TORTURE … IT’S INFILTRATED OUR LIVES MORE DEEPLY AND PERSONALLY THAN WE WANT TO ADMIT

How to communicate with you about the issue of torture has been cooking within me.
The inspiration came today.
I’m writing this article about my country, because of all that is taking place about the issue of torture in the U.S.
But don’t think that takes any country off the hook …
We all need to look at this more deeply than people seem to realize.

Andrew O’Hehir’s article in Salon.com on December 14th found its way to my desk, and gave me an opening to express in a new way, what I’ve expressed in many other ways. The title of the article was “America’s Torture Machine Is No Aberration—It’s Part of Our Imperial Decline.” Even more important … its subtitle was the first opening I felt called to utilize to invite you to the truth.

The subtitle: “Can we quit pretending torture is some huge departure from America’s behavior?”

My response on a very different level than the one he’s offering:

We have to quit pretending torture is some huge departure from America’s behavior. It isn’t.

We have to deal with it on the national and international levels because that is actually more difficult to hide. But we also have to deal with it on the individual and familial levels – where it is too easy to hide. And in fact, it is from the individual and familial levels that it gets to the national and international levels. Read on to understand.

From my experience as a psychotherapist, workshop leader, media guest, speaker, and author … I have come to believe there is more child abuse in our country than anyone is willing to know.

O’Hehir wrote in his article, “Sure, there were a handful … who sounded the alarm, but most of us just nodded knowingly.” Just like with the torture that’s being revealed and discussed nationally and internationally today, most of us just nod when the issue of child abuse is brought up in our country. Maybe we nod, maybe we shake our heads, maybe we just move on to something else, maybe we talk about it with emotion and then move on … allowing it to continue. Many of my colleagues and I have experienced the nod of Child Protective Services when we reported child abuse (as we are required to by law.) We had to report it, and we should never use failure to take action on the part of CPS as an excuse not to report it. But the nod has come in many forms, thus allowing the abuse to continue:  often in the form of their saying they know – albeit perhaps in some kind of “coded message” – but they aren’t able to do anything about it; frequently in the form of their missing it completely, as though they were totally blind.

Too frequently in our society, child abuse is denied. It is normalized. It is masked over as ‘needed parenting’ or ‘needed discipline.’ It is rationalized and justified. The pretense that there is no child abuse individually, familially, culturally, is immense. I was shocked to read how the United States compares to other countries on what is actually legal child abuse – meaning on the lack of laws truly prohibiting child abuse in our country.*  For example … I have read that in some states, you can hit a child, but only with your open hand. Or you can hit a child, but can’t leave a bruise. Or you can hit a child, but as long as it’s legally considered to be “reasonable force” and “non-excessive corporal punishment.”

So back to the nod … Yes, most of us nod knowingly because someplace within us – even if we don’t want to know – most of us know that child abuse is an infection that festers in our lives and the life of our country … and world. Child abuse as torture, and then domestic violence as torture, and more. The examples of this that we see in the media are just the very surface layer of a deeper infection.

And as abused children grow up, they, in turn, often abuse their children. And if not their children, someone else in their lives. Their partners. Their employees. Their neighbors. Children in a school. People in a movie theater or mall. On and on … including, often themselves.

People don’t only start torturing once they’re in the military. They don’t only begin torturing once they’re in government. They don’t only start torturing as adults. It is deeply related to their own experiences of torture in some form as children … whether it was physical, mental, emotional, energetic, or spiritual torture.

People are looking at the torture issue through many lenses. Here’s one lens we must look at the issue through or we will never truly resolve it in our country …  we will just continue to be complicit and collude with it, in order not to experience our own memories, our own pain, our own torture and the consequences of it in our lives.

Here’s an opening we must look through and resolve within ourselves. Or we will never resolve it in our country or our world.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporal_punishment_in_the_home#United_States
Note: Although some countries have banned this form of child abuse, it is lawful in Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, The United Kingdom, The United States.


© Judith Barr, 2014

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! LET’S BE HONEST ABOUT THE POLITICS OF ABUSE IN OUR COUNTRY!

Enough is enough! Let’s really deal with the politics of abuse in our country!

Plainly . . . and tragically . . . abuse is legal! I have worked with enough people who have either experienced or been close to abuse, where they should have been but were not protected!

Women were not protected. Elderly were not protected. Children were not protected. And at times men were not protected. When they needed to be and should have been!

The police “could” not protect them because . . .
The court “could” not protect them because . . .
The department that serves children and families “could” not protect them because . . .
Always an excuse given as a reason, a legal reason.

Enough is enough!

Last week I was required by law to make a report to the department that is supposed to protect children. I made the call and the report as mandated. Once made, I discovered something that brought pain and outrage! I discovered that most of the child abuse I had just reported was not something they would investigate, because the law in that particular state did not make it illegal for a parent to discipline his/her children with physical means or with an instrument. That means, an open hand can hit, a brush, spoon, or belt can hit . . . as long as somebody determines it’s not excessive force.

Incomprehensible! What century do we live in? What country do we live in? What a bizarre guise we offer that we are a civilized society! What absurd masks we wear that we are a loving people! What hypocrisy to bemoan the bullying that goes on among our children, when we adults are bullies in the home behind closed doors!

I know this may not all apply to every one of us. However . . . every one of us needs to look deep within ourselves to discover which parts of this does apply to us. And to heal those parts to the root! Without that exploration, we will continue to say good things about ourselves, while we normalize abuse and deny it.

I investigated in another state to see if the same was true. The department would not tell me, but rather said it “could not give any guidelines or information about this,” and referred me instead to its website, “where,” the person said, “it covers what’s reportable and what’s not.”

And then I found an article from a newspaper that said outright, “In Connecticut, in and of itself, striking your child as a form of discipline is not illegal. According to state statute, a parent or guardian may “use reasonable physical force … to the extent that he reasonably believes such to be necessary to maintain discipline or to promote the welfare of such minor.” (New Haven Register Friday, June 04, 2010, “New Haven man faces assault charges for ‘discipline’ of teen with belt.”)

It goes on to describe in the article what was said by a retired police officer who trains recruits at the police academy in domestic violence and child abuse: “If you’re driving 66 mph in a 65 mph zone, it’s clear-cut that you are breaking the law, he said.” And then it quoted him as saying, “This has a lot of gray areas.”

What is gray about physically abusing a child? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

The journalist who wrote the article acknowledged, “Clearly, over the decades, society as a whole has shifted away from corporal punishment, but it still remains a common disciplinary tool in many households. For years, many child-rearing experts have said spanking is ineffective and may promote aggression in children.”

It also promotes great fear and the re-enactment of the very traumatic experiences the children had at home with others in the future . . . with their spouses, with their children, with the elderly to whom they are close. The original abuse goes on and on and on . . . from one generation to another, from one person to another. And it spreads like a wild fire from the individual level of society, to the communal . . . from families to communities, to states, to countries, and all over our world.

The laws of our country are still supporting abuse. The politics of our country are still supporting abuse. No matter how much we try to deny it, it is undeniable! Among others, it is the parents who abuse their children who vote for the Mayor or Town Select Person, the State Senator, the Governor, the US Senator, and the President. This is screaming out to be healed in our time. The healing starts at home . . . within each of us. Each one of us needs to look at the ways in which we abuse children, others, ourselves, our power. Whatever we change in the outer world will not be sustained unless we take this step . . . each one of us!

© Judith Barr, 2011