Blame the Media? Don’t Watch. Don’t Read.

(Pic at The Weather Channel in September of 2010)

The relationship between news organizations and the public ebbs and flows. When people feel unsure or don’t buy into a national crisis, they like to blame the “media”.

When a tornado might be coming, they rely solely on the “media”.

In recent years, thanks to lies spread by leaders around the world, people like to call the “media” fake. It is like a game of bullying an unknown person.

So, let’s put a face and heart to the “media”.

As a person who lovingly spent 20 years behind the scenes of multiple news organizations, I feel compelled to tell you who the “media” are.

They are fathers and mothers who don’t see much of their kids when a crisis breaks out. As others rush home to their families, the “media” rush away from theirs, answering the call to keep the public informed.

They are recent college grads who owe a lot in debt, but still took a low paying job, sometimes working 60 hours a week with no overtime, so that they can live out their passion of keeping the public informed and safe.

They are a high ratio of men and women you never see because they work behind-the-scenes to make sure you have every bit of information you need to be safe or informed or told the truth of what is going on with your elected officials.

They are not rich.

They are not well-fed, because their diets often consist of what is in the vending machines.

They are not well-rested.

They are called off much-deserved vacations. They work holidays. When schools shut down, they go into work to report on the “why”.

When snows shut down cities, they find a way to go in.

They miss school plays, games, family reunions, weddings… most of the living in life… to make sure they are keeping the public informed.

They are not only the celebrity anchors you see. They are not only the owners or CEOs sitting high on the hog.

Most of them are hard-working, honest, tireless advocates for the public.

They uncover scams, tell you of dangerous weather, inform you of the crisis taking place in your town.

When I say they put their families and friends 2nd to this crazy passion called journalism, I am not exaggerating.

I am just one small example.

One year, as a hurricane was making landfall, I yelled at my 2-year old to go to bed, because we were updating the website minute by minute. She wouldn’t stop crying. Hours after it made landfall, I found out she had a 102 degree temperature.

One year, I walked miles, trying to stay in tire marks on unplowed snowy streets because I had to get to work, but I couldn’t get my car out of the driveway.

One year, I abandoned my truck, filled with kitty litter bags in the back, and walked up Red Mountain in Birmingham because I couldn’t drive on the icy roads.

One year, I watched planes crash into our souls, and alongside other dedicated journalists, did not stop to grieve as we had a job to do. As firefighters and police officials were running toward the buildings, so were members of the “media”.

I left the profession I still love because you have to choose it over your families if you want to do the job correctly. People in the “media” are, more often than not, ALL IN. That means, no kids, no time for your marriage, and no trips away… because you are never unplugged.

My first job, in the early 90s, paid me $4.60 an hour. No benefits. I waitressed on the side in order to afford rent in a crappy apartment that I shared with a friend. I got a promotion the next year to full-time, at $12,000. Overtime? No. But, I got health benefits!

I am not complaining. I am actually proud of all the work I did and the fact that I did most of it with little money and little time off.

And, I am not alone in having that story. In fact, most have that story…and some are even more compelling.

Every day, I read posts from people I thought were my friends, claiming this latest outbreak of a virus is hyped at the fault of the “media”.

This fascinates me.

So, the media calls daily press conferences?

The media told people to buy all the toilet paper?

The media killed people? Infected people?

If you feel this way, I have a suggestion.

Next time there is severe weather, do not consult the media. Next time there is a mass shooting, walk away from watching or reading anything.

The President has made a career by using the “media” for his gain. Yet, because he knew there were more who would hold him accountable for his behavior than not, he started to plant a dangerous seed. “Fake news”, he says. So many people took the bait.

Don’t like what you hear? Blame the media.

The absolute worst thing I read is that someone I know actually believes the media cooked COVID-19 up to distract the public from something else the media doesn’t want you to know about.

If this blog, or many others like it don’t put a human face and passionate heart on the “media”, then ok… your choice.

Stop watching.

Stop reading.

And, please, understand… you are insulting hard-working, low-wage earning individuals who will still run away from their families, and towards the truth…

For you.

Roaring into the Silence

My oldest decided a week ago that we needed to celebrate the New Year “Roaring 20s” style. With a clever look on her face, and gleam in her eye, she explained that we are entering the 2020s, so we needed to honor those other 20s.

We aren’t having a party, nor are we invited to one, but I instantly liked the idea. So, two days before New Year’s Eve, my girls and I found ourselves in the NYE aisle of a party store.

As we tried on props and tried to decide what to buy, I recieved a text that stopped my breathing. I am not exaggerating.

Another person in our lives was gone, left us way too soon. The girls and I stood in that aisle, not knowing what to do.

It took me a couple hours to get confirmation it wasn’t just a false rumor. In those hours, I had hope it was all a mistake. However, after that hope was dashed, I started trying to make sense of it all.

Thinking about the moment we found out, I realized we were getting ready to celebrate the entry into a decade that was described as roarin’ loud, while so many people are currently living in a terrible silence.

My girls and I spent the evening talking about this. My oldest had lunch with this sweet girl several times, and had many conversations with her. However, my kid’s reaction was that she had no idea that anything was wrong.

I talked to my kids about how people in pain don’t usually share that pain with others. I talked about my own pain as a child, and how my best friends had no idea what was going on in private. I talked about how there are so many reasons why many stay silent about our pain.

  • Many don’t believe anyone will understand, because many think they are the only ones experiencing it.
  • Many are ashamed and don’t want to show others their weakness.
  • Many want the good in their lives to go untarnished, to remain their piece of good.

I can honestly say all three of those reasons are why I didn’t share my story earlier.

The New Year is just the start of another trip around the sun. You don’t wake up and magically become a new person. We all try, but truly, it is just another day.

However, the New Year does symbolize a new start, and many of us use it for a new beginning.

So, how can we begin anew and break the silence for so many living alone in pain? What is the magic trick that makes the stigmas disappear?

Listen, the silence is so thick, I still don’t know the details surrounding the three losses we have had in the past 6 months. I can’t begin to act like I know anything about them.

I do know what keeping the pain and secrets in can do to a person. I had physical ramifications for bottling it up. I had, and still have, psychological struggles.

I don’t know exactly how I survived it. I have theories, but I don’t know. I don’t have answers. If I did, or if anyone did, we would be shouting it from every corner.

I think the only thing we can try is to break the silence. It is not an easy task. It may need to start with a chip in the glass, and little taps to keep breaking it, but something needs to be done.

We need people to know they are not alone.

We need them to know they are not the only ones.

We need to break the stigmas.

Break the silence.

Call our friends.

Spend time together, beyond our screens.

Teach our children how to reach beyond their screens.

See each other.

Love each other.

And, show our scars. Show our pain.

Roar into the silence.

Grief, Gratitude, and BB Guns

(Pictured above in the Wisconsin hoodie is Matt Guinn.)

Ping! Ping! Ping!

The sound of small round metal BBs keep ringing through the thick woods.

Ping!

A boy has his arms semi-wrapped around a girl’s shoulders as he teaches her how to shoot a BB gun. If the BBs make a “Ping!” noise, then she aimed correctly and a shed about 50-75 yards away was struck again.

Ping! Yes! (I wonder whose shed that was?)

It was the early 80s.

The girl was me. The boy was a boy I had known since kindergarten. In 4th grade, he asked me to be his girlfriend. A few years later, I found myself behind the Pioneer Skateland with him, receiving my first kiss. And, somewhere in there, he taught me how to shoot a BB gun, using someone’s shed as the target.

Sure, this sounds like a story of first love. However, as I reflect on it, it was different for that young girl, starting at age 9. You see, that was the age I told my mom that my babysitter’s husband was sexually abusing me. That was the age I was taken out of 5 years of abuse.

That was the age where I worked hard to forget, and to act normal. That was the year when Matt asked me to be his girlfriend.

We were a “couple” for 4 years. Oh, you know what I mean by couple. We were “going together”, but until our 7th and 8th grade years, we barely spoke. Still, in those years, I was in “like” with someone. I had so many friends: Jolyn, Suzi, Tiana, Michelle, Amy, Holly, Larry, Scott, Ryan, Dion, Christi, Jenny, Christy, Kristy, Denise, Jamala, Candy, Mike, Abe… the list goes on.

I was normal, and Matt was a complete sweetheart.

My memory of the end of our relationship is fuzzy. I’m sure I messed it up. I say that because that was around the time I was raped by a 21 year old man.

I had never thought of that timing until this week. I mean, Matt, one of my oldest friends, my first boyfriend, was sandwiched in between two of the most horrifying times in my life. Along side him were the rest of the Pleasant Valley Grade School kids, making my life pretty normal.

So, why am I thinking of it now?

This week, all the PV kids lost one of the best men we have known. Matt left us on his birthday, September 30th. The news washed us in shock. Even now, I paused to let some tears flow before writing this sentence.

Grief is such a unusual animal. When you lose someone, your brain goes to places and times you may not have visited for years, decades even. Memories like the BB gun shooting that were packed away, not seeing the light of day since I was a kid, flow right back in, reminding me of the relationship we had and moments we shared.

I know this is unpopular to say, but I am so thankful for Facebook right now. I had lost touch with Matt sometime around the end of college. I ran so fast from Illinois and I left that life behind me. However, in my 30s, thanks to Facebook, I was lucky to reconnect with Matt and everyone else I loved in my childhood.

Matt would post on my page each time his beloved Green Bay Packers beat my Bears… which was way too often. Well… actually… not really. Now, I’m glad we almost always lost so he would reach out.

Kim …… I am sending you my deepest condolences for the terrible loss you suffered to the GREEN BAY PACKERS yesterday!! I would have expressed my sympathies sooner but I was preoccupied with a celebration !!
How about those Bears Kimmy !!!
He would connect with me over our mutual love of our cats, comparing stories.
No photo description available.
I am paying his tuition and he thinks it’s breaktime!!
Does he look like your kitties?

He and I told each other happy birthday every year.

Happy Birthday Matt. Party at Pioneer Skateland at 7p
Happy birthday to one of my favs! I hope the Bears have a fantastic season as a gift to you. (OR is that for me?) #TerribleBirthdayWish
Happy Birthday Kim OLD friend !!
Happy Birthday Kim !! Merry Christmas

He gave me grief for posting old grade school pictures.

Cosby PM (2)
Shame on you Kim!!!

And, then there was that time I was driving down the highway, and I just HAD to pull over and get this picture for him.

Brilliant Guin
Matt Guinn: Well looky there !!!
Matt Guinn: never heard of it…. I will have to visit
Kimberly Morrise: I just like that the street sign got it right! You are one brilliant man Matt Guinn! I pulled over to take this picture just for you.
Matt Guinn: You are a rockstar Kim !!!

But even now, as I go through our Facebook connections, I feel it’s not enough.

Tonight, his family held a memorial in Wisconsin. I cannot imagine what his parents, his sister, his nieces, and all his close loved ones are going through right now. I wish I could hug them and tell them he was loved by so many more people than they may realize.

I also wish I had just one more conversation with him. I want just one more chance to say to him that he changed my life. He was that first glimpse into normalcy when it came to my relationship with the opposite sex. I want to apologize for not giving him the credit he deserves… for not always remembering what he and the PV gang meant to me.

Grief can do so many things to our minds. It can make us feel angry, sad, guilty even… but one thing I always get and never expect from it is perspective.

As I sit and wish for just one more moment, I also hope that all the people reading this feel how special Matt was. I want anyone and everyone to know that he was always kind to his friends and he loved animals.

His family shared a story in his obituary that I never knew about him. He would leave food and water out for any stray or wandering cat that might need it. I think that one fact alone can tell you so much about him.

Oh, and let’s not forget… he was a Cheesehead through and through.

Rest in Peace, Matty! Peace is what you deserve.

I can never thank you enough.

It is Sexual Abuse, not Politics

I had no intention of making this blog mostly focus on sexual abuse when I started it.

It was going to just be a fun outlet where I could continue to feed my passion of writing … while sharing stories aimed at connecting with others. Then, I had to go and share my childhood here on this site.  It was like a faucet was turned on, and I began sharing more stories.

When 10 years of your childhood was spent under a cloud of sexual abuse, and you turned to abusive relationships in early adulthood, and then you see it all being played out in other people’s stories in the public eye… I guess you can’t avoid it.

So, today, as I’m reading the news, about billionaire Jeffery Epstein, and I see a big headline about the case… but it isn’t about sexual abuse he allegedly inflicted on young girls.

Instead, it focuses on which political party Epstein supported.

I get it… sex and politics. Scandals with politicians are often about sex.

But, seriously, today I am off the rails mad that any time a prominent person is charged with sexual abuse, we have to know of which political party he is a part and to whom he has given donations.

Listen, if Epstein, the financier who is currently accused of many, many sexual abuse offenses toward minors, is guilty… then let’s lock him up…

… and then turn toward the abused. How can they be helped? Can the media look into what happens to children after abuse and advocate ways the victims can get help?

Because, I seriously do not care that he was friends with Trump or gave millions to Democrats. I could seriously care less. (with one exception… that’s later)

I am so mad at the media outlets over this. As many of you know, I was in TV news for 20 years. So what…. I am still stark raving mad about this angle of the story.

For victims, here is an angle that matters: DID HE DO IT? If he did, throw him in prison.

Another angle some of us care about: Are the victims identified and getting help? Are there more victims at the hands of other predators?

Ok, ok, I hear some of you…. what if Presidents Trump (who has praised Epstein publicly and had a party with him and a bunch of young women) or Clinton (Epstein donated to his foundation) were also involved?

If President Donald Trump’s friendship with Epstein had him involved in these damn offenses, then can the powers that be please get that evidence together? If someone Epstein donated to, like Clinton, committed the same acts, can we get that person locked up as well?

Because, listen media, you are inferring that people Epstein knew and supported also committed these acts. You are also stoking the freaking already huge flames of political fire.

It is not relevant what political campaigns received his money. It is relevant if those candidates joined him in his alleged sick pleasure games that lead to unimaginable abuse for these poor children.  By merely reporting the first, you are inferring the second.

The media isn’t the only offender.

You may also know Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned today after the facts were revealed that he gave Epstein a sweet deal during a 2008 sexual abuse case when Acosta was a prosecutor. One person commented on a post about this story like this: “Well, just wait until you snowflakes find out who this perv donated money to”

Stop it. Stop drawing a political line in the sand.

Let me make it easy on the people who want to play the “whataboutism” game. People of ALL backgrounds, of ALL financial statuses, of ALL political parties commit acts of abuse.  I am not exaggerating. You can find abusers and predators in many different places.

You can find them in every nook and cranny of the world. My first abuser was a lower class, middle aged, man of the church who was married, a father and a foster parent. My second was a middle-class professional, married with a daughter. My third was a known criminal.

Who they voted for or gave money to only matters if that vote or money got them more freedom to have their way with innocent children.

Otherwise, stop talking about it and get behind the victims. Support the victims. You don’t have to know their names. Tell the stories, give avenues for help, and for God’s sake, care about what they care about.

Care about finding out the truth and then if it applies, lock the bastards up.

A Patriotic Plea from an Abuse Survivor

One of my favorite things about summer is the 4th of July fireworks. I love the drama, noise and the way they light up the dark sky.  I’m not a “backyard-let’s set off our own fireworks” type of girl. I’m a “big show, loud booms, beautiful big lights” type of girl.

Our town does the fireworks on July 3rd for various reasons. So, after the show last night, I posted some of my favorite shots, along with a video. I loved the entire 23 minutes of spectacle.

Then, as I checked Facebook to see if it all loaded, I saw a post by a friend that stopped me in my tracks.

My friend wrote an intelligent post about the number of migrant children still in cages and the horrible conditions in which they are living.  It broke my heart, because it reminded me just how complacent many of us are right now.  I mean, I care, and I’m sure many of you do, too. I have researched how I can help. I have called my “representatives”. (Quotes are there because my congresspeople do not represent my values, at all.) I have given to charities, spoken out against this, helped some refugees in a very small way.

Otherwise, I’ve done squat. Really.

I have this tiny person in my head screaming, “DO SOMETHING!”  But, what?

On this same Facebook post, a woman posted an extremely insensitive and ignorant-to the-facts-of-the-children-being-detained post… telling my friend to not call them “migrant children”. She says they should be called “illegal immigrants.” I got fired up, responded to her ignorant comment, but now what do I do?

Is there a rally cry? What can we do?

Those of us born in the U.S. got the luck of the draw, you know.

If we had been born in Guatemala or Honduras, for example, most of us would be yearning for a better, safer life.  We would aspire to live somewhere we could raise our children with better odds.

I breathe a sigh each time I think of just how lucky we are. I stress… it was purely luck.

None of us did anything extraordinary to have the privilege of being Americans. Yet, here we sit, watching fireworks light up the dark sky, filled with wonder and pride, while fellow Americans are separating desperate families and putting children behind chain-link walls, having them sleep on the floor or cots, many without soap and toothpaste, stripping away the reasons we feel a sense of pride.

I know I’m being a Debbie-Downer here. I don’t want to take away your joy on this festive, patriotic holiday.  However, as the adult-version of a child who was sexually abused most of her childhood, I beg you to consider helping these children.

Because if I know just one thing about how our government is treating these children, it is this:

Children of abuse and suffering do not recover well… not without a lot of help. When terrible, painful events happen to you as a child, they stick with you for life. You are forever altered, and your view of the people who committed these acts rarely change.

As my friend, author of the heart-wrenching post, also pointed out: We are training these children for life.  These children will become adults one day, hopefully, and they will have a certain view of Americans.

As an American, would you rather them love or hate us?

If you are wondering what organizations are trying to help these families, here are a few:

https://www.unicefusa.org/
UNICEF uses 0.89 for ever dollar donated to help children.

https://www.savethechildren.org/
Save the Children is setting up transition centers full of fresh daylight and toys and places for children to play. They are also caring for children and trying to meet their needs.

Home


The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services is out of Texas and has approximately 130 attorneys providing legal services for immigrants.

https://www.aclu.org/
If you don’t currently know much about the American Civil Liberties Union, I suggest checking out their site. Attorneys donate their time to help in so many cases regarding our civil liberties. Right now, they are along the border, trying to provide legal assistance to migrant families.

There are many more, so do the research and find one that fits what you want to do to help.

Listen, I will admit… I was on a natural patriotic high after last night’s fireworks show. It was an electronic slap in the face to see my friend’s post. However, it was a much needed one. I don’t think it is patriotic to just celebrate.

I think you can also be socially conscious and figure out how your going to help these innocent children, who are being, at the very least, mistreated at the hands of our own government.

I commented on that thread, I wish we could form a human fence, blocking our government from these defenseless children. I’m not sure… maybe we will end up doing that… but for now, I need to do this.

I need to ask that you continue to celebrate July 4th, and all it means, but also find it in your heart to help us protect and lift-up the message of what America has been for centuries:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The Past is Always with You

Outside my front door, these beautiful, bright green sprouts are coming out of the ground. Soon, they will turn into healthy plants producing vibrant yellow, red and purple flowers. For months now, the ground they live under in the winter has been brown and barren.

Yet, today, you can see bright spots of green.

This is how I think of myself as a survivor of sexual and physical abuse. My mind’s eye sees me as dark, gloomy, unattractive, and a burden. Much time will pass as my gut hurts daily and I wonder why I have the good life I have today. When will someone wake up and say, “Oops, you don’t belong here.”

Then, vibrant green sprouts start to fill my head. I will go months, even years sometimes, feeling as if I belong in the sunshine, on top of the dirt.

I feel the need to interact with others who have also endured abuse in their past. I don’t usually limit my thoughts to victims/survivors, but today, for some reason, you are all on my mind.

I am 48 years old. My last abusive relationship ended 26 years ago. My last sexual assault took place 34 years ago. I look at those two numbers, and those amount of years each equal a full-grown adult. When I see those numbers, I wonder why any of what happened so long ago is still with me. I’ve lived the equivalent of an adult life since each of them happened.

One day last week, I had the chance to sit and talk with another woman who knows what it is like to feel small, abused, and alone. This is a rare occurrence for me. Do you get those moments at all?

I ask because I am struck by how healing, and also exhausting, it can be to put all of your experiences out there.

For my new friend, the wounds are very fresh. She is still in the early stages of her healing journey. The tears welled up in her eyes as she discussed her story; while I felt a familiar feeling of gut pain when I discussed mine.

Then, a few days later, I turned on one of my favorite political commentators and watched him dance around a mild roast of women who say Vice President Joe Biden made them feel uncomfortable. I tend to disagree with this man sometimes, and this moment was one of them. Do I think Biden had intent to sexually assault the women or to make them feel uncomfortable? Not at all. Do I think he needs to stop man-handling women? Yes, please. I would love to meet him one day and thank him for all he’s done, but I don’t want him putting his face in my hair and kissing it.

Anyway… I sat there and watched the commentator dismiss the women and I felt disappointment. I wish all women could find themselves sitting across the table from someone who just knows… deep inside knows… why you made decisions you did or feel the way you do. I am so thankful for that coffee that lasted almost 4 hours.

I’m going to be honest. I totally agreed with the commentator when he talked about the degrees of the incidents under the #metoo umbrella. I agree Biden is nowhere near someone who rapes a woman. I agree that Biden is not a predator and he shouldn’t be destroyed over the fact that he has no boundaries and needs to get some.

However, as I recall the conversation I had with my new friend, I remember how safe I felt. I remember how confident I felt that the person across the table wasn’t going to dismiss me. I feel sad when I think of women who are dismissed over feeling violated, no matter the degree.

I remember sharing with her something about an abusive relationship I had in my early 20s. The situation she has, in my mind, is far worse than what I had in that relationship of mine. She has children and saw no door out. I left my boyfriend’s house daily, and did not have to return. I remember looking at her and confessing that I had every opportunity to leave and I made the dumb move to return. Without missing a beat, she listed all the ways abusive men get you to take what is given and keep coming back for more.

I was describing how when my first abusive relationship started, I remember having so many friends. Then, one day, I looked around, and I was alone, in his bedroom, waiting for his friends to leave because he didn’t want me to be a part of the party they were having. I was completely isolated. She nodded and said, “That’s what they do.”

They also simultaneously make you feel worthless and the center of their existence. They tear down who you are, all the way to the bare bones, and help you build walls with your friends and families on the outside. You begin to see that you only have them, and feel that you need them so that you can feel any value. At the same time, they reduce your value, the one you have in your mind, to zero.

The training abusers give you is hard to shake. Even when you get strong, and you decide you are worth enough to find happiness, to take a new path, you still have something planted inside you that says, “You don’t deserve happiness.”

It’s planted deep.

I don’t have an inspiring next step or something to say that will wrap this blog entry up in a pretty bow. I just wanted to reach out, in case anyone out there is wondering if he or she is alone.

You are not alone. A full, active, beautiful adult human life has grown, bringing me plenty of beautiful yellow, red, and purple flowers. Yet, there are days when I feel like I’m dirt with dried little stalks. Both feelings exist in me.

Ok, there is one thing I can say that can end this entirely on a high note. If you stop, and really take in the vibrant moments of good, and treasure those moments, owning them… the barren, dry moments will start existing in smaller spans of winters. Springs will be longer, as long as you stare at those moments longer than the moments of winter. You really will see many more pops of color … and hope … in your life.

One Survivor’s Reaction to “Leaving Neverland”

“For me, this moment transcends Michael Jackson. It is much bigger than any one person. This is a moment in time that allows us to see this societal corruption.” -Oprah Winfrey, during her hour-long special about “Leaving Neverland”

As I did with the Lorena Bobbitt documentary I write about here… I hesitated watching “Leaving Neverland”. “Leaving” is the HBO Documentary on two men who alleged Michael Jackson sexually abused them. (Man, do I hate that word “allege” in this context, but my journalism background teaches me that we cannot assume.)

I knew two things when the documentary was released. One, I had to watch it. Two, watching it would be extremely difficult.

My history is so much different from that of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, Jackson’s accusers. They found themselves in the world of the biggest superstar our generation has ever known. They were also caught up the adoration they felt they got from someone so incredibly adored.

None of my three abusers held any status close to Jackson’s. I could not relate to that at all.

However, several experiences they had are so much more universal. They are experiences to which most survivors can relate.

As Oprah points out in the quote I included above here, I feel like this documentary might shed light on how childhood sexual abuse victims respond. Those who aren’t victims would gain knowledge, and those who are might find an easier path to healing because of that understanding.

I am not here to tell people what to take away from “Neverland”. Obviously, that is not my place. I did want to pull out some of those shared experiences most victims feel.

Fear: Do not underestimate the power of fear. Imagine a child filled with fear of harm, fear of blame, fear of disappointing those he or she loves. Jackson’s victims had a fear of losing Michael’s love. They were wrapped up inside a world they did not want to lose. More so, though, they speak of a fear Michael allegedly instilled in them of being caught and getting punished. My own fear at the age of 4 years old was that my mom would need to find someone else to care for me. She had so many obstacles to cross in order to care for me already. I was also afraid my abuser’s wife would beat me. I was afraid I would leave my abuser’s daughter alone to endure abuse alone. (I did do that, and still feel guilt.) I was afraid I would be in big trouble. Fear controlled me. Every time my abuser’s wife left for the store, his daughter and I would run for the best hiding place, fearful that we would be the one found that day. Remind you, I was ages 4 to 9 years old. The boys in this documentary were 7 to 14 years old. Look at children you know in those age ranges. Just imagine.

Shame: Oh, man, the shame. If an abuser is good, he or she will put his or her shame squarely on a child. Jackson allegedly told the boys others would think they were doing something wrong. Others would not understand their love. I have to be honest, I don’t remember if my first abuser said any one thing to make me feel shame. I do know I felt it. My second abuser cried a lot. So, his shame was a tool to make me feel bad for him. My third most definitely used shame. He told me I was a slut, and that is why he did it.

No real understanding of what love is: When a child is abused at such a young age, he or she does not have this understanding. Of course, they know love and feel it, but an adult can manipulate a child into thinking many different things are love. Kids believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny because we tell them it is true. Imagine trusting an adult (because most victim’s know their abuser), and being told what they are doing to you is right even if others think it is wrong. My first abuser made his daughter and me feel like he just needed to do it. We felt like it had to be done. We were so young and impressionable. Jackson’s accusers have a slightly different manipulation going on. What they describe goes back to what I didn’t experience, which is their abuser was a shining superstar and they wanted his love. Again, they did not know what love was at such young ages. They are still working on what that is. I have been a sexual abuse victim for 44 of my 48 years. I only have a few memories of not being one. Our perspective is vastly different from those not abused as children.

Having kids will slap a survivor into reality: I remember the years when I firmly believed I did not want kids. I just didn’t want to bring kids into the world I lived. Kids=abuse victims However, meeting my husband changed my view on having children. I was adamant, though, that I did not want girls. No way was I going to subject sweet, innocent girls to what I went through as a child. Then, the doctor told me I was having a girl. Not once, but two different times! I truly cannot describe the love that welled up and still exists inside me for my girls. I cannot imagine our lives any other way. They completed my fractured heart. Also, they changed my perspective on being a victim. I am overprotective and pretty annoying to them and to other parents. I don’t think that is too surprising or unusual. What is surprising for me is that perspective. Looking at them at the ages I was each time I was abused changed how I felt about my younger self. When my oldest turned 4 years old, my heart stopped often. I would look at her and think: How could someone do that to someone her size? Before my girls, I imagined myself bigger, and less innocent, and uglier. Seeing them reminded me of how little I was each time. My oldest is around the age when I got raped by a 21-year old. There is no way I could look at her and think it was her fault! I know better. So, why would I blame myself? I was able to see myself as a child, not just a victim. Here are some pictures of how old I was AFTER the abuse started. The first picture and my birthday party with Mickey are from a year after it started. The second and last one are 3 years after it started.

Of course, I was not in any room with Michael Jackson and any kid. I was never even close to Jackson. I cannot claim Robson and Safechuck’s stories are true.

What I can tell you is that their reasoning for not coming forward earlier, when they had multiple chances, is so intensely true for many survivors. You can try to dismiss them because they lied under oath, or because they have had decades to talk, but you would be wrong. The only reason to dismiss them is if you had proof they were lying. I’m sorry, lying about it in the past is not proof. Most of us lied for decades before we told the truth.

We, as a society, are just starting to put cracks in the archaic belief that if you don’t speak up right away or when asked, it just didn’t happen. I hope survivors continue to share their stories so we can break that belief to pieces… give survivors the understanding they deserve. Heck, maybe we can put ALL the shame on the attackers.

With this documentary, society is starting to learn that childhood abuse comes with complications adults may not believe until they hear these stories. Children are so easily manipulated and persuaded. If any of my three abusers would try it today, I would kick them in the balls. I would tell everyone what happened. I… right now… am not a 4-year-old. I already have experience in this. My perspective is different.

I would go into the money angle with these two men, but I really want to focus on Oprah’s point at the top. “Neverland” is about more than just Michael Jackson. It is another step toward pulling back the evil curtain that keeps victims/survivors alone and in the dark far too long.

Lorena: Oh How Far We’ve Come (Need To Go)

This past Sunday morning, I breezed through Amazon Prime’s new series focused on the Lorena Bobbitt case. I was actually irritated when I realized it was 10:30 am and I hadn’t fed my family yet… so I had to pause watching. With the pause, I still finished the series that day.

The Bobbitt case happened right when I was entering the television news profession. I really didn’t like the story that much and tried not to pay much attention. As someone who was just starting her journey to heal from sexual assault, rape, and abuse, tuning in to another story about it was not something I wanted to do.

I am now a bit embarrassed by how blasé I decided to be about this case. I think if I had focused more on the abuse Lorena endured, I might have found a bit of my story in hers and not felt so alone.

However, the coverage surrounding the case was… well… crass and gross. I didn’t want to hear about a woman who cut off a man’s… part. Comedians were telling tasteless jokes, and I remember thinking I was really prude to be turned off by what they thought was funny.

I am ashamed to say, though, I was not angry about the jokes, nor did I ever say people should stop making a joke out of it all. I wish I had. I could blame frontal lobe development and all that, but as a survivor… I should have known better.

Watching this special series, I was struck by just how much we, as a society, thought it was ok to joke about the pain that led this woman to do what she did. I watched a man I thought (and still think) was funny… David Letterman… do a horrible Top Ten list on why she cut it off. I watched Steve Harvey make a mockery out of why she just tossed it into the grass.

It all stopped my breathing at one point.

How is it we thought something that was so painful for her … it drove her to do something none of us think we would do… was a joke? Where was our sensitivity? Why did all the comedians and talk show hosts take the story into the gutter and drag it and kick it around like some playground ball?

Why, in the early 90s, wasn’t I wondering all of this?

The person who made me the saddest in the documentary was Howard Stern. I know, I know… he is a sexist pig who could care less about anyone but himself. He thinks way too highly of himself and way too little about women. This is his M-O.

However, as he made a celebrity out of John Wayne Bobbitt and said a number of times he thinks Lorena was lying… I thought… here is someone who truly is at ground zero of the platforms that demean women. He didn’t just “shock jock” his way through life… he lived the things he said. He sat across from a man who beat and raped his wife, and ridiculed the wife.

As my mind reeled with all the images and soundbites of kicking a woman who was already kicked, beaten and raped, I realized the real issue then was not everyone believed her story. In fact, many were really mad that she cut his thing, and didn’t even bat an eye to witness testimony, and to her testimony, describing the repeated abuse and rapes. In fact, many didn’t believe a married woman could be raped by her husband.

I suspect many don’t believe it now.

We have taken so many steps forward. I would like to believe the coverage and jokes we had then would not fly today. I would like to believe the only place you would find that type of talk would be the places where you hear people say it doesn’t matter that our current President talked about grabbing women’s p***ies. I would like to believe more people would believe Lorena now.

The fact that many did not believe her then led to John Wayne being able to abuse many more women. One woman described being tied up and repeatedly raped by him over several days.

I am sure our eyes would have focused in more on the accounts of abuse and rape, and we would be much more aware.

Then again, we watched a man going before Congress for a job interview for the Supreme Court and so many shunned the woman who said he raped her.

We have so much more work to do in our society. We may have evolved from an environment where people do not talk about their abuse, to one where some victims scream their stories loudly, but we do still have those who try so very hard to demoralize any who speak out.

In the early 90s, as Lorena was fighting for her life… I was still trying to figure out how much of my own life I would be able to survive. I didn’t talk about my abuses or rape back then. I wasn’t sure why others did… it only led to ridicule and more pain.

Now, though, I have shared my stories openly and honestly, in the hopes that other victims/survivors will find them, read them, and feel a little less alone.

Maybe, just maybe, if more can talk about their experiences, we won’t find victims/survivors at the end of punch lines.

Instead, we will find their attackers inside prison cells.

Arrested Development

Until recently, these two words strung together only brought up images of the Bluths, bananas, and bad real estate deals.

Lately, though, these two words are bouncing around my brain without attachment to the hilarious sitcom with that title.

My guess is my childlike behavior during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays is what’s lighting those words up in neon colors in my head. The holidays always set me on a course toward childhood memories that remind me it wasn’t all that bad.

Abuse victims all respond differently to trauma. Everyone who experiences some level of arrested development comes out of it with varying perspectives. I know one woman close to my heart who lacked the love she needed from her father. Her entire life she seemed to hold on to a childlike innocence of the world, while working overtime to make sure other people weren’t upset with her. She has always seemed like a child wanting approval. Don’t get me wrong, she is a survivor and did a lot on her own. However, she has never let go of that desire to be loved by all to fill up the void left by one.

My story is so different from hers. Yet, I can relate to that desire to capture the best parts of childhood. The freedoms and ignorance of some realities are so appealing.

I definitely lived in two worlds growing up. Sometimes it stops me when I think how I, as a 4-year-old girl, was able to deal with the trauma of being sexually abused for the first time, and go home with my mom… saying nothing. The fear instilled in me by my attacker was strong enough to keep my mouth shut for 5 more years.

For 5 years, I got in the car with my mom, rode with her to the house where I knew I would be touched if I didn’t find a good hiding place, and I didn’t say a word about it. Then, when my mom came to pick me up, every time either I or that man’s adopted daughter had endured more abuse… and I kept it locked inside.

When I got home, I rode bikes with Jenny, Denise, and Rachel. We drew chalk art, splashed in puddles, and explored the woods by our trailer park. We laughed, got our clothes dirty, and if any of us had money, we would go to the park’s center to buy sodas and candy.

On most Sundays, I went to my grandparents’ house. I watched the Chicago Cubs on TV with Grandpa and went to art festivals with Grandma where we always ended up with ice cream.

My best childhood memories, though, were centered around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some of you may be able to relate.

Listen, we had a person who drank too much. My mom’s siblings spent most of the time teasing or fighting. Grandma was pretty strict about elbows, manners and the pace at which you ate.

However, I was not ever abused in that house.

As I grew, and more abuse came, that house, my grandparents’ house, remained a safe haven. I was loved there. I was protected.

Thanksgiving was a day when football was on too loud in the family room, Grandma was cooking a feast, and my uncle was teaching me to sneak more sage into Grandma’s stuffing when she wasn’t looking.

Christmas, well, I will tear up just typing about it. Christmas Eve is my birthday, and for a long time, my family would tell me they came home just for my day. They celebrated me with spaghetti, cake, and gifts. We had so many traditions. They even had an entire skit set up to trick me into believing I heard (and even one time SAW) Santa.

All of it was magical. And, I was safe.

Then, most of the days of the year, I was at a house full of abuse. I was lucky compared to the kids that lived there, because I could escape back to places where I was not touched.

So, flash forward 40 years, and you can find me holding on to the good stuff…. the stuff that helped me survive.

One year, my husband bought me a dancing Snoopy. I was in my 40s, wondering, “Why do I love this so much? I really shouldn’t.”

I don’t think I fully recognized at the time, but I can see now it brought out the happy parts of my childhood. I often find myself clinging to those times.

For survivors of childhood trauma, I believe those happy moments… the ones removed from darker realities… are what help us survive. Some are small. In fact, in my own life, most of those happy life-preservers are small. They didn’t need to be big.

I believe survivors often just need a little bit to show us we can still have hope. If the outcome of arrested development gives us the ability to see hope in a dancing Snoopy, then let Snoopy dance.

Baby, It’s Cold in Some Hearts

“People are just too sensitive nowadays.”

“No one can take a joke anymore.”

The theme is prevalent right now. I believe it started around 2008 when some groups started worrying about their status in this country. The outcry over being politically correct grew louder. “Back in my day…” became much more than something the older generation said about walking to school.

“Back in my day…

You could compliment a woman.

You could make jokes and people didn’t get their panties in a wad.

We weren’t so sensitive.

We didn’t have all this political correctness.”

Yes, this is all true. In my childhood, we used terms to describe people who would never fall out of my mouth today.

One example is the “r” word to describe those with special needs. I mean, really… How ignorant!

I hear people complaining all the time that we are too serious now. We can’t just say what we want anymore. We have to watch ourselves.

“We have too many snowflakes.”

Snowflakes who can’t take when a man remarks about their behinds. Snowflakes who can’t take a joke about sexual orientation. Snowflakes who just don’t get that we all used to talk this way, it’s just words, and no one cared then.

One of my favorite expressions about people who want a more PC conversation is:

“They all just need to grow a pair.”

How funny. I would love to dissect the innuendo that women aren’t strong because we don’t have balls. I would love to talk about just how gross that idea is. I would love to dive into that phrase, but I’m trying to make another point.

Why do we need to say derogatory things? Really, I am seriously asking this.

Is it hurting people to not be able to say the three-letter “f” word to describe someone more effeminate? Is it hurting people to not be able to talk about my … well… chest area? Does it make your life harder to not be able to get drunk and grope a few women, all in good fun?

I have really been dissecting this in my head.

Isn’t choosing kind the better way to go anyway? Aren’t we supposed to care about other people?

Listen, I know… I KNOW… some want to joke about gays, or women, or people of other ethnicities… “All in good fun.” BUT REALLY?

There are actual things in this world that are funny for all. The moments that are universal and not aimed at bringing another person down in order to make someone feel better. (“Back in my day” (and now), we called that bullying.)

My favorite thing to watch is a stand-up act. I don’t care if I know the comedian… if I see a new special on Netflix or HBO… I’m pushing play. I love, love, love stand-up comedy. I will watch documentaries on it, movies, “The Amazing Mrs. Maisel”… anything.

I laugh at very inappropriate things. Sometimes I even cringe. Sometimes I feel offended. Most of the time I understand the intent and I move on.

However, most of the time… the jokes are not aimed at my experiences. For others, just moving past a narrative that has helped suppress them is not as easy. I hate that for them.

So, let’s talk about one of the most fun songs, in my humble opinion, this time of year:

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”

I love that song. It’s sweet, flirty, and fun. However, there are some who listen, and are jolted to a time when an exchange like that wasn’t so fun and had a very dark outcome.

As most of you know, I have a history of being sexually abused. I have written about that and other abuse many times. (And here is another.)

However, that song does not bring back memories of any of my abuses. It actually doesn’t bring back any memories of any time in my life.

Wow, though! Imagine if that song reminded you of a time a person kept trying to persuade you all sweet-like, and it ended violently!

So, here is the point I’m trying to make here. Does it hurt us to be sympathetic, empathetic, kind, or even just a little understanding about how others might feel about a joke, song, saying, or “good old days” activity?

I feel like the fight to use humor as a weapon because it is funny is one that is veiled with an air of “I don’t give a sh*t about you, so I’m going to keep doing what I want instead of listening.”

I feel like the people who want to keep insulting for the fun of it, and just say “lighten up” to others are the real snowflakes here. Why cling to something that hurts someone and only benefits someone’s ego?

I don’t know. This may all fall on deaf ears. The ones who agree with me will continue to agree, and the ones who don’t might roll their eyes and call me a snowflake.

However, I feel like I need to say all this out loud, just in case one person gets an “aha!” moment.

It’s like the other day, when I was talking to a faithful Christian woman, and I asked her what part of President Trump seems Christian-like. After talking to me about conservatism, and the importance of the courts right now, I asked her again. Do Christians believe in name calling, belittling, bullying? Is what he says about women, minorities, or those who don’t agree with him Christian-like?

She looked down, and quietly said, “No, as a Christian, I don’t think he acts like a Christian at all. I wish he were nicer.”

And, all I wish was that everyone would be nicer.

Before a person goes on a diatribe about how a song should not be offensive, I wish he or she would put him/herself in the shoes of someone who was assaulted in a setting like that song and just keep his or her feelings private.

I’ve said it before… I’ll keep saying it: We all need empathy. It makes us better people.

And, if like me, someone wants to listen to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”… I hope they do! I just hope he or she will be kind if someone else would rather not hear it… and put in some ear buds.