keep the Patriarch’s secrets.

Sadly enough, Christian pastors all too often use “biblical authority” as a weapon to suppress and control others. I attended a church where the pastor would verbally beat down members of the congregation on a weekly basis from the pulpit. He would have an inside track into a marital or family issue, or a behavior he wanted to “correct,” and he would design his sermons with this purpose (person) in mind (to instill guilt and fear). This is not just forced repentance, it is emotional abuse. It is as far from love and grace as you can get.

The Patriarchal Church protects the entity at all costs. They draw battle lines between themselves and “the world.” There is a fundamental double-standard at play in these cultures. The pastor is at the top of the hierarchy. He will preach about sin, demand loyalty, obedience, transparency… Yet, any “correction” or “accountability” of the Patriarch is seen as an attack on the church. You then become an “enemy of the church,” one who must leave the congregation. How dare YOU question the Patriarch? The Patriarch will circle the wagons, bear down the hatches, and all will fight to protect the church at all costs, which often includes lies and cover ups. The rules apply to everyone but the Patriarch. Hell hath no fury like the lead pastor scorned.

These types of church cultures often treat women’s bodies as inherently problematic and seductive, a woman’s worth linked to her sexual purity or procreative prowess. I once wrote a a post on Facebook where I referenced the curves and beauty of a Camaro to a human body. The post was intended for humor. The punchline being I was describing a car as opposed to a person. Cars are sexy, right? I attended church the following Sunday and to my shock, during the message, the pastor states; “I know we have seductresses in our church.” He goes on and tells the congregation that it is their (the seductresses) fault that his church is not prospering (because of their sin…the female’s sin). What?

I once asked to have a meeting with this Pastor to discuss child sexual abuse and ways to prevent it in the church. I e-mailed him requesting an appointment only to receive a reply from his wife. What?  Apparently, I am WAY more seductive then I knew. I work in an industry with an ethical code. My profession requires privilege and confidentiality, and professionalism. And, so do pastors. Although, I genuinely liked this man’s wife, I wasn’t prepared to broadcast my childhood story of trauma in a group setting. I had thought asking for the meeting in a public venue was sufficient enough. I found the response extremely offensive. Still do. It conveys a distrust of me personally, one which I had not earned. The response was gender assigned. I being a female. It showed an extreme lack of professionalism. Not to mention, I would have expected this pastor’s lifestyle would have, at a bare minimum, afforded him the benefit of a mirror and a calendar (Because… Ewww!).

Not long after, the entire district of this denomination began touting the teachings of an author who wanted to make sure men of the church would never “become a victim of sexual temptation.” The cure to this, of course, was that all male-female interaction should be done in the presence of another. Shared social media accounts. A watchful “accountability partner” to emails, etc. (Big Brother is literally always watching). These types of teachings a very problematic. It creates and re-enforces cultures were women are nothing more than sexual beings, objects, individuals who cannot be trusted. Men can’t control their impulses. The are gender biases. It fails to teach self-awareness or personal responsibility, or professionalism. It reinforces the concept that it is the woman’s fault. SHE tempted ME. Power. Control. Domination. Blame. Guilt. Rinse. Repeat. Cycle again.

These cultures often blame victims of sexual abuse for inviting the abuse. She tempted the abuser. She was hanging with the wrong crowd (sinners). She was somewhere she shouldn’t have been. These cultures inflict guilt upon the abused, and all too often, even require reconciliation with their abusers. Forgive in order that you might be forgiven. And, if the abuser is the clergy, the pressure for silence from the victim becomes greater as exposure of the secret will RUIN the ministry, God’s ministry. Ouch!

I had a pastor once ask his secretary to check with me on his church’s insurance coverage. A teenager had been molested by the church’s youth pastor. During the conversation, I was told, more than once, how “advanced” this young girl was, “beyond her years.” This conveys, absolutely, no accountability by the church and blames and shames the innocent. The fact is, these cultures care more about “the ministry” then they care about the people in it. They will go to great lengths to protect what they’ve built, even at the expense of an innocent child.

When you can only develop meaningful relationships with like-minded individuals, you are not attending a church, you are part of a cult culture. When your children have to be home-schooled as to not be touched, exposed to, or tempted by “the world,” they fail to develop skills necessary to cope with vital situations. You cannot develop coping mechanisms for situations you are constantly avoiding. And, more importantly; “You can’t reach a world you refuse to touch.”

After #MeToo went viral I reviewed the social media pages of all the pastors I knew, as well as their spouses. I even reviewed the last publication produced for their district. This was their chance to be a voice of change. A chance to speak out against sexual assault. A chance to take a stand and stand up and “protect or cover” women as the patriarchal system claims they are “ordained” to do. What I found was, you guessed it… crickets. Not one, NOT ONE, took up this topic. I uncovered a lot of sports posts instead.

Unfortunately, we have learned to be comfortable with the status quo. It’s just the way it is, the way it has always been. These teachings have been passed down socially, culturally and religiously. We often participate not even realizing how we promote the culture to continue. Complacency is the enemy of progress.

You can’t look at the numbers for domestic violence in Oklahoma and not take it into consideration. You can’t look at the number of women killed by their domestic partner in Oklahoma and not take it into consideration. You can’t look at the number of children being abused in Oklahoma, and in the church, and not take it into consideration.

Patriarchal systems create environments more susceptible to abuse and exploration of women and children. Women and children are not subordinates. They are not “equals, but with defined and vastly different roles.” They are EQUALS. Partners within the same unit. Women did not destroy the family by going to work outside of the home. Women and children are human beings. They have a soul. They have intelligence and a conscience. Women and children do not need to be dominated and controlled. Women have the right to shared leadership, and women and children, both, have the right to mutual respect. This is not a women’s issue. Patriarchy hurts everyone.

I’m Such a Fake

That got your attention. I really dislike fake. I know politics are a way of life. I do realize there are plenty of times we must pretend for the sake of appearances. I do understand there are times I must participate, but I just really don’t like playing the game. The stresssssss… the pressure… Ugh! It makes this girl want to scream.

I must release the weight of this burden. There is just simply no other way. I must face the truth. I must stop being fake. I have a confession to make. (Deep breath). Okay, I can do this. Here goes…

I don’t really like wine. It’s too sweet and tastes nasty. I don’t really like beer either. It just makes you feel full and pee a lot. I only pretend to like wine because it sounds more ladylike than hit me with a shot of vodka!  How else do you say, “I’ve had a long week, I’m going to sit back tonight and relax with a… with a… with a glass of… Er! A mini glass, a really mini glass… filled with liquid potatoes…?”  See what I mean?  You can’t do it. Nothing romantic, sweet, or ladylike about that at all.

Whew! Glad I got that off my chest. I feel better already. FREE. Free at last. There’ll be no wine-sippin’, dainty, pinky’s pointed to the sky, at my house. No sir! And, there’ll be no beer-chugging either (but it pairs so well with blue jeans and Friday nights- lyrically, at least). No sir! Not for me. But, I just might consume all my veggies, even the starchy, liquified ones, because being healthy is important.

Hit me with the Top Shelf, expensive date, he needs to impress me, version.

It’s Fri-YAY, y’all. Cheers (and giggles)!

The Patriarch – Part III – Marrying the Patriarch 

I married not one but two patriarchs. Practice makes perfect (For those who recognize sarcasm, good for you.  For those who don’t, work on your game). I was two months shy of my 17th birthday when I married for the first time. That’s crazy, right? Of course it is! That marriage lasted 7 years (Tragically endured, though, is a much better description of that martial train wreck). I married my second husband, or as I tell him, my favorite husband, three years after my first divorce. We are now 20 years into this marital adventure.

Marriage has ancient roots. It has been around for a very long time. Marriages were ceremonious, but initially, there were no preachers or marriage licenses involved. No big fancy chapels, dresses, over-priced everything. Historically, love had little to do with marriage, actually nothing to do with marriage at all. Marriage was a way of making alliances, obtaining property, and expanding the family labor force. Women were given away in trades with other families. They were not an asset, but a liability.

In more recent years we have tried to make marriage about the love, unity, and loyalty between a man and woman. Yet the remnants of the property exchange still remains as the expectations between genders continues to linger.

I was taught marriage is forever. That teaching is still wide-spread today. As taught, marriage is to be a covenant between a man and a woman and it is to last all of eternity. Yet, more than 60% of marriages end in divorce. Odd, huh? I don’t take marriage nor the ideas of love, commitment, and loyalty lightly, but I do believe the conceptualization we have of marriage is archaic, outdated, and frankly, harmful. This special union, this coveted role, yet so many are crushed by it, its “failure,” their “failure,” the inability to make it work, make it last (And for my last trick I will sprinkle on a big ol heaping helping of guilt to top off your world falling a part).

Part of the patriarchal system is to understand and accept the defined gender roles. To be paired off with someone and live “happily ever after.” Yet, no one tells you happily ever after includes living and navigating through many moments of frustration, hurt, anger, growth, development, change, dirty diapers, financial struggles, outside influences, meddling whores, flirtatious men on social media, and all the other messy, nasty things life throws at you.

My first husband was, how do I put this nicely….? He was a control freak. Capital “C”. Capital “F-R-E-A-K.” I wish I was exaggerating, but I am not, not even for the sake of humor because it was anything but funny. I remember the look he gave me the night we tied the knot and in the span of that nano-second I instantly knew I had just made the biggest mistake of my life. But, marriage is marriage. Marriage is forever and I was stuck in it now.

He took pleasure in telling me what I could and couldn’t wear. When I could wear make up. Who I could see and who I could not see. He went into hyper-gear with alienation tactics. He was an extremely jealous and possessive person. A byproduct of his raising and self-esteem issues, in conjunction with his own multiple affairs during our marriage.

For seven years I was required to eat mayonnaise on my cheeseburgers. I DO NOT like mayonnaise on my cheeseburgers. I like mustard on my cheeseburgers! Yet, Hubby Uno, always ordered two burgers and he always ordered both with mayonnaise. He didn’t like mustard or onions, and therefore, I wasn’t allowed to have those on my burgers either because as he stated; “they might mess up HIS order.” Gee, that sounds fair.

He would throw things at me. Yell at me. Tell me I’m stupid, ugly, fat, make false accusations constantly. He would keep me awake all night criticizing everything about me knowing full well I’d have to work the next day. It was nightmarish, a living hell. Sadly, you start to believe this is normal. At 17, 20, 21… I assumed this was just part of the bargain. This was what I signed up for. I couldn’t navigate these choppy waters. In fact, I got lost at sea.

I became a shell of an individual. Lost, with no place to turn. When we were in public or around other people Hubby Uno would act so kind and helpful. Charming and funny. Toward the later part of the marriage I could no longer hide my disdain. People didn’t understand, they just couldn’t fathom why I acted so terrible to him (To him?). The secrets were always behind closed doors. They couldn’t understand my anger, my frustration, but I wore it as a cloak daily. I was counseled about my behavior. I needed to just try harder. Marriage is forever.

This was, by all accounts, an abusive marriage. And, yes, it was more than patriarchal, but he lived what he learned. And, I too, was living what I learned. The only problem being my will to survive fought harder than societies pressures to remain a unit. My internal voice wouldn’t stop shouting. A caged tiger, pacing, begging, scanning the landscape, pleading for someone, anyone, to please set me free.

My second husband, too, was raised in a patriarchal system. He was raised in a charismatic, male-centered, male-dominated religion. The same for his family structure. Mom stayed home and raised the children, took care of the home and her man. Dad worked, disciplined and provided guidance to his children. From the outside looking in, society, the church, would all define this as a “perfect” marriage.

Ironically enough, my husband will tell you what he found attractive about me was my sense of independence. I am certain, oh so very certain, that truth has caused him much angst over the years (This woman will be the death of me!).

Try as I might, I don’t fit the mold. The religious personification of “wife material… the crown jewel.” We live in a perpetual tug-of-war. In the earlier years of our marriage I was more willing to concede. I was more willing to set aside my wants, desires, feelings, to hide the tears, to say sorry, in order to just keep the peace.

I quickly, almost instantaneously, fell into old familiar patterns. I certainly didn’t want to fail at this thing (marriage) AGAIN. I took on the care taking, the cleaning, the cooking. I stopped watching television because he liked sports and that is what we watch. We don’t park behind Dad’s car because it is an inconvenience to him and he needs to get to work (So, of course, we park behind Mom’s car, because her career is….). I don’t cook chicken or fish at home because he doesn’t like them. Although, I do. I can count on one hand how many times he has cleaned the toilets in our home. Uh, no I can’t, because it has never happened.

This isn’t a beat up my husband post. I am equally responsible for allowing these dynamics in our lives just as much as he is.  We both contributed to this “idealistic” way of marriage. In fact, we actively sought to implement it to some degree. The problem is I could never keep up the charade. And, it almost seems unfair to change the rules at such a late date.

After years of conceding you start to lose your sense of individuality. You start to feel sub-human. You began to wonder if you do, in fact, actually exist. Some simply die inside. Some divorce, And, some push back, not willing to give up or fail, but also not willing to go on as “things have always been.”

Women become more vocal, a little more demanding. This gets touted as selfishness.  But, is it really? Is it selfish? Re-establishing boundaries and changing old patterns of behavior is down right hard. A fish swimming against the current. It is exhausting. It causes instability and confusion. And for a man who grew up in a patriarchal system, who has lived as the patriarch, I can only imagine it just doesn’t make any sense. Where is this coming from? Who is this woman? What in the hell is going on?

The “system” has shown up in my relationships in large ways and in more subtle ways, but it is still very much alive. Compromise is a great thing. Marriage requires a lot of compromising. There’s a difference between a compromise and a submission. In compromise there is no winner and no loser. Submission, however, requires one to give up their personal power to another. Required submission, consciously or unconsciously, is like burying land mines all over your relationship. Someone is eventually going to step on one, detonate the entire group, and the whole thing is going to blow up.

It is a great thing to love another individual. It is a beautiful thing to be there for another person. It is a great thing to be partners in life. To have a shoulder to lean on and an ear of understanding. It is a great thing to give and do for one another. To give and receive trust. To share in responsibilities, obligations, successes, and celebrations. What I am discussing exceeds what one might simply do out of the kindness of one’s own heart. It is a manifestation of the training of one’s person based upon nothing more than gender. Done in the all too subtle shadow of a lingering fear or out of concern. At the risk of consequences or for the reward of love.

Fear should never exist between spouses. Communication should be free and flow between the two easily. Mutual respect being the lubricant that keeps the wheels greased and flowing. Feelings not oppressed, but expressed.

I once had a seventy year old widower sit in my office and tell me he needed to get another wife because he was going to have surgery soon and he was going to need the help. No shame as to his dominion, his coveted role. In fact, I believe if you inquired he would state it with much pride. Religiously ordained, even. The man is the head of the household. The leader. Da’Man!

We are created as autonomous humans. Individual in our own right. Thoughts, feelings, ides, consciousness… You can hide it. You can fight it. But, you can’t deny it.

Women forget they have a voice. And when they finally locate it, it roars. When people accuse me of; “You just have to have your own way,” my question to them is; “As opposed to whose? Yours?” And, thus, the tug-of-war continues.

My Everything Hurts

I enjoy working out. I started cross-training a few years ago. I am proud of the progress I’ve made and impressed by just how much strength I’ve gained. However, I have come to realize nothing spoils your “I’m in shape” human invincibility thoughts quicker than a little manual labor.

I am also a project person (SURPRISE! I know it is not a surprise. Just keep reading). I’m not sure how that developed other than I’m an avid learner. I have an insatiable appetite for knowledge. Generally, you’ll find me with two-to-three projects going on at the same time.

My husband can do just about anything. He can build things, fix things, you name it. These are great skills to have but it is also has a seedy side. Apparently, when you can do it all you refuse to hire anyone to do it for you. Welcome to the dark side.

We are in the midst of laying new tile in our home. It was a big undertaking that has taught me I need to step up my workouts. Three days into this project and my, oh my, my everything hurts. (And, there is no glass of wine or full body massage to end the day. What kind of shop is he running here?)

I’ve tried to convince my husband the economy needs us. It is our patriotic duty to hire others, to assist in the building of the American Dream, but alas, he’s not buying it. Literally! He.is.not.buying.it.

Off we go, damn crossfit, you should have prepared me better!

From Silence to Victim Shaming, Oops! They did it Again

This week a firestorm broke out with women and men across America joining in on the #MeToo movement. On October 15, 2017, Alyssa Milano tweeted; “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” The point was simply to raise awareness of the magnitude of the problem. Multitudes of people responded by posting #MeToo on several social media sites, and then it happened… victim shaming, but, of course. Even the men who spoke up and came out in support of victims were targeted. They were accused of being disingenuous, and were even called “creepy” by one television commentator.

I noticed several women had taken the courageous step to post #MeToo on Facebook only to later remove it from their page. My heart ached deeply for each and every one of them. No, I don’t believe the abused owe you their story. I do believe, however, they should have the love, kindness, support, and space they need to share their story as they choose and in the timing they choose. I also firmly believe that if we (society) remain silent and continually refuse to address this issue we are as much a part of the problem as the ones inflicting the abuse.

We are conditioned to be fearful to take a stand. We are conditioned to be ashamed. We are conditioned to believe it is our fault. These messages get reinforced with injustice in the courts and in the media. Mistreatment by investigators. Silence (and cover ups) by leaders and those in power. Religious misconceptions: Eve broke Adam. Purity is the greatest gift you could give to your future husband. Women are seductresses. Women are weak, emotional, and irrational. Women are driven by feelings and not logic, they don’t know what they want. This is all nothing more than social conditioning.  Don’t let it win.

What happened this week is what always happens. Those who have been victimized are not surprised. Albeit, disgusted and disappointed, but not the least little bit surprised. What happened in response to the #MeToo movement is what happens every time and is exactly why people of abuse don’t report, stay in the shadows, and stay silent.

Everyone is up in arms about how no one was reporting on Harvey Weinstein, but that statement is factually false. A woman, a very strong woman, did report, REPEATEDLY. The same is true with the Bill Cosby case. These women were ignored. Their careers derailed. They suffered personally and financially. But, why? Because they SPOKE UP. The actions against these women didn’t come solely from the abusers but from society as a whole.

Over my lifetime I have met countless women who have been sexually abused. Most of them have never shared their story. Most of the women have disclosed to me what they fear is their deepest, darkest, ugliest secret and they haven’t even told their spouse. But, why? Conditioning, culture, fear….

Let me share with you just some of the possible reasons why victims aren’t allowed to speak up:

  1. They fear no one will believe them. Abusers profile and select victims whose credibility will be questioned. Manipulation of the imbalance of power and equity.
  2. They fear they will lose credibility as an individual. Maybe the abuse happened long ago and they have moved on with a career and family. They may worry it will taint them individually if they now disclose the secret.  Why drag old skeletons out of the closet?
  3. They fear their spouse, family, friends will not understand. Maybe they fear others will see them as broken or damaged goods. Somehow the shadow of the abuse will always loom over them.
  4. They may worry that others will think differently of them. No longer see them as smart or capable or strong. They may worry that others will avoid them or no longer know what to say to them or begin to interact with them differently.
  5. They may fear that other people will want to know details, forcing them to re-live and be re-traumatized by the abuse.
  6. They may fear that others will accuse them of “making it up,” or one of my personal favorites, “misunderstanding what occurred.”
  7. They may fear that others will make fun of them. They will become the topic of gossip.
  8. They may fear that others will accuse them of just seeking attention.
  9. They may fear that maybe the nay-sayers are right, maybe it is their fault.
  10. They may have a need to protect someone they care about who may still be close to the abuser.
  11. They may fear losing their job, losing their spouse, losing their friends.
  12. They may fear being isolated or alienated.
  13. They may be embarrassed, ashamed.
  14. They may feel they won’t get any help, so why bother?
  15. They may feel it probably isn’t serious enough to report. They trivialize the abuse just as they’ve been taught to through social conditioning.
  16. It’s personal. They may believe they can handle it alone and so it’s just better to keep silent and move on.
  17. They may love or even be married to the abuser and fear being seen as a failure if they leave or end the marriage.
  18. On some level they may even believe they actually deserve the abuse.
  19. Maybe they tried to disclose before only to have those attempts met with scorn.
  20. They may just be afraid.

To those who came out against Sandusky, to those who came out against Bill Cosby, to those who came out against Harvey Weinstein, THANK YOU. Thank you for standing your ground. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for being a voice. Thank you for not giving up.

For those who can’t tell their story, no worries, no pressure, and no fear. Your survival must be your first and foremost priority.  Turn off the television and social media if you need to. Give yourself permission to walk away and find peace where you can. If the world won’t provide you a safe place to turn, please accept my apologies on behalf of us all. Take whatever steps you need to protect yourself, and just know you, my friend, you are not alone.