What’s Current: Another woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of groping her on a USO tour

What’s Current is Feminist Current’s daily news roundup.

  • Sen. Al Franken has been accused of groping another woman — an Army veteran, on a USO tour in 2003.
  • Russell Simmons is resigning from his companies after another allegation of sexual assault by screenwriter, Jenny Lumet.
  • NPR’s chief news editor resigns after sexual harassment allegations.
  • A Michigan sports doctor accused by 100 women and girls of sexually assaulting them, and found in possession of images of child sexual abuse  has pled guilty for his abuse of female gymnasts in his care.
  • Female soldiers in North Korea face rampant sexual abuse by male soldiers, as well as physical duress so extreme that many of them stop menstruating.
Natasha Chart
Natasha Chart

Natasha Chart is an online organizer and feminist living in the United States. She does not recant her heresy.

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  • Zoë Lafantaisie

    Wow! Just stunning – thanks for a great collection of powerful woman stories Natasha.

  • Captain Picard

    I’m a straight white male and I’ve been reading Feminist Current for some time now. I don’t know how your readership feels about commentary from men, but I thought it important to point out that the recent wave of sex harassment claims against prominent men has had a profound effect on me and many men I know. While most of us are not the type to behave badly on purpose, I have had several discussions over the past few weeks about this topic with other men. With few exceptions, we’ve pretty much all admitted some ignorance/dismissal of harassment issues in the past. We’ve also found ourselves making efforts–conscious or otherwise– to think twice before speaking or behaving inappropriately. I believe the past month will be remembered as the beginning of a successful campaign to further educate well-meaning-but-maybe-still-clueless men on an issue that has been ignored for too long. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from this forum and its contributors.

    • Rachael

      Thank you for being willing to listen and to learn. Comments like this give me hope.

    • Kelan Fox

      I’m glad that you, myself and many other men are using this recent slew of powerful men’s behaviour being ‘outed’ to self-reflect and hopefully grow.

    • lk

      This is comforting to hear.

      So many times when women try to talk about abuse, men are very quick to just say #notallmen instead of listening to women and examining their own behavior and trying to be better men.

    • Wren

      This is nice to read, but I’m not sure if it will come to any significant change unless you and other men are REALLY willing to evaluate ALL of the ways you are undermining women, and this means looking into your personal relationships (not just work environments), your expectations of your wives and girlfriends and even daughters, and most importantly, this means questioning the role that pornography and the sex industry may have shaped your perceptions of women. You cannot be an ally of women if you still use and exploit a population of women for your own sexual pleasure. You cannot separate women into two classes: those you respect and those you degrade.

      It isn’t enough to stop inappropriate behavior; you need to figure out where the desire for such behavior originates.

      • Liz

        YES, what Wren said.

        I recently heard Robert Jensen speak and he addressed when men say things like “I need to listen.” He said sure men need to listen, but men also need to talk about their own behavior and talk to each other about it. I thought this was a great point. I would fall out of my chair if I heard any of the men in my life talk about their own behavior WITH EACH OTHER.

        When the men in my life start telling me how bad they feel about women’s oppression, I consider it just sucking up for the most part. None of them seem to have more than a superficial grasp on it…they know all about sexism but nothing about patriarchy.

        • Wren

          “they know all about sexism but nothing about patriarchy”
          Right!! They know when they are being sexist jerks but they don’t want to see deeper into the power that they hold and how they perpetuate it.

  • Bev Jo

    I’m a Lesbian Separatist and so do not expect better from any men. But the issue is that nazis are now in power in the US government and they are set on destroying whatever rights we have. Plus we are close to nuclear war because of psychopath Trump.

    I’m practical and strategic. The nazis are going after the democrats who are their biggest threat. We know Tweeden has a history of doing to men on stage (check the videos) what would be called sexual harassment or assault if a man did it. I’m not saying women are anywhere near equal in this, but that Tweeden went after Franken on behalf of Trump.

    I do not have illusions that when the few men who are fighting the nazis are removed that women or better men will replace them. The nazis will replace them with nazis. They already are adding judges that never even tried a case in court. We are losing every protection we and the environment has.

    So, yes, reprimand Conyers, Franken, etc. but do not let the nazis win and do not remove our only supports. When/if the danger is over, then replace them. But not as long as our lives depend on it.

  • M. Zoidberg

    Men who cross the line into sexual harassment/assault rarely ever ‘do it just once…’

    • shy virago

      you’re so right!

  • lk

    I was on the fence of reading Jenny Lumet’s account b/c I was worried about how it would impact me, but I am glad I did.

    “We are collectively dehumanized, and yet we become isolated in our individual shame.”
    I am so incredibly proud of all the women who are speaking out publicly. If for no other reason than for women to realize that they are not alone and that they have nothing to feel ashamed about.

    I’m irked by Russells’ response about “how he recalled things differently” (the implication being that his memory of the event is correct and hers is wrong) and that he is guilty of being “thoughtless and insensitive” in relationships.

    I’m disappointed that he thinks putting women in situations where they feel that must give into rape is just a matter of him being insensitive. Does he not see that it is much more than that?

    This is what happens when men look at every single woman as a potential sexual conquest. This is what happens when men make getting sex from women the main priority in every interaction they have with us.

    I think some men really don’t get or understand just how threatening they can be at times…nor do they understand how deeply women fear being raped.

    At the same time, I think a lot of men DO get it and intentionally use that fear to their advantage. I think men pride themselves on not being the “hold a knife to a woman’s throat kind of rapist” but are unwilling to acknowledge that coerced sex happens in all kinds of ways.

    And I think some men are downright proud of their ability to put women in situations where they feel like they have no choice but to have sex or as in the case with many of the women Louis CK masturbated in front of, they just freeze.

    Manipulating, forcing, bullying and coercing women into unwanted sexual activity is nothing to be proud of. And I’m upset that men do not seem to understand the difference between truly consensual sexual activity and sexual harassment/coercion/force.

  • Missy

    Your fury is completely justified, never lose sight of that FACT! What that shit stain did to you was unforgivable, and to hell with society telling women they need to forgive the sick demented creatures that raped them. I fully support you doing whatever it takes to take down that rapist POS as much as you possibly can as long as it doesn’t bring you harm in the process (#1 priority is always keeping yourself safe and sane). Anything he’ll end up facing won’t ever be at the same level as he hurt you, but it’s a start, and it’s about time women started taking justice into our own hands.

    And I also understand losing compassion for men no matter what happens to them, and this is completely due to what I’ve seen and experienced from so many men. From transsexuals to male supremacist groups like MRA and MGTOW, all trashing and dehumanizing women in every possible way, it’s just worn down my empathy for men as a whole. I don’t want to feel this way, I really don’t, but it’s hard not to with the level of pure unbridled hatred that so many men have towards women, and blatantly display with both actions and words, how we’re just expected to accept their abuse without complaint and if we do protest we’re the whiny entitled bitches and whores. Yeah, excuse us for not appreciating being openly loathed just for existing in our biological reality, thought of as inferior and as objects to be f**ked just because we were born with a vagina instead of a penis, and having our human rights and very lives held constantly in question or literally taken away in every form due to male privilege and entitlement. Not to mention how men who harm us usually suffer little if any consequences in the patriarchal systems that reign supreme all around the world, especially when the crime is sexual in nature because apparently the lives of women are nothing compared to a man’s entitlement to orgasm. I hate this world and our species more and more by the day, and it almost all has to do with how men use their patriarchal privilege to harm every other living being on the planet, especially women and children. A species that oppresses, dehumanizes, and loathes the half that nurtures, carries, and brings life into the world doesn’t deserve to continue to exist.

  • shy virago

    This is such a good post and excellent points.

  • Omzig Online

    “Forgiveness,” as a spiritual exercise, is a concept invented by men. Quite literally. For instance, most religions consider forgiveness to be an obligatory practice, and all the major religions were founded by men. So men get to commit the staggering majority of crimes against women, and then they mandate that women must do all of the emotional labor of practicing “forgiveness” while men remain perpetually forgiven. Works out great if you’re a man.

    Honestly, I think you nailed it when you correctly identified this as capitulation. I hope you never feel obligated or pressured into forgiving someone who hasn’t genuinely earned your forgiveness. Because forgiveness isn’t free, it requires a great deal of emotional work for you. It must be earned, and the onus of responsibility rests on him to earn it.

    • Wren

      Fuck forgiveness. Honestly.
      I can’t believe how many times people have tried to manipulate me into “forgiveness” when they don’t deserve it, or to forgive others for “my own sake.” When I took their advice and felt shame for feeling anger at the people who abused me and society at large, where could I direct that justified fury?? Only one option left: TOWARDS MYSELF. This lead to years of depression, anxiety, and suicidality.

      I don’t have to live every moment seething in anger and I don’t, but to dismiss my justified rage for some kind of undesired spiritual progression into blissful apathy is a giant patriarchal power play. I love my rage now that it is directed at the people who deserve it. And finally I have been able to forgive the ONLY person who deserves my forgiveness: myself.

  • Wren

    I know you didn’t mention pornography or exploitation. Men never do mention those things. That’s why I do.

  • Wren

    It’s never obvious. Why would you think that?? Most men cling to their porn like shit to a shovel.

  • Rich Garcia

    @kareneisen:disqus White men don’t feel that way about white women. White women represent everything that is wrong in the world to them, even if they tolerate you enough to get you pregnant so you can keep the white race from going extinct. All you have to do is look around to see how much you are hated by them.

    White men may not be your economic enemy, since there is no shortage of white women who will marry into financial safety. But they are your adversaries in every other aspect. And this isn’t me trying to split a wedge between white men and white women, because I have no hatred for or desire to be around white people personally. But giving an honest observation from an outside view.

  • calabasa

    I know, Hanakai, I agree.

    I looked at this man’s Facebook page yesterday, for clues, even though we are not friends (I unfriended him years ago). I saw he had changed his profile picture to a Halloween picture of him and his wife. This was well after she found out about him, and she looked happy. Many friends of theirs commented on how cute this picture was–friends I am quite sure had not heard of her recent discovery that he is a serial rapist, or the fact that he is “going to therapy” for this fact. What kind of bullshit has he been spinning, so she somehow accepts this as “not so bad?” (She read our firsthand accounts of his actions–that is to say, some of his victims). I understand it must be tough, but I’d like to think that the first thing I would do if I found out my husband had committed serial rape, including assaulting my own friends, is leave him.

    I don’t want to victim blame, in case she is a victim. But I get the feeling he reserved his–predilections–for other women. If she is not trauma bonded, then I can’t really swallow her excuse. I’d leave a man I discovered was a rapist as readily as I’d leave a man who hurt my child. It’s only if he hurt me that the self-doubt would kick in and possibly prevent me from taking the proper action.

    I get the feeling this “restorative justice” and forgiveness narrative is designed to make *everybody else feel better about keeping ties with him,* as well as to assuage his guilt (if he has any, which I doubt; he certainly didn’t own up until caught. It’s not like he was calling and apologizing to his victims, like Louis CK, or indeed like my ex from last year. I find it ironic, because the man I dated last year could be considered far sicker, from his behavior–more violent, more dangerous, more calculated–and yet he is also far more disturbed by his own behavior, and clearly self-hating; to me, that indicates a real sickness; it doesn’t absolve him, at all, but I’d rather see him go to a mental hospital, and get medication and intensive therapy, and maybe a twelve-step program of sorts, than to jail. He has been telling everyone over and over again how he can’t stop hurting women, and has been making that the focal point of everything he does–writing about it, campaigning against it, compulsively doing it–while his life has spiraled down the drain. The other guy, the one with the wife, has shown zero preoccupation with his crimes, until he was caught. I don’t believe he feels one bit of actual remorse). So really, this “restorative justice” is designed to make everybody else feel better about pretending nothing has happened and it’s all good now.

    I’m sorry for his wife, but she is not one of his victims. She may have been hoodwinked, but she was not violated. This man is both manipulative and sexually violent. He groomed me, exploited me, and brutally assaulted me. He has assaulted countless women. I don’t plan to let him forget.

    This is what one therapist has to say about “forgiveness.” I like the term, “unburdening” (letting go of anger and resentment that eats at the self, without forgiving): https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/why-i-dont-use-the-word-forgiveness-in-trauma-therapy-0120164

  • calabasa

    “Performative self-flagellation” is a nice turn of phrase. I agree that that’s a large part of what he’s been doing. (My sister actually had a dream where he castrated himself. She and my brother went after him, with knives, in a kitchen; but he pulled out a pair of butcher knives of his own and yelled, “Whatever you do to me I do worse to myself!” And then stabbed himself in the groin. In the second part of the dream he was a giant spider peeling strips of skin from my back while my sister tried and failed to protect me, and I was tiny, naked, and curled up into a little ball, so…I don’t know how redeeming that is, either. The second part of her dream seems accurate). Turning himself in is the only real way I could ever actually forgive him, I think. It would show that he cared enough about his victims to put them first for once, i.e. felt true remorse. If he felt true remorse, his cowardice would not get in the way, nor would any other excuses (about having to care for his mother, for example, who is a …piece of work. I really hate how women from traditional backgrounds raise and treat their sons). I don’t think he’s actually capable of that. I think few men who commit these types of crimes are. Narcissism and sociopathy entail a great deal of selfishness and cowardice.

    I feel conflicted about it, to be honest. I shouldn’t feel schadenfraude, or be happy about another’s misery; yet the fact that he IS miserable means at least HE is suffering too from what he does (maybe he wouldn’t be if it didn’t cause women to leave him/hate him and cause him such interpersonal conflict; maybe if he found a woman to happily put up with his abuse he’d be perfectly happy. Would he?–His mother has told him many times to “date an Asian woman,” which is so disgusting–she is thinking of the stereotypical passive, man-pleasing stereotype of an Asian woman, which, having known a lot of women from different countries in Asia, is just that, a stereotype; and he has said, “I don’t want that.” Which is true enough. He dates strong-willed women, then he tries to break them down by abusing them. Maybe he’ll learn what he thinks is his lesson from this and go try to find a better and more passive victim whom he can rape and choke and boss around at will. Trading quality in a partner for ease of control and submissiveness?) He seemed to be trying to find someone else like me all year long (I think this is a type he had long before I met him), i.e. someone he perceives as intelligent, passionate, literary, etc., whatever he looks for and likes in a partner (which I think are respectable things to look for and like in a partner), only with a history of domestic and sexual abuse, so he could exploit her, abuse her, and use that to control her. I agree it’s pretty irredeemable and sick.

    He just strikes me as someone like Louis CK, who has been broadcasting his sickness to the world forever, while continuing to do it, and to justify it. And any apology would be just as disingenuous and self-serving as Louis CK’s (which I hated. So much).

    So do you think someone like the other guy–the happily married man and good husband who just happens to like raping women on the side–is more honest for being less conflicted about it? He specifically takes advantage of young, vulnerable women (I was 17 when he assaulted me, and he was in his mid-twenties; he assaulted his wife’s young friend in her early twenties–he is about 40 now). He pursues women he sees more as people as lovers rather than victims (yes, also an adulterer, unsurprisingly). He seems to feel no conflict; young, vulnerable women are for him to rape, older women he finds more intriguing and who validate his ego with their interest are for him to seduce, his wife is for him to (pretend to, sorry I can’t help but think that) love and cherish. Is he more sociopathic for not being bothered by his actions, or just more honest?

    Do you think the pain my ex seems to feel–his alcoholism, his spiraling down into depression–are just performative, or are self-pitying? Does his inability to feel any actual remorse for his victims mean that he is as undeserving as the man who seems to feel absolutely nothing and be unaffected by his actions?

    Are they both equally giant pieces of shit? Why is one so self-hating and the other not?

  • calabasa

    Do you think maybe that it’s that one has GOTTEN AWAY with it, and the other has not (in his personal life, anyway)? One guy is just a more successful rapist?

    I really do feel like for some men it’s indicative of a broader mental illness, or else criminal disposition; other men are “specialists,” that is, rape is the only crime they commit. I think it’s the difference between sexual narcissism (the married guy I described) and sexual narcissism as a component of global narcissism (the man I dated last year, who also had bipolar disorder; various mental illnesses tend to be comorbid with full-blown NPD).

    I think a LOT of men are just sexual narcissists but not global narcissists. This is being studied right now, in fact, as a reason behind the sexual assault epidemic. It makes sense to me, since we raise males to be sexually narcissistic. I guess those who contract full-blown NPD are the “low functioning” whereas those who are able to compartmentalize and stick to sexual narcissism only are the “high functioning” (not that it seems to matter when high-functioning low-functioners like Donald Trump–the epitome of grandiose narcissism–can somehow get along despite subpar intelligence and gross incompetence).

    I think that’s the difference, really. The guy who raped me as a teenager is a sexual narcissist only. He has been compulsively offending all his life, yet he does not have delusions of grandeur or trouble functioning in relationships otherwise, intense feelings of envy, and etc. Sexual narcissism is probably way more common than actual full-blown NPD, and full-blown NPD doesn’t always entail sexual narcissism (sometimes it does, and WHEN it does, you get someone like my ex, who, as I said, also has bipolar disorder). Of course the fact that he is less functional (though still disturbingly good at what he does, when he’s high-functioning; honestly medicating him and making him “feel better” only makes him a better predator, and manipulator) does not excuse him. I do think he is able to *feel bad* more than the other guy, though, but he is incapable of doing anything with that feeling.

    I remember him crying to me about how he always hurts people, and he can’t help it (this was after his first assault on me post-breakup, before I had processed it or named it–the very next day). He also knows he is being a bad person. He doesn’t want to accept the consequences of his behavior (not even the loss of the person he hurts, much less legal consequences). He seems undeterred by legal consequences–although they have never been very severe, for him (getting committed to a mental hospital for DV is not a very severe punishment). He has been protected, as a white male abuser. Society protects white male abusers, and by doing so it enables them.

    It’s very weird though…he knows he hurts people, and it makes him feel bad (he literally wailed to me, “All I ever do is hurt people”). However, he cannot begin to feel what the people he hurts feels, so he internalizes this as self-pity. I don’t think he’s capable of actual remorse, or if he is, he can’t sustain the feeling long enough for it to become an action. That’s a part of his condition.

    NPD is strange, because people with NPD have a conscience, but low to no affective empathy (which is to say, their affective empathy switch is naturally in the “off” position, rather than the “on” position, as it is for most of us…to give an example, when I accidentally step on someone else’s foot, I say “ow!” And then I apologize. This is automatic for me; men always laugh at me for this, but I’ve seen others, particularly women, do this too). My ex DOES have a conscience. I have seen him wrestle with it. However, it’s like his “empathy super highways” are dark, and in most of us those empathy super highways make pathways between the frontal cortex, which controls decision-making, and our conscience. (People with NPD CAN feel empathy–as can people with ASPD, aka psychopaths/sociopaths–but they have to be ASKED to, and concentrate, and make a mindful effort to maintain this feeling; again, it doesn’t come naturally. Their cognitive empathy is actually BETTER than average, though–all the better to manipulate their victims). So it’s like his conscience is some weird island floating in his brain disconnected from everything else. The effects of his actions get back to him after, and register in his conscience as guilt and shame rather than remorse, and self-pity rather than empathy for his victims’ suffering.

    At least he HAS that, though. The purely sexual narcissists…I’m not sure they feel anything. I’m considering meeting with the man who raped me as a teenager just to find that out. Does he care at ALL that he fucked up my life? I attribute further victimization directly to that experience (among others, but that was really formative; I was a virgin when I met him). Maybe he also feels guilt/shame without true remorse, but because he’s been more successful in life he has been able to better repress these feelings (or no one has caused him any sort of spiritual crisis by trying to make him into a better human being–although who knows what will happen now with his counseling. Which also makes me wonder about this COUNSELOR. Aren’t they required to inform law enforcement if a client tells them about crimes he’s committed, in the U.S.? Anyway).

    I agree both are irredeemable. I think it does come down to which has been more negatively affected by the same condition that makes him dangerous, and that’s my ex; but he’s still unable to feel true remorse, or empathy (or at least to sustain those feelings).

    It does make me wonder to what degree we train men to be narcissists. I believe that we do. We particularly train men to be sexual narcissists. I don’t think it’s “natural,” not for one minute (or any more than any other construct is “natural”).

    I guess I feel sorry for my ex more because he’s dysfunctional, but then again, I shouldn’t. I’m dysfunctional too as a result of what he’s done, and to feel like a piece of shit and hate himself is really the least he deserves. I really don’t know what the answer is when “feeling like a piece of shit and hating yourself” just translates into self-pity and becomes a cycle; there is no true awakening, no real growth, no true change. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t want them to all die, or rot in prison, but they need to stop hurting people. (I really do believe that rapists run the world…the sort of men who condone this shit are the sort of men with the braggadocio to get into power, and other men like them vote to keep them in power). How can they change, if it’s something fundamental to their worldview, and a part of their brains? (I think brain scans of all the sex abusers would be interesting…people with NPD have less activity in areas of the brain associated with empathy). Brains can change, though, like worldviews. I just have no idea how it would happen. Maybe the government could fund a five-year intensive program for abusers with five years of probation afterward. I mean, what is the answer? How do we deal with them? (As well, of course, as how do we stop creating them…clearly normalizing pornography and prostitution are not the answer).

    Anyway, yeah. I guess I shouldn’t feel sorry for him. There are much better people to feel sorry for. I wish that abusive men would get it, though, that it hurts them too–he’s just an extreme example of that (like serial killers who hate themselves but compulsively do it, too). Sexist men are more likely to die early from heart attacks, suffer from high blood pressure (my ex did, at age 37), and have body image issues (again, this fits him to a tee). Apparently this is true of sexist men in general, not just abusers (although frankly I think they tend to be one and the same).

    I mean, look at the serial rapists; they are all pretty much ugly men, right? This was part of his insecurity and need for validation through sex, for my ex (he had to feel desirable and wanted attention). I think this drives a lot of the late-transitioning TiMs, too. Look at Harvey Weinstein. The guy who assaulted me when I was younger, too; I would NEVER have slept with him if he hadn’t been predatory and manipulative, and that’s the only way he ever got women to sleep with him, and then he’d just be more predatory and manipulative (he violently assaulted me in the shower one day–climbed in behind me when I thought I was alone–probably because he thought I’d say no to what he wanted). He is an obese guy, now, and I’m quite certain he has high blood pressure and body image issues. (I know it’s not like really good-looking guys are necessarily any better…but it never fails to astound me how entitled, sexist and predatory average guys can be. It’s like they’re aggressively angry at women for not being interested in them for their looks, or think that’s the only way they can get a woman to sleep with them…these types of guys probably use prostituted women, as well. Sex=validation for them, and they don’t take kindly to rejection. Rape=feeling powerful at another’s expense).

    Like, honestly, it is bad for them too. It dehumanizes them too. Men die earlier because of the stress of masculinity, probably. Why don’t they get this?

    Anyway, sorry for rambling. I’m feeling sad today.

    I noticed you said in another post that you finally learned to forgive the only person who was never responsible, and who you needed to forgive: yourself. I’m trying to do the same.

    How did you manage? Is it an ongoing process? I need to find a way to direct compassion toward myself, and to stop blaming myself, but I’m finding it difficult.

    • Wren

      I notice that 90% of your posts are about analyzing these men. I don’t care about these men and what brought them to be violent fucks, I only want them to stop, and if the only way they will stop is if they’re dead, then I wish for their lives to end. The only way men will stop being violent is if they face significant consequences and this is what feminism must do: fight for these consequences and demand they are carried out. Men can analyze themselves to figure out why they do this. In the meantime, YOU need to get better.

      Now you want to know more about my thought process and I will try to communicate some of it, but it’s difficult to do, and I’m not a writer. You don’t have to take what I say seriously, but you should know that I was in terrible condition for many years. I have survived suicide attempts and multiple hospitalizations, prostitution, sexual abuse, and childhood abuse and neglect. I have experience such severe PTSD that I wouldn’t eat or sleep for weeks, which turned into months, which turned into a life in prostitution, suicide attempts, over medicalization that left me dumb and dead inside, addicted to benzos, compulsive self-injuring, and suicidality on a daily, no HOURLY basis. At times I do not know how it is that I am even alive. And yet not only have I managed to stay alive, become reasonably stable and gainfully employed (well still kinda poor but I work everyday, lol), and NOT a horrible person, I have regained some of the creative drive and self-expression that has been in me since childhood, and I am a reasonably well-adjusted, happy person (shocking still to me, but it’s true). Against all odds, I have achieved a new normal for myself. I have a long way to go, but I can say that the process of self-discover and healing is actually something to look forward to. Despite my experiences, I did not become a statistic, and therefore the tricks of the mind and trade that have helped me to endure are worth consideration, for you and I and all women are not so different.

      (All of this understanding came only AFTER I gutted my life of bad relationships, or not good enough friendships, and after I became very focused on taking care of my body, mind, and home. Basically, my life got very simple and quiet and small, for the distractions of other people’s problems and drama were a very convenient way for me to continue denying myself healing and peace. Surrounding myself with adorable animals mitigated a great deal of loneliness.)

      You are extremely intelligent so the question of WHY these men have done this to you and others, and WHO is worse, etc. is so tempting to explore until you exhaust yourself and you will exhaust yourself because there is no real answer. People do horrible things because THEY CAN and they ENJOY it and they get away with it. But it is impossible to face this unfortunate reality because intelligent people believe in REASONS and we are deeply enmeshed in the just-world fallacy, whether we are aware of it or not.

      The most intellectually and emotionally illuminating moment of my life happened when I became tired of asking the question of “why me?” Why am I alone in the world? Why was I exploited? Why was I abused? Did I make stupid choices?? Sure I did, but none of those choices led to the most catastrophic experiences of my life. I sincerely believed that I must have done something so horrible in my previous life because that seemed to be the ONLY justification for being born to parents who were sociopathic in their treatment of me and my siblings. I would weep and lie on the freaking floor in a fetal position wondering how I would ever UNDO what I had apparently done in a previous life so that I could make things better and so I wouldn’t pass on such a shitty legacy. I didn’t realize how much I was punishing myself for things that were absolutely not my fault. But slowly it came to me that I would NEVER EVER tell someone such a lie: that they must have deserved their tragedy because of something in their spiritual past. Telling someone such a horrible thing would be unbelievably cruel and also STUPID. Yet it is SO HARD NOT to try and make some sense out of what seemed to be a cursed existence.

      The most horrible things that can happen to a person are child abuse and abandonment, poverty, mental illness, rape and exploitation, and all forms of abuse, and of course war and natural disasters, and none of these things are the individual’s fault in any way. I kept thinking about this until I finally realized that none of these terrible things have happened TO ME were my fault. I was just a fucking baby, how could I think that anything I could have done would have made me deserving of any of this?? It was pure masochism because I WANTED IT TO MAKE SENSE and this is what I see you doing. The purest and simplest but most difficult realization I’ve ever had was that NONE OF THIS WAS PERSONAL. None of the disasters visited upon me were my fault. Sure, maybe if I had opened one door instead of another, certain things might have been different, but the responsibility always lies with the abuser. No matter how stupid and naive I was, no matter what I may I have done or not done in a previous life, no matter how bad of a child I was (and I wasn’t, and I’m sure you weren’t):

      THERE WAS NOTHING I COULD HAVE EVER DONE TO DESERVE THESE EXPERIENCES.
      NOTHING.
      THIS IS NOT PERSONAL.

      Rain falls on the just and unjust, wonderful things happen to terrible people and terrible things happen to wonderful people. But instead of despairing in the chaos that life truly is, I realized that I was A PERFECTLY FINE HUMAN BEING. I was and would continue to try and make better decisions and will strive to get through any more tragedies as nobly and with as much integrity as I can muster, and this is all I can do. But as a human being, I am fine, I have always been fine, and I am kind and self-reflective and have always been who I am and NONE OF THIS SHIT WAS PERSONAL.

      I don’t know if I can really explain this well, but just know that this was the most liberating and painful revelation I’ve ever had. It goes against our intellectual nature to abandon “just-world” logic, but at it’s core, the just-world fallacy crumbles under intellectual scrutiny. The random/chaos theory of the world is the most logical and freeing and compassionate understanding of the world possible, and it is the only one that finally let me feel free from the self-inflicted psychic torment that I was drowning in. It is the only intellectual model that allowed ME to be cohesive and whole and NOT CHAOTIC. It was also the only model that helped me understand that every person can choose to be good or bad, and that their choice is their responsibility, not mine.

      Now, of course I have to constantly reprogram myself towards this understanding as people always talk about karma and “things happen for a reason” and all the bullshit that helps people make sense of their lives and enables them to patronizingly dismiss the struggles of other people, for this how we are trained to think. But once I realized this is bullshit, my body started to soften, I was able to use my mind for self protection instead of remaining rigid (the somatic effects of abuse are extremely difficult to undo and change, imo), and I put a shield of protection AROUND my personal space instead of within my torso. Therefore, shards of light started to come back into the darkest, scariest places inside me, I started to release my breath and feel my body again, and I understood that I am still the same kind little girl who loved music and art and the natural world. These things still exist to delight me, and I am free to enjoy them again.

      Our experiences in life may be based on the chaos of other people’s decisions, but the natural world is eloquently composed, inherently balanced and logical yet continuously inspiring and beautiful, and I take immense pleasure in it, for I am a part of it, and therefore I am also beautiful. The natural world offers us endless gifts and we must relish them and be strengthened by them. This awareness coupled with the understanding that I have always had everything that I needed inside me to have a good and happy life gives me the courage to seek every opportunity possible to feel beauty and joy in the smallest things, just like I did as a little girl, for that’s how I survived before my brain tried to find the REASONS why no one loved me. There are no karmic reasons. There never were and there probably never will be.

      There is nothing that you did to deserve any of this. The fault is all theirs, and you are not responsible for their spiritual education. You must stop trying to make sense of it or you will go mad.

      The world has beauty and abundance and you are a part of it and deserving of its gifts.

      You already have everything you need to have a good and happy life, and if I can accomplish this, I guarantee that you can.

      • Meghan Murphy

        <3

  • calabasa

    Sorry for Spamming, but I answered my own question.

    I re-realized something, today. I had realized it before, but I realized it again…or rather integrated it with other things (you know how we have to realize things over and over until they stick)?

    I realized that my ex was always right. He always thought I was too good for him, and he was angry with me about that. He made it out to be surface things–looks, or talent, or intelligence–but it was none of those things. He is, quite simply, a bad person.

    I thought for a long time that he THOUGHT he was a bad person, and that he THOUGHT I was too good for him, and thus got insecure, and decided to abuse me; but no, he is right. What is the difference between thinking and being, after all? Acting, I suppose. Does he act badly? Yes.

    I realized today a couple of things. First of all, that my need to have some redemption narrative for him is about the fact that I saw us as similar. (He even said that–of course he would–that the problem was that we are “too similar”). But we could not, in fact, be less alike. It’s interesting…even things I had in common with him (for example, some of the weird films I’ve watched; I have gone through various movie buff stages, including getting into horror at certain points, so I have seen a lot of odd and out-of-the-way movies) were not necessarily things I liked about myself (I remember seeing the Japanese movie “Suicide Club,” and that I was very disturbed by it, and it made an impact on me–I’ll never forget the opening scene; however, it is NOT a movie I want to watch again, and he OWNS it). In fact, a lot of the weird movies I saw during lonely or depressive phases he OWNED and had COLLECTED. I saw watching these as in some way…an interest in the darker side of life? Not really prurient, but needing to know; but it’s not actually how I am, and I have no desire to rewatch them, and also I would never watch them with someone else, particularly not someone I loved…why would I want to watch “Blue Velvet” or “Audition” with my partner? It would just be disturbing as hell, and once was enough, thank you.

    So, my wide range of interests does not mean I LIKE something. I realized that. (The fact that he owned and rewatched these movies means something different. He owned lighter movies too, but still).

    I think I have always seen myself as “bad,” or dark, or something, but in fact I’m not. In fact if I confess that to people they are always taken aback. I have seen myself this way for a long time, but it’s an incorrect view of myself. I think because of this “badness” I deserve mistreatment, as well; I feel drawn to someone else’s darker characteristics/feel compassion for them (because, as I’ve come to realize, after all this, all that this horror communicates–even the worst behavior–is a deep, deep sadness); I feel like “I am that way too,” so I should not be judgmental; I also feel like I can’t do better, or don’t deserve better, or different, because who would want to be with someone weird or twisted like me?

    But what my ex was telling me, and what made him insecure, was exactly the opposite. He saw me as good, as kindhearted, as a naturally joyful person, and he reacted with envy, hatred, and insecurity. Because he sees himself as bad. And I know how that feels–it feels terrible–but I have never done the things he has. I have no real reason to think of myself as bad (apart from how I was treated growing up, for being disobedient as a little kid; and how I was treated by/how I fought with my father when I got sick as an adolescent). Even when my parents were “despairing” over my “out of control behavior” when I had a serious illness that caused behavioral problems, when I was 12-14, I never did anything criminal, or really all that bad. I yelled at my dad and my sister (because of a dynamic where he favored her for being obedient when we were little kids, which I must have held onto for all that time; I had been quite stable, outgoing, happy, creative, and vibrant in the years before I got sick, a good student, with lots of friends; I have blacked out a lot of the time from the years I was sick. I guess I acted out a long-held grudge I didn’t even know I was holding, by fighting with my sister and dad. My dad was pretty hard on me for being naughty when I was little–I got spanked, and blamed a lot–and my brother, who was just as bad, didn’t receive the same treatment; I had always been a tomboy). In fact, my brother during this same time period got in actual criminal trouble (selling marijuana, shooting out the sheriff’s porchlight with a group of friends, crashing his first car playing chicken in an alley; he wrapped it around a telephone pole), but I was the one forever branded a “monster,” because I fought a lot with my sister and father when I was sick. I understand that it was traumatic for them, but I was extremely ill, so ill I could have died if it hadn’t finally been caught when my legs swelled up and sheets of skin started peeling off (my mom had been trying to figure it out for years, but in spite of obvious physical symptoms all the doctors–including endocrinologists–had taken one look at me and seen “out of control teenage girl”–hearing about my symptoms, seeing how sarcastic I was to everyone–and sent me to the psychiatrist’s).

    It is not fair I have been blamed for this, for years. A severe autoimmune hormonal illness is not reflective of my personality.

    People who know me now know that. In fact no one sees me this way but me.

    My ex-boyfriend saw me as being too good for him, and not in any of those superficial ways–as literally too good, too much of a good person, with integrity and moral fiber. He is not. He is selfish, self-centered and cruel.

    I am, in fact, nothing like him, and was always too good for him. Some of the things he said were just so ridiculous, such stupid things to say, so callous and insensitive. I deserve better, and frankly if I knew that about myself to begin with I would never have even entertained dating him. There were so many red flags from the get-go, not least of which was how he pressured me into sex after our first date, leaning over me as a I said “no.” He also had a weird obsession–I knew it was weird–with a high school classmate’s incredibly personal and painful story of neonaticide, and was planning to write a book about it; I knew it was weird, but I excused it as artistic license, in my mind (the truth is, EVERYTHING about him was off–he stared at me with this intense stare like a raptor assessing its prey, his knee bounced up and down, he was dressed funny–in this weird way he seemed to think made him look intellectual, but which instead made him look a bit mad, in second-hand professor’s coats with elbow patches and cuffs a little too short, his shirtsleeves protruding a good inch, and pins for punk bands he liked riding his professorial lapel, his crazy hair sticking out in corkscrew curls; and that knee bouncing, nonstop, with the predatory gaze; altogether he just looked a bit mad). I excused all of this not only because I was lonely, not only because we had established an online rapport prior to meeting, but because I FELT LIKE I COULDN’T DO BETTER, and maybe didn’t deserve better.

    But he KNEW I was better. Not just funnier, not just smarter, not just better-looking–all these things he told himself were important–but a better PERSON. *I* didn’t think this for the longest time, thinking instead that his problem was like my problem–thinking of himself as a bad person.

    But do I cheat on my partners? Hit them? Strangle them? Try to control their actions? Do I make disgusting comments about men’s bodies? Do I coerce men? Do I force them into sexual acts they don’t want? Do I rape them?

    Do I harass men? Do I manipulate, flatter and seduce in order to get what I want? Do I feel the need to do this for “validation?” Do I fly off the handle when someone points out something negative about me, and then try my very best to humiliate that person, and, if it’s someone close to me, to *destroy* them? Do I do that?

    No. I don’t. I’m not a bad person.

    I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to REALLY realize this. I mean, people have told me, over the years, and I just have such a completely different view of myself…my self-hatred is not based in reality, and it’s unearned. I can be selfish and self-centered in my depression, yes (though I am not when I am not depressed). But I don’t hurt people. And I have helped many people in my life, and been conscientious, kind and a good worker, even when I found myself not in the best of personal circumstances. I have put others first and found a way to excel for their sake, if not for my own (I need to do it for my own).

    I think part of it is an “accumulation of badness.” Each time someone hurts you, intentionally, I mean grievously hurts you, you internalize a little more that you deserve it. And if it’s grievous but seemingly callous, or unintentional–like the man who rapes you not out of hatred but just because you mean nothing to him, you are less than a person–it makes you feel worthless.

    It’s terrible how we carry around our rapists’ shame. All the shame that THEY should feel, all of that badness, WE, the victims, carry it around. We carry the burden of their evil, as if, in doing that, they have successfully transmitted us their virus–of cruelty, of badness–well, I refuse it; and refuse to carry around THEIR SHAME and THEIR SHADOW, THEIR DEAL and THEIR DARKNESS, anymore. I will not carry around their DARK SADNESS ANYMORE. THEY are the ones who who are worse than worthless, they cause negative worth, they devalue; THEY are the ones who drown in their shame. Not me.

    If that’s what you mean by “forgiving yourself,” it’s sad that we have to, because it was never our fault to begin with. There was never anything wrong with us.

    But I will. It’s time I did.

    Thank you.

  • will

    Thank you Omzig. I have now learned about “freeze” and also have been working with self-compassion in relation to what happened.

    My point is that, in the wider discourse, I heard nothing of “freeze” response until a few years ago. 3 decades of hearing about “fight/flight”, added to the shame and isolation I experienced. My point was also that the lack of common knowledge about these responses (as well as my being friendly to my rapist shortly after the incident in the hopes that somehow I could tell myself a different story about his term contempt for me) cost me dearly just as it enables condemnation of rape survivors and exoneration of rapists in the courts.