Posts Tagged ‘sexual abuse’


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.

 

 

 




ACE (Adverse Childhood Events): The Most Important Trauma Study You’ve Never Heard About

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In order to understand why his obesity patients were dropping out of a successful weight loss program, Dr. Vincent Felitti dived into their medical records and interviews for clues. What he found launched a several year study that has enrolled more than 17,000 people. These patients were talking about incest, abuse and neglect, extreme adversity in their childhoods.

The Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Felitti with Kaiser Permanente launched a study to look at adverse childhood events and their effect on health and longevity over the lifespan. 

What is an adverse childhood event? For the purposes of the study it is:

– sexual abuse 
– physical abuse
– emotional abuse
– physical neglect
– emotional neglect
– a home where the mother was treated violently
– substance abuse in the home
– mental illness in the home
– parental separation or divorce
– one or more parents imprisoned

Count up the categories that apply to you. That gives you your ACE score. Anything above 4 predisposes people to substance abuse, dysfunction and health issues among other things. People with the highest scores died on average 20 years earlier than people with low ACE scores. (For more information about the mechanisms of these effects see my earlier blog posts on the HPA Axis.)

You can check out more information about the study here. Highly recommended reading for everyone: those of us who suffered difficult childhoods, caregivers, treaters and public policy setters.

This can feel overwhelming as we delve into the truth. The good news is that we are beginning to finally come to terms with the widespread effects of trauma and PTSD and the need to heal from it!




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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