Male Privilege and The Injury of Group Identity

My Dear Readers,

In the last few entries, I have been exploring male privilege in the African-American community.  It is not enough to just say that male privilege is wrong, and it devours the community from within.  We must further understand its roots and causes.

Why does male privilege thrive within the African-American community?  From a clinical perspective, it thrives because of a sense of false empowerment. Rather than empower, however, male privilege only devastates the community, the family, and the individual who seeks to benefit from privilege.

Below is such a story……

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Dear Visible Man,

I recently read an article on the Internet that shocked and disturbed me. I just can’t believe that such disgusting behavior could happen within our community.

The article is entitled “Man Hires Hookers & His Own Daughters Show Up At Hotel.”  It states:

“A California man who called for two prostitutes to come to his hotel room said he collapsed to the floor and had a panic attack when he saw it was two of his daughters.

Father-of-ten Titus McDonalds of Los Angeles said he was having marital problems and went to Las Vegas to blow off stream.”

‘I have never gotten a prostitute in my life,’ McDonalds told Las Vegas Weekly.  ‘ I swear to Christ.  What are the odds it was my own flesh and blood that showed up?  I think this is Lord’s way of bitch-slapping me.’

His daughters, whom he hadn’t seen in years, fled the room upon recognizing their father.  Once McDonalds recovered from the initial shock, he found his daughters, age 20 and 23, in a casino bar.

‘I told them I was sorry for what I did,’ McDonalds said. “I apologized for my actions and told them that I just want my family whole again.  My daughters and I have patched up our relationship.  My marital problems are not over, but we have a wonderful counselor who is helping us through this difficult period.’

‘I used to just spank and spank on them,’ McDonalds said. ‘I was tough on them.  I just wanted them to excel at ballet and get ballet scholarships so I wouldn’t be on the hook for college tuition. But they did not like ballet and I shouldn’t have forced ballet on them.  Everything is my fault.’

McDonalds said his daughters’ plan on continuing to prostitute themselves.  ‘If this is what makes them happy, who am I to stand in their way?’ McDonalds said.  ‘From now on, I’m just going to love and support them.’

‘This is the “Lord’s way of bitch-slapping me.’

And yes, that bitch slap is well-deserved. What kind of monster feels that it’s alright to order up prostitutes as if they were on the menu?  What kind of father is he to say that he won’t stand in the way of their desire to be prostitutes?  As a man and a father of two beautiful young women whom I’ve raised from childhood to college, I am disgusted.

I love my daughters.  As a father, I could never imagine this situation, or the horror that my daughters would be exposed to as sex workers. As a black man, I am embarrassed by his behavior and his willingness to flaunt such ignorance and stupidity.  It makes us as black men look like pimps and irresponsible.

I am so angry.  Why would a black man act in such a negative way? Why would he bring such embarrassment and humiliation upon his race and gender?

-Burning in Seattle

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My Brother,

Thank you for writing.  It has been my experience that men tend to prefer to share their feelings verbally, so I appreciate your willingness to share your concerns in writing.  I hope that as my readers take in your words, more men will do the same.

I also want to congratulate you for your hard work as a single parent.  You have experienced what many single mothers go through in raising children to adulthood. I can sense the pride that you have in the accomplishments of your children.  As you congratulate them, be sure to embrace the self, because you too are a part of this accomplishment.

In this case, I want to encourage you to work towards redirecting the anger you feel.  People who make decisions based on anger are unable to clearly process emerging situations. Your desire to “bitch slap” the father in this scenario is a reaction that reflects more on your mindset than on his actions.

What is called for in this situation is a response.  As a result, you must be willing to own your reactions, be reflective (process feelings and thoughts) and then, share your response with those around you.

I was also quite taken by the writings you have shared.  However, in verifying this with the Las Vegas Weekly, I was unable to locate the specific writing.  In discussions with others who also saw the article, it looks like the article is fraudulent, meaning that Mr. McDonalds and his daughters do not exist and this incident never happened.

Still, many people were shaken angered by this story. Stereotypes about black men were reinforced in this story, and no doubt, the writing produced feelings of embarrassment and shame in black men like you.  Surely critics will use this as fuel for the destructive fires that already exist between black men and women, divide the community and reinforce negative models/mentoring for male adolescents.

However, rather than simply fall for the trap and engage in emotional reactions, I would prefer to take time for a respite (step away), own my reactions (because they are being driven from within,) be reflective (process feelings and thoughts) and develop an appropriate response (shared with the external environment).  Following these actions, I would want to reevaluate (gather what I have learned) so I can prepare for the future as I continue the “journey of self-discovery.”

Even though the article is a hoax, there is still a valuable lesson to be learned about the destructive nature of male privilege. Furthermore, the writing shows how one person who is knowledgeable about the fragility of self-esteem can utilize shame as a tool to not only destabilize an individual, but humiliate an entire community.

Male privilege can be defined as a special right, advantage or immunity granted or available only to men as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women as a class.  While every man experiences privilege differently due to his own individual position in the social hierarchy, ever man, by virtue of being male, benefits from male privilege.

Mr. McDonalds holds male privilege, which can be seen by his actions.  His search for the opportunity to “blow off steam” utilizes the privilege to leave his family, go to another city and break his marital vows in “ordering up” prostitutes to fulfill his sexual needs.

The privilege is extended in this case when Mr. McDonalds, who admits to not seeing his daughters in years, shares his belief that he can patch up the relationship with his daughters by offering an apology and make his family whole again.  In the depth of his privilege, Mr. McDonalds only recognizes the error of his ways when his daughters arrive in the hotel room. It is almost certain that had the two prostitutes not been his daughters, Mr. McDonalds would have not given a second thought to his actions and would have simply done what he went there to do.

Shame can be defined as a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness or disgrace. Shame can be debilitating, toxic and extremely destructive.  Shame works to separate the individual from the psychological self.  It creates an internal crisis that attacks the inner core, triggering a shaming spiral of negative self-talk.

Is there shame in Mr. McDonalds’ behavior? No.  Male privilege prevents Mr. McDonalds from experiencing any of the emotions identified in shaming behavior or action.

Mr. McDonald has never experienced the separation from the psychological self induced by shame because of the benefits of his male privilege.  If there are any feelings being felt, it is one of panic that he almost had sexual relations with his daughters.  Even in his shock, Mr. McDonalds is clearly only concerned for himself:

“What are the odds it was my own flesh and blood that showed up?  I think this is Lord’s way of bitch-slapping me.”

Humiliation is the infliction of a profoundly violent psychological act that leaves the person with a deep wound within the psychological self.

Humiliation is often a painful experience that is vividly remembered for a long time.  This includes the enforced lowering of a person or group, a process of subjugation that strips away a person’s pride, honor, and dignity.

Since Mr. McDonalds is not experiencing shame, then perhaps is he experiencing humiliation?  The response once again is no.  As with shame, male privilege acts as a bulletproof vest protecting the individual from any penetration or wounding of the psychological self.

Concluding Words

“Please explain why a black man would act in such a negative way? Why would he bring such embarrassment and humiliation upon his race and gender?”

Although male privilege is a major issue within the dominant majority, it can be devastating within ethnic minority communities responding to low self-concept, poor self-esteem, and negative identity.   The second question being asked shows the overwhelming strength and impact that male privilege has not only on the individual, but the community as well.

The question assumes that McDonalds’ actions are representative of black men as a race, group and gender.  In review of the article outlining the offending behaviors, there is no indication from Mr. McDonalds that he is speaking for his community, gender or group.

It is the individual and the community as a collective that grant Mr. McDonalds the authority to speak on their behalf.  As a result, Mr. McDonalds is feeling unworthy, defective and empty (in effect, shame).

When Mr. McDonalds states his intent is to support his daughters’ decision to continue prostituting, he appears to be quite pleased with himself, professing to “just love and support them.”  It is the community and black men as a group, not just Mr. McDonalds, who appear to have a deep wound with the psychological self.

Whether true or fraudulent, the article has served its purpose.  In showcasing male privilege, it shows the willingness of members of the group to react in shame and humiliation instead of developing a response that dismisses the lunacy the event is supporting.

As previously stated, male privilege is an issue within the dominant majority, however, the incident showcases their strength of self-concept, esteem and identity.  They never would allow the lunacy of one man to represent them.  Instead, such foolish behavior would have been simply dismissed as the stupidity of one individual.

If the article were true, I would encourage Mr. McDonalds to immediately seek family therapy and individual psychotherapy for himself.  So in conclusion as I seek to own my reaction and share my response; If the article is fraudulent, I would say “well-done” to the architect of this written piece and encourage him to seek individual psychotherapy to discuss the strong feelings of self hatred towards his gender and group.

Five R’s of Relief (Positive Outcome)

Our reactions to the choices we face can be immediate, causing us to miss the lessons in the challenge. These reactions, in fact, can place us in danger, or at significant risk of personal or financial loss.

A response is a plan that can empower us through calmness, calculation and the collection of our feelings, thoughts and our actions.

Until the next crossroads… the journey continues

 

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Sacrificing Our Daughters: Male Privilege in the African-American Family

My Dear Readers,

The majority of children, regardless of culture or ethnicity, are taught and reinforced several classic rules that move with us from generation to generation.  These include:

  • Honor thy father and mother (obedience)
  • Family always comes first (survival)
  • Do for others before you do for self (selflessness)

As children grow and develop, these “rules” are reinforced within the structure of larger groups, such as family, community and society.  Children are given positive reinforcement and rewards when they follow these rules.  They are also given negative messages when they do not.

These rules have a common theme: that doing for others is valued whereas doing for one’s self is not.  There are times in which the individual, in the course of pursuing their own objectives, comes into conflict with these rules.  In reality, however, the individual is actually in conflict with the “psychological self,” an entity that exists within each of us as individuals.

Below is such a story……

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Dear Visible Man,

I am the oldest of three children.  I am an African-American woman and have recently completed graduate school while working a fulltime job. I live on my own, where my two brothers, grown ass adults in their early thirties, continue to reside with my parents.

One of my brothers is a college graduate who has never held a real job or been involved in a meaningful relationship and has resided with our parents for his entire life.  My youngest brother never finished high school, has been in and out of jail for selling drugs and has lived on and off between girlfriends and our parents.

Unlike his elder sibling, my youngest brother has no problem starting relationships; he is just unable to maintain them.  He is lazy, spoiled and once his girlfriends realize he isn’t about anything and the relationship is purely sexual for him, they toss him out and as usual, he returns home until he can find someone else who is willing to put up with him.

My parents are getting older and both have retired from their jobs working for the local school district where she taught and he was a supervisor.  As they were both vested in the school retirement system, they have good pensions and stable income.

However, even though I don’t live at home, my parents depend upon me to do their errands, take them to their medical appointments and prepare their meals.  My siblings don’t do anything but live off them and drain their financial resources.

Needless to say, I am exhausted.  I don’t have much of a social life and I am unable to find the time to seek a meaningful relationship.  I am in my late 30’s and would like to have a family, but given what is going on, I don’t see that as a possibility.

I have spoken to my parents about developing strategies to encourage and assist my siblings to move out and be self-sufficient. My parents say that they are afraid that my brothers won’t be able to survive on their own.  However they are tired of my brothers doing nothing with their lives and want them to be responsible, get married and start having grandchildren.

My parents are from the South (Georgia). They refuse to talk about their past.  All I know is that that they are fearful of the police, particularly since both of my brothers were constantly stopped and questioned in our neighborhood when we lived there. My parents relocated to the Pacific Northwest in order to protect us from what was going on at that time, to keep the family together, and to get a fresh start, and they don’t want to make my brothers vulnerable by kicking them out.

I feel that my parents are stuck in the past, and since they are stuck, so am I.  I was raised in the church and taught to honor and obey my parents, but I’m really unhappy.  What do I do?

Stuck & With No Life, Seattle, WA

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Dear Young Woman,

I would like to congratulate you on completing graduate school.  Doing so while working fulltime is indeed a great accomplishment.  Your actions speak loudly and say a lot about your character.

The actions of your siblings and parents speak loudly as well.  What is unclear is whether you are listening to what they are saying.  I was also raised in the South.  My mother used to say “a show horse may look good, but if he ain’t willing to plow, what good is he?’

I would like to focus on the choices your parents have made and how you allow those actions and choices to impact you.  It would be a distraction to focus too much on your brothers as their behaviors and actions appear to be a result of the choices your parents have made.

As the oldest child and only female, you too play a significant role in the dysfunctional behavior within the family unit.

Your parents may not push your brothers out for many reasons, but one that stands out from your letter is the possibility that your parents fear that your brothers (especially the one with the criminal record) may be injured or killed by the police if they do force them out.

Another issue may be perception—your parents may be living with embarrassment or shame that their youngest son is involved in drug sales.  In addition to the fear of the police, they may also be responding to anticipated guilt, grief and loss should the worst outcome become real.

As retirees from the school system, your parents have strong work ethics, but the fear of loss in this case is in conflict with these values.  As they now live in fear, they have surrendered their power to empower and motivate their sons to transform their behaviors.

There is a saying within the African-American community that goes:

We love our sons and raise our daughters.” 

This is clearly indicated in the actions being observed within your family.  As the daughter, your parents have taught you the concepts of responsibility, accountability, consequences and empowerment.

These teachings have resulted in your ability to maintain employment while obtaining a graduate level education.   Furthermore, you are independent, able to live on your own, and you are capable of entering a marital relationship, raising children and preparing them to enter the adult world.

The same cannot be said of your brothers. Your siblings were not “raised,” instead they were pampered.  Consequently, they have not matured, and are incapable of handling the reins of adulthood.

Specifically, regarding the brother who has a college education, instead of moving into gaining more life and work experiences following graduation, he returns to his parents’ home.  As long as they continue to make the home welcoming to him, and they continue to meet his basic needs, there will be no reason for him to seek adult experiences such as working in the professional world or creating intimate relationships.

Your youngest brother has the least to offer.  He has no education, no viable work experience and is a manipulator of women, using them for his sexual pleasure and giving nothing in return.  His behavior is that of a spoiled adolescent, content to roam the streets at will, seeking others to play with and enjoy sexual pleasure.

Your parents hold a major portion of responsibility for what is lacking in their sons.  As they grow older, their fear will intensify.  Your siblings clearly lack the ability to care for themselves, and therefore would be ineffective in providing care for their parents or handling their legal and/or financial affairs.

So who is left to pick up the pieces? Prepare meals?  Take parents to their medical appointment?  Handle their legal and financial affairs?  Hmm.  Let me see…. You.

Be aware, there is a trap a is being prepared for you, “the trapdoor of responsibility.” Following the trap there is the “bottomless pit”.   It may be that since you were born, your parents have been planning and preparing for the day you take over the reins of their physical care and their other affairs.

This is typical regardless of race; major responsibility is often on the oldest child as the de facto leader when the parent(s) are either unavailable to the family or incapable of caring for themselves.  It is also typical that females will take the lead in household chores whereas males may play more of a supportive role.

This behavior is clearly an example of “male privilege” Male privilege can be defined as a set of privileges that are to men as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women as a class.  While every man experiences privilege differently due to his own individual position in the social hierarchy, every man, by virtue of being male benefits from male privilege.

One way that male privilege presents itself in the African-American community is communal protectiveness of black men.  As a result, black women are not only expected to protect males, but to not expose the community to shame, disrepute, embarrassment or humiliation by speaking out against them.

The African-American community is a “strong spiritual and faith based communal unit. In cases such as this, the community utilizes religion to pressure women to obey men; thereby reinforcing male privilege.

The issue of obedience is a key factor in your frustration—the conflict between the selflessness that you have been trained for in the church, versus the self-love and care that you need to continue to function.

The intensity of your feelings may be an indicator of how religion is used as a tool within the African-American family to reinforce male privilege and pressure daughters to submit and provide the level of care desired whereas such is not expected of sons.

Concluding Words

Your parents are no doubt warm and loving, but the reality is that they continue to live in fear and are unable to provide direction to your siblings. The bottomless pit comes into focus when upon their deaths, you become the caretaker of your siblings, who are becoming more dependent as time moves on.  The pit is bottomless, as like your parents, your siblings will drain you of your energy and resources.

It is up to you to decide whether to remain in this situation or seek a way in which you can live your life.  Taking on the additional task of providing care of your siblings will not only alleviate your parents of the mess they created, it will also alleviate the responsibility of your siblings to provide care for themselves.

It is one thing to want to figure out a way to enjoy life and at the same time provide a quality of life for your parents.  Have the willingness to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I prepared to take on the task of raising my grown siblings?
  • Am I willing to provide for them at the expense of my own happiness?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice my desires of marriage and having children?
  • Can I rely upon and trust my siblings to look after me should I need care or assistance?

Remember, “a show horse may look good, but if he ain’t willing to plow, what good is he?”

 When a person exposes the true self to you, embrace the action and treat it as a gift.

-Ten Flashes of the Journey of Life

The Visible Man

A Black Man Ain’t Nothing: Male Privilege and Suffering In Silence

My Dear Readers:

I have dedicated this year to exploring the harm that male privilege inflicts within the African-American community. I am very much aware that male privilege is alive and well in all communities regardless of race.  However, in this blog, I intend to focus on the culture of silence that exists within the African-American community.

In the blog Just World Trauma And the Loss of Individual Responsibility (4.27.15), I wrote about the sexual assault of a young woman by three young men in broad daylight on a beach as she lay unconscious. I remain troubled by two questions that I posed in the blog:

  • Why would these men engage in behavior in which they know to be morally wrong and outside the value system of the communities from they come from?
  • Why would these young men engage in behavior that would not only result in criminal charges, but ultimately result in incarceration and lifetime registration as sexual offenders?

In the earlier blog, I suggested that the men involved in the sexual assault were engrossed in a psychological phenomenon known as “groupthink.”  When a person is engaged in groupthink, individuals surrender their personal responsibility and allow the group’s collective behavior, which may be dominated by another member, to become the norm and the acceptable direction for themselves.

However, I believe that the reasons (not justifications) for the behavior of these young men extend further than groupthink. Instead, I believe that the young men were responding to historical trauma.  Furthermore, I would suggest they were acting in the manner of “male privilege,” which is a response to historical trauma.

Historical trauma is best described as “the intergenerational transmission of responses to cumulative massive trauma associated with historical events that affects a given culture, group, country, religion or ethnicity.” Historical trauma and its intergenerational transmission is one of the many traumas that can frequently impact African-Americans, in some cases, on a daily basis.

All African-Americans are descendents of people who were traumatized by slavery, so it is safe to say that all African-Americans have unresolved issues of historical trauma due to being descendents of slaves and the ramifications of segregation.  Both of these systems—slavery and segregation—were supported by violence (lynching, beatings) or threats of violence (burning of crosses).

There are six factors that tend to lead to the intergenerational transmission of cumulative massive trauma.  These include:

  • Economic exploitation
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Physical coercion: killing, threats of physical force, police violence, promotion of chemical dependency
  • Exclusion from power, including the use of the law to invoke control, denial of voting rights, lack of representation
  • Control of ideology, culture and religion: forcing of a religious system, control of language, and:
  • Fragmentation within the culture: promoting a select few from the subordinate group and giving them special benefits, the creation of competition and envy.

Historically, the African-American community simply weathered these challenges like the sturdy oak tree sways to and fro during intense and mighty storms.  In this case, the intense and mighty storms are the ongoing assaults of racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment by institutions of the majority, formal and informal while state, local and federal governments stood idle and silent.

Male privilege in this case presents itself as communal protectiveness of black men.  It is a legacy of slavery, the years following the Civil War, and racial violence that had occurred since that era.  Male privilege in the African-American community was a communal response during a period from 1870 to 1968 in which 3,959 blacks; mainly males were subjected to lynching.  Historically, due to lack of governmental protection, and repetitive violent assaults, the black community developed a method of encirclement and strategy of “silence” when it came to responding to inquiries from whites about black males.  The black community, through its many years of racism, oppression and discrimination, has learned that the system, and often the white people within it, are not to be trusted.

Consequently, the black community, specifically women, are expected to protect males as well as not expose the community to shame, disrepute, embarrassment or humiliation. As the males are protected from the system and the community is not exposed, rape therefore becomes a privilege that thrives and solely for the enjoyment of those men who take advantage of it.

In statistics provided by the federal government, we can see the reasons why the community seeks to protect black males:

  • Although people of color make up 30% of the United States’ population, they represent 60% of those in prison.
  • The prison population has grown by 700 % from 1970 to 2005.
  • The incarceration rates disproportionately impact the African-American community.
  • 1 in every 16 African-American men is incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.
  • One in every three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.
  • Black males were three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorist.
  • African-Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and
  • Almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police

This protection of males as a value in the community is reinforced and therefore passed from generation to generation.  However, what this creates is actually a culture of silence—not only as a barrier in which information is not shared outside the group, but it limits the information that is shared within the group.

Communal protection of males from the harshness of the criminal justice system begins early in a black adolescent’s life, and for good reason.  According to the Sentencing Project, even though African-American juveniles are 16% of the youth population:

  • 37% of their cases are moved to criminal court
  • 58% of African-American youth are sent to adult prisons.

Children become the agents of intergenerational transmission, are taught to maintain family secrets. This may result in the willingness of the family and community institutions such as churches to sacrifice individual members in order to maintain the secrecy of the larger group.

An example of this occurred in the Puget Sound area of Washington State.  In September 2012, a member of the African-American clergy pleaded guilty to 22 charges of sexual molestation and rape of boys.  As reported in the media, the clergyman admitted to sexually abusing 10 boys from 1997 through 2011.

The church hierarchy immediately went into protective mode.  The church leadership refused to provide direct assistance to or accept mental health counseling for the boys who were abused and their families. Instead, the leadership suggested its willingness to make cards and brochures regarding mental health services available to the parishioners in the church’s foyer.  To this day, it is unknown whether the sexually abused boys and their families actually received any mental health treatment or other psychological services.

Like these children, black women are expected to bear the weight of and to protect the community.  This is evidenced by the unwillingness of black women to report incest and rape or seek assistance such as mental health treatment or other psychological services. Black women are expected to stay in the protective mode and in doing so resort to “raising their daughters and loving their sons.”  The unwillingness of the family and community to report sexual assault reinforces that rape is a male privilege that will be protected by silence.

There are numerous examples of leadership within institutions of the African-American community who by their actions support rape as a male privilege.  Either maintaining silence or supporting the perpetrator, in either case, isolating and abandoning the individual who was victimized, condones this.

On such example is following the conviction of Mike Tyson of raping a beauty pageant contestant Desiree Washington, the nation’s largest black religious denomination supported him with a rally and petition drive to keep him out of prison.

At the same event, one well-known minister remarked,

“You bring a hawk into the chicken yard and wonder why the chicken got eaten up.  You bring Mike to a beauty contestant and all these fine foxes just parading in front of Mike.  Mike’s eyes begin to dance like a hungry man looking at a Wendy’s beef burger or something.  She said, ‘No Mike, no.’ I mean how many times, sisters, have you said ‘No’ and you mean ‘Yes’?”

Male privilege, although clearly a benefit for males, can be fully achieved only with the assistance of women.  Sometimes this assistance is voluntary and willing.  The large number of women who were supporting Mike Tyson and cheering the minister making the comments is evidence of this.

Those individuals, including children witnessing this event may come away with the understanding that women can prevent rape by altering how they dress or by acting a certain way.  Furthermore, there is the clear message that women are responsible for the prevention of rape, not that men have a responsibility to not perpetrate a rape.

It is widely known that African-American men are treated harshly by the criminal justice system.  So when a woman decides not to report a man for rape because of the knowledge of what is occurring in the penal institutions, the male is not being held accountable and male privilege is satisfied through the woman’s silence.

Furthermore as there now exists 70% of black households are headed by women without a male figure involved, there are situations in which women knowingly shelter men through protectiveness. It is a combination of exposure to historical trauma and awareness of how black males are viewed by the majority, to minimize an incident in which a sexual assault occurred.

Such minimization by women serve to blame the rape victim for the sexual assault. It is not uncommon to hear the following statements from female relatives of males accused of sexual assault to allege the following:

  • She must have done something.
  • If she had not been out there in the first place…
  • Shameful, look at what she was wearing.
  • She doesn’t look innocent to me.
  • She was probably asking for it.

Such victim blaming comments are ill directed.   This only serves to create the opportunity for males to either escape or avoid accountability thereby once again, benefiting from male privilege.

Concluding Words

As a mental health clinician, specifically a trauma specialist, I often see the emotionally and psychologically wounded who are forced to bear the weight and protect the image of the larger group.  I have listened to those victimized in sexual assault, mostly being perpetrated by people who they trusted.

Male privilege is a failed concept that cannot protect black boys and adolescents outside of the reach of the black community.  Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests have led to high numbers of black youth coming in contact with the juvenile justice system at earlier and earlier ages. This is indicated in the following education statistics for the year 2009-2010:

  • 242, 000 were referred to law enforcement
  • 96,000 students were arrested and of this number
  • Of those numbers, black students made up more than 70% of those arrested.

It is clear that the three males who raped the unconscious woman on the beach knew what they were doing was morally and legally wrong.  It is doubtful that they considered the impact their behavior upon the young woman or themselves. It is unlikely that they realized by their actions that they would be caught, face criminal charges and if found guilty, become incarcerated and be registered and labeled as sexual offenders for the rest of their lives.

It is also unlikely that they realized that by their actions, they were not only throwing away a college education at a prestigious university and also promising careers and professional opportunities.  It is unlikely they considered any of this. Why? Because they came from a community in which they as males received the protection of male privilege.  In this case, however, the community will now revert to the model of communal protectiveness  and be silent as it seeks to avoid shame, disrepute, embarrassment or humiliation.

“To err is human” is a common expression, but we should not believe there is always room for error. In some cases there is no room for error. None.

-Ten Flashes of Light For the Journey of Life

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Theft Of Choice: The Impact of Childhood Rape

“The body remembers what the mind struggles to forget.”

My Dear Readers,

In last week’s blog “Just World Trauma & The Loss of Individual Responsibility,” I wrote about the gang rape of an unconscious woman on a beach in Panama City, Florida.

Rape is an action that not only assaults the humanity and integrity of the victim, but impacts the consciousness of us all. The answer is simple—it doesn’t make sense to us. Rape, in and of itself, is a despicable, unexplainable and unjustifiable act.

We know what rape is– the sexual assault of another person—but what is the basis of the action of rape?  I have concluded that rape is an expression of male privilege.  Its foundation is rooted in the attributes of power, domination, and control.

Although we may be outraged about the act of rape, society has shown its lack of comfort in openly speaking about its impact.  For me, writing about Bobbi is the fulfillment of a commitment to those who have been victimized, those who are healing, and those who continue to suffer in silence.

We, in our own silence, may feel shame and/or hope that the victim goes away, recovers and moves on with her life. This is often not the case.  Life just does not simply move on for a rape victim.

The word “saga” typically refers to a narrative, telling the adventure of a hero or heroic achievement. This is one of the reasons we call this series The Journey of Self Discovery: Bobbi’s Saga.

The term “saga” clearly expresses and gives meaning to Bobbi’s life, which is consumed with responding to challenges beginning at the age of four years old.  In this writing of Bobbi’s journal, she shares with us the impact the violent sexual assaults she endured.

Bobbi ‘s saga continues:

 One of the things that I have never journaled about is a gift to myself I was robbed of by abuse.  Because of the rapes at 4 and 9-12, I never had the choice of choosing when to lose my virginity. I see stories of romantic situations on television, and the first sexual experience, if by choice, is usually joyful and provides a sweet start to the sexual experiences and expectations for that person.

I have had other females talk about their first experience.  For most people, it is a positive memory.  For me, the choice was taken away.  When I was finally ready for my first consensual sexual experience I was still anxious, frightened and reminded of my abuse.

It was the abuse that prevented me from enjoying it.  It was like I was seeing if I could withstand the encounter.  There was no joy, sexual arousal, or orgasm.  It was only the relief that I had made it through.

It was many years later that I was finally able to enjoy making love, and yet, flashbacks of the abuse would often interrupt and interfere with lovemaking.  It took a long time before I was able to understand why anyone would want to have sex.   Why would anyone want to do anything so stressful and painful?

Today was a tough session with Dr. Kane.  We discussed the theft of my virginity.  It was difficult for me to discuss and it was the first time we had discussed this.

I felt sad leaving the session.  I have that uncomfortable feeling of numbness now.  The feeling is similar to pain but not the same.  Dr. Kane encouraged me to think about this over the next couple of days.

I feel and think I will let this go.  It is something that I will never feel good about.  The theft of virginity is a greater theft than any bank robbery.  Money can be returned.  The gift of virginity, once stolen, can never be replaced.

The abuse has changed my sexual life forever.  The flashbacks have mostly gone away with lovemaking, but I still have difficulty enjoying it, and I just find that it’s not important to my life.

Stealing one’s virginity amounts to stealing sexual pleasure and excitement for the rest of a person’s life.  For the person who is robbed of her virginity, it is like you are robbed over and over again.  I hope the feelings of sadness fade away as this becomes more distant in my mind.

I have come to realize that there is a difference between sadness and depression.  Depression is an inability to construct a future.   Today, talking about the theft of my virginity, I felt very sad but not as depressed as I used to be.

Depression includes hopelessness, guilt, shame, pain and intense sadness that only vary slightly.  It never goes away.  There is an indescribable feeling inside like the sadness goes to my core.

Depression kept me from functioning, thinking and feeling anything except pain and sadness.

In my depression, I saw the world in shades of gray.  The clouds were always above me.  I was unable to see a future.  I didn’t care if I lived or died, and I thought about death often.

Sadness is a deep feeling of pain, but at least you know there will eventually be an end to the pain.  You can be sad and still laugh in the same day.  In sadness, you know there is a possibility of feeling better the next day.  The sadness can be linked to a certain event or incident.

Today has been an okay day.  I thought of my lack of childhood and the consequences of it.  Consequences that continue to influence my life.

Others have told me that depression goes away.  I have come to disagree with that belief.  In my work with Dr. Kane, I have come to believe that due to the trauma I have been through, depression may continue to be a concern. Still, I believe it is getting lighter.

As I understand more about my past, the pain becomes more distant and the depression becomes lighter.  I believe I will always have a level of depression.  I will learn to live with it. It will be my norm.  The norm for me is different than for other people.  My past makes it that way.  I have come to understand about the abuse.  I now understand that it wasn’t my fault or responsibility.

I didn’t ask for it.  I didn’t want it.  I couldn’t do anything to prevent it from happening.  The sick bastards that did this to me deserve all the responsibility, guilt and shame. I wish they had horns growing out of their heads so others would be warned of their presence.  I know that something will eventually happen to them.  No one can do bad things without it coming back around.

Now, however,  I want to get on with my life.  I want to become lighter and joyful.  I want my mental state to continue to improve.  I want to live!  This is so different from not caring if I lived and not wanting to live.

 

Concluding Remarks from Dr. Kane

We were in our first session when Bobbi sat quietly for a moment and then suddenly announced the following:

“When I was four years old, I was raped by the landlord.  For a period of three years from ages nine to twelve, my stepfather repeatedly raped me.”

Following those statements, Bobbi suddenly got up and left the room.  I recall sitting there hoping that she would return.

She called and returned to session two weeks later.  It was then that I learned that it was her belief that all she had to do was tell someone her story and the agony would be over.  The reality, as I explained to her, was that her “Journey of Self Discovery” had just begun.

Bobbi’s Journey of Self Discovery has now lasted five years. Bobbi has learned to distinguish depression from sadness.  Where in the past, she believed that she might have enticed her abusers, she now recognizes that the responsibility for these horrific acts lies with her abusers.

It’s not unusual for people to assume that given time, a victim will “forget” a horrific assault and that their lives will eventually go on unimpeded.  Many people assume that time heals wounds.

Neither assumption is true. The person who was victimized never forgets and it is the therapeutic work, not time by itself, which heals the emotional wound.

Bobbi understands that the gravity of her abuse can mean that depression may be an ongoing issue.  However, she has learned that instead of living in fear of depression, today she has learned to live with the fear and in doing so, learn how to bring balance and optimism into her life.

The term “saga” truly reflects the physical and psychological wounding of Bobbi as well as her Journey of Self Discovery as she reclaims the life that was once taken.

Is she a hero?   She is to me. I invite the readership to stay tune for her next entry.

Until the next time…Bobbi’s saga continues.