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I was raped by a trusted neighbor when I was 9 years old, on numerous occasions, over the span of a year and blocked it out for many years until I was roughly 12 years old. I was sitting in bed one day when something triggered the memories, they came flooding back to me and I was overwhelmed with fear, anger, and confusion. I told my parents who in turn then told the police, they approached the family of the teenager that did this to me and he admitted his guilt. We discussed pressing charges against the young man but were told by the police that it would probably be best if we didn’t as it would save me from an embarrassing trial as well as teasing from people within our neighborhood. That was a different day and age and that seemed, at the time, to be the best course of action. Don’t talk about it, bury it and try to forget it. Of course, we know better these days that this doesn’t work. This is where the pattern of shame and guilt took a terrible turn for me and sent me into a downward spiral.

I am now 47 years old with a wife of 20 years, 2 daughters, a wonderful home and from the outside looking in we are a picture-perfect family, so why talk about this now? It has only been in the last year that I can talk openly about my abuse without shame or the fear of judgment. I have lived 37 years hiding my true self in the shadows, putting on a happy face on the outside while feeling scared, lost and empty on this inside. We tried counselling when I was young but would you go talk about this if you were told to keep it quiet as a child? So I went on with my life burying the anger, the shame and never talking about it with anyone at any length because young men don’t talk about these things, do they? I have lived for so many years with questions of why me? Why didn’t we charge him? Why did my parents let this happen? Will I myself become a pedophile? If I have children will I rape them? Only a person that has been raped can truly understand what a depressing and hellish existence it is, minor moments of joy but then pulled back into the drowning darkness, day after day after day.

Now you will ask, “How did you cope?” Like many others I turned to alcohol from my early teen years to help escape my racing mind to give me some sort of peace, some sort of feeling of value, to feel more than…….nothing. Of course, this did not serve me well and there were many bad choices along the way that I look back at now and wish I could change. But I can’t. As I got older the question in my mind was always, “Why does this happen and how can I save the others?” Such a naive and sad view of life but that was what I lived day in and day out for years and years with no hope of change. I attended cognitive behavioral therapy, group sessions, AA meetings but nothing would stick and I was always dragged back to what I knew, what was my uncomfortable reality, until a few special events that changed my life to get me where I am today.

Of course, we all now know the story of Theo Fleury, his battle over the years with substance abuse and coming to terms with his past abuse. So one day I picked up his book Playing with Fire and it pushed me into a different way of thinking altogether. While reading the book I cried, I was angry, I was confused but the one feeling I didn’t expect to feel was,”You are not alone.” It was as if Theo’s voice was calling out to me saying we are now on this journey together and we will get through it. Sounds corny right? His words were my words, his pain was my pain, he understood, he had been there, he was still there. I was no longer alone, even if it was just words, it changed me. So I slowly started talking about my trauma, not a lot but a little here and there with friends that knew what happened and the shame was slowly lifting, I was getting stronger.

The next event was probably the biggest and most profound. I was at a function with casual friends that we had made over the years in a very large gathering and I overheard my friend say that he was worried about a neighbor and his “interest” in his young son. He said it seemed strange that he was always asking where his son was, what he was doing and if he could come over to visit, alone. Then it happened, I just said: “You need to be careful, this is not right.” He looked at me and I could tell by his face that he was asking, “What do you know, why would you have any insight?” I simply said, “This is how I was raped as a child, this is how it started.” The response was amazing, he asked more about what he should watch for and thanked me. I never felt so strong or free. It was incredible. From that moment on the weight had begun to lift and I felt a strength that I never knew.

Finally, the moment where I knew I was going to be okay: The Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch. Remember when I said I wanted the help save them all as a child? I now knew that was impossible so I asked what I could do to help those that are in need of support, that need to know they are not alone. By chance, I came across a couple items from my workplace that were given to me to donate to a charity of my choice, and of course, I chose the Ranch.

What I didn’t know was how this was going to affect me moving forward in my journey of healing. I reached out to the Ranch to arrange the drop off of these items and they were kind enough to take me on a tour and explain how they help each of these children during this terrible time. As I was leaving I cried, I was angry and then I was thankful. Thankful that there was somewhere for these children to get the help they needed, thankful that there are people out there helping them on their journey to healing, thankful I was able to help even if it was just a little bit.

Neil Campbell #metoo

 

CTV News Interview

CBC News Article

 

 

Five in a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

Boys, this is a really rough time for you, hey? For a minute there, it looked like one power-hungry victimizer might act as a lightning rod of all of mankind, allowing other attackers to skulk off into the shadows unnoticed. But the word is out: assault happens.

You might be feeling a bit demonized? A little freaked out? What if someone accuses you of a #MeToo offense? What if you’re guilty? What if you’re not guilty?

And how are you managing the chilling memories of your own trauma? Are you ok?

Some of you need to be called out. You know who you are (and you’re definitely not reading this blog).

Some of you will be wrongly accused (maybe you already have been?). That will unjustly upend your world.

Some of you are the long-silent sufferers of wounds so deep and frightening and life-shaping. You didn’t ask to have your own memories yanked out from there hidey-holes, but two little words, a hashtag, and a media explosion, and now you’re face to face with your own ghosts and monsters.

You certainly don’t deserve to be hated, blamed, or shamed for just being male, but it’s a little tense out there right now. Our current culture is so tough on you: you’re either Homer-Simpson-sluggish or Trump-Weinstein-lecherous. You are the buffoon, the emotionally bereft slug, the power-mongering tyrant, the hammer-wielding superhero. Gone are the days of being just a regular, God-fearin’, hard-workin’, nice guy.

Would you consider re-writing that narrative? Your story is important.

Right now. In this conversation. You might have your own #MeToo chapters in your story?

How can we, as a culture, make space for men to be men to be men. What does that even mean today? I have three sons that, I have to tell you, I’m scared to death for. Did I do enough to teach them the value of their gender identity – in all of its masculine, feminine, and something-wholly-other goodness? Did I teach them the value of all humanity? The need to respect, validate, and truly hear the stories of their Others? Will they be at ease in their own bodies, with their own thoughts, and in engaging wisely and generously with the world – as men? Will they manage their need to be respected and powerful in the world, and will they do this without attempting to master another person along the way?

Your story. As brother-father-son-victim-abuser. We need to hear it just as badly as you need to give voice to it. There are people who will listen, without judgment to the scariest bits of your history. And if those bits include hurting others, don’t make a shiny apology, using words to gloss over bad behavior in an effort to distance yourself from hard truths. But don’t take on responsibility where it’s not yours to bear, either.

Contribute. Learn. Listen. Validate. Believe. Tell the truth of your experience. Know your own hungers. Own your hungers, and learn to manage them in ways that do not bring harm to any other person. You are not a monster. You are a man. #MeToo can be made a thing of the past with your work to that end.

Four in a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

#MeToo is an exposure of men behaving badly – and at great cost to the security, well-being, and identity of women. It is a match-flare flash of light into the dark corners of long-kept secrets. A sudden, alarming glimpse of the danger faced by most (all?) women at some point in their lives.

It is right that long-silent victims have an opportunity to bring their own violation out into the light (where it will lose so much of its shaming power). Your experience has made you stronger, more courageous, more fearful, more resolute, more timid. You’ve been marked by it in one way, or another.

Do find a safe and loving space to share your story. We might argue that social media isn’t the most secure place for that vulnerability. But your dear friends, a trusted advisor, a mentor, a space like BFF – it is important for your healing, and the healing of your world, that you tell your story.

#MeToo and #ItStopsNow are also a  testimony to the wrenching truth that women have just not been there for each other.

I well know what it is to be the one powerless woman in a room full of powerful men. I know how they use their bodies, their language, and their money to keep an intelligent, resourceful, get ‘er done gal in “her place.”

And I know what it is to be one of many women in a room, looking hopefully from one face to the next, thinking “Surely these women will stand with me for what they know must be done here?” only to see, immediately, that their heads are bowed and their lips are silent.

“Maybe if you weren’t quite so opinionated they would agree to make changes/adjust policy/implement procedure.”

“If you just talk more like a man they’ll be more willing to listen to you…”

“Oh, you just misunderstood his intentions.”

“It sure wouldn’t hurt if you just showed a little ankle…”

I was part of a community of women that knew exactly which ones were being hit by their spouses. It was an open secret, amongst the women, that Sally’s husband had gotten “a little carried away” with Sue…but it was all just a misunderstanding.

Your story can help change how men interact with women. More importantly (?) it may help change how women interact with one another.

But not if we leave it as a hashtag one-liner out in the Twittersphere. What is our part, girls? In our homes, our relationships, our places of employment, and the way we spend our dollars? We don’t need more blog posts, news feed buzz, or clever kitty-cat headbands. We do need to put action and choice and instruction (with some maturity and cool-headed sass) to the dogged work of adjusting the mindset of a culture. A global culture.

Three in a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

Have you found yourself tangling with unexpected memories of your own sexual history these past few months? Yeah, me too. In fact, #MeToo has compelled my own experience with unwanted touch and talk burbling right on up to the surface. I didn’t invite these thoughts. But here I am: thinking about my 47 years through the misty lens of long-quashed memories.

In “Your Story” I noted (in over-simplified terms, for sure!) that we communicate in the pattern of our own generation. I’m somewhere in the middle of, “Shhhhh. Nice girls don’t talk about such things!” (Words sternly spoken by the matriarch of my family. We also sit legs graciously crossed. We do not pick our noses in church. And we never, ever cry.), and “Don’t use those words – that’s my trigger!” I’m learning sensitivity to, and pushing against, this position just a bit…but that’s a different story, Resilient Friends. You’re stronger than you know!

This means that I share easily about some things, but there are many things that I, for the sake of propriety and the protection of the bullies in my life (What a strange propensity we have for this, right? A jumble of terror and politeness.) feel more comfortable remaining mum about.

I am not a beautiful woman. No, don’t protest that. Not even out of politeness. I’m not being self-deprecating or hateful. I am not pretty. I am prone to chubby with small eyes, thin lips, and a too-stubby chin. I’ve got a set of great birthin’ hips (read: broad and well-padded). My wobbly bits have always been strangely wobbly and I have never turned the head of a boy with the flip of my hair.

And I am a victim of sexual shaming and inappropriate touch. How I missed being more violently assaulted I cannot tell because there were some near misses.

“You fat cow!”

“You have hands like a man – look how big they are!” (One of the church elders made it a weekly point to meet me by the coat racks, my back pressed against dangling jackets and stacks of Bibles, to comment on some aspect of my physical appearance. Eyebrows too furry, waist too narrow, dress too short/too long/too lacey/too plain. And big ol’ man-hands.)

“You eat enough to be a farm boy!” (For Gramma, whom I revered, love and loathing were baked, equal parts into cookies, and squares, and ooey-gooey cinnamon buns.)

“You’re filling that top out really well right now.” (This by a man, lolling, legs-spread-wide in his church pew, as he leered at my milk-engorged breasts after the birth of my first son.)

“Come here. Sit on my lap. I want to show you how much God loves you.”

My stomach turns to jelly as this memory lurches to mind. He was a man 30 years my senior. A professional counselor working from a Christian retreat centre. I was 17 years old and feeling lost. My upbringing was staunchly patriarchal (that is, man is the head and woman is the submissive, weaker second), and subjugated (men lead, women serve). It did not, for even a second, occur to me not to obey.

And these are just a few of the encounters with men. It is the stories of women, one after another, from as early as I can remember, putting me in my place with shaming, hate-filled, “If only you were born a boy” intent that has heart-scars twinging with confusion and self-deprecation just when I least expect it.

My story is riddled through with religion, sex, morals, ethnic background, and shame, shame, shame.

But it doesn’t stop there. I am the mother of three sons. I am a neighbor, a friend, a wife, a relative. I am a listener and a story keeper. Countless women and men have shared their stories of one-off assaults and chronic abuse at my kitchen table. Of rape, incest, verbal assault, and unwanted solicitation. And I’m asking myself, “How have I contributed to the continuation of shaming-into-silence?” To listen to your story with full-hearted compassion and the willingness to look for resources is one thing. But is there more for me to do to ensure that cycles of abuse cease? How do I more capably advocate for healing for victimizers? How can I hone my language to ensure this conversation is being given space (carefully, gently, boldly) and then sacredly held? Did I (and here my heart stutters and my lungs fail with sick fear) do enough to teach my sons the honor due all of humanity? All races, genders, religions?

My story goes well beyond creepy men and handsy boys into a life where it is (desperately) important that I make space for women and men like you to bring some of the hard stuff out into the light of day. By getting what’s on the inside out, in a space that is wise and patient and free of judgment, we can heal hearts and quiet minds.

You, too. BFF can help.