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

WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE WOMEN?

We have been hearing, especially lately, so much about the destructive attitude towards and treatment of women in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Africa . . . among other places. We have been learning about the inhumane treatment and the torture of women in these places . . . and more. They are treated like possessions of the men in their lives and in their society. They are sold into marriage by family. They are not allowed to divorce. In effect, they are trapped. They are tortured if they disobey — anywhere from acid thrown at them, being stoned or killed some other way, or raped and beaten at home. Some even have their clitoris destroyed (female genital mutilation) to deprive them of pleasure and their right to pleasure! And to show them “who has the power.” We have been told, even in the news, how poorly treated women abroad are.

But who’s telling us of the destructive attitude towards and treatment of women right here in the United States of America? Who’s telling us of the inhumane treatment of women right here at home? Who’s aware of the torture women experience in our “civilized” country already, with attempts to expand that torturous experience?

  • There have been escalating attempts to deprive women of the right to choose what happens to them – physically, emotionally, financially, and health-wise – under the guise of protecting life. *
  • There was recently an attempt in our House of Representatives to redefine rape – limiting it to forcible rape and excluding date rape, statutory rape, the rape of a woman who has been drugged, the rape of a mentally incompetent woman, the rape of a woman who “gives in” in order to avoid being killed by her attacker, and the cases of incest who are not minors . . . under the twin guises of protecting life and our economy.
  • And now a bill was just passed in the House (and will go to the Senate) that does not allow government funds to be used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is in danger. But . . . small businesses and individual women who themselves buy insurance that covers abortions will have imposed on them tax penalties. Perhaps the worst penalty for women who survive rape and incest and seek abortion care will be that they have to provide proof to IRS investigators of their assault. It’s not torturous enough to be assaulted the first time. It’s not traumatic enough to have to relive the assault when reporting it to the police and going through a court proceeding. There is no excuse for adding the inhumane torture of having to live through it a third time with an IRS investigator. This, once again, under the guise of protecting life and our economy.

What is really happening is that there is a backlash in our country against the empowerment of women that has been growing for decades. Certainly at least since 1919 when the 19th amendment was passed legalizing women’s right to vote; and then growing still in 1973 when Roe v Wade was decided, giving women the right to make choices about their own bodies in a new way. This backlash is an extreme misuse of power by those scared of the power of women. And believe it or not, those scared of the power of women are not only men; they include women themselves. **

How could this be?

I invite you to honestly look at yourself. If you are a man, do you prefer to have the power, rather than share it equally with a woman? Do you have unresolved, unconscious feelings of powerlessness from early, primal experience with the first woman in your life, your mother? Feelings that beneath your awareness feed your wanting to be the powerful one in relation to women? If you’re a woman, are you somehow, out of your early wounds, stuck idealizing men who have power over you? Or ceding your rightful power to them? If you are a woman, do you know in the marrow of your bones and the substance of your soul the experience of being devalued, disempowered, objectified, belittled, and more in a society that is still struggling with its relationship with women and the feminine? Do you take for granted the rights you and other women fought so hard for? Do you disconnect from your innate power as technology seems to offer you a gift – to use a pill to avoid going through the monthly cycle of menstruation? Have you lost all touch with the true power of that time?

Who is going to help women now? What are we going to do about this? We women who feel the agony of it? And the men who support women and women’s causes, who have watched their mothers and sisters and wives and daughters suffer, and who have come to understand?

Look within for your own growth and healing. Look within for the future of women. Look within for the future of our society and our world! For without women being equal, empowered partners in our world, the future is at risk. And then take actions – inside and out – that help to heal us all.

© Judith Barr, 2011

* Although I do use words such as abortion and pro life in this post, that is not what this post is about. This post is about the destructive treatment of women not only abroad but also here in America, both out in the open and also under the guise of other things!

** To learn more about my work with Women’s Mysteries, click here.

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

Domestic violence abroad . . . and right here at home

In these times of financial, religious, social, and political unrest, those who have not learned to handle their feelings responsibly are increasingly lashing out at other . . . especially those with whom they are closest. The article below is a glimpse through one facet of this issue.*
 
The attitude of men and of the judicial system in Iraq toward women and girls, as demonstrated by the article referenced below – It’s Ok to Slap Spendthrift Wives** – is outrageous, tragic, heartbreaking.
 
You may think this is limited to Iraq . . . or at least countries other than the United States. If you do, you have a shock in store for you!
 
I have worked with women, in the supposedly cultured and advanced northeast United States, who were abused in their marriages and frankly! Even more in their attempts to divorce. These women were, in the process of divorce, abused by their husbands, their lawyers (men and women alike), the judges, and the legal system.
 
Some of the women would have been homeless had it not been for the resources of their families of origin. Some were unable to feed and clothe their children because the courts did not assure them the money to live on even during the divorce process. I’ve seen women lose their children. I’ve seen women lose all their savings. I’ve known of women who stayed with their husbands for fear the courts would make the children have visitation with a father they were terrified by.
 
Don’t tell me courts expected the wives, whose husbands had insisted they stay home and take care of the children, to suddenly be able to get the level of jobs that would support them and their children . . . especially when all the while their lawyers were telling the wives not to get jobs or they’d get no alimony and child support.  Don’t tell me the courts can’t see abuse when it’s right in front of their eyes, for example wives, who had been so abused that they had no confidence in themselves anymore.  Don’t tell me the courts do such voluminous business in divorce and don’t know the shame the wives feel in their plight. Don’t tell me the courts were fooled by the husbands’ attempts to wriggle out of their responsibilities to take care of even their children . . . by claiming they’d lost their business, by claiming they didn’t have the assets they had.  And don’t you dare tell me that the courts are so heartless that they favor the wallet of the abusive man over the means to heal the heart and soul of his wife and children.
 
Now . . . I know that each woman needs to do her own work about the early wounds that may have caused her to end up with an abusive husband. About the early wounds that may have caused her to be frozen when wanting to leave. About the early wounds that may have caused her to perhaps even leave and then return to her abusive husband.  And it is true!

Each woman in this situation does need to do her own inner healing of psyche and soul – so that she doesn’t recreate the same situation all over again! So that she models the deepest healing for her children! So that she heals on the inside, too, to the very root of the wound, and not just the outer level.  
 
So that she knows her part and doesn’t disempower herself by pretending it was only his responsibility. Yes! If she makes it all his responsibility, she does, in fact, disempower herself. She keeps herself from finding the roots in her own life of her becoming entangled in an abusive relationship.  And no matter what anyone says, that is extremely disempowering . . .  for if she doesn’t know her part in the creation and perpetuation of the abusive relationship, she does not have the power to heal it and to prevent a recurrence.
 
Both of these elements must be attended to.
The abuse from the outer world . . . particularly the court system.
And the disempowerment not only from the outer world but also from the inner world of long ago.

If you are a woman who is in an abusive relationship . . . please get the help you need, and don’t stop until you do.

If you are a woman or a man who knows a woman in an abusive relationship and want to help . . . keep your heart open both to her current situation and also to the childhood wounds that are still alive inside her. And please do your own work, so you don’t act out of your own childhood wounds, and so you don’t act in her behalf to avoid your early wounds. If you have additional time and energy, help to work for exposure of and changes in the system . . . the lawyers, the judges, the legal system itself, and, of course, the law.

Now let’s go back to the countries like Iraq, where dealing with domestic violence is different in significant ways than in the USA. Where women are, in essence, prisoners in their own homes and their own countries, by government sanctioned practices? What can we do to help those women? Pray for them. Dedicate our own healing work not only to ourselves but also to them. Find organizations that we know will help them and contribute to those organizations. Found such an organization. Organize a fundraiser to raise money to contribute. Gather our friends and colleagues to brainstorm and heart-storm other ways to help . . . both at home and abroad.

This issue of domestic violence abroad and right here at home is a clear example of the crucial need for prayer, outer action, and inner healing combined if we are going to resolve problems in our lives and our world and sustain the resolution and changes both inside and out.

 (c) Judith Barr, 2009

*I could write on this theme for days . . . months. There are many facets, including domestic violence in which women are violent to their husbands. But today, I am writing about the woman receiving the violence. 

**http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/05/10/saudi.court.wife.slapping/index.html