Shame

I can’t talk about this

And I can’t talk about that

And how dare you put something so private on your Facebook page

And then share it with the whole world

Aren’t you afraid

Aren’t you ashamed

No

You can’t shame me

I did nothing wrong

Take these stories and weep

But please, society, please

Give me validation and peace

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Me Too

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the #metoo movement. It has inspired many women to share their stories of sexual assault and violence. Strong women. I am amazed by all the strength I see in the women who have gone public to tell their stories of sexual assault and violence. It has inspired me to do the same. It is time. The stigma attached to sexual assault has to end. It is time that people placed the blame where it belongs. This is hard for me to write, and harder to share, but it is time.

My story starts before conscious memory. I was two when he started grooming me. Two. I would sit on the couch, and he would have me spread my legs so he could see my panties. He would bounce me on his knees, and stick his fingers between my legs. Sometimes, my mom was right there.

He was never that gentle, kind man that lured me into trusting him. He was my father, and he was all I knew. He was mean. He was a drunk. He was a drug addict. He was many things, but nice? No. Manipulative? Yes. He beat me, and he beat my mom in front of us. He was relentlessly cruel.

When I was five, he laid me down on his bed, put a knife to my throat, and told me he would kill me if I told. Then I watched the light beams overhead fracture into a million pieces as my world fell away into a flurry of pain. My psyche disappeared that day. Thank god I do not remember details.

When I was seven, I had this amazing friend who was deaf and wheelchair bound. I don’t really know how we became friends; communication had to of been hard, but we were little and we made it work. I would go to her house for lunch almost every day. We would have grilled cheese sandwiches while sitting in her yard. One night, my mom babysat my friend, and my mom had to run to the store. While she was gone, my father tried to do horrible things to my friend.

The next day, I went to her house for lunch, as normal, except her mom wanted us to come inside for grilled cheese that day. Right after she gave me my sandwich, she asked me a question about my father, and I couldn’t speak. I dropped my sandwich into my lap, and clammed up and started crying. My friend’s mom called the police, and they took us to the hospital after I told them what my father had been doing to me, my whole life. That day, we all went to foster care.

My father went to jail for his crimes. He was sentenced to sixteen years, but only served twelve. He was released the same summer my oldest daughter was born, 1999.

When I was nine, my mom rented this house from this man who lived in a shack in the back of the house, I can’t explain it better, but the shack wasn’t exactly in our yard, but it was on the same property. The landlord was nice. He was gentle and kind. He always had sweets and fun things to do. His shack was a place the kids liked to hang out.

It was Easter when I went to his place to give him some eggs.  I was alone, and uncomfortable, but he said he had something for me, so I went into his shack. I don’t remember if he had anything for me besides his fingers between my legs, but I ran out of there and told my mom immediately. She called Social Services instead of the police. Nothing happened, except we moved to a new place.

When I was ten, my mom was addicted to drugs, and she was often not attentive to her children. There were many nights we would spend the night alone while my mom was across the street at her friend’s house getting high. She had this friend, a man, who she got high with, and who hung around all the time. I didn’t really have an opinion of him.

One night, him and my mom were hanging out in our living room, while us kids all slept. I woke up to someone taking my panties off. He had told my mom that he was going to the bathroom, and came into my room instead. I slept on the bottom bunk, and shared my room with my little sister. He pulled her blankets down so I couldn’t see him, and when I kicked him, he ran out of my room and ran into the living room. I suppose he must have thought I would go right back to sleep, but I got up. I went into the living room and saw him sitting there, and I knew it was him who had taken my panties off and was touching me in my sleep. I told my mom I wanted to take a shower. She said it’s three in the morning to back to bed. I told her I needed to talk to her, and took her into my room, and told her what had just happened. She found my panties behind the toilet, where this man had thrown them when he ran out of my room. After kicking him out, my mom called the cops. They picked him up a couple of blocks away. Come to find out, he had been molesting many children I knew, both boys and girls. He was sentenced to six years in prison. Six years. At least four kids testified against him, and he got six years in prison. Doesn’t seem long enough.

For six years after that, the only abuse I had to deal with was the physical, mental, and emotional abuse my mom put me through. It’s sad but once you are a victim of sexual assault, you are more likely to be victimized again, and again. And those statistics have certainly proved true for me.

When I was sixteen, I went to a party, and got drunk. My friend put me in his roommates bed, because his roommate was gone for the weekend. I had never met his roommate. Sometime in the middle of the night, I came to and was being raped, but I was too drunk to do anything about it. When I woke up the next day, I couldn’t find my clothes, there was blood everywhere, and I was so sore. I have no memory of that night to this day. I finally found my clothes and got out of there. I reported the roommate to the police, so did two other girls. This guy was a serial rapist. For raping three girls in three nights, he got six months in county jail. Six months.

Not every woman you meet will have a story like or similar to this, but three out of four of them will. That’s three out of four women who have had a sexual crime committed against them. And, that’s only the statistics on crimes that are reported. Imagine all the little girls out there who can’t report it, who do not understand that this is a crime. Who do not understand that the most common perpetrator of such crimes are people you love and care for. People you would never imagine doing such a thing to you. The long term effects of such crimes, I will cover at a later date, because that’s enough sharing for one day.

If you know a woman who has been sexually assaulted, please be gentle and kind, be understanding and patient. Most survivors I know do not want pity. They want to place the blame where it belongs.

You are not alone.  I am here for you. #metoo

The Study of Religion

What is Religion?

Merriam Webster defines religion as “a belief in a god or a group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith” (Merriam Webster, 2016).  However, this is neither a complete nor accurate definition of religion.

Religion could be said to contain some or all of the following eight elements: belief system; community; central myths; ritual; ethics; characteristic emotional experiences; material expression; and sacredness. A belief system is where several beliefs about the universe and humans place in the world fit together to form a worldview. This belief system or worldview is shared by several people in a community, and its ideals are practiced by this community. Religions contain myths or stories about the creator of the universe or about the human helper the creator sent to Earth. It should be noted that myth does not necessarily mean the stories are untrue, just that they are a part of that specific religion. Religions contain rituals or ceremonies that are practiced by the community, such as baptism in Christianity. Religions provide rules or ethics about how people should act and how they should treat others. These rituals and ceremonies usually bring a characteristic emotional experience with them, such as awe, or inner peace, maybe even fear. Religions use material expressions, such as paintings, and statues to depict the lives of the deities or saints that form the religious belief system. Religions carry with a feeling of sacredness by using special clothing, different languages, or places, in the community to shares in this sacredness (Molloy, 2013). Regardless of what religion one believes in and follows, all religions have certain elements in common.

Patterns in World Religions

All religions are different, but all religions are also the same in some ways. All religions have three major patterns that can be seen across cultures, and those patterns are views of the world and life, focus on beliefs and practices, and views on males and females (Molloy, 2013).

All religions attempt to answer one of the most profound questions known to humankind – What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is our purpose?  How did the universe come into existence; will it ever end? How do we reach fulfillment or salvation? What is or should be our relationship with nature? What is or what should be our relationship with the sacred or the holy?  All religions answer these questions in different ways (Molloy, 2013).

Some religions define the sacred or “God” as transcendent, living in a realm beyond our ability to reach. Other religions represent sacred as being within humans and nature and can be experienced as energy or a feeling of peace. Sometimes it is seen as having personal attributes, much like humans, and sometimes it is viewed as an impersonal entity, who has not care about humans (Molloy, 2013).

Some religions see the creator of the universe as a personal, caring entity that has a master plan for the cosmos, and that he or she is guiding the world along on an ultimate path that leads to his or her ultimate goal for life. Other religions view the universe as eternal, having neither a beginning nor end. If the religion sees the universe as having been created by a creator, then that religion worships that creator. If, however, the religion views the universe as eternal, with no creator, then the universe becomes the center of that religion (Molloy, 2013).

The human attitude toward nature is also something all religions address. Some religions believe that nature was put here to be the tools for man. Some religions preach that nature is evil and must be overcome. Some religions say that nature is sacred and needs no alterations. And, some religions teach that nature is or was created by a divine being for humans to shape (Molloy, 2013).

In some religions time is considered linear, moving in a straight line from the beginning to the end; the end of everything as we know it. In these religions time is important because it is limited and unrepeatable. In other religions time is cylindrical, moving in an endless pattern of changes that repeat themselves over and over again on a grand scale. In these religions time is not so important, the universe is not moving towards an ultimate ending, and enjoying the present is more important than being concerned about the future (Molloy, 2013).

In some religions, humans have a purpose and are part of a great divine plan. Individual meaning comes from within and from the divine in the context of a great struggle between the forces of good and evil. In these religions human actions are of great importance and therefore, their actions are prescribed by a righteous moral code. In other religions, however, human life and their actions are not viewed as important, and the individual person is only part of a much larger reality. In these religions, humans are not seen as a small part of a larger plan; they are seen as part of a family, society, and the universe as a whole; placing more importance on how one may achieve harmony with the universe, as opposed to their individual salvation. Human action is not guided by a divine moral code, but by the family and society of the individual (Molloy, 2013).

Different Approaches to Studying Religions

            The study of religion was, at one time, divided among different academic fields. Fields such as psychology, theology, and philosophy would study different aspects of religions. Now, the study of religion is unified into one academic field, but all the different fields still study religion as part of their curriculum.

Psychology means soul study in Greek, and encompasses the study of human mental states, emotions, and behaviors. Psychology takes a special interest in religions because of its rich material in human experiences. Mythology is the study of myths, which is the study of religious stories, texts, and arts that reveal universal commonalities. Philosophy means the love of wisdom in Greek, and encompasses the study of human life and their purpose. Theology means the study of the divine in Greek, and encompasses the study of one particular religious belief, usually the religion of the theologies who is doing the studying in order to gain a deeper understanding of their own religion (Molloy, 2013).

Critical Issues in Studying Religion

The academic study of religion has, in the past, been carried out by individuals seeking to find further knowledge in their own religion. However, in recent decades, there has been a shift in this cycle where now people are wanting to study religion academically without promoting the beliefs of one religion over another. The great questions of religions were once studied as a philosophy course in colleges, while other aspects of religious beliefs were found scattered in such academic departments as anthropology, history, or psychology. The study of religion then was very fragmented, scattered all over the college campus, and no unified course could be found.

In the recent past, all of this has changed and now most campuses have a department for studying religion as a whole. However, the academic study of religion brings problems and questions, as well as clarity, insight, and answers. Some concerns include the rights and obligations that professionals hold towards the practitioners of each religion, the truthfulness of informants or interpreters, the objectivity of the professional, and how, and in what way do researchers change indigenous communities.

 

References

Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and change (6th

Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Religion. (n.d.). Retrieved June 13, 2016, from http://www.merriam

webster.com/dictionary/religion

Versatile Blogger Award

I was extremely shocked and surprised to open my notifications this morning and find a nomination for Versatile Blogger! I feel very honored and would like to give a huge THANK YOU to My Writers Voice at https://mywritersvoice.wordpress.com/  Thank you very much Sir! May the Universe rain blessings down upon you!

Rules for the nominations:
• Thank the person who nominated you.
• Nominate up to 15 bloggers for this award and inform them.
• Share seven facts about yourself.
• Put the logo of Versatile Blogger in your post and display the rules also.

Seven Facts about Me:

  1. I am in my third year of college, where I am studying Cultural Anthropology, with double minors in Sociology and Psychology.
  2. I am a mother of four beautiful, intelligent, amazing children, who are my whole life.
  3. Four years ago, I met the man of my dreams, and I feel like I have been living in a fairy tale ever since.
  4. I served in the U.S. Military for two years, and was honorably discharged.
  5. I love writing, and have been writing since I was a child.  I love exploring ALL aspects of our beautiful world – no topic is off-limits.
  6. I love helping people. I especially love helping people put the past behind them, and live in the moment, being happy.
  7. My childhood was toxic, and to this day, I have only the family I make for myself. My friends are everything to me, because they are my family.

Here are my nominees for Versatile Blogger:

  1. Slavic Girl @ slavicgirlblog.wordpress.com 
  2. Fighting for a Future @ youwillbearwitness.com
  3. Brett Little @ emolovepoetry.blog
  4. Up into the Clouds @ upintotheclouds.wordpress.com 
  5. Dose of Do @ doseofdo.wordpress.com
  6. Voices Inside of Me @ lunashea.wordpress.com 
  7. Ponderella @ ponderellasite.wordpress.com