Archive for the ‘Rape’ Category


Why Dylan Farrow’s Disclosure Matters

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“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator…All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.” 

                                                                                                ~ Judith Herman

 From 1989-1993 I worked in Massachusetts for the Child-At-Risk Hotline at Judge Baker Children’s Center, in the Longwood Medical Area.  We covered the entire state after hours for reports of suspected child abuse and neglect when the departments of investigation were closed for the day and on weekends.  I was a supervisor, which meant that every single suspected case of abuse or neglect was “run by” me.  With the screener’s help I determined whether it was a case that was false, probably true or so emergently true that we had to take action that very shift.

 Children’s lives and well-being hung in the balance so we were very highly trained and conscientious in our work.  Over that period I estimate that I heard somewhere around 15,000 stories of child abuse.  I developed a very good BS detector.

 Like many I had heard vague allegations about Dylan Farrow when she was a child, but it was hard to know what to think and why the case had not been prosecuted.

This week’s publication of her letter to the New York Times has changed all that for me.  

Since it was published last week there has been a firestorm of responses and conversations popping up all over social media, some helpful and others not so much.

As a child abuse prevention professional and a treater of many adult victims of childhood trauma I would like to add my perspective.  I believe Dylan.  Her story is coherent, believable and internally consistent.

Let’s look at the list of secondary gains that each side gets from lying.  For Woody and Dylan there are reasons to lie and reasons to tell the truth.  There are also many reasons not to.

Dylan Lies:

 Pros:                                                                          Cons:

She gets attention in the press.                           She and her family is vilified in the media.

She gets people to feel sorry for her                   Her credibility is forever tarnished

                                                                                   in the eyes of friends, employers, etc.

She’s going for a book or movie deal?               Her accused is a Hollywood insider.

 

                                                                                  She could be sued for defamation.

 Maybe I lack imagination but I’m already out of reasons for her to lie about this.  Usually when people tell big lies there is a big positive payoff.  I don’t see it here. Do you?  The Cons are overwhelmingly negative and threaten to ruin her life.  Just to be a somebody in the press? There are easier ways.  OK, let’s look at the other side.

 Woody Lies:

 Pros                                                                           Cons

He keeps making movies                                     He gets a clean conscience (if he’s not

                                                                                    a sociopath)

He keeps all his money                                         He may need to pay a lot of money in a

                                                                                    lawsuit

 

People keep loving him and his work                 People will be revulsed by him and his work

 

He keeps his relationships                                     He loses friends and business contacts

The Romans used to ask an important question, Qui Bono?  Who benefits here?  Dylan suffers more by lying than she gains.  Woody suffers more by telling the truth by far.  Lying is in his best interest as it is in the case of most perpetrators.  Even if we look at just dollars and profit motive, Dylan stands to lose more than she gains by lying where the opposite is true with Woody.  It is incredibly hard to win lawsuits against perpetrators, especially when there was no original conviction.

But what about the argument her mother made her do it by “implanting” memories. Oh please!  Maybe (maybe!!! although I’ve never seen it in decades of practice) a seven year old could be persuaded.  But an adult knows better.  Mind control is possible, but it requires years of skilled training to do and the only experts in the world are black ops top secret level psy military people who do not publish manuals.  Occam’s razor suggests that this argument is full of giant holes.  Like smoke and fire, reports of abuse almost always coincide with actual abuse!

As for Woody, well we already know him as a man with exceedingly poor boundaries and someone who acts without considering the consequences for those around him by marrying his long-term partner, Mia’s teenaged daughter. Everyone who “testified” for him at the awards show (wasn’t that strange) talked about all the roles he had written for women, not anything about his character.  I had the sense that the women supposedly speaking on his behalf were really speaking on their own interests.  But having said that perps are exceedingly good at getting people to believe them. And the longer the friendship, the harder to see the perp inside the man.

If you look at the Herman quote above you will see why.  I have written in The Trauma Tool Kit how the mind wants to avoid material it sees as threatening to its own sense of security and comfort.  Contemplating that your best loved films were created by a monster creates a level of cognitive dissonance that most people cannot handle.

But, you see, we must.  Because this is one story among millions.  Every day there are victims who tell the truth and are shut out of their families because the perpetrator is believed.  Because the people they tell will not or cannot tolerate a change in perspective and a re-ordering of their own lives and view of reality.

Our culture is sick.  I agree with the neo-feminists who talk of the ‘rape culture’ in which we live.  All over the world from time out of mind women and children have been raped, dominated and treated like property. Men have relied on each other to maintain power, to satisfy their lusts and desires and do what they want. Just because they can.  For humanity to evolve, this has to end.  That means TELLING THE TRUTH, no matter how unpleasant or personally uncomfortable that makes us.  After all, it could be your daughter or son, neighbor, friend or cousin who is the next victim.

Only then will the real healing begin for individuals and society as whole.

As for me, I’m breaking up with Woody and all his films.  I wish Dylan a sense of wholeness, peace and healing for her future. She has suffered enough.

 

 

 




Healing Together With An Infinite Mind

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HT_logo_HPI just returned from my favorite conference of the year, the Healing Together Conference put on by Infinite Mind.  Infinite Mind is a group of people with DID, which is Dissociative Identity Disorder.  You might know it better as Multiple Personality Disorder.

Why is this my favorite conference?  Many reasons.  This group of people who suffer from DID and those who support and/or treat them are the most dedicated, open and knowledgeable group I have been involved with.  There is no lying, no minimization, no disinformation.  Pain is acknowledged but not dwelt on. Jaime Pollock, the main organizer, is known for her organizational skills, her comedic timing and her immense sensitivity to the suffering of others.  She is completely open about her own journey, but never triggering.  There is an art room and a quiet grounding room with lots of pillows and blankets with student psychology interns available to help as needed.

Remember the movie Sybil?  Well, the real Sybil, Shirley Mason painted her way through her treatment.  There was a beautiful and moving exhibit of some of her paintings during the conference.  Despite the recent book questioning her diagnosis, most people who knew her, and most specialists believe, she was, in fact, DID.  The pictures in this article are some of hers.  Some facts about them: she often painted telephone poles, sail boats (to sail away from her pain?) and yellow, she said, was the color of her mother’s screaming.

Another famous multiple, Truddi Chase, wrote the runaway best seller When Rabbit Howls.  Her daughter, Kari, gave a very moving account of what it was to be the daughter of a multiple growing up.  It was very clear that a distant, mean father was much more of a liability to a growing child than a mother with DID.  Another interesting presentation was a mother-daughter pair from England discussing the same topic.  Carol, who only “discovered” her DID later in life brought some remarkable videos of herself in other personality states (called ‘alters’ or ‘parts’).  Her daughter with much patience and humor described a mother who often could not remember what she had said five minutes ago, but she was fun to play with!  They shared a very dramatic and, at times,  journey of healing which continues today.

On a more serious note, the mental health system in England and other places is severely lacking and there is much international work to be done on educating practitioners not only about the reality of DID, but how to work effectively on integrating painful memories.

Here are a few important facts to know about people with DID:

 1)   DID begins at an early age, usually before 7 but is often not diagnosed until later in life.

2)   DID is always the result of severe and prolonged trauma.  There has to be immense force involved to shatter a mind.

3)   Most people with DID are law-abiding and peaceful people who suffer from extreme internal torment.

4)   Many people with DID grow up to be loving (if somewhat dysfunctional) parents.

5)   Children of parents with DID can thrive, especially with support from the community.

6)   People with DID hold jobs in all sectors of society.  They are preschool teachers, lawyers, police officers, writers, hospice workers, etc.

7)   You cannot tell if someone has DID by looking at them.

8)   With appropriate treatment people can integrate fully and heal from DID and their traumatic histories that were the cause of their problems.

9)   People with DID almost always have problems with losing time.  Often people think they are pathological liars because different alters give different information. Over time they learn how to compensate for these difficulties.

10)  DID is fairly prevalent.  It is estimated that  1 out of 100 people in the USA suffer from DID, and it is found in every country.

 I had the privilege of giving trauma informed yoga classes in the morning and presenting two workshops: one on Yogic Modalities For Healing From PTSD and one on The Effects of Abuse and Trauma on Developing Children. The audiences were engaged, and responsive.  

 If you are a therapist, a physician, someone suffering from DID or you know someone with DID I would highly recommend this yearly conference as a place to learn, to laugh and to commiserate with a group of compassionate and knowledgeable people. It is held in Orlando, Florida every year in late winter.  I feel very grateful to be involved with this amazing group.

 




The Semantics of Rape

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Here is the definition of rape from the New Oxford American Dictionary:

Noun: the crime, typically committed by a man, of forcing another person to have sexual intercourse with him without their consent and against their will, esp. by the threat or use of violence against them: he denied two charges of attempted rape | he had committed at least two rapes.

Verb: (if a man) to force another person to have sexual intercourse with him without their consent and against their will, esp. by the threat or use of violence against them: the woman was raped at knifepoint.

Notice how that word “force” is used in both definitions of the word rape? Paul Ryan and those who wrote legislation with him apparently didn’t and somehow felt that they needed to redundantly modify rape with the word “forcible”. This is both insensitive and stupid.

Have you heard how water is powerfully wet? Or that mud is dirty? How about fatal murder or hot arson? You get my point. Aside from being poor English, this kind of language seeks to diminish women’s (and men’s) experience that rape is a form of violence that causes intense suffering over a long period of time. It suggests that there is a kindler, gentler rape that is somehow not forcible, perhaps even enjoyable as one Texan Republican gubernatorial nominee recently suggested.

By using the inflammatory words “legitimate rape” Republican nominee Todd Akin and others suggested to the American public that there is a form of rape that is OK. This is a powerful form of double speak, a sophisticated hypnotic suggestion to the audience that both suggests that rapes could maybe be OK in some circumstances while holding women responsible for proving the severity of rape to begin with and making them doubt themselves with the ridiculous suggestion that if they become pregnant it wasn’t a “real” rape.

In reality, rape is a terrible thing to come to terms with. The mind naturally wants to deny that it even happened. As I say in The Trauma Tool Kit: “the mind swerves away from trauma like a car careening around a deep, dark puddle…avoidance is nobody’s fault but is the very nature of trauma itself.” 

Either through deep cynicism or ignorance those who minimize rape (for some reason they are mostly male Republican candidates for office) are siding with the part of the brain that does not want to acknowledge the severity of this trauma. They want to keep the public in denial. Some want to legitimize their own or others’ bad behavior.

This is extreme dysfunction, folks. In order to heal society we need to call out every type of trauma for healing and expose it to the healthy light of day, not shove it back in the closet where it festers and stinks up the place. Every victim needs to be acknowledged and given access to healing. Every perpetrator needs to be brought to justice. If our candidates cannot speak truth and bring healing, then they do not deserve to hold a microphone, much less hold office.




The Significance of the Sandusky Verdict

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This is a somber and historic day. A powerful, wealthy, well connected and protected man as been brought to justice for preying on the most vulnerable of victims. These former victims have found the personal strength and community support to stand up and support their rights and protect the community from the darkest of predators.

We all know this has been happening. Some of us have been victims of pedophiles abusing positions of power and privilege. But, until today, they have walked free, rarely even brought to trial. 

As a therapist I treated many victims of sexual predators. It may surprise you to learn that less than one quarter of my patients’ perpetrators were ever publicly accused, prosecuted or convicted. Most of the victims/survivors were still carrying the secret when they came to therapy. And there’s a good reason for this. Of the perpetrators that were convicted, most served a vastly inadequate sentence.

One of my patients was abused all of her life by her father until the courts could no longer ignore the mountain of physical evidence. He was convicted for sexual abuse after years of rape and served….wait for it….one year. Yup. One year. He went into jail when she was 12 and was released when she was 13. Needless to say she had a serious (but uncompleted) suicide attempt shortly afterward.

This is not unusual. When I worked in protective services in Massachusetts, it was well-known in the protection community that there were certain judges who would never prosecute pedophiles. They always released them with a warning or a light sentence while others were locked away for years by other judges. Why? I’ll leave you to figure that one out.

There are many predators in high places. Jerry Sandusky is only one, and only the beginning. In the past, these guys (and, yes, they are mostly guys) have been able to operate with only the slightest anxiety of ever being caught. Today all of that changes. Forever.

Predators, you have been put on notice. Your time is coming.




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