Stop minimizing trauma if you haven’t experienced it

In Chapel Hill, NC, a statue known as Silent Sam sits on the campus of the University of North Carolina. Activists want it removed and people are holding vigil there until it is gone.

 

Twice this morning, I felt compelled to answer memes about how people who are triggered by events or even physical things in their paths should just quit whining.

One of the memes had a white woman crying with a caption about how we should feel sorry for her because of the statues.

My reply was that she was white, so it was highly unlikely it was from statues of people who owned and hideously abused her ancestors. Science has found the trauma from that is still encoded into the DNA of the descendants of slaves.

Most of these monuments were erected either during the Jim Crow or Civil Rights eras. They were put there to remind people that even though the Confederacy was gone, its rules still applied to black people and that those rules would be enforced — with force.

They were meant to instill fear in people of color. That was their purpose. Get it?

The woman in the meme — and the person who posted it — didn’t lose a great-uncle to lynching in the 1940s or ’50s. Her mother never suffered the indignity of being sprayed with a high-pressure fire hose to “cleanse” the streets of her and her friends.

She never had to attend a school named for the oppressors of her ancestors or listen to her parents talk about being beaten and jailed for trying to register to vote.

She has not had an unarmed uncle, a brother or a cousin shot by a cop who thought he might have smelled pot and then gotten away with it because the victim reached for his wallet and the cop “feared for my life.”

She never had to go to a segregated school where everything — from the building itself to the books and equipment — is inferior. And although this was addressed with desegregation in the 1960s, schools are very nearly as segregated now as they were in the Jim Crow era.

People of color are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed during a routine traffic stop.

The corporate-run prisons use fourth-grade reading test scores of students in these segregated schools to determine their future prison populations.

My reply ended with, “But OK, stay in your cozy little world where nobody ever tried to kill you because of the color of your skin. It must be very nice and warm and cozy there.”

The other meme was about how people can choose how to respond to triggers by choosing to be OK.

My response was, “Obviously you’re never been raped or lost a relative to lynching.”

I can’t choose to be OK when some trigger takes me back to the moment of my son’s death or to being molested as a child. That’s why these things are called triggers.

When you pull the trigger to a loaded gun, it goes off. Those traumas are the bullets. Get it?

You have no right to tell anyone else how to react to walking by a statue every day that glorifies the people who caused your trauma — the trauma that’s written in your DNA because this person who’s being glorified was among those who fought for his right to own you. And you walk on a street named for another of them and go to a school named for yet another …

You’ve never been followed by security guards when you walk into a store because you’re black so you must be a criminal.

You have no right to tell a person of color the cop isn’t going to hurt him after you’ve seen on video the murders of innocent people who look like you and then seen the victim vilified in the media because he might have been jaywalking or the cop thinks he might have smelled pot, and then watched the murderer walk free, even with video evidence against him or her.

In the NFL, murderers, abusers and other criminals get to play again, but a single man who knelt rather than stood for the anthem of the nation that still oppresses people who look like him is blackballed.

It is time for these monuments to be removed from the public square and placed in context in museums and cemeteries.

We need to start thinking about how to replace the monuments to hate with monuments to the courageous people who fought — and continue to fight — racism and oppression.

We need to build monuments to the people who were bought and sold and endured hideous torture before perishing as the property of others.

We need to build monuments to the abolitionists.

We need to build bridges of understanding so more of us understand the trauma others endure, even if that trauma doesn’t affect us. That’s called compassion and empathy. We should try that for a change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We don’t have to just sit here. We can resist.

We can all take actions, large or small, to resist unjust public policies.

I know I’m not the only one who has felt immobilized by fear after the election. The thought of Trumplethinskin in the White House has kept me up at night and made me feel hopeless and helpless like never before.

I have reached out to friends and therapists, even a psychiatrist, Steven Buser, M.D., who also is co-author of the book, “A Clear and Present Danger: Narcissism in the Age of Trump.” (Chiron Publications, $16.95)

“In 30 years of clinical practice, I have never seen this level of dread and anxiety in any election,” Buser said.

Dr. Kelly Johnson, a therapist and friend, told me she has seen a tremendous increase in the number of people who are experiencing “teariness,” anxiety and depression, as have her peers. In fact, she says, it’s not just patients — she and her peers are feeling it, too.

Most of us are afraid this man will keep his campaign promises.

Some of us — many of us — are survivors of sexual violence, and we are appalled that a confessed sexual predator who has no experience in government is moving into the White House.

How could confessing to grabbing women by the pussy not have been a game changer for voters?

For weeks, I have seen posts on Facebook and heard people talking about how we can stop him from taking power, and I have said all along I can’t buy into these false hopes. We are going to have to deal with this man, like it or not.

So, here are some tips I’m following:

  • Don’t watch TV news. Not any of it. Read your news from trusted sources online, such as The Guardian, BBC and Democracy Now. This man’s voice is a trigger for me and many others. You won’t hear or see him if you don’t watch or listen. Check the validity of your sources to make sure you’re not being pulled in by propaganda (aka “false news”).
  • Practice self-care. We’re in for a bumpy ride and we need to be in the best frame of mind to face it. So, get plenty of rest. Take walks outdoors. Take a yoga class. Meditate. Do some deep breathing exercises. Create — knit, paint, sculpt, make jewelry … Eat healthy, but do indulge in a favorite treat once a week or so.
  • Don’t turn to alcohol. A drink might seem to dull the senses for a time, but alcohol is a depressant, and if you’re feeling down already, it won’t help.
  • Find an issue and work on it. One issue, two at most, is what you need because you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Go to marches and rallies, if only to remind yourself that others feel the same way you do and to connect with them. If you don’t want to be involved in anything political right now, that’s OK; you can deliver Meals on Wheels or volunteer at an animal shelter or an after-school program.
  • Take action in some small way. Write to your members of Congress. That’s how we stopped them from gutting the ethics office. As much as Trumplethinskin thinks his tweet stopped them, it was, in reality, the actions of tens of thousands of citizens who called, e-mailed or showed up at their offices.
  • Reach out to friends. I started a group for women who have survived sexual violence and who were triggered by the election. It was supposed to be a one-time event, but we all agreed we’re going to need each other over the coming months.
  • Contribute to the effort to fight the injustices that are coming. Donate to the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women or the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  • If you think you need professional help, you probably do. Don’t hesitate to call a therapist or talk to your doctor or clergy person.
  • Most of all, don’t give up. There are more Americans who didn’t vote for this man than who did. He and his ilk may have power for now, but we can resist. In fact, we must.

 

I’m going to survivor-splain this to you: Trump is a vile man

Last night, Trump stalked and glowered, obviously hoping to intimidate Clinton as she spoke. She kept her cool.

Last night, Trump stalked and glowered, obviously hoping to intimidate Clinton as she spoke. She kept her cool.

Something has crystallized in recent days as I realize why Donald Trump has always been creepy to me: He is the embodiment of all the abuse I have endured at the hands of men.

Growing up, I was molested by a family member from the time I was 3 until I was 11. It was “our secret,” and I can still see my chubby little fingers closing around the quarter — the hush money.

He had power over my body because he wanted it and he knew I was too afraid to call him out. He also knew nobody would believe me.

I attended a church where “Christians” blamed women for all the world’s ills and the pastor was screwing a teenage girl. They did all they could to rob us of any power over ourselves and then took advantage of us. We were the daughters of Eve, and we were all guilty of her Original Sin, which, of course, was sex. It was always our fault because all of us were temptresses, and that reinforced the shame I felt over the abuse.

I grew up and was with a man who told me I was stupid and worthless and lucky to have him, a man who forced himself on me again and again because it was his “right.” I had no say in the matter.

It seemed as though everyone had a right to my body but me. I was left wondering if even random men could do what they wanted to me against my will.

Along comes “The Donald,” who gets whatever he wants by intimidating, by talking over people, by bullying. He’s been doing it for years, in case you haven’t noticed.

My early life made me a strong feminist. I learned to stand up for myself and to not be submissive or polite when the need arises. I will defend myself. My existence is not for the pleasure of any man.

Maybe it was the day my partner raised a fist to me and I picked up the 12-inch steel skillet with hot grease in it and told him if he hit me I would beat him senseless with my “equalizer.” He punched a hole in the wall. The emotional abuse didn’t stop, nor did the rape, but he never hit me. There was a line drawn now and he would not cross it.

It didn’t take me much longer to summon the courage to leave the relationship, and to learn I didn’t have to tolerate abuse in any form.

I make all the decisions about my body.

I still remember feeling so powerful the first time I stood up in a restaurant and loudly told a man he wasn’t going to have sex in exchange for dinner. I knew the restaurant owner, who offered to call a cab for me. I still get a little giddy over the memory because it was the moment I realized I didn’t have to feel guilty about saying no.

Then there was the time a man I turned down said, “Don’t you find me attractive?” and I said, “Frankly, no. Not at all.” And then I walked away, knowing I didn’t have to stroke his ego — or anything else.

Yes, he could have overpowered me, but it would have been a hell of a fight.

At the first debate, I could feel my anger rising every one of the 51 times Trump interrupted Clinton. I could see a qualified, competent woman being dismissed by a man who clearly thought he was superior because of his gender, all the while acting like my sons did when they were toddlers.

I could see clearly this is an abusive man and it triggered anxiety like I haven’t felt in years.

Still, when the tape was released Friday, I started feeling sick to my stomach. When Trump issued his non-apology it was clear he doesn’t think he has done anything wrong. It was just boys being boys.

In reality, it was just disrespectful, abusive, entitled, predatory boys being disrespectful, abusive, entitled, predatory boys, and nothing about that is ever OK.

And when I posted something to that effect on Facebook, men came onto my thread to mansplain why it wasn’t so bad — men who never have been scared to walk across a parking lot alone at night or to have a repairman come to the house while they were home alone. Men who never have had unwelcome hands running over their bodies by people who feel entitled to what’s under their clothes.

I blocked them, but I am left with a feeling of unease knowing they’re out there thinking “The Donald” hasn’t done anything all that bad.

Now, if you think women are better off now, that we aren’t shamed for being victims of sexual assault, then why are our names published when our cars or purses are stolen, but we can’t be identified if we are raped?

It’s because we’re still blamed for that crime. We lured him in with our attire or by accepting an invitation for a drink or for talking to them at a bar or a ballgame. We teased him by letting him kiss us goodnight, or by taking off our pantyhose to walk barefoot on the beach.

If you’re a man who’s chanting about “our wives, our daughters,” you have a sense of entitlement over these women. You enjoy male privilege and it’s time you understand it.

We are not yours. We are not delicate flowers. We are strong. We belong to ourselves and you need to respect that.

 

 

 

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