Breaking slience

Refuse the Shame, Break the Silence

If you’re a woman you’ve probably had your Harvey Weinstein moment, and you probably didn’t report your abuser. I get it. After my attempt to garner help from a perp-supporting yard teacher failed miserably, I gave up believing by seven years old, that I had any right to safety. In fact I came to believe there must be something shameful within me that caused these scary situations, so it was better to keep silent. Fortunately I learned I am not alone in making such horrid mis-attributions. The veritable crowd-sourcing event of Harvey W. survivors and victim supporters proves how deeply people do desire to report and stop abhorrent behavior, yet something also stops them. So the burning question is: what is it that causes the victims and confidants’ silence in the first place?!But the burning question is: why are we silent?!

Doctor Robert Firestone, author of Fear of Intimacy, combines decades of clinical practice and research to help explain the roots of this phenomenon.The cornerstone of his theory is referred to as The Fantasy Bond. Dr. Firestone built on Freud’s initial theories about the Ego Defense Mechanisms (ways that people avoid anxiety through displacement of their feelings):

In an attempt to partially alleviate the pain and anxiety of emotional deprivation in a climate where one’s needs are not met, the child fantasizes an image of the parent or parents as good and loving…Our defenses can malfunction in a manner that is analogous to the body’s physical reaction in the case of pneumonia. In this disease, the body’s defensive reaction is more destructive than the original assault. In a like manner, defenses that were erected by the vulnerable child, to protect him or herself against a toxic environment may become more detrimental than the original trauma…

The pneumonia metaphor relates to how children, and later seemingly competent adults, assume or at least share in blame in order to protect the parent or parent-like person in power. “I must not be worth love or respect”, or “This is just the way the world works”. “He’ll deny it, why bother embarrassing myself”.

Whether we’re professional educators or not, all of us are teachers. Young people are learning by watching us to see if they can trust their senses, trust their gut, trust others to accurately identify destructive behavior and help them. From creepy looks and un-wanted touch (pussy grabbing, sloppy kisses, tit-touching, etc.), all the way to coercion for sex, date-rape, or repeated sexual abuse, it’s up to every woman and man to confront all the remnants of our Fantasy Bonds by refusing the shame, the self-blaming, and the silence. That’s why I am encouraging readers to join their voice with those who are exposing the prevalence of sexual abuse in the aftermath of Harvey W. by using the comments section below this blog. You can express your opinion, share a story, or post a list of incidents that you refuse to be silent about.

Laurie’s top ten assaults and mis-attributions :

  1. I witnessed my father berate mother in front of me in the home for being overweight – not sexy (mother didn’t defend herself).
  2. I experienced increased sexual abuse in the home (I felt shame, hid it, while idealizing my father).
  3. I was dragged to the “Pussy bushes” in 2nd & 3rd grade (I tried to get help, but to no avail).
  4. I was hallway-humped-stalked, and beat-up in 5th grade (only the physical blows were intervened on, no investigation by the school).
  5. My creepy brother-in-law whispered in my ear at age 11 that he wished he’d met me before my sister (he was later turned in by his step-daughter for molestation and jailed).
  6. My first job interview at age 16 included smoking a joint on my would-be-boss’s lap (I landed the job, and figured that just what you did, right? Wrong!)
  7. Boyfriends were intermittently rough during sex (I allowed it – again, must be normal, right? Wrong!)
  8. My second boss propositioned me, age 18  – (I accepted, that was how to be successful, right? Wrong!).
  9. I was date-raped in college by a professor. (I actually tried to fight off the man, but he was stronger. Also, since I got drunk with him, I didn’t report it)
  10. My ex-husband yelled at me and was intimidating (as a mother myself by this point, I pulled up every once of courage I had and defended myself – finally!)

Now its your turn….

Break the cycle

About the author: Laurie

10 comments to “Refuse the Shame, Break the Silence”

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  1. Karma - October 23, 2017 at 9:31 pm Reply

    I’ve always thought it was the opposite, that my tool for coping with an unstable environment was learning at a very early age that adults are not necessarily “OK” (In the transactional analysis “I’m OK, You’re OK” sense). However, this quote, “assume or at least share in blame in order to protect the parent or parent-like person in power” really hit home for me. I have noticed that this is a thing I do, take the blame automatically, even to my detriment or without any evidence. Similarly, if someone is upset I have to remind myself that it isn’t necessarily anything to do with me. Really makes me think.

  2. Robin Lovell - October 24, 2017 at 4:21 pm Reply

    Your stories are so moving and so real, Laurie! I find myself getting so immersed it’s hard to pull away. I’m looking forward to your reading in November. Thank you for writing this.

    • Laurie - October 24, 2017 at 9:53 pm Reply

      Hi Karma,

      I appreciate hearing that some of that research resonated with you, and it sounds like it helped with your thought process about how you react today. I’m so glad that my writing is having an effect (the noun)!

      Laurie

      • Laurie - October 24, 2017 at 10:08 pm Reply

        Thank you Robin, for letting me know you are engaging and engaged by the blog! I’m super excited and nervous about my upcoming readings, and it helps to know you are coming – your support means a lot.

        Laurie : ))

  3. Laura - October 24, 2017 at 4:32 pm Reply

    Wow Laurie! I’m inspired by your experiences and courage…I’m not sure if I’m ready to disclose abuse I suffered yet, but that research on the “Fantasy Bond” helps shed light on why there’s so much stigmatization about being a victim. I’ve been reading your blog, but this is my first time commenting – thanks for the reminder!

  4. Jamme Chantler - October 24, 2017 at 9:38 pm Reply

    My Top Ten Assaults & Mis-Attributions:

    1. When I was a small child, my father used to beat my mother in front of my older brother and me. One particular time I remember, he tore her dress–my favorite dress that she wore, a white dress decorated with black paisley-like shapes–and pushed her so hard onto my bed. The bed broke under the force of his abuse. My older brother, four years old, went to get a knife and tried to kill my father with it. I just cried and screamed, helpless.

    2. My father never wanted anything to do with me. He took my brother for outings, fishing, bowling et cetera. One time when we lived in Wiscasset, Maine in a trailer park on Birch Point Road, he was going to take my brother fishing, and my mother argued with him in front of me, pleading with him to take me with him, too. The argument went on for at least five or ten minutes, but I fled to my bedroom and lay on the bed feeling completely unloved and worthless. I felt this way for years, and consequently, I have never had a healthy, loving relationship with a man.

    3. My brother was much bigger than I even though he was only one year older. At thirteen years old he was six feet tall. I was five feet. He would come to my room and sit on my bed and demand oral sex or else he would make our younger sister do it. This happened on many occasions. I did it to protect her. Yet he still molested her. I have felt so ashamed about this but knew that it would’ve been worse for her if I hadn’t done it.

    4. The week after I graduated from college, my main professor had me over for dinner and afterwards–this was in Vermont–I needed to take a leak. So I went to pee in the field, and the professor followed me out and put his arms around me from behind. He said, “There’s no moon out tonight.” Then he led me back to his house and initiated sex. I was horrified, didn’t want to do it, the guy had B.O., and his gums were always red and inflamed, but I didn’t know how to say no, how to refuse him. I felt that I would be a horrible student and friend if I didn’t allow it. So I just let it all happen. He was 57 and I was 23. The same week, a second professor invited me for dinner, and afterwards when I told him that I had to see someone at 9pm, he got pissed off and said, “You don’t double book!” Clearly, the implication was that he wanted to engage in an intimacy that I wouldn’t have wanted. For years I felt badly about this because I’d thought of him as a father-figure.

    5. I justified being abused by my brother in several ways: a. he was only a year older than me., b. it felt good, so I must’ve enjoyed it and wanted it. c. our cousin had molested him, so it wasn’t his fault that he did it to me and my sister.

    6. Years later, a therapist told me that oftentimes, a father will sense that a gay son is different and so he will ignore him or sometimes abuse him. I internalized this and blamed myself for my father’s inability to father me.

    7. I was beat up by nine boys in junior high school as I was taking the short cut home through a small woods near Lincoln Junior High School. They called me faggot and used an arrow–one kid was carrying a bow and arrow–to stab my books, tried to get me to smoke pot, said mean things about my family, chased me through the woods and when I stopped running through the snow they caught up with me and hit me and knocked me down and kicked me. Then they told me that if I told my mother, they would kill her and my sister.

    8. When I went to join the football team in high school, my mother let me out of the car, and the boys were already out on the field. I saw them all and I turned back to my mother and pleaded with her not to make me do this! I was panicked. It was like being back in the woods with the boys surrounding me. She criticized me but finally relented.

    9. Whenever I would see two boys or men together on the street, for years, I would cross the street to the other side to avoid them.

    10. Being gay, I was so afraid of being made fun of that I talked to almost no one in high school. Internally, I always felt that people were watching me. And I was constantly vigilant about my hand gestures, the way I walked and the way I spoke. I monitored myself internally all of the time, making sure that I didn’t act ‘faggy’. I tried to talk lower because my voice is tenor in range. I would keep my arms and hands stiff at my sides so as not to act girly. This self-monitoring was exhausting and I continued doing it through my twenties. I stopped finally by my thirties.

    • Laurie - October 24, 2017 at 10:00 pm Reply

      Dear Laura,

      I’m so happy that you shared that you’re a reader! I totally understand about not putting details out yet. It’s a personal decision, and for as much cathartic benefit I feel “putting my stuff out there”, and from creating an environment and context for other’s to risk standing up for their rights (even after the fact), it’s deeply challenging too. My whole life I was trained to keep secrets.

      XO – Laurie

      • Laurie - October 24, 2017 at 10:06 pm Reply

        Jim – I’m so sorry you had to experience such abuse, and I’m super proud of you for taking the step to share; at least the pain of secrecy is relieved. I hope you feel that too.Your courage is helping move this groundswell for zero-tolerance of abuse along!

        All my love,

        Laurie

  5. Karma - November 4, 2017 at 12:13 am Reply

    Oh gosh, Jamme’s #3! =( How terrible for him to put you in that position, to hold your sister as blackmail. I can’t imagine how that could impact a child.

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