Category Archives: Violence Against Women

Obsessive Love

“Romeo and Juliet” by Frank Dicksee (1884), Southampton City Art Gallery, Source http://www.odysseetheater.com (PD-Art, PD-Old-80)

The TLC channel is currently running a series titled “90 Day Fiance:  Before the 90 Days” https://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/90-day-fiance-before-the-90-days/ .   Alternately engaging, appalling, and cautionary, this reality show depicts couples whose relationships began online.

Though most have never met, all program participants feel certain they have found true love.  The question presented is, have they?  A more telling question might be, do they understand the nature of love at all?

The latter is a question abuse victims must confront, themselves, if they are to heal.

Online Relationships

Unfortunately, online relationships are prone to the distortion of projection.  We see what we want to see; hear what we want to hear.  We fill in the blanks with the image of our ideal, hope fueling our fantasies.

Abuse victims are especially vulnerable to this distortion.

Abuse and Our View of Love

Child abuse – whatever form it takes (emotional, physical, sexual, or neglect) – skews our view of love.  Abuse teaches us that love must be earned, and requires sacrifice on our part to the point of self-destruction.

Deprived of real love, we become desperate for it.  This continues to play out in adulthood.  We settle for crumbs, for partners who beat us, rob us, and cheat on us – all the while sure that we cannot live without them.

Destructive Love

No mere post (or reality show, for that matter) can capture all the complexities of love.  We can though clear up a few misconceptions.

A great deal done in the name of love is destructive.  Women are frequently stalked in the name of love.  Murders are regularly committed in the name of love.  Teens, in particular, commit suicide in the name of love.

Obsession is not, however, genuine love.

A.  Stalking

Social media and romantic comedies portray stalking as a compliment to the object of the stalker’s “affection” – something funny, even sweet [1][2].

In reality, over 7 million people are stalked each year, most by a former intimate partner [3].  Many are physically attacked, raped, and/or killed by their stalker.  Others live in fear – their privacy violated, their sense of safety gone, their loved ones placed in jeopardy. Continue reading

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Restored to Life

“Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well” by Angelica Kauffman (1796), Neue Pinakothek, Germany (PD-Art, PD-Old)

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live…’ ”(John 11: 25).

Jesus actively ministered to women.  He not only healed women (Matt. 8: 14-15), He fellowshipped with them (John 12: 2-3).  And He forgave women their sins (Luke 7: 44-50).

Jesus taught women (Luke 10: 39; John 4: 6-26), upheld their rights in divorce (Matt. 5: 31-32, 19: 3-9), and ignored the laws of ritual purity to address their urgent needs (Matt. 9: 20-22).  Jesus used a Gentile mother, begging for intervention on behalf of her daughter, to illustrate faith (Matt. 15: 22-28), and a poor widow to illustrate generosity (Mark 12: 41-44).

Jesus defended the woman caught in adultery (John 8: 3-11).  Out of compassion, He raised both Jairus’ little girl (Matt. 10: 18-19, 25), and the only son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7: 11-15) from the dead.

And women ministered to Jesus (Luke 8: 1-3).  When all the Apostles but John had fled or gone into hiding, women remained faithful at the cross (Matt. 27: 55-56). While women were not considered reliable witnesses at the time, it was to women Jesus first revealed His Resurrection (Matt. 28: 1-8, Mark 16: 9-10).

Jesus still ministers to women today.  Deadened though we may feel, as a result of abuse, Jesus has the power to restore us to life.  We need only place our trust in Him.

Originally posted 4/20/14

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

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Precious

A good-for-nothing man is an evil-doer; he goes on his way causing trouble with false words…” (Prov. 6: 12).

Baby girl, you are so precious.  You are so precious, you don’t even know.  Your Mama and I loved you from the moment she brought you into this world.  Even before that.  Your Daddy left early on, but we loved you just the same.

We rocked you, walked the floors with you when you were teething, saw you take your first step.  We cooked for you, we mended your clothes.  We saw you on the bus that first day of school.  You were so pretty, your hair all done up in ribbons.  Maybe you can’t remember, but I do.

You and I, we lost your Mama to hard work, then no work, then those devil drugs.  You must have asked me a million times where she was, on those nights she didn’t come home to us.  But she loved you.  She tried her best.  It just wasn’t enough in this cruel world.

Your Mama tried to help you with your lessons, in the beginning, taught you one and one makes two.  Do you remember that?  It was just that the lessons she had to learn were harder – lessons about hard men, and the hard road a woman faces alone.

Now you want to run after this man!  This good-for-nothing man?!  You think he’s going to give you something you don’t already have?  He doesn’t want to give.  All he wants to do is take from you.  Take your hips, take your fresh young face, take your smile.  But you believe his promises, promises as empty as noise.

Is it because your Daddy wasn’t there to tell you how special you are?  Is it because you didn’t see yourself in his eyes?  We tried, your Mama and I, tried to tell you that, tried to show you every which way we could.  Try and remember, baby girl. Continue reading

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Perfection

Ritual of spiritual cleansing at Hindu temple, Author Frazer Macdonald, Source https://500px.com (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Many abuse victims are tormented by perfectionism.  This is the unrelenting pursuit of perfection.  Perfection and perfectionism are not, however, the same.  One is, in fact, antagonistic to the other.

Perfection as a Standard

Perfection has special significance for abuse victims.  As children, abuse victims come under constant and unjustified criticism.  Harsh criticism may be accompanied by still harsher punishments, penalties far beyond anything a loving parent or guardian might administer for a childish infraction.

With time, victims conclude that perfection alone would satisfy their tormentors.  We strive to achieve that.  In reality, no amount of effort could attain the impossibly high standards set for victims.  But the effort is ingrained in us, as is the self-criticism.  So perfectionism begins.

The Need for Approval

As adults, abuse victims are frequently motivated by a need for approval.  We become “people pleasers”, conditioned “to feel bad about [our]selves and to please, appease, accommodate others” [1A].  Studies show that perfectionists of this type may “exhibit…‘a strong sense of duty, which masks underlying feelings of personal inadequacy’ ” [1B][2].

Dirt and Cleanliness

Sexual abuse can add another layer of torment.  Child victims may be too young to understand what exactly is being done to them, other than that it is a painful violation. The violation is commonly, however, associated with cleanliness issues.  This is especially true when children are accused of being “filthy sluts”, “dirty whores”, and the like.

Having been made to feel “dirty”, children may rub dirt onto their skin and clothing.  They may soil themselves, even if long since potty-trained.  In the alternative, they may wash unceasingly; may bathe and change clothes several times a day.

As adults, the victims of sexual abuse are likely to have difficulties with sex.  They may view sex as threatening and disgusting; themselves as soiled by it.  Some can feel nothing sexually.  Others treat sex as a commodity.  Far too many throw themselves into frenzied sexual activity, in a desperate search for the love of which they were deprived.

Most abuse victims do not grow up to become prostitutes.  A great number of prostitutes (male and female) were, however, abused as children

Washed in the Blood

Verses can be found throughout the Bible which refer to cleansing [3].   These are not concerned with soap and water, but with sin and repentance.  They convey something of the power of God to forgive whatever wrongs we may have done, and “cleanse” or rid us of the evil done to us.

The Bible’s cleansing verses are not meant to suggest that abuse victims are somehow filthy or defiled.  The child victims of abuse – even sexual abuse – have NOT sinned, sexually or otherwise.  And God, above all others, understands the extent to which their adult actions may have been impacted by the sins inflicted on them as children. Continue reading

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Tracking

hajb.jpg

Photo courtesy of Independent Minds.

Saudi Arabian “guardianship” laws assign women a legal status comparable to that of children, in many respects.  Each woman is appointed a male guardian (generally her father, husband, or son) who must give permission for her to marry, have certain medical procedures, or obtain a passport.

A mobile application now allows men to track and restrict the movement of women [1].  Launched by the Saudi government in 2015, Absher (“Yes, Sir”) is available for download from the Apple and Google Play stores.  The app enables men to issue or revoke the travel rights of women over whom those men hold guardianship, tracking the women through airports. Continue reading

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Skin Suit

Human skin close-up, Author Montavius Howard, Source https://pixabay.com/photos/skin-brown-skin-skin-up-close-2016480/ (CC0)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

This skin suit that surrounds me, more wrinkled now than any “lawyer suit” I ever owned, is no longer smooth, no longer supple.  It is marred by scars and stretch marks, like the tributaries of some ancient river; has been visited by varicosities, by callouses, hives, rashes, and eruptions too often to count.

But once this skin knew the joy of raindrops.  Once it knew the fever that passion evokes.

This skin suit that envelopes me has been bruised, pierced, incised, and sutured; has been burned by the sun to a poison apple red.

This skin has been stroked and patted, been tenderly groomed, oh so tenderly violated, again and again and again and again – each cell silently screaming in protest, recoiling in horror.

This skin suit of mine has served as a witness to all the best and worst aspects of my life, to the weakness and the strength, the failures and the triumphs; has lain prostrate with pain, overcome by grief, yet risen to see the glory of a new dawn, and lived to praise God for His deliverance.

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God…” (Job 19: 26).

Originally posted 3/5/17

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

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Abuse Victims and Failure, Part 3 – A Fresh Perspective

Sylvester Stallone in film “Rocky VI”, Source https://commons.wikimedia.org, Arthur Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis (PD as work product of federal govt.)

“ ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all…

– Emily Dickinson

Abuse skews the perspective we have on our lives.  But our viewpoint (and the labels we choose to apply to our experiences) can make a surprising difference.

What others may call “failures” can be seen as new avenues of exploration or stepping stones to the next success.

  • Thomas Edison made thousands of unsuccessful attempts at creating the light bulb.  When a reporter asked him how it felt to fail so often, Edison responded that he had not failed.  He had merely ruled out ways that would not work.
  • Babe Ruth was famous for his home run record.  But for decades Ruth, also, held the record for strikeouts.  He hit 714 home runs, but struck out 1330 times in his career.  Ruth said about this, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

“I’ve failed over and over again in my life.  That is why I succeed.”

– Michael Jordan

The Chance to Start Again

We can view failure as a chance to start again, with more knowledge than we had before [1].

  • The industrialist Henry Ford, the department store magnate RH Macy, and the animator/studio head Walt Disney all filed for bankruptcy, at some point.  Yet they are considered exemplars of innovation whose vision changed the world.

Not Counted Out Yet

“I believe in pink.  I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner.  I believe in kissing.  I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.  I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.  I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”

– Audrey Hepburn

True, we face enormous challenges as abuse victims.  True, we may be exhausted from a decades-long battle with the after-effects of abuse.  But we should not count ourselves out too soon. Continue reading

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Abuse Victims and Failure, Part 2 – Bad Advice

“Blue Suede Shoes” sheet music at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Source Flickr, Author Sam Howzit (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

“Well, you can knock me down,
Step in my face,
Slander my name
All over the place.

Do anything that you want to do, but uh-uh,
Honey, lay off of my shoes
Don’t you step on my blue suede shoes…”

– Elvis Presley, Blue Suede Shoes

Discouragement from those significant in our lives often accompanies abuse.  Sadly, we may adopt the negative opinion others have of us based on their own shortcomings.

But bad advice is simply misdirection – not an infallible predictor of our future.  The important thing is that it not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • The author of a beloved 19th Century girls’ novel worked as a maid, seamstress, companion, and teacher.  Thankfully, Louisa May Alcott found her true calling, and left us the classic Little Women.

Taught to Fear

  • Lucille Ball said that all acting school taught her was to be frightened.  Ball, of course, became one of the most popular comediennes in America, starring in such sitcoms as I Love Lucy.  She was nominated for thirteen Emmy Awards, winning four (along with a Lifetime Achievement Award).

Abuse victims are taught to fear.  Change is viewed as negative, and the new as dangerous.

This attitude passed on to us – if we remain bound by it – makes progress impossible, and success unattainable.  Genuine opportunities are missed, since their negative consequences always appear to outweigh any benefit.

Meanwhile, real risk is not accurately assessed.  Danger is not perceived, so we rush headlong into its arms – sometimes in the very effort to escape our past [1].  When harm follows (frequently in the form of further abuse), we question our judgment and become ever more fearful.

Trained not to trust our abilities, we cannot conceive of overcoming the obstacles in our path.  Yet, it must be added, a remarkable number of us do overcome them.  Ironically, our pain is sometimes the impetus for change.

Without guidance, support, or even much confidence, we ignore the odds against us, and persevere regardless. Continue reading

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Abuse Victims and Failure, Part 1 – A Slow Start

“The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss, Source http://www.dvidshub.net (VIRIN 170302-F-EZ530-010), Arthur Airman 1st Class Donald Hudson (PD as work product of federal gov’t)

“Today you are YOU,
That is TRUER than true.
There is NO ONE alive
Who is YOUER than YOU!”

– Dr. Seuss

As abuse victims, most of us are familiar with failure.  This is not necessarily because we have failed.

Many victims are successful in the work world.  Work may actually help us to deal with the abuse we once endured.  It can provide a focus for our energies, sometimes to the point of exhaustion [1].

What we experience, however, is a persistent feeling of having failed in the most important arena of all; having failed at love.

This feeling stems, in part, from a mistaken belief that we “deserved” the abuse to which we were subjected (surely, if we had been lovable, we would not have been abused, goes the thinking); and, in part, from the failed relationships resulting from that abuse.

But all human beings experience failure.  Life is a process of trial and error for everyone. A baby tries to stand, and falls. S/he tries again, and falls again.  Eventually though s/he learns to walk, then run.

A Slow Start

Some of us have a slow start.  We may, in fact, have been advanced for our years – struggling to develop without the nurturing and encouragement we should, in all fairness, have been provided.

Still, for argument’s sake, let us say we make a slow start.  That is no indication of how we will finish.

  • One little boy did not speak until comparatively late.  His parents feared he was mentally impaired.  A teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.”  The boy was expelled from secondary school for being “disruptive,” and was refused admittance to a prestigious university.
    We recognize now that Albert Einstein was one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century.  He is regarded as the father of modern physics [2].

Rejection

With or without a “slow” start, we all experience rejection eventually.

  • Teachers quickly grew impatient with Thomas Edison’s inquisitiveness. One called Edison “addled.”  Edison went on to invent the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the light bulb.   Altogether, Edison held over 1000 patents.
  • Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame had every cartoon he submitted rejected by his high school yearbook.
  • More than two dozen publishers rejected one children’s book, before it reached the public.  The author, Dr. Seuss, ultimately wrote more than forty others, including such favorites as The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who! and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Continue reading

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Lost on the Wind

Native American Woman, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA, Accession No. 2003.003.040  (PD)

There is a haunting exhibit outside the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC [1].  Red dresses flutter in the wind.  They represent the thousands of indigenous women killed or missing in this country.

The topic of abuse among Native Americans does not generate much publicity.  The House of Representatives, Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples, recently held a hearing on the subject.  Grandly titled “Unmasking the Hidden Crisis of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women:  Exploring Solutions to End the Cycle of Violence”, the hearing received little press.

What we know is that the murder rate for American Indian and Native Alaskan women on tribal lands is 10 times the national average.  Over 5700 were reported murdered or missing in 2016 alone.

Of that number a mere fraction – 116 to be precise – made it to a Dept. of Justice database.  In point of fact, there is no national database that reliably tracks these women.

Poverty is deeply rooted on the reservation.  Existence there is spare in the best of times.  That may be a factor contributing to the violence.

Other problems include jurisdictional confusion as among federal, state, and tribal agencies; the all too frequent dismissal by law enforcement of reports of missing women struggling with addiction or other issues; and a focus by sex traffickers on Native American women as “exotic”.

These were all real women.  Each and every one of them had a name; had a mother.  Each had hopes and dreams.  But their voices are lost on the wind now.

[1]  Washington Post, “Red dresses flutter, empty, on the National Mall and this is why they should haunt us” by  Theresa Vargas, 3/16/19,  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/red-dresses-flutter-empty-on-the-national-mall-and-this-is-why-they-should-haunt-us/2019/03/15/715d6f14-4753-11e9-aaf8-4512a6fe3439_story.html?utm_term=.bccceb52d7bd.

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

 

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