This is a video I found made by an Indian woman about the Gulabi Gang – women who are fighting government corruption and male violence and promoting women’s empowerment in an empoverished area of India. The woman who leads the group was sold into ‘marriage’ as a child, bearing her first child a few years later. That makes her a child sexual abuse survivor. Good for her fighting back! You go warrior women!
“A rambunctious and fearless posse recognizable by their pink-colored saris, the Pink Gang is the nemesis of violent husbands and inept government officials. Having personally suffered abuse, members of the vigilante club thrash abusive men, wife beaters and rapists, confront and shame wrongdoers and storm local police stations to accost lackadaisical cops.
Formed in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi, 45, who was sold into marriage at nine and became a mother at 13, the gang challenges everything that is unfair and unjust, like some gang of desperados for justice on India’s wilder fringe. “Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law into our own hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers. But we’re not a gang in the usual sense of the term. We’re a gang for justice,” Devi told a TV news channel recently.
Fed up with a corrupt system and social discrimination, what finally drove Devi to launch the Pink Gang was the tale of her sister, who was dragged by her hair around a courtyard by her alcoholic husband. This last straw led Devi to “teach erring men a lesson.” She rounded up other women in her neighborhood and confronted the abusive brother-in-law with whatever “weapons” they could muster — walking sticks, iron rods, a child’s cricket bat. He was then chased into a sugarcane field and thrashed by the women.” Full story here
Okay, so I think I found a safe (to me) place to get a gyne exam. I found out through some friends that the community health centres have nurses that do pap tests, who are allowed to schedule longer appointments than doctors (who under our health system are allowed 15 minutes, if you can believe it!) . Somehow a nurse seems less scary than a doctor, anyhow. Less hierarchical power.
How to Book a PAP test for a survivor in 10 not so easy steps:
Step 1: Look up on the web the community health centre my friends recommended. Read web site. Like web site. Find out I live in the wrong area to access this centre.
Step 2: Find out what community health centre I am allowed to go to for my location. Find that there is no website, no way to check out much about what they’re like. Hmmm…. Find short brochure for local community clinic with single helpful phrase: “Ask us what you’re looking for and we’ll help to connect you” and a phone number. Give up for the day.
Step 3: Go back to web site. Re-read brochure. Print out brochure and put on desk. Give up for the day. Look at brochure several times over the next few days-week.
Step 4: Call number on brochure. Say “I read in your brochure that I could tell you what I was looking for and you’d try and connect me, is that right?” Answer: Yes, I’ll try. (Deep Breath) “I’m a survivor of childhood sexual assault and I haven’t had a PAP test in 8 years. I need to find a place to get a PAP test that will be compassionate.” Listen as woman on the line hems and haws a bit (albeit with sympathetic voice), and then when prompted with what I’d heard about the nurses, she says that they did have a nurse that came in briefly for a couple of times a month. She gave me a name and a phone number and apologized that she couldn’t make the appointment for me. Write number down, thank her and leave room to go to the bathroom, cry, have a snack and tell my wife.
Step 5: Call number. I’ve been given the wrong number and get voicemail that says nothing about the person I’ve been referred to. I call back and ask for the switchboard operator, who confirms that that person is supposed to be at that local. I call again and get a live secretary, who tells me that person has moved to another local, gives me the local. I let her know the operator still thinks the other person is at this local in case she wants to change it.
Step 6: I call the local of the person I was supposed to call. Her voicemail doesn’t say her name or any department that seems related to what I want so I’m still not sure I have the right person, but I leave a message with my phone number.
Step 7: I call back the community clinic and let them know the nurse’s number has changed and give them the new number. The reception nurse remembers me, thanks me for letting her know, and takes my phone number so she can follow up and make sure the other nurse gets back to me, which I appreciated.
Step 8: I get a call back from the secretary for the nurse I’m trying to book an appointment with. She wants to book me in at 9:30 in the morning. I don’t think I can do 9:30, I don’t think I’ll be steady enough by 9:30, since mornings aren’t great for me emotionally. I tell her that I don’t think I can do 9:30 and that the reason I’m booking with this nurse is because I’m a sexual assault survivor and mornings aren’t a good time for me for this sort of thing. She wisely accepts this without comment. We work out that 10:30 would be a lot better. She begins large amounts of hemming and hawing, and proposes a date two months from now when she can fit me in at 10 am. I accept, and then she says that the nurse I was referred to isn’t going to be there that day and someone else will be filling in for her. She asks if someone else would be okay and I say well, I asked the health clinic for someone who would be compassionate and this is who they recommended. I suggest that she root through the schedule and call me back when she has something. She seems relieved to agree.
Step 9: Nurse’s secretary calls me back and can put me in at 10:30 am two weeks from now. I accept. I put it in my computer calendar with lots of reminders and my cell phone becasue I’m likely to ‘forget’ about something that freaks me out.
However, I wanted to understand my family a bit better and it certainly helped. I took the author’s suggestion and didn’t read the chapter on sadists, but the rest I read.
[This post might be triggering for survivors. I’m going to quote some stuff from the book that talks about why child molesters do what they do. I found the book validating and only manageably triggering, but your mileage may vary. So I’m going to put a picture here, and if you don’t want to read on, here is your warning. ]
Wierdly, I found myself even laughing occasionally, mostly at some of the things author Anna Salter says. She has a matter of fact, no-nonsense way about her that survivors will find refreshing and familiar. She interviews these assholes and backs up what she says with a lot of research studies and analysis. I found myself really liking her.
The parts I found personally useful were these:
She explains really well why people blame the victims, why we aren’t believed, and how these shitheads get away with it again and again.
It apparently is really common for abusers to abuse children while other adults are in the house, without the other adults finding out. It is so common for a father or stepfather to abuse his kids while mom sleeps or in another room that my situation, where my mom claimed not to know, is more the rule than the exception. Child molesters rely on people’s unwillingness to believe someone charming and likable could be a monster an awful lot, because it works for them.
She has the same analysis I do about how people don’t want to believe that bad things happen to good people for reasons that are not their fault. She explains why they persist in the face of overwhelming evidence to not believe that abuse is perpetrated by people who seem harmless or good to them. It’s because abusers are so intent on appearing normal, and put such energy into grooming people into seeing them as good guys.
She talks about why even experts can’t tell reliably when paedophiles and abusers are lying (polygraphs are the only halfway reliable method). After reading her book, I think we should use polygraphs routinely whenever there is any suspicion of child abuse, since in the absence of physical evidence there is no way to tell. Even if you watch a child and her abuser together, the body language might not be a give away, because of all the grooming that goes on.
She analyses the whole manipulativeness thing in depth, how even prison guards who know these guys are guilty get sucked in all the time. This part is definitely worth reading.
She talks about the strategies that child abusers and rapists use to get access to us and our kids and how to deflect them.
Mostly, so far I’m not too freaked out. Okay, a little bit, but the validation around my dad was worth it. He’s utterly normal for a sociopath. One freaky thing was how many victims more paedophiles have. My father almost certainly did not abuse just me. There could be a hundred other victims out there, if he’s typical. Knowing that if a man has molested one child (and particularly raped one) he’s almost certainly abuses tens or hundreds of others, do I have a moral obligation to do something? Festoon his neighbourhood with ‘danger child molester lives here’ posters? Hire a private investigator to follow him around? [hmmm… that’s not half bad. ]
When studies were done that were structured to eliminate any rewards to claiming to being abuse survivors, and interviews were backed up with a polygraph, only 30% of convicted violent sex offenders reported having been abused themselves as children. This is only a little bit higher than the general populations. So what creates abusers? Nobody knows. However, we do know that paedophiles abuse children for some of these reasons:
“There is a subgroup of child molesters who molest children simply because they are sexually attracted to them. There are others who molest because they are antisocial or even psychopathic and simply feel entitled [I think this is my dad here]. There are still others who use children for the intimacy they are too timid or impaired to obtain from adults. And there are others who molest for reasons we don’t understand at all. But make no mistake, whether men molest because of sexual preference or other reasons, their compulsiveness can be extraordinary.” (page 75)
“Whatever the reasons people develop such a fixation, it tends to be chronic and resistant to change. The people who have such patterns are not a small number, more like an invisible army that cannot be recognized on the street. Certainly, some of them are unemployed, take drugs, and fulfill the stereotype of the street criminal. But there are others considerably more successful in life, and they may be equally goal-oriented and driven in pursuit of children…These men — and they are usually men for reasons we also don’t understand — are part of our communities, part of our network of friends, worse yet, sometimes part of our families. …. No one has all the answers on how to stop them, nor even why all of them do what they do. But at least we should have the decency as a people to stop making excuses for them.” page 76 [ See why I like her?]
The bulk of child molesters are straight men, and she writes about the various types of paedophiles and the various types of women who abuse children as well.
Abusers will iether not care about the moral implications of what they’ve done, or have rationalizations.
Even the best treatment programs for abusers only reduce the reoffense rate slightly. There is no cure. At present, the only effective thing to do is lock them up for life or kill them.
She had some practical recommendations:
All predators can and do pass reliably and frequently for nice, harmless men, so take precautions anyway. Most will take pains to establish themselves as nice, harmless upstanding citizens and will be indistinguishable from those who really are.
Don’t open your door to strangers, no matter how harmless they appear, when you’re home alone.
If you date a stranger you met on the internet or through a dating service for example, make sure you know things about him that are verifiable and verify them. Find out where he works and find a reason to call him at work to verify. Meet him in a public place and have a friend there for the first while minute or two – perhaps you were meeting her for coffee first? Tell your friend(s) everything you know about him and find a way to slip it into conversation that you’ve done so. [This is where being a lesbian is pretty convenient. Since only 3-5% of sexual offenders are women, it makes blind dating a lot simpler and safer.]
Psychopaths tend to collect in cities, rather than small towns since it’s easier to not get caught in a lie there. They also tend to prey on religious communities and other environments where people assume they’re good just because they appear to be.
The best way to catch a child molester lying is not by talking to them as they are usually excellent and practiced liars, but by verifying the information they give you. They will normally mix some truth in with their lies. Always check references and do criminal records checks if you are hiring someone in a job they’ll be interacting with children in.
If you get into a fender bender and are alone, don’t leave your car. Rapists use this as a way to get you out of your car. Lock the doors and window and call on your cell for help.
Put a deadbolt on some doors inside your house so you have a safer room with a window to retreat to and escape from if you need to.
Keep your cell phone by your bed so if the phone lines are cut you can call for help. That combined with the deadbolt gives you a safer place to go, a way to call for help and some time for help to come.
Assume that all workers in child-centric professions are high risk to be child molesters – these professions attract them and they work hard to look trustworthy. They’re not all or even mainly child molesters, but you won’t be able to tell which ones are. Of particular concern are persons without adult sexual relationships or who spend a lot of their time with children of a particular age and sex. Be involved in your child’s life. Go to their team sports practices and games, chaperone their field trips. Involved parents make for children that are less desirable targets. If you are a single mom, don’t let guilt about lack of male role models make you give some guy lots of access to your kids. Don’t permit people overnight or unsupervised access to your children.
Most women who get raped as adults are young – 16-30 yrs.
Houses with dogs are apparently way safer – houses with dogs don’t as a rule get targeted. It doesn’t have to be a big dog, just a watchful one. If your dog barks at night, pay attention.
I attended my friend’s celebration of life this week. It seems she was a remarkable woman. I also found out at this ceremony that she was probably a survivor as well. There were about a hundred people at the ceremony, all of whom had been profoundly affected by her support and positive encouragement. The attendees included the mayor of the town she lived in, along with someone high up in the RCMP who attended in full dress uniform in honour of her. I did not know her in this way, or really well at all. I think she saw me as a powerful priestess rather than someone she needed to support and encourage, which I guess is a compliment.
She and I attended a fairly intense week-long spiritual retreat almost ten years ago, the retreat where she also met the woman, M–, who was to become her wife. M– is also my friend and we’ve stayed in touch. I attended their wedding a few years ago. I went to the funeral primarily for my friend her wife and was able to offer her something I don’t think anyone else could, some spritual witchy support. In a room full of friends of her wife, she was not necessarily among people who knew and cared for her. At least I am someone who knows M– in her own right. The problem with having an intensely social, popular wife is that when she is gone there is no-one. I’m going to try and stay connected with M–.
I’m still trying to calm my mind and get my life in order. I’d like to feel more centred, have more energy (I’m fatigued a lot of the time) and get the things I’m passionate about done. I’m still meditating once a day, which seems to be helping.
I was telling Butterfly today that many of the people I’ve told about my sword dance ceremony have offered to fly up there with me to attend. This is an incredible thing. Aside from my ACoA days, I’ve never had this kind of support from nonsurvivors, people seem to actually get it.
Once, years ago, perhaps 20 or so now, I was at an ACoA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) conference. 12 step groups were good for me, especially the ones with no cross talk, where I could share about what I was struggling with with the abuse without having to deal with people’s reactions, which seemed to be mostly a kind of horrified pity. I was sitting in a chair in an auditorium, listening to a speaker, and I guess feeling a then-rare moment of safety I seemed to feel only in 12 step groups at the time. I had a very strong feeling of being touched by a huge, benevolent hand that loved me, a tactile vision of God, which is what I called my higher power at the time. Later in the conference, I was speaking in front of a large group of two or three hundred people and I asked for something I wanted. I wanted, if they felt it, to hear people say they believed me about the abuse. All of them rose and said in unision, “We Believe You [my first name]”. I believe they meant it. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking of it.
Being visible as a survivor can bring a lot of awkwardness and stupid comments from people, but at times it can bring great gifts.
This video/story has nothing to do with being a survivor, really, but much to do with hope and making a difference. It’s an allegorical tale of a man who spends his life planting trees. This is the type of movie I’d like to see more of instead of reality tv, never resolving dramas and sensationalized violence and disfunction.
If you’re looking for a dose of beauty, truth and gently inspiring hope, I suggest watching this film, the Man Who Planted Trees, a CBC animation with Christopher Plumber narrating.
A few weeks back I called my older brother, and left a phone message. I want to talk to him about some stuff to do with my father dying and also to ask him for information about the first house we lived in. However, we’re somewhat estranged, which started happening around the time I started being in relationships with women. I’ve seen him once since my wedding two years ago, which was the first time he’d met my wife, who I’d already been with for several years prior to that. He claims he’s not homophobic, which in Canada is considered almost as bad as being racist and would get him a lot of flack in my family. Nice to have their support in that, anyways.
So yesterday I was having a good day in general, in part due to my new meditation practice. I’m finding my skills at ignoring intrusive thoughts and images on the survivor front stand me in good stead at staying focussed on my breath in meditation. It’s nice these skills are good for something else! I got an email from my brother saying that he didn’t seem to have my correct phone number and had deleted my phone message, so could I send him my number. I replied with all my phone numbers. On the way to my therapist a couple of hours later, I realized I was nauseated. I put on a ‘sea band’ I happened to have around and continued on to my appointment. I was a bit early and sat outside on a bench enjoying the day, I realized I was weepy and could not for the life of me figure out why. Not my time of the month, nothing else going on.
Well of course it turned out to be a reaction to my brother’s email – grief at missing him, being touched he was intending to call me back. How starved for family regard am I, that an email from my brother and the suggestion he might want to speak with me makes me weep with comfort and recognition of loss. Funny how the body knows before the mind does.
We talked over what I would say to him, and came up with some strategies when we speak on the phone. My fall back is to ask him about his kids, which is a nice safe topic, and then talk about my work and renovating the house. If I get an opening, I’ll ask him how he’s doing with our father being so ill. Later on, probably only if we meet in person, I’ll talk to his wife, and explain to her that I’d like some time alone with him to talk about some family history stuff and ask for her support. Now that I write that, I’m sure that she won’t give us time alone together (she tends to include herself in these things and then do all the talking, which means I don’t hear from my brother), but maybe that’s okay. I could at least point out that I’d really like to hear his perspective, which might keep her from butting in.
I’m also making up index cards with things I want to accomplish in my life that I feel like I procrastinate on and putting on each card what’s ‘juicy’ or passionate for me about each thing. The idea of that part is to try and do whatever will get me in contact with the juicy part of the activity as soon as possible. Then I’m going to order them according to what I feel like doing that day, or what is most important to me. So far, it seems to be moving something. I did vocal exercises, practiced the piano and meditated so far this morning. I seem to be a bit unstuck. Yay!
My therapy session today was unexpectedly intense yesterday.
I’ve been giving myself a hard time lately about not being able to persevere.
In general, particularly with certain things like learning physical skills, if I meet resistance or difficulty, I have a lot of trouble continuing on in spite of it (except in certain thing, or things I know I can succeed at). Part of me thought that it is because I have a high IQ and there are lots of things that come easy to me, so I didn’t get any practice working through frustration. I also experience a lot of fatigue, and end up not being rested by even a 10 hour night’s sleep, which could be any number of physical things.
This isn’t entirely the story, I figured out today.
It IS that I didn’t have experience working through frustration, but not that I didn’t try as a kid, but that I was never allowed to win or see progress. My father was a perfectionist about other people’s work, and enjoyed setting impossible tasks for us kids. Actually, he just enjoyed dominating people, kids, his wife, whoever he could, forcing people to try and fail to do things that were hard, frustrating or impossible with fear and intimidation. He always had to win, even if you were right and he was wrong. The penalty for not submitting was always the same for me – getting abused. For the others I’m not sure what he used.
So no wonder I give up when things get hard, I’d been conditioned to do it.
Today in my therapy session, we worked with this. My therapist got me to find/remember a body posture that was expressive of being frustrated, overwhelmed and submitting because there was no way to win. I remembered being pinned down and helpless, and letting my arms release in submission. Then she asked me to find a posture and words that were the opposite or antidote to that.
I ended up standing up in martial arts warding position, telling him to back off. I told him no, cursed him out and in general felt like an angry adult amazon.
Then I had an intuition that there was something more going on. I looked for the energy level this was playing out on and let my therapist know that I was going to ‘try an energy thing’. She knows I’m Pagan and is supportive, thank Goddess.
The following is a Pagan thing. I visualize unhealthy (and sometimes healthy) connections to people as energetic cords. The cords are iether made up of my energy and run from me to the other person, like when I desperately want to convince someone of something or change them, or they are someone else’s energy and run from the other person to me, when that person wants to connect with or control me.
Good cords, in my belief system, form the energetic manifestation of intimacy between people and connection to the Earth. For instance, I always want to have a cord between me and the Earth, since that keeps me grounded, but would experience an energy drain trying to keep a cord between me and anyone else, and might be drained by someone maintaining a stale cord connected to me. Mothers, I’m told, appropriately have a cord between themselves and their infant till the child is up to a year old. However, in all other cases, cords are meant to be temporary connections, not enduring ones, and the approved method of psychic hygeine among witches who experience things this way is to get rid of all stale cords when you notice them. Stale cords are energetically draining, which might account for the fatigue. Whenever I remember this and de-cord, I feel a lot better.
To eject someone else’s cord is actually pretty easy with practice. It’s like taking hold of a carrot and pulling it out from the energetic soil of one’s body, and then making oneself inhospitable to it or sealing oneself up so it doesn’t take root again. Generally cords attach or extrude at the chakras. To pull in one’s own cord, I have to detach myself energetically from trying to change or influence the other person, or let go of keeping a connection with someone energetically after a moment of legitimate connection (positive or negative) has passed, then call that energy back to me. I find the biggest key to de-cording is to figure out which way the cord is running because it’s hard to detach if you don’t know which end is the one with the ‘plug’.
Today I discovered cords going both ways between me and my dad.
A cord stemming from me and attached to my father was me wanting his approval, probably because as a child not showing up on his negative radar was necessary for survival, and his criticism was a precursor to being abused. I had internalized his expectations, his definitions of the right way to be, in order to not stick out. It was weird to discover I’d actually wanted his approval – that he’d set some standards I’d internalized about who I was to be. Combined with pressure from my mom to be high achieving no matter what was going on and I’m set up to have some pretty unrealistic self expectations. When expectations are too high or criticism too pervasive, now (and then) I just give up, since it was ineffective to fight him, and much safer to submit. He himself was a real failure on just about every scale you could measure a man. All he really had was class privilege and gender privilege that he used to oppress his family. Once I realized that, I rejected his right to define who I am and pulled in that cord from my heart.
Another cord was his energy, running from him to me. He wanted my silence. His cord stretched from him to my sore tight throat. I told him I would not be silent for him, that I will tell anyone I want about what he did to me, that I will not keep his secrets. The cord disconnected from me and returned to him. My throat felt a lot better.
The last cord I felt at my forehead. To me, that area is associated with connecting psychically with the ancestors, spirits of the dead and other extra-sensory and psychic perceptions. That gave me the clue I needed to figure out, it was me reaching out psychically for his death, and when I realized that, it felt true. I had been unconsciously reaching out so that I would know when he died, like some part of me is listening intently for that to happen. People often ‘just know’ when someone close to them dies. I don’t want to be connected to him in this way. It must have been draining me to do so. I decided I would let go of listening for him to die, and instead ask my younger brother (who I’m still talking to) to call me immediately if he hears anything about my dad dying.
In all of these things I feel a lot of relief, and had more energy after the session. Could this have been part of the source of my fatigue?
Perhaps. I’m a firm believer of the “trust in God but tie your camel” philosophy. I’ve also started taking an iron supplement, looked into allergy resistant bedding and bought a book on meditation which I did this morning for 8 minutes. It actually helped, I felt a bit calmer and less scattered.