the tao of jaklumen

the path of the sage must become the path of the hero

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A Survivor’s Journey: The Challenge of Triggers & the Media

Words are not coming easily to me right now.  This is a really difficult subject.  But I know it’s important, so I give you dear readers my thoughts on how media reporting can be very insensitive to abuse survivors, particularly for those still recovering from sexual abuse.

A change of topic

This week the topic for #CSAQT, #sexabusechat, and the Google Hangout on Air for Trauma Recovery University was going to be about procrastination.  That topic has been pushed back a week, and the topic now is “How to cope with news, the media and triggering stories”.

Image credit: gender-focus.com It’s WordPress content, which I think is always a bonus

(Given this acknowledgement, please note that trigger warnings start now.)

I panicked a bit at this abrupt change.  I perceived that the impetus for this change was that a number of people in the U.S.-based chat (#sexabusechat) were reeling from the news stories about Josh Duggar.  I think the article for him on Wikipedia summed it up best:

In May 2015 it became public that when Duggar was between the ages of 14 and 15 years old, he molested five girls, some of whom were his sisters.

I was reassured by Bobbi Parish that topic focus would remain neutral, and that discussion of specific news stories would be stopped, in order to avoid further triggers for participants.

Image credit: wizbangblog.com

Now, I have thoughts of my own in regards to patriarchial blowhards having their dirty laundry revealed, which I’ll get to later.  What triggered me very hard recently was news stories about women sexually assaulting teenage boys– the likes of Mary Kay LeTourneau, Debi LaFave, Linda Lusk, and Shelley Dufresne– and the media revisiting many of their lives, often with a perspective that I find whitewashed.

I also noted that many Twitter users in the UK, including those attending #CSAQT had their own news stories that they found re-traumatizing and difficult to swallow, including investigations of government officials and entertainment figures, including Jim Saville, Rolf Harris, and in particular of late, Greville Janner.

Please bear with me, dear readers.  It is a real challenge for me to articulate my feelings on so much of this, in a way that is not ugly or accusatory.  There are so many thoughts, feelings, and experiences I’ve had– many of them that actually shaped my understanding about my abuse, my recovery, and how so many friends and family around me experienced such as well; sometimes as victims, and sometimes as perpetrators.

Accusations and learning the real nature of rape

Cycle of DV, but it seems to apply here. Image credit: helpguide.org

.In early 1993, I was trying to piece myself back together.  I had been accused of raping my girlfriend at the time, by one of her roommates.  Now I knew that The Roommate was a survivor of incest, because The Girlfriend told me so.  She also had warned me that her roommate was convinced that I would rape her, and we were caught in a compromising position that The Roommate was certain was proof.  She demanded that The Girlfriend call police, which she did, although she didn’t press charges.  What did me in, so to speak, was that I trusted too many of my peers, trying to assuage my pain, and the rumor mill went into overdrive, which led to my church bishop at the school (this was an LDS-affiliated junior college) withdrawing his endorsement, and my ultimate expulsion.  The rumor mill had already been shaming me for my emerging sexuality with women; I have no idea if they were fully aware of my emerging sexuality with men.  (That would come two schools later.)

I didn’t understand everything The Girlfriend told me, but a lot of it started falling into place talking with my youngest sister.  One story she shared was about one of her friends.  She disapproved of her promiscuous choices, but she was sure much of it stemmed from the fact that her friends’ father had been molesting her friend, and that she therefore was confusing sexual activity with affection.  It dawned on me then that much of what The Girlfriend was telling me was indicative that her father had molested her, and I told my sister as much.  It certainly explained the attitudes she described about her father criticizing her clothing and her beauty– and that her roommates were accordingly protective of her.

Another story that my sister told me around the same time was that a friend of hers had been molested by her brother.  She was very upset because there was such a heavy emphasis on her friend “forgiving” her brother, and that said brother was being allowed to serve a mission for our church.  She very much felt that such a serious wrong had not been properly addressed.

At that time of my accusations, I felt that I was guilty.  This wasn’t the very first time I explored intimacy with a girl, but it was the first time it was explicitly sexual, including heavy petting.  But I was repressed enough that I didn’t really know how certain things worked.  At the time, I didn’t know what mutual masturbation was.  All I knew was, “If I have done this to her, why do I feel like I’m dying inside when she does it to me?”  Now, years later, my sister and I further discussed attitudes in our church culture.  She described to me an attitude of “boys just can’t help themselves”, with a heavy emphasis of vigilance handed to the girls.  I told her that I experienced heavy shame as a young man by contrast, that I was deeply shamed for my sexual curiosity.

Now I say I felt guilty because I believed The Roommate’s accusations.  About a year later in 1994, I started reaching out on the Internet, and shared my story with a rape survivor.  My worldview began to change when she told me I was definitely NOT guilty.

The darkness of child abuse

It was almost another 10 years before I really started coming to grips with my mother abusing me- the sexual abuse at age 6, and the many, many years of emotional abuse.

It would be well over a half decade before I realized even more implications.

Please note, dear readers, that the next part I talk about I describe sparsely, because it’s not my story to tell.  But I can certainly empathize a bit with my UK friends.

A few years ago, one of my in-laws was investigated by the FBI, as child porn was discovered on their computer.  Please, dear readers, I ask that you suspend harsh judgment.  I’ve had to make some very hard decisions, along with my wife Cimmorene, on how photos of our children are to be shared on the Internet, and I feel that it has been harder, based on the implications of this issue.  I do not feel danger from this relative (I feel that they have addressed this to the extent that they do not pose a threat), but, I am concerned about other users.  I also have a very difficult time accepting nudity of young boys as art– I very firmly believe that even that should be avoided.  But I can’t force this relative not to view certain media; I can only make rules about photos of my children.  Please understand that I am much more concerned about the company of users said relative keeps, rather than the relative in particular.

I’ve written about fears of pedophilic predators threatening my family on the Internet before.  I won’t link to them at this time.

What bothers me about media portrayals

I think the common thread that I will eventually discuss with others in chat is that the media, as I said before, are not reporting matters of sexual abuse in a way that is sensitive to survivors.

For example, what bothered me about media stories concerning women like Mary Kay LeTourneau and Linda Lusk was that certain media outlets, in my opinion, were whitewashing their stories.  In particular, ABC News and the news show 20/20 revisited Mary Kay LeTourneau recently.  I, Bobbi, and others I know were very upset that Barbara Walters referred to the sexual abuse as “an affair”.

Bobbi summarized her thoughts in Mary Kay LeTourneau is Not a Lover, She’s a Rapist.  To summarize what I said in response (as it appeared on the Good Men Project):

MKLT presented her story as love, not rape.  So many years later, it almost seemed like Barbara Walters and 20/20 chose to believe that narrative– “See, she was right.  It was about love all along.”

But it’s still rape, although it would seem that that when women sexually assault men, their motives and perspective are rather different than that of male perpetrators.  Yet it’s still about power and control, not reciprocal intimacy.

And yes, I do feel like the media all too often serves it up like titillating porn.  There seems to be a double standard here.  If Mike LaFave is right– that women like his ex-wife Debi do it to reassure themselves of their youth and beauty– then the news stories reinforce that idea.  The stories that seem to get the most press show photos of female offenders with well-applied makeup and aesthetically good looks.  Sometimes, they are even smiling.

A selfie by Shelley Dufresne, allegedly from her Instagram account, and believed to be in response to her light court sentence. Probably not wise when under the spotlight of public opinion. Image credit: posture.doonks.com

The final analysis

But as I think really hard about it, one thing seems to be consistent.  Whether the media reports on men or women committing sexual crimes, they seem to reinforce old gender stereotypes.  The male perpetrators are handling the situation, and the female perpetrators are still young and beautiful.  If the male perpetrators are not handling the situation, well, they are old, and their mental health is failing.

For the news sites that still allow commenting, some of the worst stereotypes come out in the comments as well.  Such comments I remember on teacher sex crimes went something like this:

  • “The kid probably initiated it, not the teacher!”
  • “I doubt that boy feels victimized.  He likely feels lucky!”  (Usually, the news story said that that school officials became aware of the incident, because victims were ‘bragging’ to other students.)

Most comments I’ve seen generally don’t condone such ideas, but, I’ve seen at least a few perpetrate such prejudice.

I’m not sure what the ultimate solution is.  Hopefully, I will get some insight in the next couple of days, from chatmates and other Twitter friends.  I suspect that possible solutions will include setting limits and boundaries as to media consumption, and to strategically determine the best times, places, and circumstances to speak out.  It’s possible that some may say that the writing process is one way to do that, as well as a means of coping in healthy ways.

 

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Compassion for the Survivors

I have done a lot of artwork for Trauma Recovery University, to illustrate concepts I am learning about.

In #sexabusechat tonight, someone wrote about wanting to embroider “Knock It Off” and “Made With Love” on a pillow.  Others came up with additional phrases, and I thought they would go well on conversation hearts:

and I remembered that Rachel Thompson had shared a conversation hearts generator some time, back during the Valentine’s season.  So I put a few phrases through that generator, and put it to a collage.  The following was the result:

Collage of Survivor Conversation Hearts. Made with cryptogram.com and collage.com

Now, there is more to be found, but, I figure that it’s just easier to point you dear readers to my Pinterest board.  I avoided Pinterest for the longest time, figuring it was more for moms sharing recipes and the like (like my youngest sister does), but, collecting images on survivorship and recovery from abuse on Pinterest made sense to me, and so I joined.

Oh.  Right.  I guess it’s time to connect my Pinterest account to this blog.  For now, you may find me at https://www.pinterest.com/jaklumen/. The main board I add to is “jak & #NoMoreShame”, but, I do see now that it helps me manage visual content, and so I have a board for Monomyth images, too.

Special thanks to Serins for spotlighting this image

AthenaMoberg-empathyfor 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, and showing me that my artwork can have an impact, far beyond where I initially put it out.

Work In Progress v. 2


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[WIP] Return with Elixir, Rick Belden is Iron Man

Nerve pain… excruciating nerve pain…

I just haven’t had the energy or wherewithal to write a full post.

What’s under the hood right now:

  1. My father saw the razor cuts on my forearm… all about sharing with my father what I’m learning about survivorship, recovery from abuse, and so on.
  2. Mother’s Day, my mother retired from Social Security, and my daughter had a birthday.
  3. Rick Belden shared some posts about Iron Man on Twitter that IMMEDIATELY caught my attention.  The first one was a review of the 2008 movie with Robert Downey, Jr. and the second one was an essay of why he had been drawn to the character of Iron Man in Marvel Comics as a boy.

Rick Belden’s treatise of Iron Man seemed especially apt as he references Monomyth stages to the plot of the movie: the wasteland, the wound, and the cave.  He also references “confronting the false father”, which I remember being mentioned mostly in feminist treatises on Monomyth stories featuring women heroes (the Heroine’s Journey, if you will).  It has shown up in other contemporary works featuring male heroes.  I recognized it in the Equilibrium series of posts here, specifically: Final Fight: Confronting the Powerless Father and Atonement with the Mother.

In short, just as John Preston had to face Vice Counsel Dupont as the political figurehead known as “Father”, so also Tony Stark had to face Obadiah Stane.

Cover of Iron Man Family Outing. All rights reserved to Rick Belden

Belden, of course, explains that his inspiration was the basis for his first book, Iron Man Family Outing : Poems About Transition Into A More Conscious Manhood.  Also not surprisingly, the Masculinity-Movies site is connected to Robert Bly’s Iron John: A Book About Men, or at least by way of Robert Moore and Doug Gilette’s King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine.  (TL;DR: Jungian archetypes.)

 

 

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Boundaries. Trust. To write love on my arms.

Trigger warning: I am about to write about subjects such as self-harm, self-mutilation, co-dependency, emotional enmeshment, and so on.  There will be at least one photo.  Please, please take care if such things upset you, especially if any of these are issues for you too, dear readers.

Looking back

Yes, I’m going to write about it, now.  Maybe some of you remember To write love on her arms (it’s a short post, so I have included most of it, as follows):

Two years ago, I learned that my daughter turned to cutting to deal with the crushing stress in her life.

She turned to it again two nights ago when Cimmorene lost it with Boy when he would not go to bed for several hours.  Cimmy let me know, because she knew I wouldn’t be angry– how could I?  I dealt with it myself.

I cut myself years ago when I was in a stressful romantic relationship that ended with false accusations of rape.  Cimmy wasn’t around then, but she was when I started cutting again, as the university we were attending was soaked in scandal, and the music department especially was mired in dirty politics between professors.  When she miscarried before our son was born… more cuts.

So all I could do was listen to my daughter, and tell her more about my struggles with this issue.

The problem at hand

Yep, I’m having problems again.  If I did this right, hopefully the photo doesn’t show immediately in my blog feed.  Here comes the photo:

This is what the inside of my left forearm looks like, although the cuts have faded a little bit.

This is what the inside of my left forearm looks like, although the cuts have faded a little bit.

Why?  Well, I won’t name names.  I don’t think that’d do any good.  But I got pretty angry and upset with some people.  About all I will say is that a few people were discussing something in one of my support groups, using language and descriptions that I found VERY triggering.  A great big push on the “But I’m a Good Boy!” button.

One of them is a co-founder of said group.  I didn’t trust my intuition when I met this person about a year or so ago, but BIG RED alarms and flags were going off in my mind.  This person did, said, and wrote things… whole books, even, that I find incredibly sexist.

I will leave it at that.  I hate being a sensitive person sometimes; or rather, I don’t like that I have a very difficult time filtering out other people’s bad vibes.  I’m still learning to set boundaries and put distance.  I had to end a few social activities because the hosts, or the participants, were just unpleasant, slightly anti-social folks.

Oh… yes, my daughter knows about the cuts.  We have an understanding, you see.  Not that we think it’s okay, but that we know why we do it.  sigh but just the other day, my father saw them.  I’m not ready to talk to him about it just yet.  I’m not sure he even knows this is a thing with me, even after all these years.

What I’m doing about it

I do have a therapist, now.  I haven’t met with her for a full session, yet; she came with my case manager to meet me in my home, and then I talked with her some more when I dropped by some background information.  She took a moment to show me around her office, get a sense of things so I could be comfortable.  I will meet with her towards the end of the month, but I will probably drop by now and then, so I might continue to collaborate, to prepare beforehand.

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all

I’ve learned that the spouse of a fairly prominent WordPress blogger (who is also currently imprisoned), an ertswhile blogger in their own right, passed away earlier this week.

Despite the call for letters of support; I’m sorry, but I won’t be sending one.  I have a really, really difficult time with trust– trusting either full-on, or not at all, and my last interaction ended towards not at all.  I don’t consider myself a cruel, heartless individual, but when things were well, this person just didn’t seem to consider me worth the notice.  I understand things are quite bad, now, but, I’m struggling with my own problems, too.

Bloggers, even before this news, asked for letters to be sent.  I was sorely tempted to quietly send something scathing.  I must have been graced by the better part of wisdom, somehow, because I didn’t.  Now… I’m not able to do such a thing for the sake of social niceties.  This person didn’t really ever interact with me.  I think it would be disingenuous and insincere to try to pretend otherwise.

A final word

I’m not broadcasting blog posts to Twitter for now– I I was considering deactivating Twitter entirely, but I didn’t.  But… I’m not going to use it to promote my blog material for now.  shrug See for yourself, dear readers.  I appreciate all your comments, I truly do.  But you do see that they number about 3 to a half dozen, on average.  The art of SEO eludes me, and apparently, I’m not writing much that appeals to a wide variety of people.

But I realize that your interactions are genuine, and real.  And for that, I’m grateful.

Why Trust is Worth It – With Ze Frank & Cirque du Soleil

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I’m more familiar with Ze Frank’s humorous videos, but he does some serious ones every now and then.

This one hit home for me, very deep.  Trust is hard for survivors, especially when it’s been ripped from us at a tender age and often in brutal ways, sometimes in ways that can’t easily be seen or even noticed.

Please, dear readers, watch this video.  It’s relatively short, but I am sure it will be worth your time.

p.s. I’m still on hiatus, sort of.  I’ll be happy to respond to your comments, but things are still pretty raw and painful right now.  If I don’t get back to you right away, know that I will get back to you, in time.  Thanks for your support, and understanding– as always!

cPTSD word cluster


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jak is down for (re)construction

Dear readers,

I am in a dark, dark, dark spot– hopefully the last of dark, before the light.

I feel SO angry.  I feel SO betrayed, SO used.

I don’t know how to explain it without risking alienating some of you, without risking losing your support.  Maybe I’ll be able to talk about it some when I get back.

But I’ve got to go away for a while.  Go away and see if I can get some of these festering inner wounds to heal.  Go away and hope that maybe others will forget, although I will probably always remember, and probably never EVER trust them again.

I know that I’m dealing with cPTSD.  I… don’t expect you to ever understand, unless you’re experiencing this, too.

This is an image I found by way of Google Image search– but it’s from a dear woman named Lilly (https://healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.wordpress.com) who I’ve talked to some. She is AWESOME. She knows this. She is one who has really helped me understand cPTSD; because she’s been there. I aspire to her courage, openness, and strength.

Goodbye for now, dear readers.  I hope to be back soon.  We’ll see.

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A Blogger’s Journey: Seizing the Sword/Grasping the Hammer

jaklumen:

Tonight, my father and I talked about complex PTSD, my experience with it, and the latest on my family and our journey of late.

I’m not sure how to tell him he has suffered abuse, too, although some things he’s said he seems to understand this on some level.

Originally posted on the tao of jaklumen:

JOR-EL: The Kryptonian prophecy will be at last fulfilled. The son becomes the father – the father becomes the son.

I am one with my father. Our struggles are now acknowledged to be intertwined. But it is not so… elegant as Jor-El and Kal-El becoming one. We are united in our pain (and I could sense it for so many years).

United in abuse.

My friend Bobbi Parish told me last night that his immune disorders, the pancreatitis, and so on– are marks of long-term abuse. Abuse from his father, my grandfather, who beat him when he spasmed in the night, not knowing what else to do. Abuse from my mother and her parents, my grandparents, who witheringly disapproved of him for many, many years.  And more… more I am probably unaware of consciously.

I see abuse as a corruption to our natural weaknesses, marinating in fear, hatred, and…

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