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Transcending Sexual Abuse - December 2007
"  'Tis the Season to Hope"

Have you managed, so far, to keep your focus on the important things this season? I am constantly barraged with emails and other notices that I should buy some more stuff or be very careful (or very enraged, depending on the source) that Christ either stays in or stays out of Christmas, that the economy is depressed ( so am I, but so what?), that no good is going to come out of any kind of politics or government (we knew that), but HOPE springs eternal in my heart. I HOPE that the new year brings people of faith to a place in which they are more comfortable with diversity; that we all do better financially and health-wise; and that Peace on Earth, goodwill to all isnt just a pretty little song.

No matter what kind of suffering we have had to deal with in our lives, now or past, we can have HOPE. Hope is free, nor does hope harm the environment. It may or may not change anybodys mind or behavior (other than our own), but it WILL change us. Hope will make us work harder to achieve positive goals.

Hope is helping my friend who is in prison for murdering her abuser. She can be freed under the battered women laws in her state. After nearly 17 years of hope, she has found a lawyer who will go to bat for her.

Hope enables me to keep writing and keep working to change minds and hearts so that people will recognize the peril that continuing to treat others as objects puts all of us in.

It is easy to despair, to believe that nothing will change, to give upbut we cant stop now! Maybe this is the year you make other plans rather than to join drunken, abusive people simply because they are related to you. I can tell you Id rather eat a frozen dinner in front of my TV than sit for hours with people I dont even like!

Volunteer at a homeless shelter or other charity that is serving a Christmas dinner for the poor. Spend your money on Toys for Tots. Let the little child in you delight in the lights and excitement of the season. Dont do anything you dont want to do. Practice, if you have to, saying, No, thank you, I already have plans for that time, I will come to see you for a while on...... Do the holidays on your terms. Others have decided for you too much already. Nobody who really loves you will object to you looking out for your own emotional (and possibly) physical health. Spend your time with healthy people who like you simply for yourselfand those people are out there. Find them!

Give HOPE! Say the encouraging word. Say Thank you. Listen to the bells. Think about the contents of your heart, not your pocketbook. Do the kind thing. Dont sell yourself shortyou have much to offer. Follow your heart.

I would like to share with you one of my favorite poems by a famous poet. This is Emily Dickinsons poem XXXII:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
Ive heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea,
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

May this holiday season mark a rebirth of your self and engender great HOPE in your life.


Transcending Sexual Abuse - November 2007
"Giving our Gifts"

What are you thankful for?   Can you imagine being thankful for the sexual abuse you have survived? Well, maybe thankful doesn't express the feeling you may have, but without the various trials and tribulations we endure through life, we do not become our authentic selves.  It usually takes a long time to realize that our growth through the difficult situations we experience eventually leads to a kind of fruition, where we stand as examples to others of the resiliency and strength of the human spirit.  Difficulties have brought about every great invention, every ethical value, and every humane act that have ever benefited our world.

Why did the Pilgrims come to the US? They had unbearable difficulty in their home country.  How did Edison become the amazing inventor?  He had so many difficulties at school that he was sent home as a small child.  How did child abuse laws of any type come into being?  In 1884, the first case of child abuse was tried on the basis of cruelty to animals laws. This happened in New York.

Perhaps you've heard the saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  That is what I believe I am doing with my life, now, and you can do it, too.  If you have experienced trouble, you need to show how you've overcome it, and you need to do everything in your power to stop this trouble from happening to others, especially those close to you.

Will you allow anyone to abuse your child?  Will you allow predators to go unstopped?  Will you keep quiet when you know about abuse?  Will you speak up in defense of victims?  Or will you be satisfied that your problem is solved?

I think that we experience problems and difficulties so that we can learn to stop them, so that every individual makes a difference.  You are important.  The world would be a very different place without you. No matter what you have experienced, you have a gift to give the world. You can enlighten; you can prevent; you can speak out; you can write that letter to the editor; you can make sure your child gets help if he or she needs it; you can say no.  You can live your life as the gift it is.

If you haven't been making the most of your experience, this could be the time that you think about how to use it.  Take this holiday time to think about how you can gift the world with your influence.  Maybe you will volunteer someplace where you can mentor other survivors, maybe you will speak or write, maybe you will become a foster parent, or a volunteer in schools.  You will come up with the right fit for you as you ponder the meaning of your experience.

When January 1st comes and someone asks, "What's your New Year's Resolution?", you will give an answer that means something, an answer that will make a difference.

Transcending Sexual Abuse - October 2007
"When Everything Goes Wrong"

My family has fallen on one of those periods when just about everything goes wrong. First, my brother died. No sooner had we begun to recover from that, but my daughter's family of in-laws had two tragedies in a row.

She now required attention from me. Then, a series of problems and miseries occurred with several of my friends, culminating in the suicide of a long-time friend's son. Sometimes there does not seem to be a break in the clouds anywhere.

This series of events has caused me to draw deeply from both the strength I gained in therapy and from trying to live according to Christian principles. I have realized that I really know how to deal with trouble--not that I wanted to know. I've had much more practice than I want to have.

What coping devices do you use? Here are some things that have been helpful to me:

1. Prayer--for myself and others plus enlisting others to help me pray. This is a major step for survivors. We tend to think we aren't worth anybody's effort, so we tend not to ask for help when we need it. Ask. You deserve it.

2. Listening to people you trust tell you they love you. You may or may not need somebody to bring in food, but you do need to listen to those words of love and caring that pour in when you have trouble. Cultivate friends like this by being a friend like this yourself.

3. Clear thinking -- don't get involved in drugs or alcohol to excess. I have consulted my physician for help with the choices I need to make.

4. Using knowledge acquired in recovery. I analyzed what absolutely needed my attention and what could be let go; remembering that as bad as it was/is, it could be better (or worse): it was going to change; I am an adult and I have control over my attitudes and the way I see my choices. I also used techniques I learned in therapy such as journaling, making lists, listing pros and cons of a way to handle a situation, etc.

5. Shared feelings with close friends. I tried not to stress out friends by calling in the middle of the night or demanding a lot of time devoted to me, but I asked for time as I needed it. I wrote love letters to my grandsons: golden strokes for their bad days that they can always keep. Tell the people who matter that they do matter to you. You'll never have a better opportunity.

You may have a different list. You may have clothes or a teddy bear that comfort you--that is fine. The thing you cannot do is expect someone else to make it all better for you. A significant difference between survivors and the rest of the world is that we learned that people who are supposed to love you are not likely to do anything positive for you, so you look elsewhere. That means we have to be especially careful about our choices of friends and develop ways of consoling ourselves. We are at a distinct advantage: we know who is responsible for our well-being--it is we ourselves.

I have found that having been responsible all my life for the way I respond to trouble, I'm the winner when bad things happen. My life may change. I have to adapt to the changes, but I get to choose the way I adapt.

Transcending Sexual Abuse - September 2007
"How Does it Affect You?"

I had a conversation with a friend who is also a survivor today. She was critiquing some writing I am doing for an anthology and we discovered two different ways in which we relate to people who remind us of our abusers. In both of our cases, the abuser was our father. If your abuser was the same gender as you, you may have some other response that we didn't think of. If so, let me know how it's different for you.

Here's what we noticed: I was very young when the abuse started (about 2 years old). What I learned, among other things, that persists to this day, is that men are not to be trusted in any way. I do not want men to touch me at all and, after many years of work, I have learned to trust a select few men, to allow myself to hug and be hugged by these few men, and to keep myself from becoming in any way sexually involved with men. This relates directly to the fear I felt as a child, to the physical revulsion I experienced, and to the feeling of loss of control of myself. I keep a tight grip on myself when men are around.

Because my mother did not do anything to prevent my abuse or protect me in any way, I learned that women are not much use. You are on your own out there in the big world. If a woman wants to get close to me, she will have to demonstrate clearly that she is on my side and be completely trustworthy. After many years of therapy and work, I have learned to care for and love a number of women whom I consider dear friends.

Today, my friend explained her different experience. Because of the incest in her background, she learned that she must do whatever is required to please a man. She must be compliant, uncomplaining, and attractive. She learned, therefore, to flirt and to be tempted by any man who showed her any attention.

Unlike my mother, her mother did everything she could to protect and support the daughter. The mother was unable to leave the situation, but she made a huge effort to mitigate the circumstances.

Now, my friend is tempted, at times, to cheat on her husband whom she dearly loves. Fortunately, he understands her problem and is able to encourage and support her as she struggles to remain faithful to him. She has been successful up to now. When she finds herself in a dangerous situation, she is able to call her husband who then "talks her down." This is a pretty heavy burden for the husband, but she works hard to keep this quirk of hers a non-problem.

So, if you have experienced abuse, how do you relate to people who remind you in some way of your abuser? Are you successful in dealing with whatever challenges this presents you? Can you ever have a "normal" sexual relationship again?
(DSP note:  For those of you who are NOT survivors of sexual abuse, how many silent friends do you think you have that do not or cannot speak of their experiences?)
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