#CallThemOut

During our blogging hiatus the news about Josh Duggar and his history of sexual molestation broke. Following that, an onslaught of media and commentary and discussion ensued, covering everything from the religion that the Duggars belong to, to the names and identities of the victims, to the “counseling” that Josh completed, to the logistics surrounding the future of the Duggars’ popular “reality” show.

There was a lot of coverage. And a lot of information. And as someone who can’t consume scary or explicit news easily, it was tough navigating social media because this story struck a chord that even I couldn’t ignore or deny or shut down.

The story of a young man taking advantage of people in his innermost circle, his family, and then the family dealing with the fall-out. The story of victims who were forced to keep living a lie right beside the nightmare of a sexual experience no person should ever have to experience. The story of parents who tried to do their best but ultimately failed because in this scenario there are no winners. The story of a perfect-looking family, a close-knit community, and their underbelly of horrible secrets being revealed.

A story that looked, felt, and sounded all too familiar. Like my story.

I don’t have 18 siblings and we didn’t belong to an extreme Christian sect growing up. And I don’t have a reality show to put on a face for. But, I do have a story of childhood molestation that although happened at the fringes of my memory, still haunts me to this day. I am also a victim of a young man’s exploration/exploitation. And my molester also walked away with minimal consequences.

I was four, small and innocent as all four-year olds are/should be. I was being babysat. I always went to sleep with a soft, flannel receiving blanket, something cool to put against my cheek. That night, my parents were out and he was watching me. He couldn’t/wouldn’t find my blanket. Instead of looking for it, he offered me his penis, up against my face, my cheek, and said, “This will work.”

There was no rape. There was no penetration. There were no charges. There was no therapy for me or him. But, there was a lingering trauma that has coloured every sexual experience I’ve ever had since. There was a betrayal that extended beyond the babysitter and to the way things were handled afterwards. There will always be anxiety around him and what he did, around my parents and what they did, around my daughters and son and what they will do/have done to them. It will never go away. Ever.

I read this profound piece by a writer I only found after the Josh Duggar media storm hit. It’s by Kristen Mae who makes a case for calling out your molester, abuser, asshole who changed your life without your consent. She talks about the impossibility of dealing with a molester in your family or your closest circle, discussing the repercussions of having one child hurt another child or one family member hurt another family member in a disgusting, illegal way. She speaks about the fact that we need to entirely shift how we handle these impossible moments, how we handle protecting one child yet helping another. How we work at keeping our family together and safe at the same time. How do we do that?

Her suggestion: let’s name them. Let’s take away the power of the hidden crime, the unspoken secret, the family life built on lies. Let’s remove the pretense that because it happened so closely, so intimately, that it must not be dealt with as if it were a stranger because we can’t ruin one life to save another. Let’s redefine what it means to parent an abuser, parent an abused, and horrifically, to do it at the same time. Let’s not sweep it under the rug, but figure out how to make it work for both parties, both broken people, the abuser and the abused. Let’s not just weep until we hope it goes away or hide behind shame until it’s acceptable to come out again. Let’s make a difference. Let’s change the conversation.

She asks that we first call them out. Call them by name. Say their names and their power goes away because they are no longer shrouded or shipped off to a Christian counseling camp. Let’s speak out loud what we have been forced to hide.

Truth.

Truth.

My molester, my abuser, the boy-man who affected me forever was Peter. He no longer has power over me because I don’t let him. I don’t know where he is or what he is doing or when I will see him next, because inevitably I will. He is, after all, my uncle. But, I refuse to be alone with him, touch him, or have him go near my babies or my sisters. Ever.

If my parents had better tools, if my grandparents were less worried about their precious son and more worried about their family as a whole, if we had better rules around how to handle your worst nightmare, when the loved abuses the loved, then maybe we’d have fewer abusers and abused, more real help and counseling and rehabilitation, and more healing that actually sticks because it’s not the band aid solution to cover up the gunshot wound.

And if you want to see strength in its purest form, read the comments of the other survivors on Kristen’s post. Calling them out is not for the faint of heart. It’s for the survivors, warriors, wounded who pick themselves back up and refuse to be a victim any more. And for those who can’t #CallThemOut yet or ever, you too are numbered in the list of warriors and survivors. I promise.

~ Julia

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1997

Julia’s mother-in-law and the Sisterhood’s second mother, Dianne, joins us again as a guest blogger. We are in awe of her strength in surviving her abusive marriage and we are inspired by her bravery in sharing her story out loud. 

Story will inspire

This is a story that has lived within me for several years, actually for almost two decades. This is a story that few have ever told, but if you know it, the story must be told. It’s a true story, one meant to inspire others, not one meant to elicit pity. Pity is not what I needed; strength and inspiration – that’s what I was looking for.

It started a long time ago, when I was a young girl. I met my sweetheart. We were very young, 14 or 15. Circumstances would lead us to marry others, but circumstances would also bring us back together. It’s at that point that the real tale begins.

I believed, like so many young women, that the man I would marry would hold me dear in his heart. He would cherish me, guard me, and protect me. Never would he harm me. I believed that whatever faults I saw, things would be okay because of the underlying truth: he loved me. This was at a time when I believed that people would change for the better, or I could help them change.

My childhood sweetheart was raised in a Christian home, believing in God. His parents were blue-collar hard-workers. I remember his dad in particular. He worked shift work at the tire factory in Kitchener. He landed his job during a time when an education was not necessary to maintain a steady paycheque. At the end of a long day, he would come home to deal with a busy household comprising of five children and a sickly wife. His reward was a cigarette and a beer.

My husband grew up and followed in his dad’s footsteps. He was uneducated. Times had changed and as a result, my husband had difficulty holding down a job. As it turned out, the love of my life was plagued by demons. He believed that he was not worthy of any of life’s treasurers, certainly not love. Because of this, one beer became two, became six. Soon the motto was: “24 beers, 24 hours in a day, not a coincidence.”

I was a master at justifying anything. “He drinks because he worked hard, he drinks because life is so busy, he drinks because…” There were a thousand good reasons to drink, and there were no good reasons to drink. He drank copious amounts, but beer was his drink of choice. I discovered that if he drank spirits, he was more difficult to handle once he was drunk.

Now when I say, “more difficult to handle,” what I really mean is he became violent, physically abusive. As it turned out, he was more violent with spirits, but that didn’t stop his temper when he was drinking just beer. Remember, I was good at justifying anything. I would say things like, “He only drinks on the weekend “(lie), or, “If he drinks beer, he doesn’t get too violent” (another lie). I would console myself by saying, “He doesn’t hit the children,” something that eventually became another lie. I even tried telling myself that others didn’t know. Others knew. They knew and didn’t know what to do.

Friends and family would watch in horror as I sported new bruises. There were so many battles fought over the course of 12 years. So many times I wondered what I had gotten into, how could I change things, could I ever learn the rules of living with him? I knew this was a dangerous situation, ready to go off at any minute. If I said the wrong thing, said something with the wrong tone, served something for supper that wasn’t up to his liking, there would be hell to pay.

After one particularity disastrous birthday and Father’s Day, I went to church with bruises on my face, neck, arms and upper torso. Not cleverly-disguised bruises – these were big, purple, angry bruises. The next day at work, someone asked me what happened. I told them I ran into a door. Looking at me, you knew I would have to run into the door repeatedly to get these bruises. Bravely, I told the lie.

I remember this weekend clearly – it’s the weekend my babies watched as I was choked and beaten. All I could think of was getting away with my babies. I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t have money; I just needed to get away. It was also the weekend I made up my mind that things would change.

I started dreaming of schemes, trying to figure out how we could leave the home without bringing on another beating. I didn’t care about the things in the house, they were just things and I could earn money to get more things. I envisioned so many scenarios. Maybe he would go away for the weekend and come home to an empty house. Maybe he would be involved in an accident and I could become a grieving widow…problem solved.

One thing I wanted to keep sacred was my relationships – they were few and far between. I didn’t want other people burdened with the mess I had gotten myself into. I wouldn’t ask for help. I had been virtually cut off from family, so I couldn’t ask them. This is very typical of an abusive relationship, isolate the victim.

It was almost two years to the day before I finally had enough. With no plan in mind, with little cash resources, we left. We left and made a stand…NO MORE! I didn’t care if he kept everything in the house, he would never touch any of us again. Never again would we live in fear. There would be no more angry voices in my home.

It was the scariest day of my life…EVER. But, it was like being born, a new day with new hope. It was refreshing to get up in the morning and know that I was in control of all that was before me. If something went wrong, I would be responsible for making it right. I also knew that I wouldn’t depend on someone else; there would be no more disappointments.

If you are a victim, you will know when you’ve had enough. It takes a lot of courage to leave; it takes a lot of courage to stay. Make plans, but be prepared to move at a moment’s notice.

Your friends are watching you, they want to help but don’t know how. They can’t believe that you would stay where you are, but don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes.

If you know a victim, be their support. Don’t judge someone for remaining, you never know what you would do yourself. Be an ear. Protect the children; give them a reprieve in the chaos. Have a moving truck and plenty of strong, young men on standby.

Remember to protect yourself. Once you are free, never look back. You will second-guess yourself for a long time. Your memory will play tricks on you. You will think, “Was it really all that bad?” I have a crack in my jaw that hurts sometimes; this reminds me that yes, it was that bad.

The bible doesn’t say “reconcile and forget,” it simply says “forgive and forget.” Forgiveness does not mean the renewal of the relationship; it is the power to let go. Reconciliation is forgiveness with the expectation of a continued relationship. Don’t kid yourself – there is no expectation of a continued relationship.

Your ex-partner will be angry. They will plead. They will promise to never hurt you again. They will try to convince you that it never happened. Stay strong. Find your friends again. Cry, laugh and cry again. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Be reborn. Rejoice in the day.

I’ve survived. My children have survived. It was 1997, so long ago, but only yesterday. Scars will heal. We will be okay.

~ Dianne

If you are someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is hope and there is help. You are stronger than your story, braver than you know, and a survivor through and through.

In Ontario, call 1-866-863-0511 24/7.

In Ontario, call 1-866-863-0511 24/7.

Call 1-800-799-7233 in the US 24/7.

Call 1-800-799-7233 in the US 24/7.

If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!

Where have all the sisters gone?

I consider myself exceptionally lucky to be a part of this sisterhood.

These sisters of mine are my cheerleaders when I am down, my voice of reason when I am ridiculous, my sounding board when I need to vent, my support system when I struggle, my teachers, my inspiration, my mirrors, my reminder where we came from and where we are going – the ultimate touchstone. I am so lucky in fact, it makes me sad for anyone that has a stressed or estranged relationship with their sister(s), or anyone that wasn’t blessed with a double-X chromosome-carrying sibling.

My biological sisterhood

My biological sisterhood

While the sisters I speak of are blood, I am also exceptionally lucky to have found myself surrounded by a group of women that I consider a part of my sisterhood – my beautiful, supportive, uplifting and inspiring girlfriends. Personally, I am selective of who I let in, and even more selective of who I let stay in my life and for good reason – sadly, women can be each other’s worst enemy, biggest critics and more often than we would like to admit, the first to freely pass judgement on each other.

That being said, lately I have noticed a newer trend among women that I could do without – a constant stream of stories of women ganging up on each other, using their social media soapboxes to bash, bully and verbally maim other women.

While I am all for women having a voice, I often wonder – where did the focus of our universal sisterhood go? As women, should we not be lifting each other up, praising and promoting our strengths? When did it become okay for us to attack one another and so publicly? While I am not suggesting that we need to always agree with each other, or even see things from another’s side, I am suggesting that this catty, degrading behaviour is outright appalling and needs to stop.

Thanks to our technologically-driven, addicted-to-social-media society, you don’t have to go far to find a woman with a voice, some worth hearing, some not so much. I may not always agree with the message, post, tweet, status, opinion, article, or even the chosen delivery of the message, but I am not about to allow it to turn me into the very kind of woman that I disassociate myself with on purpose. Call it self-preservation, selective socializing, whatever you like – I cannot stand when women attack other women because they disagree with them. What happened to the art of disagreeing with grace? Were you not raised with the rule, “if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all”? Have we really become so desensitized to the effect that our words can have that we cannot remove the catty from our reactions?

It is my strong belief that deep down, the women who bandwagon to negatively dismantle another sister are severely struggling with their own insecurities and need help coming to terms with them.

What makes the woman who flaunts her hard work on her physique and asks a blunt and honest question a “fat-shaming bully” a la Maria Kang? Shouldn’t we be applauding her for reaching her goals, working hard and calling out those that want to be more fit, more healthy and more active to diminish their own excuses?

'No excuse fit-mom' Maria Kang's Facebook that caused a HUGE uproar among women

‘No excuse fit-mom’ Maria Kang’s Facebook photo caused a HUGE uproar among women

What makes the opinionated female journalist a ‘bitch’ for having a different viewpoint of an issue that you might not have considered before she shed some light on it? Why is the attractive woman, with curves dripping in sex appeal, so threatening that she is labeled a ‘slut’ by other women? What makes the career-driven, successful female CEO who chose her career over raising a family a cold, heartless, selfish, shell of a woman? In turn, what makes the woman who gives up her own dreams or goals to selflessly raise a family an anti-feminist?

All of these negative reactions stem from personal insecurities and they need to stop dictating how we deal with one another. We look RIDICULOUS. Is this really what the feminists who pioneered and fought for equality envisioned when they gave us a voice? I think not.

So, the next time you open your mouth, or fly to your keyboard to craft a hostile or rude response to something a fellow sister has bravely let out into the world, please stop to think of the damage you may be doing to our universal sisterhood with your hasty actions and consider this:

Girls tear each other down. Women build each other up.

~Toni