"It’s important for all those who want to protect kids from abuse to know that oftentimes abusers are very popular; they are so good; they are so sought-after. They’re attractive. That’s how they get away with years of abuse. It’s this disguise they are highly adept at wearing that lets them unleash years of soul-destroying abuse on children in their power. They hold the ropes and the child believes they want to keep them safe; the child believes that they care. Abusers convince everyone, probably even themselves, that they act out of “love.” They never ask themselves why the love they offer causes so many kids profound suffering or why it’s against the law.
If adults can’t recognize abusers, children are even less likely to realize that what’s happening is abuse and that it is doing damage of a kind they can’t see."
It is so important that we learn that child molesters are not the stereotypical loners with no social skills, but are quite the opposite. They aren't weird strangers, much of the time they are the charming, kind, popular adult. Sometimes even their teacher.
"I get it. I get why you constantly scare people. Fear gets higher ratings than brilliance.
But I am wondering, have you thought about the ramifications of portraying people with mental illness as evil, scary monsters who commit heinous crimes? Of telling only one story about mental illness? Of perpetuating the harmful stigma and then completely dropping the topic?
They are devastating.
One of the things that happens is that people who are suffering don't get help. Why would anyone want to admit that they are struggling with their mental health when they might be stereotyped as a terrible, crazy person? When they never see any hopeful cases of people receiving treatment and leading wonderful, productive, happy lives? When they bring up the subject and their friend rushes off to get a drink refill...
We make people feel isolated, alone, and like freaks.
We beg people who are suffering and suicidal to get help while at the same time shaming and stigmatizing them. We give mixed messages. Our shame is dated, unethical and cruel.
We are losing almost 3,000 people to suicide every day. This isn't just a startling statistic, it is someone's precious son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother, etc. It is someone's beloved family member or dear friend that they have tragically lost."
"We've known for a long time that only a relatively small number of abuse cases come to the attention of the authorities, but this report by the Children's Commissioner for England is a comprehensive attempt to measure and understand abuse that is hidden from view.
Its conclusion that only one child in every eight facing sexual abuse comes to the attention of the authorities is a staggering figure, but it does not surprise many working in the field.
Experts will often describe the abuse that is reported as the tip of the iceberg. This research attempts to measure the whole iceberg. "
It can be overwhelming to think about the number of people who either are, or were, abused during childhood. I prefer, instead to think about the number of people who have had this terrible experience, and been able to overcome it. That number should be our inspiration and our hope as survivors, while also motivating us to do better to prevent more children from having to experience it in the first place!
"There are important warning signs — knowing them could save someone close to you."
If you have teens, or spend a lot of time working with teens, reading this and learning the signs wouldn't be the worst idea.
"For months, Erin Hagerty tried to get the young boy to open up about his traumatic past. Instead, he spent entire sessions avoiding eye contact, staring at the wall and refusing to speak.
But Hagerty, a clinical psychologist with the Advocate Childhood Trauma Treatment Program didn't give up on the child, who had been abandoned by his parents and sexually abused by multiple relatives. She built predictable routines — like starting sessions with a joke — into each meeting. She offered him choices in activities, which helped him feel more in control.
In time, the boy learned to trust Hagerty and began sharing his feelings and experiences, while he and his new adoptive family learned how to work together. Eighteen months later, Hagerty said the young boy's smiling, playful and trusting personality epitomizes the importance of work done by the Advocate Childhood Trauma Treatment Program, one of only a few agencies in Illinois specializing in mental health treatment for children who have suffered trauma or sexual abuse."
We need more resources like this, and more people like Erin Hagerty, to help children learn to overcome at a young age rather than being traumatized well into adulthood.
"The experiences of abuse take us to a dark and heavy place that no one should ever know. It’s ugly, it’s painful, and it can swallow up everything good we ever knew. Moving on from these times isn’t a step-by-step process you can get from a therapist. It’s a journey. A lifetime of learning from today’s challenges by turning to the wisdom we gained from experiences of the past. It’s no simple process, but it’s a powerful one.
I’m years into my own journey now, with some of my hardest years actually coming as an adult. I went through a terribly painful relationship that took my childhood pains to a new extreme and was nearly the end of me. Hard as it was though, the pain eventually had me more determined than ever to change my life. I wanted to break the cycle I carried and show my children that we can rise above the darkest of times.
Breaking free of those traumatic years hasn’t been easy. I put a lot of work into breaking free from my past. And I mean a lot. But while I’m still very much a work in progress, I have found some simple ways to make life better than ever…"
Some decent advice in this article, especially the reminder that there is no "one way" step by step way to healing. Everyone is different and their journey will be different, but everyone is also capable of it!
"In the aftermath of the horrific episode, things went from bad to worst. Instead of sharing empathy with the victimized Imran, locals embarrassed him by sharing rumors about his “homosexual relationship” with Athar. The word spread like wildfire.
“Boys started taunting me,” he says. “They thought it was a consensual relationship while as the truth is that it was rape.”"
This story is from India, but that quote could be from just about anywhere. Boys who are molested by men are often faced with that choice, be silent and keep getting raped, or say something and be mocked as part of a homosexual relationship, and also probably continuing to get raped.
Not much of a choice.
Remember, no matter the size of the audience, if you are reaching one person you are doing something amazing.
I love this sentiment when we talk about our stories as survivors.
It’s the 10th-leading cause of death, but you’ll almost never see it mentioned in an obituary.
It kills as many people as breast cancer nationally, but it’s not recognizable by a ribbon or race.
In Ohio, it claims a life every seven hours.
Experts say this is 100 percent preventable. We can stop these deaths.
But we haven’t.
Like cancer in the 1960s and AIDS in the 1980s, suicide is a public-health crisis — one whose victims largely have been ignored by lawmakers, medical professionals and much of the public.
“These are the forgotten people,” said Jan Gorniak, the former Franklin County coroner who now is the deputy chief medical examiner in Washington, D.C. “It doesn’t make the newspaper, and it’s not on TV. We could save lives if we just talked about it. Mental-health problems are real, and we can’t ignore it any longer.”
"I learned something along my now 32 year journey as a survivor. For 27 years, I feared change. I believed the world owed me. I was angry. I couldn’t see past the error of my existence. In five years, my life changed when I admitted to myself; I was a survivor.
I speak with people I knew six years ago. They comment on how much I have changed. My old boss, who is now my co-worker, extols my change. He uses me as a reference to others who struggle with change.
“If Matt can change, anyone can change.”
Change isn’t an instantaneous event. The heavens won’t open up and angels won’t sing. The President won’t appear at your doorstep and hand you a Congressional Medal.
Change is a continual improvement process. The first thing to do is step away from what you fear. Open up about your experiences and strike up a dialogue."
I've always advocated a healing process that simply tries to keep improving, rather than having a hard and fast time in which we must be "healed". I focus on improvements, and whether I am headed in the right direction overall, not individual moments. This is a pretty good read for those struggling with the idea of change, and being a survivor.
Don;t be cold heearted. Learn how to be supportive instead!
"It is simply ‘shame shifting’ to suggest forgiveness is necessary. Victims of severe childhood abuse, should not be shamed in this way, or made to feel they are the ones in the wrong, for not forgiving as per someone else’s opinion and timeframe.
It is no-one’s right to suggest forgiveness is necessary, or how long a forgiveness journey should be."
It's your healing, no one else gets to tell you how to do it.
"Early life stress decreases the adult ability to feel enthusiasm and experience pleasure.
This is one of the reasons that experiencing stress early in life is a major risk factor for depression."
Interesting that this study shows up after I've written about the reality of how abused children do not have a normal development cycle. Still, good to see science recognizing it, and hopefully finding ways to overcome it!
"1. You probably see a specialist for everything else — mental health should be no different.
If you have a toothache, you see a dentist. If your vision is blurry, you see the optometrist. If you have a cold, you see your primary doctor. If you’re having mental struggles, why not see a therapist? It’s their job! A mental illness isn’t any “better” or “worse” than a physical one."
There are three reasons in the article, but really isn't this the only one we need?
"As a nation, Pakistan has not paid nearly enough attention to dealing with the issue. Meanwhile, thousands of innocent lives have fallen prey to various types of abuse — including physical, psychological and even sexual."
It's true of most countries, but it seems as if Pakistan is seeing the effects of not paying attention to child abuse for too long.
"So I write this as a plea, a request for help from everyone.
Please will you help us break the silence? Please will you find some time and give that man space to talk when he needs to. Please will you tell that boy that there is hope and healing is possible. Please will you remind people that boys and men get abused too. Please will you
challenge all notions that to be abused is to be weak. And please will you be as understanding as possible when dealing with us?
I ask this maybe for those that are struggling to find their voice in the hope that they see the silence can be broken. But maybe I ask this for me too. So I can be heard with more clarity, but also because I know what it feels like to carry that silence - I certainly never want to go back there."
"Young kids make decisions based on a set of rules they construct about the world around them – don't draw on the walls, don't spit your food, do eat your vegetables. As teenagers, we stop making decisions based on constructed rules and start independently weighing the risks and rewards of different options, but with a greatly reduced regard to risks.
Unlike their peers, people with anorexia never make the switch from following rules to flouting danger. If anything, their rules become more elaborate.
"Imagine if you had all of those rules and were really afraid of taking risks," says Kathleen Fitzpatrick, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "They experience a lot of distress when they don't follow the rules." That's why people with anorexia continue to do well in school, sports and other areas, she says. That's what the rules dictate.
But their rules also dictate strict eating patterns – and breaking those rules is extremely distressing, even if those rules dictate unhealthy habits."
This is interesting. Much as I've talked about before, the biggest issue with adults abused as children is that the normal process of growing up is short circuited, leaving some skills undeveloped. The same thing happens with mental health issues. The brain doesn't learn how to measure risks appropriately, it overstates some risks, while under-stating others. This creates an internal logic that doesn't fit reality, but can still be a struggle to overcome.
"But what happens when the hurtful actions are repetitive and ongoing? Or, when the person who has acted wrongly is not willing (or able) to make meaningful amends? Or when the wronged person is not ready to forgive?
In these circumstances, argues Dr. Janis Abrahms Spring, author of How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To, genuine forgiveness can only take place when the onus of responsibility rests on the person who acted wrongly to earn forgiveness, and that, in certain situations, the best option for the person who was mistreated or betrayed is to have the freedom to not forgive, and to instead turn to the healing power of acceptance, one of four approaches to forgiveness."
I know forgiveness is a difficult topic for many survivors. I've never been a big fan of the way most of us understand "forgiveness", because it's simply not a viable option for anyone who's been abused. I choose other ways of understanding forgiveness, which is a little more similar to acceptance. If you've struggled with the definition of forgiveness, take a look at these ideas and see if they can help you get a clearer vision of acceptance as a way to healing.
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