This will be a little cryptic as I’m still struggling to process the immediate implications and the long-term, big picture impact.
I’ve been communicating with an estranged family member for a few years now. Today, I took a gamble, tried to ask questions to figure out more.
My instinct said not to go there, that it was the proverbial can of worms. It definitely was. Self-imposed isolation. Pain. Much like a sister of mine.
I talked to my father after I decided to lock the door behind me and to get rid of the key, for now. He told me basically what I already knew, but in a little more detail. This is his older brother’s eldest daughter. I told him yes, she’s preparing to shut everyone out, including him.
What did I ask about? Those of you that know me very, very well should be able to put together some of the pieces. It’s another side of the coin to what triggers me. My pain. But more like a mirror image.
I tried to explain myself, but, I still shut the door- probably getting rid of all of my explanations. Intuition says she’s not ready to hear it. Unfortunate, but, I prepared for it, at least logically, if not emotionally.
It stings like hell. But I had another ace in the hole: the mammalian dive reflex, part of the T.I.P.P. strategy. Invoke the reflex with a cold pack between eyes and cheek bones, bending at the waist, holding my breath for 30 seconds- as if I was diving into icy cold water. I’d read about it before- it’s saved children from drowning in in the same. An evolutionary remnant, the reflex shuts down the body, and in a #DBT context, it forces the body to slow down immediately, overriding the fight/flight/fawn/freeze response. Maybe like a soft reboot- not a hard reboot, like I’ve had when the lights go out, but I stay at home in the back of my mind- if I understand Claire Cappetta just right.
It didn’t work immediately; I’m not sure if I did it perfectly right. But I feel calmer. And what felt like a loss at first- feels more like a victory. I’m one step closer.
If it isn’t already bleedingly obvious right now, I’m on a blogging hiatus.
I am so tired.
A quick note- there will be a little salt in the following words. If coarse language offends you, I won’t be offended in turn if you gloss over the next parts, or even stop reading. I will be grateful if you continue, however.
Hit the road, Jill
I trounced Boy’s ABA therapist. As in I told her to get out. Then, I could only take so much of her boss blowing smoke up my ass. It’s a semi-long story that I just don’t have time or energy to elaborate on right now.
I am very excited to have a new artist- Saphyre Rain- to write press for We Heart Music. (What’s We Heart Music? For those who haven’t been here over the long, long slog, leave me a comment, and I’ll explain. For now: a music blog I wrote for back in the day.) It’s comprised of a husband and wife duo singing about hope for suicide and self-harm issues, which are very personal and important to me. I’ve been corresponding with Amanda, the singer/guitarist of the group, and she’s been very congenial… I’m grateful she specifically asked me to take my time.
Errrrrgggh, this is so frustrating. I’m really frustrated!
I’m so frustrated, in a certain way. cough No, won’t elaborate. It doesn’t help that Cimmorene has a new memory about being molested by a caregiver when she was 3. Why thank you, fate. Yes, I will have another bitch slap, please.
More work on this post than I was expecting. I’m still tired.
It takes effort to distill thoughts to 120 characters, but Twitter is less exhausting… as was discussed in the previous post.
I am so, so tired… life just keeps getting harder, not easier
Just some highlights:
Neru’s online friend, apparently, is a dirty middle-aged man trying to groom her? I told my father- how are we going to honestly file a report when we have no return address or full name?
I had a hot date with Cimmorene, a CT machine, a radioactive isotope, and a nuclear bone scanner Tuesday.
Wednesday was meeting with the doctor, getting poked AGAIN for the second day in a row, and showing Dad how my stereo stuff I gave to him years ago works.
Poor Skittles (my parents’ cat). He skewered himself in the pit of his right front leg, and he has to wear a cone of shame. He is miserable being confined inside. If we cat-sit for him next week (parents are going to Utah for my brother-in-law and niece’s birthdays), we may need to spend a LOT of laptime with him.
More to come, dear readers. Stay tuned
What a time for pain to be hitting me even harder, dear readers.
Maybe it’s just as well.
Suicide is an ugly topic for me. It cast a long, long shadow and was right at the very beginning of my 30+ years of therapy. Yes, I mean I considered it myself… and made a very half-hearted attempt.
The bitterly ironic thing was I came much closer when I wasn’t trying as such– like the drug OD, or breathing gasoline fire. (Yes, a story I haven’t told yet.)
I am a survivor of suicide– one of my dear childhood friends took his own life. It was very frustrating for me, because I’d had the pleasure of reconnecting with him not too long before, in my church’s young adult congregation at the time (which was huge because it covered over 5 small cities). The obituary was vague- something about him being stationed in Germany, leaving behind a wife and an infant child. The horrors of war, with all the PTSD it entails, I can only suppose.
I’ve been harrassed online because I refused to condemn another man who took his own life as selfish. That too is a long story unto itself– he was a convicted child molester– and many of you may know, that other prisoners view them as lower than the scum of the earth.
But having experienced suicidal thoughts, and other artifacts of the many traumas I have been through– many I haven’t even begun to detail here– I couldn’t.
Consider joining me on the #spsm Twitter chat to learn more. It’s intense at times, because the live stream consists of five professionals (psychiatrists, therapists et al) who do talk a lot of job. But many of them wear pirate hats. There is good news beyond the lapses into jargon and intellectual words (don’t worry, I freely admit I’m guilty too, especially with technobabble), and there is hope. Not to mention they are very actively doing good; taking action beyond mere words.
I now have a collapsing disc just above the fused vertebrae, and awful swelling around the bone graft of the fusion.
Just how far can the pain go?
Thinking on my experiences with domestic violence— yes, sadly, that is a thing I’ve witnessed, and experienced. Lindsay Fischer (then as Sarafina Bianco) and Amy Thompson welcomed me into #domesticviolencechat, another Twitter chat that intersected with the #sexabusechat community. I wasn’t sure I fit in, at first… much like the other Twitter communities I mentioned. But I was nevertheless accepted.
We’re all wondering where Timothy (@GerhardTimothy) is and that he’s okay. I especially value the conversations we had, because then it was easier to feel okay as a man in the chat discussions.
I’ve told Amy a little bit about my experience, but haven’t told anyone else much in full. That will change, soon. I think Lindsay and Amy encourage my perspective (they’ve said this to me numerous times in various ways) because it adds more scope to the issue. It’s not just a woman’s issue, and it’s not just an issue between couples. In my experience, it involves generations of families- although such matters are usually discussed in abuse contexts (child abuse, adult abuse, etc.)
I think it’s also time to bring out the Redemption of the Four Kingdoms material. It’s long overdue, actually– if many of you remember my teasings and many cryptic references to it, I’ll be amazed.
But so much of this writing is difficult to do when I am drowning in wave after wave of agonizing pain. I’ll have to do it in bits and pieces. I’ll probably write posts that I feel are lacking in quality, although I want to cut down on the perfectionistic traps and toxic habits mingled in such thinking.
I will try to sleep now, dear readers… it’s 02:39 as of this writing where I am. I hope the pain will ebb, and the terrifying nightmares stop. Only about a week ago, I dreamt I was molested and raped. Again. In a different way. It felt so real, but I’d never experienced it in real life. How?
Those of you that are in my abuse and PSTD survivor Twitter support groups might be familiar with my Sanity Sign series. What you might not know is how it got started, or how far back the inspiration goes.
I’m a big Depeche Mode fan.
There was a particular album cover that I just adored. Granted, I’d gotten the image during the compact disc era, when gorgeous art that had covered vinyl LP jackets were shrunk to the jewel cases that CDs came in. This image was for the single “Get The Balance Right“:
This song really resonated with me, and I figured that the Town, Country & Planning’s (TC&P) design for the artwork was based on construction signs (especially as the single was released around the year “Construction Time Again” was an album).
So I did a lot of artwork based on the image- variations of street signs that I could think of, and such. I don’t think I’ve managed to save very much of it, but there was this:
North Hall was a dormitory I stayed in, while attending Whitman College from 1994-1995.
Then I decided to recreate some of the images I’d made in 2010, as part of a card I sent to a pen pal Down Under:
About three or four years passed, and I started getting involved in a Twitter chat called #sexabusechat, as I heard about it from a prolific blogger. A particular quote from this person seemed to fit this old theme of mine. (See Rachel Thompson reminds us that we are a Work In Progress.) This image was the result:
which was largely modified from the standard US crossing traffic sign, because I wasn’t too sure if TC&P Associates’ designs were under copyright.
Then I found someone on RedBubble doing artwork based on DM album covers. I figured if any attorneys connected to DM weren’t chasing after him, and the artwork remained up there (and is still there, last I checked), my own use and modification was fair game.
So I grabbed this image:
Sometime later, I went and made a digital recreation of one of my original images, heavily modifying the image I’d taken above.
As I said, I’d done a number of variations in the distant past, but of course, the Internet had come a LONG way since I started making this image in 1993. Standard symbols featured on U.S. and international street signs were easier to find by way of Google Images. I decided that the image above would be my trademark signature, and so I started putting it into subsequent projects, like this one I did for Aussa, based on a comment from one of her readers.
Like all recovering perfectionists, however, I wasn’t satisfied with the fonts I was using. I wanted something that was close to Clearview, which is what the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) uses. I found that a font called “Highway Gothic” had been created, which was free of charge. And so I grabbed it and started incorporating it into my following projects, like this one:
I hadn’t had much success in the past using scalable vector graphics (SVG) before, at least not as far as producing images completely from scratch. But once again, my rabid perfectionism pushed me back to try again. Since I was sharing these images with my Twitter followers, and I had to resize many of them over and over again, I found raster-based graphics (using the GIMP) didn’t scale very well. There was too much pixelation, making the work look rough. Over time, I found many stock images (that is, the standard symbols I referred to earlier) were available in SVG formats.
So I fired up Inkscape and remained determined to make something. This image was the first result:
and used Inkscape again with excellent results for this last project I did:
I hope I’ve demonstrated that my work is improving. I’m not the same sort of artist as my wife Cimmorene (@wavemistress) is, or my daughter (@YellowNeru)– I think they are much more talented in traditional freehand methods. But this is inspiring to me.
[EDIT November 30th, 2015] I decided to recreate one of my designs from the 1990s, and elaborate on it a little more:
You can find the Sanity Sign series, and some other old artwork I’ve brought way, way back from the dead to get new life at jaklumen.deviantart.com.
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”.
(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.
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
.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”.
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.
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.
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!