IT WAS NOT OKAY

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Guest Post: Content Warning–description of nonphysical abuse. If this may be triggering to you, please read with caution.
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[I was at a vulnerable time in my life when I met Chad (name changed). I was graduating from college with a bachelor’s of psychology and had no idea what was next. We met at a bar one night through mutual friends and from there the relationship raced forward at full speed. We said I love you in two weeks and started spending all of our time together.

Some might find this to be a cute love story. I now see the red flags, Hind sight is 20/20. Chad was love-bombing me or trying to get me hooked into the relationship before I really knew him or even knew what I wanted. I was so happy to start a new relationship that I didn’t keep up with my friends and family and through this isolation I didn’t really get to see him for who he was. I ignored the red flags like him not having a car, the fact that he dropped out of college and lived with friends (and wasn’t paying rent). He seemed like he had it together after all. He had a job at a warehouse making over $20 an hour.  I didn’t know the car he was driving was his friends. I didn’t know anything about his family or his past. He didn’t try to get to know my family.

These are all things I can look back on now and identify as problems. However, in the moment I didn’t see any of it…

We continued dating and because I didn’t know where to live and didn’t want to run home to Mom and Dad, I moved in with Chad. This is when the financial abuse started to creep in. He didn’t have a car so I drove him to work. He was always stressed about life and working so much that he turned to gambling in hopes his winnings would turn his life around. When the money ran out he would beg me to take out cash. And I did because I didn’t want him to be mad at me. Not giving him the money would lead to a blow up.

This pattern continued. My college graduation day was finally here and Chad was, of course, out of town for work. He said he would come but somehow managed to get out of meeting my family (as usual). He would sugar coat this by saying things like they won’t think I’m good enough to make me feel guilty. So I played along.

I then flew out to Colorado where Chad was working and he took me on a week-long vacation telling me how much he loved the area. I did too; I had always dreamed of moving to another state. After we returned from the trip, Chad said he wanted to move to Colorado. He promised that he would save money and help pay to get an apartment there. This lead to him going out of state more for work. Of course, Chad didn’t save the money, in fact, he called me asking for money all the time as he continued to gamble. I was worried about him so I would send the cash. He would swear it was for food or gas and then 10 min later call back asking for more because he just spent it at the casino.

Chad drove back from New York on fumes, stopping at casinos along the way to win enough gas money to get back. Chad was clearly demonstrating how reckless he was willing to be with his own life and I didn’t see it. I wanted to leave him then but I couldn’t. I now know that it often takes women an average of 7 times to leave an abusive partner. I was confused at the time and didn’t have the knowledge I have now to know that this was abuse. I thought because he wasn’t hitting me that everything was ok. IT WAS NOT OK. No one deserved to be abused financially, verbally, physically emotionally or in any form.

I spent two years in Colorado living with Chad and I wish I could say things got better but they didn’t. He continued to follow a pattern that I now know to be the cycle of abuse. He would use me for money, be reckless, and financially rely on me. Then he would work really hard for a week and take me to dinner or do something nice to make up for it. Then he would take my credit card and pay all his bills. Then he would be sorry and would take me hiking. Then he would max out my credit card. Then he would find money to buy me dog to show he was sorry. This relationship emotionally drained me until one day I couldn’t do it anymore. I had been so isolated that the idea of returning home to my parents was scary. I was so isolated that I thought they wouldn’t help me get home. I quit talking to all of my friends because he told me to. I felt completely alone. This is what he wanted: for me to be so isolated that I didn’t have a way out.

One day after not hearing from me, my Dad called crying. He had flown to Colorado with my Mom. I was so nervous to see them and embarrassed to admit that I had no money and needed help. I told them I was fine and that they could go home. I wanted to leave him but I had too much pride at this point and didn’t want to admit that moving with him was a mistake, so I stayed.

Finally a week later I realized I was harming myself for the sake of my pride and it was time to come home. Chad got physical for the first time ever. He fought me for the possessions he thought he could get money for and when that didn’t work, he cried. I left him most of my things.

I moved home with what little possessions I had in my vehicle, a maxed out credit card, and various other debts that were now drowning me. My parents helped pay for me to start seeing a counselor and we worked on rebuilding our relationship. I then got an attorney and found out filing bankruptcy was my best option. All of this took months and months but I can finally say I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I looked up Chad once. He went home, starting living with someone else right away, and got a new girlfriend. This didn’t affect him. However the damage it did to myself and my family will last a lifetime. Because of Safe Passage I have gained the knowledge and support to truly identify what was going on in my relationship and it has helped me to move on. I thank this organization so much for the work they do because I know just how important it is.]

If you’ve experienced abuse, it is not your fault and you are not alone. Safe Passage is available 24/7 at 815-756-5228 or text us 24/7 at 815-393-1995.

Will You Accept This Rant? GOAT: Sean Lowe

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Just when you thought a global pandemic had finally gotten you out of having to hear our thoughts on Bachelor Nation…WELCOME TO THE GREATEST SEASONS EDITION OF WILL YOU ACCEPT THIS RANT!

Chris Harrison, you dirty rat. You hooked us right back in.

COVID-19 has forced the shutdown of both this summer’s Bachelor in Paradise AND Bachelorette Clare Crawley’s season. What is ABC to do? Why, dust off “the most dramatic seasons yet”, of course. We’ll be watching back, along with the rest of Bachelor Nation, and we’ll share our thoughts on the relationships, the changes in Bachelor Nation, and more! Will you accept this rant??

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We start this garbage fire journey with Jeff Lowe’s season!

Oh…I’m sorry. SEAN Lowe. My mistake.

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Better?

Sean came into Bachelor world via Emily Maynard’s season where he finished in the top 4. Sean is famous for being one of the only Bachelors (THE only bachelor?) to actually marry his final pick. Spoiler alert, in case you haven’t been on the internet since 2013, Sean married Catherine Giudici and they have 3 kids together.

Aside from being a Bachelor to actually make it down the aisle, Sean’s season was known for the villain Tierra who famously “couldn’t control her eyebrows” and wouldn’t let the other girls take away her sparkle. (I can’t even .gif this…what was the internet doing in 2013??)

A few takeaways from Sean’s season:

  1. Abs abs abs
    I may be wrong but I think this is the first season we were introduced to the trope of gratuitous ab shots and shower shots. Now, Sean isn’t really my cup of tea, but if he is yours, more power to you! However, all that ab B-roll has led some people to accuse the Bachelor franchise of reverse sexism. Shockingly, this might be the only unfair accusation you could make against Mike Fleiss. Reverse sexism is not a thing. Just like reverse racism is not a thing. Racism is prejudice + power. You can’t be racist against white people. It’s the same with sexism. Sexism requires prejudice + power. You can’t be sexist against men. Are the half-naked shower scenes uncomfortable? Maybe. Are they backed up with generations upon generations of oppression and inequality? No. The Sean Ab Showcase is not the same as the way the Bachelor franchise often reduces women to their appearance or sexuality. There will be no argument. This is not up for discussion.
  2. Healthy relationships have their own relationships on the side.
    No, I’m not given cart blanche to an affair (although what you and your partner decide works for you is your business!), but I am saying that you need to have your friends. A romantic partner is not the only or most important person in your life, no matter what rom-coms might say. Having friends, being able to make friends, and valuing friendships is a key part of being able to build a healthy romantic relationship. So much of the drama on Sean’s season came from Tierra “I’m Not Here To Make Friends” Whatever her last name was. Maybe the Bachelor franchise needs to re-brand as a friendship building reality show with the occasional successful romance thrown in. You deserve and need friends who have your back, who will check in on you, and who will help you if your relationship turns bad. Getting isolated to the point where your only support is your romantic partner is a recipe for disaster.
  3. Healthy relationships start with people who know what they want.
    Catherine and Sean both knew their plans for their life and their goals and they were able to find out that their plans complimented each other. If you don’t know what you want, it is too easy to get swept up in someone else’s life. You deserve your own life, your own goals, and your own dreams that you can build with a partner of your choosing. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice who you are to make your life work with another person.
  4. Healthy relationships might be boring relationships.
    If you remember the disaster that was Pilot Pete’s season, you might remember that he seemed to THRIVE on dysfunction. Women crying seemed to be his love language. If it wasn’t Victoria F crying, it was Victoria P gaslighting him. That boy LOVED mess. Shockingly, that might have played a role in why his engagement didn’t work out. Sean and Catherine seemed MUCH more grounded, and let’s be honest, boring. They have a couch company. They have three kids. They live in Dallas. This isn’t the stuff that you make a Hallmark movie out of but it just might be part of what makes a healthy relationship. Good relationships aren’t built out of really high highs and really low lows. That’s what we call the cycle of violence. Healthy relationships are built on the little moments, the ways you make your partner laugh, cooking mac & cheese for them when they are having a bad day, changing dirty diapers. Find a partner who loves and supports you. Not a partner who takes you on a rollercoaster.

Next week is Kaitlyn’s season so get ready. It’s been a while since we’ve seen this one, but we’re anticipating an excessive dose of toxic masculinity. We can’t wait to talk about it with you!

Who matters?

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Who matters when we think about domestic violence and sexual assault? Who are we protecting and who do we silence?

Over the course of the last few months, our country has been forced into a reckoning of whose pain is important and whose lives matter in a visible and vocal way. From the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen how the disease has allowed prejudice and racism, especially against Asian Americans, thrive. We’ve seen our communities argue about whether wearing masks to protect our neighbors is “worth it” or whether our vulnerable community members should be thrown under the bus in the name of economic recovery. Finally, and most recently, we’ve seen such egregious (and heartbreakingly common) examples of violent, murderous racism and police brutality against Black Americans and people of color.

We have to answer these questions every day in our work. Whose lives are important? Who do we care about? Who are we willing to protect? Who will we speak up for?

As we’ve worked from home, listening to new podcasts, shows, and webinars, one theme has been constant: people with power almost always ignore abuse as long as they can until it becomes inconvenient or impossible to ignore the victims any longer.

In “The Catch and Kill Podcast with Ronan Farrow” and “Chasing Cosby”, we see the countless women who were ignored in favor of protecting powerful men. Countless media, court officials, law enforcement, and even friends and family ignored, dismissed, or discouraged the hundreds of victims who came forward. Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby (like so many others) were only held accountable when there was no other option.

We see this decision to ignore the needs of some in favor of a bigger “agenda” when listening to the second season of “Slow Burn” which focuses on the sexual abuse scandals faced by Bill Clinton during his years in office as President. Monica Lewinsky has maintained that she does not feel like she was sexually assaulted by President Clinton, but there is no arguing that she was treated as a political football, rather than a victim of violence or power inequity. Both sides (regardless of party) seemed to view Clinton’s inappropriate pursuit of Lewinsky as an opportunity to bring down their opponent or support their candidate. We have to answer this with Clinton, with Kavanaugh, with Trump, with Franken, and yes, with Joe Biden. How do we respond to allegations of sexual abuse and violence? Is our response different when it is “our guy”? Are we concerned with supporting victims and survivors? Or are we looking to score cheap political points? Are we ignoring survivors and victims because we’re afraid to lose the election, the seat, or the moral high ground?

And let’s take that even farther…are we afraid to support victims because we don’t know what it will mean for our community? Our family? Our workplace? Ending violence requires courage and consistency. We MUST be willing to be brave. We must be willing to hold EVERYONE accountable, no matter the cost. We must take the risk to create a world where everyone is safe, everyone is free, and everyone is loved.

Black Lives Matter…

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…and white silence is complicity.

There are so many things to be said about the current situation in our world. The first thing is that it isn’t new. This isn’t America breaking or a failure in the system. This is the truth about American racism and systematic injustice. It has always existed; now it is just being caught on camera.

The second is that we can’t do the work to end domestic and sexual violence without addressing racial violence. Freedom for some (i.e. freedom for cis white women) is not real freedom. We MUST acknowledge and fight to undo the racism and white supremacy that intersect with and uphold interpersonal power-based violence in our nation and world.

The third thing is that we don’t need more white voices weighing in on this. It is time to listen to, amplify, and compensate Black activists and leaders. They have been doing the work for generations. They know the struggle. If you are white, it is your turn to sit back, support the Black leaders in the movement, and use your white privilege to protect them. As Ijeoma Oluo said:

“Allies: Now is the time to be in the service of Black liberation.

Limit your response to what is of real, tangible help to us. Give money, call your reps, protect Black people at protests, elevate our work and voices.

Don’t make us swim through your tears while we fight.”

(follow her on Twitter)

We can’t allow racism, racial violence, and policy brutality to claim any more Black lives, Black hopes, Black dreams, or Black futures. EVERY organization that works for a better world must participate in this fight for justice. Black lives matter.

What is Justice?

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If you’re like us, you’ve had a lot more time (or at least more excuses) to watch Netflix, read books, and listen to podcasts. We’ll be sharing some thoughts from our favorite shows and podcasts over the next few weeks and we’d love to hear what you are watching or listening to as you shelter-in-place!

Content warning: Discussion of sexual assault.  If you may be triggered, use caution in reading ahead or call us at 815-756-5228.

We’ve mentioned before that we were listening to Chasing Cosby.  It is a difficult podcast to listen to. You come face to face with survivors who bravely share their experiences with sexual assault, fear, and betrayal.  Not only did they experience a violation of their bodies and their choices, but their trust was violated.  Cosby had built an image of himself as a paragon of virtue, a family man, someone they could trust to help them. And he used that image, that mirage to hurt them.

It took decades for him to be found guilty of his crimes.

In the last episode of the podcast, several of the survivors meet for a live-recorded episode.  They (and the podcast host) answer a series of audience questions. One of the most poignant is the question, what does justice look like for you?

Many of us might assume we know what their answer would be.  Many of us would assume justice was served.  Bill Cosby was found guilty.  Bill Cosby is in prison. Is this justice? For some of the women, the answer is yes.  For others, no.  There is no justice. There can be no justice.

There is no undoing what Bill Cosby did.  There is no way to un-assault someone, no way to erase that crime or all of the trauma that followed. A harm-doer ending up in prison may send the message to others that this behavior will not be tolerated, but it doesn’t fix or change what they did.

Survivors deserve more.

Many survivors feel the deep lack of justice from harm-doers who can’t admit they have done something wrong. Many of Cosby’s survivors noted that what they wanted most was an apology.  They wanted Cosby to acknowledge that he had hurt them, to show that he knew he had done something wrong, and wouldn’t do it again.  They’ve been denied that justice.

Survivors aren’t asking for justice because they want to punish someone or perpetuate a cycle of pain.  They are asking for justice because they believe in a better world, because they want to make the world a safer place.  They want true justice because they are strong.

Many survivors have found comfort in seeing other survivors come forward, in supporting other survivors. The courage and strength in finding justice in fighting for other survivors is the heart of this movement. I believe in a future without sexual assault or violence because I have seen the courage of survivors who life one another up. I believe in a future without violence, because I know survivors are fighting not only for their own justice, but for others.  They fight for other survivors, but also for no one else to ever be put in a position to become a survivor.

The survivors of Bill Cosby not only fought for him to be held accountable, but also fought to change statute of limitations for sexual assault in states around the nation. They have made it possible for victims to report abuse when they feel safe and able to do so.  They not only held Cosby accountable, they changed the world for other survivors.

You have no responsibility to anything but your own healing, but survivor, we hope you know just how powerful you are.

You will change lives, just by healing.  You will encourage other survivors. You have the ability to change the world for the better. Organizations like Safe Passage only exist because of the strength of survivors who came together to create these services and because of survivors who work in this field each and every day.

Justice does not look like a courtroom, a judge, or a sentence.  Justice isn’t found in jail cells or handcuffs.  Justice is a world without violence.  Justice is a world where we are ALL safe.  Justice is what we are fighting for.  And we will never give up.

Child Abuse Prevention Month

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Today’s blog post comes to us from our Children’s Counselor, Jennifer King:

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. In the children’s counseling program at Safe Passage we provide therapy and counseling for children who witness domestic violence and whose parents are victims of domestic violence, but we also provide services to children who are themselves victims of violence. Did you know that according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) 1 in 15 children in the United States were exposed to intimate partner violence, a total of more than 5 million children, in just one year? Research has shown that witnessing domestic violence can be a traumatic event for children. In the landmark Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey (ACES) done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to domestic violence was found to be one of the 10 childhood experiences that can be a precursor to negative health outcomes in the future.

 

Another hard truth is that, in addition to the trauma of witnessing intimate partner violence, it is in many cases associated with other forms of violence. 1 in 3 children who witnessed domestic violence are also child abuse victims (according to the NCADV). Safe Passage counselors know this from our work with child clients. Often children are referred to us for counseling who are displaying behaviors that are concerning to their parents and teachers, such as aggression, nightmares, excessive crying, or clinging to parents. It can be helpful for parents to know that many of these behaviors are common among children who have experienced trauma. It is even more helpful to know that the effects of child abuse and other childhood trauma can be alleviated through developing a trusting relationship with a counselor. Children’s counselors at Safe Passage are Master’s-level counselors who are certified in trauma treatment. Talk therapies can be used with some children and adolescents, but more often expressive therapies are used to meet children at their level and make therapy as non-threatening and enjoyable as possible. Our counselors use play therapy techniques to assist children with expressing their feelings, experiencing healthy boundaries and limits and making choices about therapy activities in order to increase their sense of safety and control. Play is the natural language of children and while playing children can explore feelings that they are unable to describe using only words.

 

In our trauma training and working with clients we have learned that the most important part of any therapy is the relationship between the client and the therapist. Children’s counselors at Safe Passage work very hard to create an environment for children where they can have fun while always feeling safe and valued.  As one of the foremost experts on trauma treatment, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk said, “being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.” At Safe Passage our goal is to provide these safe connections in order to help children heal from trauma and abuse.

 

If you suspect a child you know is being abused, you can report that abuse in Illinois by calling 1-800-25ABUSE. Let parents, families, and children know that there is help and support available at Safe Passage by calling 815-756-5228 or call us yourself to learn more about our services.  Together, we CAN end child abuse for good.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness

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Hey all you cool cats and kittens! We’ll admit it, we jumped on the bandwagon and dove deep into the wild world of Tiger King – and as always, we have some thoughts (Spoilers coming—but if you haven’t seen the show yet you aren’t going to believe us that this is real.) Get your leash on your tiger and let’s go!

Big Cats Thats Fun GIF by NETFLIX

A quick recap: Tiger King is Netflix’s new number documentary. The show tells the story of Joe Exotic, a character to say the least, who runs Greater Wynnewood Zoo. The private zoo is home to hundreds of large cats – panthers, tigers, snow leopards and more. But what draws customers into the zoo is the baby tiger experience. Visitors are able to spend time snuggling the baby animals before taking a souvenir photo. Sounds nice right? One woman, Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue doesn’t think so. The majority of the documentary focused on the rivalry between Joe’s GW zoo and Carole’s Big Cat Rescue. Long story short, Carole thinks Joe’s operation (and others like it) are unethical and Joe thinks Carole is a grifter who is out to get him.


Who isn’t, Joe?  Who isnt?

We saw Joe and several of his staff create videos threatening Carole and her husband which eventually led to Joe’s arrest for attempting to hire someone to murder her.

Yes, this is a real show. Yes, these people and these stories are real. We know, it was shocking for us too.

Big Cat Lol GIF by NETFLIX

There are enough red flags in this show to sew a quilt the size of Connecticut. We could talk about the abuse that animals suffer in private zoos.  We could talk about the ways that nonprofits (like Big Cat Rescue) often operate in the same way as those they fight against. We could talk about labor laws and the exploitation of volunteers and staff.  We could talk about OPENING A PIZZA RESTAURANT THAT USES SPOILED MEAT TO KEEP COSTS DOWN. The point is, there is a lot we could focus on. But we’re a domestic violence and sexual assault crisis center, so guess what this blog will focus on?  Yes, that’s right: the blatant abuse of humans that went on with hardly a comment the entire documentary.

Let’s start with Joe.  It is hard to say if he was meant to be the star or the villain of this documentary. He’s a complicated man, but his relationship history is clearly problematic at best. He says himself that he fell in love with and married multiple straight men. Joe and Travis, the first two of his husbands that we meet in the documentary, both seem tied to Joe by a variety of strings, including financial abuse, isolation, and addiction.

The issue in Joe’s relationships isn’t polygamy.  Having multiple partners or spouses can be complicated and different people will have different opinions about the morality of multiple partnerships, but it isn’t inherently abusive.  The problem is when one person in the relationship holds all the power.  That’s true in monogamous AND polygamous relationships.  Joe was much older than any of his partners (Joe, Travis, and later Dillon were all 20-30+ years younger than Joe).  Joe was known to give his partners drugs or expensive gifts to keep them with him. They were isolated and kept from family and friends, forced to rely on Joe for support and drugs.  This is, obviously, not a recipe for a healthy relationship.  In fact, these are some of the more subtle ways that relationships may be abusive.  You may not see bruises or injuries, but that doesn’t mean that someone isn’t being abused. In fact, as one of Joe’s partners (Travis Maldonado) goes on to kill himself, either in a gun accident or via suicide, we can see how the lack of equality and independence in these relationships can be incredibly devastating.

Abusive polygamy is a recurring theme in this documentary, so let’s turn to Doc Antle.


If a white guy riding in on an elephant doesn’t scream trustworthy, I don’t know what does.

Bhagavan Antle is the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari, a cat breeder who has provided wild animals for films like Ace Ventura, Dr. Doolittle, and even music videos for P. Diddy and Britney Spears. Doc Antle seems to regularly hire young women as assistants at his facility, asking them to work over 12+ hours, and often entering romantic relationships with them.  In the documentary, he has 3 female partners who live and work at his facility. He and many others in the documentary note that he is often accused of running a “tiger sex cult”.

One of the women who left Doc Antle’s employ was filmed for the documentary and alleges that women were encouraged (or expected) to sleep with Antle to earn a better position at the facility. Women were told what they could and couldn’t wear.  She herself was pushed to get breast implants, as if that has any bearing on how well she could care for tigers. She said that she was too afraid to say that she didn’t want to have the procedure and she was looking forward to the required post-op rest after the long hours she spent working with the animals.

Like Joe’s partners, Doc Antle’s partners seem isolated at Myrtle Beach Safari, working long hours with only each other (and Doc Antle) for support. The level of control to be able to say what someone was or wasn’t allowed to wear or to change someone’s name is a classic red flag for abuse. Even if none of these women were in romantic relationships, Doc Antle’s sexualization of his employees and clear quid pro quo sexual harassment make him one of the most egregious examples of abusive behavior in the series.

Let’s turn next to someone who made our skin crawl: Jeff Lowe. He was initially Joe’s financial saving grace when Joe’s legal beef with Carole and Big Cat Rescue threatened to bankrupt the zoo.  Their partnership quickly soured as Joe started to feel that Jeff was just out to steal his tigers.  He may not have been wrong. While Jeff certainly seemed more legally savvy and less naïve when compared to Joe, his relationship with his wife Lauren was beyond icky.

A main theme of his early appearance in the series was his need for tiger cubs to attract young women into threesomes with him and his wife. We’re not even going to touch that beyond to say if you can’t get a sexual partner without exploiting wild animals, maybe you need to take a long hard look at your life. BUT let’s look at a scene that took place toward the end of the series when we found out Jeff’s wife Lauren was pregnant. Jeff and Lauren were discussing hiring a nanny to help Lauren care for their child.  Jeff was insistent on finding a nanny he found attractive. THAT’S NOT WHAT YOUR NANNY IS THERE FOR!  They are there to care for your child, NOT to give you a tingly feeling in your pants.  This is so obviously sexual harassment that I almost can’t believe it is real.

I feel like if I used this as an example in a sexual harassment training, people would tell me that my presentation is too over the top and I need to tone down the hyperbole. I feel SO WORRIED for whoever has taken that position.

In that same conversation, Jeff also told Lauren that her first priority after having the baby would be “hitting the gym” and getting back in shape.  Again, he’s acting like the only thing that matters is whether the women in his life are aesthetically pleasing to him. He’s not worried about his wife’s health or the development of their child.  He doesn’t care about her recovery or her learning to be a parent. He just cares that she gets “hot” again.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but treating your partner like a real-life sex doll where the only thing that matters is them measuring up to your [almost always impossible to achieve] physical standards is abusive.

Finally, let’s turn to the star of the biggest question in the series: Carole Baskin and did she or didn’t she kill her second husband Don Lewis?

Just kidding.  We’re not even going to touch that.

Netflix Carole GIF
Us cycling RIGHT PAST that question

The documentary hashed that out and if you’re looking for a true-crime blog, you’ve come to the wrong place.  We’re here to talk about the multiple times Carole disclosed graphic and horrifying abuse that the documentary glossed over like we didn’t even need to care.

In sharing her story, Carole disclosed that she was sexually assaulted at age 14 by three men who lived near her family.  Not only did she experience a horrific sexual crime, a gang rape, as a CHILD, she was also forced out of her home not long after.  Her family, she noted, believed that women who were sexually assaulted must have done something to invite the abuse.  In essence, she says her family blamed her, a 14 year-old child, for being sexually assaulted.  No surprise she didn’t feel safe continuing to live at home and she left by age 15.

She was married with a child only a few years later and again, she disclosed that her first husband was a violent man of whom she was afraid.  She was too afraid to leave, worried about what would happen to her daughter if she tried to start over on her own.  One night after an argument where she had to flee the house to feel safe, she was picked up and comforted by her future second-husband Don Lewis.  Like Joe (and Doc Antle and Jeff Lowe), Don was significantly (22 years) older than Carole.  Not every relationship with an age gap is abusive, but it is a red flag that could indicate a power disparity that might lead to abuse.

To recap: Carole Baskin was sexually assaulted at age 14, blamed and shamed by her family, stuck in an abusive marriage until she was “rescued” by a man over two decades her senior.  Did she feed Don Lewis to her tigers?  Honestly, that isn’t the question that is on my mind.  I want to know what we can do to ensure no other young girl or young person goes through that level of abuse again.

We know that animals should not be abused. I wish we had the same level of passion for advocating to end abuse against our fellow humans. John Finlay and Travis Maldonado should never have felt pressured into relationships with Joe.  Lauren should know that her value comes from something so much deeper than her appearance and she shouldn’t have to be with a partner who treats her like that is the only thing that matters.  The women and Myrtle Beach Safari should be free to dress as they like, go by their own names, and not have to sleep with their boss to get ahead.  Carole should never have been abused.

Tigers shouldn’t be abused for our entertainment. People shouldn’t either.  We’re not saying Tiger King shouldn’t have been made or that we’re bad people for enjoying the BONKERS ride each episode took us on.  We’re just saying we can’t sweep these things under the rug anymore.  We need to talk about these things.  Only by talking openly about abuse can we ever hope to end it. Survivors, you are not alone.

 

Self Care

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If you’ve worked in social services, you’ve likely heard about “self-care” so many times you’ve lost count.  If not, you might be encountering this term for the first time as we all [hopefully] spend more time investing in our mental and emotional well-being while we’re distancing.

Whether you’ve heard it once or a hundred times, you might wonder why people place so much emphasis on the idea of “self-care”.  One of our Sexual Assault Counselors, Naicia, shares her thoughts:

Why do we encourage self-care?

Trauma compromises our wellbeing. Taking an active role to care for our mental, emotional, and physical health can be a challenging journey. People who have been repeatedly wounded by another person may come to understand that they lack worth  or are not deserving of having their needs met. A survivor’s world is distorted by enduring repeated crises. When the brain is trained to be on hyper-alert for safety, the idea of feeling well doesn’t make sense. Avoiding and ignoring emotions may seem safer. 

Self-care is giving space to see yourself as deserving of emotional and physical wellbeing. Activities that encourage movement like music, dance, yoga, and exercise allow the body to release intense emotions in a nonverbal way. Creative expressions of art, writing, music, and crafts also release the energy of trauma in healthy ways. Focused breathing releases stress and tension and slows heightened awareness and flashbacks that impede day to day functioning. Positive affirmations empower self-awareness and increase self-esteem.

Consistently practicing things that energize us and center us at the moment slowly rewire the brain to recognize that our present needs are important. Nurturing self-care activities can help us gain control over stressful emotions.

Whether you are the victim of abuse or enduring higher than normal stress due to our unprecedented circumstances, don’t forget that you matter.  You are valuable.  You deserve to invest in yourself.  Take the time to remind your brain, body, and spirit that you matter.

What are your favorite self-care activities?  What are the things that ground you or lift your spirits?  Share them in the comments!  You never know who you might inspire!

Chasing Cosby

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In January, the LA Times premiered a new podcast which followed the career, and dark personal history, of comedian and convicted sex criminal, Bill Cosby.  The six-episode podcast, Chasing Cosby, is available wherever you get your podcasts.

The podcast is an important reminder that we can’t assume someone is safe just because they are famous, powerful, or well-liked in our communities. The podcast sends the message loud and clear that we must Start By Believing and trust survivors when they come forward.  Only by believing survivors, supporting survivors, and holding perpetrators accountable, can we truly end sexual violence in our world.

The podcast is powerful, moving, and haunting and please please please be cautious in listening if you are a survivor or may be triggered by stories of abuse. This is not an easy podcast to hear. But it is important for many of us.

We’ll be sharing more of our thoughts on different episodes and themes through the podcast, but first and foremost, the lesson we can learn from this podcast is how incredibly strong survivors are. Anyone working in this field or industry will tell you, the ones who are making a difference and the ones who are changing the world are survivors. We are in the background, offering support and guidance, but the real power behind the movement to end violence is and always has been survivors.

The women who reported Bill Cosby’s abuse not only had the courage to share their stories, to press charges, or to testify in court, but many of them ALSO advocated for changes in the laws of their home states.  State after state changed or discarded restricted statute of limitation laws for reporting sexual abuse and they did so because of the advocacy of survivors of Bill Cosby.  These women not only sought justice for themselves, but they sought to make the world a more just place for future survivors.

They had no responsibility to anything but their own healing, but they still took this stand. Because of them, Colorado DOUBLED the length of time a survivor has to report assault and abuse. Nevada and California removed any statute of limitations on reporting these crimes.  Women and all survivors are safer, our world is safer, because of their courage.

Remember each day as we work together to end sexual violence to listen to survivors.  Ask survivors in your life what they need and how you can support them.  Look to survivors in the news, buy and read books by survivors, watch Ted Talks from survivors (may we recommend any and everything by Tarana Burke?), and learn from them. We don’t do this work FOR survivors of violence, we do this work WITH them.

Thank you, to each and every person, who has survived sexual violence and is fighting for yourself and for the world.  We are honored to fight with you.

Update

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As with many social-service agencies and businesses, we find ourselves operating under a new normal due to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

While we are all practicing social distancing, finding new ways to spend our time, and doing our best to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe, the need for services and support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence continues. Everything feels different right now and we don’t know when things will go back to normal. So in the meantime, we want you to know that we are here.

If you are feeling alone or unsafe, you can call us 24/7 at 815-756-5228.

We can’t meet together, which is an incredible disappointment, especially as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April) approaches, but we can still all stand together against sexual violence and stand together for survivors. We’ll be posting more on this blog with reviews of books, shows, and podcasts.  We’ll be sharing lots of information, quizzes, and live videos on our social media channels (Facebook: @safepassagedvsa; Instagram: @safe_passage_dekalb; Twitter: @Safe_PassageDV).  We’ll have contests, story time, and so much more. Keep up to date with us and please interact with us!  We’d love to see your comments, discussion, and recommendations!

We want survivors everywhere to feel blanketed in love and support during this crisis.  This is a difficult time for everyone and the best thing we can all do is help one another.  Be a voice of support for survivors.  Reach out for help, if you need it.  If you don’t, reach out to those who do! We may be apart but we are not alone!