What is Consent?

Today, I want to take a look at what consent is. This entry comes courtesy of my friend Blair Robertson. In it, she shares her daughter’s experience, as well as some hard hitting truths. If you have been abused, raped, sexually assaulted, or otherwise traumatized, this may be triggering. If you find yourself being triggered, please stop reading and do something to care for yourself instead. Your safety is of utmost importance. As usual, all links are set to open in a new window/tab. – Amanda

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“SILENCE DOES NOT IMPLY CONSENT.” Those were the words written in all capital letters in the packet of material given to my daughter when she first went to Sarah Lawrence College. The incoming students were sent to a workshop on sexual abuse on campus, where they mostly cautioned against drinking too much, and explained the security shuttle buses they could access at night. Male and female students both attended the workshop, both heard the words, both received the packet of information.

So my daughter lived in a bubble of “safety” on the campus there, a place where sex is openly talked about, where LGBT people can feel free expressing their feelings to their partners, where gender identity is explored openly, and gender pronouns are used carefully.

Then, her senior year, she was out at a dance with some friends. They were drinking- -not too much, and over the period of the entire evening. She met a male student who seemed nice, and who latched on to their group for the evening. He asked if she was gay, and she told him she was. He replied, “That’s cool.” Not long after, he started saying he was going to miss his last train home, and wouldn’t have any place to stay. My little Southern daughter, with all the hospitality bred into her, said he could sleep on her floor. She thought surely he’d say no, but he followed her home. Once in her room, it took him all of 15 minutes to rape and brutalize her. My daughter, who is ever so political and quick to speak up for issues and rights of people, froze. She couldn’t say anything at all, she was so horrified. She looked at him, and knew not to fight, her little 5’1” fibromyalgia-ridden body no match for his well over 6 foot build. About halfway through, she managed to say “no” twice, but to no avail. After he went to sleep, she was able to escape into the night, with no shoes, no wallet, no keys, no phone.

All that is to tell you that the DA refused to press charges. Nobody did a blood alcohol test on her at the hospital, and the DA contended that she invited him in and didn’t say no. I was informed by the assistant DA that Sarah Lawrence’s contention, all in caps, on their policy statement, that “Silence Does Not Imply Consent” is not a legal policy, that it won’t stand up in court, that no jury would convict him.

So what is consent? The young woman at James Madison University recently was so drunk she couldn’t function, had three huge athletes rape her, film it and spread the video around the school, and they called it “consensual.”

Therapists all know about what is called “dissociation.” Wikipedia describes it thusly: “In psychology, the term dissociation describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.” Many victims immediately block what’s going on, dissociate, when the terror takes over and they are unable to function or fight. Any jury hearing such a case would have this explained to them, quite easily and understandably, by an expert witness psychologist.

The student from James Madison, the little 14-year-old Daisy Coleman, were too drunk to be able to give consent. Daisy couldn’t have given consent if she had wanted to, because of her age.

Consensual sex is NOT a male climbing on top of a woman/girl/man/boy, and because of his/her greater strength and determination, doing what he wants , whether or not she says no. Consensual sex is asking, and being told, clearly, YES, and, if at any time during the following proceedings, the answer changes, stopping immediately. This applies to dates, strangers, lovers, marital partners. It applies when the “victim” is unable to consent due to alcohol or drugs, or when the “victim” is unable to understand the meaning of the act. Consent is ALSO not obtained by coercion or manipulation, of any sort.

Consent does not have to be a written contract, but it may be coming to that, in today’s rape culture. If people are unwilling to communicate before the sexual act and receive a clear go-ahead, then there is no consent. Regardless of the Westchester County’s dismissal of the legality of it, SILENCE DOES NOT IMPLY CONSENT.

What is Sexual Assault?

This entry is going to discuss how sexual assault is defined, and what it looks like. My previous warnings stand on this topic, just the same as they do on every entry I post. This topic may be triggering, so please proceed with caution, especially if you have been abused, raped, sexually assaulted, or otherwise traumatized. If you find yourself unable to handle reading this article, please stop, and do something else. Your safety is of utmost importance to me, and if that means you don’t read what I have written, I am alright with that. All links are set to open in a new window/tab.

According to Wikipedia, “The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network defines sexual assault as “unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.”” Depending on where you live, the law may define things a bit (or dramatically) differently, but for the sake of convenience, this is the definition I am going to work with for the remainder of this entry.

There are some behaviors whose definitions can overlap with sexual assault. For example, sexual harassment can be separate, but there are some forms of sexual harassment that are also sexual assault, such as pressing or rubbing against a person, unwanted grabbing, or  pressing or rubbing against a person. The term “groping” is used to define the touching or fondling of another person in a sexual way (including through clothing), using the hands, without that other person’s consent. If these behaviors occur in the work environment, they are not only sexual assault, but also sexual harassment, and need to be reported, immediately. Another example of an overlap of definitions is with domestic violence. It IS possible to be sexually assaulted by your partner, whether you are dating, married, committed, or casually dating. And it is always wrong. It is NEVER ‘asked for’ or ‘deserved’ no matter the circumstances under which it occurred.

What does sexual assault look like in the real world? At work, it could look like a coworker who doesn’t keep their hands to themselves. On a date, it could look like a companion who is becoming overly familiar with your body. On the street, it could look like a stranger grabbing your butt as you walk by. All of these constitute sexual assault, and none of them should be tolerated. The action you take depends, of course, on the situation in which the contact occurs. You can attempt to address the behavior with the person, though that may not be successful. At work, you have the option of reporting it to their superiors. On a date, you can put some distance between the two of you while expressing plainly what the problem is, or you can refuse to see them any more. On the street, your best option is usually to put distance between the two of you.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call your local authorities or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). If you are not in immediate danger, but need someone to talk with or help finding your local resources, please contact me either on my Facebook page Hit Me No More or at my e-mail HitMeNoMore@gmail.com – Amanda

How to File a Restraining Order

Today’s entry comes from a dear friend of mine. You may have read her story previously. (If not, it can be found here.) In this blog entry, she discusses how to file a restraining order, why you may want/need to file one, and the possible outcomes of filing. All links are set to open in a new window/tab.- Amanda

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Today I am going to discuss with you how to file a restraining order, the reasons you can file a restraining order, and the possible outcomes from the courts when a restraining order is filed.

According to Domesticviolence.org, the definition of domestic violence is: Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating.

I myself have filed and maintained a restraining order since September 25, 2012. So many people are able to get a restraining order, DVO or sometimes called a civil protection order, and aren’t aware that they can.

First I am going to discuss with you the steps to file a restraining order. After the incident occurs, call the police if you can. Police reports are extremely helpful when it comes time for the court date.

If you have evidence such as bruises, cuts, swelling or any other physical signs, take a bunch of pictures and have the developed, if the police are called make sure they document everything. Document any threats made before getting to the court house. Once you are at the court house you will most likely have to ask where to go to file a restraining order. In most cases you will simply have to fill out a paper with details of the incident and if the police were called, attach a copy of their report. Once the judge approves the restraining order, you as the victim will have to abide by the rules of the restraining order, usually meaning zero contact. The perpetrator in the incident isn’t required to follow the rules until he or she is served with the papers by the local police or sheriff. After they have been served, a court date is given and both parties must attend. At this court date you will want to bring any evidence and witnesses with you. The judge will then call you both forward and take testimony. At that time the judge will more than likely decide whether or not to grant a permanent restraining order.

Now that I have told you how to file a restraining order I am going to tell you the reasons for filing one. If you have been victim to physical injury, sexual assault, pushed or shoved by a partner is the main focus of restraining orders. However, if your partner refuses to allow you to leave the residence, refuses to allow you access to a telephone, or intimidating you by threatening you, you may also qualify for one. But you must honestly fear for your safety. In a few circumstances a judge may allow stalking to be included in the reasons for requesting a restraining order.

Now that I have told you how to file a restraining order, and the reasons you can request one, I am going to tell you the possible outcomes from the court.

It is possible and in most cases the order is a No Contact order, which means no contact between either party. No calls, texts, email, and a big one is no having family or friends contact the other person.

Another form of order the judge might give is a Limited contact order, which is where there is allowed to be cyber communication such as text messages, email or through one specific person, usually agreed on by both parties in the court room. There is also the possibility that the judge may completely drop the restraining order, if either you request it, or there is not enough evidence

So today we have learned how to file a restraining order, the reasons to file one, and what the outcomes may be in the court system.

 National Coalition Against Domestic Violence on June 11, 2013 says “Approximately 20% of the 1.5 million people who experience intimate partner violence annually obtain civil protection orders. Approximately one-half of the orders obtained by women against intimate partners who physically assaulted them were violated. More than two-thirds of the restraining orders against intimate partners who raped or stalked the victim were violated.

Maybe if we learn to do this properly, those number will change.

 

What is Financial Abuse?

Continuing the series on defining the different forms of abuse, the next one I want to look at is financial abuse. Until I was getting ready to leave my abuser, I did not even know financial abuse was a thing. Which is why I find it important to look at and define the different types of abuse – there may be someone out there who is being abused, and doesn’t realize it, because they don’t know what constitutes abuse. And, as you’ll see if you keep reading, financial abuse frequently goes along with other forms of abuse. I don’t find this topic to be triggering, but as always, if you have been abused, raped, sexually assaulted, or otherwise traumatized, please proceed with caution, and stop reading if you find yourself being triggered or hurt by what you are reading and do something kind for yourself instead. All links are set to open in a new window/tab.

According to Love is Respect, “financial abuse can be very subtle — telling you what you can and cannot buy or requiring you to share control of your bank accounts. At no point does someone you are dating have the right to use money or how you spend it to control you.”

Even though this refers specifically to when you are dating, it is also possible to be financially abused when married. If your partner puts you on an allowance, and expects you to account for everything you spend, that is considered financial abuse. So even if you have moved past the stage of dating, don’t think you shouldn’t read this because it “couldn’t possibly apply.”

According to the same site, all of the following are considered to be financial abuse:

  • Giving you an allowance and closely watching what you buy.
  • Placing your paycheck in their account and denying you access to it.
  • Keeping you from seeing shared bank accounts or records.
  • Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours you do.
  • Preventing you from going to work by taking your car or keys.
  • Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer or coworkers on the job.
  • Hiding or stealing your student financial aid check or outside financial support.
  • Using your social security number to obtain credit without your permission.
  • Using your child’s social security number to claim an income tax refund without your permission.
  • Maxing out your credit cards without your permission.
  • Refusing to give you money, food, rent, medicine or clothing.
  • Causing visible bruises and scars so that you are too embarrassed to go to work.
  • Using funds from your children’s tuition or a joint savings account without your knowledge.
  • Spending money on themselves but not allowing you to do the same.

(Personal note: Some of the things listed here go beyond financial abuse, yes. They are included on this list because they also impact your ability to earn money.)

If you find yourself being financially abused, you might be wondering what options are available to you. The site Girls Just Wanna Have Funds has some great advice and suggestions.

  • Leave.  Plan your way slowly or swiftly out of this relationship and leave.  Relationships like this can never be trusted to become equitable since so much of it is about power.
  • Reach out to trusted friends, relatives or even a local church who many be able to house you until you’re able to get on your feet.
  • If vocational training or education is a barrier to getting a job then start going to school online.
  • Skim money from whatever is given to you and save little by little.  Every bit adds up.  Open a bank account in secret and stash your money until you’re ready to leave.  Ask friends and family for donations to this account while noting you will pay them back once you are on your feet.  Start a blog and learn how to monetize it.
  • Get a job in secret.  For example you can say that you’re volunteering and get a PT job walking dogs or babysitting while he is away or working during the day.
  • Establish credit.  Get a secured card that you keep only at a friend’s or family member’s house in a locked box.  Use it to make purchases while building your credit.
  • Research all options with regards to government assistance around food stamps, housing and community based services.  When stepping out for the first time, this may be a temporary option to get you from point A to B while you establish yourself.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call your local authorities or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). If you are not in immediate danger, but need someone to talk with or help finding your local resources, please contact me either on my Facebook page Hit Me No More or at my e-mail HitMeNoMore@gmail.com – Amanda

My Friend was Raped

Today I want to discuss how you can help support a friend who has been raped or sexually assaulted. I will look at how to support a confession of having been abused at a later time, however, much of the same things apply to both. If you have been abused, raped, or assaulted, you may find this topic triggering. If you find yourself being triggered, please stop reading, and do something kind for yourself instead.

If a friend of yours comes to you and tells you that they have been raped or sexually assaulted, know that this means they trust you. Don’t take that lightly. It takes an insane amount of courage and trust to tell about something like this. So, what can you do at this point?

First of all, believe them. They may have trouble with the details, but this does not mean they are lying. It is common for people who have been through a traumatic event to not remember, or to mix up, the details of the event.

Don’t blame them, or talk to them about “personal responsibility.” There is a time and a place for everything, and this applies to personal responsibility as well, no matter how much I hate what it has come to represent. Don’t ask them what they were wearing, or what they had been drinking, or why they were in that part of town. Those things are all irrelevant. Right now, they are in pain, and they need to know that you care about them. If you ask those questions, it is the same as saying that they could have prevented it if they had done something differently. And that may or may not be true, but even if it is, it does NOT help them now.

Offer to help in ways that you are able and comfortable doing. If you are able and comfortable going to any appointments or the police with them, make that offer. If you are able and willing to sit with them while they sleep, offer to do so. But whatever you offer, make sure you are willing and able to actually follow through.

Provide them a sense of normalcy. Don’t treat them differently just because they have been raped or assaulted. Ask them if they want to go out with you. Talk to them about normal, every day things. However, don’t expect them to sympathize too much about that failing grade you got on your latest test, or about how someone was mean to you at the office.

Above all else, don’t walk away from them. You may not know what to say, and that is alright. They may not even know what they want to hear at that moment. But knowing that you are there, you hear them, and you care will mean the world to them. – Amanda

Where did they go?

Today’s entry comes courtesy of my friend Blair Robertson. She discusses how hard it is when a survivor’s friends disappear.  – Amanda

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“Sometimes you have to give up on people, not because you don’t care, but because they don’t.” I read this on Facebook today, and would love to attribute the quote, but the meme didn’t attribute, so I don’t know. It hit me hard, so I thought I’d write a bit about one of the casualties of rape–your friends. I’ve had other people tell me they had the same experience, so let’s look at this rarely talked about side effect of one of the worst things that can happen to a person.

My daughter was raped last September, on her college campus. She ran that night to her best friend’s room, and the girl and her mother stayed with her until I could fly there. Her friends rallied around her, bringing gifts, crying, offering to set up a rotation to stay with her each night. My friends, back at home, mostly didn’t know, but knew something terrible had happened. A few I told, and they responded with great sympathy, offering to be there any time, offering to take me to dinner when I got home, sending me beautiful messages. Some of the strangest people, Facebook friends, some I have never met in person, guessed, and really stepped up for me, private messaging me day and night. Some still check in on me every couple of weeks or so.

We had to give the story to the local newspaper there, to keep the school administration from shrouding this in secrecy so their donors wouldn’t hear about it, and to keep them from allowing him to stay on campus. My friends, (mostly Facebook friends, but all people I was surprised that they were the ones caring), commented on the story all day, shutting down nasty comments made by his friends and family, as well as strangers who had nothing to do but offer stupid, derisive opinions. The support I got from these people moved me to tears more than once.

That’s the good part of the story. Other parts were, surprisingly, not nearly so good. My daughter, a beautiful white lesbian from the South, had a black classmate run up and hug her the week following the incident, crying and offering to fix her dinner within the week. The next day, the girl learned that the rapist was black, and stopped speaking to my daughter. Within days, most every black student on the campus (a very small campus) had stopped speaking to her, and many were accusing her of lying, just to get a black male in trouble. A couple of months later, one of her (white) best friends called me, crying and saying she didn’t think my daughter had THANKED her enough.

She never said that to my daughter, just turned her back on her and never spoke to her again. The girl she had run to that night stopped speaking to her, because she didn’t feel that her daily problems were important to my child any more (they weren’t, really).

Most all of her friends, with the exception of a special few, dropped away,because if she told them she was having a hard time, they responded with “Me too, girl,” and wailed for hours about their mundane problems. She graduated a few weeks ago, pretty much alone.

The same happened to me at home. People closest to me stopped calling, didn’t follow through with their offers to dinner, etc. In stores, people often turned away, with looks of , I don’t know, repulsion?, on their faces. Others stepped up, folks I never knew cared much about me, and to them I am eternally grateful. But, for the most part, I, too, went through this alone.

I read, during this, of a mother whose child died within days of being born, who reported much the same reaction. She noted that most of the friends who turned away were the people with children, the people she might have expected to understand most. For me, often it was the women with daughters. Were they afraid they’d catch it from being too close? Do they look at rape victims differently, do they look down on them somehow?

Were they just unsure what to say? The people who stayed usually said first, “ I don’t know what to say.” That’s what you say. I actually posted on Facebook about this one night, telling people the statistics that as many as one in three women will have this happen to them in their lifetime, so, if they were no longer standing with my daughter and me, that lowered their probability that they WEREN’T the one in three. Mean, probably. But I was hurt.

Rape is alienating, isolating, in ways people can’t imagine. Marriages don’t survive it, because there are so many unwanted issues in bed with both partners. Survivors sometimes don’t survive it, because they can’t quite reach the pain, ever, to deal with it. (Don’t be one of those! We’re here for you!) Sometimes the only people survivors can really talk to is other survivors, because nobody else really, really gets it. But survivors need their friends around them, even if they don’t talk about it. They need the normal back, while they establish their own new normal. That can take awhile, but friends don’t have to do anything new or special. They just need to be there. My child’s most loyal friend hardly ever talked about it. She talked about make-up and boys (neither of which my daughter is terribly interested in, being gay), but she was there. She was there to sit with at lunch and at dinner, she ran all over campus when I couldn’t find my girl, when she was upset and wouldn’t answer her phone, she dragged her home and put her to bed when she was drunk and crying (which didn’t happen often, but it happened). She did normal things.

If you are a survivor, or a loved one of survivor, and experience this, DON’T stay alone. You haven’t done anything wrong. You didn’t deserve to lose your friends. Reach out. Network with other survivors, go to a support group, take a dance or pottery class. Meet new friends. You can tell them or not, but allow normal to be around you again. Healing comes in all ways and in all times, but it can’t come without some normal.

What is Spiritual Abuse?

Continuing the series on defining the different forms of abuse, I want to look at spiritual abuse next. If you have been raped, sexually assaulted, abused, or otherwise traumatized, please proceed with caution. If you find yourself unable to handle reading this, please stop and do something kind for yourself instead. Your safety is of utmost importance to me, and if that means you cannot read this article, I understand. All links are set to open in a new window/tab.

According to Wikipedia, “Spiritual abuse is a serious form of abuse which occurs when a person in a cult-religious authority or a person with a unique spiritual practice misleads and maltreats another person in the name of a deity (god) or church or in the mystery of any spiritual concept. Spiritual abuse often refers to an abuser using spiritual or cult-religious rank in taking advantage of the victim’s spirituality (mentality and passion on spiritual matters) by putting the victim in a state of unquestioning obedience to an abusive authority. Spiritual abuse refers to the use of spiritual knowledge to deprive, torture, degrade, isolate, control, or (in rare and extreme cases) even kill others. It is used by evil-minded spiritualists, sometimes, including cult-religious leaders, to gain advantage, dominate, or exercise control over others. Being an “action of man,” in worst case scenarios, spiritual abuse can otherwise be considered a form of “spiritual terrorism.””

According to the same article, spiritual abuse may include any of the following:

  • Psychological and emotional abuse with the objective of unnatural domination and control of the victim for self-aggrandizing purposes by the perpetrator;
  • Physical abuse that includes physical injury, deprivation of sustenance;
  • Sexual abuse;
  • Any act by deeds or words that demean, humiliate or shame the natural worth and dignity of a person as a human being;
  • Submission to spiritual authority without any right to disagree; intimidation;
  • Unreasonable control of a person’s basic right (personal autonomy) to make their own decisions (freewill, volition) on spiritual or natural matters;
  • False accusation and repeated criticism by negatively labeling a person as disobedient, rebellious, lacking faith, demonized, apostate, enemy of the church or a deity (a god);
  • Actions aimed at prevention from or interference with a person’s practice or system faith or spirituality;
  • Isolationism, separation, disenfranchisement, or estrangement from family and friends outside the group due to cult-religious or spiritual affiliation and indigenous beliefs;
  • Exclusivity and elitism: dismissal of outsiders’ criticism on the purported basis that the assessment, opinions, and criticism of the critic is invalid because he/she does not understand or rejects the unorthodox nuances of the belief system of the group or group guru; it is not uncommon for outside critics to be accused of being or being influenced by a demon;
  • Esotericism: withholding information and giving of information only to a selected few; hidden agendas and requirements revealed to members only as they successfully advance through various stages of “spiritual enlightenment,” which in reality is unorthodox, unproven, indigenous doctrines, beliefs, and/or practices;
  • Conformity to an unorthodox, unproven, or unnatural, and often spiritually or even naturally dangerous unconventional cult-religious view or worldview and practice;
  • Practice of spiritualism, mysticism, and/or unproven or unorthodox doctrines and theology;
  • Hostility and disenfranchisement that includes shunning, relational aggression, parental alienation or persecution;
  • Apotheosis or de facto deification of the leadership: exaltation of the primary leader(s) to a God-like status in and over the group;
  • Financial exploitation and enslavement of adherents with inordinate and burdensome required financial support (“donations”) to the financial needs of the group, which often includes a self-aggrandizing personal financial lifestyle of the leadership that far exceeds the median lifestyle of the group adherents.

I am fortunate in that I do not have any personal experience with this subject. However, in my journey of healing from the abuse I have been through, I have encountered people who have been abused in this manner. It is very real, and very traumatic. And while this does not directly relate to domestic violence, I do feel it is important to acknowledge and define this form of abuse. Just about every person I have encountered who has been spiritually abused has also been abused in other ways.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call your local authorities or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). If you are not in immediate danger, but need someone to talk with or help finding your local resources, please contact me either on my Facebook page Hit Me No More or at my e-mail HitMeNoMore@gmail.com

What is Sexual Abuse?

In keeping with the theme of defining the different forms of abuse, this time I am looking a bit closer at what sexual abuse is by definition, and by example. As always, if you have a history of being abused, raped, sexually assaulted, or otherwise traumatized, please proceed with caution, and take care of yourself first. If that means you cannot read this right now, then please walk away and do something else. You will NOT hurt my feelings if you don’t read this right now. I would much rather you do what it takes to keep yourself safe/feeling safe. All links are set to open in a new window/tab.

According to Wikipedia, “Sexual abuse, also referred to as molestation, is the forcing of undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another. When that force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. The offender is referred to as a sexual abuser or (often pejoratively) molester. The term also covers any behavior by any adult towards a child to stimulate either the adult or child sexually. When the victim is younger than the age of consent, it is referred to as child sexual abuse.”

This definition seems pretty clear. However, what I want to focus on right now is adult against adult, repeatedly. I will cover sexual assault & molestation at a later point. For what I am choosing to look more closely at right now, the same article says, “Spousal sexual abuse is a form of domestic violence. When the abuse involves forced sex, it may constitute rape upon the other spouse, depending on the jurisdiction, and may also constitute an assault.”

That makes it even more clear. But there are some grey areas that still need to be cleared up. I know, because I lived in those grey areas. I would frequently wake up to find my ex, Ben (please refer to My Story), on top of me. This was usually after I had denied him before going to sleep, so he already knew I wasn’t in the mood. That is considered rape. He told me on a regular basis that my body was his to do with whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. This included touching me in a suggestive manner while in public – despite my repeated requests to please stop. After a couple years, I gave up protesting, and let him touch me whenever he wanted, even at church. Another habit of his was to use sex as a way of making up with me after a fight. Even if I didn’t want the sex. Even when I felt the fight had not ended yet. Yes, in other words, he would rape me as a way of making up with me.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating: Men can be abused in the same ways women can be abused. Women can be abusers. No one is immune from being abused, and no one deserves to be blamed for being abused. Women are completely capable of committing sexual abuse against their partner, whether their partner is male or female. Men can be abused by their partner, whether their partner is male or female. And the ONLY one who should be ashamed is the one doing it. The victim is NEVER to blame, and should NOT be ashamed.

I hope this has helped answer what sexual abuse is, and what it may look like. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call your local authorities or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). If you are not in immediate danger, but need someone to talk with or help finding your local resources, please contact me either on my Facebook page Hit Me No More or at my e-mail HitMeNoMore@gmail.com

Do We Let Them Apologize?

Today’s blog comes to us courtesy of another friend of mine, Blair Robertson. She has a unique opportunity to offer insight into the heated topic of apologies and forgiveness between abusers, rapists, and their victims. I honestly wish I had read this sooner. If you have been abused, raped, or assaulted, you may find this topic triggering. If you find yourself being triggered, please stop reading, and do something kind for yourself instead. – Amanda

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Some years ago, I worked as a therapist for large groups of sex offenders, child molesters, who had been ordered into therapy by the court system (most of the time in lieu of any prison time). We had several groups of men, 2 groups of teens, and 1 group of women offenders, some 200 or more in all, from our county and the two surrounding counties. We saw them once a week, in group therapy, usually about 25 to a group. Groups usually started with us going around the circle, having each offender tell, in great detail, what they had done. New people to the group would, invariably, refuse to say what they had done; they would insist they had been falsely accused, that they had been framed, or, the one the other group members waited for with the most glee, that it was an accident. They knew my reply was gonna be, invariably, “What, you fell, and your penis accidentally slipped into that little girl’s vagina?” The other men would roar with laughter, and the new guy would usually become very angry, but then, with great embarrassment and shock that I would be so blunt, would then tell the bare facts of his offense. The female offenders were there because they knowingly allowed a boyfriend or husband to molest their child, although at least 1 or 2 were there for having sex with a son or stepson, and one had a baby from that. Teen offenders usually molested little sisters. I also held group sessions for victims, and developed a mandatory group for spouses of offenders, who had often enabled offenders, knowingly or not, or had given the children up to Social Services to keep the husband or boyfriend, because he brought home the paycheck. As you can tell from this intro, many blogs can be written from my experiences there. I’m starting with the one I go back to, over and over, ever since I left that job.

I’m not much for apologies. Don’t do something to me that hurts me, offends me, insults, me, inconveniences me, derails my life, and then say you’re sorry. What good does that do me? Make it right, do it over, change it in some way, take it back, but save the apology. It’s wasted on me. My ex-husband and my children will tell you this is so, although my ex-husband would have to first try and remember a time when he even said he was sorry!

That said, one of the questions that was asked often by the child molesters I worked with (not immediately, mind you, but on down the line), was, “Can I write a letter/call/meet with my victim and tell her/him how sorry I am?” Maybe that was a step in the right direction, for the offenders to be feeling the remorse necessary to think to ask that question. Maybe another therapist would have celebrated the question. Maybe another therapist would have let them write the letter, either to be delivered or at least read and discussed with the group. I did not respond with any of those reactions. I always said no, with a greater or lesser degree of anger. Many of these offenders had already stood up in their churches, given their testimony with great feelings and many tears, and asked the forgiveness of God and their fellow parishioners. After church, they had been hugged, cried with, and often asked to help with Vacation Bible School, now that they were forgiven and on the right track with Jesus. But think about it. What is an apology for? It’s for forgiveness, it’s for the victim to say, “Aw, that’s okay.” And being sexually assaulted is NOT okay. Sending such a letter to a victim, especially a child victim, puts great pressure on them to say those things, when they may NEVER feel them. If you are a victim, it may be that sometime, usually a long time after the assault, you may privately forgive the molester, mostly to help put it in your past and be able to move on with your life, but you do NOT owe that to your offender, and you do not ever need to forgive him or her so that they are even aware that you did.

And what does this do for the offender? It makes him/her feel better–much better. It lets him/her off the hook. And we know, we as therapists there, KNEW, that they were way more than likely to do it again, if not to the same victim, then to another. Do you, the victim, want them to feel better as they look for, and molest, their next victim? At the counseling center, we instituted a mandatory twice-a-year polygraph, and a vast majority of the offenders were lying, were either molesting again or looking for another victim.

When I worked with victims, it was hard to get the “victim mentality” out of them, especially if the abuse had started when they were young. The first thing we, as a group, did, was work on teaching each victim how to walk again, with head up, not hanging, without the invisible VICTIM sign stamped on their forehead. Self esteem may be the last thing to return to victims. Many of them expressed that they would like to hear from their abusers, that they would like to hear that they were sorry. We worked with that. Did that take back what had happened to them, or in any way make it better? I had learned years ago, when working with kids in an orphanage who were wards of the state, that they would rather have had the negative and abusive attention from their parent/s than none at all. Believe me, there is GOOD, positive attention out there in the world for you survivors, if you will only let it in; you don’t need to make your offenders feel better so they come back into your life and start it all again.

I read a lot of posts by women who were molested as children, tortured by the idea of being around those family members or others–what am I gonna say, how do I deal with their denial/anger at me for telling/ acting like nothing happened? Those are some reactions, apology is another. If you give one or if you receive one, please know that “It’s okay” is not an automatic necessity, nor is “You’re forgiven.” Do it in your own time or not; remember that you owe your abuser nothing.

What is Psychological Abuse?

As I stated in my entry on physical abuse, with the main purposes of this blog being awareness and education, I feel it is important to look at the different types of abuse, and have a clear definition for each. I will also provide examples of what it looks like in real life when clarification appears to be needed. Most of these examples will be from my own life when possible. However, I will also include fictional examples, too, which will be clearly indicated as such. If you have a history of having been abused, raped, or otherwise traumatized, please proceed with caution. As always, take care of YOU first – even if that means not reading what I have written at this time.

Today, I want to take a closer look at psychological abuse, also known as emotional or mental abuse. According to Wikipedia, “Psychological abuse, also referred to as emotional abuse or mental abuse, also known as “emo” is a form of abuse characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.” The widely used Conflict Tactics Scale measures roughly twenty distinct acts of “psychological aggression” in three different categories:

  1. Verbal aggression (e.g., saying something that upsets or annoys someone else);
  2. Dominant behaviors (e.g., preventing someone to have contact with their family);
  3. Jealous behaviors (e.g., accusing a partner of maintaining other parallel relations).

Unlike physical or sexual abuse, which only require one incident or outburst to be qualified as abuse, psychological abuse is determined and defined based on the pattern of having it occur multiple times.

That definition covers a wide range of behaviors, and may leave you wondering what, exactly, psychological abuse look like. Hopefully, by sharing some examples from my own life, I can help clear that up for you. My ex, Ben, (please refer to My Story) would call me names, telling me that I was a know it all, show off, and said that I didn’t care about the feelings of others. He would also get upset any time I had contact with my family, outside of his “approved” times and conditions, which he never explained to me. And I was accused, repeatedly, of sleeping with just about any and every male who crossed my path, regardless of how much older or younger they were. All of these are forms of psychological abuse. He would also use my fears as a source of entertainment for himself. For example, I have an extreme fear of falling. It causes me to panic when I feel like I am falling, and it doesn’t matter how high or low the surface is. If I feel like I am falling, I freak out. And Ben found this amusing. He would threaten to push me off the bed, and leave me hanging, crying, and begging for him to pull me back up. Meanwhile, he was laughing. He thought it was just the funniest thing ever. His accusations of my unfaithfulness hurt me, and I told him as much, repeatedly. And he would tell me he was just joking with me, to which I would respond that I don’t see anything funny about it. He would then reply that he would stop. But he never did.

Sadly, even among experts, there is a double standard by which psychological abuse is judged. “Follingstad et al. found that, when rating hypothetical vignettes of psychological abuse in marriages, professional psychologists tend to rate male abuse of females as more serious than identical scenarios describing female abuse of males: “the stereotypical association between physical aggression and males appears to extend to an association of psychological abuse and males””

Many times when men step forward and admit to having been abused, they – the victim – are blamed for what happened. Society has a hard time accepting that the victim is NEVER to blame – period. That is worth repeating. The victim is NEVER at fault. EVER. The only person to blame, is the abuser. The only person who should be ashamed of what has happened is the abuser. No victim should blame themselves – though they often do.

Anyways, I hope this has helped answer what psychological abuse looks like. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call your local authorities or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). If you are not in immediate danger, but need someone to talk with or help finding your local resources, please contact me either on my Facebook page Hit Me No More or at my e-mail HitMeNoMore@gmail.com – Amanda