Saturday, February 22, 2014

If I could go back . . .

Just a little more than three years ago, my life fell apart because I discovered I was married to a sex offender. If I could go back to that day in ghost-like form, like Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Past in Dickens' A Christmas Carol, what would I whisper in the ear of my past self?

As a ghost, I would watch myself in the morning, caring for my 3-week-old, Sabrina, and my 2-year-old, Elise. I was happy that morning. It actually hurts to think how happy I was because so much pain was about to follow.

I can see myself making lunch and I know the phone is about to ring. Jake is about to call and tell me that he was sent home from work. He's going to come home. He's going to sit at the table and lie to me. For his sake, I will be calm. For his sake, I will hug and reassure him while he sobs over the injustice of it (as he makes it out to be).

But, no, the phone hasn't rung yet. I still see myself in calm, happy oblivion. I would like to stand close to that past self of mine and say,

 "A storm is coming, but you will be okay. 
Just be the honest and upstanding person you always aim to be. 
You will make it to the other side, I promise."

As the phone rings, as I watch myself reach out to pick up the receiver, I want to give myself permission,

"It is okay to doubt him. It is okay to question him. 
It is okay to be mad at him. 
Trust your gut that he is not innocent. 
You don't have to stand by him."

Mere hours after that phone rings, that past version of me will fear that she will lose her children. I want to reassure her,

"The few who doubt your good motherhood will quickly reverse their opinions. Everyone will agree that your babies belong to you and you to them.

As she shivers in bed with one arm wrapped around each baby, afraid that if she lets them go or closes her eyes they might disappear, I'd like to say, 

"Sleep, sleep, you are safe, they are safe. Years of happy mothering are still ahead of you." 

As she finally falls into a restless sleep, I would like to send her one last message:

"You fear losing your partner in life, but he never was the man you hoped he was. You will suffer pain and loss, but the hidden blessings will outweigh it all. In return you will gain self-confidence and strength; you will see friends and community more clearly; your connection to your children will be amplified; and you will find second chances for career and for love. 
You will suffer and struggle, but you will also survive and thrive. 
Each year will bring a stronger sense of gratitude for the fruitless life you were rescued from and the amazing life you were gifted with. 
I just wish you could know this now and let it reassure you as the storm passes over."

Please share what you would like to whisper into the ear of your past self.  Comment below or email

Monday, February 17, 2014

So did you "like" Blue Pinky Promise on facebook?

Please check out the campaign against bullying, Blue Pinky Promise.

When we teach our children submission we teach fear: Fear of bullying. Fear of social stigma. Fear that begins when we teach them that if they don't immediately comply we will spank them (or as my family often said if a child cried at being stifled, "Be quiet! Or I will give you something to cry for.")  just as the man who taught the little girl who dared say "No" when he placed his hand on her and threatened, "Don't tell me No!" And if she continued in her "No" what had she clearly learned to expect would follow next? I know, spare the rod and spoil the child. But for what? Submission to the bullies of this world?

Yes, I know there were perhaps extenuating circumstances, the man had other children to watch?  He was doing the best he could? We have all been there. I of all people know the guilt of not being the parent I wish I had been. Yet, such time-honored tactics as the man and many of us display  really do condition children to "their place" in the continuum of the gender apartheid. Parents too often teach through bullying.  And as many of us know for those so inclined bullying often culminates in physical and sexual violence. Just this week on (Fox TV) they showed a video of a girl being seriously beaten up by another girl at school to the point that the police were called and perhaps the video was evidence that "things just went too far." I didn't mean to.. is not a viable excuse. We have long experience with excuses and know that to paraphrase, "the path to hell is paved with excuses proclaiming our good intentions."  

And yet, isn't that what a society says when bullying in general is a societally acceptable means of domination, is in fact the norm? We say"I didn't meant to...  Things just went too far"  Isn't that what we say about date rape? We say that about the gang rape of  the young men targeted at a teen drinking party? (young males self-styled "Masculine" males like Arnold Schwarzenegger persist in referring to as "sissy-boys") And then there is, of course the very recent findings of the NFL investigation
which found that Ignacio and two others did indeed bully and harass Martin. In fact, not only Martin was targeted but another player was harassed with homo-phobic taunts while an assistant coach from another country was treated to racial epithets creating a culture of harassment and bullying. Predictably Ignacio's attorney now tries to blame the victims. He denies and excuses the results of Ignacio's behavior as misinterpreted, as unintended. Suddenly the bully whimpers, claims he is the victim of lies and  unfair bullying! (Shades of the attack on Dylan Farrow's Open Letter.)

From all sides there is great pressure to say some version of  "Boys will be boys!" shrug and then go on with our lives thus teaching our children, both boys and girls, that it is their problem to avoid the bullies, be passive, be submissive and don't put ourselves in harms way (or just learn to be worse bullies and "stand up for yourself." )  It is as though the girl on the video should have fought harder or (better yet) have stayed home from school that day, or every day, or sucked up better, been more submissive because a bully is waiting....for both boys and girls targeted, not in the NFL, but very close to home.

The girl targeted by the bully was afraid. She tried all those submissive things she was taught. In the video she attempted to leave, tried to avoid the confrontation,  (tried all the submissive tactics we teach children to avoid bullying after we have taught them submission by our own female gender conditioning.) but that girl's attempts were all to no avail.

And, what really struck me was that although other students watched, shouted, videoed the entire incident and then up-loaded it onto the internet, none of the girls present stepped forward singularly or en-mass to stand up for the girl who was being beaten up by the bully. Perhaps out of righteous fear that they might be next, they too joined in scapegoating the victim.

How many reading about the difficulties Dylan Farrow experienced just reporting her own experience of sexual assault as a child, or reading about accounts of  the on-going trashing of her mother Mia Farrow, or the denials of the powerful,  felt they too should remain silent, not speak aloud of their own experience as a parent or as a child out of fear? From that how many learned the safer way would be to stand aside? How many learned the lesson that to come forward and self identify as a victim of sexual violence is to invite trashing?

How many people (spouses, children, both boys and girls) whose lives have been seriously harmed by a sex offender never the less feel obligated to remain silent out of fear? How many mothers learned not to stand up against husbands for fear of a beating or a trashing albeit on perhaps a lesser scale in their own homes, at work or at church? And how much of the hurtful trashing comes from other women championing the offender out of the very real possibility that they (like the girls who witnessed the girl being beaten up at school) fear they might be the next  scapegoat targeted?  Just so, learned helplessness makes cowards of us all.

We could counter the teaching of submission to our young children one child at a time just as Evie Pruett vowed in a recent blog right here on Not the Life I Chose. Why not begin at home? The is an anti-bullying program on line, (begun and supported I think by the company that makes Secret, the Deodorant for women.) The recommend the Pinky Swear as a secret sign against bullying. Why not do as their program suggests? Why not choose to paint our own and our child's Pinky Finger Blue as a sign of your solidarity against bullies and bullying? Why not invite OUR own children to join OUR secret club? Why not teach children about the Blue Pinky Swear? For the Blue Pinky Swear empowers each of us as individuals and, in a crisis, a Blue Pinky identifies those around us who support each other against bullying of any kind. 

Seeing our own or someone else's Blue Pinky might even be an on-going reminder to each of us not to threaten our children, not to teach our children automatic submission to us or any adult who might wish to touch them, threaten them sexually or otherwise. It might remind them they can talk to us, might even protect them from someday being threatened into silence. Our actions might protect a child, perhaps even our own child,  from being bullied into submitting to sex (even in some attic with only a little train set as witness, as was the case for Dylan Farrow.). I say, "Valentines to Mia for her courage!"

You may visit Blue Pinky Promise and decide if you want to adapt the program to your own needs, perhaps at home, perhaps with your daycare provider, or perhaps at school.

If you choose to sit down with your children (boys and girls) to paint Pinky Fingers Blue it might just be the first courageous act in a concrete plan to teach our children that we do not stand for bullying, that we are able to protect each other, encourage confidences, let our children know we want to know what happened. But of course then we would have to deal with bullying and bullies in a different way ourselves because we too were taught that to be accepted, we had to "voluntarily submit" to fathers and husbands and boyfriends and coaches and pastors ....  We would first have to stop being passive, have to change our own mind-set for many of us were also taught a required submission, just as we are now teaching submission to our own children as a way to avoid getting hurt...again and again...even more. Like the girl in the video. Like Dylan Farrow. Like Mia...

Why not stand with each other instead of trashing all the other Mia's, mothers who "had to have known?" We could support anti-bullying programs at day-care, at pre-school, at school, and most importantly at home. No matter what happened before, Why not teach our children, male and female that the goal is not to simply become the most dominant Alfa Female or the greediest Alfa Male, not to be the biggest bully at home, in school, in church, in the community, in business or in the military! The goal is to take back our equality, to stand with others and most of all stand with ourselves and our children. So, go research the Blue Pinky Swear and then buy some sparklie blue fingernail polish and sit down with your kids. Let me know what you think. Boys can have blue pinky's too! Boyfriends can join the club as can trustworthy fathers.... and grandfathers all those interested in growing an equal world.   So, do your research, decide and comment, please.‎?  Against Bullying  Of all kinds!  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Comments on An Open Letter from Dylan Farrow, The New York Times 2/1/14

You can read for yourself the open letter from Dylan Farrow to Woody Allen who, by the way, is soon to be awarded a Golden Globe Lifetime achievement award.  You can decide what you believe is the truth, whether they are taking into consideration all Woody Allen's "achievements" or only those he and his champions would prefer to acknowledge.  You can even go back to 1993 and research the subject on line. It's an education.

The reason I mention Dylan's open letter here is because the accounts of sexual abuse detailed in Dylan Farrow's letter ring true and seem all too familiar.  The lack of real resolution is depressing. Unfortunately hers is all-too-often the outcome of reporting incest, especially when there is money and position and friends in high places willing to protect the accused.

The many mothers and wives who have had to deal with betrayals and the searing pain incest sets in motion in a child's life, the familiar family disruptions a father's denial then causes with everyone taking sides while the predator continues untouched, often un-adjudicated, free to malign and blame the victim who they say was "coached" by the "gold digging wife," the lying mother. The father is free to continue claiming HE is being unjustly targeted despite findings of probable cause by the State of Connecticut, Predators in such cases would have us believe that they are the true victim and claim they should be championed.  At the same time they claim often through lawyers (or their own publicists) that it is not only untrue that he is a predator, a pedophile, a sex offender but that it's unfair to even think he could or would take advantage. It's old news. Predictably, in this case, Woody Allen says it is Disgraceful for Dylan to even repeat her accounts of incest and betrayal.  Blame, shame and thereby discredit and silence the victim. Award the Predator.

Thus the predator is left free to continuing casting shame upon unwilling victims. If the victim had been older (like the stepdaughter he eventually married) Allen might simply have claimed the "attraction" was mutual. That's what my father told me. But this little girl, Dylan, was seven. With a child victim the plan must be to discredit and blame both mother and child as lyers and shame all into silence.

Looking at all the back and forth in this one case, who would even wish for the burden of bringing "false" charges in the face of such prejudice toward child victims and the mothers who "failed to protect?" Isn't it lucky that Dylan had a mother with the money and resources and perhaps the separate status and identity to withstand the pressures and proceed to champion her daughter's truth and divorce her husband in spite of being, herself, maligned and accused?

The article points out that sexual abuse claims against the powerful "stall more easily." I would like to point out that there is no one more powerful than a Father in a closed-system Father-Know's-Best family where the mother's identity and social status hinge often upon maintaining her husband's "blameless" position in the church and community. Such Fathers are indeed in a powerful position. Some take advantage of the power systemically granted them to abuse their power positions within family. They choose to take sexual license. Such Fathers who are pedophiles and predators, those so inclined  chose to use their power to molest children and betray wives.  Although powerful men when exposed may abuse their power to stall investigations, the real betrayal was in abusing the trust placed in him as a Father and protector who chose to commit incest, to sexually assault a child entrusted to his protection.

Even now, Mia Farrow has identity in her own right and name recognition and money enough to champion her child.  She was not trapped in the Mrs Woody Allen identity and forced to remake her identity: her entire world didn't hinge upon being Mrs. But what about all those other mothers, betrayed and maligned by husbands, ex-husbands, in-laws and second wives? What about all those women who woke up one morning to discover theirs was Not The Life They Chose? Who woke up to betrayal, found themselves also suspect, also suddenly relegated to the "outer fringes of society" with little defense except silence because they had always identified themselves as Mrs.only to find their children molested and their husbands arrested as for a sex offense? Their plan A certainly was not to grow up, fall in love and marry a sex offender in the guise of a powerful charming husband!.  

Are you still scared, struggling for courage to tell the truth, to believe a child's truth?  To see marriage with new eyes? Please go online, read, and then comment on Dylan's Open Letter.

Or maybe, you could just tell me, "What IS your favorite Woody Allen Movie?" And can you suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy it?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Don't teach your children submission

I was at a bookstore last weekend with my kids. They were playing with a train table that was set up in the children's section. There were other kids there with their grandpa, the oldest of which was a girl about Elise's age. We were all having a nice time together until the little girl asked her grandpa if she could go find her mother who apparently was elsewhere in the store.

He said "Stay here, she'll come find us when she's done."

The little girl replied, "I'm a big girl," tentatively, like she wasn't sure if she believed it herself, "so I can find her and I'll come back . . ." She took one step away from him, looking wistfully outside of the Children's section.

He grabbed her with one hand, turned her to face himself, and said harshly, "You don't say no to me! Stay here!"

Hearing that froze me in sadness for the little girl. I have been in that grandpa's shoes juggling multiple kids. I should probably mention that he had the youngest of his charges in his arms, a baby of maybe four or five months, and the next oldest was about two years old, so it wasn't an easy group, I'm sure. In every way, he seemed gentle and jovial with them until that exclamation.

You don't say no to me.

Does that resonate with anyone else out there? It makes me shudder.

Many, many times, I have to order my kids to do things or not do things, usually for health or safety or so I can get to work on time. I probably sound like that grandpa in those moments. But I also counter those moments with explanations of why things are the way they are and discussions about potential ways we could change those situations. I let my children talk and think. Everything is a conversation. I encourage my kids to question me and discuss issues. I have even started teaching Elise negotiation stategies in those moments when she asks for something and I say no. The result is that my children seem defiant sometimes AND THAT IS OKAY WITH ME.

My goal as a parent is not to be in control, but to teach my kids how to navigate life. A key part in that is letting them talk back. If they can't talk back effectively in every day situations to someone who loves them, how will they stand up for themselves in a scary and stressful situation?  I hope my children know that they can say no to authority figures. I hope they know that they are allowed to disagree because I am NOT raising submissive children.

Submission, I believe, is a key factor in abusive situations. We have enough victims around here, so let's teach the next generation how to avoid it. Let's put an end to hyper-controlling parenting and let's raise confidant, non-submissive kids.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Hello, from Janet Mackie

Hi. My name is Janet Mackie. Evie asked me to join her blog as a co-contributor so I’ll be putting in my 2 cents worth every few weeks for awhile and hoping to learn from what’s happening in your world. My name isn’t really Janet Mackie but it’s the one I use when I talk or write about my life. Maybe next time I’ll talk about identity and secrecy and shame,and all the reasons that (even when we truly did not “know”) we still feel it is necessary to remain anonymous.
Anyway, I was molested by by my father (and spent years being angry with my mother.) Then I grew up, fell in love and married a man much like my father. We had three children.
Needless to say on the surface things seemed at least OK most of the time but eventually the truth intervened. It Was Not the Life I Chose. I had thought that no matter my own childhood, if I worked harder, tried to make my family better, safer, if I was somehow a better wife and mother, then my family could be happy. My daughter eventually grew up and married a man who was very like her own father who molested her all through her childhood.
In my private life I was married to a sex offender for 20 years. In my professional life I was a social worker investigating CPS reports, putting children in foster care and recommending court action in cases of child sexual abuse. I helped to start a chapter of Parent's United in my community but was blind to the reality of my own situation. Eventually my father died and the child inside me was freed from silence. And I was freed to hear the truth from others. I began to journal and write and searched on line for other women/wives/daughters who had experienced life with a sex offender and to understand and respect women’s differing roles and responses toward the offender in their lives and the ways we all try to grow to meet the horrendous challenge of life after being blindsided., after “finding out.”
I began to understand the roots of my own pain and sorrow. What happened to me as a child was bad enough, but that I had unwittingly created a marriage in which incest could replicate itself was hard for me to forgive. I realize we are not destined to be forever alone and isolated in our trauma, not forever lost in pain and sorrow and disbelief. I found courage to journal and write truthfully about what happened to me and mine. Others like Evie have found courage to blog and others to share and comment in spite of their experiences.
As we find courage to go on line to blog and share our stories we learn from each other how to take back our equality and stop letting others define us as women destined to create and maintain tight little Father's Know Best Families whose members are then expected to live happily ever after in socially ordained respectability. On line men and women may begin to connect the dots, create a community, compare experience and failure and, yes, grow and share strength and success. We discover from each other’s perspectives how others, male and female have begun to reshape the future and trust themselves even after experiencing incest, rape and marital devastation.
As we come together women realize that incest is not an isolated incident occurring only in some other family. Fathers rich and poor molest. Those who are so inclined watch child pornography and troll for minors on line. In addition children are sexually assaulted by coaches, teachers and priests, young men and women are raped and pressured sexually at work and in the military by powerful males who think they are so well protected by their power positions in the family, in the community and in the military that they will never face the consequences of using power to take sexual advantage. I believe that as we succeed building a community of women, sharing and growing, speaking truth ( dare I say consciousness-raising) we will find power to protect ourselves, our children and the children of other women, children in future generations.

But hope begins with us. We have to have courage to live through all of this, redefine ourselves, reimagine a women’s “place” and claim our own equality. If not, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will continue to report having been sexually molested not by strangers but by their own fathers, teachers, coaches, military officers, all people they who took advantage of trust.