Semper Fi

US Marine Corps Emblem, Author Institute of Heraldry (PD)

  • As of 2011, there were 203,000 women on active duty in the military; another 129,960 in the National Guard and Reserve [1A].
  • Men and women in the Marine Corps must meet the same standards for combat jobs [2].
  • Though the vast majority of casualties have been men, at least 33 women have been killed in action in Afghanistan and 66 in Iraq. Over 900 women have been wounded in combat [1B].

The Marine Corps has admitted to Congress it is at a loss how to protect female Marines against social media predators [3].

Secretive groups like Marines United and Just the Tip of the Spear have obtained and shared nude photos of female Marines and recruits online [4A].  Other branches of the service are not immune [7].  Hundreds of women are known to have been victimized.

Diminishing Women

This is a way of diminishing women.  Some argue there a culture of misogyny in the Marines.

A Slow Response

Marine veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Thomas Brennan, who runs the nonprofit news organization The War Horse, first drew attention to the problem in January of this year [4B].

The approach by the Marine Corps has been slow, deliberate, and outdated.  Meanwhile, Marines United (which claims some 30,000 members) has repeatedly traded one Facebook page for another.

Continue reading

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The Twins, Part 2 – Perfectionism

Siamese Twins, Nuremberg Chronicles (1441-1514) (PD)

Siamese Twins, Nuremberg Chronicles (1440-1514) (PD-Old)

This post was written in collaboration with Marie Williams whose remarks are highlighted.  Marie blogs at Come Fly with Me, https://mariewilliams53.wordpress.com.

We return to the topic of procrastination and perfectionism, related patterns of behavior in which many abuse victims find themselves trapped.

The part we play in creating our own dilemmas – the large and small crises in our lives stemming from procrastination – was discussed in Part 1 of this series.

Chance for Failure (Imperfection)

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1: 7).

Apart from the problems it would generate for anyone, failure – defined by many abuse victims as imperfection, to any small degree – results in shame and self-revilement for us.  Since creating these dilemmas greatly increases our chance for failure, the question arises why we persist in creating them.

“The whole time I was procrastinating, I thought myself foolish, an idiot, a dunce, a failure, because who in their right mind, sees a fire starting or about to start, purposely hides the fire extinguisher, forgets where she has put it and then goes and reads a book, deciding to deal with the fire when it becomes bigger and more unmanageable?  Because that is what procrastination amounts to when you come to think of it in rational terms.  Yet I could not help myself.”

-Marie Williams

The obvious answer is that we do not believe ourselves capable of accomplishing the task at hand.  Putting it off defers the painful acknowledgment of our own inadequacy.  And it provides us an excuse for failure.  Had conditions been right, had we started on the task sooner, perhaps we might have succeeded after all.

Again, the question is why.  Why are we so certain of failure?  This goes directly to our childhood abuse. On an unconscious level, we create these dilemmas to replicate the abuse which is what gives them such power over us. 

We were told repeatedly how inadequate we were.  Told how ugly, stupid, skinny, fat, or retarded we were.  Told that we would never amount to anything.  Or we were ignored entirely, starved for food and affection both.

No shock that we doubt and second guess ourselves, wrestling over decisions.

“I floundered when faced with choices.  Wanting to please and be approved of ALL THE TIME, I became lost in my own lack of confidence.  This, I think, was due to the fact that I couldn’t manage the abuse.  I adopted the same response to situations which generated that same confusion in me.”

-Marie Williams

Failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Our abusers are “proven” right.  So it seems to us.  Our failure couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the damage they inflicted on us.  Nooo. Continue reading

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The Twins, Part 1 – Procrastination

Entwined Geminis, Safavid Dynasty, Persia (c. 1635), Author Unknown, Source pinterest.com (PD)

Entwined Geminis, Safavid Dynasty, Persia (c. 1635), Author Unknown, Source pinterest.com (PD)

This post was written in collaboration with Marie Williams whose remarks are highlighted.  Marie blogs at Come Fly with Me, https://mariewilliams53.wordpress.com.

“Most of my life has been spent circling or avoiding important things that I need to do and I get very frustrated with myself.  Sometimes, I find myself trying to locate passports or important papers at the 11th hour, when I’ve had ample time to deal with matters like this.”

-Marie Williams

Procrastination and perfectionism are patterns of behavior well familiar to abuse victims, twin destructive forces that have deep meaning for those who have suffered abuse.

We invest the necessary (the “shoulds” and “musts” of life) with the power to annihilate us, or at least demolish the fragile image we have of ourselves.  Then we defer, delay, and defer again – certain that we will fail to meet our own expectations.

Failure is a foregone conclusion, given that our expectations are, by definition, unattainable.

Let’s unpack that dynamic.

Real Deadline/Chaotic Life

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven…” (Eccl. 3: 1 NKJV).

Federal income taxes are due April 15.  This is a real deadline – not a secret and not a surprise.  Still, we delay gathering our tax receipts and other records together.

“You live in a state of confusion, and therefore mundane ‘every day’ matters become muddled and murky.  You cannot quite get to grips with simple but important tasks.  You know that you have to present your driving licence for identity and you know it’s in a box somewhere, but it really is too much trouble trying to locate it in good time.  So you (at the last minute) hunt around like crazy trying to find it – it happens not to be in the box you thought it was in, and you have to turn everything upside down to find it – and all this adds to the chaos of your already chaotic life.”

-Marie Williams

Created Dilemma

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down…” (Prov. 12: 25 ESV).

We may dither over whether to rely on our long-time accountant; visit a less costly tax preparation agency; or use one of the computer programs which now allow us to do the taxes, ourselves.  We may put off making copies or doing something else insignificant, related to tax preparation.  What that is does not matter.

We, in other words, create the dilemma. Continue reading

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Skin Suit

“Seated Nude” by Amadeo Modigliani (1909), Source wikipaintings.org (PD – 100)

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, and 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).

With special thanks to Marie Williams and Sandy Meckler for their encouragement and friendship

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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Red Carpet

Kim Kardashian on the red carpet, Sydney Australia, Author Eva Rinaldi, Source flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Kim Kardashian on the red carpet, Sydney Australia, Author Eva Rinaldi, Source flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Watch Kim Kardashian on the red carpet sometime.  She smiles.  She preens for the cameras, turning this way and that.  She eats up the attention.

Many abuse victims are just the opposite.  We shun the limelight, feel awkward and uncomfortable if the spotlight is turned on us.  Instead, we prefer to go unnoticed, to fade into the background – wallflowers by choice.

Why is this?  Why is the very thought of attending a children’s play, a PTA meeting, or church service daunting?  Why is it difficult for us simply to enter a room full of strangers?

Staying at home seems so much safer.

Rejection

If pressed, we are likely to say that we fear rejection.  Often, this centers around our looks.  Some feature of ours seems less than perfect to us.  Our nose is too large or our hips too wide.  We’ve been trying for the past 20 years to lose the baby weight.

If not that, perhaps something about the way we dress is inadequate, in our estimation – deficient enough so that the entire audience may gasp, and draw back from us in horror.

We do not actually believe that will happen.  But we fear it, all the same.  Fear does not require a rational basis.  Ask any child whether there is a monster in the closet.

Monsters

Still, there is a clue here.  We’ve known monsters.  Been criticized by monsters for “flaws” we did not have.  Been assaulted by monsters, beaten black and blue, for our supposed defects.  Been violated by monsters, in ways we were too young to understand, then blamed for the violation. Continue reading

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Lovelorn, Part 2

A single red tea rose, Author Brandy Cross (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

A single red tea rose, Author Brandy Cross (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

No child is morally culpable for having been sexually violated.

Tragically, child abuse can have a significant impact on sexual identity (the gender with which victims identify), sexual orientation (the gender to which victims are attracted), and sexuality (victims’ capacity for sexual feelings).

Unfortunately, whether out of modesty or embarrassment, Christians may find it difficult to discuss sex.  This difficulty is compounded for abuse victims.

Sexual Identity/Sexual Orientation

That the trauma of child molestation can impact sexual identity and sexual orientation makes intuitive sense.

As children, we can do little to vent the confusion, fear, shame, and rage abuse causes us.  At a deep level, we either adopt the manner and attitudes of our abuser or reject them.  The decision is not an intellectual one.  It is a matter of survival [1].

This is not to suggest that all victims of childhood sexual abuse are impacted sexually.  Nor is it to suggest that child molestation is the only factor impacting sex and sexuality.

Sexual Addiction (Pornography)

The victims of childhood sexual abuse tend to take one of two paths:  sexual addiction or sexual aversion.  Again, this is a generalization only.  Each individual is unique.

An interest in sex is, by itself, normal and healthy.  Sexual addiction is, by contrast, a compulsion to engage in sex.

In the context of abuse, sexual addiction is a desperate search for love and value, often confused with lax morals.  It is the futile attempt to fill a gaping emptiness inside with substitutes for intimacy.

However – and this is important – sexual addiction can, also, result from bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or borderline personality disorder.

There is a distinction between sexual addiction and pornography addiction [2].  Sex addicts crave partners; pornography addicts can satisfy their urges without a partner (for example, by using an x-rated video).  Sex addicts are more likely to be social; pornography addicts, more likely to be reclusive.

Pornography addicts may prefer the glossy perfection of an unresponsive image to the reality of a responsive partner.  Live partners require time and attention.  Centerfolds do not.  Live partners are flawed, and likely to discover the flaws in the addict.  With a video or magazine, the pornography addict is not confronted by his/her own shortcomings.  Continue reading

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Lovelorn, Part 1

Chocolate box (

Chocolate box (“OK, not exactly the gift…”), Author Chrys Omori (CC BY-2.0 Generic)

Society glorifies romantic love, but is rather harsh toward those who do not succeed at it.  The lonely.  The heartbroken.  Unfortunately, many abuse victims fall into this category.  Strangers to real love, we tend to stumble in our pursuit of it.

There used to be advice columns for the lovelorn.  Miss Lonelyhearts – a Depression era novel by Nathanael West about such a column – has been the basis for several movies, an opera, and a Broadway play.

There is still a great deal of poetry written about lost love.  Just Google the topic.

These days, anonymous sex and hard core pornography are readily available.  Craigslist has discontinued its infamous “adult” section.  But ads for prostitution (included among them ads trafficking children) can easily be found online [1].

While pornography and anonymous sex reflect on the decadence and dehumanization of our society, they offer no real solution for problems of the heart.

Relationships – challenging enough for non-victims – can be a minefield for abuse victims.  This is an overview of the problems victims may encounter with relationships and intimacy.

Boundaries

Having been repeatedly violated, we are likely to have difficulty with boundaries.  We are either wholly without defenses or guarded by high walls.

The first (a total absence of screening, since our childhood boundaries were so often ignored) allows others to take advantage of us easily.  The second (over-compensation, in an effort to protect ourselves from further violation) makes it hard for anyone to approach us.

Trust Issues

Consistency and faithfulness were not modeled for us.  We, therefore, expect betrayal; see enemies where there are none.  This can result in needless insecurity, jealousy where there is no cause.

Even the most loving partner will tire of proving his/her devotion in the face of repeated, groundless accusations.

But accusations need not be limited to infidelity.  We may experience innocent statements as hurtful or insulting; may strike out at a partner who is at a loss to understand what s/he has done wrong.  We, in turn, may be at a loss to explain.

Control Issues/Violence

Of course, there are individuals who are genuinely controlling.  Abuse victims may, unconsciously, select for partners like this – responding to what is familiar to us from our families of origin. Continue reading

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Fighting Demons

Pittsburgh Steelers v. New England Patriots (2005) (CC BY-SA 3.0 Gen)

Pittsburgh Steelers v. New England Patriots at Heinz Field (2005), Author Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Fighting the demons of anxiety, depression, and PTSD is a little like playing football [1][2].  We make headway then lose ground.  But the fight never really ends, not the way a game of football does.  There is no score.

We win by surviving another day.

Across Decades

It can be enormously discouraging to wrestle with the scars of abuse, decade in and decade out.  Surely, we must after all this time have made progress.

But progress is not linear.  Despite the passage of time, and an extensive list of medications – not to mention therapy – familiar demons can resurface.

Factors Impacting Our Success

So, are anxiety, depression, and PTSD ever really “conquered”?  Can they, at least, be fought to a standstill?  The answer depends.

The factors include the length and severity of the trauma we sustained; our particular genetics; the quality and extent of our medical treatment; our psychological and spiritual resources; the emotional support we have available; and the other stressors to which we are subjected.

None of these can be quantified.  Most can and do vary over the course of a lifetime.

The Struggle

Why not just throw in the towel (to mix sports metaphors)?  After all, the struggle is exhausting.  The struggle, however, is life. Continue reading

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Blue on Blue, Part 2 – Despair

This is a highly personal post.  Like most abuse victims and many depression sufferers, I am well familiar with despair.  Having been grievously wounded, we cannot help but wonder whether God has turned His back on us, whether He exists at all.

There are Christian denominations which view despair as sinful.  Not all Church Fathers (influential early theologians) would, however, agree [1].  Neither do I, for that matter.  This post was written to demonstrate that the despair abuse victims experience is NOT sinful, even from that strict perspective.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Ps. 130: 1-2).

Depression sufferers often face condemnation from their well-meaning Christian friends.  Such condemnation is misplaced.  Depression should not be confused with despair.   And for despair to be considered “sinful”, certain conditions must be met.

Depression v. Despair

Depression can arise despite our circumstances.  Despair stems from our circumstances.  Depression is the manifestation of a medical condition.  Despair is the spiritual conclusion we draw about an eternal reality.

Both will make us unhappy.  Only despair, however, can be seen as “sin” [2].

Despair as “Sin”

When we despair – as most of us use the term today – we view our suffering as pointless, and God as powerless (or uninterested) to intervene.  This is situational despair.

For our hopelessness to qualify as “sinful”, we must have a genuine understanding of God; must be above the age of reason; must be in sound mind; and — in the strictest sense — must despair not about our circumstances, but about our Salvation.

Abuse victims (and depression sufferers) simply do not satisfy these conditions.

Judas and Suicide

Judas Iscariot’s suicide is often put forward as the classic act of despair.  The apostles had daily close contact with Christ.  Judas had experienced firsthand Christ’s infinite holiness, infinite power, and infinite love.

All these Judas is said to have rejected by his self-destructive act [3][4].  Judas viewed his betrayal of Christ as so heinous it was beyond God’s capacity to forgive.  He despaired, in other words, of his Salvation.

Abuse Contrasted

By contrast, the child who is daily abused and gives up hope is not guilty of the sin of despair.  For one thing, the child may not yet have reached the age of reason.  S/he may not, therefore, be capable of forming the necessary intent.

For another thing, a child who is abused is likely to have little or no understanding of God’s true nature.   S/he has no reason to believe in a just and loving God, so cannot be penalized for the failure to trust Him.  At worst, the child rejects a flawed image of God based on tragic experience with a hostile and painful world.

As important, the abused child despairs of his/her situation (not his/her eternal Salvation).  Hell is here and now.  If anything, unfounded accusations – in reality, out and out lies – about the child’s responsibility for the abuse and overall lack of worth may make death appear inviting.

Depression and the Will

Finally, adult or child, our capacity to sin is reduced when our will is compromised as, for instance, by the brain chemistry associated with depression.

God is hardly likely to condemn us for the sins committed against us, or the scars stemming from them.  That, at least, is the opinion of this lawyer.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15: 13).

[1]  Augustine believed that despair was not a sin.  Thomas Aquinas argued the point, seeing despair as a variant of pride.  Aquinas, however, distinguished hopelessness about our Salvation from hopelessness about our situation.  He explained that a physician might despair of curing a patient without committing sin.  Aquinas conceded that God could forgive despair, by way of a miracle.

[2]  It should be emphasized that not all Christian denominations view despair as equally sinful.  Unlike Catholics, Presbyterians and Baptists reject outright the concept of “mortal” sin, i.e. sin so serious it has the potential to cost us our Salvation.

[3]  Suicide has frequently been described as the “unpardonable” sin (Matt. 12: 31-32).  This though is an error.  According to Scripture, it is speaking against the Holy Spirit which will not be forgiven.  Since the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove when Christ’s divinity was revealed (Matt. 3: 16-17), the consensus now seems to be that the unpardonable sin actually signifies rejection of Christ’s offer of Salvation.

[4]  Even those who never publicly acknowledge Christ as their Savior may accept Him in their hearts, during their final moments.  “But do not forget this one thing dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3: 8).

ANYONE WITH THOUGHTS OF VIOLENCE OR SELF-HARM SHOULD SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION

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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Blue on Blue, Part 1 – Depression

Feeding time in the fish tank, KLCC Aquaria, Malaysia, Author SAM Cheong, Source http://www.flickr.com/photos/41234325@N06/5174061688 (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Feeding time in the fish tank, KLCC Aquaria, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Author SAM Cheong, Source flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

“Blue on blue, heartache on heartache
Blue on blue now that we are through…
Now the trees are bare
There’s sadness in the air
And I’m as blue as I can be”

– “Blue on Blue”, Bobby Vinton

Neglect to change the water in a fish tank, and it will soon cloud over.  Depression clouds the judgment of abuse victims, in much the same way.

Causes of Depression

Depression is a serious illness characterized by changes in brain chemistry.  Genetics, stress, major traumas such as war and child abuse, and medical conditions including AIDS, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and lupus can all play a role.

Grief at the loss of a loved one is generally distinguished from depression.  The first can, however, lead to the second [1].

Shift Toward Blue

With depression, we see the world through “blue colored” glasses, no longer capable of assessing ourselves or our situation accurately.

All our failings – failings we have in common with the rest of humanity – are magnified.  Our defeats are remembered; our good qualities and genuine accomplishments, diminished in our eyes or forgotten entirely.

Because depression is a mood disorder, we are unaware of this shift toward blue.  The world looks bleak.  Our situation – whatever it may be – appears hopeless to us.  Our lives feel meaningless.  In effect, the water in our fish tank is cloudy, and we cannot see past the glass. Continue reading

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