What Can We Learn from the Stephen Collins Case? by @TruthIsHers

shutterstock_151943369

Trigger Warning: This post discusses child sexual abuse. Those sensitive to this topic need to exercise both caution and good self-care if they choose to read it.

Last week the internet exploded with the news that actor Stephen Collins had confessed to multiple incidents of child sexual molestation. Collins is best known for his role as the minister-father of the Camden family in the long running television show 7th Heaven. Since then he has had a recurring role in Scandal and was also in the process of filming for the Ted 2 movie.

Over forty years ago Collins allegedly exposed himself to three girls between the ages of 11 and 15. With at least one of those girls there was also touch involved. Apparently, Collins’ soon to be ex-wife taped the confession, without his knowledge, during a marriage counseling session in 2012. While the tape was made available to the New York Police Department at that time no charges were pursued due an expired Statute of Limitations.

As a result of these tapes being leaked to the press, by an as yet unknown source, criminal investigations have now been opened in both New York and California, the other location of one of the sexual assaults, Collins has been released or terminated from all of his acting jobs, networks have stopped broadcasting re-runs of 7th Heaven and his talent agent cut ties with him. He voluntarily resigned his position on the national board of the Screen Actors Guild.

As a Trauma Recovery Coach, I’ve been asked many times this week to comment about Collin’s confession and the resulting repercussions. As a survivor of years of childhood sexual assault myself I can’t deny that this makes my anger rise up. I know what it’s like to live with the after effects of that kind of trauma. So far, I’ve endured 25 years of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression. While I’m hopeful of reaching remission sometime in the future, I’m not holding my breath.

I don’t see a great deal of value in my dissecting the details of Collin’s case in order to give a well thought out opinion of whether he’s innocent or guilty. From a personal standpoint, it’s tempting! But I don’t know what greater good that would do for Survivors, whose voices I strive to represent and encourage every day.

However, I think there is tremendous merit in looking at what we can learn from the situation on a larger scale. Collins’ case has much to teach us about sexual assault perpetrator stereotypes, victim stigmatization and ways parents can protect their children from being victimized.

Many people were shocked to hear of the allegations against Collins. His role as the beloved father & minister in 7th Heaven and well respected position within the acting community definitely placed him in a “least to be suspected of being a sex offender” category. The reality though, is that no one can be removed from the potential offender list. No one.

Despite being confronted with the reality of who sexually offends over and over again, our culture continues to cling to the stereotype that they are scruffy, unkempt middle aged men who live in their mother’s basements subsisting on Hot Pockets, unable to hold a job, driving a cargo van and spending their days slouched on a bench in the local playground leering at children they don’t know.

But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Ninety percent of children who are sexually assaulted know their perpetrator. Ninety percent! The typical sexual offender isn’t that mysterious stranger we teach our children to run away from. He/She is their teacher, soccer coach, family member, minister, relative or even the sweet lady who lives down the street and always has an open door and fresh cookies for the neighborhood children. We must ditch our stereotypes and expand our minds if we’re ever going to properly educate our children about who is a danger in their lives.

The Collins’ case also provides us with valuable information about how child victims respond to being sexually assaulted. I have heard people question, over and over this week, why the alleged victims in this case didn’t come forward immediately after their assault to report the crimes. As a society, we need to stop evaluating why a child does or doesn’t report sexual assault with an adult’s logic and reasoning. We cannot place adult expectations onto children whose emotional and cognitive processing capabilities have not yet fully developed.

SHAME

Having worked with hundreds of survivors of childhood sexual assault, I can tell you why most children don’t report: shame, safety and confusion. I will never be able to explain the depth and breadth of shame a child feels when they are sexually assaulted to someone who hasn’t had the experience themselves. That shame gives rise to self-blame, self-loathing and emotional pain that shake a child to their very core. Demanding a child report their assault in the midst of that emotional tornado is a very difficult thing to ask.

SAFETY

For children who are assaulted by a family member on whom they are dependent for care, safety is a huge reason for why they don’t report. Children are dependent on adults for food, shelter and protection from life’s difficulties. They are incredibly vulnerable beings in a world filled with potential dangers. Fostering dependence on one’s caregiver is an innate, hard wired human characteristic. When one of the people who is supposed to keep them safe is in fact hurting them, a child will often choose denial over acceptance. We need to understand and respect this powerful dynamic rather than judging children for trying to preserve their sense of safety in the world.

CONFUSION

The shame a child feels as a result of being sexually assaulted and their fears about their safety combine to create great confusion. Their brains are not yet fully developed, leaving them ill-equipped to deal with such significant and complex situations. We cannot expect them to be able to sift through the incredible vortex of emotions and consequences they fear will befall them in order to come to a logical conclusion. The best way to avoid a child having to face this situation is to help prevent it from ever occurring.

IMPORTANT ADVICE FOR PARENTS

I always give parents two pieces of advice to help protect their child from sexual assault:

  • teach them to be 100% obedient to no one and
  • always keep communication flowing and non-judgmental with their child.

I was raised in a generation where children were taught to obey their elders without question. We were expected to respond with immediate compliance when a teacher, minister, coach, relative or known neighbor gave us a directive. Doing otherwise earned sharp, and often physical, reprisals.

However, children who are taught this standard of 100% obedience to any adult with a position of authority in their lives, are vulnerable to having that expectation used against them. When 90% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone our child knows, we must teach them to have a healthy resistance to obeying any command that makes them feel uncomfortable.

To help protect our children even further we must keep lines of communication both open and non-judgmental. Our kids need to know that they can come to us at any time to discuss any topic and we will be open to listening and helping them. We should ask them, whenever they have engaged with a new situation or group of people, if they felt safe during their time there/with them. When we cultivate open communication, especially about issues of safety, we dramatically increase the chances that our children will report any discomfort with an individual before they are assaulted. And we’re also more likely to receive their report of an assault if one occurs.

I don’t know what will happen with the recent charges of sexual molestation against Stephen Collins. But what I’m certain of, is that if we take these lessons we can learn from his case and apply them in ourl lives, we will diminish the chances that other children will fall victim to sexual predators.

 

Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post again! I will never share your email and that’s a promise. Follow me on Twitter @RachelintheOC or @BadRedheadMedia for social media, branding, or marketing help. Increase your blog traffic by participating in #MondayBlogs (a Twitter meme I created to share posts on Mondays — no book promo) and entering my free feature giveaway.

Starting NOVEMBER 3: Author Social Media Boot Camp! Take a look: group sessions for authors on a budget. Now you too can get affordable, effective help FAST! Follow @ASMBootCamp on Twitter and sign up today here

All content copyrighted unless otherwise specified. © 2014 by Rachel Thompson, author. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.

The Day I Became Anne Frank by Guest Sarah Fader (@osnsmom)

anne-frank-346861_640

Please welcome Huffington Post blogger and Stigma Fighters leader Sarah Fader to the blog today as she shares her story of battling depression. 

When I was a teenager, I began struggling with anxiety and depression. I would wake up to my heart racing uncontrollably. My mental health issues were like an annoying person that insisted on tagging along with me everywhere I went. As much as I told the person to go away, she insisted on staying with me. So I learned to live with her, as irritating as she was. She was a nuisance at first, until I began to use her. I learned that the pain that depression caused made me a better artist.

As an adolescent I attended the “Fame” high school in New York City. I was studying theater there. During my sophomore year I played the role of Anne Frank. Also during this time, I was suffering a great deal with clinical depression. I was having trouble eating, showering and functioning. I was in a tremendous amount of emotional pain.

I knew the pain was going to be there no matter what. It was an unwelcome guest, a tagalong and an annoyance. So I used it. As I played the role of Anne Frank, I thought about my emotional agony and I used it to convey how Anne felt. She was trapped. She was in love with Peter, but there was no future for the two of them. Her death was imminent. Her pain was my pain. I became Anne.

I’ll never forget that day. I held my scene partner, Nick’s, hands and looked into his eyes searching for something. Earnestly I thought, maybe he has the answer to my pain.

It was the best scene I ever performed during my time at Performing Arts high school. My classmates came up after the scene and congratulated me on my work. Little did they know that the reason that scene was so poignant, the reason that it was emotionally cathartic was that I was experiencing emotional turmoil. I wasn’t myself. I was consumed by a black hole otherwise known as clinical depression.

After graduating high school, I stopped pursuing theater for some time. Unfortunately, that left me with no outlet to express my intense emotions, so I developed an ulcer. I knew that I needed to find an alternative outlet for my emotions that wouldn’t reap havoc on my body. I went in search of what that might be.

Since that time, There have been moments when I’ve felt hopeless, moments where I’ve felt my heart pounding so hard I thought my rib cage would explode. There have been times that my entire body was tingling because I’d forgotten to breathe for an indeterminate amount of time. During these moments I’ve found a way to release these intense emotions.

Instead of using them to create a theatrical performance, I’ve transmitted these overpowering emotions into writing. I refuse to let my emotions stay inside of myself. Instead they will pour out of my heart and onto a page where they belong.

Writing provides me with a much needed release from clinical depression. When I write my feelings on paper I see what they are. They are no longer overwhelming. They are tangible. I can touch the words. I can read them aloud. I can see that they are just a series of words forming together to become coherent thoughts.

When I feel: I write.
When I write: I release.
When I release: I heal.

 

About Sarah Fader:

Sarah FaderSarah Fader is the creator of the popular parent-life blog Old School /New School Mom. Her work can been found on The Huffington Post. Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Additionally, like about six million other American adults, Sarah lives with panic disorder. She writes a column for Psychology Today called Panic Life. She is currently leading the Stigma Fighters campaign, which gives individuals with mental illness a platform to share their personal stories. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to show the world that there is a diverse array of real everyday people behind mental illness labels.

Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post again! I will never share your email and that’s a promise. Follow me on Twitter @RachelintheOC or @BadRedheadMedia for social media, branding, or marketing help. Increase your blog traffic by participating in #MondayBlogs (a Twitter meme I created to share posts on Mondays — no book promo) and entering my free feature giveaway.

Starting OCTOBER 27: Author Social Media Boot Camp! Take a look: group sessions for authors on a budget. Now you too can get affordable, effective help FAST! Follow @ASMBootCamp on Twitter and sign up today here

At this writing, Broken Pieces is #1 on the paid Women’s Poetry list on Amazon. Click for a sample or go ahead, purchase a copy (eBook or print from Booktrope).

Saturated by guest Sarafina Bianco (@FinaBianco)

Image courtesy of  marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Please welcome author and domestic violence survivor Sarafina Bianco to the blog as she shares her story of abuse, suffering, and finally rebuilding.  *Trigger Warning* It’s been five years since I left the house on Sunset, but it seems like it … [Continue reading]

#MondayBlogs Giveaway October 2014

MB-FINAL-LOGO-KLM

Since I created #MondayBlogs in late 2012, even I'm shocked at what an amazing success it has become! , generating more than 5,000 tweets! And it is because of all of you that we can say that with a lot of pride and a big ol’ smile! As a thank you to … [Continue reading]

The Power of the Survivor Memoir by @TruthIsHers

shutterstock_177713315

The Power of the Survivor Memoir by staff writer Bobbi Parish (aka @TruthIsHers) Storytelling has always been a powerful, integral part of human life. We tell stories to entertain, impart knowledge, and record our history. A narrative is the … [Continue reading]

Why Trigger Warnings Empower Survivors

stop woman pic

*Trigger Warning* A talented author friend Amy Gigi Alexander pointed me to an opinion piece this past week in a journal (I'm purposely not sending you to it because, well, I'll get further into that below), that stated with silly and outdated … [Continue reading]

The “Why” Behind Suicide by New Staff Columnist @TruthIsHers

shutterstock_113875279

As a therapist and trauma recovery coach I experienced significant distress among my clients this past week. Between World Suicide Awareness Day and the anniversary of 9/11 social media channels and the news were filled with triggering articles, … [Continue reading]

Let’s Talk Suicide and Compassion

NC-Suicide-Prevention-Ad

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion ~ The Dalai Lama An English fellow with a fairly large following left a stark, terrifying message on his Facebook wall last week, a suicide … [Continue reading]

#MondayBlogs Giveaway September 2014

MB-FINAL-LOGO-KLM

Since I created #MondayBlogs in late 2012, even I'm shocked at what an amazing success it has become! Thousands participate each week, generating more than 5,000 tweets! And it is because of all of you that we can say that with a lot of pride and a … [Continue reading]

Shame (An Excerpt from the Upcoming Broken Places by @RachelintheOC)

freedigitalphotos.net

An excerpt from my upcoming release, Broken Places, coming soon from Booktrope! Continuing along the same vein as my third book Broken Pieces (available from Amazon in digital format, print from Booktrope everywhere), I continue to write nonfiction … [Continue reading]

Transcending the Pain of Sexual Abuse by guest Liz Ferro (@GirlsWithSole)

Girls with Sole

Please help me in welcoming Liz Ferro, founder of Girls with Sole to the blog today, as she shares her journey through the pain of sexual abuse and hardship that lead her to a place of healing and supporting others through fitness. When I was born … [Continue reading]

#MondayBlogs Giveaway August 2014

MB-FINAL-LOGO-KLM

Since I created #MondayBlogs in late 2012, even I'm shocked at what an amazing success it has become! Thousands participate each week, generating more than 5,000 tweets! And it is because of all of you that we can say that with a lot of pride and a … [Continue reading]

Talking with Maurice, a WWII story by guest @ScottTheWriter

Image courtesy of  stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  Today please welcome author and journalist Scott Bury to the blog as he shares the inspiration for his latest non-fiction work, Army of Worn Soles, the true story of his father-in-law, Maurice Bury, a Canadian citizen drafted into the … [Continue reading]

Why The Time Traveler’s Wife and Nutella Is A Perfect Combo

The Time Traveler’s Wife

I have been tagged by the lovely folks over at Sweatpants & Coffee for a blog hop featuring books and chocolate. Check out their recommendations here and then scroll below for mine. “I hate to be where she is not, when she is not. And yet, I am … [Continue reading]

Sign up to get all the news
Subscribe