If I could magically go back in time and have a conversation with my 15-year-old-self, these are the 13 things I would make sure that she knew:
1. It’s not forever. People will tell you that you’re too young to be in love. They are wrong. You will fall in love. Hard. So hard that you will believe you are supposed to stay together forever. Some people stay with their high school sweethearts and get married and have babies and everything’s wonderful, but the truth is that the first person you fall in love with is most likely not the person you want to spend your whole, entire life with. And unless you are part of a very small percent of the population, you will be incredibly thankful for this. Give yourself time to date lots of people. Figure out what you want in a partner and save the “through sickness and health, till death do us part” until you’re older.
2. Be your own person, not part of a couple. Figure out who you are. Listen to the kinds of music that you like. Read the books you want to read. Try new things and keep discovering what makes you the wonderfully weird person that you are. Don’t create your identity on a foundation of someone else. Relationships do not define you. They can be a great way to connect with another person and share similar interests, but make up your own mind and be your own person.
3. Don’t give up things for relationships. If you want to play a sport, join the band, be in a club, go to the movies, hang out with friends, take a trip to visit your family, DO IT. Even if it means less time to spend with your boyfriend or girlfriend. If the relationship was meant to be, it will work out even if you put other things first. Years from now, you will regret the things you didn’t do, not the times you missed out on something to hang out with a boy (or girl) you probably don’t even talk to anymore.
4. Relationships aren’t about saving people. There are two very important sides to this. First, stop thinking of a relationship as something that will save you. Yes, the idea of someone sweeping you off your feet and rescuing you from the demons you battle sounds romantic. It’s glorified in movies and tv shows and books, but in reality this belief will keep you trapped. The truth is that you either save yourself, or you remain unsaved.
Second, it is not your responsibilty to save anyone else. Again, it seems romantic in theory. When you fall in love with someone you want to be there for them and make them happy. It is great to support someone you love, but it is not your responsibility to save your boyfriend or girlfriend from their problems.
5. Romeo and Juliet is not a good love story. In the end, they both end up dead.
6. The time you waste being unhappy is time you will never get back. I know you think you are supposed to be tough and stick it out through the bad times. You don’t want to give up on something or feel like a quitter and you are afraid that saying you deserve better means that you are selfish. Stop thinking like this! Bottom line: life is too damn short to be unhappy. Fight for happiness. Let go of things that make you upset. Don’t spend time with people that make you feel bad about yourself. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Trust me, a year from now won’t regret leaving something that made you unhappy, you’ll wish you’d left it sooner.
7. Sex doesn’t equal Love. If someone loves you, they will wait until you are ready to have sex. You do not need to have sex with someone to prove to them that you love them. Sex does not fix broken relationships. It does not make people fall in love. It can bring two people closer together if the timing and situation is right and there is mutual trust and understanding, but sex can also fuck you up. If you feel pressure to have sex, remember that you have the right to say no. If someone pressures you, or forces you to do anything that you are not comfortable with, it is abuse. Sex also brings with it an incredible amount of stress as a teenager. Make sure that you have all the information possible about birth control, risks, STDS, etc. and make a decision about whether you are ready to have sex before you are in the heat of the moment.
8.When people show you who they really are, believe them the first time. Cheaters will continue to cheat. Liars will continue to lie. Abusers will continue to abuse. I know you want to believe that people can change, but in time you will learn that unless someone works hard, often with a professional therapist or counselor, for a long period of time, people only change for time periods and then they fall back into the same habits.
9. Friends give horrible advice.
10.Your parents are on your side. I know it feels like they are against you and that they are trying to ruin your life, but they are actually trying to help. They have been where you are right now. They’ve gone through a lot of the same things, and in the end they just want to keep you safe and protect you. (With the exception of abusive parents)
11. There is nothing wrong with you. Just like anything else in life, you are learning a lot of things for the first time. You might think that your friends have everything figured out, but they don’t. They’re pretending, just like you. Don’t compare yourself to other people. You don’t know what their truth is. Most of the time, you only see their mask. And don’t be afraid to be different. Embrace it. Own it. Fight for it. Never give it up, because without it, you’re a bore.
12. Speak up! It’s better to be feel uncomfortable for a few moments, or to offend someone, than it is to deal with the consequences of staying quiet.
13. The best is yet to come. High school is not the best years of your life, so take off the pressure of thinking it has to be. There are far, far better things ahead. There are places to travel. Cities to explore. Jobs to work. Stories to tell. People to date. I know you feel old and experienced right now, but you have no idea how many adventures are ahead of you. No matter how bad things get, they will get better. No matter how alone you feel, you never are. Your new boyfriend? He’s amazing. But more importantly, the obstacles you overcome will help you to grow into a stronger and wiser person.
I know it’s hard. I’ve been there. In love with someone who hurt me.
I’ve tried telling myself that everything is fine and it’s all going to work out somehow. Convinced myself that I could make things better. I’ve taken on the mission to bring back the perfect relationship so that I didn’t have to leave. Stayed on my best behavior. I’ve been brave and forgiving and promised that I would always be there.
I’ve tried to rationalize away the feelings. Ripped up pictures. Given myself pep talks about why I deserve more. Reached out to other people for help. Tried drinking until I was numb. Pretended like I didn’t care. I’ve practiced the conversation in my head over and over of exactly how I would say each word “I can’t be with you anymore. You’re not good for me. I’m leaving you.” Only to feel the terror pull back the words before they make it through my lips.
Back and forth I’ve gone. Back and forth. Losing pieces of myself. Slowly. Like grains of sand falling through an hourglass. Counting down until I was completely empty and numb. And then I’ve thought, “Maybe I’m the crazy one. Maybe I’m just lucky that anyone loves me. Maybe this is as good as it gets.”
I know what it’s like to be in a place where the only thing worse than staying is leaving. And the only things worse than leaving is to stay.
I know what it’s like to feel loneliest when you are with laying right next to someone. I know how hard those nights are. The ones spent staring at the numbers on the clock as they change, one by one, second by second through the night. I know the painful mornings. Standing in the shower staring at the water falling down the drain, hardly feeling the drops against my face. I know the coldness of the bathroom tile against my cheek. I’ve laid there, on that floor with you. Praying. Wishing. Silently begging for someone to help me and to tell me what I am supposed to do.
If you are wondering if there’s something better out there…if there’s more in store for you, the answer is yes.
Yes. Yes. Yes. A million, trillion times, YES.
There is so much more in life. More love. More adventures. More heartbreak too, but also more growing and learning. If you are stuck in a relationship with someone who hurts you, you might not be able to see it right now, but don’t let go of the promise of something more. Listen to that nagging voice inside that knows deep down that you deserve better. You are so much stronger than you think. You’re so much smarter than you know. You’re fucking awesome and you only get this one life to be the person you were made to be. Don’t give that life to someone else. Don’t let it go. Don’t feel guilty or selfish about fighting for yourself. You owe it to the universe. To whatever God you believe in. To your children (current or future). You owe it to that person out there that you might not have met yet that wants to love you the right way. But most importantly, you owe it to yourself.
I used to wait for a sign. For some outside source to tell me that I wasn’t going nuts and that I needed to get out. Get away. Start fighting for myself. If you are like me, and are waiting for a sign….this is it. From someone who has been to the deepest depth of the hell of abuse. From someone who believed it was impossibile to break up with my abuser. From someone who could barely make it through the night a few years ago… Trust me. It’s hard. It hurts like hell. But leave. It is the most important thing you will ever do. He’s not going to change. Things aren’t going to get better if you stay. You already know what you should do so trust yourself.
“Future you” says thanks.
The incident between comedian Daniel Tosh and a female audience member that happened recently at the Hollywood Laugh Factory involving a rape joke has been all over the place lately. I’ve seen a lot of buildup making this incident into a feud between feminists and comedic freedom.
I came across Austin area comedian, Curtis Luciani’s response a few days ago and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. No matter what your feelings about the Tosh incident are, I think this is a must read. It goes beyond this particular rape joke and is the best response I have read in regard to this issue.
(Warning: Graphic. Includes language that may be offensive to some people. Also, may be triggering)
Let’s imagine a world in which women cut men’s dicks off. Like, frequently. To the extent that one in five men has had his dick cut off by a woman or had a woman attempt to cut his dick off.
(I apologize immediately if it sounds like I’m being flip. I am not being flip. Imagine the pain and shame and humiliation of someone cutting your dick off. Imagine it in earnest.)
Sometimes it’s a clear-cut case where a woman attacks you in the street, out of nowhere, and cuts your dick off. But more often it’s a situation where you actually know the woman, maybe you trust her, maybe you think everything’s okay, and then one day she cuts your dick off.
Still with me? This is going to take a while. I’ll tell you when I’m done. (And if you think I’m being insufferably self-righteous: Good news, you don’t have to read this!)
Okay, now let’s also say that the shame and guilt around having your dick cut off is so strong that many dick-cuttings go completely unreported. After all, someone is likely to raise the question of whether or not you were “asking for it” in one way or another. And if you do accuse a woman of cutting your dick off, you can expect to see people (quite naturally) rally to her defense and slander your character in response.
You can expect to see her friends… who are maybe also friends or yours… shrug their shoulders and say “Well, I don’t know, it’s complicated… it sounds like something was just happening between the two of them and maybe it got out of hand. I dunno. But I know that Sarah’s not a bad gal. I know she would never, like, MALICIOUSLY cut a dude’s dick off.”
So, a shitty state of affairs for the men-folk of our imaginary world, yes?
Now imagine that in this world, something like 90 percent of professional performing comedians are women. And they’ve accepted that there are certain codes of behavior when it comes to comedy. Most people who “like comedy” generally accept the premise that there are no subject areas that cannot be somehow given a comic treatment, but it is also accepted, as a practical rule, that as the subject gets more troubling, more intense, more painful, a more skilled approach is necessary to find the humor in it.
However, it is also accepted that people are people and they are going to have authentic responses to things. It is accepted, for example, that you probably should not go in front of an audience that contains several black people and start tossing around the n-word unless you have an EXCEPTIONALLY sophisticated and road-tested routine built around it, one that you are confident will overcome the very significant risk you are incurring. If a comedian did this and did NOT overcome the risk, no one would be shocked if the audience shouted her down and stormed her out of the club, nor would anyone be particularly eager to defend her.
HOWEVER, there’s this ONE thing. Many of the comediennes of this world have this ONE little sticking point. One little thing. It just IRKS the hell out of them that they can’t seem to make jokes about cutting dicks off without some whiny pussy male in the audience throwing a shit fit about it!
Now, sure, there’s a few comediennes at the top of their game who can pull it off. Their approach is skillful, and they somehow make the joke without minimalizing or trivializing the actual pain involved. But then the rest of them think, “Well, geez, if they can do it, why can’t I? It’s not fair, darn it! I should be able to work with the same material as someone much better than me and get the same result and not make anyone hate me or say mean things about me on the Internet! Waaaaahhh!
“I mean, after all, do that many men REALLY get their dicks cut off? I’ve heard the statistic, but that’s probably overblown. And I bet a lot of them were asking for it. I mean, in any case, there’s a lot of grey area. I know one thing for sure: none of the men I KNOW has ever had his dick cut off. If they had, they would tell me, right? I mean, right? And besides, there’s a principle at stake here. I AM AN ARTIST. I should be able to say whatever shitty thing I want, and people should be able to suppress their authentic response to it!
“And if they DON’T suppress their authentic response to it: why, that’s censorship or something! Besides, I know this and that example of a time where a comedienne I know made a joke that wasn’t even ABOUT dick-cutting, and some whiny pussy dude got upset about it anyway! It’s just these humorless masculinists! They can’t take a joke about anything anyway. So, since I can think of examples where a comedienne was unfairly criticized by someone without a sense of humor, this must be what happens in all cases.”
Okay, I think we see what I’m getting at here.
Fine, yes, WHAT-THE-FUCK-EVER. I will concede the following points that every comedian wants us all so badly to concede:
1) Theoretically, there is no subject that should be considered off-limits for humor.
2) There will always be some example where a performer of extremely high skill can take something very painful and make it work.
Here’s what YOU need to understand:
1) Rape is way, WAY more prevalent than you seem to think it is. Are there more than five women in your audience? You do the math, and then you run the little fantasy scenario that I just put together in your head, and you tell me how it feels.
2) I ain’t buying any of that “If I can make jokes about genocide, why can’t I make jokes about rape?” Horseshit, unless you made those genocide jokes during a gig at the Srebrenica Funny Bone. You got away with making a joke about genocide because your odds of having a holocaust survivor’s kid in the audience were pretty fucking low.
And if you did happen to have one in the audience, and he heckled you, walked out, and wrote something nasty on the internet… would you be more likely to be a human being and say “Wow. I can understand why that person’s authentic response to what I was doing was so emotional and negative. Maybe my genocide material just isn’t good enough to justify the pain that it inflicts. Maybe I need more skill in order to pull this off.” Or are you gonna be a lousy piece of shit and say, “Yeah, I apologize, I guess, IF YOU WERE OFFENDED.”
Offended hasn’t got anything to do with it, moron.
People have wounds, and those wounds are painful. That doesn’t have shit to do with the weak concept of “taking offense.” If someone talks about Texas being a shitty state, I might “take offense” at that. Fine, whatever. All of us who like comedy are generally in agreement with the idea that “taking offense” is lame, and a comedian should be willing to “offend” whenever he or she wants to.
But causing pain is quite a different fucking matter. Your job as a comedian is to take us through pain, transcend pain, transform pain. And if you don’t get that, you are a fucking bully, and I’ve got zero time for bullies.
These are some of the secrets abuse victims keep. If you are a parent of a teenager, this is my message to you. It is inspired by a letter I received today. When I started writing this list, I thought maybe I’d write 5-10 things. I ended up with almost 100. I narrowed them down and grouped them together to make 25. They are honest. Some will smack you in the face. Others are the tip of the iceberg.
1. I’m being abused.
Abuse happens in teenage relationships. Like, real abuse. To girls much younger than you could ever image. It comes in many different levels and many different forms: from controlling behaviors, to horrible naming calling (not like ‘bitch’ or ‘loser’…..things like ‘c*nt’, or ‘how could I respect someone who’s as big of a f*cking disgusting slut as you are,’) to rape, to threatening to kill us, or themself, to actually attempting to do so.
I’ll tell you that I am fine. That everything is fine. I’ll tell you to stay out of it. That nothing is wrong. That it’s none of your effing business. Or I’ll pretend to be happy and swear that everything is great.
…it’s not. I’m lying.
I don’t lie because I mean to lie. I lie because I’m ashamed. Embarrassed. Afraid. I think I’ve let you down. I think that everything is my fault. And I think that I can somehow make it better by being better. I think that I can somehow change what is going on or make it go away by fooling the entire world. A lot of times I’m lying so that I can try to fool myself.
3. I’m just as desperate for someone to know about the abuse and to help me as I’m desperate to keep it all hidden.
As good as I am at lying, every once in a while I will slip up and give you a hint: I’ll make a quiet comment putting myself down. I’ll wear baggy clothes. I’ll give you a weird look. I’ll leave a note where you can find it, and swear it was an accident. I’ll start to cry or throw a tantrum because I can’t decide whether I want ice tea or lemonade. I know it might not seem like much, but pay attention to it.
4. I don’t think everything’s my fault, I know that everything is my fault.
I am 100% sure that the abuse is my fault. I feel it in every fiber of my being and it is devastating. Sometimes I can see that my boyfriend’s (or ex’s) behavior is wrong, but I will find some way to blame myself. (This will take me years of therapy to change, so when I say ‘I know, I know, it’s not my fault’ refer to #2.)
5. I need your help. Even though I swear that I don’t.
I need help getting out and staying safe. You don’t need to lock me up and never let me date. This will backfire and make me hate you and not trust you. I need to be rebuilt and protected even though I will fight against this. What I really need though is to feel empowered. If you forbid me from dating you send me a message that I can’t handle it or don’t know how to control my own life.
Please don’t punish me, get mad at me, or make me feel worse about what is going on or stupid for being in the situation I am in. I already feel stupid enough. I just need you on my side.
6. I need information.
I don’t know how to ask for help, and even if I do, I won’t. But, I need my school to keep me safe. I need the police to be involved maybe. I need therapy. And then I need you to tell me that you will protect me and that everything is going to be ok.
7. I’m in love with the boy who hurts me.
The love I feel is very strong. Take me seriously when I say I am in love, because it’s real. Telling me I am too young to have found my soul mate or I don’t really know what I feel…it just makes me pissed. The feelings I experience are very real to me, so take them seriously.
8. I don’t know how young I am.
I feel old. I’m not a kid anymore. No matter how many times you try to tell me, I can’t understand that I am still young. It won’t be until about 10 years from now when my little baby cousin turns my age. Then, it’ll hit me. Hard.
9. I wear a lot of masks.
I smile. People think that I am happy and that nothing bothers me. But underneath them there is emptiness and pain.
10. I need you to talk to me about sex.
I really, really, really, really, really don’t want you to ask me if I am having sex. I’d rather die. But, chances are I have already done it, am thinking about doing it, or am feeling a lot of pressure to do it. I have a lot of questions and I don’t know all the answers even when I think I do…so as much as I don’t want to have an awkward conversation, I need you to talk to me about it anyway. I need you to do it in a non judgmental way. It’s hard for you too but you have to do it.
If I won’t listen to you, don’t make me feel bad. Just find a way to get me the information I need. Write me a letter. Buy me books. Keep trying. Whatever. I need to know about things like birth control. I need to know what’s healthy and what’s unhealthy. I need to know that I don’t have to have sex, or that if someone pressures me to do it that it’s wrong. I need to know about STDS. And I need someone to talk to.
***If I tell you I am having sex, want to have sex, have had sex, or use the word sex in a sentence, and you do any of the following: freak out, cry, act shocked, ask me why the hell I did that, tell me you are disappointed, call me stupid, shake your head and stay quiet, etc. I will never talk to you again. And I will never forget***
Also be careful not to be too excited. If someone is forcing me to have sex, and I say everything’s fine, there’s a chance I’m lying (see #1) If this is the case, and you are excited, I feel like a piece of shit. Actually, even dirtier.
11. My boyfriend is putting an UNBELIEVABLE amount of pressure on me to have sex.
If he hasn’t talked me into it yet, he’s trying to. If he can’t talk me into it, he’ll just try to do it anyway. If I try to stop him, eventually he’ll force his way inside. If I do it willingly, he’ll eventually become aggressive.
He uses sex against me in a horrible way. Not every time. Sometimes it will be good, but somehow, at some point, he will make me feel absolutely worthless. Slutty. Empty. Hollow. Ashamed. Dirty. Sick. Dead.
I don’t know what rape is. Not really. I don’t really know what sexual assault is either. I just know they are ugly words. And coercion? Uhhh….no clue. All I know is it is all my fault. In some way or another. No. Matter. What. My fault.
12. Sleepovers are not innocent.
I really, really, really, reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally want to have sleepovers with my boyfriend. Like so much so that it makes my stomach hurt and me get this crazy feeling that I don’t know how to describe. I’ve never felt this before (yeah, those horrible hormones) and I HATE you when you say no….but….sleepovers are an incredible amount of pressure. They aren’t as innocent as we swear they are.
13. I’m trying to find answers.
Not just about sex, but about what is happening to me. I search the internet. I read books. I’ll hide the fact that I’m doing this, but I’m desperate for information and for something to explain what’s going on.
14. Technology is a scary, scary thing.
I don’t have as much control over it as I think I do, and I really don’t understand how scary it can be. Neither do you. Trust me. People have pictures of me that I wish they didn’t have. They have access to more information about me than I’m even aware of. They know where I am all the time and who I am with. Technology has the potential to ruin my life.
15. My boyfriend is pressuring me to send him naked pictures.
Probably A LOT. He tries to send me pictures of his wiener. Seriously. And….honestly, I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do about it. It seems easy to say “that’s ridiculous, just don’t send anything back and tell him to go screw himself” but it’s not that easy.
He makes it seem cool. He makes it seem sexy and exciting. He makes it seem like I owe it to him. And he makes it seem like I hurt his feelings, let him down, or that I don’t trust him or love him if I don’t.
If I try to talk to you about it with you and you say “Well, you didn’t do that did you???” or if you freak out and get mad at me or threaten to punish me, or anything remotely related, I will not only hate you but I will cut you off. I will be mortified. I will vow never, ever, ever, to try to talk to you again.
16. You don’t understand.
And honestly, I don’t think that there is any way you would ever understand. When you tell me that you understand exactly what I’m going through it just makes me feel further away from you. You might relate to some things, and sometimes your advice is helpful, but you do not understand everything that I am going through, starting because of the fact that you don’t know the majority of my reality.
17. I am scared.
Really scared. I’m trying to be brave. And tough. And strong. But I am scared.
18. I need you on my side.
As hard as it is to hear things that I tell you (if I tell you anything) don’t preach, don’t lecture, don’t even make a face. Just hold me and love me and be on my side, because no one else is.
I am confused. Like really fucking confused. And I might act tough, but on the inside, I’m falling apart.
You have no idea what I have been through or am going through. It’s worse than you can imagine. (I’m sorry. I don’t want you to know this because I don’t want to make you sad. But, it’s the truth.)
I don’t need someone else to make me feel bad about myself or to tell me that I am doing everything wrong. I need you to be on my side. 100% totally and completely and forever on my side.
19. I feel so alone and I wish I could just disappear.
I’ve lost most of my friends. If you knew how alone I felt it would break your heart. Most of the time, I wish that I could just close my eyes and disappear from here. and I doubt that anyone would notice.
20. I’m desperate to escape and to ease the pain.
You can get mad at me for doing drugs, getting drunk, for failing school, for having an eating disorder, for fighting with people, for throwing tantrums…or whatever other way I act out, but I’m just trying to make the pain go away. I need something to take away the pain.
21. I hate you for no reason.
I’ll think of 1,197,864,328,901 reasons why I say I hate you. But really, the only reason I think I hate you is because he’s made me hate you. He badmouths you all the time. You have been made out to be an enemy. If you overreact or get angry or freak out and try to control everything, you play right into what my boyfriend is telling me. You become a monster and he can use that to make me hate you instead of him.
I might tell you that I hate you, that you are ruining my life or that you are too controlling, but I need you. I need you to protect me even when it makes me hate you more. I need you to be the bad person sometimes. I need you to believe me if I tell you I am scared, or if I tell you my boyfriend has hurt me. I need you to listen to me without freaking out.
22. I don’t know I’m being abused.
The abuse started slow. So slow that I never saw it coming.
I don’t know that it’s even abuse because I don’t really know what abuse is. I think abuse happens to old women who are weak and stupid and much older than me. I don’t think that what’s happening to me is actually abuse.
23. The night time is the worst.
24. I get horrible advice.
My friends give me horrible advice. So do magazines. And TV shows. It’s confusing and I don’t know what to think.
25. You can make a difference.
I love you. I’m not sure if you can love me still, but I’m hoping that you’ll try. I need you to tell me that I am strong, because I’m being told that I am weak. I need you to tell me that I am beautiful, because I am being told that I am ugly. I need you to tell me that I have a choice, because I feel trapped and helpless. I need you to never, ever, ever give up on me. I need you to tell me that this is temporary and it will get better, because it feel never-ending.
“I am bigger than anything that can happen to me. All these things: sorrow, misfortune, and suffering, are outside my door. I am inside the house, and I have the key.” - Charles Fletcher Lummis
- Speak. Shame feeds on silence. Talking about that abuse might seem like the last thing you want to do, but speaking out about what happened to you and letting other people in takes away the power of the depression and the shame and gives that power back to you. Don’t know who to talk to? Confide in a parent or a friend, a coach, a guidance counselor, a brother or sister, a cousin, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, a minister, priest or rabbi. Or, call a hotline, for example: The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, a national 24-hour resource, can be accessed by phone (1-866-331-9474 & 1-866-331-8453 TTY) or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) Or, visit www.loveisrespect.org to access an online help page.
- Find a therapist or a support group. Talking to a professional or joining an organized survivor group can be pivotal for some victims. It can help you to understand that what happened to you is not your fault, and that the things you are struggling with are often normal symptoms of abuse. It is important to find a therapist or group that you feel comfortable with. There are lots of great therapists out there and they can do wonders in your life if you are brave enough to put in the work. Psychology Today has a great source to help find therapists in your area: http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/. Other good resource centers can be found at facilities specialized in dealing with relationship violence.
- Write. If you cannot speak out loud, write. Write about all the things that are not fair. About all the things you wish you could change. About all the things no one ever told you. All the things you would say to your abuser right now. All the things you would say to the person you used to be. All the things you are afraid of. Write about your nightmares. Your memories. What still haunts you. Write about how you can make a difference. What you can do to help someone else. Write down what you want in a relationship. What is important to you. What you would like your future partner to be like. Write about nonsense. Write every curse word you can think of. Write about forgiveness. Write about revenge. Write about hate. About all the feelings of hate. And then write about love. About what gives you hope. About what you are thankful for. About the reasons why you are blessed. Write poems. Write songs. Write gibberish. Write a book. A Blog. A sentence. If you want, share the writing with the world. If not, keep it in a private journal, or throw it away, but get the words out from inside of you.
- Find a healthy escape. Play a sport. Take up running. Lifting. Train for a triathlon. Learn to play an instrument. Join a band. Blast music in your car and sing along at the top of your lungs. Take a dance class. Write a book. Act in a play. Find something to take your mind off of what you have been through and allow yourself a break.
- Practice yoga and meditation both of which are proven to lower stress and anxiety. They can also help you to learn how to control your negative thoughts.
- Scream. Cry. Act ridiculous. Go to a private place if you have to and let yourself fall apart for a little while. You work so hard to hold it all together, but sometimes you need to let yourself feel the pain so that you can get it out. Sometimes hearing the sound you make (even screaming) helps you to remember that you have a voice.
- Be your own best friend. Has someone ever left you an encouraging note or called just to tell you that you are amazing and they are proud of you? Little things can brighten your day. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Be good to yourself. Instead of sending negative messages in the way you talk and think about yourself, start being your own biggest cheerleader. Even if it feels manufactured at first, you need to be on your own side in order to get through the worst parts of recovery.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to admit that you are struggling. Sometimes victims think that they have to do everything on their own. They have to keep up the appearance of being perfect in order for people to like them, or to try to prove to themselves that they are “worth it.” You don’t have to do this on your own. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are struggling or having a bad day. There are people who can help you, or at least just sit with you when you are upset. If no one knows what is going on, then you miss out on the support that is around you.
- Join a support group or go to a recovery workshop. It can be intimidating to join a group or attend a workshop, but victims often find these resources incredibly helpful. Being around other victims can be incredibly therapeutic simply because you are in a place where other people understand–to a certain extent–what you have been through and are going through. Search for resource centers in your area, or talk with a therapist to see if he or she has any recommendations.
- Make peace with a higher power. Believing in God can be helpful in many ways during the recovery process. Give up your pain to Him/Her. Sometimes just trusting that God wants you to live an extraordinary life, and that He/She is there with you in your darkest moments and will bring you through, helps take some of the pressure away off of you. If you don’t believe in God, trust in whatever higher power you believe in and know that you are connected to this world and to everyone in it. You may feel alone, but you are not isolated. Feeling connected to the universe can help you recover from what you have been through and let go of some of your pain.
- Take care of yourself. Workout. Follow healthy eating habits. Get a good night’s sleep, take a shower and put on clothes that make you feel good about yourself. Taking time for yourself is incredibly important and it is something that victims often neglect. When you have negative feelings inside, feelings such as shame, self-doubt, anger and sadness, it can be hard to do things for yourself. If you are having a hard time trying to tackle the big problems in your life, start with the little ones. Get a new haircut, allow yourself to look nice and try let go of the things that you can’t change about your appearance. Celebrate what makes you special and allow yourself to be the beautiful person that you are.
The fact that someone abused me was not my fault. This is a reality that even on a good day I have to talk myself into; a reality that has taken me years to begin to accept. Years of fighting with myself and repeating the words over and over and over again. It was not my fault. It was not my fault. Years of listening to a string of therapists remind me again and again. Years of going over each event in my mind, analyzing it from every angle, replaying the hands gripping my wrists and wondering if maybe I could have twisted my body differently, could have screamed louder or tried a different collection of words that might have prevented it all from happening the way that it did.
Why didn’t you fight back harder? Why didn’t you yell? Why did you let him hurt you? Why did you stay? Why did you date someone like that? Why did you get yourself into that situation? Maybe you have a bad judge of character? Maybe you deserved what happened to you. Maybe he wouldn’t have acted like that if you weren’t for the way that you are. Maybe you made him crazy. Maybe you are over exaggerating. Over reacting. Overly picky. Too weak. Too quiet. Too soft. Too hard to please. Maybe it was your fault.
In the circumstance of domestic violence, self-blame is, in many ways, a natural response for a victim—the product of being hurt by someone you trust and love, and then being told that it is your fault again and again. For me personally, taking responsibility for what happened to me was my way of maintaining a sense of control and balance. It was somehow easier to accept that I was abused because I was a bad person, there was something wrong with me and I somehow deserved it, than it was to accept that sometimes terrible things happen in life that we have no control over.
It is shocking to me now, looking back over the years and watching the messages blur all around me, coming not only internally but externally as well. I remember people asking me these same questions. I can still hear my friends call my ex ‘crazy’ over and over as they saw him hiding behind the bleachers at our hockey practice, but then in a closed conversation late at night under the blanket of a sleepover they would get the courage to question whether maybe I encouraged his behavior, and if maybe I felt lucky sometimes to have someone that loved me so much.
And then recently, someone close to me questioned the “type of person I must be to have had a past like I do.”
Am I too trusting? Do I get myself into bad situations? Do I put myself at risk? I head a voice inside me chime in.
“Maybe,” this person said, “maybe you aren’t the best judge of character….Maybe, you are a liability.”
The result is traumatizing. A few years ago, a comment like this would have devastated me for a long time. My answer would have been yes. Yes, I am a bad person and what happened to me is a reflection of that simple fact. Yes, I should never have trusted or loved…I watch as everything falls in line: my abuser told me that it was my fault, I told myself that it was my fault, and my friends and people outside of the situation questioned whether it was my fault. So, yes, it seems like an easy question to answer: it must have been my fault.
Today, I know so much more than I did when I was fifteen. If I could go back, would I do things differently having this knowledge? Absolutely. Would I have been able to prevent it all from happening? Maybe parts of it, yes. But could I have changed his actions? No.
If I had known what my ex was going to be like, I never would have dated him. If I had known I had help available, I would have tried to use it.
But the reality is, I didn’t know what I now know about abusive relationships. I didn’t know the red flags, the warning signs, the definition of stalking or harassment or assault. I didn’t know that a person I knew for a long time could change into a complete stranger.
As I have gone through the recovery process, I have begun to realize and to accept that what happened to me was not my fault. I did not get myself into a bad situation, I got myself out. I didn’t fall in love with someone risky who I knew would hurt me, I fell in love with my best friend- someone I loved and my family loved and I thought that I could trust. I didn’t cause him to go crazy, I found a way to survive when it turned out that he had deep-rooted psychological problems. I wasn’t hurt because I was a bad person and I deserved it, I was hurt because someone else made poor decisions and intentionally tried to hurt me. I made the best decisions I could with the knowledge I had at the time, and unfortunately I was exposed to someone who’s unhealthy decisions led to devastating consequences in my life.
Think About This:
When I was eight years old, my grandmother was attacked while stopped at a red light as she was driving to the store. A man in black clothing forced her door open and dragged her from her car, leaving her on the side of the road as he stole her vehicle. Did people ask her why she didn’t fight harder against the man that attacked her? Did they question what kind of person she was that allowed her to be taken advantage of? Did they ask her if she had a problem of putting herself in bad situations? No. They told her that they were happy that she was alive and that they were sorry for what someone did to her and he deserved to be punished.
So why is it so different for things like domestic violence and sexual assault?
It’s not. And to anyone who has ever been a victim, keep remembering this. It isn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault. It will never be your fault. I am so sorry for the bad decisions someone else made, and the trauma is has caused you, but the reason for the abuse had nothing to do with you. The reason for the abuse was the abuser.
“Our first goal is prevention through education. Information is always the best way to combat sexual violence. Our larger goal is to raise awareness to an issue that should have no place in society and especially in our schools.”
Biden goes on to speak about the severity of our nation’s problem with sexual assault, and the distorted views that have led to a universal mentality of victim blaming. He speaks about our nation’s need to address sexual assault on college campuses, a place that rape and assault is so often covered up in an attempt to save-face and pretend like sexual violence is not a problem.
“Students across the country deserve the safest possible environment in which to learn,” said Vice President Biden. “That’s why we’re taking new steps to help our nation’s schools, universities and colleges end the cycle of sexual violence on campus.”
Biden’s speech is a long time coming, as sexual assault is the number one violennt crime on college campuses; for those who have been fighting for years to get our administration to pay attention, it is a small but significant step in the fight against sexual abuse. The letter, which addresses some of the widespread institutional downfalls, requires schools: to support victims of sexual assault by not punishing them for underage drinking and drugs (if involved) thereby recognizing rape and sexual assault as a far more serious crime than an alcohol-related misdemeanor; to inform survivors of their rights to a full investigation, providing advisement of the outcome should a review take place; and to investigate all reported sexual assaults in a timely manner.
He includes vivid stories of victims; victims that were brutally raped and assault that were later blamed for what happened to them because of the way they dressed or acted, the places they went, or the simple fact that they were hurt by someone they knew and loved. Passionately declaring that ”When it comes to sexual abuse, it’s quite simple: no means no. “No means no if you’re drunk or you’re sober; no means no if you’re in bed in a dorm or on a street… And it’s a crime to disregard no. The allocation of blame has been for too many centuries allocated in a way that’s totally irrelevant and inappropriate.”
“So much more needs to be done to empower younger women as well as empower and educate younger men,” he added, touching on a very important aspect of the battle against sexual assault.
“No matter what a girl does, no matter how she’s dressed, no matter how much she’s had to drink, it’s never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ok to touch her without her consent. This doesn’t make you a man. It makes you a coward. A flat-out coward.”
I couldn’t agree more, Vice President. Thank you.
I highly recommend watching the entire letter.
Debunking 17 Popular Myths About Sexual Assault
1. Men rape women because they are overly aroused sexually or have been sexually deprived.
MYTH. Rape is not about sex, it is about power and control. No matter what, sexual contact by force, or without consent, is against the law. No matter what.
2. It is not rape if the victim isn’t a virgin.
MYTH. Every person has the right to decide whether or not they want to have sex EVERY time they do it. A person’s past sex life does not matter and is not a factor in deciding whether or not it was rape. Even if two people have had sex before, if one person forces the other person to have sex, it is rape.
3. Acquaintance rapes are not as serious as stranger rapes.
MYTH. Any type of rape or sexual assault is serious and has serious effects on a person’s life. Despite the common belief that you can only be raped by a stranger, statistics show that over 80% of rape victims know their abuser. Acquaintance rape sometimes can be even more damaging to a victim’s life because of the betrayal of trust.
4. Women provoke rape by the way they dress.
MYTH. Women have a right to wear whatever they want. There is no correlation between what people wear and if they are raped. This is an example of victim blaming.
5. Men cannot be raped.
MYTH. Although it is less common, men can also be victims of sexual assault. In fact, 1 in 10 men will experience rape in their lifetime.
6. Women who do not fight back haven’t been raped.
MYTH. Everyone acts differently when faced with a traumatic situation. Some victims fight. Some freeze. Some are afraid that if they fight back they will be hurt worse, or possibly killed. No matter what, it is still rape.
7. Only gay men are sexually assaulted.
MYTH. There is no correlation between gay men and men that are victims of rape. Rape can happen to anyone.
8. Only gay men sexually assault other men.
MYTH. There is also no correlation between gay men and perpetrators of sexual assault. Straight men also assault other men.
9. Men cannot be sexually assaulted by women.
MYTH. Although this is rare, it does still happen and is just as traumatic for the victim.
10. Erection, ejaculation, or orgasm during a sexual assault means the victims “really wanted it” or consented.
MYTH. Our bodies react to things differently. Many victims experience sexual arousal, however, it does not mean that they secretely wanted to be raped. Even if it might feel good, the lasting and long term effects are just as devastating and can be confusing for victims.
11. Only young, attractive women, or women who engage in risky behavior are raped.
MYTH. Rape can happen to anyone. Every age, size, appearance. Rape is about power and control. It is not about sex.
12. Rapes are committed by strangers at night in dark allys.
MYTH. This is the popular image associated with rape, however, this situation is a very small percentage of the number of rapes that occurs. Rape can happen anywhere. It can happen by anyone, to anyone.
13. Most rapes are committed by black men against white women.
MYTH. This is also completely false. Rape happens to, and by, every race of the human population.
14. Men who rape are psychologically deranged individuals.
MYTH. There are examples of perpetrators who are doctors, lawyers, politicians, professional athletes, celebrities, etc. There is not one type of person who rapes.
15. Women secretly want to be raped.
MYTH. No woman wants to be raped. If a woman says no, she means no. She doesn’t mean yes. Role play is different. If a couple engages in role play, both parties are willing parcipiants. This is different.
16. Victims hide, downplay, or cover up their stories of rape because it didn’t really happen.
MYTH. It is extremely common for victims to keep rape a secret. This happens for many reasons, often due to shame, guilt and fear. Victims may blame themselves. They might not even associate what happened to them as rape for many years. They may try to pretend like it never happened or try to erase it from their lives. One of the most important things a victim can do in order to heal is to tell someone, or many people, about what has happened to them. This takes times and is difficult to do, but breaking the silence eliminates some of the power the rape has on their life.
17. If a victim has been sexually assaulted there will be physical/medical/emotional evidence to support it.
MYTH. Most victims never go to the hospital after being raped, so often times there is no evidence.
*Research courtesy of Porchlight Counseling Center
The goal of SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
What can you do to help? For starters, educate yourself on the reality of sexual assault in our society today. Here’s a quick review to help:
Sexual assault: Forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.
Acquaintance assault: involves coercive sexual activities that occur against a person’s will by means of force, violence, duress, or fear of bodily injury. These sexual activities are imposed upon them by someone they know (a friend, date, acquaintance, etc.).
Incest: sexual contact between persons who are so closely related that their marriage is illegal (e.g., parents and children, uncles/aunts and nieces/nephews, etc.). This usually takes the form of an older family member sexually abusing a child or adolescent.
Consent: Consent occurs when both partners freely and willingly participate in sexual activities.
The legal definition of rape includes any sexual contact without consent. Consent cannot be legally given, in most states, if a person is:
- Under 17
- Mentally incapacitated
- Drunk or high
Additionally, the absence of “no” does not mean “yes.” So, even if a person does not fight back or explicitly say “no,” they still are not necessarily giving consent.
- •1 in 4 females will be the victim of sexual abuse by the time they graduate from college.
- •1 in 4 teenage girls who have been in relationships reveal they have been pressured to perform oral sex or engage in intercourse
- •According to the U.S. Department of Justice, somewhere in America, a woman is raped every 2 minutes.
- Victims of sexual assault and rape stretch across every age, race, class, gender and demographic.
- Sexual violence is the most common violent crime on American college campuses today.
- Young women, ages 16-24 are FOUR times more likely to be raped than other women.
- •84% of rape victims know their attacker
- •For every 1 rape reported, it is estimated that 6 are not
- •The most common reasons women give for why they did not report the crime is the belief that it is a private, personal matter or they are afraid their assailant will retaliate.
- •In 75% of college rapes, alcohol is involved. 55% of victims and 80% of perpetrators were intoxicated. Alcohol is the #1 date-rape drug.
- •1 in 12 college men admitted that they have performed acts that could be defined as rape.
- •30% of men admitted they would force someone to have sex with them if they knew they would not get in trouble.
- •On average, it takes a victim of sexual assault/abuse 5 years to tell anyone about the incident.
- •70% of women with eating disorders have been sexually assaulted or abused in their lifetime
- •99% of rape victims are female (10% male)
- •99% of rapes are perpetrated by men (1% are perpetrated by women)
- •Approximately 28% of victims are raped by husbands or boyfriends, 35% by acquaintances, and 5% by other relatives.
- •The FBI estimates that less than 37% of all rapes are reported to the police. U.S. Justice Department statistics are even lower, with only 26% of all rapes or attempted rapes being reported to law enforcement officials.
- •In a national survey 27.7% of college women reported a sexual experience since the age of fourteen that met the legal definition of rape or attempted rape, and 7.7% of college men reported perpetrating aggressive behavior which met the legal definition of rape.
- •The National Crime Victimization Survey indicates that for 1992-1993, 92% of rapes were committed by known assailants. About half of all rapes and sexual assaults against women are committed by friends and acquaintances, and 26% are by intimate partners.
- •Victims of rape often manifest long-term symptoms of chronic headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbance, recurrent nausea, decreased appetite, eating disorders, menstrual pain, sexual dysfunction, and suicide attempts. In a longitudinal study, sexual assault was found to increase the odds of substance abuse by a factor of 2.5.
- •Victims of marital or date rape are 11 times more likely to be clinically depressed, and 6 times more likely to experience social phobia than are non-victims. Psychological problems are still evident in cases as long as 15 years after the assault.
**Statistics compiled through Violence against Women, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Justice, RAINN, and Porchlight Counseling Center.
This is a great article about the life-altering consequences of sexting on one teenage girl and the reality of how technology has changed our world ….not always for the better. Written by Jan Hoffman for The New York Times, it’s a must-read. Check it out and pass it on.