Move

travis-bozeman-396018-unsplashWhen you broke my heart

It wasn’t you who broke it

I had to give permission

All the days leading up to that fall

And the nightmares moving behind my eyes like greyscale film

In someways I’d always ended at this sharpened point

I did this to myself

It took that finality to break me apart

I held the chisel to ice

A distant memory of two people filled with joy

Was like a sore on my skin unable to heal

But I want to close my torn chest of its gape

Not see the stain of you separating me from the strength that comes from letting go

I know in time you won’t be a memory

Or even a regret

You’ll be the nothing I wish you’d always been

A cool blank space where all potential pain

Dissolves as salt on snow will leave barely trace

I don’t even wish you didn’t exist

I want to stop wishing for anything in your name

You’ve been a rot in my soul too long

It’s time to move on

Mental Health Month “Rape”

Rape isn’t a subject people talk about very often. Sadly it’s a subject people joke about quite a bit.

The first time I heard a rape-joke I didn’t get it. It was too disgusting to ‘get’ and I am glad I didn’t. Everyone else did though and they all laughed. At the time I didn’t think how someone sitting there who had been raped would feel, but statistics tell us, that likelihood is quite high considering that 80 percent of rape goes unreported and even the reported numbers are staggering.

How a rape joke could hope to be funny, baffles me, but it maybe is more telling of our society as a whole, that we can laugh at true misfortune and tragedy. That’s not gallows humor, that’s just sick.

Rape is never funny. Rape is never something that doesn’t matter. Perhaps if we acted like it mattered more, those who were rape survivors would not be more subject to a plethora of mental illness.

That’s why rape is a subject this Mental Health Month. Because the link between rape and mental illness exists. Rape can among other things, be a cause or contributing cause or exacerbation of; PTSD, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Depression, Phobias, Suicidality and Suicide, Cutting/Self-Harm and many other conditions.

We’ve talked in earlier posts about how that doesn’t diminish the very real and medical ‘illness’ of mental disorders, and just because an act pushes someone toward feeling a certain way, does not decrease the legitimacy of the illness part of any mental disease. Illness can and is caused by trauma, and there are few things more traumatic to a girl or woman (or boy or man) than rape.

Perhaps though there is one thing worse and that is not being believed, or the act of rape being diminished or ignored.

I hope most of you have watched The Hunting Ground, a documentary on Campus rapes here in America, but if you have not yet, and you have children, know college age kids, or people who work on campuses, it is compulsory viewing not to be missed.

Ultimately the numbers of rapes committed in any situation are underreported, under prosecuted, and not punished. Some judges do not believe a rapist should go to jail. It is often said ‘but he’s such a good boy and he has his entire life ahead of him’ and this stands as a perfectly reasonable explanation for not giving a rapist a harsher sentence.

The other big let-down as far as rape in the legal system goes, is that rape has a statute of limitations and thus, if five years pass and you do not report your rape you are not protected under the law anymore and cannot prosecute your rapist. This is not true for many other crimes including murder, and financial embezzlement. In other words, you can prosecute someone for stealing from you years later, but you cannot prosecute someone for raping you after a certain time period. Great message you’re giving the survivor!

In the interest of fairness, it should be pointed out this exists because the likelihood of having proof after five years is diminished and it is to protect those falsely accused many years later. But that relies upon a significant swath of false accusations and assumes that proof must exist to punish a rape rather than taking the word of the survivor. Therein lies the rub. It is a difficult subject to prosecute when it’s one person’s word against another and historically women have not been believed over men who were upstanding and respected in the community. So if you’re a prostitute and you are raped by a politician, don’t expect anyone to believe you.

Maybe we cannot do enough about this to change it entirely, but speeding up the rate of prosecution cases, ensuring all rape kits are tested (when so many lie untested due to lack of funding) ensuring the survivors are not ‘blamed’ during their legal ordeal, and educating everyone about the low figures of false reporting, may make some difference.

As with anything we can find examples of those who cried wolf, but that is literally true of anything human. It is singular to rape survivors that they are accused of ‘making it up’ as if everyone involved knows of 1000 x cases of liars who pretended they were raped for whatever gain. We should as we do with ‘innocent until proven guilty’ assume someone is likely to be telling the truth when they pluck up the courage and report being raped. If nothing else, something is wrong.

No more so than on campuses across America today, where so many young people are raped and do not report it knowing it will not go anywhere, or do report it and find those who raped them are not penalized sufficiently because they are a star football player. This inequality of punishment needs to be eliminated because what you are effectively saying is, you are not worth as much as the rapist or we do not believe your rape mattered enough to punish this person.

Sometimes I have heard people say ‘she’s too ugly to be raped she must be lying’ and awful things like that. I had one person told by a police officer that because she admitted she was gay, she had obviously chosen to ‘try the other side’ for the night when she was dragged along the street at night and raped by a stranger in an abandoned warehouse. Sure. She wanted it.

Seeing why people who survive rape, are at high risk for some kind of short-term mental illness or at high risk for exacerbating a pre-existing one, is obvious when you look at the details of what someone really goes through. The aftermath of rape is nearly always the worst part. We need to bring our ability to empathize and our compassion to the table and treat all rape cries seriously.

I have worked in two Rape Crisis Centers and the second one I worked in, only prosecuted a handful of cases via the authorities, due to the enormous back-log of DNA testing (rape kits) and the desire of the authorities to plea deal rather than prosecute. Let us not forget a plea deal is often a free pass for a rapist and his offense is often knocked down to a smaller crime that will not indicate to someone looking at his record, that he is a serial rapist. Typically those who rape do so again and again, so if we do not incarcerate them, reeducate them and rehabilitate them if possible they will go out and do it again.

Likewise those who are beyond our help are still let out onto the streets along with paedophiles whom they know will re-offend it’s just a matter of time. How does this happen? How can we justify this?

For those survivors who tell others that they were raped, it is on our shoulders to be as supportive and gentle as possible with someone who confides in us. So often rape is a subject of humor and fun making and there is literally, nothing funny about rape.SAAMP2017 (SM)7

https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/

https://www.rainn.org/

National Sexual Abuse Hotline: 800-656-HOPE

How to respond to a survivor: https://www.rainn.org/articles/how-respond-survivor

 

Female friendship

Before I answer the question of what I value most in friendship let me make a few points about the nature of female based friendships that I have noticed.

Madonna wasn’t wrong to say women hate other women. She wasn’t wrong to say the greatest pain in her life has been betrayal by her own gender, or that Hillary Clinton’s defeat (I wouldn’t have wished her to win anymore than the man who did) was in part owing to women hating other women. She also said that as a woman if you make a mistake you pay a higher price, and other women are the first to turn on you.

Madonna said the way she survived was to believe in herself, without this she would have not been able to. My entire life I have struggled with self-belief and confidence, mostly for the obvious reasons (highly critical family, no emotional support, lots of negatives blah blah) and much as I’m of an age where childhood things should NOT still influence me today, they do.

I’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with some wonderful friendships throughout my life. Equally male and female though most of my closest have been with women. Yes I’m a feminist but no man hater, and yes I find it hard being a feminist when so much of the bad things that happen to women are sanctioned or caused by other women. Have I envied men and their simpler lives? Hell yeah. They seem to be more trustworthy as friends, more stable emotionally and more loyal (in friendships) and they play fewer games. That’s my take on things thus far.

Whether you hate or love Madonna she has a point. We screw ourselves.

Many women I talk to say the same thing, “I don’t have many female friends” and when explaining why they point to games, bad experiences and competition as leading causes.

As a woman who believes in championing other women for no other reason than because I believe it helps them, I am dismayed that there is truth to this trait of not being able to lean upon other women as much as we should be able to.

The friend who told me to go to hell the other week, she wasn’t a real friend, more of an acquaintance, but one whom foolishly I had told a few of my vulnerabilities to. Thinking that she would never use them against me as I would never dream of doing this to someone else. She did use them against me, stating “the reason you have lost so many friends is your fault it’s something in YOU” This was said deliberately to undermine my faith in my ability to have good friendships. Briefly it worked. Then I realized that all of what she said came from her own sadness and insecurity and jealousy. Despite knowing this I felt sad that anyone would attempt to treat another person this way.

Call me naive but I believe in treating people well. It is true I have had a few lost and broken friendships along the way like most of us. The woman in question implied my quota was beyond ‘normal’ and it is this stigmatizing and finger-pointing that erodes female’s faith in themselves (this can apply to all genders actually and does). I know she didn’t even mean what she said as days before she was showering me with over-the-top praise, so this was more a mercurial lashing-out as much about her as about anything else.

Despite this the harm was done and whilst I can rationalize it, feel sorry for her and move on perhaps happier to know someone capable of that is no longer in my life, it lingers like a hang-nail in my subconscious. Just as she hoped it would.

That level of deliberate infliction of hurt, is something I have noticed women do especially well, hence the term ‘a woman scorned’ is the most fierce. In the instance of this situation, the girl may have had emotional reasons for her over-reaction, and as I look at all my ‘lost’ friendships they have that in common.

A friend told me shortly after it happened, that I needed to trust my gut more. I couldn’t agree more strongly on this. I had a gut instinct this person was messed up emotionally and being someone who believes in giving second-chances and caring about those who are not always neatly well and normal, I ignored that and the possibility she’d eventually turn it on me. Unfortunately as with the other two women who did similar things, mental problems can turn on those who are caring. It is the price an empathic person pays for not putting up guards or protecting themselves.

That said, I would not wish to stop caring about those people because at times I need help and am not always in perfect shape and I would hate to think someone would side-step me on that basis. So how to care for someone without being burned? Listening to your gut is crucial. I felt in my gut she was playing games and I dismissed that. In hindsight I should have walked away. Cold? Maybe? Self-preserving? You betcha.

I have learned from this. I feel glad to have learned from this. I have turned it into a positive and I feel a relief for the toxic removal of someone who wishes to hurt others. But how as women can we stop being this way? I would say that we need to stop competing with each other. Stop treating every other woman as a possible rival, stop thinking someone who is prettier, richer, more intelligent, etc, is someone we should resent and hate.

In my last job two women joined who were really beautiful. Immediately they were ignored and hated by the other women in the job. I see people as people, I liked them because they were nice people. Shortly afterward I heard rumors circulated that ‘Candy probably fancies them’ which was a pathetic way the haters explained why I was not intimidated or hateful to the new girls. I didn’t fancy them, any more than you fancy every single person you come into contact with, life doesn’t work that way, and it saddened me that this was the extent of their comprehension.

I don’t hate another woman for ANY reason. I dislike a woman if she is cruel or malicious. Other than that, I admire, appreciate and respect women. I truly believe if we all tried harder not to resent other women as females, we’d have a MUCH better world and some really terrific friendships. That does not obviate the value of men by any means, but we’re stronger TOGETHER and hate? Hate is always going to poison the hater the most. We ought to stop treating men as being ‘better’ than we are, or a valuable commodity and treat everyone equally. That means, if a woman you meet wants to be friends and you are suspicious, ask yourself why, rather than wondering why she would wish to be your friend.

So what do I value most in a friendship?

Honesty.

Integrity.

Loyalty.

Soap-box, over and out 😉