SANDUSKY – MORE THAN A SCANDAL

The striking statement from former FBI director Louis Freeh caught the media and the public on Friday, July 13:

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.” *

The report, thank goodness, supports truth and justice. But if we only look at this report, this act of justice, this scandal . . . we miss what’s really going on deeper than this one scandal and broader than this one scandal. In fact, deeper than any single scandal or even the series of scandals that have been coming out into public awareness.

The root of the problem is this: sexual abuse is occurring far more than most of us can imagine – certainly in our culture here in the US, and I would venture to say all over the world. And the consequences of sexual abuse are far worse for the individuals who are sexually abused and for society as well . . . especially when the enormity of the occurrence is hidden. Especially when the severity of the experience and its effects are denied. Especially when the destructiveness of the abuse and its aftermath is covered up. Especially when the horror of the domino process of the event and its repercussions is normalized. And all of this occurs not only in the Sandusky scandal, not only in the many recent public scandals – the Sandusky scandal, the Horace Mann scandal, the Chabad rabbi sexual scandal in Australia, the sexual abuse scandals worldwide in the Catholic Church, to name only a few – but in the individual cases of sexual abuse that are never reported, never investigated, and that never come to truth and justice.

Keep reading . . . this is vitally important for all of us to know and understand.**

Freeh said there was a “cloistered culture at Penn State where doing what was right crumbled under the weight of fear at all levels.” This doesn’t only happen at institutions like Penn State. This occurs in families where children are sexually abused every single day and everyone is afraid to know or tell.  And the family is a “cloistered culture where doing what is right crumbles under the weight of fear at all levels.”

At the top, Freeh said, Paterno, Curley, Schultz and president Graham Spanier cowered at the notion of bad publicity for the university and its heralded football program. At the bottom, Freeh said, the janitors who witnessed Sandusky abusing a boy in a campus shower in November 2000 feared being fired if they alerted authorities. This doesn’t occur in institutions alone. This exists in every family where sexual abuse is occurring and some of those at the top – whether they be a parent, an older sibling, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle – “cower at the notion of bad publicity [and humiliation and other consequences] for the family.”  And in every family where at the bottom those who witness or overhear the sexual abuse . . . fear being threatened, attacked, or abandoned.

“They were afraid to take on the football program,” Freeh said. “They said the university would circle around them. It was like going against the president of the United States. If that’s the culture at the bottom, then God help the culture at the top.” Yes, tragically this happens in institutions – universities, private schools, coaching academies, religious institutions, and more.  But just as tragically, perhaps even more tragically since it can be so much more hidden, this exists in families. I have worked with many who have been sexually abused in their childhoods. The very real fear of revealing what happened to them, even if they weren’t threatened by the abuser, includes a foreground terror of “taking on the family.” They knew and know the family will circle around the abuser and the parts of the family that are in denial. And unfortunately, that happens more often than not. One person, the one who has been abused and decides to expose the truth, is too often attacked – emotionally and verbally if not physically – made out to be the “bad one” or the “crazy one,” and exiled from the family. In a family, the abuser usually has so much power – emotionally, the family members are so often in thrall to the abuser as though they were all children — that going against the abuser is to family members similar to going against the president of the U.S.

Are you getting the gravity of the situation? The breadth and depth of the situation? We are seeing scandals in institutions because of the enormity of the sexual abuse that’s occurring in families. The enormity of the sexual abuse that’s occurring in families and not being stopped. Not being brought out into the open for truth and justice. And definitely not being healed. 

Unhealed sexual abuse can cause many problems. Two major problems among them . . . the ones who were abused repeat the sexual abuse, acting it out upon others as it was acted out on them; or the ones who were abused are frozen in the face of sexual abuse around them and participate in the collusion when the next cycle of sexual abuse occurs – perhaps a generation down the line or in some other context they are part of.

In a recent panel discussion on the American porn industry, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry acknowledged something I’ve rarely heard in the media. The essence of what she said was that there are “bad things happening in porn in terms of sex trafficking and vulnerability” . . . and “the fact is that all of us are complicit.”*** A fellow panelist responded, “That’s a great point,” and went on to something else. The whole panel needed to stay on that note of complicity. We needed the panel to go deeper with that acknowledgment. We all need to go deeper with the issue of complicity.

If we have more sexual abuse in our world than we can imagine, then it is more than likely that more than we can imagine of what we live with in our society is rooted in sexual abuse. Pornography. Sexual harassment. Sexual Addiction. Prostitution. Rape. Sex Slavery. How many of the victims of these things were sexually abused as children? How many of the perpetrators and providers of these things were sexually abused as children? How many of the consumers of these things were sexually abused as children? My instinct and experience tells me . . . far far far more than we could imagine. Far far far more than we are, perhaps, willing to imagine.

And what do we do about all this sexual abuse? We help keep it hidden, we deny it, we cover it up, we turn away from it, we normalize it. We let insurance companies interfere with the healing that could actually occur – both individually and societally. We let insurance companies have personal information that will be accessible forever about people who have already been deeply exposed, wounded, and taken advantage of. We let insurance companies limit the depth of healing and the extent of healing by paying for only short term therapy that treats the symptoms and makes people “functional” . . . but leaves the memories and feelings deep inside the abused person to haunt them and drive them in ways that aren’t good for them or the world. 

By allowing this, we let more and more new forms of quick-fix bandaid therapy be developed so that their originators and followers can do the new therapies and be paid by the insurance companies. I’m not saying that all insurance companies always interfere and never help. Just like with everything else, the insurance companies can misuse and abuse their power, or they can utilize their power for magnificent good. And I’m not saying all therapists gravitate to the quick fixes in order to get paid by the insurance companies. Thank goodness there are some integritous therapists who are truly committed to helping people heal to the root.

And what do we do about all this sexual abuse? We allow the pharmaceutical companies to buy their way into the business of healing and the insurance industry so that one of the quick-fix bandaids is pharmaceutical drugs. I’m not saying medicine is never an aid to someone’s journey toward healing. It is just not always needed; it always has consequences; and it is definitely not the vehicle that accomplishes the underlying healing. 

In other words . . . what we do about all this sexual abuse is to collude – whether knowingly or not – in preventing the healing of sexual abuse. We are complicit in preventing the real healing of individuals. And in preventing the healing of sexual abuse in our world.  We may not want to see this. We may not want to know this. We may not want to acknowledge our part in this. That in itself makes us part of the problem. Anyone of us who interferes with the healing is part of the problem. Anyone of us who allows interference with the healing is part of the problem.

I have been a depth psychotherapist for 37 years. Included in my practice for most of that time have been people who were abused sexually as children. I know it is possible to do the depth root healing. It takes deep commitment. It takes a trustworthy therapist with deep integrity, with solid boundaries, with an ongoing commitment to his or her own inner healing to the root . . . that is what’s needed to be able to go with someone who has been sexually abused in childhood all the way to the core healing. (A therapist cannot guide or even go with a client to depths the therapist has not gone him/herself.)

And every time one person does his/her own depth healing, that person has a huge impact on society. The healing needs to be done one person at a time. But the individuals who are healing from their own experiences of sexual abuse cannot accomplish this alone. Every single one of us can help both with the individual healing and the healing of society . . . if we do our own healing. If we stop allowing ourselves and others to interfere with the true healing that is possible. If we do our own healing, we will stop being complicit with the sexual abuse that exists not only in our families but also in our communities – in person and second-hand, like online.

Please! Look at yourself honestly. Please do what you need to for your own deep healing. Please take a stand to stop others from interfering with real healing . . . individually and communally. The health of many people depends upon you. . . many more people than you can imagine. The health of our society depends upon you. . . as well as every single one of us.  And not just sexually but on all levels of our being. The health of our world depends upon you. . . as well as every single one of us.

We are not powerless. We need to do the healing to find and claim our power and use it well . . . not only in behalf of ourselves but also in behalf of us all.

© 2012, Judith Barr

*http://articles.philly.com/2012-07-13/news/32664511_1_freeh-report-sandusky-schultz-and-curley
**Quote source: http://citizensvoice.com/news/freeh-s-scathing-report-details-cover-up-at-psu-1.1342879

***http://video.msnbc.msn.com/melissa-harris-perry/48105138#48105138 (4:11 TO 4:19)

WHAT YOU CAN DO
TO HELP MAKE YOUR WORLD SAFE . . . FROM THE INSIDE OUT

This month, commit to truly become a part of the healing so needed in our world. You can start by helping to spread the word about how we can truly heal sexual abuse, truly and to the root . . .
If you’ve never commented on a blog before, comment on this one.
If you’ve never passed a blog post on to other people, pass this one on to everyone you know.

If you’ve never let an organization know about the link between individual and communal healing and the possibilities for assisting, let your favorite organization know.

If you’ve never looked at and worked to heal the roots of how you might be complicit, do that exploration and healing now.

We can heal sexual abuse – in its many forms – in our world . . . individually, communally, nationally and globally, if we are committed to healing to the root!

IT HAPPENS MORE THAN WE’RE WILLING TO KNOW . . .

As a depth psychotherapist and seeker of truth, I have witnessed for decades what we hide from ourselves in an attempt to “stay sane,” what we hide from others in an attempt to stay safe or even alive. What family members hide from each other and families hide from the outside world to try to stay intact and keep from being exposed and shamed.  What institutions hide, what communities hide, what states hide, what nations hide . . . in an effort to keep the tides from crashing down over them and changing them, however slowly or quickly.

On the level of the individual psyche, I so well know the need to help people open up the truth and grapple with reality at a pace their mind, heart, body, and soul can handle safely. And attuning with their pace is an exquisite part of what I offer in my work with people.

At the same time, individuals hiding from truth are members of families hiding from truth are members of communities hiding from truth . . . all the way to a world hiding from the truth.

The truth is coming out. We need to see its emergence as part of the healing, individually and globally. We need to help the truth come out and help ourselves and each other with the truth as it comes out.

Very recently, an article came out in the online New York Times.*  It was entitled “Prep-School Predators.”  It exposed decades and decades of sexual abuse at Horace Mann, an elite private school in the Bronx, New York. Sexual abuse of children by faculty members. Sexual abuse that was hidden most of the time . . . or perhaps ignored.  The courageous author, Amos Kamil, wrote in the article:

When the Penn State scandal came out last year, I kept getting tangled  in the questions everyone else was getting tangled in: How does an institutional culture arise to condone, or at least ignore, something that individually, every member knows is wrong?. . . The questions of Penn State, I realized, are the questions of Horace Mann and perhaps every  place that has been haunted by a similar history.*

We can be silent. We can try to pretend it all away. We can try to explain it all away, as is so often done. Under the guise of protecting our own positions or benefits. Under the guise of protecting those we care about or love. Under the guise of protecting the institution or even the culture. We can try to normalize it away for the same reasons, under the same guises. But underneath the pretense, beneath the explanations, lying right beneath the normalizing is the truth . . . just like every malady in our world, there is far more sexual abuse in our world than we are willing to know. It comes in limitless forms, among them – pedophilia, rape of adults, sex slavery. It comes in limitless places – out on the street, in school, at houses of worship, right next door, or even at home. It is acted out by limitless people – fathers and mothers, older sisters and brothers, babysitters, teachers, doctors, clergymen and clergywomen, therapists, and more. But as with sex slavery, it is not only acted out by those who take slaves; it is also acted out by the people who pay to have sex with those who’ve been enslaved. It has an impact on the children – the girls and the boys – who’ve been sexually abused; it has an impact on the women and men who’ve been sexually abused; it has an impact on everyone who comes in touch with those who’ve been sexually abused, including their partners if they have partners; it has an impact on a society that is rampant with sexual abuse. Rampant and more than we’re willing to know.

The impact is massive. Especially when we realize that sexual abuse begets sexual abuse. Those who sexually abuse most likely were sexually abused themselves . . . and therefore in need of healing in their own selves. Those who were sexually abused end up in many places on the continuum, among them – they may fight against sexual abuse, numb themselves and close their eyes to sexual abuse, end up abusing someone else, or work with deep commitment to heal from the sexual abuse they experienced. Those who close their eyes and their hearts to sexual abuse  . . . we wonder if they had sexual abuse in their lives in any way, and if so, how. 

The impact is enormous.  Especially when we realize that the trauma of sexual abuse creates deep, intense, raw feelings . . . terror, agonizing pain, hurt, confusion, rage and more.  It creates these feelings in a society that doesn’t want to know about, witness, or especially feel feelings. A society that wants to numb and bury the feelings with whatever can be used to medicate the feelings away and make the person functional once again . . . even sex.

The impact of sexual abuse is larger than we can imagine. Sexual abuse destroys trust . . . in your world, if it was a stranger who sexually abused you. In your world, in people, in those close to you, in yourself . . . especially if it was someone you trusted. How do you trust again? How do you know whom to trust again?  How do you repair the mechanism within you to trust yourself to discern who is trustworthy and who isn’t?  To protect yourself from someone who isn’t trustworthy? And to allow yourself to relax and be connected with someone who is trustworthy?

This is one example of how sexual abuse affects everything in every arena of life. How do you know who is telling the truth, who is manipulating your trust, and who is seducing you under a guise? How do you know up close and personal? And how do you know further away. If family members, priests and coaches, teachers and scout leaders, doctors and charity leaders, senators and congress people, and even presidents can have such wounds to their sexuality that they, in turn, sexually abuse others . . . how do we know for sure even who our candidates are as they run for high offices? 

The only way we can know is to be willing to know.  To be willing to end the silence, end the pretenses, end the normalization, end the excuses, end the lies. The only way we can know is to be willing to know the truth.  The only way we can know is to be committed to the truth. The only way we can know is to be willing to do our own inner healing work with whatever the truth awakens and brings forth in us. Only then will we know and only then will we know what to do with our knowing. 

Only then will we be able to forgo misusing the truth. Only then will we be able to refrain from using truth as an axe, a bomb, or any other weapon. Only then will we be able to partner truth with love and use it as the healing instrument it truly is.

Oddly enough, in a school like Horace Mann where the truth was not brought out into the open, the beginning and end of the school alma mater is: “Great is the truth and it prevails.”   Horace Mann might have betrayed its alma mater, but each of us has a choice.

Will we also betray the truth? Or will we commit to the truth with a full commitment and follow through on that commitment day by day, step by step, breath by breath?

© Judith Barr, 2012
*
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/magazine/the-horace-mann-schools-secret-history-of-sexual-abuse.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

NOTE: One truth that is crucial to know: It is possible to heal deeply and to the root after having been sexually abused. It takes a full commitment, lots of patience, and a really good, seasoned therapist with integrity, good boundaries, an open heart, a commitment to doing his/her own healing work, and someone who is not afraid of feelings.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
TO HELP MAKE YOUR WORLD SAFE . . . FROM THE INSIDE OUT

This month . . . Explore honestly within yourself your relationship with truth. Ask yourself: How afraid am I to find and know the truth? How experienced am I in finding and knowing the truth? What has my experience been when I’ve found and known the truth? How committed am I to finding and knowing the truth?
If we are committed to finding the truth, knowing the truth, and bringing the truth to light…imagine how different our world would be!