Tag Archives: stigma

Computer Crash: Amanda’s Story

By now, most of you have probably at least heard something about this story. Amanda Todd, to put the story in its most basic terms, was stalked through three cities, bullied, beaten, and harassed to death. She was a 15-year-old girl who ended up choosing suicide over living one more day in the hell created by her peers both at school and in the online/social media world that has now become a haven for all manner of bullies and predators. This behavior sickens me. Amanda left behind a chilling  Youtube video explaining her situation. And for the full story, you can read what her mother has to say in the The Vancouver Sun.

Having been a victim of bullying, of violence, and a teenager who tried to commit suicide, I really feel for this girl. I think I can understand the place she was at; I thought, maybe I could put that in a poem. So this poem here, this is for Amanda. This is also for everyone who doesn’t understand what is is to want to end your life. I don’t know that I can explain that, and I’m not trying to speak for her. I can only reach back into my own experience, and maybe offer a little perspective.

I am so, so sorry Amanda. We all failed you. But maybe your story will help others, and I hope that gives you peace.

 

10/12/12

Computer Crash: Amanda’s Story

All I wanted was to be liked

I just wanted people to see

That I was a funny, fun person

I wanted them to see the real me

Instead, I was lured to a trap

I was told I was beautiful, cute

He told me to lift up my shirt

For an unknowing photo shoot

From that moment my life was over

I was stalked like deer in the woods

There was nowhere for me to hide

I tried three neighborhoods

But the stalkers and bullies, they followed

They tracked me through wires and webs

I never asked for this fame

To be one more naked celeb

They used every weakness against me

They beat me and tortured me so

Finally I couldn’t take it

I decided I had to go

It’s not like anyone cared

The police didn’t even try

The haters get away with it all

While I sit with a razor and cry

So goodbye to the stalkers and bullies

Goodbye to my parents, I regret

Too bad I have to end this life

That’s hardly happened yet

For Amanda Todd

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson

Advertisements

Awareness Games: Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence

Every October, when Domestic Violence Month rolls around, before it even begins I get very, very tired. That’s because every October, gaining awareness for domestic violence seems to be an uphill battle against the pink army that is the other October cause, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

That sounds really bitter, right? Like I hate people who support breast cancer or something? Wrong. Breast cancer is obviously a worthy cause that deserves attention. But does it have to steal all of the attention?

It is frustrating for those of us trying to gain support for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, trying to get our purple ribbons seen when we’re staring at an ocean of pink. An enormous part of the problem is stigma. A few decades ago, breast cancer was very stigmatized. Awareness campaigns brought out the subject and made it okay for people to talk about. Everyone understands now. Cancer is a disease; it’s not a person’s fault. The women who have it and are fighting it and living with it are considered brave, strong, even heroic. It’s a cause everyone can get behind without question; what kind of jerk doesn’t support cancer? People feel good about themselves when they buy a product that has a pink ribbon on it; it’s armchair philanthropy.

Listen, I’m not saying these things are bad. It’s amazing that the stigma on breast cancer has lifted, because millions of lives have been saved. It’s simply that, in comparison, domestic and sexual violence are still largely crimes that live in the dark. There’s a stigma attached to them that’s so severe, that one third of victims of domestic violence and two-thirds of sexual assault victims are not reporting to law enforcement. Of those victims, 41% of male and 34% of female stated victimization being a private/personal matter as reason for not reporting, 15% of women feared reprisal, 12% of all victims wished to protect the offender, and 6% of all victims believed police would do nothing.

Unfortunately, they are right about that.

Nationally, in the last 10 years the number of arrests for domestic violence have dropped from over 120,000 per year to around 85,000 per year. If a person in that one-third that comes forward to report a rape actually endures the re-traumatizing and invasive post-rape medical exam and is interviewed by police, it is highly unlikely that his or her efforts will result in justice, seeing as the conviction rate for sexual assault is only 3%— meaning  97% of rapists walk free.

How in the hell is that possible? It’s called rape culture. It’s just like how it used to be for breast cancer: unmentionable in public, the person who had it was marked somehow and there were sympathies to her face and gossip behind her back. In our culture, when a person is raped— especially a woman— she is the one with the burden of proof. She is considered a slut until proven virginal. We spend so much time focusing on what she was wearing, where she was walking, what she was drinking, and if she said no that we forget who the criminal actually is. It’s the same way with domestic violence. It is complicated and messy. There’s often substance abuse involved and children who are witnesses and fights that could go both ways. Emotional and verbal abuse are hard to pin down, though I assure you, it happens all the time. But come on: there is absolutely no fucking excuse for ignoring physical violence. And yet people do, constantly. No one wants to talk about domestic and sexual violence the way they are willing to openly discuss breast cancer. Why? Because it’s ugly; it’s painful; it’s shameful. People are afraid of it. And for reasons beyond my comprehension, people really love to blame the victims. While cancer patients are considered brave, victims of domestic and sexual violence are called stupid, lazy, slutty, and deserving of their abuse.

Every October, I feel burned out by the 2nd. I stare at the ocean of pink and wonder how in the world I’m going to gain attention for a cause that no one wants to speak or hear about. A cause that makes people uncomfortable, that triggers a flicker of shock across their faces as soon as the word “violence” comes out of my mouth. The only ones who are not shocked are the ones who have a personal connection to domestic violence. That’s when I hear the stories: “My sister had a boyfriend who hit her.” “I was married to a guy like that.” “My dad abused me as a kid.”

When I hear those stories, I have a bit of hope; these are people who will help spread the word. Perhaps they will understand, perhaps I can explain to them and make them realize how much we need to educate the public about domestic and sexual violence. I’m doing everything within my power. But when I look at all the major corporations and foundations that are sponsoring breast cancer, I think, I want those same resources for this. How do I make them realize that domestic and sexual violence are at an all-time high? 1 in 3 women worldwide will experience violence in her lifetime. How do I get them to hear that and maybe give their support towards another cause this October?

The thing is, breast cancer is no longer a crisis the way it was a decade ago. Female breast cancer incidence rates began decreasing in 2000, then dropping by about 7% from 2002 to 2003.  Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, with larger decreases in women younger than 50. These decreases are believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment. Think about it; that pink ribbon has become synonymous with breast cancer, and you can find it on every product imaginable. The Susan G. Komen Foundation in particular has done an incredible job with this. Another big part of the decrease is due to the fact that pharmaceutical companies and companies that sell medical and surgical equipment will invest in awareness campaigns, the pink ribbon branding, and fund-raising for research, which brings in millions of dollars every year for the cause. Domestic violence does not have this resource because so far, there’s no surgery that can prevent a man from beating his wife, and chemotherapy can’t cure incest. Those companies have no interest in sponsoring a cause that will give them nothing back. With breast cancer, there are patients that use their products so they recoup that money. Until we figure out what part of the brain makes a person violent toward their loved ones, or find a medicine that can erase the effects of sexual trauma, those companies have no incentive to spread purple ribbons the way they do pink, or try to raise funds for victims’ services. Meanwhile, the statistics show a 42-percent increase in reported domestic violence and a 25-percent increase in the reported incidence of rape and sexual assault. Does this mean that I think we should ignore breast cancer? That breast cancer is no longer a problem and we should focus solely on domestic violence? Of course not. Breast cancer is still a killer, the second deadliest cancer after lung cancer, and obviously, we need to keep seeking a cure. But do I think it’s currently at the crisis level that domestic violence is?

No.

Saying that is going to upset people, possibly offend people, particularly those who have loves ones affected by breast cancer. I understand your feeling that way. But when you take a look at these numbers, you might begin to understand where I’m coming from when I say that.

–       About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

–       Twice as many, 1 in 4 U.S. women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.

–       In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 57,650 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer (288,130 cases total).

–       Twenty times as many, an estimated 6 million women are victims of domestic violence each year

–       On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day. Intimate partner homicides accounted for 30% of the murders of women and 5% percent of the murders of men. Homicide is the number 1 cause of death in pregnant women. Most intimate partner homicides occur between spouses, though boyfriends/girlfriends have committed about the same number of homicides in recent years.

–       One in five (21%) women in the U.S. reports she has been raped or physically or sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Three in four women (76%) who reported they had been raped and/or physically assaulted since age 18 said that an intimate partner (current or former husband, cohabiting partner, or date) committed the assault.

–       Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. 30% of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.

–       There are only 1,500 shelters for battered women in the United States; there are 5,000 animal shelters.

This is beyond unacceptable. When we have more resources for stray animals than

abuse victims, something is seriously fucked up.

This whole thing may sound like I’m trying to make the month of October some giant competition between breast cancer and domestic violence, like I think one cause is better than the other. That’s not the case. What I really want is just some more air time, a little more space, and more financial resources to do as wonderful a job of eradicating the stigma around domestic and sexual violence as the breast cancer camp has done. Seriously, we need some of the breast cancer publicists over in the domestic violence camp! Those people get shit done.

Another suggestion that has been made is to move Domestic Violence Awareness Month to May, so it won’t be drowned out. That could work. As long as there is some time dedicated to fighting for this cause. As many of you know— if you’ve read any other part of WfR— I’ve got my own (long and intense) history with both domestic and sexual violence. Whenever someone takes up a cause, it’s not a coincidence; they do it because it affects them somehow. That’s why this is such an emotional topic, and why, when I bring it up, people who are affected by breast cancer tend to get pissed off at me. That’s okay. As long as it’s being discussed, as long as it’s out in the open, perhaps things will begin to change.

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2012

P.S.— In the interest of fairness I feel I must add that there are two other October causes that get even less attention that either breast cancer or domestic violence: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and National Bullying Prevention Month. Both of these are really important and deserve attention too, please take a look at their websites for more information!

National Bullying Prevention Center

Remembering Our Babies

FirstCandle.org

Statistical Resources Included:

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Domestic Violence Resource Center

BreastCancer.org

Susan G. Komen Foundation

Human Rights Watch

ASPCA

Clark County Prosecutor, Domestic Violence Office

Centers for Disease Control


Representative Akin, Every Rape is Legitimate: An Open Letter

Hello Recovery Writers,

Rarely am I so angry about an issue that I feel I need to take it on in this manner, but when I read about this…well, you know how I am. This is not one I was just going to let go. I tried to stay dignified in my response, and I’m sending this letter onto his office. I encourage you all to write your own congressmen, as well as Rep. Akin himself if you feel as strongly about this as I do. I’ll include his contact information at the end of this article. As always, thanks for reading.

Update: In my zeal to get this letter written and out there, I originally called Todd Akin a senator; this is incorrect. He is a state representative who is running for senator in Missouri. My apologies for any confusion.

Also: There are now several petitions going around demanding sanctions for Rep. Akin. Here is a link to one of them if you’d like to sign (I already have, of course!):

CREDO Action: Tell Rep. Todd Akin: Stop lying about rape

Missouri Republican claims ‘legitimate rape’ rarely results in pregnancy 

Dear Representative Akin,

This is an open letter addressing your unbelievably idiotic and insensitive statements in the article above. How dare you attempt to qualify whether or not rape is “legitimate”. Until you have personally experienced rape, personally experienced unfathomable shock and trauma and shattering of your life and bodily integrity, you don’t get to say word one about the legitimacy of rape. And as far as the rate of pregnancy goes, if you’re going to have the nerve to try and use that as a factor to illegitimize rape, then at least have the decency to have actual science on your side. Despite what some pro-life witch doctor with a medical degree from Sally Struthers may have told you, pregnancy can actually happen without a woman’s consent. It happened to a friend of mine. For the majority of the time I was being repeatedly raped, I was “lucky” enough to have been a child, incapable of conceiving. The last time I was raped, I was severely anorexic and not menstruating, also making it highly unlikely. I didn’t get pregnant from any of the times I was raped, but I think about it sometimes: what would I have done if I had? I honestly don’t know. Back then, the morning after pill wasn’t available. Now, I would certainly do that first. And, by the way, the morning-after pill IS NOT a form of abortion! It PREVENTS pregnancy from ever happening, actually making abortions less likely to occur. If you’re really all about protecting life, supporting birth control is really the way to go. Keeping those pregnancies from occurring in the first place will stop abortions from happening. And if your interest is truly in stopping abortions- as opposed to simply controlling women’s lives and bodies- then really, you might want to jump aboard. Men like you who think that they have any right to legislate the choices available to women who have been raped truly terrify me. Like I said, you have not experienced this. You can’t IMAGINE what it is to be raped, much less to experience a pregnancy from rape. How dare you try to limit a woman’s options in that situation. As if it isn’t hard enough. The rapist should be punished. But the victim shouldn’t be. And that is exactly what you’re doing when you limit her ability to make decisions about what’s right for her body and her life.

Sincerely,
Sarah Henderson

Contact Representative Todd Akin

 


Project Unbreakable: Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

Hello Recovery Writers! It’s been a little while since I’ve posted here on the blog, but a couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to stumble across an amazing project I just had to share with you.

A young photographer named Grace Brown has begun a web site called Project Unbreakable, where she uses her camera skills to help survivors of sexual violence reclaim their voices. Survivors write the words that their attackers said to them on posters, and Grace photographs them holding those posters. Yvonne Moss, a survivor and advocate who works with the project, describes it as “a way for victims to take the power back of the words that were once used against them.” As soon as I saw Project Unbreakable, I knew I wanted to feature it on WfR. What Grace is doing with her photography is exactly what Writing for Recovery is all about: Using words to heal, empower, educate, and give other survivors hope.

I am honored to participate in this wonderful project; the photo you see above is my contribution. When I was 16 I was raped by a stranger. These are the words he said to me: Shhh….I won’t hurt you if you shut up and don’t move. I’m pretty sure that up until now my therapist is the only one who knew that. Now it’s going public, and that is just fine with me. It was a pretty horrible thing to hear, and I’m hoping that other people will be horrified by those words too. Perhaps horrified enough to do something.

If you are reading this and have been a victim of sexual violence, please consider submitting a photo to Project Unbreakable at grace@50extraordinarywomen.com.

Update: To view my contribution on the Project Unbreakable website, please click here.


Declaration of Independence from Stigma

I have something important to share with you all. Earlier a friend of mine gave a very brave statement when she said: “I have PTSD!! I’m not ashamed to talk about it!” Taking her example, I want to say this:

I have bipolar. I had eating disorders and PTSD, I cut myself and attempted suicide. I was a victim of childhood physical and sexual abuse. I grew up in domestic violence. I was raped.

And I am not ashamed.

I have done nothing wrong. I am not to blame for the abuse I suffered or the psychiatric disorders I am diagnosed with. I got therapy and take medication and that does not mean I’m crazy. I will not be silenced or shamed by stigma or societal pressure to keep these things hidden. They are part of my story, and I know they are part of your stories too. Join me in declaring that you will not be silenced by stigma!!! ♥


Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Abusive Behaviors

There are all different types of abusive behaviors: physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, financial, using children, and more. It can still be abuse if you are not being hit. You can still be raped, even if you are married. Being forced to have an abortion or carry a child you don’t want is abusive. Being isolated and having no control over the family finances, given an allowance like a child is abusive. Being told you are worthless is abusive. Women can be abusers. Knowledge is power; the more we know about domestic violence the more powerful we are to prevent and treat it. 

The following list is taken from the “Abusive Behavior Checklist” created by Central DuPage Hospital

Emotional Abuse 

  • Frequently blames or criticizes you
  • Calls you names
  • Ridicules your beliefs, religion, race class or sexual preference
  • Blames you for “causing” the abuse
  • Ridicules/makes bad remarks about your gender
  • Criticizes or threatens to hurt your family or friends
  • Isolates you from your family and friends
  • Abuses animals
  • Tries to keep you from doing something you wanted to do
  • Is angry if you pay too much attention to someone or something else (children, friends, school, etc.)
  • Withholds approval, appreciation or affection
  • Humiliates you
  • Becomes angry if meals or housework are not done to his/her liking
  • Makes contradictory demands
  • Does not include you in important decisions
  • Does not allow you to sleep
  • Repeatedly harasses you about things you did in the past
  • Takes away car keys, money or credit cards
  • Threatens to leave or told you to leave.
  • Checks up on you (listens to your phone calls, looks at phone bills, checks the mileage on the car, etc.)
  • Tells people you suffer from a mental illness
  • Threatens to commit suicide
  • Interferes with your work or school (provokes a fight in the morning, calls to harass you at work, etc.)
  • Minimizes or denies being abusive
  • Abuses your children
  • Breaks dates and cancels plans without reason
  • Uses drugs or alcohol to excuse their behavior
  • Uses phrases like “I’ll show you who is boss,” or “I’ll put you in line”
  • Uses loud or intimidating tone of voice
  • Comes home at late hours refusing an explanation

Financial Abuse

  • Makes all the decisions about money
  • Takes care of all financial matters without your input
  • Criticizes the way or amounts of money you spend
  • Places you on a budget that is unrealistic
  • Prohibits your access to bank accounts and credit cards
  • Refuses to put your name on joint assets
  • Controls your paycheck
  • Refuses you access to money
  • Refuses to let you work
  • Refuses to get a job
  • Refuses to pay bills
  • Causes you to lose your job

Sexual Abuse

  • Pressures you to have sex
  • Pressures you to perform sexual acts that make you uncomfortable or hurt you
  • Directs physical injury toward sexual areas of your body
  • Puts you at risk for unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Withholds sex or affection
  • Calls you sexual names (“whore”, “bitch”, etc.)
  • Tells anti-woman jokes or demeans women verbally/attacks your femininity or masculinity
  • Accuses you of having or wanting sex with others
  • Forces you to have sex with others
  • Threatens to disclose your relationship when you did not want it known
  • Forces you to view pornography
  • Pressures you to dress in a certain way
  • Disregards your sexual needs and feelings about sex
  • Accuses you of being gay if you refused sex (for heterosexual relationships)
  • Spreads rumors about your sexual behaviors
  • Forces you or refuses to let you use birth control
  • Makes unwanted public sexual advances
  • Makes remarks about your sexual abilities in private or in front of others
  • Rapes and sexually assaults you

Using Children

  • Makes you feel guilty about your children
  • Uses children to relay negative messages
  • Uses children to report on your activities
  • Uses visitation to harass you
  • Threatens to take custody of your children
  • Threatens to kidnap your children

Physical Abuse

  • Pushes, grabs or shoves you
  • Slaps you
  • Punches you
  • Kicks you
  • Chokes you
  • Pinches you
  • Pulls your hair
  • Burns you
  • Bites you
  • Ties you up
  • Forces you to share needles with others
  • Threatens you with a knife, gun or other weapon
  • Uses a knife, gun or other weapon
  • Prevents you from leaving an area/physically restrains you
  • Throws objects
  • Destroys property or your possessions
  • Drives recklessly to frighten you
  • Disregards your needs when you are ill, injured or pregnant
  • Abuses you while you are pregnant
  • Forces you to abort or carry a pregnancy

Issues for Immigrants

  • Lies about your immigration status
  • Tells you that they have the ability to have your immigration status changed
  • Threatens to withdraw/not file the petition to legalize your immigration status
  • Tells you that the U.S. will award the children to them
  • Tells you that you have abandoned your culture and become “white” or “American”
  • Stops subscriptions or destroys newspapers and magazines in your language
  • Tells you that U.S. law allows abuse as long as it is in private
  • Threatens to report you to INS if you work without a permit
  • Takes money you send to your family
  • Forces you to sign papers written in a language you do not understand
  • Forbids you to learn English or communicate in your native language
  • Harasses you at the only job you can work at legally in the U.S. so that you will be forced to work illegally
  • Calls you a “mail order bride”
  • Alleges you had a history of prostitution on legal papers
  • Tells you that U.S. law requires you to have sex whenever he/she wants it

Domestic Violence Story Project: R.

Hello everyone, thank you for joining me for Writing for Recovery’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month Story Project. Throughout the month of October I’ll be posting stories that I’ve received from women who have been in violent relationships, and a couple from those who have lost loved ones to violence. As many of you know, this is a subject that is a close to my heart, as I grew up in a violent and chaotic home and have felt and watched the damage it can do. However, I have also been witness to the enormous strength of those who survive these situations…and unfortunately, too many people do not. I have been privileged to hear and receive your stories and I thank everyone who has taken part in this Project. Your voices matter, they need to be heard, and it’s possible they could save a life.

The first story I’d like to bring to you was actually taken (with permission) from an e-mail I received. This lady describes the pain and fear of living inside a violent relationship in such an emotionally raw way because she is actually in one right now.  I wanted to post this first so that it’s possible to get perhaps a little bit of a glimpse inside what it might be like to live this way. To answer that tired and uninformed question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”

 This is why. 

 

I am not sure how to begin this….( I am just telling this so that I CAN FEEL A LOT BETTER….. )

I considered myself a fighter and a survivor in my own way. It’s not easy and yet I still bear a scar and wound that can never heal.

In the Asian context, domestic violence is considered a taboo subject , it will be such a shame to let what happened in your marriage out in the open. Especially when you are being abused by your husband. Being emotionally, physically and verbally abused……it really tears MY life apart. I don’t really recognize my own self. Being called hurtful names or spiteful remarks, being kicked and punched like a ball ….. the list goes on and on…….

Imagine being spat on??…..spat on in front of the kids??…. I felt so dirty, so disgusted and so humiliated. I felt so insulted …… I hate myself…..and I hate HIM even more….

Someone told me….try to forget the hatred so at least I don’t hurt myself inside….But can you blame me for feeling like this ??????…..

I get out of the marriage after I got a knock on my senses suddenly. But that kind of braveness never came knocking on me again…it just totally left me helpless and hanging like a thread. As time goes by…..I began to feel that I am at the bottom of a pit….so low till I find it difficult to bring myself up and out….

I am scared of him…..scared of even his shadow….his voice ….. what makes matters worse, we are still living under the same roof , although we are undergoing a divorce process which I think took such a slow process….

Whenever there is a need to talk to him, the talk became an argument and it escalates into abuses….I shivered and shake whenever I try to talk to him…..

The FEAR never leaves me totally…..it will still be living in my soul as long as it takes….

I am trying my best to overcome all this in a slow and painful way……

I am tired……very tired emotionally and physically….

 

R.

Asia