Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Self-injury: What's that all about?

I've been battling with an urge to cut myself the last few days, so I decided that I might as well channel it into something useful, and try to write a post explaining what self-injury is all about. The fact is - although self-injury is something that is generally associated with "emo" teenage girls, both men and women of all ages struggle with this.

Self-injury has many facets. That is part of the reason why it is so hard to understand.

The reasons why people injure themselves are often listed as the "8 Cs":
  1. Coping and Crisis intervention
  2. Calming and Comforting
  3. Control
  4. Cleansing
  5. Confirmation of existence
  6. Creating Comfortable numbness
  7. Chastisement
  8. Communication

Monday, 29 October 2012

Alone

The purpose of this blog was not to share my personal struggles. It was meant to be an educational blog. It was meant to be a place full of information and full of hope. But today the loneliness is too much to carry. I'm not sure if anyone will be able to learn anything from this post, but I need to talk to someone and this is the only place I have left.

I need to bleed.

Now, it would be a simple thing to take a blade and draw blood from any convenient vein. But I'm not yet far enough gone to loose sight of the fact that doing this would only compound the weight that I'm carrying today. It would create another secret. More shame. More to hide.

It would isolate me further.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Abuse does not have to be physical

There is a very common misconception that abuse is when a parent beats or starves a child, or when a child is sexually assaulted. Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse is very much a hidden epidemic. Recently I discovered, to my dismay, that in some places even the laws reflect this misconception.

As an abused child, I lived through many traumatic experiences. One of the most traumatic experiences was something that could easily have passed without notice. There was no aggression, neither a hand nor a voice was raised. There was no sexual suggestion, not even the most subtle hint. It was just a simple sentence, spoken in an unemotional, level voice.

Now I see why not even your own parents could love you. You're just too fucking useless.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Catholic Church Fights Extended Statute of Limitations on Sex Abuse Cases

From Sexual Abuse Resource Network:

Published June 14, 2012

While a handful of states work to lengthen the statute of limitation on child sexual abuse cases, the Catholic Church is battling back, insisting that reliable evidence can't be found when several decades have passed. A story published by the New York Times reveals that the Catholic Church has already spent some $2.5 billion on legal fees, settlements and prevention programs. If states were to allow a wider "window" of time for child sexual abuse cases to be prosecuted, the church will certainly face even greater financial challenges – and certain legal action.

The church has gone all-out to campaign against such legislation, getting bishops and parishoners alike to pressure legislators. Their urgency to maintain the status quo underscores their lack of concern for sexual abuse victims and their insistency to continue covering up their crimes.

If the hundreds of sexual abuse victims of Catholic priests are going to ever receive justice, it will require lifting the statute of limitations and finally making the church take legal and financial responsibility for their crimes against children. And, while the church continues fighting this measure, we see once again that its focus is not on the well-being of its victims, but rather on protecting its own.

Shame on them. Again.

Please share this message. Silence is a pedophile's best friend.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

It's over - Just forget about it and focus on your future...

I have lost count of the number of time I've been given this well-meant advice.

It's over. Just forget about it and focus on your future.

Abuse survivors have been saying for decades that this simply isn't possible. Your past is always with you. There is no getting away from it. When that past contains child abuse, it is even more inescapable.

I could write volumes full of emotional tirades about what daily life feels like for an abuse survivor. I can post neat, bullet lists containing things such as "depression", "anxiety" and "trauma". I will not post yet another list, but if you want to see one, feel free to check the lists from www.child-abuse-effects.com and www.turningpointservices.org. For a very thorough breakdown of the effects of abuse on future mental and physical health, also check out http://acestudy.org.

The problem with these lists of "symptoms" is that while they define the "it" we should "get over", they don't explain why we can't.

So why can't we?

I believe the answer lies in early childhood development and neurobiology.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Don't

This is a poem, written and posted on malesurvivor.org by forum member "traveler". It describes my feelings so accurately and so poignantly that I simply had to share it.

Don’t

Don’t look at me too closely
or watch what I am doing.
I might slip;
I might stumble;
I might fall.

Don’t hold high expectations
or think I’ve got it made;
I am weak,
I’m still fragile,
I’m not whole.

Don’t cherish preconceptions
of how I ought to act:
what I should think,
how I should feel,
what I should say.

Don’t assume that now it’s over,
that I am back to normal;
though I am better –
I’m not ALL better,
not yet well.

But if you want to walk with me
and pace your healthy stride
against my stumbling steps,
supporting one another,
to lend each other strength...

Then
we can travel
together.


Lee
14 10 12

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Lessons learnt from the Sandusky trial

I have been following the Sandusky trial and I believe there are a number of lessons that can be learnt from it.

1. Sandusky was a good guy

What was not to like? He was the benevolent football coach with the goofy grin, the founder of Second Mile - a program for at-risk youth. He loved children and children loved him. He even received an "Angels in Adoption" award in 2002.

He was not creepy. Children were not visibly afraid of him. No one reported getting a feeling that "something was off" when meeting him. No one suspected that he was a sexual predator.

Lessons learnt

  • Don't count on being able to tell that someone shouldn't be trusted. Sexual predators are complex people. They can be "good" people in other ways, and are often generally liked. 
  • Don't trust someone with your child just because he seems to be a good guy.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Talking to your child if you suspect that they are being sexually abused

I would like to share an excellent article from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network:

Summary:

Parents are surrounded by messages about child sexual abuse. Talkshows and TV news warn parents about dangers on the Internet, at school and at home. However, parents don’t get much advice on how to talk to their children if they are concerned that sexual abuse is occurring.

Talk to your child directly.

  • Pick your time and place carefully!
  • Ask if anyone has been touching them in ways that don’t feel okay or that make them feel uncomfortable.
  • Follow up on whatever made you concerned. If there was something your child said or did that made you concerned, ask about that.
  • Talk with your child about secrets.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The "Vampire Syndrome" myth, part 2

After writing my post on the "Vampire Syndrome" myth, another paper and even more powerful proof of its untruth have come my way.

This paper highlights several more problems with existing studies that claim to "prove" the existence of the so-called abuse-cycle.

From a 1979 study by A. Nicholas Groth:

He studied 348 convicted sexual offenders, with a control group of 62 male police officers, and claimed to have established that convicted sexual offenders have a significantly higher chance of having been sexually traumatised as children. However:

A letter to those who love abuse survivors


This is an adaptation of a letter I wrote to my girlfriend. Unprepared for the side of me to surfaces when I am triggered, she did and said all the wrong things in her attempt to help. In my hyper-emotional state, I rewarded her efforts with what can only be described as verbal abuse. When I had finished the letter and re-read it, I realised that there much be many other partners of abuse survivors out there who have to deal with confusing emotional outbursts from their significant others. So I post it here, in the hope it will help someone else understand.

Darling,

First I want to start with an apology  I know that at times it is difficult to live with me. I know that sometimes I react in ways that are confusing. I promise you that I try to act like a rational adult, but sometimes I can't. I want you to know that it is not your fault. I accept full responsibility for my irrational and hurtful actions. It is my problem, and I am the only person who can change it. I am working hard at this, but it is still a work in progress and probably always will be.

However, I don't accept the blame. All the blame goes to the men who abused me and in doing so, rendered me emotionally handicapped.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

What parents should know about sexual abuse

*** May Trigger ***

Who abuses children?

Most people have the mental picture of the creepy guy, hanging out at the children's playground wearing a black trench coat, waiting to kidnap little girls. However, this cannot be further from the truth. Abuse perpetrated by strangers make up only a tiny minority of cases.

Some statistics:

  1. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
  2. More than 90% of abusers are know to, and trusted by their victims.
  3. About 30% of abusers are family members
  4. Not all child sexual abuse is perpetrated by paedophiles. 
  5. Gay men are no more likely to abuse children than straight men.

Female predators

Numbers for female predators vary wildly. Incidence studies, and studies done on conviction rates, show that less that 10% of convicted sex-offenders are female. However, prevalence studies, where people are asked if they had been abused, reveal much higher numbers, with some placing the number above 40%.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Forgiveness can set you free (or so I'm told)

I have lived most of my life filled with hatred for both my parents. Heaven knows, they were easy to hate. But hatred is like a pool of acid in your gut - it eats you up from inside leaving behind a huge, empty space where your soul should have been. If you live with hatred for too long, it will destroy you. And it does absolutely nothing to the person you hate.

Its a bit like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

How could one possibly forgive those who abused you?

Forgiveness means letting go of that hatred - draining the pool of acid, and allowing your soul to heal. Forgiveness does not mean that what they did is suddenly OK or acceptable, only that you will no longer allow them to control your emotions and thereby your life. Neither hatred nor forgiveness make any difference to the offender, but it makes a radical change to your ability to heal, and to grow as a person.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

About mental illness, ignorance and labels

This is a little rant about something I heard a while ago. I thought it was possibly the worst excuse ever to not take a child to a therapist.

The little boy is about 11 years old. He is showing clear signs of ADD, and very strong hints of Bipolar Disorder. He is at times extremely aggressive, and at time almost despondent. Yet his mother refuses to take him to a therapist because she doesn't want him to be labelled for the rest of his life. She even went as far as to label another family member who has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder as a "crackpot", saying her son is nothing like him, even though she is the only person saying that.

My jaw dropped. How ignorant can you possibly be? Does she honestly believe that not having him diagnosed and treated will make it all go away? I cannot believe that in this day and age, there are still people out there who are this ignorant about mental illness.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

The swim-suit rule

As the father of a young girl, as well as an abuse survivor, one of my top priorities in life is to protect my daughter from ever experiencing abuse. The reality is that 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they come of age. So how can a parent enhance their child's chances of being among the 3 out of 4, the 5 out of 6?

One good tip I've come across is the underwear rule. The basic idea is that no one is allowed to touch your child in areas normally covered by underwear, and that you should not touch someone else there.

When teaching it to my daughter, I amended it slightly. Since my daughter does not wear bras yet, I thought there was a risk that she might not understand that her breasts are part of the no-touch zone. So I taught it to her as the "swimsuit rule".

I urge every parent or prospective parent to spend some time reading that site, and following their recommendations. It might just save your children from becoming another victim.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Survivors have an obligation to speak up

Standing up and saying to the world "I was abused' is hard. It is even harder if you are a man and even harder than that if you were sexually abused. No one knows that quite as well as those of us who have been there.

I reached the point of being able to say "I was abused" in my early twenties. Being able to talk about it was liberating, and very helpful in helping me process what had happened. But I have never been comfortable with telling people "I was sexually abused". There is always that little voice in my head that says what will people think? Will they suspect me of being a sexual predator? Will they still trust me around their kids?

About a year or more ago I realised that in refusing to be specific about the type of abuse I suffered, I am guilty of fuelling that stigma. By refusing to be completely honest, I am re-affirming to others that being a sexual abuse survivor is something to be ashamed of, something to hide, something that should not be spoken about. And by affirming this stigma, I am failing to use an opportunity to encourage boys and men to speak up and get the help they so desperately need.

With this in mind, I am starting to believe that as a survivor who have arguably progressed further than many others in my healing journey, I have an obligation to stand up and say "I am a survivor of sexual abuse". I should be offering myself as living proof that the stigmas are unfounded, just as I have been testifying for years that there is life after addiction.

Even as I am typing this, I am thinking about the effort I made to keep this blog anonymous. Isn't preaching about speaking up while staying anonymous a bit hypocritical? And yet, I shiver at the thought of having everyone in my life know my history...

I don't know if I could do it.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

I have a confession to make

*** May Trigger - Self Injury ***

In the epilogue to my story, I say that the last time I cut myself was in the spring of 2000.

That isn't strictly true. I did go many years without cutting after that, but it wasn't the last time.

The last time I cut was the beginning of this year. 2012. I can't remember the date, but I think it was a Thursday.

I had just started writing down my story, and I was very, very vulnerable. I was getting nightmares again, and that terrible, unbearable feeling of emptiness was back. I wanted so badly to feel... anything. But the only time I felt anything was when the memories came flooding back and made the scars on my soul ache until I wished I could be numb again.

How will a spanking ban help abused children?

The New American recently reported on a controversial law passed in Delaware, that effectively bans parents from spanking their children in the home. It quoted Biden saying "Far too many children are the victims of abuse, neglect and assault and [this bill] will go a long way to better protect the children of this state".

Not being familiar with Delaware legislation, I studied the laws in question, and what I learnt there left me convinced that this law will not help to protect abused children at all.

The first thing that caught my eye, was the definition of child abuse as given in the bill:
"Abuse" means causing any physical injury to a child through unjustified force as defined  in §468(1)(c) of this title, torture, negligent treatment, sexual abuse, exploitation, maltreatment, mistreatment or any means other than accident."

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The "vampire syndrome" myth

I want to spend some time exposing the truth behind the so-called "vampire myth" - the myth that male sexual abuse survivors more often than not end up becoming sexual predators. This terrible myth is among the most powerful factors that contribute to silencing abused boys.

MYTH: Most sexual predators were victims of child abuse themselves

The scientific argument:

This is based on many studies that were done on convicted sex-offenders. The flaw in these studies are that they rely on self-reporting. And no only self-reporting, but self-reporting by people who are in desperate need of something that could justify their own actions, and who are well aware of this myth. The number of inmates who reported being victimised as children are significantly lower in studies where polygraph tests were used.

The logical argument:

Different sources have different figures, but one thing that is constant is the fact that paedophiles/sex-offenders tend to molest many children over their lifetime. Some sources put the number as high as 260. Now, if every paedophile molests many children, and the vast majority of these grew up to be paedophiles, why does the one in six statistic for boys who are abused, not increase? If this myth was true, the vast majority of men would be paedophiles by now.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Male sexual abuse myths and facts

Please read the full article on www.malesurvivor.org.

Myth #1 - Boys and men can't be victims.

Fact: Boys are children - weaker and more vulnerable than their perpetrators - who cannot really fight back.

Myth #2 - Most sexual abuse of boys is perpetrated by homosexual males.

Fact: Pedophiles who molest boys are not expressing a homosexual orientation any more than pedophiles who molest girls are practicing heterosexual behaviors.

Myth #3 - If a boy experiences sexual arousal or orgasm from abuse, this means he was a willing participant or enjoyed it.

Fact: In reality, males can respond physically to stimulation (get an erection) even in traumatic or painful sexual situations.

Myth #4 - Boys are less traumatized by the abuse experience than girls.

Fact: Males may be more damaged by society's refusal or reluctance to accept their victimization, and by their resultant belief that they must "tough it out" in silence.

Hello and welcome

Hello and welcome to my new blog!

I started this blog, because I had a desire to share my story of child-abuse with the world, not to get attention, or even sympathy, but to create awareness and to bring hope to children who suffer like I did, and adults who still struggle with the aftermath.

Besides child-abuse, I will also dedicate some posts on this blog to addiction, as well as self-injury, since I am by far not the only abused child who has turned to these twin crutches in a misguided attempt to cope.

I have posted my full life story in the "My Story" tab. If you are a fellow-survivor, please note that it is in places very detailed and graphic, and may be triggering.

I will endeavour to mark all potentially triggering posts as such, but since I cannot predict what will trigger every single reader, I may miss some. For this, I apologize in advance.