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 :
- I witnessed my father berate mother in front of me in the home for being overweight – not sexy (mother didn’t defend herself).
- I experienced increased sexual abuse in the home (I felt shame, hid it, while idealizing my father).
- I was dragged to the “Pussy bushes” in 2nd & 3rd grade (I tried to get help, but to no avail).
- I was hallway-humped-stalked, and beat-up in 5th grade (only the physical blows were intervened on, no investigation by the school).
- 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).
- 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!)
- Boyfriends were intermittently rough during sex (I allowed it – again, must be normal, right? Wrong!)
- My second boss propositioned me, age 18 – (I accepted, that was how to be successful, right? Wrong!).
- 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)
- 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….