Maya Lorde

@lorde_maya | contributor
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Mother, Grandmother, Social Justice Advocate, Feminist, Speaker, Writer Maya is an African American lesbian with lived mental illness experience. She has a 25-year career in nonprofit administrative roles, working with the homeless (teens, families and runaways), battered women, abused children, sex-trafficked girls, and people with mental health conditions and substance use issues. She currently conducts NAMI Connection Support Groups for Mental Health Courts in her county and serves as a state trainer with NAMI. Please use she or her when referring to or about me.
Maya Lorde

Help Children Learn Healthy Boundaries by Not Forcing Them to Hug

As a child I had a great uncle on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family. I was often told to sit on his lap. My uncle smoked cigars and far as I was concerned, he smelled bad, and I wanted nothing to do with him. He would call all the kids over to his lap to sit for a spell. My instincts told me it was not safe, and I knew clearly that I did not want to sit on his lap. My parents would pressure me to sit on his lap. He would promise a dollar if I would comply. I did not have a choice. I sat on his lap against my will every time. At least I got a dollar out of it. Later I overheard adults in the family talking about whether he liked kids in that unhealthy way. That still did not stop them from making kids sit on his lap. I am Black. I know many cultures push children to push past their boundaries. In my culture it is seen as a major flaw in your parenting if you do not raise children to greet all adults (strangers or not) with a hug and possibly a kiss. As I was raised it is disrespectful to not comply and you do not want to disrespect an adult. Children instinctually know what is safe for them and what is not. They know when they feel comfortable with someone and when they do not. It does not mean they think everyone is an abuser it just means they do not feel comfortable and do not want to be touched. This instinct should always be respected. The long-term consequences of having children push past their natural instincts are grave. What happens is that child grows up thinking that they do not have body autonomy. That they should not listen to their natural instincts and keep good boundaries. Keeping all of this in mind, when I am greeted by a family with children and the parent tells them to hug or kiss me, I tell the child that they do not have to and only if they want to. Some children still hug me, but not all. That makes me feel good that I give them a choice. It also tells the parents that this should be the child’s choice. Parents typically do not give me push back. When I was raising my daughter, I was clear I did not want to raise her the way I was raised. I did not tell her to hug people (family or not). Some adults initiate the contact: “Come here and hug grandma,” I said to my daughter, “only if you want to.” I know it is hard as a parent to change social norms in a family. You know grandma is going to absolutely be mad if she does not get a hug and will blame you and your parenting. Grandma will talk about you to your face and behind your back that you should teach your children to be respectful and to have some manners. I encourage you to not give into this pressure. We need to work very hard to make sure our sons and daughters can set boundaries and follow their instincts when it comes to their bodies and safety. Talk with your family early on that your child will not be forced to hug them or make any other physical contact since you want to trust that your child knows their comfort level. Let them know this is not a critique on them but something that you value as a parent. Your child will be better able to navigate the world with healthy boundaries and their natural instinct intact. They will see that you protect them when they are apprehensive and unsure how to respond to overtures of touching. As someone who worked the date rape survivors, they say they knew something was wrong with the person they were asked to go on a date with, but they pushed past their instinct of saying no to instead be kind and appeasing. We must stop this cycle. Our children deserve safety first and foremost and parents are the ideal people to respect that for their children. You have the power to change social and cultural norms in your family and support others in theirs. Do this now. This will protect your children. You can do this Mighty parents!

Maya Lorde

Thriving in Spite of Childhood Abuse and Trauma

Incest was the ultimate betrayal for me. I cannot imagine being more robbed of my childhood. I was innocent and my father left me a legacy of trauma that I could not seem to shake. If statistics prove anything, it is that my life could have turned out very differently than it did. Please know that I do not blame any survivor of abuse for falling into negative situations. Trauma impacts are life-altering and not everyone makes it out alive or with their life intact. I made it out alive How did I possibly do that? I think there were many factors that played a role in me surviving. I had positive role models in my life that loved me unconditionally (grandmothers, teachers, friends’ parents). I had a middle class upbringing. There was always shelter and enough food. I was raised to believe in God’s grace, and this gave me peace in dark times. I mostly did not feel alone. I was intelligent, which made school, no matter how difficult the night before was, doable. I developed dissociative identity disorder (DID) early on. It allowed me to separate the abuse from being experienced by the predominate alter so she could function in daily life and keep the secret. In my childlike mind I coped by thinking that this was all a dream, and I would soon wake up and it would all be over. Also I had the sheer will to live. I felt giving up was not an option and I was going to beat them. What became of me the abused child? Despite him, I have achieved academic success. I hold a bachelor’s degree from a premier liberal arts college. I hold a master’s degree in social policy from a university that is known for producing strong, talented leaders. I was respected by my peers and professors and was even served as class president and commencement speaker. My professional career has also been a success. I was CEO of an organization by the age of 25 (a personal goal of mine). I have run multimillion dollar nonprofits, with large staffs reporting to be, both statewide and local. Many of the organizations nationally recognized for their service to marginalized communities. I am proud of my volunteer service as well. I have served of many boards of directors in leadership roles. I currently serve on a national associations board where we work with master and PhD level students to become clinicians and serve ethnic minority communities. I have had consequences too In 2010 I lost my daughter, my home, my friends, my church, my career, my financial independence, all because of the abuse I suffered. I struggledto find my place in the world and to find purpose. I went on disability and devolved into a deep depression. I eventually found my footing through volunteer work and then part-time employment. I now have new careers as a mental health advocate and educator and as a writer. I found my way out of the darkness, and so can you. You too can thrive I did all of this and more despite my traumatic upbringing. I tell this story so that you too can have hope that this is not the end for you. That we do not have to relegate ourselves to the margins and give up hope. My dad did me a major disservice. I could have given up. I know you have a will to live. I know you would not have survived the abuse if you weren’t strong and capable of thriving. Together in community we can put the abusers on notice that they will not win. They will not own us forever. We can thrive and take our lives back. No matter how hard we fall we can get back up and take the steps necessary to live a full, trauma-free life. If you are currently being abused, know that you are not alone and whatever choices you make next can save your life and end the cycle of violence. Do not give up, we are all rooting for you. Reach out get support. You are poised to save yourself and we are here to support you in that. You are Mighty strong, and you can do this.

Maya Lorde

Living While Black With Mental Illness and Threats to Your Safety

I opened my Sunday edition of my local paper and it read “10 Dead in Buffalo Hate Crime Shooting.” The last thing I needed to wake up to on a Sunday morning. I am Black, lesbian, and disabled, and there is nowhere safe for me. I cannot even wander into a grocery store to casually shop for groceries with out fear for my life. To heighten this fear, my Governor just signed a bill into law that makes it legal to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. I am clear he is thinking of his white Republican comrades when he pushed his bill. I am sure not considering Black people may now move to lawfully arm themselves. We are being hunted in the streets like animals. News of this shooting lands me depressed and scared. I already deal with depression and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). I already am generally fearful of violence and ending up in a situation where I can be attacked. I wonder how Blacks in the early 20th century felt about the Klu Klux Klan and the Jim Crow laws. I just know they were scared and fearful of leaving their homes and of being lynched. That is how I feel. For now, I see my home as my only sanctuary. I have become more and more reclusive as time has gone on and wonder when I will be too trapped to even leave my home. When you live with a trauma history and mental illness, you spend a lot of time in your head. You wonder if the world will ever be safe enough for you to be active in it. Violence against Black people by white extremist is endemic in our society. When you are Black and live with a mental illness and PTSD, you can never find a place in your mind where you feel safe. Violence like this past weekend reminds me that I am considered a threat and nowhere is safe for me. Others wonder why we take to the streets to protest. It is because we have nowhere else to go. The people who are responsible are allowed to engage in society without consequences, and I go about my life living in fear. All these things keep me up at night. This does not help my mental health, only exacerbating my mental illnesses. The impact of racial trauma Racial trauma refers to the mental and emotional injury caused by encounters with racial bias and ethnic discrimination, racism, and hate crimes, all makes me feel scared, angry, indignant, vulnerable, hurt and in pain. I feel out of control and certain that no one is working to help me survive. I have reoccurring stress and tension about being a target of microaggressions, overt racism, and covert racism. How to deal with racial trauma when it is seemingly everywhere and claim your own power again I have got to find a way to exist in this world as it is, since there is no change on the horizon. The problem is that I do not have any easy answers. The answer surely is not go do some yoga or meditation to deal with the stress and try to heal. The answer is more complex than that when you have limited power. You cannot do it all on your own, but you can take action. I was telling my therapist that I was in despair and concerned that my personal power and safety was drifting away; rapidly she reminded me that I could do positive action within my small locus of control. She encouraged me to make my own difference in the world. To for instance write articles about how I was feeling and to help my reader see themselves and find some hope and to know they are not alone. To help a fellow community member pay a bill or lend a positive word to someone who was struggling. This way I do not feel so overwhelmed and helpless in the broader since. I could make a difference and change outcomes for those around me. I also know that I right now have one vote that I can cast. I can influence others to vote. The reality is however that right to vote is in significant jeopardy. The country has become so extreme that I wonder when that time we spend in the voter’s box will be obsolete when the minority voice will rule through disinformation and brain washing. I have in the past worked on the voter’s hotline to help other voters have access to the vote. This helps me have power to influence change in a small but meaningful way. (I did not even need to leave home to do it.) You too can find your power and make changes in your small part of the world to make life better for you and other people. You do not have to do it all to fix racism. Collectively we can move the needle and push out those who wish us harm. Please know that taking a nap and disconnecting is also an act of resistance. You still have power, and you are not helpless and change is not hopeless. Take a Mighty stab at making a difference. I have confidence you can do it.

Maya Lorde

Celebrating My Birthday as a Suicide Attempt Survivor

I always have a birthday party (except during a pandemic of course). No one throws it for me. I do all the planning and even bake my favorite cake (carrot cake). I invite all my friends, there are many I am gifted to say, and I select a restaurant (I keep an eye out all year long for the perfect spot) and we all gather. I go around and take pictures of everyone with me so I can remember this time together and I can have pictures to look back on. I introduce everyone and talk about how we know each other. My friends are not friends, but they share one thing in common. They all love me. The reason I gather with my friends is to celebrate that I have made it one more year. I am chronically suicidal and the fact that I made it to another year is a true testament to three things. One, my faith in God to give me the strength I need to choose life. Two, my friends and family who support me when I am on the edge and believe that I am not worthy of love. And three, my will to make it one more day to be here for my daughters. So, I celebrate I made it one more year and it gives me hope that I can do it again. I attempted suicide in ninth grade and have struggled ever since to have the will to live. So, when my birthday comes along, I must celebrate. This was not how I viewed my birthday in the past. I saw it as another year of torture. Another year that I am ready to give it all up to end the relentless pain I was experiencing and felt I was causing those around me. I thought, “Why live and why celebrate a life full of suffering?” I saw my friends getting on with their lives and I was stuck in a depressed hell not sure how to release myself. The good news is no one else gave up on me. My treatment team held out hope. My friends included me even when I did not want to be included (so ashamed of my sadness I just wanted to hide). They help me learn to appreciate the coming year and a chance to renew and find strength in making it one more time around the sun. I owe my treatment team and friends a debt of gratitude. They stayed strong under relentless pressure from me to give up. They whispered in my ear that I was worthy of joy and love. That no matter how hard I pushed back they would never falter. You too can reclaim your birthday. You can celebrate you for making it one more year. Even if you have lost all your friends due to chronic or mental illness. You can buy a cupcake, light a candle, and make a wish for one more year. I know you are strong enough to withstand the tide of messages of loss and grief. You have this. If I can do it, you can do it, too. I wish you a Mighty Happy Birthday!

Maya Lorde

From Illegal Abortion to Adoption: The Trauma We Don’t Talk About

The Supreme Court of the United States’ (SCOTUS) decision to force births to create a “domestic supply of infants” to meet needs of parents seeking infants to adopt unethically compromises themental health of birth families and adoptees. The United States Supreme Court is about to make a mistake that will take us back decades and create a legion of mothers and fathers who will now be birth parents. What a mistake and atrocity that will be. This policy assumes that adoption comes consequence free. It does not. I know this from personal experience. Before Roe v. Wade, women did not have access to safe and accessible abortions — especially marginalized women. Many women resorted to homemade remedies for pregnancies and others were wealthy enough to afford alternative means. The ones we forget about are the girls and women who were forced into adoption. “We’ve been here before, of course — most recently in the decades from 1945 to 1973, now known as the ‘Baby Scoop’ era, when more than 1.5 million pregnant girls and women in the U.S. were sent away to maternity homes to surrender children in secret. By the 1960s, more than 200 homes for unmarried pregnant women were operating across 44 states. Parents, often counseled by religious leaders, sent their daughters away to these homes to wait out their pregnancies and relinquish their babies to ‘legitimate’ married couples. Meanwhile, the young men who shared equal responsibility for the pregnancies typically carried on with their lives unfettered by social stigma.” So, here we are again — babies who are wanted but are forcibly removed from their birth family due to age, financial situations, or relationship issues and this all could have been avoided by a choice of abortion. Much of society thinks that adoption is easy and not nearly as messy and traumatic as it really is. Adoption is not just the beginning of a family, but the main story is that it is a loss of a family. The loss of connection that can never be repaired once severed. A mother who gives birth does not just move on. She does notjust look away and carry on with life with no regrets or grief. The Supreme Court is leaving these mothers and the fathers with a deep and wounding scar that will never fully heal. To lose a child, like me, to adoption leaves you always wondering how that child is, how is the child being treated, is it better off without you? The reality is that the child is traumatized no matter how young the adoption is conducted. The child will likely always wonder why they weren’t lovable enough to be kept (no matter how wonderful the adoptive family is). They can feel like an outsider their entire life always wondering who they are, who they look like, what about them is inherited. As a mother of a child I placed for adoption, I know what the loss looks like. I know the longing and pain that follows. I know about the pain of seeing Mother’s Day photos on social media and knowing I am not even going to get a card this year. I know the pain of losing your friends who have children because they do not know what to say to you anymore. I know the pain of answering the question, “Do you have children?” People say, “Well, you can have an open adoption and still knowyour child.” I am here to share that from knowing many women in open adoptions, most of them close at some point. Adoptive parents seemingly get scared and close off to protect their relationship with the child. I am in an open adoption, and it has become more and more closed as time has gone on. My daughter turns 18 in a year and a half I am looking forward to the day I can access her without restriction. So the religion-based for-profit adoption agencies are gleefully gearing up for an influx of babies. This is big business for them, as they know many adoptive parents are in search of the “perfect white child” to add to their family, and forcing birth and adoption means a larger “domestic supply of infants” for those adoptive parents to choose from. I am here to say: Adoptive parents are not entitled to these children. Often, someone loves and cares for these children and wants them, but because of circumstances is not allowed or able to care for the child. I don’t believe we should be pairing up children with adoptive families, but instead looking at the first family and seeing how we can support it so it can care for its own child if they want to. If not, allowing them to terminate a pregnancy they do not want without consequence. As someone who has had an abortion due to incest and has placed a 4-year-old for adoption, I don’t believe adoption is a viable or humane alternative to abortion. Needless to say, I am pissed at this potential outcome to the anti-abortion movement. I am also very scared about what this means for parents and children all over this country who will be forced into families they did not choose. I will continue to write about this issue and do advocacy work to bring to light how this proposed flawed verdict will negatively impact our country. All of this has been predicated on a lie that adoption is harmless. If you are an advocate for choice, stay positive; we can fight this together. We can be Mighty Strong!

Maya Lorde

How to Self-Mother When You Dread Mother's Day From Trauma

I dread Mother’s Day for many reasons. It is supposed to be a day of celebration for the life of the woman who brought you into the world. It is not that for me. My mom was one of my principal abusers. Not only did she sexually abuse me, but she also emotionally abused me, which set me up for a life of self-doubt, self-loathing and low self-esteem. Mothers are supposed to care for you unconditionally and keep you safe. My mom did neither. Knowing about the sexual abuse came to me as an adult through a repressed memory. I was a mother by then and the realization of the abuse was debilitating and put me in the hospital. How could a mother commit the ultimate betrayal? How could she treat my body like I had no value? How could I have exposed her to my little girl? What was wrong with me that I did not remember sooner? I worked with my therapist on how my mother had treated me as a child, but I could not get over all the issues that came up around her abuse of me that did not come up with my abuse from others. I saw what she did as an ultimate betrayal of someone. How could she possibly bring me in to the world and still commit such atrocities of her offspring. I ended my relationship with my mother in 2008. She still lurks in the shadows and stalks me. She seems to not see that she has done anything wrong and does not need to be held accountable for what she has done. Every Mother’s Day I lament not having a mother to celebrate. I think about how others celebrate their mothers on social media. They post their childhood pictures they all look so happy and healthy. Our pictures looked like that too. Underneath is where the truth lies. The pictures are lies. I was not happy. I was being tortured and no one seemed to know or care. I miss the mom I never had. I miss innocent cuddles. I miss strong hugs when something scary happened. I miss a reassuring word when I was struggling in school. I got none of this but still long for it. I consider going back to her. I long for a hug and reassuring smile. None of that is possible. She is incapable. I have learned over the years that I must care for myself. That I have it within me to self-parent and find the support I need to be successful at it. Between friends and my treatment team I am better. Mother’s Day gets a little easier every year (not to say it is not still hard). I now work to self-parent. To give myself all I needed as a child and never received. How do I self-parent? I acknowledge that I never had adequate mothering Grieve the mom I never had Identify what I needed then and now Ask myself how I can meet my own needs Ask others for what I need and be open to it Do the opposite of what my mom did Identify what self-care would look like for me Practice self-care Mother others how I wanted to be mothered Surround myself with mothers I wish I had Be a loving person You can self-parent too. It is within you to decide that what you got was inadequate and you deserve better. Acknowledge what you think is good parenting and get started. You do not have to wait any longer to get what you need. Also, buy yourself some flowers for being a great mother to yourself. That is what I did. Stay a Mighty Strong Mom!

Maya Lorde

Trying to Cope With Abortion Law News as a Survivor of Sexual Abuse

I have a very hard time hearing about abortion and how our country is trying to limit it and punish women who have them. The talk takes me back to my own abortion and how I could have easily not had access to what I consider lifesaving health care. When I was 17, I became pregnant. This was not by choice or because I was a “fast” girl or because I was careless. I got pregnant because someone violated me. Once it was figured out that I was pregnant, all choice was taken from me. The people who took me for my abortion knew why I was pregnant. They made it out that I was somehow bad — “a whore.” I now know I am not a whore, and I am not bad. I was a victim of a very sick pedophile. When I found out I was pregnant, all I could think of was how my life was over. I was just graduating high school and was on my way to college at a prestigious private school that fall. How was I supposed to raise a baby? I had no resources, and my family was toxic and I would be bringing my child into a home that would repeat the cycle of abuse I was trying to escape. I felt I was trapped and while this life was growing inside of me, I felt like I was dying. I had the abortion. As sad as I was that day, I was also relived. I did not have to bring a child into a bad situation that would have only been made worst by a child being involved. Abortion was legal in my state and around the country. I had free access to it and it saved my life and the life of that child. I have been fearful over the years to speak of my abortion. The rhetoric in the community is so dangerous and violent that I was forced to keep it a secret for so long. I am still scared of the people who want abortion done away with. They call me a “baby killer” and tell me they are only trying to save me from myself, and that God will punish me for what I have done. I want to be clear: I am right with God. God knows about my abortion and still loves and cares for me. I do not need to be forgiven or punished. I did nothing wrong. God knew I would choose abortion long before I did. I feel God now wants me to be a messenger to the community that abortion is a viable option. That if you are abused, you have every right to not have your abuser’s baby. That no man or legislator should stand between you, your family, and your doctor in making this decision. There is nothing wrong with abortion to save your and your baby’s life. The Daily News Cycle Everyone seems to be talking about abortion these days. I cannot open a paper, look at Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook without headlines about how abortion rights are being stripped away. This scares me and is very triggering. I do not read the articles, but the headlines are disturbing enough. When I read the headlines, I think of the 11-year-old who is now pregnant by her father being forced to have the child. She will be more than likely put into foster care and her child removed from her custody and her parental rights terminated. She will now be considered a birth mom. No one is going to explain that to her. No one will deal with her grief and longing for her child. No one will help her cope long-term with this loss, and they’ll expect her to move on, to go to school every day wounded and alone. Losing a child is traumatic no matter how it happens and she will suffer in silence because no one will be caring for her. I fear what our country will do about abortion because of all the women, trans folks, and girls who need options not condemnation. The constant barrage of news that is, in my opinion, all bad — I am stuck being reminded of why I needed to have an abortion. It reminds me I was assaulted and that I had no choice in the matter. That I was powerless against those who were supposed to protect me. There is really no way to stay away from the news — I have tried. This is news now, but the reality is it has been in the news these last few decades. We work to tune it out, but it is real life for many and they need access that is slowly being chipped away at. I must implore my coping strategies to deal with the negativity and victim blaming that is going on. Coping Strategies I pray all of this legislation will not end up limiting women’s rights to appropriate health care. I share my story with confidants and express my fears so I can get support. I write about my story so others do not feel alone, and I can help inspire them. I get active in politics so I can advocate for those who cannot and make change for the better. Taking a hot shower or doing my nails (typical coping skills) is not going to get at these major issues. I must actively engage to improve my and others’ disposition and help encourage solutions. I do not hold out much hope for good news in the coming months just like it has been. I think we are soon going to be returning to a dark chapter in our nation’s history. If you are struggling with the news, I am with you. I know there is no way to escape it. I know it is revictimizing and scary. Your story has made you Mighty strong. You are not alone. I see you.

Maya Lorde

Finding Healing With Masturbation After Abuse, Trauma and Shame

I was curious as to what my parents were hiding in the cabinet in the den of our house. I got a chair and went snooping. I found old records and books. One of the books was about sex. I sneaked it off to my room and when I had a chance, I read it. All I remember about this book is that it said that masturbation was a sin and you would be punished if you did it, by God. This scared the holy crap out of me. See, I had been masturbating for years before I read this. I am not sure when it all started but I now had guilt and shame about it and fear I was going to hell. During my childhood I was being sexually abused. I was exposed to sexual acts way beyond my years. This made my masturbation very advanced. I was reenacting sex acts on myself and on dolls, pillows and anything I could get my hands on. After I found out it was bad, and that God did not approve, I tried to stop. The reality was it felt good. I found pleasure in the acts I was performing. When I was being abused, I was out of control. But when I was pleasuring myself, I was in control. It was all very confusing that what I was doing with myself was bad, but I was being told what my parent was doing to me sexually was OK. The abuse was scary, and I really did not know how to feel about it. As I grew up, I continued to masturbate with a significant amount of guilt and shame. I often would make promises to myself that I was going to stop so I could be back in Gods good graces. My parents never discussed masturbation with me one way of the other. Once I made it to college, I had a conversation with a friend, and she discussed using a back massager to pleasure herself. I went right out and bought one. Wow, can I tell you what a great upgrade. The best tip I ever received. I still had a significant amount of shame and did not tell anyone what I was doing. After I started having memories of my abuse and began therapy, my masturbation took a turn for the worst. I began to act out the abuse I had sustained and began hurting myself as a punishment. That type of abuse went on, on and off, into my 40s. Every year I would make a new year’s resolution to stop masturbation, well into my 30s. I just could not get over how taboo it was. I knew that I wanted my daughters to have healthy sex lives and that if they found pleasure first with themselves they could make better choices and ask for what they needed when it came to sex with a partner. I just could not find this freedom for myself. Maybe because I felt so dirty from the abuse. I saw my body as bad and pleasure a betrayal of my selves. When I was 47, I ordered a book about masturbation from my therapist’s recommendation, “The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex: All You Need to KnowAbout Masturbation.” I read it all in one day. I was giddy with all the permission it gave to be unashamedly interested and aroused by your own body. I did not realize how much I did not know about masturbation and all that it could do for you. You would not believe that I told everyone I could think of about the book and recommended they read it. For the first time I felt free to find pleasure with myself and to not be ashamed in meeting my own needs. I now masturbate regularly and enjoy myself. I invested insome good toys (still prefer a back massager, the Hitachi Wand is the best in my opinion, if you like a strong pulse). I talk more freely with my friends and therapist about solo sex, and I have given up on the guilt and shame and the fear that God will punish me. I do however worry that the upstairs neighbors can hear me. I have come full circle and I am sad that I did not experience this freedom before now. I hope parents will speak with their children about the benefits of masturbation and how healing it can be. There is nothing taboo about masturbation. Absolutely nothing wrong. I wish you solo orgasms that are so Mighty strong that your neighbors hear you.

Maya Lorde

Stopping Sexual Predators Before They Find a Victim

Sexual predators are left to victimize without any interventions to stop them before they abuse the first victim. We seem to have no prevention strategies to child sexual abuse that include dealing with the offender before they have the wherewithal to strike. We are putting the entire burden on children to prevent, or after the fact to tell, so that the perpetrator can be caught and stopped. This is untenable and is not working for children or society. I remember watching afters school specials on TV in the early ’80s. They were of varied topics, but one I remember was about how not to be abused and kidnapped. I found it interesting. After it was over my mom asked us if we would go with a stranger who was offering us ice cream. I said no; my brother responded yes. The irony was not lost on me that my mom was showing me a video on how to avoid abuse, but it was happening in her own house, right underneath her nose and possibly with her blessing. I was being sexually abused and exploited and no one was coming to my rescue, but I was being told by prevention programs that it was my job to stop it. These types of TV programs and advocacy groups popped up all over during my childhood. I even lived in the town where the first child advocacy center was started. The programs taught kids if a stranger tries to touch you to say no or stop. To run tell an adult and keep telling until someone listens to you. Even though most child sexual abuse is within the family, no one was talking about that and certainly not to me. Why didn’t anyone stop my perpetrators before they abused me? I was an innocent child who was no match for a pedophile. Why didn’t someone talk to him or her about having sexual feelings for your child and how to seek help if that is happening to you. Why aren’t their public relations campaigns advertising for help for those who are contemplating crossing that line? Why aren’t we talking about this in locker rooms, board rooms, around water coolers, at PTA meetings or in social clubs? Maybe if we gave voice to the problem instead of blaming children, we could move the needle in a positivedirection. Perpetrators need help to not offend, and we need those who havepower to make this happen. In all the child sexual abuse prevention public awareness programs there is never anything targeted toward the potential abuser. When I scourer the internet for prevention of child sexual abuse programs, all I see are how children and parents can protect against abuse. But what if we could stop the abuser from even considering abuse. What if they got help on the front end? What if someone was addressing their issues with power and control, attraction to children, and their tendency towards pedophilia? In the mid ’90s there was a billboard campaign in my town that targeted single moms who were dating. The billboard asks single moms to not leave their children with their boyfriends because they could get abused. The Department of Children and Families services was dealing with a crushing amount of child abuse cases stemming from boyfriends abusing and outright killing children left in their care. However, no one was addressing that these women had no adequate access to childcare and have few childcare options. No one was addressing billboards to the abusive boyfriends. The burden is always on the victimized. What if the children were not the only reason that abuser was stopped? What if we took on the responsibility as a society and stop potential abusers before their first incidence? As a child I tried to stop my abuse, but I had no power and no one to turn to, so I thought. Maybe a teacher could have helped me if she had been paying attention. Maybe a family member could have noticed a change in me and intervened. But what if no one ever touched me inappropriately? What if I was never abused? What if someone had seen signs in my abuser and intervened before he struck? What if my neighbor had not been abusing his daughter, so she would not have gone on to abuse me? The so-called prevention programs are not preventing perpetrators from making the first move. From claiming their first, second, third victim and so on. I do not have any answers today for you. It is clear no one, including greater minds than myself, has figured this out yet or hopefully they would be doing this type of intervention on potential perpetrators. Some men are socialized to control others and to be sexually dominate and to not value women like they do themselves. This may explain some of the abuse, but this does not let women off the hook who are also abusing. I can attest to that. So, I recommend: We take the burden off children to stop their own abuse We educate everyone on how to have good boundaries with children We talk about these issues as much with adults as we do with children We bring in at risks folks and work with them to stem the tide of offending Have advertisement campaigns educating the community as a whole We teach everyone the warning signs and equip them the tools they need to intervene Our children are counting on us. Let us stand Mighty and protect them.

Maya Lorde

How My Mother's Neglect Impacted My Experience With Chronic Pain

My mother’s medical neglect of me as a child inhibits my ability to communicate my current physical pain, and therefore leads to not asking for help when I need to heal. I do not know how to communicate my own pain. I recently have been having excruciating back pain. I have been in physical therapy for it, but with no improvement. My doctor decided I needed radio frequency ablation (RFA). That entailed doing a pain block to test if the RFA was going to work. I went to the surgery center, and they did a pain block. It was supposed to last six hours. In those six hours I was supposed to every hour on the hour, do an activity that typically would hurt my back. I was to track my pain on a scale of one to 10 and report every hour. The block did not work. The hardest part, though, was communicating my pain level every hour. I could not figure out how to communicate how much pain I was in. I kept thinking, “It must not be that bad. I am imagining things.” I also did not think the doctor would believe me that the block did not work. I was programmed to deny my reality and minimize my physical pain to the comfort of my mother. I also learned to not complain. See, my mom did not care for sick children. My mother told me when I had a headache that I needed to take an aspirin and do the dishes. I was having migraine. When I sprained my ankle playing softball, she would not take me to the doctor, but tell me to shake it off. When I was throwing up and did not make it to the bathroom, she made me clean it up while I was still sick. If I had a fever, she would give me a fever reducer and send me to school anyway. She always exclaimed she could not miss work for a sick child. One morning, I woke up vomiting. I could not stop. She kept having me change clothes when she finally figured out I was too sick for school she packed me up took me to my aunt’s house, gave me a bucket, some crackers and water and left me there alone. I guess she felt it was better than leaving me at home since my aunt had a house alarm. I was 11 years old. This was the day after I had been raped by my teacher (I did not tell her). I have the hardest time asking for help when I am sick, when I am in pain. Even in physical therapy, my therapist asks if something we did made me feel better, and I always say yes just so she does not feel bad whether I feel better or not. I do not trust care and compassion. It feels fake to me, and that the person is not being genuine and I do not deserve it. My mother taught me asking for help was not an option or welcome. I needed to suffer in silence. Having my pain denied has also led to me not being able to empathize when someone else is in pain. When my daughter had foot surgery she was complaining about the pain, my instinct was to tell her she was not in pain and should stop complaining. Instead, I made myself think about how they had to go into her foot and place metal rods and all the muscles that had to be disturbed. This was the only way I could have any empathy for her. This has been a disturbing side effect of my mother’s medical neglect. I have made a commitment to healing me. In this past year, I made a commitment to care for myself and deal with all my chronic pain. I want to feel good in my body, be able to move and groove like others. I have decided to ask for help. To say, “This hurts and I deserve to be pain free.” I am not used to asking for help and I have been so disconnected from my body all these years it is hard to articulate what is wrong with me. I have amassed a team of doctors to help me on my journey back to health. I am going to find the language that communicates what hurts and what I need from my treatment team. Those of us with chronic pain deserve relief and caretaking. There is no reason for us to be denied help. I am not lying about my pain. I am not a liar. I am a woman with pain who deserves support. Even with chronic pain, I am Mighty Strong!