Tuesday, 3 July 2012

There comes a time...

There comes a time when enough is enough. When the way things have been, cannot be the way things will be any more. When the past can no longer define you. When your fear no longer keeps you small. When your victim self no longer condemns you to eternal suffering. And when that time comes. Step forward into the light, your light. With deep compassion for yourself. And all those who played their part. Know that you are loved. Beyond measure.

Monday, 30 April 2012

I Hit My Kids and Now Begins The Real Work To Heal

Welcome to the Spank Out Day 2012 Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the Second Annual Spank Out Day Carnival hosted by Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Spank Out Day was created by The Center for Effective Discipline to give attention to the need to end corporal punishment of children and to promote non-violent ways of teaching children appropriate behavior. All parents, guardians, and caregivers are encouraged to refrain from hitting children on April 30th each year, and to seek alternative methods of discipline through programs available in community agencies, churches and schools. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


As one of the moderators for The Honesty Conspiracy, I was pleased to offer this space for an anonymous writer for the Spank Out Day 2012 Carnival. I received an email from a friend who saw my invitation to participate in the carnival and felt moved to share her experience. She was afraid to tell her story publicly, even though she knew it would help her heal. We discussed how passionately she felt about the potential her story has to help another parent know they are not alone and that there is the possibility to move beyond corporal punishment, even when it feels as if there is no way out. We got together over food and drink so that I could interview her about her story, then she reviewed and revised what I wrote for her from that evening. I am honored to share her moving story here with you…
~Zoie at TouchstoneZ

For the first 5 years of my life as a parent, I used punishment as a way of curbing my children’s behavior. I used time outs, removal of privileges, and what I called swatting in an effort to control them. I was often conflicted about the roles we played in our family and I know it was due to the punitive aspect of our relationship. I was in the power position, my children were in the subservient position and we were often at odds. Too often I thought of it as a battle of wills and I had to be the winner. There was little to no room for complete connection that I had with my children when they were newborns.

The day I spanked my two oldest children was the day that changed everything for us.

It was a wakeup call for me. I was so far removed from the real relationship I longed for with my children that I didn’t back away from the painful reality that I was causing the distance between us. As the parent in the power position, I was choosing to continue to punish my children because I was afraid. I was afraid of trying something different than what I knew. I had many friends who practiced attachment parenting and I had read some of the research about how ineffective punishment is in modifying behavior in healthy ways.

 I decided that I wanted better for my children than I was giving them. This wasn’t a criticism of my own parents or even my own approach to parenting. It was a new way of looking at us as a family. It was admitting that I was using fear instead of love to be with my children. And I didn’t want to teach them that fear was more powerful than love anymore.

It would have been easy to turn away from this truth. I had many reasons why I spanked my children that day. I was dealing with undiagnosed Post Partum Anxiety, my husband had been away for several months, and I was coordinating hospice care for a family member long distance. The amount of stress I was under made me quick to be angry with my children. I was doling out punishments in a way that felt like an ever-increasing spiral to keep up with what I thought were misbehaving children. Never once did I consider that my emotional state was impacting them. I was in the battle of wills mode.

So, I snapped. I threatened my two oldest children with spanking if they didn’t stop their behavior. And when they didn’t, I turned them over my knee and gave my two oldest children three spanks with my hand on their behinds. After that, with all of my children sobbing, I think I went into shock at what I had done. I remember a hollow feeling, as if I were looking at everything from afar.

It was the cries of my children for “momma” that brought me back. I had spanked my children and they needed me, the one who had hit them, for comfort. I was all they had, even though I had betrayed their trust and hurt them. They still loved me.

I wasn’t sure I could live up to that much love and trust. I wonder if my husband had been home, if I would have made the decision to change in that moment. But, he wasn’t there. There was no one else but me to care for my children. I apologized. I listened to everything they said to me about being spanked. I took all the pain that it caused me to hear their anger, humiliation, hurt, and blame. I used that pain to remind me every time I wanted to swat them or give them a time out, what I was really teaching them. It has become a source of strength for me.

I reached out to a few close friends. A few did not understand and turned away from me. A few loved me unconditionally and helped me with the basics of how to heal my family. My husband helped me find a parenting therapy group that meets twice a month. We have started going together so that we are parenting consistently.

It has been 3 years, and some days are harder than others, but we are healing together. I have never hit my children again, although the thought to do so still crosses my mind at times. Whenever I feel I am slipping into the battle of wills, I use coping strategies to gain some perspective. I will never be a perfect parent. But, I have the kind of close relationship with my kids that I longed for. And even more importantly, I think they have the same with me.


Spank Out Day 2012 Carnival hosted by TouchstoneZ

On Carnival day, please follow along on Twitter using the handy #SpankOutCar hashtag. You can also subscribe to the Spank Out Day Carnival Twitter List and Spank Out Day Carnival Participant Feed.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Monday, 26 March 2012

I Took the Blame for My Own Rape

...and I didn't even know it.

There is a blog that I thoroughly enjoy, called Blue Milk. Feminist issues are the main focus there, and a topic that comes up frequently is rape. I got caught up in the comment threads of some old posts there recently, and it has been a highly emotional experience for me. The blog's author wrote a post, entitled "Don't get raped," that sarcastically pointed out the foolishness in suggesting that a victim's behavior can ever 'lead to' rape. Not surprisingly, some debate ensued and Blue Milk wrote a follow-up post to address suggestions that victims are often partially responsible for their own assault (hint: this assertion is wrong). That post, titled, "But why shouldn't she take some responsibility too for the rape?" was later followed by "All the way - gray rape and third base," and "To the woman unconvinced."

As I read these posts and the comments that followed, I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of sadness, not only because of the awful comments made by some readers, but even more so because it finally brought me to the place of fully recognizing something: I was raped. Not once, but three times and by three different individuals. So many years have passed and I have no desire to address the individuals who were involved, but I have been going through a great deal of processing, trying to make sense of what happened, and how I came to view these incidents as completely and totally "my fault." I seem to have been enculturated with the same twisted ideas as some of the commenter's on Blue Milk's articles, ideas that sound so ignorant and anti-woman to me now. I was brought up in a culture of victim blame, a culture of excuses, but there is no excuse for any man or woman to have sex with an individual who has not willingly and openly consented to such an act. How I didn't see this before is baffling to me, but I'm glad to know it now, and hope to impart that sense on my own children.

I am so very saddened to think that I, as an intelligent and capable young woman, did not see what any of the men who took advantage of me did as all that wrong. It certainly wasn't right, but who could blame them. It's what men did, I thought. I was flirtatious, I was playful, so what did I expect? Would it have been so wrong to expect respect for my own right to choose when and how I wanted to have sex? How about to expect the men to hold themselves up to a higher standard? I really don't think so. I'm disgusted by the idea that I put all of the blame on myself for the conscious decisions these so-called men made to take advantage of me. My point of view at the time was so very twisted that I even continued to have an amicable relationship with at least one of these men, because it wasn't their fault, after all. I was stupid. I was irresponsible. I made bad decisions.

All of these years later, I can finally see that no decision I made gave another person the right to have sex with me without my consent. No decision I made "led" to unwanted sex.
As part of my processing, I have been going over and over these scenarios in my head, trying to figure out what led me to think and to do the things I did, and to completely and totally let these guys off the hook. I want to know what led me to think that what they did was okay, in large part so that I can protect my own daughter from a similar fate.

The first scenario involved my boyfriend at the time. This boyfriend, several years older than I, knew I had not had sex and that I was not ready to have sex. We had discussed this on numerous occasions. One night, he invited me to join him at a friend's house party, where I hardly knew a soul. The drinks got to me quickly, so he suggested that we should go. I got the sense that I had embarrassed him, and half expected him to take me home and go back to the party unencumbered. His and my apartments were within a four or five mile radius of one another, as was the one where the party was located, so taking me home would have been easy, really. To my surprise, he wanted to go to his place. We did, I relieved that my hip older boyfriend had not ditched me for embarrassing him. I was extremely intoxicated, sick, and out of it, but glad to he still wanted me around all the same.

Before long, I found myself in his bed and we did things we had done before, all of which were fine with me. What I didn't know at the time was that he was planning to have sex with me. It's all so clear to me now, looking back on details from the night, but I didn't see it then. I was enjoying myself, so I suppose I believed that what followed was the logical next step, and that because I had willingly participated in the lead-up to it, I had consented in some way or another. One minute things were normal, and the next I realized that he was having sex with me. I was shocked, since he had given me no warning whatsoever, but believed I had brought it upon myself and made him think that I wanted it, so I didn't speak up but merely waited for it to be over. Very few, if any words were spoken afterward. We went to sleep, and the next morning he proceeded to enter me again, with little to no warning. We never discussed what was actually happening, he never asked my permission. He really didn't seem to consider what I wanted at all.

In the days that followed, I spent a lot of time processing what had happened and ended up convincing myself that I had wanted it. I know that I know that if I had actually been asked if I were ready, if I had been consulted at all, I would have told him I wasn't ready. The fact that our entire social circle had heard the news, and was congratulating me on having lost that antiquated thing called my virginity, helped create and feed this twisted idea that it had been a good thing. But the reality is, he took advantage of me. And I didn't stop him. I'm really not sure which is more upsetting - my passivity or his complete and utter selfishness and lack of consideration. If I had asked him to stop, said no, would he have stopped? I'd like to think the answer is yes, but I don't know. It's this not knowing that caused me to blame myself. I couldn't say he acted against my will, I felt, because I failed to make my will known. I wish I had said no, sure. I could have said no, sure. But absolutely nothing gave him the right to assume a yes and move forward with something he knew that, sober, I hadn't wanted, especially without checking in with me first.

Fast forward a couple of years and I found myself in an even more disturbing scenario, for which I fully blamed myself and agonized endlessly over my poor decision. I had flirted with a coworker, not because I was the least bit interested in him, but because I was young and flirtatious. We worked in a social environment where this type of interaction was going on constantly, and it was fun, but didn't obligate anyone to follow on with anything at all.

I went out one night with two old friends who I trusted, rightly. They were kind and gentlemanly and I had known them for years. When the two of us who were not driving had consumed our fair share at the bar, they drove me home and came up to my apartment for a chat. Meanwhile, I had been texting with the coworker, who wanted to come over. Against my better judgment, I decided this sounded like fun, and invited him. I have absolutely no memory at all of his coming over. My first clue came in the morning, when I found a note apologizing for his having to leave before I awoke. I was a bit surprised, since I didn't recall going to sleep beside him anyway, and certainly had not expected to wake up to him in my bed.

A bit later, I went to the bathroom and found a piece of latex inside of me. I can actually remember thinking, "well, at least he used a condom." This was a relief to me at the time, and more pressing a concern than the issue that I had no memory of agreeing to a sex act of any kind. Again, I blamed myself. What had I been thinking!? Looking back now, I know exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking that I wanted to have fun with my good friends, who I had not seen in ages. Because I felt safe with them, and was not particularly good at rejecting others, I allowed a coworker to join us. Beyond that, I can only imagine, but I know that I was in absolutely no condition to give consent. Is it wise to drink to excess? Perhaps not, but as an adult do I have every right to make a decision to do so? Of course I do! Does another adult have a right to use the situation to their advantage and have their way with me? Abso-frickin'-lutely not.

That time in my life was a wild, spontaneous one and it involved many nights of drinking and spending time with friends. There are certainly experiences that are fuzzy, times when my wits were not entirely about me, but I always remembered at least bits and pieces from every hour I was awake, even if only half awake. The fact that I remember absolutely nothing - not a single moment from my time with this man - is very suspicious to me as well, especially since I did not drink that excessively. Either I had already entered a hard sleep, or something else occurred without my permission.

Later on that next morning, I received a call from the trustworthy friends who had been my drinking companions the night before. They called to check on me because they were worried. They had not felt comfortable leaving me with my coworker the previous night, but at the same time had to get home, so trusted that I knew him well enough to be safe. I thanked them for checking in on me, and told them everything was absolutely fine that morning. In reality, I was angry, upset, horrified - but I was also embarrassed, so my response was to pretend like nothing had happened. It was my fault anyway, right? I took one hundred percent of the blame and responsibility. A few days later, when my coworker (who fortunately wasn't working all that often, and who I asked not to be scheduled with again) started texting again and asking for a date, I made up excuses until he gave up. I didn't have the nerve to tell him I thought he was scum, or that I was furious, or horrified. I just made up excuses and waited for it all to go away. I was to blame, after all.

Just days after that incident I was enjoying a game night with close friends at their home. We were all drinking to some extent, so the plan was for everyone who didn't live in the neighborhood, to sleep on the couch or a futon. Sometime later in the night, a friend's brother joined us, someone who I knew by reputation but had interacted with very little. I actually thought he was cute, but too cool to be friends with me anyhow. This was the only person I did not know well and trust, but given that others seemed to, I felt safe enough and eventually went to sleep, with trusted friends nearby. Before long, I awoke to the friend's brother making a move. I was not all that out of it, so I woke fully and for whatever twisted reason took his advances as a compliment. There was some kissing and we agreed to go for a walk.

It was snowy and perfectly quiet in the middle of the night and my new companion was just about as charming as he could be. I enjoyed talking with him and somehow felt comfortable. The whole situation had started to feel like something out of an indie film, so when our walk took us relatively near to my house, I suggested we head there to get out of the cold. I agreed to let him sleep there, but was quite clear that I didn't want sex, especially because neither of us had protection. Still, I was enjoying myself, so kissing continued, and before I knew it he was apologizing. "Sorry, sorry, I couldn't help myself," he said. "You're just so hot, and I can't believe you're hanging out with me." I was angry, annoyed, but still somehow charmed (you can see why I'm disgusted looking back. Why did I not send him away immediately? Better yet, why did I not see and call him out for the scum that he was when he made advances toward me, someone he hardly knew, in my sleep?), so I got dressed and went to sleep, allowing him to stay. The next morning, he accompanied me out for coffee and was so outrageously sweet. I was organizing an event at my place of work that evening and he said several times that he wanted to hang out with me, and was going to come by. I actually thought this might be the beginning of something - what a destructive relationship that would have been! - but fortunately he never turned up that evening. I never saw him again.

There is a common thread I see when I look at these three stories together, and that's a lack of confidence - in both myself, and in my rights. It disgusts me that the tiny bit of flattery used in that third scenario was enough to make me excuse such a plain and simple violation. In that situation, I had said no, but the other person chose to do what they wanted anyway. In the first situation, the warm feeling of being wanted likely played a huge role in my silence. In the second scenario, I was too embarrassed to even admit that anything had happened, much less call the person involved out for his actions.

Aside from that I felt a definite lack of power as a woman. The image of rape I had been presented with growing up was one where a woman was in clear danger, and attempted to fight off an attacker to no avail. This image has been a sad reality for far too many women, but it ignores the fact that every woman has the right to choose who she will sleep with. Every woman deserves to be asked whether or not certain actions toward her are acceptable. The opportunist who does not give a woman the chance to say no may be less violent than the men I pictured when I thought of rape, but their behavior is in no way excusable. And yes, women can and do rape men, too. This is no more acceptable, and it saddens me that society paints it as though it's often some sort of privilege for the man.

The bottom line is, everyone has the right to give or deny consent for sex, and no one has the right to take it just because the moment is right. I'm not in a position to say exactly how and what at this point, but a lot of things need to change so that future generations of women and men can grow up knowing this at the very core of their being.

Photo Credit: xoder on Flickr

A note: If you disagree with my classification of any of these incidents as rape, you're probably not alone. I never thought of them as such before either. I'm not here to have a debate over what qualifies (although if you disagree with me, you may find the posts linked above insightful, and I would also encourage you to look into "alcohol faciliated" or "incapacitated rape." Another useful tidbit would be the FBI's recently updated defintion of rape which includes: "The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim" (emphasis added), and especially not to have my decisions scrutinized. This was a difficult subject to discuss, hence my decision to do it here, anonymously. Please make comments sensitively, and refer to the Honesty Conspiracy's comment policy at right if you're unsure of whether or not your comment will be appropriate.

Monday, 30 January 2012

I'm just not interested in sex with my husband

I'm just not interested in sex. Not now, and since having kids. At first I thought I was just 'recovering' from all the associated stresses of birth and newborns and generally becoming a mother.

But it's been too long now, almost a year and a half since our second baby was born. The excuses of night waking have gone, the need to sleep whenever I get the chance, the baby is no longer constantly attached to me and not even in the same bed.

I've been over all the possibilities. For a long time I was depressed, but our lives are so much happier now. I wondered - and keep wondering - if I have somehow fallen out of love (or lust) with my husband. And I try and think what I would be like with other men, if I was to be flattered anew by someone different and exciting. For a moment the idea thrills me and then I realise that no, I'd be just as disinterested. I would just be playing a role.

I feel like half a woman. Before children, we had a rampant and intense sex life fuelled by deep rooted love for each other. We talked of having LOTS of babies. I could never have imagined feeling like this and wouldn't have believed it possible.

"What's happened", I ask myself, "What's different? Am I just too exhausted mentally and physically? AM I depressed still?"

My husband has been so patient. We have had our moments of course, but I'm struggling to hide the fact I'd rather be sleeping or just have cuddles. He has issues and insecurities which make it worse, which in turn makes me feel utterly wretched. And yet he doesn't want me to feel like I have any kind of duty or obligation! But I do. How can I not, after all this time?

I just don't know where to go from here. I don't know whether more (some!) quality time with my husband would help or not - I feel it wouldn't make a jot of difference and yet I am feeling more and more estranged from him. Our lives seem to be delineated into being carers, workers and partners in no particular order. And being a partner is just another box, another role to try and fulfil.

I wonder if what I'm feeling is normal in any way, if others have experienced this and how they overcame it. I need to hear that there is a way out of this hell.

Image credit: LaughingRoda on Flickr