Friday, January 25, 2008


I'm all stirred up over my whole "nobody believes me thing." I really, really appreciate those of you that carte blanche believe me. I also appreciate, begrudgingly, those that need to challenge me first, believe me second.

Here's the deal. When someone walks out of the house on a sub-zero day in a sundress, that is a choice "worth" questioning. But in the end, WTF do you care, they are the one that has to be cold. Their degree of warmth is none of your business, and unless they whine and carry on, it doesn't affect you.

Let's say that same person/child/friend/whomever comes to you in a moment of deep intimacy and says, "My step-dad sexually abused me." YOU BELIEVE THEM.

People don't lie about this shit! Yes, it's a harsh "claim." Calling someone a sexual predator is a harsh "label," but the odds are OVERWHELMING that the person is telling the truth, and negligible that they are lying. Your first response CANNOT be, "Are you SURE?" It MUST be, "Wow. I believe you. I am a little in shock right now, but give me a minute. I support you 100% and will do whatever it takes to help you."

Every "Are you sure?" subtracts, exponentially, the chance that this person will ever try to tell another trusted soul anything of significance.

My kids go to a Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Portland. The Archdiocese is requiring that every parishioner, parent, volunteer go through a Called to Protect class. Of course this is partly (maybe largely) due to all the lawsuits against the Church involving sexual abuse. None-the-less, the message is excellent. We are all called to protect. The point is well made in this class, that KIDS DON'T LIE about this shit. They MUST be believed! In the rare, rare, super rare case there IS an "exaggeration," far better to beg for forgiveness from the "accused" than to not believe the child and risk the abuse continuing.

And study after study shows that kids that are abused continue to be in abusive situations the rest of their life, and/or become perpetrators of abuse.

With the world in the state it is, there is no room for, "Are you SURE?" There is only room for love and acceptance. If ALL you do is assure the child that you believe them, and NOTHING else, you've done more to correct the situation than perpetuate it. You've validated that child and given them courage to go on blowing the whistle. You have encouraged them to self-advocate. But if all you say is,
"Are you sure?" you've taken that child one step backwards. A HUGE step. One from which they might never recover.


riversgrace said...

So very true. It's an easy road to learn a thousand reasons we shouldn't exist, don't have the right to exist, and if there is abuse and suffering added, then, surely, we must hide it because it's our fault somehow.

How much of a lifetime it would save to be truly validated in the beginning.

Your impulses are right on, here, C. The more flack you get in general should tell you that you are onto something real and important.

Suzy said...

My experiences with the "Are you sure, why would they (someone) do that" scenario, I beleive, is intended to put off the claims of the statement and not deal with it.

It's easier that way for some people. Once again, it's about people not wanting to be involved in the most crucial of situations. They would rather believe everything was "okay" or otherwise they might have to think about their own situations.
It's about not wanting to rock the boat. What they don't realize is that the boat is already sinking.

Love you.


La La said...

When I told my brother and sister in law about my grandfather, I got a scathing email from my SIL stating how dare I slander Grandpa's name, and that I only think of myself, and that I had terribly upset my brother. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. Bullshit. Then she wrote, I kid you not, WWJD, and told me that I needed to consider other people's feelings like Jesus would instead of only thinking of my need to TELL. The thing is I remember vividly what my grandpa did. I never forgot it or blocked it out, I just never told anyone. Frankly, there was no one to tell.

So, yeah, Jesus would, for the record, tie a millstone around his f-ing neck and throw him in the lake!

Kathryn said...

You are so very right. I've had this experience in two separate situations with two family members, and the disbelief did so much damage - and of course they we being truthful and all were sorry in the end, but you can't undo the damage that invalidation does. Some people just can't handle the truth - it's too painful.

Go Mama said...

Sounds like you are uncovering something deep here, Carrie.

Yes. Especially with a child, the child needs validating when coming forward with something so sensitive and devastating. It is a test of either building or breaking deep trust, with lifelong implications.

As to the "are you sure?" reaction, I agree with Suzy, it is most likely out of shock, disbelief and not wanting to accept (face) the ripple of their reality, that something so disturbing could be going on under their nose.

Finally, there is power in coming out with "I was sexually abused" or "so and so is a Narcissist and I'm not going to live with that anymore." Releasing the secret and removing yourself from the situation releases the hold of it.

There is power when you can state the experience, and it doesn't hold power over you. Like the farther you release it outward, the farther it detaches from your being:

I was abandoned by my father. I was abused by my mother. My mother was a raging Narcissist. X, Y and Z boyfriends were self-destructive...

These, in my experience, are facts. As for validation, as an adult, I don't need those involved to agree with me. I don't even need my other family members or childhood friends to agree with me. I can be where I am, and they can be where they are, and we don't have to share the same point of view.

But you can bet that if my daughter came to me with something, I would damn well believe her! And do something about it.

What I'm hearing is you feel very unsupported somewhere very close to you. This is something that many of us know quite a bit about, as you know.

Please know that you are surrounded by love and support, seen and unseen, as you gather strength and courage.

Much love,

MY OWN WOMAN... said...

I've often wondered how I would respond if one of my children told me that someone like their father or grandfather was sexually abusing them. Fortunately for my children, they have never dealt with such abuse but I have to wonder if I would have said, "Are you sure?" I guess I think that my father and husband would be incapable of such an act, but in reality, I know that is a naive thought. I would hope I would have had the courage and knowledge to believe them without question and apologize to the abuser if the case were not true.

invisible said...

I hope no one minds but, I would refer you to Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy. I wouldn't want to be accused of promoting radicalness---or would I?

Anonymous said...

You always believe the child. It is very, very rare that the child would lie about being sexually abused. Very rare. If they take back their story, it is usually under pressure from family members (Mom will go to jail or you'll be in foster care). In all my years in working with sexually abused children I have never, ever known one NOT to be telling the truth. That is not to say, that in very rare cases it does not happen, but you always believe the child. If it turns out it was not true (highly unlikely) then you deal with it at that point. We must listen to children and validate what they say. Many times, children let out pieces, to test, to see what your response will be. If it is safe, if you listen, if you believe, more and more starts coming out.

Not being supported or validated as an adult, by people you are close to and love is extremely painful. I am so very sorry for your pain and frustration. Protect yourself and your family. At this point you have done all you can do, and it will play itself out. My guess is, it will play itself exactly the way you say.

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

Everybody wants to be "normal' so it takes A LOT of courage to say "hey, this thing is happening to me and I think it's abnormal."

We DO need to listen.
We HAVE to listen.
With our hearts.
Because listening opens the door to healing.

Deb said...

Some people will do anything to keep their heads in the sands of denial. Including throwing sand in the eyes of the person trying to tell the truth.

Don't let them steal your light.

Love you.

shauna said...

I didn't tell my mom that her uncle abused me until I was 27. I think I expected her reaction to be, "Are you sure?" I'm so sorry I waited that long to find out it wasn't.

LaLa, Love your response to the WWJD? Damn straight that's what Jesus would do!

You must believe the child--the longer we delay that the longer it takes to facilitate the healing.