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

The NFL – What They Needed to Do and Couldn’t…Yet

So many have heard about Ray Rice’s violent abuse of his fiancée and the Baltimore Ravens’ and NFL’s failure to respond the way they really needed to … and the way we as a society really needed them to.

Instead of hiding what they knew, keeping silent, initially giving Ray a symbolic slap on the wrist with a couple weeks’ suspension, denying all sorts of things, and, only after the video came out into public view, instead of escalating their responses to the level of the Ravens canceling his contract and the NFL suspending him indefinitely . . . they could have modeled for everyone what is really needed when it’s revealed that one person is abusing another person – man, woman, or child.

Let’s wonder about a different perspective …

What if it wasn’t actually a good idea to cancel and suspend Ray Rice? What if that came from the public’s pressure and threat to ban games? What if the threat of the “almighty dollar” got in the way of their doing what would have been really healthy and healing … like it too often does in many arenas of life?  What if, despite the violence and danger inherent in football, taking away Ray’s ability to play took away one of his releases of aggression – from here and now and long, long ago? What if it made him more likely to abuse?  What if taking away his livelihood added one more trigger to abuse rather than healing? What if responding with punishment feeds abuse – it does for children. If it does for children, why wouldn’t it for adults, too? What if their jumping to a punishment makes the football “heads of state” more like abusers themselves than like the models they could be for all who watch and play football? What if first they colluded with the abuse, normalizing it like so many others in society, and then they tried to save face (and money) by punishing the abuser – abusing the abuser? What if none of this was what was really needed … for Ray, for the Ravens, for the NFL, for healing domestic violence in our country, for us?

So what could the Ravens and the NFL have done that wouldn’t feed abuse? They could have told Ray that in order to stay on the team, he would need to go to ongoing therapy and never abuse his fiancée or anyone else again.

They could have told him that as long as he continued to stay in therapy and truly work to heal to the root all that had caused him to be abusive, and as long as he didn’t abuse anyone, he could continue on the team. And if he violated either one of those, he would be suspended permanently. They could have selected a therapist who they knew would do the deep healing work with Ray, or they could have established approval rights on the therapist he selected and made sure there was a legal, ethical way to monitor that he was still in therapy … and not abusing anyone.

We have so much to learn in our country and our world.

It is so disturbing that as civilized as we believe we are here in the United States, and many other countries, as well, there are 39 countries that have banned corporal punishment of children by parents. And the U.S. is not among them. Neither are Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, nor the United Kingdom.* And in those countries in which corporal punishment of children by parents is legal, the “restrictions” include such bizarre guidelines as “reasonable force,” “non-excessive force,” “punishment necessary to discipline or safeguard the child and his or her welfare,” “the child being able to benefit from the correction,” and “the correction not causing harm.” These are all guises to justify physical abuse. Physical “punishment” does cause harm … physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual harm. Anyone claiming otherwise is not aware, not educated, not in reality … the reality of that little child.

I understand the dilemma: how do we not violate the rights of parents to raise their own children, and still protect those children as they grow? I don’t have a short term definitive answer. But I do know that every person I’ve ever worked with who was hit as a child, remained afraid of being hit from deep inside – until the transformation that came from going through the healing crossroads. They may have tried to bury that frightened part of themselves, or they may be very aware of it. They may have become passive in shaping their lives to avoid people attacking them, or they may have tried to avoid being hit by lashing out and attacking other people, children and adults alike.  It gets passed down from one generation to the next. The cycle of abuse, abuse as the reaction to being triggered, gets passed down from one generation to the next.

This happens in families, in communities, in states, in countries … all over our world. A child abused when young, may well abuse his or her own child, partner, or someone else as s/he ages. If violence was an option in the childhood home, it has an enormous likelihood of becoming an option in the adult home. And even if the parent believes he or she loves the child, and uses love as a guise for abusing that little one … the real truth is: The parent is burying the memory of the deep, intense, fear, pain, hurt, helplessness, powerlessness, and more … experienced when s/he was abused as a child. He may remember that he was hit or beaten, but he has built big defenses against re-experiencing the feelings. And those big defenses include abusing others … re-enacting the abuse as a defense against the young child’s feeling experience on all levels of being. That is, the feeling experience of the young child he once was is still alive inside the now-big person.  If the now-big person could feel all those feelings from the childhood trauma of being abused, s/he could not abuse anyone else.

Ignoring abuse won’t resolve it. Normalizing abuse won’t resolve it. Punishing abuse with something equivalent to abuse won’t resolve it. Although laws say a lot about attitude toward abuse – the environment of the city, state, or country – the real resolution is healing.

A lot of people are saying it’s wonderful that the abuse that has been occurring in the sports world is bringing out into the open the problem of abuse in the U.S. And yes! It is a step that the seriousness of the problem has been brought out into the open even more than it already was.

But people are still normalizing it – up to a point. Many on talk shows and news teams are acknowledging they were abused as children, but some of them are okaying what they experienced as different from what Ray Rice did to his fiancée (now wife) or Adrian Peterson did to his son.

No abuse is okay. None! Abuse harms children, families, communities, countries, our world … all of us.

What this really shows us, if we are willing to honestly look and see and fully invest in the true resolution … is that we need to heal this problem at its roots. We need to heal this problem in families.

We need to heal this problem in parents. We need to heal this problem in the children who are abused and grow up with wounds and defenses that they act out on their own children, partners, and others, as well.  We need to heal this in the children who are abused and grow up with fear in their hearts that they might be hit again. They are often the ones who end up in abusive relationships in which they become the abused partner.

We need to heal this problem one by one with people doing their real healing – not just quick fixes, not just managing and controlling thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We need to heal this problem to the root. We need to invest in educating people individually, communally, globally about the truth of the problem. And we need to invest our resources, our commitments, our hearts in truly resolving this problem.

Not just in the outer world, but in the world within us . . . from the inside out.

If the NFL and the Ravens had acted differently than they did, they could have truly helped … they could have modeled the real solution for their fans and for children who see the sports celebrities as their models.

They didn’t. But we can. Please join me in making this investment…and inviting others to join us.

© Judith Barr, 2014

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporal_punishment_in_the_home

 

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

It’s up to each and every one of us to help end domestic violence and abuse in any and all forms. And we can start by doing the inner work necessary to explore and heal the childhood wounds within us … wounds that are at the root of abuse. Wounds that cause us to collude with abuse, normalize abuse, or even actively abuse.

Start by exploring your own relationships. Are there times when you have been abused and tolerated it? And … are there times when you yourself have abused? You may be able to start to explore the feelings you have when you’re being abused or when you’re abusive, tracing those feelings back to times in your early life when you felt similar feelings. But … this is a very delicate process. You may very well find you need the help of a good, integritous, caring therapist to help you explore and heal those feelings … so you can break the cycle of abuse in your life and your family … and your world.

Also … while getting the help you need to heal to the root … let others know that abuse in any form should not be tolerated, and that there is hope for healing the abuse so sadly prevalent in our country and our world. If you feel called, share this article with those you know, to help expand healing out into our world.

We can stop domestic violence … not through tolerance of it or even laws against it, but through each and every one of us doing our own inner healing.

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