The Worst Thing Ever – reflections on Leaving Neverland

Sometimes life has a way of serving you up what you fear the most.

For me, it was the fear that people would come to know about my abusive relationship; that they would find out that the fairytale my life appeared to be was far from true.

Because for me, at that time, I erroneously thought that it would be THE WORST THING EVER if people were to find out.  I believed that it was more desirable to live a life which consisted of walking on eggshells, bearing the occasional blow-up, waking up every day feeling sick to the stomach and depressed, than it would be to face the knowledge of everyone finding out how foolish I had been. I had made my bed, I thought, and now I would have to lie in it forever. That was some time ago now.

But I was reminded of this long-ago state of being as I was watching the recent Leaving Neverland documentary. For years, Wade Robson and James Safechuck kept their secret and lived with shame and secrecy for fear of ‘everyone’ finding out. Both of them even testified under oath that Michael Jackson never acted or touched them inappropriately, and this is one of the ‘facts’ that Jackson supporters bring up often. They lied for so long, how do we know they are telling the truth now?

Well according to some statistics, only about 30% of child sexual abuse victims disclose their abuse, and many wait a long time for doing so. The reasons for this are varied; the fear of retaliation by the perpetrator, a fear of not being believed, and feeling as if they were somehow complicit or even to blame for the abuse are all thought-processes which can silence a child well into their adult years. However, I personally think the core factor keeping victims of sexual abuse silent is shame.

Shame enters from an external source from significant people in our lives and becomes internalised

According to www.intothelight.org.uk , “Shame enters from an external source from significant people in our lives and becomes internalised.” The shame of the sexual abuse of a child is somehow flipped over from the perpetrator- who seemingly feels no shame -to the abused, who carries the burden of shame for both and for always. And the best receptacle for shame is always silence and secrecy.

This shame can then become generalized by the survivor and can manifest in different ways resulting in symptoms and behaviors which may seem unintelligible to an observer unaware of this person’s situation or history. The main effect which shame seems to have on a person is to constantly feel as if they are wrong or inconsequential. That things are somehow always their fault and their responsibility to fix; that it is absolutely essential that others are not put out by them, because they don’t count. Shame can result in behaviors which may look from the outside to be ’self-sabotaging,’ such as addictions and compulsions. Relationships become tricky because the shame infused person can never feel as if they are equally deserving of love, care, attention or that their needs are as important as anyone else’s. This can leave them susceptible to further abuse, manipulation and being taken advantage of. They may have a seemingly pathological fear of saying no. They may feel unlovable and therefore resistant to relationships where they are loved and respected. These are but a few of the examples of how shame and silence can impact a person throughout their life and cause them to act in ways which may make little sense until they are seen through the lens of trauma.

So for those questioning the validity of the claims made by Robson and Safechuck, citing their previous silence and lies as proof of the incredibly of their stories – do some reading on the long term effects of child sexual abuse and trauma in general, (including the trauma that comes from living with an abusive partner) and see what you come up with.

Sexual abuse and violence create shame which in turn breeds secrecy and silence. The best way to combat silence, is to break it. To speak your truth, perhaps quietly, tentatively at first and then, in time without shame. Shame may appear to be THE WORST THING EVER, but if you are lucky your worst fear may turn out to be the path that leads to your best self ever.

Here are some links to get you started:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/matter-personality/201210/why-dont-child-sex-abuse-victims-tell

http://www.intothelight.org.uk/core-issues-of-abuse-anger/

https://www.blueknot.org.au/ 

https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/file-list/Research%20Report%20-%20Principles%20of%20trauma-informed%20approaches%20to%20child%20sexual%20abuse%20A%20discussion%20paper%20-%20Treatment%20and%20support%20needs.pdf

 

 

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Just another domestic violence statistic

It seems every time I go on Facebook, open my email or watch the news these days there’s another domestic violence story. This is triggering for me because, well, any of those stories could have been about me. I survived a violent and abusive relationship and while it is something I have dealt with emotionally, these news stories just keep reminding me of the chilling fact, how close I came to being another statistic.

Before I begin my own story, let me just throw some actual statistics  your way. According to the ABS personal safety survey (2005), one in four women will experience domestic violence of some degree in their lifetime. That’s a quarter of all Australian women, that’s 25%. (According to the latest ABS statistics that figure is now 1 in 3).  Here are some more:

  • Women are more likely to experience violence from someone they know, than from a stranger. For men the reverse is true.
  • For  women who have experienced violence since the age of 15, 36% was by someone they knew vs. 12% by a stranger.
  • For men, the statistics are 35% by a stranger, 26% by someone they know.
  • For men the someone they know is most likely to be an acquaintance or neighbour.  For women, it is most likely to be a partner or ex-partner.
  • Both women and men are more likely to experience violence by a male perpetrator.
  • One woman a week is murdered by an intimate male partner, or ex partner.
  • At the time of writing (March 3rd, 2015) 15 women have already been murdered at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.

I’ll just let those sobering facts sink in for a moment.

Unfortunately, facts alone are not enough to get government to take this terrible state of affairs seriously enough, although just recently there are signs that awareness is finally making some headway. The naming of domestic violence survivor Rosie Batty as Australian of the Year is a step in the right direction and recently Q & A did a special on domestic violence. These are all positive steps. Yet, the current government’s funding cuts to community services have meant that many front line services are struggling with to keep up with demand. This is not positive and counter-intuitive to say the least.

It is a very heartbreaking reality that little girls, such as myself, grow up dreaming of meeting their ‘prince charming’. We are fed a steady diet of fairy-tales, romantic notions, and mainstream TV depictions of perfect family life. The reality for many women however, is so different. No-one expects to end up in a relationship that is abusive and violent. Yet the statistics are such that someone you know, someone you work with or went to school with, someone in your apartment block is probably living a nightmare right now.

There has been a lot of media attention given to terrorism of late, however, this article Domestic violence deserves the same attention as terrorism, links intimate partner violence with terrorism and points out its similarities, of which there are a few.

We need to address the causes of all violence in society as whole and see that they are all linked and instead of asking women why they stay, it’s time to ask,

Why do men attack the women that love them?

Some articles for further reading and sources of statistics to do with domestic violence:

http://www.domesticviolence.com.au/pages/domestic-violence-statistics.php

http://www.adfvc.unsw.edu.au/PDF%20files/Statistics_final.pdf

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/sundayextra/intimate-brutality-the-epidemic-of-domestic-violence/6273516

http://www.womensagenda.com.au/talking-about/top-stories/why-are-sexual-assault-and-domestic-violence-on-the-rise/201502255362#.VPTIoPmUfWs

http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/stop-blaming-the-victim-rosie-batty-to-address-mps-20150302-13sx55.html

http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/tara-costigan-murder/

http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/domestic-violence-deaths-vs-terrorism-deaths/#yqAVLOjPiEAtkSol.99

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4906.0Contents2012?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4906.0&issue=2012&num=&view=