Rape and Abuse Advocacy: You Don’t Have My Permission

I cannot decide what I’ll title this one. Or even if I should post it. I’m angry.

I have tried to stop reading the news and stay off the internet except for a brief touch in with my friends. I’m not writing as much because I’m currently in school earning my life coaching board certification. I am spending my time studying. Or having a session with my new coaching clients who have volunteered to allow me to practice on them.

I have lots of opinions on current events. I wish I had put myself in a bubble long enough not to see what is happening now. Because I have to add my $.02 to the drama. I’ll not write about what each person is doing or saying because, well, because that would really be self-destructive of me. I have my opinion. You have yours. They all have theirs.

Everyone has their own agenda.

Recently I got it inside me that what happened to me when I was young was incredibly bad. I don’t need to go into this. Other people have written their stories, books, and articles. Sexual abuse of children is horrific. Verbal abuse of children is awful. Physical abuse of children is bad, wrong, and so on.

Instead, I’ll write about how sexual assault advocates often make me feel.

I’ve spent my lifetime gathering my dignity. Taking back my personal power. Just being in the world and allowing the beauty of life impact me. Finding my way into relationships with trustworthy and beautiful people. Accepting success. Removing as much of the impact of what has happened to me as possible from my being.

I am not a victim. I am me. Vital. Alive. Creative. Courageous. Determined me.

The problem with advocacy is that it can and often becomes abusive in and of itself. It doesn’t matter how important your advocacy is. Or how well meaning and sincere you are. You turn the people you are advocating for into objects. For your advocacy to succeed, you have to show how damaged people like me are. We become, for you, objects of pity. Objects now instead of people. De-humanizing us every bit as well as our perpetrators did.

Once upon a time, decades ago, in my therapy practice, I offered my services to survivors of childhood abuse. I learned that the media and public perceptions surrounding abuse can become extremely destructive. People expressed to me their worry about ever being able to heal and have a life. Other people worried they’d become abusive themselves. I’d spend my time helping them see those ideas were not valid for them. Convincing them they, too, could heal and have a decent life. That being abused does not turn you into an abusive person.

In your zeal to make an impact on abuse of all sorts, you have to demonize it. You have to show how bad, wrong and evil it is. [I’ll admit my perpetrators were bad, wrong and evil. Yes, they were.] But in order to make your point, you end up shouting about people like me. How damaged I am. Sad. Tragic. With a dead-end life. And on an on, until there is not one iota of hope left in your scenario.

I know that most of you who passionately believe your cause is just will ignore me. We’ve communicated before.

I’m as much, if not more, against abuse, discrimination, social injustice as you are. My life experience tells me it’s bad, harmful and ugly. In a religious moment [only a moment], I’ll call it a sin.

But I’m not tainted. None of us, who chose not to be, are.

I used to use the analogy of a broken arm. Or a punch in the core of your being. It’s something awful that happened, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. A broken arm gets treatment and heals. Damage to your internal organs needs more care, but that too gets treated and heals. Sometimes the healing isn’t quite right and there are reminders. Residuals that linger. But you, yourself, who you are is still shining brightly. If you want.

It takes work. A lot of work. Determination. Tears.

But I insist. I’m not tragic. You are not my advocate. You do not have my permission to de-humanize me all over again. Just to make your point. For your personal gain. Or the gain of your movement. That’s abuse in other clothing. Wearing a mask to hide your behavior.

True advocacy respects the people being advocated for.

I’m a life coach. Contact me if you’d like to make an appointment.

email: agentledrlaura@gmail.com

Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Photo at top by Atsme [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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