Monthly Archives: January 2016

Falling Knives, Part 1

“…A morning of tears, remembered fears
Withering looks from the past
Cut the heart, tear you apart
Pain racked soul heaves your body
Causing you to tremble and shudder

Cruel words spoken with loathing
With no care for the innocent soul
Who listens carefully
And believes this to be truly
The way things could be…”

– Marie Williams, Damaged People

Some days are darker than others.

Perhaps we have had an oppressive dream, now half-remembered. Perhaps an icy rain is falling, sharp as knives, and the weather determines our mood. Perhaps a misplaced word pierces our already injured psyche or our blood chemistry is off or the stars are misaligned.

Self-Criticism

Whatever the reasons – internal or external, identifiable or not – for abuse victims, particularly those of us suffering from depression, the most innocuous thoughts and observations can quickly morph into self-criticism, calling up faults and failures, real and imagined. No mistake is forgiven; no oversight on our part – however slight – is laid to rest for good.

Hour after hour, our criticism is unrelenting; our self-assessment, merciless. We may be able to defend ourselves against a single assault, even a dozen. But we cannot dodge the falling knives forever.

Emotional Flashbacks

The pain is searing. Old wounds are re-opened; new wounds, inflicted. What may seem insignificant to others can trigger repeated emotional flashbacks with childhood traumas not merely recalled but relived, re-experienced emotionally, again and again.

Minimizing the Abuse

To those unfamiliar with abuse, this description may sound overly dramatic. Surely, victims must be exaggerating. Actually, however, the opposite is true.

It is not uncommon for the victims of childhood abuse to downplay their suffering. Some will make excuses for their abuser, assuming liability for the abuse which is not rightly theirs. Why this tendency to minimize the scars of abuse, to downgrade the brutality of a traumatized mind and body?

Minimizing is a form of denial victims utilize in an attempt to deal with their trauma [1].

In denial, the brain tries to protect the psyche by refusing to admit the reality of trauma or abuse [2]. Details of the abuse may be shielded from the victim’s consciousness. The horror is diluted; the trauma processed in manageable, bite-size pieces. The victim is still adversely impacted, but not completely immobilized.

Fear, Shame, and Family Secrets

Victims may fear they will be overcome by the intensity of their feelings, should they accept the full extent of their abuse.

They may find it too painful to admit a loved one would treat them so callously. They may feel responsible for keeping family secrets. They may have difficulty connecting present day problems with past trauma. Continue reading

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Scarred

“Sonia”, age 24, survived an acid attack in Bangladesh after declining the offer of an arranged marriage, Source Narayan Nath/FCO/Department for International Development (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Voice of the Martyrs http://www.persecution.com began reporting some 15 years ago on a growing trend toward acid attacks against women.  One early attack took place in Pakistan against a 17 y.o. Christian girl who had refused the advances of a Muslim man. A striking photo of the girl (“Gulnaz”) showed one side of her face beautiful, the other side horribly scarred.

But acid attacks are not all religiously motivated.

As with Sonia (pictured above), the overwhelming number of attacks are made on young women who have rejected sexual advances by a male or whose parents have refused an offer of marriage [1].  The purpose of these attacks is to enforce gender inequality, and punish perceived transgressions by women against traditional norms.

More recently, acid attacks have been made against children, older women, and men. These attacks have been associated with dowry demands, land disputes, and revenge. Continue reading

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Abuse Victims, God, and the Search for Love, Part 2

“From a distance we are instruments
marching in a common band,
Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace.
They’re the songs of every man.
God is watching us. God is watching us.
God is watching us from a distance.”

From a Distance, Bette Midler

Though human love may fail us, Divine love continues to offer us hope. We must, however, be wary not to see rejection where it does not exist. Abuse victims readily believe themselves unworthy of God’s love. And God’s love is unmerited. Yet He offers it anyway, which is why His love is so powerfully restorative.

The amazing thing is that God is not at a great distance from us. His outstretched hand is there for the taking. We need but turn to Him.

Kudos to Miss M from a longtime fan. May another generation discover her music.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Abuse Victims, God, and the Search for Love, Part 1

PBS recently re-aired “Divine Madness”. The Divine Miss M, circa 1980: Bette Midler in her younger years. A blast straight from my past.

I am, of course, dating myself. Maybe the New Year’s celebrations have me in a nostalgic mood. But I look back over the decades with some wonder at how I survived…how any of us survived.

Bette Midler strikes a chord for me, both musically and metaphorically. That voice – muscular and poignant. That manner – brash and vulnerable.

The first time I heard “The Rose” over the radio I had to pull the car to the side of the road for the tears in my eyes. The same thing happened the first time I heard “From a Distance”. I couldn’t help myself.

There is a profound connection here. “The Rose” is about the search for love, when love seems unattainable. “From a Distance” is about the search for brotherhood, which always seems beyond our reach.

“Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower and you its only seed.”

The Rose, Bette Midler

I think it’s fair to say that abuse victims are particularly desperate for love. We deserve but do not see ourselves as worthy of love. Having had so little of the real thing, we settle for poor imitations without even realizing our error. Continue reading

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In the Wake of a Tiger

Facial markings on “Sultan” (T72), Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, India, Author Dibyendhu Ash (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

“Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night…
What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil, what the grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?”

The Tiger, William Blake

“How do you do? I’m an incest survivor.” You don’t hear that often. When should abuse victims first introduce the subject of abuse into conversation with friends and acquaintances [1]?

It is, of course, up to victims whether or not to disclose the fact of their abuse. We tend to err in one direction or the other – disclosing to strangers, before a sufficient degree of intimacy has been established to support discussion of such personal subject matter, while keeping the abuse entirely secret from friends (even spouses), sometimes for decades.

Victims can choose the setting, and establish parameters for this conversation. We can speak with one individual or several. “There’s something about me I’d like you to know.” “Let’s take a walk (or sit here for awhile, before the others get back).” “This is hard for me to talk about.” “It would be easier, if you asked specific questions (or didn’t ask questions, right now).”

But the topic of abuse makes people uncomfortable. No doubt about it. Few people unfamiliar with abuse – physical, emotional, sexual or neglect – will know how to respond to such information, at the outset.

Not that any sort of etiquette applies. Still, do they ask for more details? Or would questions be intrusive, insensitive? Should they hide their discomfort, move the conversation along to a less personal topic, as if abuse had not been mentioned? Or should they express shock, reach out to us – appalled that we would have suffered to such an extent?

Keeping silent allows some victims to ignore the painful reality of their abuse. A few will attempt to build a life on this fragile foundation. But the victims of a tiger attack will inevitably reveal their scars. We may as well enlist the aid of friends and relations in dealing with those scars…or, at any rate, attempt to do so. Continue reading

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