I saw an old friend on TV the other day, and all I could do was cry.
I wish I could say they were tears of joy and nostalgia, but all I felt was pain and sadness. She was speaking some horribly painful truth about my alma mater, Michigan State University. I’d long known about the culture of silencing survivors of sexual assault there. After all, it’s pervasive in the culture at large, but it still hurt to hear about how people I’ve long admired contributed to it.
I keep hesitating to write out these names because it all hurts so much. My friend’s name is Lauren Allswede, and I’ve been struggling to tell her how proud I am of her.
Recently I reread the Henrik Ibsen play, “Enemy of the People”. The play ends with the protagonist learning a great truth “… that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone”. Dr. Thomas Stockmann had spoken uncomfortable truth and was made a pariah.
Some people in my hometown are mad at Lauren for the comments she’s made. I understand their pain, but I wish they could redirect their anger at the the truth behind it all. We can’t get better until we all take ownership of what we’ve created and fostered. We must all hold ourselves accountable for our failings, and that is especially important for the people who have held the greatest power.
Lauren Allswede is an enemy but not of the people. She is an enemy to silencing and enabling. I’m proud to call her my friend. I hope the next time I get to see her face it’s for a happier reason.
I’ve been wanting to record a podcast, but the furballs are making it impossible for me to do anything except sit quietly on the couch. Have I mentioned that I can’t wait for my fiance to come home (now just days away)? Anyway, on to the important stuff including a couple of podcast recommendations.
I received an advance copy of “The 10-Step Depression Workbook” by Dr. Simon Rego and Sarah Fader, and I have to say I love it. I’ve done some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the past, and I recently started working in a CBT-based program. So I came into this experience as a believer, but this will make believers out of many more people. This book is fun and interesting. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to feel better about their lives, whether they have a depressive disorder or not.
The book will be published on January 9. If you pre-order before then with coupon code 2RELIEF, you save $2.50. As an added bonus, if you pre-order a paper copy, you can buy the Kindle edition for $.99 and start reading it that way right away.
Sarah Fader has a podcast that never ceases to entertain me. I strongly encourage you to check that out as well.
Speaking of podcasts, Rebecca Lemke had an especially interesting episode of her Scarlet Virgins podcast, “Interview With A Sexual Assault Prevention Educator”. Even though I’m not a Christian myself, I find Rebecca endlessly fascinating. This particular episode is especially informative for anybody and everybody regardless of their own religious values.
Back to my own life for a bit. As I mentioned, I am working in a CBT-based program. Perhaps I’ll write more about the details of this job in the future. The important thing right now is that I love what I’m doing and being actively involved in CBT techniques has had many positive effects on my mental health. I’ve also been experiencing some positive changes with my physical health, some of which is certainly attributable to my massage therapist, but I believe my mental health gains have contributed.
I’m not suicidal, but my mental health is not good. I haven’t been eating or sleeping well. I lost five pounds in five days. Even for a fat guy like me, that’s not healthy. I’ve been thinking about drinking. I really want to seek professional help, but circumstances are making that exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.
My fiance has been gone for almost eight weeks now. She’s in residential treatment for her PTSD far away from our home. I get to speak with her on the phone for some minutes each day. I’m taking care of our house and our pets entirely by myself, shouldering our combined financial burdens alone. She doesn’t know when she’ll be coming home, but it won’t be at least until the new year.
Her birthday is next week. Her favorite holiday is Christmas. It was on a Christmas night that I first told her I love her. We will be spending these days apart. It hurts, but it’s what is necessary for her (and our) long-term health.
A week ago my co-worker at a group home told me about ANOTHER lewd sexual comment directed at her by a new supervisor. I helped her make a report. The harasser acknowledged that it was all true and was allowed to return immediately to work in the same place and in the same supervisory role over the person he sexually harassed.
I supported my co-worker, advocated for her, and tried to help ease her fears about retaliation. I was fired for standing up for her. The harasser is still employed in the same job, in the same place, and in the same supervisory role over the person he sexually harassed.
Is it any wonder why so many choose not to speak up?
I know I did the right thing. I did what all of my personal heroes would’ve wanted me to do. I stood up for the vulnerable without concern for the price I must pay. That price has been heavy. I’ve been trying to keep a brave face, but it’s cracking.
So if you see me, feel free to hug me. I sure could use that right now.
“Seems I’ve got to have a change of scene
‘Cause every night I have the strangest dream.
Imprisoned by the way it couldn’t be.
Left here on my own or so it seems
I’ve got to leave before I start to scream.
But someone’s locked the door and took the key.
Ya feelin’ alright?
Not feelin’ too good myself.”
Time named Silence Breakers their Person of the Year. They have taken great personal risks and paid steep prices to bring the truth to light. They are my personal heroes.
Sexual abuse and assault have been far too prevalent in my life and in the lives of people I love. I’ve recently been dealing with sexual harassment in an up close and personal manner. The response I’ve seen has been disgustingly familiar.
There are apologies that lack ownership. The survivor is bullied into accepting these “apologies”. She tries to go along to get along and then goes home to vomit and cry and wonder what she did wrong. (NOTHING!!!)
People invested in the status quo wish to silence me. They want me to stop advocating for the survivor. They will try to blame me for creating the hostile environment caused by one person’s harassment (and other people’s enabling). I don’t care what price I pay. I will not be silenced.
People have called me a hero for what I am doing. I am not. I am just a grumpy old man tired of the b.s. from abusers, predators, and enablers.
I am no angel either. I have done bad things with the best of intentions. A couple years ago, for example, I gave a kiss to the forehead of a female friend. I had intended to make her feel loved and appreciated. I caused her distress. I own what I did. I apologized and listened to what she wanted from me to make amends.
Abusers and predators, on the other hand, don’t want to pay that price. They often expect forgiveness without consequences. They want silence. Enablers will join in their efforts. They want to keep the status quo and not do the hard work of truly making things right.
I want no one’s silence. I want to tell my own truth and invite anyone I’ve ever hurt to do the same.
Truth is the enemy of abusers, predators, and enablers. They want the truth to remain forever hidden, but eventually it always emerges.
Truth is every survivor’s greatest ally. And it will help us win in the end. The Silence Breakers are incredibly courageous to bring the truth to light despite the risks and prices they must pay. That is why the people named as Time’s Person of the Year are my personal heroes.
Excuse me while I work out some scenes outside my head:
She’s been gone six weeks now, and I’m losing my mind. She calls me every day, tells me she misses me. I tell her we’re all doing fine. I hate lying to her, but that’s what she needs to hear.
Maybe when she gets home, I can take off a while and get my own head in order. It was really bad a week ago. I noticed a bottle of wine she has in the fridge. I’d say someone saved my life that night, but it was really just that I hate wine. I was also too tired to go to the liquor store.
Or was I too depressed?
Now that would be ironic. Depression saved my life.
Six weeks. Probably two more to go, maybe more.
Someone save my life tonight. I’m going to shower.