Chanel Miller, The Survivor

My father didn’t want to ruin the reputation of the doctor at children’s hospital in Detroit who sexually assaulted me. Can you imagine the betrayal this young lady, Chanel Miller, Brock Tutner’s victim, felt at the hands of our justice system, who’s sole purpose it is to protect the innocent?

I can.

Thanks to Linda Morrissey who points out on FB that Chanel Miller, wrote an award-winning best seller, “Know My Name,” adding, “It should be required reading. I don’t have words to describe the emotional journey I went on when reading her brilliantly, sincerely written story.
Surviving Abuse
I thought, perhaps someday I might read it, when I’m feeling a little stronger. But sure enough, when I went to get the link above, like a dope, I started reading, not realizing I could read the whole damn thing, right then and there, for free on Amazon. I had to stop myself around page 28. I’ll go back to it, like a bug to light, when I’m prepared. I hope you will too. And of course, as expected, it triggered me.
I have to be careful with triggers. Especially lately, for reasons I won’t get into. The memory never stops effecting me.  And these triggers sometimes just happen. It’s nobody’s fault. But the feelings catch me unawares. Like today. It started like any other day. I was checking my notifications on FB and now here I am, writing this blog.
Abuse has taken its toll on me. I am impulsive, irritable. I suffer from chronic pain. My sex life is . . . well interesting. These are just some of the joys of PTSD, the a byproduct of abuse. I have nothing but admiration for those of us who, despite all odds, have found a way to survive abuse, like dear Chanel Miller. I am now 61 and sometimes I wonder how much longer I can take the pain of abuse. Every day is a struggle. It’s no surprise to me that so many don’t survive. I’m not ready for the alternative.

. . . it is this unspoken truth that also must be spoken

Abuse Changes Us
There is no way to explain the fundamental changes CSA produces in one’s psyche. I realize it effects everyone in different ways. I think I am probably more sensitive than others. Others may be more heroic. Others less. But then I have to remind myself never to compare my degree of suffering with that of others. All abuse is destructive, and effects everyone differently and shows up in many forms. Perpetrators can be men, women, even other children.* There is no correlation between the type or degree of abuse, and the amount of suffering. I noted, reading Ms. Miller’s account, she was surrounded by caregivers in the immediate aftermath. I was totally and utterly alone. No one came to my rescue. Nobody cared. Wait, didn’t I just say, every story is different?  In my book, The Fishly, the victim account comes at the end. Her’s is in the beginning. I wasn’t prepared. Neither was she.

I know there is nothing that can be said to give you back your peace of mind regarding your trauma. I do appreciate your bravery and honesty maneuvering through the aftermath of the physical and emotional abuse you are continuously surviving” Linda Morrissey

“Rob, I admire your courage and decency in facing something that’s so hush-hush and far more pervasive than anyone would imagine. My respect for you only increases as you open up about your past. I’m sure you help others but doing so. Your kindness, compassion and empathy shine through in what you write. Hats off to you, my friend.”Terri Jenkins Bryce
Rob, I am so very sorry for your experience, and that you must deal with these constant triggers. While I can’t “fix” it for you, know that I admire your strength and courage in advocacy…and am always here with an ear if you need, my friend. ♥️Sue Jaissle Williams
The Cycle of Abuse
While I always appreciate kind words of support, such as these, for some reason I feel it important to mention that I am not an innocent when it comes to abuse. Of course, I certainly was innocent when I was fourteen. But now, as an adult, struggling with my ubiquitous CSA for so many years, for some reason I feel the need to confess that I have at times, to one degree or another, been abusive of others.
For years I didn’t fully understand what was meant by the term, “cycle of abuse.” In my early therapy, much of the focus was on convincing myself that I was completely innocence and helpless;  I did nothing to deserve abuse, which is most certainly true. Survivors must first realize they are not culpable for the abuse they suffered. I know when I continue reading Ms. Millerl’s story, she will talk about having to face the inevitable guilt. “Could I have prevented this?” It’s the same question all survivors ask, if they live to ask it. We must learn how to deal with the shame and guilt in our own way, on our unique journey of survival.

Guilt cannot be the driver of our life’s journey

Joshua by Robert Maniscalco

My Own Culpability
Naively, I thought I had broken the cycle. I convinced myself that I “was good enough,” which wrongly translated to me that I could basically justify being a jerk. I understand now that I am basically a good, loving person. But over time, I also have become keenly aware that I must take responsibility for my own bad actions, ranging from slight, almost innocent comments and innuendos, to behaviors just shy of criminal. I refer mostly to behaviors occurring in my younger days. I could write them off to youthful ignorance. But that too is a slippery slope. There are always justifications for bad behavior, if you are looking. My story of neglect and abuse is no excuse to treat others badly. Sure, I have made amends whenever I’ve had the opportunity. But it must be said that CSA changes the thinking process of the survivor. There is no cure, per se. And it requires years of intensive therapy to find one’s center and to break the cycle of abuse, of which I unwittingly, became a part when I was fourteen.

The Sad Legacy of Abuse
When people use the word survivor, it is shorthand for those who have found healthy and sometimes not-so-healthy ways to cope with the incomprehensible. It is very common for those who have been abused to become abusers themselves. Maybe not monsters, like “the amazing athlete,” Brock, but in smaller, sometimes forgettable ways. That is the sad legacy of abuse. It is the guilt that clouds our judgement. That is why CSA is still with us. This vicious cycle is the double edge sword that is the dark underbelly of abuse, cutting its victims twice. It is the unspoken truth that also must be spoken.
Guilt can not be the Driver
It is that guilt all survivors carry with them, that perpetuates the scourge of abuse. Guilt traps us in so many ways. It paralyses us. Makes us forget what’s right and wrong. Small and not so small transgression you don’t even realize you’re making, creep into your story. Guilt can consume us. My surrogate mom once called guilt, “a wasted emotion.” We must work to be sure guilt is not the driver of our life’s journey. On the other hand, guilt is also there for a reason. Sometimes it is a call to action. We must develop a healthy relationship with guilt, as part of the process of recovery. Therapy helps. But for me, it took throwing myself at the mercy of Christ for me to know I am forgiven. And even then, I’ve had my doubts.

. . . we all must nonetheless speak out whenever we can, even when we are too ashamed to. Because we must. Otherwise, abuse will win the war.

I Have Been Called Out
Coming at abuse from the position of self righteousness, as so many do, only makes things worse. Winning pity has never been my goal. In fact it makes me uncomfortable. Because I’ve come to realize that speaking out about abuse in no way absolves me of my own improprieties. And even though I am forgiven by God, that does not excuse my own sins. They live on in those I have hurt or offended throughout their life. Sadly, pity leads to guilt.
During the height of the “Me Too Movement,” I was called out about instances where I had crossed a line, years ago, at a time when lines were sometimes blurrier than they are now. The line between seduction and date rape has moved and yet its always been the same. One of these young ladies felt I was being hypocritical speaking out about abuse, when I had secretly been a womanizer. The goal posts had moved, but didn’t really. Before then, it had never occurred to me that I was preaching from on high about abuse. Now, there was another layer of guilt I had to process. After profusely apologizing, offering to make amends and beating myself up pretty bad, I reminded myself that no one is beyond reproach in the bad behavior department. I could rattle off a thousand notable examples of hypocritical leaders who nonetheless spoke for justice, like MLK, JFK, Mother Theresa, to name a few.
I’d like to think I no longer suffer from that particular delusion of thinking I was someone I am not. I have since come to understand my own culpability is all the more reason to speak out. Although I may not be the most perfect messenger, we all nonetheless must speak out whenever we can, to whoever will listen, even when we are too ashamed to. Because we must. Otherwise, abuse will win the war.

Abuse Thrives in Silence

Perhaps it is my long, complex, imperfect journey of survival, learning how to live with and manage shame, that helps me to have a certain empathy and compassion for my fellow, sinful, humans, each of whom is struggling with their own relationship to abuse. I’d like to think my journey has taught me something about humility, which I might point out comes from the word human. It is my deepest hope that my story allows me to be of service to others. I hope so, because if not, I would have no reason to go on living with this pain. I must remember some words to live by from someone very wise, who understands:

“Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” Maya Angelou


* IMPORTANT NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that women are also abusing men. It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming abuse only comes from men. In fact, the scourge of abuse takes many forms and shows up in many ways and is perpetrated by both men and women. Yes, even children abuse other children. Basically, whenever authority is used to lesson or destroy another person, this is abuse. It can be physical or psychological. Bullying is abuse. But it is important to point out that this less discussed phenomenon of women abusing men and children is real. It is happening right now and it is devastating to those who experience it. My sincerest apologies, if my focus on male perpetrators in this and any other blogs, has in any way offended those readers who have experienced different abuse stories. My purpose in sharing my specific story is that it holds a light to all forms of abuse, to which, sadly, too many of us can relate. No one has a monopoly on suffering. There is plenty to go around.

Check out my novel, The Fishfly on the subject of CSA. Also, join my advocacy group about CSA on FB.
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