Updated: Mar 6
If you’ve been keeping up with me, you might have figured out by now that I’m a bit edgy. I have to be to do what I’m trying to do. What is that again? I am trying to educate the unaware about abuse.
This isn’t just about statistics. Eventually, I will get more clinical. For now, I’m after changing the narrative. You can google statistics about abuse and whatever you want all day long. What you can’t do is understand a situation using a number only.
Today I’d like to tackle the all inclusive argument. What I mean by this is when you start talking about an issue, like abuse for example, you might want to focus on the demographic most affected. That is overwhelmingly the female population, in this case.
The all inclusive argument comes in when people shout, “but men are abused too”. I know. I’ve seen it happen. Men abuse men. Women abuse men. Older sisters bully younger brothers. Older women prey on younger men. Calling them cougars doesn’t make it any less disgusting.
But the thing is, there is a big difference here. And though there are exceptions to any situation, the facts will show you that women are more likely than men to be abused, to be left caring for children unsupported, and women have more barriers to equal treatment than men do.
I don’t have to quote statistics for us to know that it is true. Women have been fighting for their rights far longer than we ever should have had to fight. But we have no other choice. If we stay quiet, then our rights get trampled.
Well I have statistics too. My own statistics. And though I was abused by both men and women, there was a very big disparity in the incidence of abuse between genders. Men overwhelmingly abused me in a far more brutal way than women. Since this is the age of MY OPINION, I will let that be fuel enough.
This may come as a surprise, but you can, in fact, talk about a problem affecting a group of people without focusing on other groups that are affected by the same or a similar problem. This is because we all have problems, but certain problems are different when gender is brought into it.
I am a woman. I am quite an expert on how abuse has affected me in my life. I have no idea how the same level, intensity, frequency, and re-victimization would affect a man because I have never been one. Maybe it’s the same. I have no idea. Maybe, over the course of time, we will discover it is the same. That would make it a lot easier to overcome, wouldn’t it?
I am also quite aware that there are others who have suffered abuse far worse than me. There are stories I would never repeat because they are so heartbreaking. My sister, for example, has endured so much more than I have and I am aware of it every day. The thing is, it’s not apples and oranges. It’s not apples and apples. It’s not even all fruit.
Abuse and trauma affect everyone differently. When I start to get technical, you’ll see how the body plays a role in holding onto trauma, how the brain hides it in strange ways, and how people can seemingly function normally while caring a heavy load of it. Trauma is huge and ugly and uncomfortable.
And that’s why we have to talk about it. Because it’s so big. Every part of my life has been affected by trauma. Every part of my children’s lives has been affected by trauma. It’s genetic, it’s situational, and it’s subconscious.
Instead of starting where everyone else does, with statistics and technical information, I’d like to start by explaining things from the point of view of the victim. I’m not talking just about the traumatic event. What I want to talk about is how that traumatic event changes your life.
That’s what an all-inclusive argument can’t work here. Because trauma is unique to each person. Because different types of trauma can be different based on how a gender has been groomed to handle it.
I don’t want to invalidate the argument for men that have been abused. I have a son. His father was a very angry man. That anger affected my son in many ways. Eventually, I want to talk about what we went through to get him help. I have a nephew that I’m concerned my dad is abusing, because he has won custody of him and he was always “the favorite”. Men are abused too and it’s sick and unfair. My mother-in-law gaslights my husband because he’s a man. Even though he has become the abuser himself, I am not blind to the cause.
Both genders abuse. That is definitely true. But here’s the thing. The way I was abused by women was different than they way I was abused by men. I am still assimilating memories from a time of high stress, but I only remember being sold by my father to other men for sex when I was 6 years old. The way I was raped by those men was brutal in a way I refuse to describe.
The physical and mental damage from that brutality was significant. Yet I am expected to function in society as a normal human being. Because my body is so good at hiding trauma, I largely have been able to function, or rather, appear to function as a normal person would.
But I’m not normal. I’m different than my peers. In some ways, I’ve developed leadership and coping skills that I could not otherwise have cultivated because I had to respond to violence. I had to live through things I had no power to stop. That has left me without certain socialization skills, because I have been trapped in survival mode for my entire life. You don’t have access to certain parts of your skill set when you’re trying to survive.
I’ve been written off my entire life. I approached the world without confidence. While it wasn’t entirely my fault, it has painted me in poor light and I am responsible for that. I always assumed someone else could do it better. I always assumed everyone was less damaged than me, that they were a real human.
That’s another thing. This kind of trauma leaves you feeling less than human. When I began my trauma treatment 9 months ago, I was freaking out on a level I will do my best to describe in future posts. I didn’t feel human at all. I wasn’t sure what I was. I felt like a cursed demon.
I have to start by talking about abuse. I have to start by talking about trauma. Before I can get to a place where I can start talking about things on a more inclusive level, I’m going to have to focus on how this affects women and why that is important.
I have a few gifts that make me the perfect person to do this. I am an observer. I have a great memory for details. I see the big picture and how everything works together. I have broken this into tiny pieces in order to understand how what happened to me could have happened.
One way trauma affected me was in auditory processing. I don’t process voices well. I can’t listen to audiobooks, I can’t hear someone when there is background noise. I have trouble understanding someone when other people are talking at the same time.
I developed skill to cope with this: I am very adaptive, I am good at interpreting body language, I am alert, efficient and organized. I taught myself to read when I was 4. I learned to teach myself from books, because the classroom was full of triggers for me. I was always on high alert at school. It’s hard to concentrate when you’re freaking out.
It was the indignant, haughty, insulted child in me. I was already being molested by my dad and my aunt and uncle. My mom wasn’t paying any attention to me. The skills I developed were coping skills. They were defense mechanisms. I learned to be on guard, to try to do my very best not to make a mistake.
My mother is accountable for her behavior, though she had her own issues. As I’ve said before, past trauma doesn’t excuse bad behavior. I am accountable for all of my actions as an adult and as a parent, regardless of the influence. That’s why I don’t offer pity to victims. I offer solutions.
The last thing I want is pity. What made me a victim is not a lack of intelligence or common sense. As a victim, the abuser is the one accountable for the bad behavior. It doesn’t matter what the victim said. It doesn’t matter what the victim did. It doesn’t matter what the victim was wearing. Bad behavior is not an excuse for escalated bad behavior or even equal bad behavior. Anything can trigger an outburst. No one is accountable for your anger but you.
Now here’s the sticky part. Choosing to disregard another person’s humanity is always wrong. It doesn’t matter if you were groomed to do it. It doesn’t matter if the empathy was brainwashed out of you. You are still accountable for bad behavior. As an adult. Even the bad guys are still human.
As a child, there are different degrees. A child does not have the reasoning and problem solving abilities an adult has. They do not have the exposure in the world. They can not understand the far reaching consequences of their actions. Their world is still too small. They are still malleable.
Do you see why it’s sticky? Because that child will become an adult. And that adult has to choose. They choose to repeat the cycle, knowing that it’s wrong. Once you have experience in the world, you learn what behavior is acceptable and what is not. Your disdain for a certain sector of the world’s population does not make them villains.
They are absolutely at a disadvantage. Because they will be operating on the wrong information. They will believe the world to be something it’s not, because that’s all it’s ever been for them. But they are still accountable. Because your soul always knows better.
People do bad things all the time. And they’re not all the dregs of society. My dad sold me to doctors and lawyers and business men. They thought they’d earned the right. They were so so wrong.
They do these things because they have company in their depravity. They do these things because they count on trauma hiding their misdeeds until it’s too late for a victim to do anything about it. They count on people not believing the child. They count on society turning away because they don’t want to hear about it.
There are no all inclusive arguments when it comes to trauma. Being tough on victims is nothing less than cruel. Telling them to “get over it already” is heartless. I guess cruelty is the order of the day in this age. I guess I’m going to let that bandwagon pass me by.
The point of all of this is to change the way society approaches abuse. The reason I’m doing this is because I can’t throw my dad in jail. I can’t hold him accountable in a way that I can make sure he won’t hurt anyone ever again. The only thing I can do is share what I’ve learned about all of this. The best thing I can do is show other people how to help those of us who have been hurt so badly that we struggle to try to be normal.
We’re awkward. We overcorrect on feigned normalcy and become perfectionists. We don’t know how to be vulnerable. We don’t know what’s appropriate. We’re always wondering if we’re doing the right thing. We don’t know how to fit in and when we try, we stick out like a sore thumb (another mom-ism).
We have complex feelings about the ones who abuse us, because we don’t know real love. We may seem unappreciative, but we don’t know what to believe. We don’t know if we’re really loved or if someone is taking pity on us or worse, taking advantage of our damage.
It’s a very scary place to live. I’m nearly free. I’m exactly where I need to be to explain this. I’ve got one foot on each side of it. Though I’m going to spend more time talking about the abuse of men, since that is where my experience lies, there are also examples of abuse by women. The only generalization I will make is by calling the abusive “abusers”, since that is the only way to classify them. Those who choose to disregard the humanity of another human being - ANY human being.
It’s a very slippery slope. But it is one that I am uniquely gifted in navigating and explaining. It’s going to be edgy. It’s going to be uncomfortable at times. The absolute best way to approach it is with an open mind and readiness to learn what you couldn’t have possible known otherwise. Allow your mind to accept another point of view.
To be clear, just because I am using my personal experience as illustration here at the beginning does not mean that I assume I speak for anyone else. I do not feel my situation can describe the horror of another. I won’t discount your pain because I dealt with mine. I won’t assume that everyone has the same skills, resources, or opportunities that I do.
I also won’t accept your all inclusive argument. I won’t accept your paradox. I won’t accept your flimsy explanations for why “all victims”, “all men”, or “all women” do what they do. Because you can’t generalize human beings.
I welcome feedback. I welcome questions. If you don’t understand, ask. If you can’t get your head around it, I’ll say it another way. But please, be respectful. Understand that though I have gone through the healing process, there are others who aren’t strong enough or safe enough yet to handle the abrasive dismissiveness that some feel entitled to dish out.
If you advocate for child abuse or sexual victimization of children, I will not hesitate to report you. My goal above all is the give whoever takes the time to read my articles the tools to SEE the victims of abuse. Don’t brush them off. They are stronger than you know, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need support. Right now, they have none.