We need to take a large step back in time for a moment, to the early part of Freud’s era, when modern psychology was born. In the late 1890s, when Freud was in the dawn of his career, he was struck by how many of his female patients were revealing childhood incest victimization to him. Freud concluded that child sexual abuse was one of the major causes of emotional disturbances in adult women and wrote a brilliant and humane paper called “The Aetiology of Hysteria.” However, rather than receiving acclaim from his colleagues for his ground-breaking insights, Freud met with scorn. He was ridiculed for believing that men of excellent reputation (most of his patients came from upstanding homes) could be perpetrators of incest.
Within a few years, Freud buckled under this heavy pressure and recanted his conclusions. In their place he proposed the “Oedipus complex,” which became the foundation of modern psychology. According to this theory any young girl actually DESIRES sexual contact with her father, because she wants to compete with her mother to be the most special person in his life. Freud used this construct to conclude that the episodes of incestuous abuse his clients had revealed to him HAD NEVER TAKEN PLACE; they were simply fantasies of events that women had WISHED FOR when they were children and that the women had come to believe they were real. This construct started a hundred-year history in the mental health field of blaming victims for the abuse perpetrated on them and outright discrediting of women’s and children’s reports of mistreatment by men.
Once the abuse was denied in this way, the stage was set for some psychologists to take the view that any violent or sexually exploitative behaviors that couldn’t be denied- because they were simply to obvious- should be considered MUTUALLY caused. Psychological literature is thus full of descriptions of young children who “seduce” adults into sexual encounters and of women whose “provocative” behavior causes men to become violent or sexually assaultive toward them. Why Does He Do That - Lundy Bancroft (via witheringwhiteskies)
Reason #111: What Jerry Sandusky tells us
[trigger warning: child sexual abuse, rape culture, victim blaming]
Though Friday night’s verdict prompted cheers outside the courtroom, inside, the mother of Victim 6 did not claim victory.
“Nobody wins. We’ve all lost,” she said before hugging her son.
I have a lot of feelings about this case. I don’t know how to properly articulate some of them.
This case is one of, if not the most, infamous case of child sexual abuse and child rape in my lifetime. It’s a story that is too horrible to believe. But this kind of thing happens every day— maybe not on the same scale, but with horrifying frequency in our world.
Penn State tells us a lot about rape culture. It tells us a lot about abuse culture. As I’ve said in the past, these things do not happen in a political and cultural vacuum; they happen because the moral and social fabric of an entire society is built in such a way that it can fail people— not just once, but over and over again. It takes a village. There were many times in my life when an adult armed with the right knowledge might have seen through what was happening to me. There were times, later on as a teenager, when I was very direct, but no one did anything. I wrote down that I wanted to kill myself and I showed it to a teacher. I asked for a social worker. I received multiple truancy letters. It takes a village.
So as I think about this case, and the people who suffered so much for years and years at the hands of Jerry Sandusky, I can only imagine how many times the world failed them. I cannot understand the agony of publicly revealing your story for prime time news pundits to pick apart. I cannot comprehend the frustration and pain involved in taking the witness stand and having your story criticized and attacked.
I read the grand jury report many months ago. It was terrifying. I had to stop halfway through because I felt myself getting physically ill. But I remember the testimony of the janitor who saw Sandusky abusing a boy— he said that the memory of that haunted and disturbed him more than the years he spent fighting in Vietnam. That is the gravity of what we are dealing with here.
But despite this desire to call Jerry Sandusky a monster, we have to remember that he is a person, and that people— people whom we think are “good”— can do monstrous things. Jerry Sandusky had many people testify to his “good character”. It takes a village. Joe Paterno let child rape happen, and instead of riots and outrage against him, he had riots in his name. It takes a village. And some of us still refuse to believe that even a priest, a “man of god”, can abuse a boy.
It takes a village.
Even now, I am starting to see the jokes about prison rape. It’s a sign of where we still are— we see rape as something that can sometimes be a punishment, instead of as one of the worst possible acts in human existence. We still believe that rape is something that can be doled out to those “deserving” of it, instead of as something that every single person in the world has the right to not have happen to them. We still believe that a person we don’t like deserves to have images of their rape and murder publicly broadcast, and that people who do good things can’t possibly be child rapists or child rapist enablers
This is the culture we are in— one that has variable beliefs on rape and sexual abuse, many of which contradict one another. It’s not okay to hurt little boys, but what if this case was about 45 counts of rape against women? What if some of those women were promiscuous or had other “deviant” sexuality? What if these boys were men when they were hurt? What if some of these boys, now adults, were convicted criminals? Gay? Transgender? Undocumented? Mentally disabled? Fat? What if they were some combination of all of these? The more “deviant” and “bad” we see a person, the more likely it is that their story is not taken seriously. That we cannot, with 100% certainty, say that Jerry Sandusky in another world would be convicted had his victims not been among one of the most believable, sympathetic groups in our culture— children— says a lot about where we are. And as we know, even little boys have trouble being believed.
In 90 days, Jerry Sandusky will be sentenced, probably with life in prison. But there are still other Jerry Sanduskys out there, and they have entire villages, entire cities of people behind them, actively ignoring abuse, or subtly covering it up. Some of these people— both the abusers and the abuse enablers— could be our neighbors, our cops, our teachers, or our siblings. There are still Joe Paternos out there, knowingly allowing rape and getting away with it. This is not an aberration in our culture— it is a pattern that is systematically ignored and even encouraged.
The end of Jerry Sandusky is not the end of the many millions of other stories out there.
Perfect commentary on a horrific case. NPR has been triggering the fuck out of me lately with all of the Sandusky coverage. The knowing complicity of so many people combined with the institutional enabling is beyond disturbing. Those poor boys. In a sense, their lives ended with that abuse. What is left for them now? I hope there is a lot of emotional and professional support for them.
I hope that the attention this story received paves a way for more accountability. I hope people start paying more attention and have the courage to protect the abused.
Survivor Vocabulary #3: No
A word that has to be relearned after someone has made its value meaningless. Without the ability to say No to people, many survivors end up in awkward or tense situations, eventually causing them to resent other people and themselves. Sometimes the path to No can be reached by simply starting with, “yes, but…”
No is absolutely essential to taking back your life.