Where are they? Building on The "MeToo" Campaign

I don't do much social media on the weekends. So when I saw someone's Facebook post Sunday morning, I chimed in with the requested "me too" and didn't think much of it. But on Monday morning when I saw other friends writing the same thing, I realized that "me too" is a thing.

Which on some level, I appreciate. I'm open about being a sexual abuse survivor. It's on my social media and website. But why should the de-stigmatizing work fall to survivors like me? But that’s been the history. Normalizing the prevalence of sexual abuse has primarily been women’s work. Today we have more cis male survivors and non-cis male survivors stepping up to this work. But we need everyone.

So, what about all men? And I don't mean as perpetrators.

Because sexual abuse is not about sex, it's about power and control, men and boys can be victims too. In fact, 28% of male rape victims experienced their first rape at or before the age of 10 (1) and 50% of gender non-binary folks have been sexually assaulted (2). Sexual abuse truly affects everyone. Some more than others, yes, but it does affect all of us.

We need all men as survivors, allies or advocates.

So we need everyone on board. And because men control the bulk of power in the United States -from medical school curriculum to professional sports- we need their voices too.

We need to hear from all men, either as survivors, or as allies and advocates. And those voices must include real action, not a token "thoughts and prayers" sentiment. That "support" further marginalizes abuse survivors. It makes abuse something that other people have to deal with. But worse, it off-loads the collective responsibility that powerful men have for their piece in rape culture.

  • What if The Gates Foundation started to prioritize sexual violence as a public health threat?

  • What about instead of "...if this happened to my daughter/wife," Speaker Paul Ryan starting talking about our culture of toxic masculinity and how harmful it is?

  • What if Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were to adopt an immediate ban for trolls who harass and threaten sexual abuse survivors who share their rape story?

Any of these scenarios could create a massive shift in the tide of public opinion about sexual abuse. We need everyone to do this work, especially the men in positions of power. Survivors should not have to “lay our trauma bare,” as Zerlina Maxwell said in a recent Instagram in an effort to de-stigmatize sexual abuse. Change must start happening on a larger scale. So, hurray for the "Me Too" campaign. Let's hope there's a "UsToo" campaign in our future.

References:

1)  National Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence Survey. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf

2)  Transgender Rates of Violence. Retrieved from: http://forge-forward.org/wp-content/docs/FAQ-10-2012-rates-of-violence.pdf

Behind The Scenes: Is it okay for me to say "no" to family who want to hug and kiss my kid?

Twitter DM from an anonymous follower:

"Hi! I read your _Kids and Safety_ post* and it made me think about family members who try to hug and kiss kids. Is it ever okay to say "no" to them?"

Great question! You are NOT wrong for wanting to enforce a "no" you set...with anyone.

It's really important to make a big deal about listening to a "no". When we teach kids that "no" is an acceptable response, we are teaching them to listen to their bodies, gut and heart. That's a crucial life skill. "No" is also a boundary, right? Setting and maintaining good boundaries with people, especially family, is another life skill. These life skills are ones that perpetrators and abusers look for in kids and adults. When they are missing, kids and adults alike are more likely to be exploited and hurt.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Putting kids on the receiving end of an adult's desired way of showing affection deprives a child of their ability (and right) to listen to and learn from their own body. That's across the board: from listening to their body when they need to pee in the middle of the night to listening to their body when it's hungry and listening to their body when they feel nervous about someone. Remember, sexual predators are usually folks kids know. So it's especially important to help kids listen to their bodies, especially around familiar people.

Before you start, it may be helpful to practice. Saying something out loud always makes us more confident, especially when it comes to setting boundaries. You might say, "Actually we/I have decided to let the kids decide when and who they give hugs and kisses. Thanks for helping us allow them to make those choices." You never need to explain a boundary. But if you want, you could say, "we want little Bridgett to learn to listen to own body instead of what other people tell her she should do with your body."

Last thing! Boundaries only work when they are clear, consistent and you stick to them. Repetition is your friend.

Thanks for being a good mom.

PS.* That post is here.

Posted on September 8, 2017 and filed under parenting, Children, Community.

Three Steps That Will Make You More Trustworthy

I talk a lot about trauma-informed care, support or resources. Trauma-informed means understanding, recognizing and responding to the effects of trauma to avoid further harm. It means accepting that everyone is a trauma survivor. It means those of us who work with the general public need to respond better to the signs we are given (because survivors do give signs if we're paying attention) and consciously avoid re-traumatizing people. Put more simply, it means making your service, system or approach sensitive and inclusive to the needs of sexual abuse survivors. Here are three simple steps to do this:

rhodi-alers-de-lopez-196141.jpg
  1. Ask only what you need to know. Endless paperwork is overwhelming...for everyone! While "all the facts" can be helpful to you for your reporting requirements for grants or other funding, it's emotionally exhausting for clients who are already traumatized, scared, tired, stressed and may be dealing with a mental health issue that impedes their ability to concentrate and think clearly.
  2. Offer choice. Here are two ways to do this: A. If clients must do intake paperwork, provide all of it as downloadable forms on your website. This gives folks the chance to read it in advance so they are emotionally prepared for the question that they will be asked. Which is helpful even if they cannot print the documents at home. At least they know what's in store for them. B. Let clients know that they don't have to respond to every question. State that clearly at the top of each form ("if you are uncomfortable answering any of the following questions for any reason, you can skip them"). Giving people the power to make choices that feel good or safe to them helps them trust you.

3. Staff must look like your clients/patients. Therapists, social workers, doctors, nurses of color are not automatically better able to serve clients of color but they are more likely to be able to identify with the reality of living as a person of color and all of the challenges that go along with that. More on that idea and how some white therapists unintentionally re-traumatize their clients of color is here.

What would you add to this list? What's missing? Leave a comment below.

Posted on August 30, 2017 and filed under Trauma-informed.

Why You Should Ditch The People Who Say "get over it"

ian-dooley-298769.jpg

Abuse isn't something to "get over".

You were hurt. It was painful and horrible, not fair. You didn't deserve it. It wasn't your fault. You have the right to be angry, mournful, actively sad or any emotion at all about what happened.

Don't let anyone try to rob you of your feelings about the abuse. People who say "get over it" or ask when you will be over it, are attempting to control you to make themselves more comfortable. They have no right to do that.

Don't let them control you.

You are fine, just as you are. And if you are not fine, you should consider getting making changes so you aren't feel healthier. You deserve that. People people minimizing your experiences or your feelings are not worthy of you.

Remember The First Best Thing and go from there when you're building (or dismantling) relationships.