Tag Archives: Childhood Sexual abuse

Head-Banger’s Ball: Escaping Abuse the Hard Way

Trigger Warning
This post, though not graphic,
discusses childhood sexual abuse.

Life is unbearable,
but death is not so pleasant either.
Russian Proverb

I was dancing when it happened. After almost four years, I’d just had the braces removed from my legs and, in my joy at being free, I was dancing all around the kitchen and the empty dining room, wearing nothing but my panties and a camisole. My father was there, drinking beer, watching me, following me all around the house. I thought he was impressed with my improvised ballet skills. I don’t remember where my mother was, though I do know that it was late at night.

When my father grabbed me and began kissing me, I squirmed and twisted away. I wanted to dance, not kiss. Besides, I didn’t like the way he was kissing me, putting his nasty tongue all over my face and mouth. I fought hard enough to make him lose hold of me. When he tried to grab me again, I ran to the kitchen and got under the table, trying to hide.

Unfortunately, he found me.

My biological father first raped me when I was 3. My mother walked in when it was happening, and had to beat my father over the head to make him stop. Instead of taking me for medical attention, my mother told me I was a “bad girl” and locked me in the closet until I stopped crying. I don’t know how many days I was in that closet, but it seemed longer than any lifetime. I couldn’t understand what I’d done, but I vowed never to forget.

As soon as I earned my freedom from that closet, I  began telling people that my father had done something bad to me. I told family members, neighbors, doctors, nurses — anyone I thought could punish him. Anyone I thought could make him stop hurting me, which he continued to do. No one listened until I was 4 or 5 years old, when a Judge, in his chambers, asked me to show him — by pointing to my body — where my father was hurting me.

I don’t remember what events led up to that encounter in the Judge’s chambers, only that he was kind and patient, that he actually listened to me, and that after I talked to the Judge, my biological father lost all visitation rights. Furthermore, though I visited my father’s parents each weekend and though he now lived with them, he was not even permitted to be in the same room with me. I never saw my father again.

After my mother divorced my father, I thought I would be safe from men’s violence. Unfortunately, by the time I was 5, my mother was already dating a man who was sexually abusing me in every way imaginable, doing more atrocious things than my biological father had done. At the ripe old age of seven, after an entire lifetime of abuse from my mother, my father, and my mother’s boyfriend (who later became my stepfather), I decided that life was unbearable, so I decided to kill myself.

My only problem was that I wasn’t exactly sure how someone did that. During the last violent fight with my father, my mother had slammed him in the head with a cast-iron skillet. I’d seen him lying motionless on the floor, surrounded by a pool of blood. When the police arrived, my mother told them she’d killed her husband because he’d killed me. Though my father actually survived the assault, he was seriously injured. Because I never saw him again, I thought he was, in fact, dead. Since my mother had “killed” my father by bashing him in the head with the cast-iron frying pan, I decided, at the world-weary age of seven, to become a head-banger.

Swing-sets, telephone poles, brick houses. Fence posts, church pews, marble statues. Bang, bang, bang. Walls, bedposts, porch supports. Basement floors, steel pipes, tree trunks. Bang, bang, bang.

I hit my head so hard so many times in a row that mostly I walked around in a daze. Sometimes I hit my head so hard that I fell asleep. Each time that head-banging numbness rushed over me, I was convinced I’d successfully killed myself, and I was so relieved and so grateful that I could never be hurt again that I slipped into that deadened sleep with something like joy.

Each time, however, I woke up.
Disappointed.
With an unbearable headache.
And with dreadful pressure in my skull.

Although many people know that a baby’s skull plates move — to allow it to pass through the birth canal — they don’t realize that the plates of the skull remain mobile throughout life. The brain and the spinal cord, furthermore, are surrounded by their own pulsing, hydraulic system that does not match the rhythm of the heart, breathing, or any other system of the body. Dr. John Upledger discovered this brain-spinal-cord hydraulic system and named it the “craniosacral system.” Upledger went on to develop a medical massage therapy designed to put the craniosacral system back in proper alignment.

When the plates of the skull are not in their proper position, as from any common injury such as bumping the head hard, then headaches and pressure inside the skull (from the non-circulation of craniosacral fluid) may occur. A severe head trauma, or even a minor fall from a slide or swing, can shift or jam the skull plates, preventing the craniosacral fluid from moving as it is designed to do, creating a tremendous build-up of pressure — and pain — inside the skull. The pain and the pressure will only stop when the skull plates are restored to their normal positions, something that may take many sessions with trained craniosacral therapists, especially if the skull plates have been jammed for years after some serious accident.

Of course, in my case, it was many accidents, some of them caused by my repeated head-banging at age 7, some of those accidents caused by my mother from the time I was born, but one of the most serious head injuries caused by my father during an argument with my mother.

My parents were both drunk the day it happened. They were standing in the living room, quite close to each other, screaming and shoving and hitting each other. My father suddenly shouted something that made my mother jump at him, clawing at his face. Then he began choking her. Since what he’d shouted had been about me, I must have felt, even at three years old, morally obligated to separate them. So there I was, shoving myself between their knees, trying to push them apart so they wouldn’t kill each other and leave me all alone to be sent to an orphanage.

In his drunken rage, my father must have perceived me as quite a pest, something you just fling away from you. So that’s what he did. He grabbed me under the arms, lifted me as high as he could, and flung me away. I remember the sudden rush of air as he swept me upward, the terrible, mind-numbing fear, the choking sensation I felt as he released me and I flew, without a net, across the room.

I remember the horrific jolt of pain as I smashed the upper right side of my head against the marble mantel of the fireplace.

I remember, too, the cold blackness that descended on me in an instant.

By the time my migraines got so debilitating that my family doctor recommended I go to craniosacral therapists, I was over forty years old. As soon as they touched my head, the medical therapists informed me that the right frontal skull-plate was “significantly jammed” under the left one. It was wedged under the other one so tightly, they couldn’t fix it in one treatment. Also, since it was a long-standing injury, they informed me, the muscles of my face and head had gotten used to holding the plate in the incorrect position. They agreed with the doctor that, though my tendency toward migraines was probably hereditary * as well, the jammed frontal skull plate wasn’t making the migraines any better.

The therapists warned me that, as they attempted, over several sessions (which turned into several months), to free the wedged cranial plate from under the other one, my migraines might get much worse before they improved. They were absolutely right. I’d been having about seventeen migraines a month when I went to see them. The first month of treatment, I had twenty-seven migraines. It took them five months of three-times-a-week sessions to get the jammed skull plates back into place.

When the skull plates moved back into their proper positions, the intense and unremitting pressure in my head disappeared. The pressure that I’d grown up with and assumed was normal had been caused by the craniosacral fluid’s inability to circulate freely around the skull plates and the spinal column. As soon as the right frontal plate slid free of the left one, the crushing pressure inside my head disappeared. I lay on the massage table and wept in gratitude and relief.

When I told my psychologist about all the times I’d banged my head when I was a little girl, trying to kill myself, she said she doubted that I’d really been attempting to commit suicide. She said that since I was so determined and so successful in other areas of my life, if I’d really been trying to kill myself, I probably would have succeeded. She said that I’d been in so much emotional and psychological pain that I was merely trying to medicate myself. Since I didn’t have any healthy coping skills, I’d banged my head against the hardest things I could find, to “numb” my pain.

I still maintain that I was trying to kill myself in order to escape the incessant torture from my mother and my rapist stepfather, and to atone for my father’s murder, which I believed I’d caused since my parents had been fighting about me when my mother “killed” my father with the cast-iron skillet.

You see, that day, when my mother killed my father by slamming him in the face with the skillet, they were fighting about me. That day, when my father said the words that sent my other into her uncontrollable rage — making her scratch his face, which then made him choke her — he was talking about me. The words he said were what I myself had been saying to my mother, family members, neighbors, and doctors for some time, though I said it like this: He does bad things to me.

That day, my father said it to my mother himself, despite her already knowing what he was doing to me, but he said it in a way that she couldn’t ignore. I didn’t understand what he meant, but I always remembered his exact words.

“Sascha’s a better fuck than you are.”

Bang, bang, bang.

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read an excerpt (chapters 1-6) from my memoir
and related articles and chapters that are not in final, published version

 

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I Survived a Serial Killer: My Own Mother
(guest post on RachelintheOC)

Kevin’s Mother & The Pedophile:
Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse
(guest post on OTVmagazine)

When is Rape NOT Rape?

Rape is Rape, No Matter the Victim’s Age or Gender



* Familial Hemiplegic Migraines (FHM) are caused by a genetic neurological disorder. I have FHM as well as from Complex Migraines.
(back to post)

Note: a different version of this post was published in March 2017. This version has been updated.

a small portion of this post is adapted from my true crime memoir M is for Munchers: The Serial Killers Next Door © 2002, 2007, 2014, 2017 by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman. All rights reserved. No content may be copied, excerpted, or distributed without express written consent of the author and publisher, with copyright credit to the author. Please don’t support the piracy of Intellectual Property.

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Filed under #CSA, Attempted Suicide, Childhood Sexual Abuse, hemiplegic migraines, Memoir, migraines, PTSD, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence, Violence

Things That Have Never Been: New Year’s Resolutions 2017

And now we welcome the new year.
Full of things that have never been.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Last year was the first time I ever thought of actually writing down my New Year’s resolutions, let alone sharing them with other people. Resolutions have always seemed like a private thing, something you were somewhat ashamed of, if only because you hadn’t been doing it all along. Since, for the first time, I don’t have to rely on memory for what I’d resolved to do in the previous year, I decided to revisit that list — to see how many of the resolutions I’d managed to keep — before I made my list for 2017.

Of course, some things on my annual New Year’s lists are perennial, like losing weight. Even when I weighed 123 pounds (far too thin for my 5’8″ large-boned frame, I assure you), I made resolutions to lose more weight (I wanted to look like a model, and maybe I did: people were always telling me I looked like a skeleton). Some things have been in my lists of resolutions annually, but only once I began seriously writing, with the intention of becoming a published author, and that was when I began college. Other items on my lists of resolutions began to appear as I got older: stay healthy, remain intellectually active, stay current with popular culture.

Here’s the list of my 2016 Resolutions, followed by my notes on progress, before I present my list of 2017 plans.

#1: Write More
#2: Lose Weight
#3: Write More
#4: Walk More
#5: Write More
#6: Spend More Time With Those I Love
#7: Don’t Forget Tom
#8: Read More
Final Resolution: Write More

Write More
Numbers 1, 3, 5, and 9 on last year’s list was Write More, by which I meant spend more time on my blogs, blogging more consistently, as well as spend more time on my books. I did succeed in blogging more consistently, thanks mostly to my participation in Rachel Thompson’s (@RachelintheOC) brilliant #MondayBlogs.

My readers seemed to like that I was blogging more often, as well as to like what I was actually blogging on: films and TV shows. From May to December 2016, The Alexandria Papers registered  over 720K unique views, for which I thank my readers and fans most sincerely.

I don’t recall when I realized that my readers liked the Entertainment Reviews more than anything else, but once I switched over to doing those sorts of blogs about 90% of the time (with the remaining 10% reserved for Things Wondrous Strange), I seemed to have hit my blogging stride. Despite the hard work of researching and writing the blogs, I love doing it.

Besides blogging, I did write on my books more often in 2016, working primarily on the revised version of Mastering Fiction and Point of View. It was originally scheduled for publication in Dec 2015, but I didn’t make the deadline. In traditional publishing, that kind of thing can void your publication contract, but my editors generously moved the anticipated publication date to Dec 2016.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make that deadline either, if only because of another 2016 “goal” that I wanted to achieve but hadn’t known about in time to put it on my list of resolutions. This goal made me so wretchedly ill and miserable, I often couldn’t write — or do anything else — at all.

Getting Off A Prescription Drug
I didn’t plan to spend most of 2016 getting off a prescription drug that had recently been linked to a possible increase in Alzheimer’s dementia, but you can bet I was wholeheartedly in favor of getting off it once I heard about those studies. My physician was very supportive: he set up a plan for me to get off the drug, which had been prescribed over 10 years earlier to help me manage panic disorder. According to his plan, it would only take 9-10 months to withdraw from the drug completely.

I was in shock. 9-10 months to get off a prescription drug? I never heard of such a thing.

To make it even worse, that was a “short” withdrawal plan: some patients were taking a year or two to get off the medication. Apparently, some prescription drugs, like benzodiazepines, are so dangerous that they affect every cell in your entire body, whether you are aware of it or not.

Stopping the drugs suddenly can literally kill you.

Getting off them slowly is no picnic, I can assure you.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome can cause anything from hallucinations and migraines to seizures and suicide. Obviously, I didn’t commit suicide — fortunately, I never even thought of it — but I’d say I had about 98% of the side effects of withdrawal, including almost incessant hemiplegic migraines — related to epilepsy and which can themselves cause seizures — as well as seizures from the drug withdrawal itself. I guess about the only benzodiazepine withdrawal side-effects I didn’t experience were feeling suicidal, feeling homicidal, and losing a lot of weight.

Around June of last year, I slightly accelerated  the withdrawal schedule, after consultation with my doctor. By that time I’d spent almost six months suffering from migraines, seizures, insomnia, electric shock sensations, depression, depersonalization, and super-extreme irritability and anger (which I kept inside, not wanting to subject my guy Tom, our furry babies, my friends, or complete strangers to the withdrawal-induced non-target-specific anger).  After my last dose of the drug — 29 June — I still had to wait a few more months for it to clear my body completely, as well as for my body to heal itself before the withdrawal side effects would stop.

Why didn’t the doctors who originally prescribed the drug warn me about the horrific side-effects of long-term use, which is considered anything longer than 3 months? Did they not know? Did they not care? (I’m quite certain that one or two of them wouldn’t have cared if they had known, but that’s probably the subject of another  blog post.)

I did the withdrawal at home, and I’m grateful for that: my doctor didn’t think it was necessary for me to be hospitalized, especially given my terror of hospitals stemming from the horrifying abuse my Munchausen’s by Proxy mother inflicted.

So, one of my 2016 resolutions became getting off a prescription medication that I’d been instructed to take over 10 years earlier, and which is now considered dangerous. I got off it, despite the vicious withdrawal symptoms, and I can only hope the damage it did to my body will heal eventually.

Lose Weight / Walk More
Despite my best efforts, I didn’t lose any weight. It’s exactly the same today as it was on 1 Jan 2016. My guy Tom thinks being the same weight a year later is a significant achievement. I think it sucks, honestly, and don’t understand why I didn’t lose any weight. I ate healthy foods, drank plenty of water, walked a lot (almost every single day, despite withdrawing from medication, since I was hoping the walking would help with the withdrawal side-effects), and did other exercise, too. I continued classes in Kundalini Yoga, which I’ve been doing for about 2 years now, and I also began T’ai Chi classes early in 2016. Encouraged by one of Lydia Schoch’s blog posts, I also began lifting weights again.

No weight loss, however.

Years ago, one of my physicians encouraged me to “get healthy” rather than to concentrate so much on losing weight. I guess I’ll just have to continue to keep that in mind: I’m getting healthy. I’d still like to be about 20-25 pounds thinner while getting healthy — I just want to go down one pants size, for heaven’s sake — but I’m guessing I’ll concentrate on getting a bit thinner in 2017, as opposed to losing weight.

Read More
I love to read, so it wasn’t too difficult for me to keep that 2016 resolution. I decided to read some books that I’d previously neglected, including some popular series of books that weren’t necessarily written for people my age. I read the complete series of  The Hunger Games, Twilight Saga, Harry Potter, and Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children. I also read almost all The Saxon Tales (2 left to read in that series, but they just came out at the end of November, so I just received them in the last couple of weeks).

I read dozens of New York Times bestsellers by authors I’d never heard of before, as well as Indie authors’ books, and some of the classics that I’d previously avoided, like Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (5-volumes, about 700K words).  

Thanks to Rachel Thompson’s @MondayBlogs, I found wonderful blogs that I read almost daily in 2016. I share their posts regularly on Mondays on the twitter, but also on my FB Author Page whenever I find them. You’ll just have to check out those accounts to see all the blogs and bloggers I like since I don’t have room to list every single one here. These are just a few of my favorites.

Rachel in the OC
by CSA survivor and advocate Rachel Thompson, (@RachelintheOC) on surviving, preventing, and spreading the word about Childhood Sexual Abuse (#CSA), providing forums like her website and twitter’s Sex Abuse Chat

Bad Redhead Media
also run by Rachel Thompson, (@BadRedheadMedia) with an emphasis on helping writers and other small business owners master social media, or, as Rachel says, “Helping You Help Your Damn Self”

Lydia Schoch (formerly On-The-Other-Hand)
by @TorontoLydia, one of the best blogs with an amazing variety of topics, from anything dog-related to becoming a Canadian citizen, from the Zen of medical tests to her weekly Suggestion Saturdays, which feature blogs and websites that are fascinating

Mimi Matthews
written by @MimiMatthewsEsq, who got a multi-book contract last year based on her marvelous blog on all things Victorian Era, from clothes and pets to personalities and other authors who write books and blogs on the same time period

Anne R Allen
written by author @AnneRAllen, with an emphasis on posts to help writers with everything from writing the first draft to revising to marketing

Barking Up The Wrong Tree
by Eric Barker (@bakadesuyo) with posts on living your life better with the principles of meditation, Stoicism, mindfulness, and more

BrainPickings
one of the most diligently researched blogs I’ve ever found, written by Maria Popova (@BrainPicker), it covers writers, artists, books, and all things wonderfully intellectual and artistic

Raptitude
by David D Cain (@DavidDCain) who writes about meditation, awareness, mindfulness, and things like whether or not there’s something wrong with you because you (think you) read “too slowly”

Spend More Time With Loved Ones (and Don’t Forget Tom)
I have to say that this was one of my priorities in 2016, especially after I began withdrawing from that prescription drug and feared it was going to kill me. I spent more time reconnecting with friends who are far away, and spent as much time as I could with friends here. With Tom and our furry babies, I pretended that each day was going to be my last, and I wanted it to be full of love. It was. I don’t regret an instant of the time I spent with my loved ones.

New Year’s Resolutions 2017
So, what are my resolutions for 2017? Many are the same as last year, but I guess it would be good to list them, if only to make it easier to refer to them throughout the year. I was going to list things like Clean my writing desk and Not upgrade to any new iPhones, but I think I’m going to slightly change the way I make my New Year’s resolutions.

Instead of setting yearly goals, I’m going to plan some things I think I can do on a daily basis.

Write
Read
Exercise
Eat Healthy
Meditate
Spend Time With My Loved Ones

I’m going to try to keep it simple and attainable this year; after all, now that I’m writing them down and actually sharing them with others, it’s important to bear in mind that I’m going to be held accountable for the resolutions I make.

I’m off to a good start: it’s the first day of the year, and I walked for 45 minutes, did T’ai Chi, meditated, had coffee with Tom before he and SadieDoggie went off to work, and wrote a blog post.

Now I’m going to gather the #GangOfSeven Rescue Kitties and read some of my favorite bloggers’ posts, some of which are already posted for this week’s #MondayBlogs.

What are some of your resolutions are this year, my Lovelies, and  which resolutions from 2016 you managed to keep?

 

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Filed under Blogging, Memoir, New Year's Resolutions, Real Life of a Writer

Kevin’s Mother and the Pedophile: Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse

Trigger Warning
#CSA

“Oh, my god, I am so angry at Walmart,” said my University colleague — Kevin’s mother — one day. “They had photos of Registered Sex Offenders on their bulletin board in the main entrance.”

“Why are you mad at Walmart?” I said.

“One of the registered sex offenders lives less than two blocks from me,” said Kevin’s mother. “Now I don’t feel safe.”

“I’d think you’d be grateful.”

“Grateful? I know where he lives. I drove by his house last night. He was out in the yard. Some of Kevin’s best friends live next door to the guy.”

“Then you should be really grateful,” I said, “and you should do something to protect Kevin and the other children.”

Kevin’s mother looked confused. I was surprised that she’d never discussed this topic with Kevin, who was eight-years-old. I used to teach my Kindergarten students about Stranger Danger, as we called it then, before I completed my Ph.D. and began teaching at University.

“How far away is the pedophile from the school playground?” I said. “There’s usually a limit to how close a convicted and registered sex offender can go to a school or playground.”

“Just over two miles.”

“I don’t know what the Judge ruled as his limit,” I said, “but you still need to do something about it. Take the photo off the Walmart bulletin board for a few minutes while you go to the copy machine right inside the door [where Walmart let customers make copies for only 1¢ each], make at least 500 copies, show them to Kevin and his friends, show them where the pedophile lives, and tell them never to go near him.”

Kevin’s mother looked doubtful.

“Go to the PTA at the elementary school, tell the parents, teachers, and administrators about the registered sex offender. Then pass out copies of the poster with his photo to all of them. Everyone has a right to know that, and to protect their own children.”

“I can do that,” said Kevin’s mother, apparently thinking that would be easy compared to discussing the situation with Kevin. “Can you talk to Kevin and his friends?”

“No, I can’t. I’m not their parent. You need to do it. If something happens, the children are more likely to tell the person who teaches them to protect themselves in the first place. Don’t you want Kevin to come to you?”

“But how do I do it?” said Kevin’s mother, sounding clearly distressed.

I told her how the teachers of the private Daycare and Kindergarten had done it when I worked there. First, we told the children — as matter of factly as possible — the names of their private body parts, including the names of their genitalia (male and female) and their anuses. Some of their parents had already told them these things; some had not.

We then told them that no one — not even their parents, nurses, doctors, or teachers — was allowed to touch them in their private areas unless they were injured and needed help. Some of the children also knew this, thanks to their parents.

“I can’t touch my own child?” said Kevin’s mother.

“Unless he injures himself on his bike or something, you’d better not be touching an 8-year-old child on his genitals or his anus,” I said. “You don’t give him a bath, do you?”

“No,” said Kevin’s mother. “He doesn’t even like me to see him in his underwear.”

“That sounds normal for a little boy who’s growing up. Parents and step-parents or a parent’s boyfriend or girlfriend can sexually abuse children. Just because someone lives in the same house as the child doesn’t mean s/he can touch the child’s private parts. You need to tell Kevin that.”

sad-eyes-1494027

At the private pre-school / Kindergarten where I taught, we were committed to protecting the children from sexual abuse. After we made sure that the Kindergarteners knew all the names of their private body parts, we explained that older children and grown-ups sometimes did bad things, hurting children in their private parts. We made it clear, without being graphic, that the people hurting the children could use their hands, their own genitalia, or instruments. We told the children that the bad people would hurt the children’s private areas or force them to do something to the pedophile’s genitalia or private areas. (Yes, we used the word pedophile, telling the children it was a person who hurt children in their private areas or made them do something to the pedophile’s privates.)

We informed the children that the pedophiles could be men or women, strangers or people known to them.

We told them some of the tricks that we knew of that were used by pedophiles to lure away children:

  • offering to show the child a puppy or kitten to get the child physically close to them;
  • telling a child that they’d lost their puppy-kitten and requesting the child’s help in locating the pet;
  • asking the child to get into their car or come into their house, to play a video-game or do something else the child would like;
  • offering the child money or some other reward, like candy, for helping them find the pet, getting in their car, or going into their house;
  • asking the child to get into their car and help them find some nearby location — like the school — which the child might be familiar with;
  • grabbing the child when s/he came close to the car to answer a question posed by the pedophiles, usually a request for directions or asking if the child had seen a “missing” pet.

child-1479557

Kevin’s mother did a great job.

After she informed the PTA, the school, and the parents, she talked to Kevin and to his friends’ parents, who talked to their children with her since they didn’t know what to say. The children were all instructed to tell their parents, teachers, nurse, or doctor if someone ever attempted to lure them away, succeeded in getting them into a car or house, or — most important of all — ever touched them in the private areas. Kevin’s mother talked to his classmates after the teacher requested it and sent home permission slips which the parents signed.

Then, to her horror, Kevin’s mother realized that the convicted neighborhood pedophile lived across the street from her Condo Association’s “recreational area,” which included a playground, tennis courts, a swimming pool, as well as an indoor playroom which children used during bad weather. Many of the parents worked, so they took turns “watching” the children in these areas. Any parents with children who used these facilities had to take scheduled turns being a guardian. No child could be there without the parents’ knowledge or without at least one adult guardian.

When Kevin’s mother asked Kevin if the man in the photo, whose name and address Kevin now knew, was ever in the recreational areas. Kevin acknowledged that the man was often there, though he had no children, and was not a “guardian.”

Kevin’s mother went directly to the Condo’s Association and insisted on an “Emergency Meeting” where she passed out even more of the flyers featuring the convicted pedophile / registered sex offender’s personal information. The other parents were understandably outraged: some of them went directly to Walmart to get copies of the other local pedophiles to distribute to their fellow parents.

Eventually, they drove that convicted pedophile out of the Condo Complex, although it took some of the parents’ protesting in front of his house with signs containing his rap-sheet to get him out.

Kevin’s mother and the fellow parents did a fantastic job of protecting the children in the elementary school and in the Condo complex.

Every parent or teacher needs to teach children about sexual abuse, and from an early age. After all, we teach our children to protect themselves from fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, poisons, guns, bullying, and now, unfortunately, shootings or other school violence.

We need to protect them from sexual abuse, too.

image courtesy of Londonberry Sentinel UK

image courtesy of Londonberry Sentinel UK

When I taught Kindergarten, we called the sexual abuse prevention program Stranger Danger, but inevitably one of the children would ask, “What if the Bad Stranger lives in the same house with you?”

Now, as far as I know, children are taught Run, Yell, Tell, which I think is an improvement over Stranger Danger, since we always had to teach the children how to react in those situations in any event, which included shouting “This is not my parent,” fighting, kicking, hitting, biting, and running away as soon as possible, and then telling a trusted adult about what had happened.

Parents may be nervous about talking to their children about sexual abuse. They may not realize the importance of teaching the children to Run, Yell, Tell! Other parents may ask you to do it for them. Give them this a copy of this post, or direct them to the Yell And Tell Foundation.

The need to teach children how to protect themselves against sexual abuse is even more important than any of the Stop, Drop, and Roll of fire drills, or any of the other safety drills they regularly practice, if only because the chance of children’s being victims of sexual abuse is just as likely, if not more so, than their being victims of a natural disaster, yet sexual abuse is less frequently and candidly discussed.

Need help discussing sexual abuse prevention
with your children?
Visit the
Yell And Tell Foundation for advice,
including resources for parents and teachers.

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Escaping Abuse the Hard Way

—–

This condensed version of this post originally appeared in
OnTheVergeWithShareenMansfield (now, OTVmagazine) in April 2016.

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Filed under Memoir, Preventing Childhood Sexual Abuse, Rape, Serial Killers, Sexual Abuse, Violence

Rape is Rape, No Matter the Victim’s Age or Gender

Trigger Warning:
Rape & Sexual Abuse

In May 2014, the White House released an all-celebrity-male narrated Public Service Announcement (PSA) entitled “1 is 2 Many” about sexual assault on college campuses. Having watched the PSA, I have quite a few problems with its script, including its emphasis on, “If she doesn’t consent, or if she can’t consent,” and the male narrators, including VP Joe Biden, saying things like, “If I saw it happening, I was taught to do something about it,” or “If I saw it happening, I would speak up.”

There are also comments about not blaming the victim. Here is the White House’s PSA on sexual assault and rape, 1 is 2 Many, followed by several reasons why it is completely ineffective and will have no impact whatsoever on sexual assaults and rapes — on women, young girls, and men — anywhere in this country.

The accompanying statement on the White House’s page for the 1 is 2 Many PSA directly contradicts or avoids mention of several of the things implied in its own PSA.

Despite the significant progress made in reducing violence against women, there is still a long way to go. Young women still face the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault. In the last year, one in 10 teens have reported being physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. One in five young women have been sexually assaulted while they’re in college. While men compromise a smaller number of survivors, male survivors are no less important.

• There are serious problems with the semantics in this White House “statement,” including the “fact” that “men comprise a smaller number of survivors” — which may mean that fewer men die from the assaults and rapes or that fewer men report said rapes — and the “male survivors are no less important.” No and less are both negative words, so stating that male victims are no less important is, in fact, implying that they are not as important or that they are less important. The statement should have read male victims of sexual assault and rape are just as important as females, or, at the very least, that male victims of sexual assault and rape are equally important.

• The PSA itself never mentions males being assaulted. Both heterosexual and homosexual males can be, and often are, assaulted and raped on college campuses, sometimes because of their sexual orientation, sometimes because the campus has a “Males Can Not be Raped or Sexually Assaulted” mentality, as was true in the case of both Universities where I spent the majority of my career as a Professor (for details, see When is Rape NOT Rape?).

Again, I quote from the White House website:

In response to these alarming statistics, Vice President Biden is focusing his longstanding commitment to reducing violence against women specifically on teens, students, and young women ages 16-24. The Vice President pushed for the inclusion of vulnerable groups in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and he remains committed to supporting all survivors.

• Neither the first nor the second paragraph — and no place in the actual PSA — are any statistics of sexual assault and rape provided. “Despite the significant progress made in reducing violence against women,” we are told, without any numbers or percentages to indicate that any progress whatsoever is being made. Furthermore, neither the statement nor the PSA distinguishes between “violence against women” and reported assaults and rapes, when RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) evidence shows that only an average of 40% of rapes that occurred were reported during the last five years, and of those, only 3% were prosecuted successfully. Furthermore, even when they are reported, they are not always prosecuted or even counted in the statistics, as my own personal experience and my tenure as a Professor indicates. Additionally, the “alarming statistics,” which we have just been told have been significantly reduced, in the first paragraph, and which are causing VP Joe Biden to act, are not stated.

• What about girls and boys under the age of sixteen or over the age of twenty-four? Are they less important or valuable than those between the ages stated? I was first raped at the age of three, by my own father, who raped me for two years. Then I was raped consistently from the age of five to eighteen by my stepfather, as were all my siblings, all younger than I, and some of whom included my stepfather’s own biological children. My mother raped me, with implements, when I was 11 years old, right after I began menstruating, damaging me so severely that I was unable to have children. Yet this 1 is 2 Many never mentions children who are sexually abused. Why are children of all ages and both genders not included in this “Violence Against Women Act”? Why is this not a campaign against RAPE, period, rather than a campaign against violence against women aged 16-24?

The White House statement accompanying its PSA continues:

Vice President Biden also joined President Obama when he created the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, co-chaired by the Office of the Vice President and the Council of Women and Girls. The Task Force is releasing a new initiative, Not Alone, which provides resources to students, advocates, and universities. By targeting the importance of changing attitudes that lead to violence and educating the public on the realities of abuse, the Vice President is leading the way in an effort to stop this violence before it begins.

• We are not told how Students are to be Protected from sexual assault and rape, only that a “Task Force” has been created (which means absolutely nothing since Task Forces traditionally offer only recommendations, and are not endowed with any legislative powers to create or enforce laws). Therefore, this Task Force, whether led by VP Biden for his remaining 2 years in office or not, will have no power to prevent sexual assaults or rapes anywhere.

•  There are also several problems with this White House-promoted all-male-narrated PSA, the first of which is the fact that it is narrated by older, celebrity males who, no doubt, would never even consider committing sexual assault, and not by college-aged males or other men who might be the ones assaulting and raping other college students. It is also not narrated by victims — of any age or gender — of sexual assault and rape, whether or not said victims reported those assaults and rapes to authorities.

• Despite the White House’s page for the release of this PSA, which relates statistics regarding the sexual assaults for girls younger than college age — “1 in 9 teen girls will be forced to have sex” — this fact is never mentioned in the PSA. This is a terribly glaring omission. I was “safe” from sexual assault and rape when I attended college, whereas I had been continuously raped for fifteen years in my own home by my father, stepfather, and even my mother (with instruments). Rape, no doubt, occurs as often, if not more often, but gets reported less, when it is part of incest, is committed by a family member, or takes place in the home by someone known to the victim. The RAINN statistics are chilling.

• Why the change in language, from “sexual assault” and “rape” to “forced to have sex”? The White House, among others, may think that semantics are not important in this instance (which I seriously doubt), but semantics are always vitally important since semantics influences people’s emotions, then their perception of the situation, often without their being consciously aware of such influences. “Forcing someone to have sex” is not as violent as “sexual assault” which is not as violent as “rape.” Why the change in wording? To make rape more palatable? Rape should never be acceptable, and the semantics should not be changed to make it more comfortable for people to talk about or to prevent. Whoever wrote this page for the White House’s 1 is 2 Many PSA knew exactly what he was doing when he specifically and intentionally chose these words to describe rape. Just as the Universities where I taught chose to exclude “Date Rape” and even “Acquaintance Rape” from their statistics when they became legally obligated to report “rape statistics” to the state, the White House is using semantics to soften, if not actually eliminate, the extreme violence of rape in its stated campaign against it.

• The WH’s PSA male-narrators consistently state that “if they saw it happening,” they would “do something about it” or “say something,” or that they “wouldn’t blame her; [they] would help her.” What about someone’s — anyone’s — doing something to prevent the sexual assaults and rapes in the first place? The PSA directly contradicts the White House’s statement that “the Vice President is leading the way in an effort to stop this violence before it begins,” by stating that if these male narrators “saw something happening.” Seeing something happening and then saying or doing something is not action, it is reaction. In any and all cases, acting while or after seeing an assault or rape taking place is not prevention.

My final problem with the White House’s page and its PSA is its title 1 is 2 Many. Because One is not TWO many: One is TOO many. Writing such an important statement as if it were cutesy, harmless text trivializes the entire atrociously violent crime of rape.

Shame on the White House, shame on its widely touted but completely misleading and ineffective PSA, shame on Biden and Obama for their ineffective contributions to preventing rape against every victim, no matter the age or gender.

Related Posts

When is Rape NOT Rape?

Kevin’s Mother & The Pedophile:
Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse
(guest post on OTVmagazine)

I Survived a Serial Killer: My Own Mother
(guest post on RachelintheOC)

Head-Bangers’ Ball:
Escaping Abuse the Hard Way

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Filed under #CSA, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Memoir, Preventing Childhood Sexual Abuse, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence, Violence

When is Rape NOT Rape?

Trigger Warning

As a Professor at a University, you are privy to the underlying, ever-present politics that involve everything from promotion & tenure, to what constitutes “rape” when the institutions are legally required to report crimes at their institutions.

Over the course of my University career, I taught at quite a few universities and colleges, many times as a full-time visiting Professor before I completed my degree since I’d been an adjunct at the university or college that needed someone for a year while one of their Professors went on sabbatical. Even as a visiting Professor who’d only be there for a year, I was expected to participate in all the non-teaching activities that are required of tenured Professors.

At two of those Universities, I witnessed first-hand the metaphorical rape of students and faculty there once the schools became legally obligated to reveal the reported number of rapes at their institutions.

Originally, Ohio universities and colleges, whether 2-year or 4-year, whether private or public (i.e., state-funded) were not required to submit any statistics — to anyone — about any campus crimes, misdemeanor or felony. For some reason, the state legislature changed that law while I happened to be working full-time at two universities, so I was intimately involved in the process, as were all their Professors and administrators (staff-members were never included in these political concerns of the schools, though they, too, were affected by any administrative decisions).

The new Ohio law required all higher education institutions to make their “crime statistics” public knowledge, especially the rates of theft, vandalism, (non-sexual) assault, and rape.

It seemed no one had a problem revealing the statistics of the first three categories because, frankly, even at the schools where I taught (one was among the poorest in the country, the other was one of the wealthiest and most elite), those things simply weren’t a problem. (Although, actually, the wealthy school had a higher incidence of petty theft — from students, staff, and faculty — than did the poorer school.)

Revealing rape statistics, however, caused the administrators at both schools great alarm.

At the state-funded public university, it was decided — almost exclusively by the president — that “date rape” would not be included in the statistics. His reason? It ain’t rape if they’re dating. Male and female faculty alike objected. He threatened us with pay-cuts, no tenure if we didn’t have it already, and no future promotions — ever. To my horror, most of the faculty — especially the males, I’m sorry to say, but a good number of the females as well — were immediately and forever silenced.

The President then changed the definition of “date rape” to include any rape that happened when the boy and girl knew each other, even if they were only in the same class together, even if the girl didn’t know the boy’s name, only his face.

The faculty objected in a body.

It was threatened with being fired.

I would like to say that more than one or two of us continued to object, but it wouldn’t be true.

As a rape victim myself — raped, molested, sodomized, and forced to perform fellatio by my biological father and by my step-father for over 15 years, and viciously raped with sharp kitchen instruments and household tools by my mother when I was 11 and started my period — I continued to protest. I was ordered, in no uncertain terms, as well as in malicious, obscene language, to keep my mouth shut. (I didn’t, but, for some reason, I wasn’t fired; unfortunately, it didn’t change the way “date rape” was defined at that university.)

Of course, male-on-male rape was literally laughed at as a possibility, despite my mentioning that I knew for a fact that one of my students (who was gay, though I didn’t say that) at that University had been raped by several football players. For being gay. I was told that it “didn’t count” because men couldn’t be raped.

In fact, though the term LGBT was not in use at that time, any LGBT sexual assault was dismissed and not included in the statistics at that university because, the President claimed,  “those people asked for it.”

Also eliminated were “gang rapes” where multiple assailants attack one person. No reason was given for this. We could only conclude that it happened far more than the University wanted anyone to know.

Not surprisingly, the President continued to redefine the definition and categories of “rape” until the numbers were so low that no one would consider the campus unsafe. (Rapes or assaults of female faculty or staff members — whether by students, staff, or other faculty — were never even considered, though there were quite a few. Most of those women quit in protest.)

I was livid, not only for my students, but for all women, men, and children who are raped every single day. I was also frustrated since I had no political power or support to change what was being done with the University’s rape statistics.

Though several faculty members repeatedly brought up the fact that reported rapes are only a small percentage of the actual rapes that are occurring, these faculty comments were ignored. (In 2008, nearly 90,000 people reported being raped in the United States, with an arrest rate of 25%. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 39,590 men and 164,240 women were victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault during that same year.) Faculty who brought up that fact were simply told that if the crime hadn’t been reported to the authorities, the school couldn’t possibly know about it or report it in its statistics; while that was true, the administrators were intentionally and deliberately being obtuse about the discrepancy regarding actual and reported rapes in the entire world, let alone on its campus.

The end result? The University had a very low incidence of rapes, so it was a “safe” campus.

Meanwhile, at the private, elite college where I was simultaneously a Visiting Professor for one year, helping out a friend/colleague who was on sabbatical, I expected something quite different. This school was known for its LGBT community (though, again, that term was not in use anywhere at the time, so they were all simply considered “gay” or “bi-“), including many faculty members, students, staff, and even some of the curriculum itself (which embraced LGBT Studies, which it called — no lie — “Queer Studies,” to make the students, many of whom had been rejected by parents wealthy enough to afford its higher-than-Harvard’s private tuition as well as by their peers in high school or in other colleges or universities, feel “safe, honored, respected, and nurtured”).

Except, it became apparent, when it came to revealing rape statistics to the public.

I don’t recall how many sexual assaults or rapes occurred on the actual campus grounds or in its buildings, but I do remember very clearly the number and location of the rapes this college most vehemently wanted to exclude from its reporting.

When this college had been founded, it had been granted over 1,000 acres of green space — in perpetuity, so long as the college didn’t sell the land, develop it, kept it open (free of charge) to the public, and named it after the Donor’s deceased child. The college’s green space bordered 3,000 other acres of public green space. Though all 4,000 acres were closed at night because there were no lights, rivers ran through them, and they were filled with high cliffs and rock walls, some people did go there at night. Especially this college’s students.

Those were the first rapes that weren’t counted in the college’s reported statistics. Why? Because everybody should know better than to go there at night.

And, besides, How did the college know whether the rapes occurred on its 1,000 acres and not on any of the remaining acres since they were indistinguishable and unmarked?

How, indeed?

Next, any rapes occurring at night and on the weekends were eliminated. Why?  Because how do we know how many tourists visited the area and they aren’t students at the college.

I was horrified. I wasn’t a tourist. I’d lived in that village for almost 10 years. I went into that nature preserve — alone — all the time. I used its “public” walking/biking path virtually every day. Until I learned how many rapes, attempted rapes, and sexual assaults occurred to people on the walking path, some of which bordered the 1,000 acres owned by the college and located within the village itself, most of which ran through the more isolated areas of the college’s 1,000 acres. It seems the people using the path were literally grabbed by people who jumped out of the dense woods and dragged the walkers or runers into the isolated areas where they were attacked with no fear of discovery.

19 rapes a month.

(Needless to say, that ended my solo trips into the preserve, and all my walks & runs along the path.)

The college did not want to reveal that figure, as you can imagine. Many of the faculty had been unaware of that number, too, and we were horrified, to say the least. Some of us regularly encouraged our students to make use of the green space for artistic inspiration, meditation, exercise (I was one of those who suggested, to my creative writing students, that it would be a great place to write or get ideas for their projects: that suggestion ended immediately, accompanied by warnings about the rapes).

The college wasn’t happy about 19-rapes-per-month number. And bear in mind, 19 rapes per month was the number after the attacks which occurred on the weekends and after dark were excluded.

The college found ways to reduce the number of its reported rapes.

First, it eliminated any that were between a student (victim) and a non-student (assailant), even when one of the assailants had been a faculty member. Student-student rapes were the only ones to be counted. For some reason, student (assailant) and non-student (victim) rapes were not considered important enough to be discussed.

“Date-rapes” were also excluded, despite the faculty’s objections.

Then the college did something even more outrageous and unforgivable, especially considering its student body, and the sexual orientation of over half of its faculty.

It excluded all LGBT rapes: female-female, male-male, male-female — it didn’t matter. If the rape victim didn’t identify as “heterosexual,” the rape wasn’t included. Not if it took place in the 1,000-acre green space, not if it happened on the college grounds themselves, not if it happened in any of the college buildings, including the dorms and library.

The faculty, especially the women, literally screamed and shouted their outraged protests. They threatened to go public with the information. They threatened to quit en masse. They threatened to tell all the students at the institution the exact number of reported rapes that were occurring on the college’s property (which many of us did anyway as soon as we learned of them). The college would not back down.

Like the other University, it eliminated “gang-rape” from the definition of rape, even if only one person had actually committed the crime and the others had just been observers. In short, it redefined “gang-rape.”

As did the University, the private college did not include reported rapes of faculty or staff members, whether male or female.

Not surprisingly, after so much manipulation of the statistics, the college had a surprisingly low number of reported rapes.

Just like the other University where I taught.

So each of these schools — and I’m guessing many more, besides — redefined “rape” when it reported statistics to the state. I felt like I was a child again, being raped by my father, stepfather, and mother, then ignored or called a “liar” whenever I told someone what had happened.

After submitting their significantly manipulated rape statistics, both schools received a “safe environment” rating from the state; said “safe environment” rating was published in an annual guide to colleges and universities, along with the actual number (and percentage, for comparison) of rapes reported by each school.

When I was young, I was told that only strangers could rape someone, that fathers never raped their own children, and that mothers certainly couldn’t do it even if they used kitchen implements or household tools. As an adult, it became common to hear others telling young men that “if a girl says no, she means no, and that if the man proceeds, it is rape.” Nothing was ever mentioned about men or LGBTs saying No, so I suppose they couldn’t be raped, just as I was never raped throughout my childhood.

Even now, in a blog-post I read the other day, a woman claimed that young women “cause attacks to happen” because of the way they dress, because they sometimes drink or use recreational drugs around other people or in public places like restaurants, bars, and sporting events, because they don’t say No loudly enough, often enough, or they don’t accompany their No with enough physical resistance.

That blogger never called the attacks “rapes” although she was repeatedly discussing the “rape culture” that the young women themselves are creating. She also never mentioned males or LGBTs.

So, I guess I learned something new after reading her post. Just as I did when I was a child and told teachers, doctors, neighbors, and family members what was being done to me. Just as I did years ago while teaching at the University & college where they redefined rape to reduce their reported rape statistics.

I learned there are times when a sexual assault, no matter how violent or vicious, no matter which part of the body is violated, no matter the victim’s gender, is not rape.

When is rape not rape?

When someone more powerful than the victim says it’s not.

Related Posts

Rape is Rape, No Matter the Victim’s Age or Gender

Kevin’s Mother & The Pedophile:
Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse
(guest post on OTVmagazine)

I Survived a Serial Killer: My Own Mother
(guest post on RachelintheOC)

Head-Bangers’ Ball:
Escaping Abuse the Hard Way

Share

Leave a Comment

Filed under #CSA, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Memoir, Preventing Childhood Sexual Abuse, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence, Violence