Dangerous Innocence

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Every time I would contemplate leaving my abusive partner the first question that would come to my mind was “what will everyone think of me?” And it wasn’t simply that they would think I didn’t try hard enough, but that they would blame me for the failure of my relationship.  It was an irrational fear, most of my close friends and family could see past his charm and knew there was more going on than I admitted. But a fear none the less, and one that kept me from leaving multiple times.

Society is chomping at the bit to throw the blame on anyone that finds themselves in a threatening situation. Women are blamed for their rape because they were dressed too provocatively, or were giving off the wrong signals, or were too drunk to say no. Women and men are blamed for their physical abuse because they were being too strong-willed, or used the wrong tone of voice, or didn’t do as they were told. Children are blamed for their abuse because they were misbehaving, or didn’t clean their room, or didn’t follow the rules. The point is the victim is usually the first to be scrutinized, and this is why so many rape and domestic violence cases go unreported every year. Victim’s fear being blamed for their torture, and fear having to relive it with every statement they make to try and gain justice.

Why are we so quick to think that the victim asked to be assaulted?  Well, she was wearing such revealing clothing, so she was asking to be raped. Remarks like this are never okay! No one wants to be beaten, raped, or dehumanized. No one deserves to be shamed and made to feel guilty for the illegal acts that someone cruelly subjected them to. Regardless of your social status, financial stature, ethnicity, gender, etc. . .  you are not at fault for the illegal and unspeakable acts done to you.

It seems as though we are quick to blame the victim because no one wants to be held accountable for their actions, but victim blaming is not just about avoiding accountability. It’s also about avoiding vulnerability. The more innocent a victim, the more threatening they are. They threaten our sense that the world is a safe and moral place, where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. But when good people fall victim to vicious acts, it implies that no one is safe and we are all vulnerable. The idea that misfortune can be random, striking anyone at any time, is a terrifying thought. A thought we are faced with every day. Therefore, blaming the victim makes us feel that they must have played a part in the tragedy that befell them. Giving us a little more sense of security in our own well being.

It has to stop. Everyone must realize that a victim is just that, a victim that will suffer mental trauma for the rest of their life due to the unforeseen circumstances that happened to them. No one asks for it. No one deserves it. No one. Stop blaming the victim and hold abusers accountable.

~Christa G.

 

 

Climbing to the Top

 

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In a world filled with hateful and wicked people, let your light shine. Make a difference in the lives of those around you, lifting others up, praising and encouraging our loved ones and peers, and proactively changing our world for the better.

Pier M. Forni, author of The Civility Solution: What To Do When People Are Rude and director of The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins University says, “In today’s America, incivility is on prominent display: in the schools, where bullying is pervasive; in the workplace, where an increasing number are more stressed out by coworkers than their jobs; on the roads, where road rage maims and kills; in politics, where strident intolerance takes the place of earnest dialogue; and on the web, where many check their inhibitions at the digital door.”

In a world filled with amazing technological advances, increased knowledge, answers at our fingertips, responses within seconds, and the ability to easily travel anywhere in the world, we still battle a centuries old plague. . . bullying.

Contrary to conventional belief, the targets of office bullies are not the new, inexperienced and less confident employees. The targets, according to research, are the highly competent, accomplished, experienced and popular employees because they pose the greatest threat to the bullies. And when bullies find targets that refuse to be controlled and intimidated, they escalate their behavior.

Not all forms of workplace bullying happen within the same office or company.  There are companies that bully their competitors, making it nearly impossible for the competing company to thrive in the same area. And I am about to tell you one such story. This has occurred between companies that I know of personally, however, I have changed the names to protect the individuals affected.

Mr. Fred is a Salesman with LiteBrite and he covers a large region of a few states. He works closely with toy companies in those states to ensure that they are getting the best products and best prices so that when they sell them to their customers they will still make a decent profit. Mr. Fred is not like your usual salesman, he is honest and goes out of his way to help everyone in his region. And he treats everyone equally, because in helping them achieve success, he’s also going to be successful. So, everyone wins, right?

Not in the eyes of Mr. Gold, the top salesman for Luna Toys. He didn’t think that any of the other toy companies in his region should be allowed to sell LiteBrite. And because Mr. Fred won’t give in to his complaints and wishes to be an exclusive LiteBrite sales location, Mr. Gold began complaining to the top executives of LiteBrite. Mr. Gold was ruthless in his endeavor to ruin Mr. Fred’s good name, get him fired from LiteBrite, and also ruin possibilities for the toy stores in his area to sell LiteBrite.  Luckily, LiteBrite is very aware of Mr. Fred’s good character and so they did not give in to Mr. Gold’s wishes to have Mr. Fred fired. But it hasn’t stopped.  Mr. Gold has a vendetta to ruin business for all of his competitors, and he bullies them with lies, threats, spying, and accusing them of bad business.  In the end, he is the problem and someone has to put an end to the type of mentality that you can run over everyone along the way to get to the top.

I realize this may sound like a silly little story, but it is a real life scenario.  These situations occur in every walk of life, in every type of business situation, and many people are miserable in their jobs because of a workplace bully that will not put an end to their constant taunting.  Even if you defend yourself, show proof that you are not at fault, show proof that you are performing at your best, and prove yourself until you are blue in the face. . . the bully’s tactics will only become stronger. They will not cease until either you are out of the picture or they are gone.  One thing is for sure; the problem of workplace bullying will not go away anytime soon and may never be fully remedied until enough people call for a return to a culture of civility, and demand that governments and organizations take action. Truly successful people help one another along the road to success. When you walk all over everyone on your way to the top, there will be no one left to help you in your time of need or crisis. And believe me, those times will come.

Workplace bullying occurs in many different forms, on different levels, and from various ranks within a company. It may be a supervisor, a boss, a co-worker, someone in a different department, someone competing for recognition, someone competing for sales, or even an employee you first thought was a friend.  Bullying can show up in the form of harassment, degradation, sexual harassment, threats to take your job if you don’t do as they say, threats to get you fired if you speak a word of their bad conduct, and just plain bullying behavior that leaves you miserable and dreading to be near them. Many victims of workplace bullying, much like other types of abuse, are afraid to speak up for fear of not being taken seriously. The world is always ready to shame the victim for the way they are treated. But we have to step up and speak up to win the war against abuse. It’s time to come together in your office and speak out against the harassment that is taking place, encourage others to go to supervisors or HR departments to file a formal complaint. Nothing will change if we stay silent. It’s never too late to make a difference. Stand up for your rights. Stand up for the rights of others. Stand up for respect.

~Christa G.

Behind the Veil

(Warning: the contents of this post are disturbing and are only meant for mature audiences.)

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines rape as unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will, usually of a female, or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent. When most people think of rape, they imagine a woman being physically assaulted by a stranger. I know I did for the longest time, until through personal experience, I discovered that rape comes in many different packages. As mentioned in one of our previous posts about sexual abuse, RAINN states that approximately four out of five rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. For this very reason, sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes, with 68% still being left unreported!

Over the last few years, I’ve shared my story with close friends, and friends of friends, that are going through the agony of trying to leave an abusive spouse or partner. It has come to my attention that in most abusive relationships, sexual abuse is also highly prevalent. The need to control every single aspect in the relationship is a major factor in what drives people to abuse others. So it only makes sense that a physically and verbally abusive spouse would also be prone to rape their partner. Through the power of manipulation and threats the abuser can gain the ability to control their victim.

For instance, being made to feel guilty for not performing sexual acts for a partner is a form of manipulation. Statements such as, “It’s your duty as a wife to have sex with me whenever I want” is the abuser’s way to guilt their partner into doing what they want regardless of the other person’s feelings. I had a partner at one time threaten to find sex elsewhere if I didn’t allow him to do what he wanted, whenever he wanted. It was a devastating statement to hear. He basically claimed that because I didn’t perform often enough in the bedroom, if he cheated on me, it would be my fault. And I believed him! I fully believed that when he cheated on me there was nothing I could do about it because I couldn’t keep up with his sexual desires. This is not normal! It’s sexual abuse and should not be justified simply because you are in a relationship.

I can also recall times in the past to which I would wake up from a dead sleep by my partner coming on to me. When I rolled away out of confusion and asked what was going on, he blamed me. He would say that I was the one that woke him up and started coming on to him first. I would be left trying to figure out how that was possible when I was dead asleep. I realize now that those were just lies to cover up the fact that he was forcing himself on me while I was sleeping. Again, it was just another form of rape or sexual abuse. If you are being forced, made to feel guilty, or threatened into performing sexual acts for a spouse or partner, it is still considered rape and it is not okay.

. . . sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes, with 68% still being left unreported!

Unfortunately, this type of sexual abuse is rarely reported. So I want our readers to know that anytime your partner does not respect your wishes, especially in regards to anything of a sexual nature, this is not acceptable and you need to seek help immediately. You should not feel guilted or shamed into performing sexual acts for someone who loves you. You should not feel obligated or forced to do something that is a way for couples to express their love for one another. Sex in a relationship is a vital part of expressing deep intimacy. It should be an act that is used to display love and affection, not control and manipulation. Remember this the next time someone tries to make you feel obligated to have sex, whether it be on a date or with your significant other. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

~Christa G.

Unexpected Arsenal

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I read this article about digital abuse of women from a fellow blogger. I want to direct our readers to her site, Speaking From Experience. She survived a physically abusive marriage and is now speaking out against abuse by sharing her experiences with others and spreading awareness, as we are trying to do with our blog. She is extremely brave and strong, so please visit her page and read her posts. I was so inspired by her article that I obsessed over the subject in my head for days. It sickens me that so many women who are abused are controlled and puppeted in so many different ways. Their every move is tracked and their abuser holds all the cards. I mulled over this problem in my head for so long that I am sure it began to plague me, even while I slept.

The other night I had an anxiety nightmare. In my dream, my first abusive boyfriend had forced his way back into my life, despite my protests. He made himself known to all of my family and friends and he proceeded to turn them against me. He also took my phone, without my knowing, and projected my private information onto a large screen for all to see. I felt violated. I began to lecture all of my family and friends, telling them that they were supporting his abuse and that they should be ashamed of themselves. I remember feeling helpless and angry under his power and control, once again.

Our abusers have such an arsenal at their disposal for intimidating and controlling us . . . I say we use this arsenal against them.

In real life, shortly before leaving that manipulative relationship, this boyfriend had hacked into my cell phone account and looked up all the phone numbers I was texting. He then looked up information on all the people I sent messages to. He would accuse me of cheating, even though our relationship was open (at least, for him it was open, for me it was closed, I was supposed to have eyes only for him). After I left him, he stalked me physically, showing up outside of my work or randomly showing up to return books I had given him (slipping notes inside them). He threatened to go to my parents and disclose intimate and highly personal facts about our relationship if I didn’t talk to him. He would text me in the middle of the night and say he was in the ER, hoping for a response. He would leave a box of items I gave to him as gifts on my driveway. I felt like he was everywhere. I never knew if he might show up at my home or my work. I didn’t know if he would ever approach my parents about us. I dreaded leaving my house to go to the grocery store, in fear of running into him. He tried to constantly push his way back into my life. For years I had recurring nightmares that he had followed me to other states or cities to try and control me even more.

There are other women who have experienced even worse stalking or digital abuse. Our abusers have such an arsenal at their disposal for intimidating and controlling us. We are forced to change our phone numbers, our emails, our phone accounts, and our Facebook accounts. Sometimes we are forced to change our addresses. And most of the time this type of post-breakup stalking is not reported to the police, either because the victim is not comfortable with talking to the authorities or because they have mistakenly grown up with the assumption that stalking cannot be stopped. I have also witnessed a disturbing pattern in my previous abusive relationships. Both of my abusers had online anonymity. Beware of anyone who is concerned with not being easily tracked online! This is because they are adept at stalking others on the web.

I say we use this arsenal against them. It’s time we turn our Facebook accounts and our websites against these abusers. We must share our stories and experiences. Let others know the dangers of unhealthy relationships. Educate others on the signs. These abusers cannot hide anymore. We have so much information available at our fingertips and our tormenters have textbook techniques in manipulation. If we get the word out and share our own experiences as much as possible, others will become enlightened and hopefully follow. We will create a formidable army of educated and inspired warriors. We will win this battle.

 

*Image pulled from this page.

~Lindsey V.

Gang for Justice

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While I sit here writing this post, there is a gang of over 30,000 women in Northern India, wearing pink saris, brandishing bamboo sticks (lathis), fighting for women’s rights and justice. They are called the Gulabi Gang and their leader Sampat Pal Devi, is a formidable force. They were born out of one of the poorest rural areas where women are discriminated against on the account of being female and poor. In an area where child-marriages, dowries, and domestic violence rule the social construct, Sampat is tearing down these harmful traditions by means of persuasion, education, and sometimes force. If a man beats his wife and Sampat hears about it, she and her gang of woman warriors will travel to that man’s house with their bamboo sticks at the ready.

The treatment of women before the start of Sampat’s Gulabi Gang was appalling, with accounts of girls being burned, beaten, or sold as children wives. Sampat is now a feared leader, her reputation and her strong debating skills swaying those who oppose her to the side of reason. The birth of this gang began rather unexpectedly. Sampat witnessed a man beating his wife, she pleaded with him to stop but he beat her, as well. The next day, she returned with five other women and beat the man with bamboo sticks. This story spread. Women began coming to her, asking for her help. Soon she had a following of thousands. They proudly march through their villages in pink saris, fighting corruption and abuse. They consider themselves a ‘gang for justice.’

It just took one woman to stand up and declare that she had enough! So what will it take before we also stand up and declare that we have had enough? When will we wield our own proverbial lathis and become a ‘gang for justice’? I’m not suggesting we literally beat our abusers into submission. Although, to be honest, I have fantasized about that on occasion. But I am suggesting we take on a more aggressive approach. We must systematically work on eradicating violence and emotional abuse.

We march through the city in our ‘pink saris’ with our ‘lathis’ and we let the world know that this is no longer okay.

Our children are being indoctrinated with the toxins of manipulation and violence, stemming from a lack of education. We grow up in abusive environments, thinking it is normal. We repeat that behavior in front of our children, then they repeat that behavior to their children, and so the cycle continues, until it is part of our genetic makeup. I know this sounds radical, but bear with me. According to Safe Horizon, “more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year” and “without help, boys who witness domestic violence are far more likely to become abusers of their partners and/or children as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence in the next generation. Without help, girls who witness domestic violence are more vulnerable to abuse as teens and adults.”

How do we combat this sensitive and highly erosive problem? We speak out against it. We march through the city in our ‘pink saris’ with our ‘lathis’ and we let the world know that this is no longer okay, this is no longer normal. We let others know that there is help out there, warriors of our own that run safe houses for victims and programs that help build economic independence. We make sure our children know what a healthy relationship is. We make sure our children can witness a healthy marriage or union. Domestic violence should no longer be a hushed topic that is tucked away or snuffed out. All of its dirty little secrets should be brought to light, so the ugly truth is there for all to see.

It only takes one person to start a movement. Will you be the next Sampat Pal Devi? Will you speak out against abuse? Help us and our communities by refusing to give in to the oppression of abuse and the toll it takes on all of us. This is not an isolated issue. Abuse affects us all. It affects our schools, our children, our community, our work, and our future as a society. It is time we took a stand. Help us fight for justice!

How can you help? Share your own stories with friends and family, you never know who needs to hear. Share our blog to help spread the word. Leave a comment if you have your own experience or story to tell, you may help at least one person realize they are not alone.

*image pulled from Plaid Zebra

~Lindsey V.

Silenced

silenced(Warning: the contents of this post are disturbing and are only meant for mature audiences.)

“I was threatened by my adopted brother for two years to keep silent or I would regret opening my mouth. And so, I lived with my abuser for two years before I gained the courage to tell my parents.”

These words were spoken to me by a dear friend, one who wishes to stay anonymous but desperately wants her story told with the hopes of reaching someone in similar circumstances.

Do not live in silence, do not let the abuse you suffered define you.

Abuse comes in many forms and levels of severity. Each type of abuse leaves its victims tattered with physical and mental scars that may never completely heal. Some victims remain silent because they are threatened or fear ridicule or blame. My friend broke that silence and this is her story . . .

I was 12 years old and the youngest of five daughters. We had three adopted siblings that came from a very bad home situation, but we loved them dearly, and they loved us in return. One day, my adopted brother asked me to play “Hide and Seek,” which was a very normal activity for us, but on that day it changed everything. I was great at “Hide and Seek” and always found my opponents quite easily, but what happened when I found him caught me entirely off guard. Before I knew what was happening, I was shoved up against the cold laundry room wall and my pants were ripped off of me. I don’t remember if I screamed or fought him, all I can remember is that I actually feared for my life. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, I only felt the pain. I often ask myself, “did I try hard enough to stop him?” Even then, I don’t think he would have stopped, because it didn’t end there. On a couple of occasions, I woke up from a dead sleep to find him on top of me, touching me, putting himself on me. He took complete advantage of my innocence. I felt helpless, betrayed, violated, and ruined.

The next two years were a blur of discomfort and unease. I didn’t understand what was going on. He told me that if I spoke to anyone about anything that he would hurt me even worse the next time. I woke up every day thinking “what did I do to deserve this?” All I knew was that my body had been violated in the worst way . . . by my brother. A brother is supposed to be your protector, someone who cares for you. We were both young, but he was older, he was supposed to know better than me. His threats had me trapped in a prison of fear. I spent a good deal of my time avoiding him, and when you live in the same house, that proves to be extremely difficult. I had trouble sleeping for fear that he would creep into my bed while I slept. I drifted aimlessly, pretending that everything was perfect and that nothing had ever happened, until my family started planning a large vacation. We were planning a trip and we would be meeting up with some of our extended family. There would be younger girl cousins around and the harsh reality that they could be victims too if I didn’t open up, hit me like a ton of bricks. I would never be able to live with myself if someone else became a victim to him, simply because I didn’t have the courage to speak up. I was a little older, and had become a little wiser to the situation at hand. I knew that I would be safe from his threats, but there was still that nagging “what if?” that kept creeping back up. Finally, the night before we were supposed to leave for our vacation, I gathered the strength and told my mom everything. I cannot express the amount of relief I felt to having that burden lifted from my shoulders, but at the same time I realized this was only the beginning of some very difficult decisions for my parents. It came as a shock to everyone, and after a short period of time my adopted brother was removed from our home. I went on to receive therapy and am doing much better today. That was almost 10 years ago and I was able to heal. I am still healing. I want others to realize that in sharing your stories and seeking help, the path to recovery becomes more clear. Do not live in silence, do not let the abuse you suffered define you.

Fortunately for my friend, she found the courage to voice her abuse, which saved her and most likely others from more abuse over the years. Sexual abuse occurs on many different levels. We want everyone to be aware that any time you are forced to do anything sexually, or are shamed into performing sexual acts, then you have been sexually abused. Penetration does not have to occur; sexual abuse takes place any time someone touches you without your consent . . . period. Sexual assault, molestation, and harassment should never be taken lightly. These types of abuse can happen to children, adolescents, and adults. It can happen between a family member and a child, a boyfriend and a girlfriend, coworkers, teacher and student, church members, and husband and wife.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) 4 out of 5 sexual assaults committed are by someone the victim knows, and every 107 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police and 98 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail or prison. These are horrifying statistics! We must lift our voices up and let victims know that they will be heard and they will be believed.

I would never be able to live with myself if someone else became a victim to him, simply because I didn’t have the courage to speak up.

It is not your fault and you should not have to live in fear anymore. If you, or someone you know needs help, rainn.org offers different options, as well as a national hotline. It is important to contact someone. We need to work together to end abuse. We need to work together to end the silence. Speak up and you may save someone’s life.

~Christa G.