Are You Smarter Than A Sexual Assault Survivor?

SEXUAL ASSAULT: FACTS & MYTHS

 

Myths about rape and sexual assault are still prevalent in our society and are frequently reinforced by television, the media and those who simply don’t know the facts. Dispelling these myths is vital to getting justice for victims; everyone you speak to is a potential juror in a rape or sexual assault trial. So, lets test your knowledge. Read the following statements from Rape Abuse and Incest National Network RAINN to see if you can determine which is the myth and which is truth? I will post which are myth and which are fact tomorrow on the blog.

 

1) Females often say “no” when they are playing hard to get.

 

2) According to the FBI, rape is the second most violent crime, following only murder. No matter what choices were made by the victim, the perpetrator chose to commit rape and in no way is the victim responsible.

 

3) If a female dresses provocatively, she either wants sex or is responsible if someone interprets her clothes as a signal for wanting sex.

 

4) A desire to look attractive by wearing certain clothing doesn’t mean she is consenting to sexual activity. The circumstances of the individual situation do not matter -– where you are, if you went there willingly, if you’ve been drinking or what you’re wearing—the only thing that matters is consent.

 

5) A person who has been sexually assaulted will be hysterical.

 

6) Sometimes there is a gray area in sexual activity where it is difficult to determine whether or not consent was given.

 

7) No matter what other signals a person feels they received, “no” always means “no.” It’s all very simple—it all comes down to consent: If both partners consent, it’s sex; if one says “no” it’s rape.

 

8) In one study, 98% of males who raped boys reported that they were heterosexual according to the 1998 article Sexual Abuse of Boys in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

 

9) Male rape only happens in jails and prisons.

 

10) If someone is forced either emotionally, physically or psychologically to engage in a sexual act that they are not comfortable with, that is sexual assault. All parties must consent to the sexual activity.

 

11) If she had sex with me before, she has consented to have sex with me again.

12) If a person goes into someone’s room or house, they assume the risk of sexual assault. If something happens later, she/he can’t claim that they were raped because they should have known not to go to those places.

 

13) Most rapes are committed by strangers lurking in the bushes or in a dark alley.

 

14) Just because a person goes into someone’s residence, does not mean he or she is consenting to sexual activity. An invitation/accepted invitation back to his or her place isn’t an invitation/consent to have sex.

 

15) A victim’s sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Without consent, it is still sexual assault.

 

16) Previous sexual contact, including previous consent to sex, is not consent for right now. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex in the past — if it’s nonconsensual this time, it’s rape.

 

17) Victims who do not fight back or do not say “no” have not been sexually assaulted.

 

18) Anytime someone is forced to have sex against their will, they have been sexually assaulted. A person who experiences trauma may freeze or go numb due to shock, fear, verbal threats or the size and strength of their attacker.

 

19) Victims of sexual assault exhibit a wide range of responses to the assault, which can include: calmness, hysteria, withdrawal, anger, apathy, denial and shock.

 

20) About 73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger, meaning someone who was known to the victim. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey:

-38% of perpetrators were a friend or acquaintance of the victim

-28% were an intimate

-7% were another relative

 

21) When a person is raped, there is often something the person could have done differently to prevent the attack.

 

22) Approximately 10 percent of rape victims are male, and 1 in 33 men have been sexually assaulted. Beliefs like, “men can fight off attackers,” or “men can’t be raped’ often keep male victims from getting help or reporting the crime.

 

23) It is impossible for a sexual encounter to be classified as rape if the person had an orgasm or experienced physical pleasure.

 

24) A homosexual person cannot be raped by someone of the same sex.

 

25) Men who rape boys are gay.

 

26) Victims of sexual assault may experience an orgasm or physical pleasure. The physiological responses that occur within the body are not always indicators of how a person feels emotionally.

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Forget You Axel Foley!

 

514QYKG0SAL._SY445_“WE’RE GOING TO DIE!”

I swear to God I smelled smoke.

My sister revved the engine, but the car went nowhere. I was the youngest, sitting in the backseat, unable to see a thing out the back windows.

“We are not going to die,” someone said pleasantly that was not my sister. She was busy turning the steering wheel and moving the car from forward to reverse with no result.

“YES WE ARE! I SMELL SMOKE! THE ENGINE IS GOING TO EXPLODE!”

A few days (or weeks, I can’t be sure) I had seen Beverly Hills Cop. In the movie, two cops are tailing Eddie Murphy’s character, Axel Foley, outside the hotel he is staying. Some how, Axel is successful in distracting the police officers while stuffing bananas in the tailpipe of their car. When finally noticing Axel getting away, they start the ignition and began pursuit, only to have their engine explode within a few moments. This is what I believed had happened. Somehow, Axel Foley had entered our reality, Last Action Hero Style, traveled to Peoria, followed my mother’s car to remote apartments atop a huge hill behind Kroger, stuffed the tail pipe with bananas, causing the engine to explode.

To tell me otherwise was an impossibility.

“WE’RE GOING TO DIE!” I repeated. “WE HAVE TO GET OUT BEFORE THE ENGINE EXPLODES.”

No one wanted to step out into the rain. Eventually, my sister put the car in park and opened her door. Everyone followed suit.

Rather than a tail pipe filled with banana, the car sat atop a mound of sand, dirt, and gravel. Each of the four wheels barely touched the ground, explaining thy the car did not move with the revving of the engine,

I was relieved, but how where we going to keep this secret from our parents in the same manner as before?

7/9/18

Good and bad / evil.

Two confusing words when it comes to understanding sexual abuse, assault, and trauma.

Two words that belong in realm of comics, WWII, and the Bible. The world in which we live is messy, filled with dynamic characters capable of being sin, sinner, and everything in-between in the fraction of a moment.

Is what my sister did to me right?

No.

Do I still love her?

Yes.

Do I blame her for what she did?

No.

Will I hold her accountable for her actions?

Yes.

When on the road to recovery, one of the first things Susan taught me is that language matters. The smallest word can change an automatic thought, creating cognitive distortions that make it difficult (if not impossible) to forgive yourself and begin to recover from the sexual abuse. For example, using the word “feel” rather than “I believe” or “I know” transform the thought into a feeling. Thoughts are not feelings. Thoughts have an impact on feelings, but the two are not synonymous. Knowing this helps to understand the tangled web of emotions that are a result of being sexually abused, rather than never being able to separate the body, from the mind.

This means blame cannot be a word that I can use when understanding my sexual abuse. For me, it generates a source of hatred for a person I associate with both pleasant and horrific memories. For me, hatred is toxic. Anger is healthy (if expressed properly). So, to remain silent and not speak about my sexual abuse would mean to not hold her accountable. This may anger and frustrate her because of the shame she feels, but to continuously (genuinely) apologize is part of her responsibility as an abuser. The emotions she feels because of her actions is her responsibility to manage and move toward recovering from.

Did my sister apologize for her actions?

No.

Although she says she did.

In my mid-twenties I did confront my sister, and tell her that she raped me. I yelled the line once in anger, nearly crying, while on a break in college. At the time I was beginning to come to some realizations about my past while attempting to deny they occurred. I expected to feel a surge of relief, but there was nothing.

Confronting your abuser does not equal healing and recovery, it is a step in the process.

Afterward, she stood in front of me, face blank, and said, “I’m sorry for what I did, but it happened to me too.” And this is where it gets tricky. It may seem as though this is an apology, but it is not. Rather than apologize she minimized her actions as an abuser by justifying them with the fact that she was sexually abused as a child. Many abuser attempt to minimize their sexual abuse and assault by saying things like, “It was just locker room talk,” or “I couldn’t help it because it happened to me,” or “they put themselves in that situation and did nothing to stop it.” No matter how much an abuser attempts to minimize their behavior, there is no justification for their actions. Only accountability and making amends.

The following day, my sister told me she had told my mother what she had done to me. I was shocked. Amazed. For years I believed my mother knew what had happened, but it had never come from my mouth. So, when I make the decision to tell my mother about being raped when I was eight-years-old she said nothing. Not because she did not believe me, but because she was under the impression that it had happened once. She had no idea I had been raped for two years. This is what makes continuing to have a relationship with my sister difficult. The inability to differentiate between truths, half-truths, and lies in a desperate attempt at self-preservation.

Continuing to write helps me make sense of what this all means, and maybe, possibly, one day, believing it.

7/8/18

There is a nerve that runs from the brain, through the back of the throat, down the trachea, past the stomach, and stops at the colon. This is called the vagus nerve. When under extreme distress, anxiety, fear, or depression this nerve can cause gut-wrenching pains, a dry throat, alter a person’s voice so much so that they sound like a different person (or with an accent). It can also increase a person’s heart rate, cause respiration problems, and increase perspiration. Because this nerve connects the primal brain to many of the major parts of the body, when faced with feelings that cause the primal brain to engage, it can cause a host of other problems throughout the body.

This is what caused the gut wrenching pains in my stomach my first week of college. This may have also been the cause of my viral heart infection (which felt and registered as a heart attack in blood tests) a little over a year ago.

Stress, pain, panic, and anxiety can cause the human body to react in unpredictable (and at the time unexplainable) ways.

So why did I go to live with my sister?

Why do battered women return to their husbands?

When sexual abuse occurs at such a young age (I was eight) wires in the brain become crossed. Actually, a better way to explain it is by stating the wires become connected in the wrong order. This means, therapy is not really an attempt to heal the brain, but rewire it entirely.

In the beginnings of therapy I would ask myself, “Self, if it was rape, why did I have an erection.” Susan would tell me, “At age eight, and even later in life, the body reacts to stimulus. At that age you had very little control over your body. It’s why kids pee the bed, or teenage boys suddenly get an erection in the middle of class. Their body is stimulated to do what it was made to do, not to know the difference between right and wrong. It’s not until much later you begin to control these parts of your body.”

This is the same reason survivors (whether male or female) have been known to ejaculate when being raped. It is not because they enjoyed being sexually assaulted, but because their body received stimulation and their body reacted in one of the few ways it knew how. When this occurs it can create feelings and thoughts of shame in the survivor. It can also be used against the survivor to prove that they were not raped, but consensual.

So, to return to the previously mentioned questions; why did I live with my sister when I withdrew from college?

In some ways it’s about returning to the chaos you know. This is part of the reason battered wives return to their husbands. Rather than leave and face a life of uncertainty, they return to the chaos they know. It’s a chaos they have learned to mange, and may be too afraid to leave.

It’s also because of the way my brain became wired after the sexual assault by my sister.

Sometimes, I find myself joking with my wife in the same way I used to joke with my sister. Once or twice I even caught myself calling my wife by my sister’s name. When this first happened I felt sick and confused. Why was I doing this? Part of the reason is because there is a thin line between sex, intimacy, and love. In many cases they overlap. At eight-years-old, I had no idea it was rape. I had been groomed to not tell about the secrets that occurred in our home (whether the domestic abuse of my father, or me and my siblings breaking the rules of my parents out of fear of getting in trouble or a “whoopin”) so that is what I did. I kept the secret for over twenty years (telling a few girlfriends along the way out of hopes to not feel ashamed about having sex). It was also an activity that my eight-year-old body eventually grew accustomed to. It was an activity that pleased my sister, pleasing my sister was good, and so the activity was good. I did not want her mad at me, and I did not want to get yelled at, or “get in trouble” so I kept the secret. Then, it seemed rape = intimacy. As I grew older I came to realize that sex = intimacy for most other people (in the romantic comedies I so desperately loved to watch and wished to be a part of). However, the crisscrossed wires of my brain replaced rape with sex to create the complex equation sex(rape) = intimacy. It became impossible to separate sex from rape which meant that intimacy also meant pleasing the person you love even if it meant sacrificing your happiness. This means, many times the equation that runs through my head when I get my wires crossed is sex(rape) = intimacy(self-sacrifice). To break it down this means joking with my sister was a sign of love. Love is a form of intimacy. Being intimate with my wife sometimes means having sex with my wife, who I love. Sex is rape. My sister raped me, but I love her. Joking with my wife is a sign of love.

Then, when I withdrew from college, I had been homeless for two years after my parents went through a tough divorce. Our home was foreclosed on, and my mother and I lived in the basement of a few different relatives. The idea of home, safety, love, and intimacy were a mass of tangled webs I am just now beginning to understand. Living with my sister was what my brain equated to safety at the time. I cannot look back on the past and apply the knowledge I have with my former self in same way I cannot hold my eight-year-old accountable for having an erection when it was simply responding to a source of stimulus. After high school, I attempted to survive the only way my brain was able to interpret the trauma it had suffered over the course of my entire life at that point.

As with the vagus nerve, when under stress, pain, panic, and anxiety for years at a time the human body and brain can react in unpredictable (and at the time unexplainable) ways.

7/7/2018

I performed a writing exercise two days ago. I attempted to recall memories about my abuser. I’m just now beginning to feel like myself again (whatever that means). Most days my head is abuzz with thoughts about what it means to be a male survivor (whatever that means).

My abuser was my sister and that causes me to have a lot of questions about what it means to be a good brother and son.

Was I supposed to tell?

Was I supposed to stay silent?

Did I rip my family apart?

Will I ever feel as though I belong at another family get together, or did I pay the price of speaking about my abuse with the relationships I once had?

Are there any “supposed too’s”? Probably not. Even so, I can’t help feeling as though I betrayed my family.

I wonder if any other survivors feel this way. I’m sure they do. Especially those that were sexually abused by a close family member, or friend of the family.

There’s one memory (actually a collection of memories that result in years of my life) that I can’t get over.

“Maybe you should just leave,” she said over the phone. I lay in the bed of my dorm room. The pain in my stomach was unbearable. I could barely move. Let alone eat. It had been that way the entire first week of college.

She said what I was thinking and I did it. I withdrew from my classes and left college. I had a year to return, and that’s what I did. But for one year I stayed in her house. I helped raise her daughter, my niece. I worked (Old Navy), paid rent, saved, and even bought my first car from her husband (97 Mazda 626). When I returned to college I still returned to her house for breaks and summer to work.

Peoria was too painful (domestic abuse, sexual abuse, home foreclosure, homelessness, striving to hide depression through perfection).

Without her, where would I have lived?

What would I have done?

Does this prove she is not a monster?

Does this prove I am a monster?

Do I owe her something? My silence. My loyalty?

There are so many memories I could include that teeter the scale from one side to the other.

Good memories.

Horrific memories.

Memories of her taking me shopping to buy new clothes with her money to stop the bullies at school.

Memories of her wrapping a plastic sandwich bag (later plastic wrap) around my penis and tying it off with a rubber band before raping me.

Memories of waking up in the morning to drive me around my paper route in the snow and rain.

Memories of her pubic hair and bad breathe. Memories of yelling and cursing. Memories of borrowing her money to pay for past due bills while in college and as an adult.

Memories of being allowed to go out with her and her friends.

Memories of sleeping on the floor beside her bed. Memories of an argument over a pillow. Memories of hearing nothing when our second daughter was born, or we lost our son. Memories of the weight of her body on mine. Memories of being told “go get me” over and over again and hating feeling as though I had no control. Memories of lies, half truths, “don’t tell”, feeling alone, and knowing I was going to hell.

So many memories.

Too many memories.

I wish I knew what it meant to be a male survivor, or even what that means.

Do I even have permission to call myself that, or am I an impostor?

Most days I feel like a liar.

I wish I knew.

This is America…

If you haven’t noticed, Donald Glover has broken the internet with his video “This is America”. Like others, I have scoured the internet for hidden meanings and messages behind the the graphic, but powerful song and musical video. In the process, my wife brought to my attention a series of posters released from 1943-1945 entitled “This is America”. As a well educated black male, the images and their accompanying messages struck me with the way in which they depict America as not belonging to me, any other person of color, or opposing gender of males. To help illustrate this point, I have attached the images of the posters accompanied by modern images of today to help juxtapose the opposing views of the America in which we live. I will keep my comments brief, allowing you to form your own opinion.

 

What happens when it becomes more than a game? Is there room at the top for everyone? This is (y)our America…

Are all families sacred? If not, which ones? This is (y)our America…

What happens to a dream deferred? This is (y)our America…

Who’s allowed to call themselves an American? This is (y)our America…

Who’s smiling? This is (y)our America…

Times up? This is (y)our America…

Will it ever be enough? This is (y)our America…

Spider-Man Goes Crazy

I’ve been working on the new Marvel edition of Heroes, Villains, and Healing and thought I would share one of the new writing exercises I came with. Feel free to comment with whether or not it is effective.

WRITING EXERCISE #1: ANALYZING A MOMENT OF ANXIETY

It is not a matter of if you will have an anxiety or panic attack during the Emergency Stage, but a matter of when. This means being prepared when an attack occurs, how to interpret the attack after it has occurred, and how to prevent the possibility of future attacks. To help you along the healing process and moments of high stress during the Emergency Stage, I have added a graphic organizer that can help you before, during, and after a panic attack. (A larger version is available in the Writing Exercises chapter if copies would like to be made.)

 

Understanding Your Panic Attack Graphic Organizers

Understanding Your Panic Attack (Before / During)
Trigger(s): Hero of Villain Emotions
Identify the trigger which led to the panic attack, the location where it occurred, and what occurred during the attack. Does this attack identify more with a hero or villain? If you can, identify a comic or scene in comic or movie which seems to relate. Which emotions seem to be the strongest during the attack? This may require using the attached emotion chart.
     

 

 

Understanding Your Panic Attack (After)
Becoming Safe Beliefs About Self and Sexual Abuse Strategy for Future
What did you do to relieve the anxiety and become safe? Was it effective? What could you have done differently? What new memories or beliefs about yourself and your abuse do you now have after the panic attack? What can you do in the future to help prevent this attack from occurring, or lessen its affects.
     

 

To assist you in understanding how to use these graphic organizers properly, I will use them to analyze Peter Parker’s moments of high anxiety and stress in Spider-Man #24 (1963) “Spider-Man Goes Mad”.

 

Spider-Man Goes Mad

In this issue of Spider-Man, Peter believes that his superpowers have driven him crazy. The comic begins with Dr. Ludwig Rinehart visiting J. Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle. He tells J.J.J.:

“I am here on vacation from Europe! As a psychiatrist I am very interested in reading about this Spider-Man of yours! I have handled cases similar to his! From my experience, I can say he is a very sick man! You see, he is in a fantasy world now! He wants to be a spider…but, of course, he is a human being! It is only a matter of time before his Id and his Ego get so confused the he forgets who he really is…and then he will suffer a severe breakdown.”

Hearing this, Jameson becomes ecstatic and calls for an immediate extra edition of the Daily Bugle to be printed. The next day, Peter reads the article and becomes concerned about his mental health. After calling the Daily Bugle to verify the article is true (because Jameson prints whatever he wants as long as it has the possibility of bringing down Spider-Man) Peter races to go find Dr. Rinehart afraid that he may go crazy at any moment. He changes into Spider-Man and quickly swings to the Daily Bugle to find out where he can find the doctor. However, on the way, Spider-Man begins to hallucinate. He sees Doctor Octopus appear and disappear from a solid brick wall, Sandman attack and dissolve beneath his feet, and Vulture attack from the air only to vanish like the other two villains.img_1810.png

Spider-Man lands on a nearby rooftop and begins to panic uncontrollably. The superhero holds his head, cowers in a corner, and thinks to himself:

img_18121.png“I can’t go to Jameson now…can’t afford to be near anyone! Can’t let others see what’s happening to me! And what if it gets worse? What if I lose control completely? What is I can’t tell what’s real from what’s imaginary? What if I should start attacking innocent people thinking they’re dangerous criminal? I’d have to be locked up. Put away!”

Peter races home, hoping all he needs is a good nights sleep, but freaks out when he sees how white his is in the mirror. Fearing the worse, he grabs a copy of the newspaper and races out the door to find Dr. Rinehart.

As Spider-Man, Peter arrives at the doctor’s house. He rings the bell and enters only to see the room upside down. Dr. Rinehart is sitting at his desk on the ceiling, welcoming Spider-Man, and says he will help the hero deal with his hallucinations as best he can. Afraid of hurting the doctor, Spider-Man runs away, believing he is beyond help. However, seeing the other rooms in the house upside down as well, Spider-Man decides to stay out of fear of hurting innocent people on the street.

img_1813.png Dr. Rinehart convinces Spider-Man to stay and be analyzed. He holds the superhero as he covers his face and tells him everything will be fine, and when he uncovers his face everything is right-side up. While sitting on the couch, Spider-Man believes he sees Doctor Octopus, Sandman, and Vulture before vanishing with Dr. Rinehart’s assurance that he is in need of psychotherapy. Spider-Man agrees and lies back on the couch.

Dr. Rinehart tells Spider-Man the root of his problem is his dual identity. He tells the superhero he has to stop being Spider-Man in order to be cured. The superhero believes him, and moments before revealing his secret identity, J. Jonah Jameson bursts through the door and reveals Dr. Rinehart to be a fraud. The entire plan had been schemed by the villain, Mysterio, using projections and mechanized rooms and the comic ends with Peter walking off into the sunset with a pretty blond (it was the 60s, what do you expect?)

To help you understand the graphic organizer, I will complete the graphic organizer as if it had been written by Peter during his moments of anxiety and panic.

Understanding Your Panic Attack (Before / During)
Trigger(s): Hero of Villain Emotions
Identify the trigger which led to the panic attack, the location where it occurred, and what occurred during the attack. Does this attack identify more with a hero or villain? If you can, identify a comic or scene in comic or movie which seems to relate. Which emotions seem to be the strongest during the attack? This may require using an emotion chart.
– Reading an issue of the Daily Bugle in which Dr. Rinehart stated that Spider-Man would eventually go crazy.

 

– I was at Aunt May’s house when I first read the article. Next, I called the Daily Bugle to make sure it was true. Afterward, I changed into Spider-Man and went to find Dr. Rinehart. On the way I imagined seeing Doctor Octopus, Sandman, and Vulture, but they vanished in thin air.

 

– This caused me to really panic. On top of a roof I cowered in a corner and questioned whether or not I was going crazy.

– Well, obviously I’m a hero, but the fact that I was willing to give up being Spider-Man to ensure no one got hurt shows my willingness to do what needs to be done for the greater good. – Anxiety

– Fear

– Loneliness

– Confusion

 

Understanding Your Panic Attack (After)
Becoming Safe Beliefs About Self and Sexual Abuse Strategy for Future
What did you do to relieve the anxiety and become safe? Was it effective? What could you have done differently? What new memories or beliefs about yourself and your abuse do you now have after the panic attack? What can you do in the future to help prevent this attack from occurring, or lessen its affects.
– To relive the anxiety I caught the bad guy with the help of Flash Thompson and J. Jonah (I never thought I would say that).

 

– I did not have to jump to such quick decisions. I’m a scientist. I need to develop a hypothesis and explore all the correct answers before jumping to conclusions.

– I feel more assured now that I was meant to be Spider-Man and that I have to do everything I can to make Uncle Ben proud. – In the future I need to keep an eye out for signs that Mysterio is messing with my mind.

These organizers will help you understand the triggers which lead to attacks, and items to review with your trained counselor or therapist while in session. The only difference between your writing and that of Peter’s (other than the fact that he has superpowers) is that you should develop a safe place where you can manage your moments of anxiety while feeling the most comfortable. Read the section below to understand how to create your own safe place.