the tao of jaklumen

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

Internet Hug


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#1000Speak: Hugs for the Survivors

I think just about everyone had a teddy bear at one point, didn’t they?

My father had one named “Boo Woo”.

I had a number of teddy bears, with different names.  One of them, I’d take the tag and stick my thumb in it before sucking.  For some reason, it made my thumb taste better, although sometimes I’d get it caught.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, dear readers, I shouldn’t have to remind you of some of the ugly parts of my childhood.  I was bullied and abused at school and church as well as home, especially during my preteen years in middle school.  I think that was about the time that I finally started to banish cuddly toys from a space on my bed.

Rather odd that any boy would bully another over that, though, considering the history of the teddy bear.

The teddy bear was named for Theodore Roosevelt, easily the most badass president the United States of America ever had. (Image credit: hdimagegallery.net)

Image credit: buzzle.com

I came back to cuddly toys after marrying Cimmorene.  She offered me Milo, who still occupies a space in the master bedroom.  She decided to buy me a Bekin-made bear, whom I named “Buster” for the movie Phil Collins made famous.

Because I was still sensitive about being bullied, I’d loan him to my children, especially my son.  I’d tell him Buster needed to store up more hugs.

Sister #1 used to collect Beanie Babies.  She decided to gift her collection to my folks so that grandchildren (mostly my children, and my niece and nephew who are Sister #2 JenntheAmazon’s kids) could play with them.

This delighted Princess to no end:

Monkey Girl gives Monkey a ride

It wasn’t too long until Boy started loving on the Beanie Babies.  His current case manager for counseling has a small collection in her desk drawer, and it turns out that one of them (“Goatie”) was the very same kind I sent Aussa for a bridal gift.

Both Aussa and “Snack Cake” Deborah (who spearheaded a Heifer International campaign for the Great Goat Shower) were amused by this pic.

Aussa’s going to have to monitor Pinterest now, since Pinning this image was the quickest way to grab it. Image credit: aussalorens.com

Of course, I was just expecting that she’d quietly get the gift of the Beanie Baby and the “got goats” window decal, with little fanfare.  Nope!

I just about fell out of my chair when I saw that tweet.  No way could I shrug it off, saying, “Well, it was cheap.”

So it was just easier to tweet about the awesomeness of Beanie Babies.

When I first started having back pain, Cimmy got this snake Beanie Baby for me.  I can’t remember what the Ty corporation gave it for a name, but I dubbed him “Bruno”.  He’s currently guarding my mini red wastebin full of scissors and pens and is on the shelf just above my computer monitor.

Anyways… my point in all these rambling stories is that hugs are essential, and as a survivor, if I can’t get one right away from a loved family member or friend, I will take it from a cuddly buddy, even if it’s not alive.  I am lucky that living creatures will give me physical touch, however– this includes my parents’ talkative cat, Skittles:

Skittles & Roger

My father and Skittles. Image credit: Dad Pratt at Flickr

Skittles and Cimmy

Skittle and Cimmy, during a housesitting visit

to Jenn’s stupid but loveable beagle mix, Dexter:

and a schnauzer named Oscar, who barks his fool head off whenever anyone comes to visit.  (Jenn probably hasn’t done a video with him because he’s just too excitable.)

Hugs are POWERFUL.

Image credit: socialgreetings.net

Princess gets really stressed out when Cimmorene and I fight and argue, and, no surprise, she feels that her little brother is a chi vampire (meaning, he steals energy, or more literally, in Western terms, “the breath of life”).  Yes, I know that’s not quite fair– he can’t help his struggles with autism– but, it’s still difficult.

After an intense family council meeting reviewing our mood charts (we made some so Boy would better be able to recognize emotions), she drew a rather raw, dark portrait of herself.  So, if you look at the image just above, I gave her a hug, without too many words.  I let her hold it as long as she wanted.

Dear readers, we survivors need hugs.  Are you part of the 1000 Voices for Compassion movement?  What more can we do to be more compassionate towards each other?

Special thank you to Serins, who sends us hugs in her comments.

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REBLOG: Masks Aren’t a Precious Asset (mattheweatonwriter.com)

From Matthew Eaton: Writer | Child Abuse Survivor, Writer, Blogger- Finding My Voice One Post At A Time

Masks Aren’t a Precious Asset –.

Matt is using WordPress.org, which is the full-on, DIY, self-hosted WP.  Maybe there’s a plug-in that would allow WordPress.com-style reblogging, but, none that I know of.  If I wasn’t so horridly in pain, I would have done the proper blog thing and wrote up a lovely comprehensive post of my own, instead of using the “Press This” bookmarklet.

Anyways, to my point- someone caught me wearing my mask a few weeks ago.  I waited for things to blow over before making an apology, but, they didn’t, and I was compelled by said person’s spouse to give one.

Please, read Matt’s post, to understand this mask analogy.

 

Image credit: http://www.theliberaloc.com


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Taken out of Context and Other Stressors

English: Example Project Context Diagram

English: Example Project Context Diagram (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post isn’t going to be as polished as I would like.

But as the title indicates, one of them is being taken out of context.  Dear readers, those of you who are actively reading and communicating with me, please rest assured this isn’t you.  Actually, anyone that has even left a “Like”, I assure you, it isn’t you.

I was given a name, but I’m not sure who it was.  This person, however, felt the need to sound the alarm to an extended family member, hmm, like an in-law of an in-law, if you will, over something I said in one paragraph in a very long blog post.  I gave very few specifics, but this person connected the dots in such a way that they thought a Yellow Alert was needed.

Cthulhu Warning

Yeah, this sums it up pretty well, I think. Image credit: Oscar J. Baeza (as seen at Flickr)

And then our telephone rang.  Cimmy answered it, and even after much wrangling like Abbott and Costello in “Who’s On First?” to figure out who’s tongue started wagging in the first place, I still have no idea whom this person might be.

The weather is still wracking my nerves, and today was stressful enough- much shouting, crying, and such from various family members.  Princess put a few more cuts on her arm.  I told her she should use a clean blade, not a soda can.  Now, now, dear readers… I’d rather she not at all.  I was worried she used one of my shaving razors, but yes, I did say that, explaining I thought it better not to risk infection.

And yes, there’s still a lot of hurdles for getting therapy covered.  I don’t want to force her into anything– no way would I want her having similarly terrible experiences as I did.


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Why!?

Tired. Reblogging something from a Twitter chatmate about CSA within family, and trauma bonds. She mentions Matt Eaton; he & I have discussed this as well. Will write more as energy allows.

The Redheaded Wonderblog

A new (and very supportive) Twitter friend of mine, the @RealMattEaton, and I have an unfortunate common bond: childhood abuse by our family. Matt and I “met” in a Monday night #sexabusechat and have shared a few meandering conversations since.  For some reason, he always seems to be around in the Twitterverse and responds at just the moment when I need to be tweeted off the ledge. After my last therapy session, I was processing a few of my thoughts via Twitter and definitely needed to talk to someone who *gets it.* There was Matt again, ready to lend an ear. I am in awe of and very grateful for his repeated selflessness.

Anyway, as we messaged about my past and my tumultuous relationship with my parents, he asked me a question that, while I have certainly pondered in general terms, have not really been asked or asked myself so…

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Procrastination, Perfectionism and Blogging Perspective

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SanitySign-PP-crossing (Twitter)

I came up with this image to illustrate the topic for Trauma Recovery University‘s topic this week (which includes the #CSAQT and #sexabusechat Twitter chats as well as their Google Hangout video).

I was going to edit it into An Artist’s Journey: Get the Balance Right! but decided to give the image a post of its own, particularly after reading about the Community Pool at the Daily Post.  I figured it would be good to make some space here for bloggers to offer some feedback; I’m still trying to figure out what I must be missing after 11+ years of blogging and several reworks!

A few of you have been very kind to offer some feedback recently, but I could still use some help, dear readers.  Please be gentle; perfectionism and procrastination really is a stumbling block for me- not just in blogging.

What can I do to invite more conversations with you here?

Or am I just lost in my own little world?  (That’s okay; they know me here.)

Please let me know, in the comments below.

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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.