That's how I went to bed a couple nights ago feeling. Disappointed, angry, sad, but most of all disappointed.
Disappointed because when I wrote FUCK JOE PATERNO, the whole of daily kos pretty much seemed to go crazy....and it became my highest recommended diary ever, and got tens of thousands of shares. And I tried to channel that into something bigger-a place where OTHER survivors would have the platform to tell their stories too. And I worked on that diary harder than anything I've ever worked on in my life, pretty much. And it was the hardest, most gut wrenching thing I've ever done because while I've done enough advocacy in my life to develop a certain numbness to hearing and reading those stories, when you get that many of them sent to you, and you have read, really read all of them, not just skim but read every fucking word so that you can find the triggers and use the code to scroll block the triggers, eventually that numbness gets worn down. To the point that every time I saw I had a new message, my heart sunk. It was a labor of love- I had a lot of help along the way, but labor is an apt word for what that was like, because I've been through labor before without any drugs and in many ways it hurt just as much, but without the baby at the end. Just a diary that is beautiful in some ways but is also just so horrid, so tragic, so monumentally fucked up that I can't even read it myself...like a lot of people. I've already read all the stories, but I can't read them all together like that. It's just too much.
But I wrote it anyways, even when people told me that maybe I shouldn't, that I should take a break, it was too much to take on at once. I did it I thought maybe the response to the first story was indicative of something bigger-that a tide had turned, and people were getting in touch with their inner outrage. That people were going to finally start paying attention to the silent epidemic of CSA. I thought "wow, this is a turning point!" and that the second diary was going to be a powerful next step.
I was even more convinced of that when I was contacted by a reporter named Ari, who said he brought this to his producers and they were going to air a featured story about it on a local news station. I was ecstatic. A story about actual victims and survivors airing on the same night that other networks would be covering the Joe Peterno memorial service? Our voices were actually going to be heard? And maybe it would be picked up by other markets and heard some more? Fucking amazing. I was supposed to have a phone interview with one of the producers the following morning. Between 10 and 11, he said be waiting for them to call.
Well I waited. And waited. Waited alone, in a room where I had no internet connection (because it's the only room in our house that happens to have a phone) and is freezing cold, couldn't even get up to go to the bathroom or get something to drink because I was afraid I would miss the call, I sat there with butterflies in my stomach, my nerves climbing, waiting.
And then....the phone rang! I answered it, breathlessly, hello? I heard the pause on the line, then the Indian accent....oh, no, it was just a fucking bill collector from BofA, chasing me around for $300 in overdraft fees from 3 years ago.
They never called. Finally I emailed Ari-he wrote me back and said "I'm so sorry, they decided not to cover the story after all. I can't believe they didn't call you, they didn't even call me to let me know." (BTW, you can read the letter I wrote to them, that Ari apparently read to his producers in the middle of the news room floor here. Apparently, their collective response was "meh, there's a primary".)
But I thought, ok...over 1,000 people recommended Fuck Joe Paterno. For the kids right? Because I told my story. And most of the ones who didn't, said the DID care about CSA, but just didn't like that I was "dancing on his grave" or whatever (I wasn't, but ok) So there I figured, if that diary made the impact it did, well then a diary that is FULL of survivor stories, that contains no F-bombs or mentions of he who shall not be named in the title, that I wrote 2 recommended diaries that basically publicized when it was going to be up, should have gotten just as many, if not more rec's and attention than the first one. And that even if the media is just as stupid and insensitive as ever, we-the netroots-could pick up where they failed and FORCE this into the public purview.
Let me make this clear- I don't care about being on the recommended list. I know it's a crapshoot. I actually get a little freaked out when my diaries get on the rec list because I'm very self critical and, despite all the accusations lobbed at me over the past few days that I'm just an "attention whore", I'm actually a pretty shy person and I don't like being in the spotlight. I am inherintly uncomfortable with being complimented-always have been. Having people call me a "hero" after I wrote that made my stomach turn. I don't know how to respond to that kind of thing.
But this diary wasn't about me. At all. It was about everyone else, everyone who sent me their stories and poured their hearts out to me, and were brave enough to put them out there for the public to see. For some of them, even their faces. It was about what I wrote after the squiggly. It was about raising money for RAINN. THAT, I wanted attention for. I wanted that to be at the top of the rec list all day, just so the world could see those stories, many that were told for the first time. But that's not what happened.
It got on the rec list...but it didn't even get a fraction of the attention. It didn't even get as many recs or shares as the diary I slapped together, basically a copy paste of an update in the first diary, that brought up the idea in the first place. I couldn't, for the life of me, understand.
And before I went to bed that night, I looked at the RAINNmakers page I made...my goal was to raise 2,000 in 24 hours. I had raised $330.
And then, to add insult to injury, some twit who has been cyberstalking me ever since that first diary went up, emailed me and said I was "pathetic" and a "mess" and that Joe Paterno's fans could raise $300 for pediatric cancer research in 30 seconds, and how sad it was that I put 3 days of work into something and that's all I raised. "You aren't that effective are you?" she said.
So that's how I went to bed that night. Dejected, angry, disappointed and confused.
And then, the next morning, I woke up to see this:
And then my daughter came in to my room, and she gave me a picture that she drew for me
And I burst into tears- tears of joy, because while I am really a religious or spiritual person anymore, I thought "there has to be some reason why my baby knew-she just knew, without me having to tell her-that what I really needed was a picture of a tree, with both of us in it." And I loved her more in that moment than I think I ever have...and that's saying something, because I love that kid of mine. And I thought, there is a reason for this. There is a reason that when I just felt compelled to open a box of childhood photos the morning after I wrote that first diary, the first one at the top was that one of me in the tree that is now my avatar. The picture I had never seen before. The first picture of myself before that time that I finally thought of, in some small way, as being part of myself. I think that has to come from something...something bigger than myself.
As my sage warrior woman who I am proud to call my friend reminded me-it is about planting seeds.
Seeds that may take some time to germinate, that will struggle against the elements-the rain, the frost, the trampling footsteps of those who don't see the little seedling, struggling to grow into something big and strong.
Monumental change doesn't happen over night. I was naive to even think that. It takes a lot of work-a lot of blood, sweat and tears, to make it happen. It requires constant pressure against immovable objects.
It's not about the rec's-it's about over $1,000 and counting that was raised for RAINN.
It's about the child who somehow found my diary, and reached out and told me-for the first time-this is what is happening to me. And I listened.
It is about the hundreds of people who emailed me and told me their stories-many of them for the first time ever.
It is about the new friendships that have been forged, the network of support that is now forming-growing and growing stronger every day. It is about how we, those who have survived, will find ways to grow stronger in the broken places, so that we can help others who are still living in this nightmare.
A network that includes two of our newest Kossacks: Kristen and Roxine, who were two of the women brave enough to not only share their stories but show their faces to the world in the memorial diary. We are a better community for having them here.
It is about a very personal epiphany- that while I came to this blog because of politics, I discovered that I don't care much about politcs at all...not the horse-race kind, not the electoral kind anyways. Because another wise sage told me a long time ago-back when I didn't really want to listen to his advice- there will be a day, at some point in the near future, that a republican does control the white house again. And the house, and the senate, no matter what we do. And even when they don't, our appointed political leaders are not our saviors. To worship at their alter is no different than to worship a coach-to excuse their actions or inaction is no different than what sparked that rage inside of me when I wrote that diary. WE must become the change we seek in the world
So I give up on the politics of politicians and personality. I believe that change-real change-is ultimately going to come from the bottom, not the top.
I am new to this revalation. Those who have been fighting their own battles for the things that matter to them- the anti-war warriors, the civil libertarians, the militant environmentalists-all those who fight for the causes they care about but are told over and over again "shhh, not today, we have more important things to worry about"
Today, I join your ranks. And I finally understand. And I'm sorry for every time I told you to stay silent in the name of political expediency. Because the truth is, a lot of you-who I once considered foolishly my "enemy" were among my staunchest supporters over these last days. And now I understand why.
My daughter has an expression-I think she learned it in preschool-but it's called "filling up my bucket". She says that sometimes when people are mean, or when you just feel sad, that empties out your bucket. But every time someone shows you love, that fills your bucket again.
Well, Daily Kos, you fill my bucket.
But I still need to leave you for a while...just so I can get a little help, and some rest, and some therapy. In a place where I will not have internet access. But just know that all of you who have shown me support and love have filled my bucket when it was close to empty. And I'll never forget that.
In the meantime, all my survivor brothers and sisters-don't stop fighting, don't stop writing. Create that group we talked about-I'll join it when I get back. Keep planting those seedlings, and nurturing their growth. Keep telling your stories. If you aren't ready yet to tell it to the world-tell it to me. I'm archiving all of them, and will use them in the future for a project I am working on (but not using your own words, unless you expressly give me permission) Again, my email is email@example.com. And you might not hear back from me for a while, but that doesn't mean I don't care, or I didn't read. I do, and I will.
One more thing I want to post....this was how I ended my last diary. A lot of people missed it, because the diary itself was just too painful to read, but this is what I wanted to convey-this is what it's all about
For the girl I once knew as my best friend. The girl who was not scared of spiders and danced to Madonna with me, who took me on adventures and taught me how to build forts, to climb trees and rollerblade. The girl who shared my secrets-including the one we never talked about and eventually split us apart-who I will miss and think of always. For the boy who went to camp one summer, and came back broken, for the girl who found the small sheltered trailer and sat there in the night reading poetry that gave her hope and strength, the girl who lay in a dark room crying the mascara of a woman for the soul of a child. The girls who grow into women who swear they are fine, but never are, who never forget. The girls who grow into fearless punk-artists and take no prisoners, who find their inner she-hulk, and speak truth to power. The boy who grew into a man, survived and overcame addiction, learned how to love again, and create works of art that could brighten even the most darkest corners of the world. The ones who sit in nursing homes rotting, waiting to die, still raging at the world. The little boys who cannot eat blackberries, the men who cannot hold babies, the men and women who cannot ever find intamacy, or have children of their own, because of the memories, and the fear that has consumed them. The sisters who suffered the same abuse and whose relationship is left in tatters.
For the little girls and little boys who never even make it through childhood, because those who are supposed to protect them don't, or because cowards would rather snuff out their lives than face their own consequences. To those who cry our for help but are met with silence, who are failed by people and institutions that have the power to stop it but DON'T. For those who suffer still with memories too painful to bear and escape or disassociate through alcohol, drugs, and other harmful behaviors.
For those boys who survive to become adults, only to lose their will to live when they find they cannot experience the colors and happenings of this world without constant misery. Or love their wives in the way they are supposed to.
For those who cry and scream for help, but are met with silence. And then silence themselves, once and for all.
For the mothers, the fathers, sisters and brothers, children, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts, uncles friends and lovers you know who's pain you can sense but never fully understand.
For the dancing boys, the child brides, the sex slaves, the exploited- the little girls and boys who are treated like commodities to be bought and sold on the open market instead of human beings.
For those who we have lost forever, we honor your life. And we wish that we could have done more to help you while you were still here. Although we wish, more than anything, that you were still here.
For those who are lost but still breathing somehow, we will not give up on you. We will go to those nursing home where you are left to rot, the back alleys, the corners, the strip, the crackhouses, and we will tell you-you are worth so, so very much more, and that you cannot let the monsters win. You are the master of your fate, you are the captain of your soul.
For the survivors and thrivers, who refuse to stay victims-who refuse to stay silent or be ashamed. Who use their own voices, their own personal pain and stories, even if they are horrifying and hard to hear, to bring what is shrouded in darkness into the light-who point their finger at those horrors we don't want to talk see or understand, pull them out from the shadows and scream LOOK, goddamn it, and don't you dare look away.
For all the boys and girls being abused right now, who think nobody cares or nobody will listen or understand. Who think there is something wrong with you, who are afraid to speak out. You are not alone, and you do not need to be afraid. There are millions of us out here who care for you. For those who feel they have no voice or who are just finding their voice - Just reach out to us-break your silence. We will make sure you are safe. We will believe you.
We make this pledge- never again. Never again will we look the other way. Even if it is inconvenient, or painful, or if it means fighting giants, shattering halo's, pounding against sclerotic bureaucracies where justice becomes apathy and then goes to die-we will not give up. We will go above and beyond the pitiful minimum requirements under the law-and live up to our most basic moral standard, that if we know or suspect a child is being abused it is not a choice, but an obligation, to make sure it stops. And that to do so is not a heroic act-it is our most basic moral and ethical responsibility as human beings. Because nothing less than that will ever suffice. Because anything less is a failure-and one that we will be eternally judged for, no matter what other good things we did in our lives.
And finally for all of the boys who were victimized by an individual who's name I will not even tarnish this page with-the boys who were labeled as lost, and disturbed troublemakers- who were promised salvation and hope, only to be tortured and brutalized by the very person who posed as your savior. The boys who were deemed less important than a legacy, who were powerless and left powerless by the most powerful men and women at a a most powerful institution. Who were failed by so many. The boys who were bullied out of school for telling the truth, the boys who become men, or who never survived- we will never know how many of you suffered. We will never know most of your names, or see your faces. Those who are referred to as “Victim #__” in a grand jury indictment, and talked about like objects as their personal pain is laid bare by a media who cares more about headlines and sensationalism and myths than how all of this feels for you. The ONLY ones who were actually brave enough to finally speak out, and put a stop to what was happening. YOU are the true saviors, the heroes of this story. In the glare of the spotlight, you have been overshadowed. But not by us, not today. Today, especially, this is for you.
Namaste Daily Kos, until we meet again
Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse
Many sexually abused children exhibit physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms. Some physical signs are pain or irritation to the genital area, vaginal or penile discharge and difficulty with urination. Victims of known assailants may experience less physical trauma because such injuries might attract suspicion (Hammerschlag, 1996).
Behavioral changes often precede physical symptoms as the first indicators of sexual abuse (American Humane Association Children's Division, 1993). Behavioral signs include nervous or aggressive behavior toward adults, sexual provocativeness before an appropriate age and the use of alcohol and other drugs. Boys "are more likely than girls to act out in aggressive and antisocial ways as a result of abuse" (Finkelhor, 1994). Children may say such things as, "My mother's boyfriend does things to me when she's not there," or "I'm afraid to go home tonight."
Child Sexual Abuse Reporting
Children may resist reporting sexual abuse because they are afraid of angering the offender, blame themselves for the abuse or feel guilty and ashamed. In order to increase reporting, parents and adults who interact with children, such as school personnel, teachers, counselors, child care workers, Boy and Girl Scout troop leaders and coaches, should be educated about the behavioral and physical symptoms of child sexual abuse (American Humane Association Children's Division, 1995). Children are more likely to reveal sexual abuse when talking to someone who appears to 'already know' and is not judgmental, critical or threatening. They also tend to disclose when they believe continuation of the abuse will be unbearable; they are physically injured; or they receive sexual abuse prevention information. Other reasons may be to protect another child or if pregnancy is a threat ("Child Sexual Abuse . . .", 1993).
Suspicions of child sexual abuse should be reported to a child protective services agency or law enforcement agency. Local child protection agencies investigate intrafamilial abuse and the police investigate extrafamilial abuse. The law requires professionals who work with children to report suspected neglect or abuse.
What if I'm Not Sure, Where Do I Go?
*Child Abuse Helplines have staff specifically trained to deal with questions about suspected child sexual abuse. Call Darkness to Light's helpline, 1-866-FOR-LIGHT to be routed to resources in your community, or call the Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
*Children's Advocacy Centers coordinate all the professionals (legal, social services, medical) involved in a case. If you're unsure about whether to make an official report or just need support, contact a children's advocacy center. The staff will help you evaluate your suspicions and your next steps.
*To find a center near you, contact The National Children's Alliance at www.nca-online.org or 1-800-239-9950.
*Local Community Agencies, such as local hotlines, United Way offices, or rape crisis centers can often help.
*Talk to the child's parents (as long as they are not the abusers) and provide educational materials, such as this booklet. If the parents seem indifferent or unlikely to take action, call one of the recommended sources.
These resources can help you if you are unsure of whether abuse has occurred, but they do not substitute for making an official report. Remember that you may be a mandated reporter in your state and you may be the only source of protection for that child.
Other sources for information, resources and support:
National Sexual Assault Online Hotline
National Sexual Assault Hotline- 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)
1 in 6: (for male sexual abuse survivors)
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
h/t Kossack Renee- www.radkids.org (training courses for children in preventing abduction and reporting assault
P.S. Just so we are clear, I'm too clever by half with my titles sometimes. Disappointed is the last thing in the world I feel right now.