Pam Rubin, a women’s trauma counsellor and lawyer, explains why we need to start confronting abuse by believing victims. “We don’t immediately jump to ‘What were you saying, doing, wearing? Are You suffering from mental illness?'”
Watch: Start confronting abuse by believing victims
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Kristin U says
I was part of a sangha where the teacher sexually abused several women and financially and emotionally abused all of us. The trust we placed in this teacher was compete and the devastation tragic for so many, including myself. It has taken me several years to get to the point where I would consider joining a sangha again. Unfortunately, there are still members of this group that continue to support this “roshi” and bring him into the community for “teachings” Not only does this violate the agreements he made to discontinue teaching, it violates the credibility of everyone he has harmed. His socio pathic personality involves more than “making a mistake”, as this was not his first violation.
Pamela Rubin says
Thank you Kristin U. for bringing this up.
When communities fail to follow through on agreements or boundaries made in the wake of abuses, this can have a devastating effect. This magnifies an experience of abuse into institutional betrayal. It is a form of secondary wounding that, in my experience both personally and professionally, is very difficult to repair and often has some very long and very negative ripple effects. It destroys the bonds of trust that communities may be trying carefully to re-establish after having been shattered once already.
It is extremely important for communities’ safety and well being that communities prioritize ensuring that such agreements are fulfilled. One way that can happen is just by caring more and understanding the importance, as well as being more precise and accountable. Another way can be to have less secrecy about agreements and boundaries, so that the whole community is involved in follow through and in creating a healthy atmosphere.
Abuse does not have to be sexual for abuse to be happening. Like the sexual, sometimes the abuse isn’t even seen. Emotional, verbal, psychological, and physical violence are quite effective, too. The old phrase “street angel, house devil” can be applied to any perpetrator of the crazy-making situations which can blast a child’s, or anyone’s, self esteem and trust so much so that navigating the world is a horrendous experience, until that person’s life is self-understood and work is done so that the person becomes self-rearing and in much better heartmind space, no longer identifying as “victim” but as someone who went through a particular set of experiences.
Change to the happier IS possible, after all kinds of abuse. I believe that and I do my work on my Self, and I am here, in some kind of recovery of the life I believe the Universe means me to be having. A good one, with joy. I now make the choices as to what I do with and how I respond to–rather than react to–the emotionally-laden memories and to what were the actual facts of my life.
Not one of the close-to-one-thousand people who came to my father’s funeral, who told me how much they loved him, or who knew my mother, would believe what went on in our house every day of my formative years. But I know. And I am stronger because of who I AM, and what I do with me, today. I practice forgiveness (though I do not condone), and I AM grateful for the love, humour, intelligence, and authenticity with which I fill my life today, which seemed so lacking in the past, before I experienced real awareness. I continue to learn and apply useful tools for living, instead of what I had absorbed in that first and most unconscious, angry, wounded, and sorrowful home. Life was always good; NOW I know it, and I am worthy of it and I get better in it.
Patience, forgiveness, gratitude–This is my practice.
Neither “victim” nor “survivor;”
I AM Life.
judy lief says
Such a strong message and so eloquently put! Thank you Pam. This is a recurring issue in many communities and it is particularly hard to address in large scale volunteer-based organizations.
On the occasions when I have brought up concerns about this issue, the response has often been a kind of blankness, and almost a bewilderment as to why I would be troubled by such things. Like, “When did you get to be such a prude?” Beyond simply denial,there was a sense of just not getting that this is a problem. Bringing all this into the public discourse is an essential first step. There is a need for a cultural shift as well as clearer policies and follow up.