Posted in Lessons, men, shame

ZERO Tolerance – what is wrong now WAS wrong then!

As the news began to pour in over the allegations of sexual misconduct by Matt Lauer and then Garrison Keillor, social media just as quickly filled with questions of disbelief.  I agree that we should all be innocent until proven guilty….but what I found to be most disturbing were the statements defending two “great men” who could not possibly have done what they were accused of.  Comments like, “well, if this is something that happened 10 years ago and is just surfacing now….maybe it isn’t so bad…or “so what if it was just a little tap on the ass….boys will be boys…”  I found myself dumbfounded by the comments seeming to defend or question the allegations brought forth against these men because 1) they seemed so nice, 2) everybody loves them, and 3) what we think of as wrong now wasn’t wrong then…..

Or was it?

What we think of as wrong now (sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, inappropriate touch, sexual assault, rape) was wrong then…..we were simply too afraid or too ashamed to say or do anything about it.

Like when I suffered sexual assault in college.  I never told anyone because 1) I was sure it was my fault in some way (isn’t that what we’ve been taught), 2) I was afraid, 3) I was ashamed. 4) I knew that with the rape culture at the University of Iowa being what it was in 1983, no one would do anything about it anyway and 5) Because I certainly didn’t want to go on trial.

I suspect the reasons I chose not to speak are the same for every single woman, child and man who has been sexually harassed, assaulted or raped and chose not to tell. Or maybe they did and were told, “Shhhhh….that’s just how Uncle Larry is. Forget about it and move on.”  Or “Boys will be boys.”  Or, “We don’t tell the family secret.” Or “But Father Henry is such a nice man.” Or “It must have been something you were wearing.” Or “Maybe you shouldn’t have drunk so much death punch…..”  Etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.  Followed closely by….NOTHING BEING DONE… except more shame heaped upon the victim.

I will say it again:  what we consider to be wrong now was wrong then and has been wrong throughout history.  Unless we are a sociopath, our deep inner sense of right and wrong tells us this is true.  It has never been right or appropriate for ANYONE to treat another human being as a sex object to be used for their own pleasure, most especially when the user is in a position of power or authority – no matter how much your parents, drill sergeant, football coach, boss or friends told you it was alright!  NEVER! Yes, we can deny the truth away all we want, or try to justify it because of the culture we are/were living in, but abusing another human being has never, ever, ever been right. PERIOD!

And it certainly doesn’t’ matter how many years have passed since the incident happened.  The victim is still suffering. It doesn’t matter how many years has passed since Father Henry made an altar boy perform fellatio on him, or when Matt Lauer acted in sexually inappropriate ways with female colleagues, assistants, fans; or when Donald Trump spoke in demeaning, sexual ways toward women……it was still wrong and it is appropriate that it should come to light and they be held accountable for what they have done. This is called justice. (Yes, there is a place for healing and forgiveness in all this….but for that to take place, the perpetrator needs to acknowledge their wrongdoing, make amends and do the hard work of healing whatever is unhealed within them that would cause them to inflict harm upon another in the first place.)

I also don’t buy the “but he seemed so nice” defense.  What the hell do we know about media-made, so-called celebrities?  THEY ARE ACTING!  Not only that but as is true for all of us, we tend to put our best face forward.  Just think of Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy…..men in the spotlight who everyone thought was “so nice” when in fact they were men in positions of power who used their power to manipulate and use women for their sexual pleasure.  I don’t care how nice they are in every other circle of their life…if they have used women in this way, it is wrong.  PERIOD.

Before we move toward defending those accused of sexual misconduct….think for a moment of what it is like for the women (men, children) who are the recipients of these unwanted sexual advances…..as one who has been there, this is what it is like…..

Every time a man (or it could just as likely be a woman) makes an inappropriate gesture, touches us without our consent in a sexual or sexually suggestive way, uses sexual or demeaning words to describe us or speak to us, pats our butt, grabs our breast, thrusts their pelvis toward us, grinds up on our leg, grabs our hand and places it on his sexual area, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. a tiny little part of us shrivels up and dies.  A part of our soul recoils in disgust and then shame.  Because of the way in which our culture has normalized these behaviors we think we can’t say or do anything about it….and if we do say or do something about it, it is likely someone will roll their eyes at us or accuse us of “being too sensitive” or “not taking a joke.”  But every time we remain silent, we lose a little more of our power until eventually there is nothing left.

This is why we can no longer remain silent and why we must call for zero tolerance in matters of sexual misconduct or violence….and this goes as much for the women as it goes for the men.  Sadly women are not innocent in this.  For every man who uses a woman as a sex object there is a woman who uses her sexuality to manipulate and control men.  This also is wrong.  And that my friends, is a topic for another blog….

 

 

 

Posted in church, Forgiveness, Raised Catholic

Shining the Spotlight on Clergy Sexual Abuse

I was not sexually abused by a priest, but I know and have counseled many people who were.  I was not sexually abused by a priest, but I worked in the Church when the insidious legacy of priests sexually abusing children and having inappropriate relations with other vulnerable populations began to come to light.  I was also still working in the Church when the sexual abuse scandal exploded and other “sins of the institution” came to be known.

So, when I watched the recent Academy Award winning movie, Spotlight, which tells the story of the Boston Globe’s investigation into clergy sexual abuse, uncovering and then exposing the unconscionable cover up of hundreds of priests (249 in the Boston Diocese alone!) who had been sexually abusing children and the thousands of victims, I was already long-acquainted with the story, but was so deeply moved and startled by the true extent of the crime, I could hardly speak for days.  What I didn’t know, was that a dear friend, professionally a Lay Ecclesial Minister, was also watching the movie at the very same time, reliving her own experience of clergy sexual abuse and reflecting on her on-going path of healing.  Here is her response:

Original photograph by Kathy Walczyk
Original photograph by Kathy Walczyk

I watched the movie Spotlight five times. I cried every time. I cried because the reporters knocked on doors, they came in search of listening and learning. They came to give a voice to the voiceless. They opened doors of truth. In the middle of watching Spotlight for the fourth time, I wrote to thank them, the real reporters. I got a personal reply in six minutes. Six minutes!!!

I wish it were like this in the church. I wish the church had come knocking on doors in search of us, our story, listening with the intent of learning our needs, and inviting our voices. Greater dignity was lost in this lack.

And I wish all the walls of defense were not so high and the finger of blame would lower. I wish humility, responsibility, and a desire for mending and reconciling would replace what we have now.

I wish we could bring the sacred to conversations, uplift the holy in each other.

I wish the church could talk about the beautiful, sacredness of our sexuality, our life essence, and our lifeblood that is good, and is within every human. And I wish we could talk about how our desire for God, for wholeness is found through relationships with each other. I wish we could talk about how this same sensual spirit is creative and life giving. Without healthy dialogue of our human sexuality there will be no understanding of how sexual violence in holy places, by people wearing crosses, can affect one’s communion with God and with each other. Reconciling divisions will come when we can address this in a spiritual, caring way.

There is a better way.

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Read Kathy’s original post HERE.

Kathy’s artwork and poetry are currently on display as part of the “Co-Workers in the Vineyard” exhibition at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.  Learn more HERE.

Kathy’s work will be displayed locally at The Norbertine Center for Spirituality in DePere September 1 – 30, 2016.  Watch the Norbertine Center’s website for details HERE. 

Posted in Healing, Inspiration

Recovering from Abuse

In the twenty years that I have been in the ministry of spiritual direction/spiritual counseling, I have journeyed with many men and women who have survived abusive relationships, including being married to a narcissist.  This essay is for you! 

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Consequences

 

Nobody warns you of the consequences of being married to an abuser.  The price, I have learned, is nothing less than your Soul.  The voice of your inner truth – silenced.  Your hopes and dreams, snuffed out.  All the things that make your heart sing, torn from your grasp and crushed under a steel-toed boot.  No regard for your hopes and dreams, your needs falling on deaf ears. In the home that you share, there is no room for you, your dreams, your needs, your aesthetics. Instead, the abuser somehow takes up ALL THE SPACE.

The abuser doesn’t care about what you want, who you are, what you might need to thrive, let alone survive –   the consideration only of themselves and how you might serve them.  A trophy, housekeeper, business manager, bookkeeper, accountant, cook, parent to their children (so they don’t have to parent), sex toy, all under the guise of “loving support,” with nothing there for you. Your dreams, desires, hopes, needs are unimportant you know, as you are only there to serve them.  But never, not once, is there a word of gratitude or kindness.  Instead, you’re too fat, you’re ugly, frigid and asexual, the house isn’t clean enough, the yard not pretty enough, your clothes aren’t right, your beliefs and dreams are stupid, and how dare you ask for a teenie tiny crumb of anything for yourself and if you dare to ask, you can bet you will be punished.

There really ought to be a diagnosis in the DSM: “survivor of being married to an abuser,” so that there can be some sort of coverage for recovery work and supplemental income while you try to get your life back together – for recovery from these kinds of relationships is akin to trying to survive while walking on the sun.

Posted in addictions, Body/Mind/Spirit connection, guilt, Healing, shame, sin, The Seven Deadly Compulsions

Sex Addiction – Causes and Compassion

In yesterday’s blog, we explored the subject of sexual addiction and ways to identify this behavior in ourselves or our loved ones so that we might seek out help.  In today’s blog, we will examine some of the possible causes of sex addiction, specifically the deeper emotional and spiritual wounds what are ultimately seeking healing.

Causes of Sexual Addiction

As is the case with other addictions, there are no cut and dried formulas in their cause.  There are, however, some reported similarities between sex addicts which warrant examination:

  • Sex addicts often come from dysfunctional families
  • Many report a past history of having been physically, verbally or emotionally abused
  • 82% of sex addicts reported having been sexually abused as children
  • 80% reported substance abuse as present within their family of origin
  • Many report parents as distant, uncaring and rigid
  • It is theorized that abnormalities in brain chemistry may predispose a person to addictive behaviors, including sex addiction

(Source:  Herkov, M. (extracted 2013). What causes sexual addiction? www.psychcentral.com.)

Behavior modification

As discussed in yesterday’s blog, sex addiction is recognized in compulsive, uncontrollable behaviors most often driven by anxiety.  Addiction language speaks of this anxiety as the “emotional trigger.”    Learning effective methods for dealing with this anxiety or confronting the specific emotional trigger goes a long way in supporting recovery and healing in sex addicts and allows the addict to create new and healthier ways of responding to these triggers.  It has been my experience, however, that in many (if not most) cases, the addictive behavior ultimately has nothing to do with the behavior itself (ie: fantasizing, masturbation, use of pornography, etc.), and simple behavior modification, while necessary, is not enough to facilitate long-term recovery, and more importantly, does not help the addict learn how to cultivate and enjoy healthy, loving, intimacy. For as long as they are indulging their addiction, sex addicts are incapable of experiencing or participating in true intimacy.

Sex Addiction and Need

Instead, sex addiction has much more to do with deeper, unhealed spiritual and emotional wounds that are seeking to be made known so that they may be healed.  Sex addiction, contrary to the belief of many addicts (and their partners), is not about love or intimacy.  Sex addiction isn’t even really about sex.  Sex addiction is about seeking the remedy to a deep, inner, often unnamed pain.  As mentioned above, many sex addicts report having been emotionally, mentally, verbally, physically and even sexually abused as children.  For sex addicts, sexual behaviors (including fantasizing) allowed them to disassociate from the on-going trauma and provided temporary relief from the pain.  In order to facilitate enduring recovery, the addict needs to acknowledge this pain and identify the needs that were left unmet in their childhood.  Some of these needs might include:

  • The need to feel safe and that their needs for food, clothing, and shelter were being met
  • The need to feel of value and as if they had something significant to contribute
  • The need to feel supported in being and living as their most authentic self
  • The need to feel unconditionally loved
  • The need to feel free to express their needs and their truth
  • The need to know their truth and their path
  • The need to feel as if they were not alone

As the addict works on healing these deeper unmet needs and unacknowledged childhood wounds,  learns strategies for getting these needs met and tending to themselves in adulthood, while developing healthy interventions for managing anxiety, the addictive behaviors become less and less necessary.  Addressing these deeper wounds then provides the foundation upon which the addict can begin to cultivate what they have been missing all along – healthy, loving intimacy.

If you believe that you or your partner is suffering from sex addiction, please seek help and support through counseling, psychotherapy or 12-step recovery groups tailored to the needs of sex addicts.

To learn more about sex addiction, check out Out of the Shadowsby Patrick J. Carnes, PhD.

sexaddictioncarnes

Posted in codependency, Healing, Midlife Journey, Relationships

Midlife and Menopause – Acknowledging Abuse

The purpose of a midlife crisis, perimenopause and menopause (from a spiritual perspective) is to move us beyond childbearing to birthing ourselves…and this is as true for men as it is for women.  During midlife and menopause, we are invited to leave behind the life we have known to make room for the new life that is trying to be born through us.  In birthing our new selves, we are birthing our Soul – the unique way we are creatively gifted to find meaning, purpose, connection and fulfillment in our lives and the way in which we find fulfillment by contributing to the betterment of our worldOne of the challenges of the midlife journey is that in order to birth something new, we have to recognize and confront the things in our lives which are not supportive of finding meaning, purpose and fulfillment and sometimes, one of the things we need to confront is the reality of abuse.  It is often at the midlife transition that men and women are forced to admit that they are somehow wrapped up in the cycle of abuse, and then we are invited to do something about it.  Today’s blog specifically addresses the topic of emotional abuse, often the most difficult form of abuse to recognize.  If this looks familiar or strikes a chord with you, please seek support in unraveling and recovering from abuse.

Midlife-Menopause-Identifying-Abuse
Midlife-Menopause-Identifying-Abuse

Midlife and Menopause – Acknowledging Emotional Abuse

While it is difficult to deny physical, verbal or sexual abuse, many who are being emotionally abused are reluctant to admit or acknowledge the abuse because they have been systematically “trained” to believe that they are the one at fault, that they somehow deserve the abuse and that it is not abuse at all….but that there is something wrong with them….they are irrational, crazy, needy, that their needs are ridiculous, unreasonable and undeserving.  Emotional abuse is nothing short of brainwashing….brainwashing the victim to believe there is something wrong with them so that the abuser can establish and maintain their position of power and control.

The Effects of Emotional Abuse

Whatever the form the emotional abuse takes, it has the same result. Emotional abuse undermines, even destroys belief in the basic rights that all people deserve in relationship.  Patricia Evans defines these rights as:

  • The right to good will from the other.
  • The right to emotional support.
  • The right to be heard by the other and to be responded to with courtesy.
  • The right to have your own view, even if your partner has a different view.
  • The right to have your feelings and experience acknowledged as real.
  • The right to receive a sincere apology for any jokes you may find offensive.
  • The right to clear and informative answers to questions that concern what is legitimately your business.
  • The right to live free from accusation and blame.
  • The right to live free from criticism and judgment.
  • The right to have your work and your interests spoken of with respect.
  • The right to encouragement.
  • The right to live free from emotional and physical threat.
  • The right to live free from angry outbursts and rage.
  • The right to be called by no name that devalues you.
  • The right to be respectfully asked rather than ordered.

Healing from Emotional Abuse

Healing from any kind of abuse requires time, patience and good support.  The process begins with admitting that you are being abused and continues as you gather appropriate support around you through counselors, mentors, therapists and support groups.  Healing takes root as the lies upon which your life has been established fall away so that you can embrace the magnificent person that you are and enjoy the possibility of a future relationship built on mutual love, honor and respect – the kind of relationship that you dreamed about….before the abuser taught you otherwise.

To learn more about my upcoming course, “Surviving Midlife,” click HERE.