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There is denial of abuse at all levels of society and, although it is painful to accept, it is a reality we need to own as a community before we can make any impression on it. It’s not ‘somebody else’s problem’ and it’s not ‘up to the authorities to worry about’. It’s up to every one of us. There can be absolutely no doubt that silence about sexuality serves the needs of the adults who are perpetrators of child abuse, not the children who are their victims. Until recently it was never discussed, as if it just didn’t exist. To find the reasons for ignoring the problem we don’t need to look beyond the painful realities. To acknowledge sexual abuse means stirring up feelings of disgust, rage, guilt, insecurity, and fear — emotions most people would understandably avoid if only the stakes were not so high for the victims.
And the question also needs to be asked: What does the community have to gain by this silence? Why would society want to protect this secret for so long?
Part of the answer must lie in a general reluctance to talk about sexuality at all. At a deeper level, what we have come to learn about sexual abuse rocks the very foundation of our society because it challenges the functioning of the family unit. This is the unit that is supposed to nurture children, take care of their needs and prepare them for life as an adult. So it is astonishing that over eighty-five percent of cases of abuse occur where a child should be able to feel secure and protected: in or near their own home. It can be a single incident but they are usually repeated attacks that can go on for years whenever the child is accessible to the offender.
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For some people, their earliest sexual experiences are synonymous with fear and betrayal. These people have been sexually abused in childhood and nothing in life can equal the damaging impact of this abuse on self-esteem and on the ability to enjoy lasting relationships.
Every parent needs to have power. Try getting a three year old to bed on time or negotiating a teenager’s curfew time without it! This position of authority is necessary if parents are to be able to teach, discipline, and establish trust and security for their children.
The physical relationship between parents and children is necessarily sensual. The kisses and cuddles, tickling each other, the comforting stroking of their hair when a child wakes frightened in the night by a nightmare. This is how we learn about affection, the appropriate expression of love and caring for another person that is so necessary to our emotional development. But there is a difference between appropriate expressions of affection and ‘abuse’.
What we need to try and figure out is this: At what point is the line crossed?
By abuse we mean an adult or someone bigger than the child using their power or position of authority to take advantage of that child’s trust or respect to involve the child in sexual activity. Now that might sound a bit long-winded but there are two key points — the betrayal of the child’s trust, and the sexual gratification of the adult.
In some cases the distinction is absolutely clear. Any adult coercing a child into intercourse, for example, is abusive beyond a shadow of a doubt. But there’s a huge gray area that would need to be taken case by case. Take the example of ‘exposure’. In many families, it is quite usual to keep the bathroom door open while you shower or dress. There is no sexual intention and it causes no distress. This would not be considered abusive but it is one of those sexual matters that depends on your perception. Sally is twenty-nine. ‘In my family when I was growing up, it was perfectly normal for everyone to share the bathroom. When we were little we often showered with one of our parents. When I married Jim and we had children of our own it just seemed to be the most practical way to get the kids clean. You know how much fuss they can make having their hair shampooed in the bath! We thought nothing more of it than that. But Jim’s father saw it differently. He thought it was really strange that we would shower with the children. Mind you, he’d never even undressed in front of his wife and they had been married for over forty years! He really tried to make us feel guilty about it.’
On the other hand, if the exposure was designed as a sexual turn-on for the adult then it would be abusive, as in the case of an uncle drawing a child’s attention to his erect penis. A child does not have to be physically touched to be sexually abused.
Take the example of sexually explicit language. What is appropriate in one context is quite out of line in another. When we talked about sex education for children, I pointed out how important it is to use the right words … a penis is a penis and so on. The information needs to be straightforward and honest to that extent. Answering a child’s questions about sex in a way that is understandable for their age group and sensitive to their need for information is an essential part of parenting. If the child is exposed to explicit sexual language or behavior that is forced upon them to the point of distress or goes well beyond their comprehension at that age, there is a problem. This is particularly the case if the adult derives sexual pleasure from it.
So whether a situation is abusive or not will depend on its context.
Some people will not realize the effect of abuse until later in life when they are confronted with a situation that somehow triggers a delayed reaction. A teenage girl became very upset and embarrassed when she started to hear about sex at school. She remembered that, when she was about five, a family friend easily coerced her into a ‘game’ during which she drew pictures on his penis with a felt pen. She said she thought nothing of it at the time and didn’t think of it as ‘sex’. Now that she was finding out about sex and starting to discover her own sexual feelings, she realized that the game was ‘sexual’ and she said she felt very angry and bad about it.
So it is clear that not all cases of sexual abuse involve physical force or violence. One of the very confusing aspects about looking back at sexual abuse is that it is not always a totally terrifying experience for the child at the time. There are even some sensations that they find pleasant, yet at the same time may recognize as ‘wrong’. These mixed emotions can make a survivor of abuse feel guilty that somehow they were responsible for the abuse and that they must have encouraged or seduced the perpetrator. However, on this point one truth is irrefutable: Children do not fantasize or lie about sexual abuse and they do not seduce adults.
The estimates of child sexual abuse are astonishing. One in four females and one in ten males has been sexually abused in childhood. The reasons that these figures can only be estimates is because so many cases still go unreported. Even today sexual abuse counsellors say that the numbers reported are the tip of the iceberg. One estimate puts the reporting rate at only five percent — only one in twenty — so the real facts about sexual abuse can come as quite a shock. It is vital for us all to know these facts so that we can fully understand its impact on a survivor, emotionally and sexually, and so that we can do something about protecting those who are at risk or suffering now.
SWELLING OF EYELIDS
Swollen eyelids are usually due to an allergic reaction, for example to an insect bite. Other causes include infection, excessive rubbing of the eyes or crying. If your child is unwell, or the swelling does not settle down within a day despite applying a cold compress such as an ice pack to the area, it is advisable to see your doctor.
The sensitive tissues around the eye are easily damaged by the child bumping into something or being hit. This can result in considerable bleeding under the skin, which causes swelling and bruising. This is commonly known as a ‘black eye’. If your child has a black eye, placing an ice pack over it can help to reduce the swelling. (This is the logic behind putting a steak on a black eye — it is the cold that helps, not the steak!)
If your child complains of blurred or double vision, or has difficulty in seeing, or if his eye looks strange to you, seek medical advice immediately.
LEAVING YOUR CHILDREN SOMETHING TO LOVE BY/SOME ANSWERS TO THESE MISASSUMPTIONS REGARDING SEXUALITY: HOW TO TALK EITH PARENTS ABOU SEX
The couple braced themselves, looking at me with a “what have you done?” stare. Their son looked down, then shyly looked at me instead of his parents. “Okay. Here it is.” He never looked at his parents, but looked at me as if to say “watch them die right here in your office.” “Dear Mother and Father. Do you think a sixteen-year-old boy should have sex?” He looked down as if waiting to hear two thuds of falling parental figures.
“Okay. Here goes,” said his mother. “We’ll see what we have learned from Dr. Pearsall.” She meant she was about to see if what she and her husband had learned about super marital sex really worked at this serious time in their marriage, this very sexual time. “Yes and no.”
Their son did the adolescent flop. This is a rapid motion of slouching down in a chair while murmuring toward the sky some not quite audible profanity of disbelief at the redundant stupidity of the parent species. This is also known as the “I told you so” slide.
“No, wait,” said the father. “I know what she means, I think. Nobody thinks of their own kid of sixteen as much older than eight,’ really. We sure don’t think of you having sex. But we are not as’ dumb as we look to you. We know everyone is sexual. We know every sixteen-year-old is having some type of sex. So no, we wish you didn’t. Yes, we know you do and will. No, we hope it won’t be intercourse. Yes, we hope it’s necking, even masturbation, because it’s just natural. It’s as hard for us to think of you having sex as it is for you to believe that we did at your age and still do. I didn’t have intercourse then, and neither did your mother. But we necked up a storm. I would go home and masturbate and feel guilty as hell. So there, I said it.”
The father did the parental drop. This is a much slower easing into a chair, with lowering of the head as if in prayer for some special parental dispensation, and waiting for the next barrage or challenge. Parents of adolescents can’t slouch down too far because they may be to tired or too weak to unslouch. They do it as an appeal for the slightest form of mercy or empathy from their teenager.
“You did it, Dad?” said the son. “Far out. I mean, far out.” The mother looked at me as if to ask, “He isn’t going to ask me more is he?” The son looked almost startled. He went into the adolescent fidget, cracking his fingers and making noises with his mouth that seemed prerecorded. “Okay,” he said, lingering on the O and the kay. “Let’s eat, I’m starved.”
As all parents of adolescents know, the eating reflex signals a recuperation, a rallying for the next battle. It also means that, for now, their teen will break bread with them. In this case, it means that a more open and direct discussion about sex could take place.
As the family rose to leave, and the son and father shook my hand, the mother gave me a big, long hug. As she left, she looked back and raised her hand high. Her first two fingers were crossed.
I am really the one she counts on. Just ask her.
He needs to think I count on him.
This is the fragile male, the man whose wife reports a private displeasure with sex in the marriage but protects her husband from that knowledge. For years, she has created a role for him to fill that enhances his self-image. Long-standing sexual problems are sometimes present in this situation, but the wife has been reluctant to disclose this trouble in order to protect what she sees as her husband’s low self-esteem.
I fake it. I’ll admit it. I fake it. I really turn it on. She expects it.
This is the husband who is faking his sexual satisfaction. While it is assumed by some clinicians that more women fake sexual fulfillment, my interviews indicate that men fake it at least as often as women. They may groan and moan and mock a sexual delight, but they privately disclose a sense of incompleteness. It seems easier to this man to fake than to open up with his wife and learn approaches to a new intimacy.
I can go on forever. I can hold back until she has her full cycle.
This is the husband who attempts to control his ejaculation and in the process ends up controlling the entire sexual act. He tries to take turns, fulfilling his wife and then trying to fulfill himself. The wife may sense this control and would actually enjoy more freedom and spontaneity. Sex seems somehow a project, with the wife grading the final product.
I hate to brag, but my wife is one lucky lady. If I were a woman, I would give anything to make love with me.
This is the sexual athlete husband. Typically one or more gold necklaces adorn his neck, and gold bracelets are on each wrist. Actually, there is much fragility to this man, but he hides behind a mask of super stud. Sex for him becomes an event or performance rather than a mutually intimate sharing. The wife may feel more like a sexual teammate than a partner, sharing a form of aerobic intercourse.
One wife of a “hunk” reported, “The other night he hit himself in his front tooth with that damn necklace he wears. It banged him and I know it must have knocked a piece of his tooth out. He didn’t miss a thrust, though. The game must go on.”
I really deserve more. I have put up with so much. My childhood was a wreck. And now I can’t even get my wife to really want me.
This is the “poor me” husband who feels sexually unappreciated, misunderstood, and deprived. He seems to look for mercy sex, a sex born of sympathy, a marital gift, rather than a vulnerable and mutual give-and-take.
“He has the Eeyore Complex like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh,” said the wife of a “hurt” husband. “He tries to mope me into sex. It just turns me off more.”
I don’t know what she complains about. I give her a great ride. When I am in the saddle, she knows she has been on a real trip.
This is the “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am” husband who may even have sex with his wife while she is sleeping (or perhaps while she pretends she is sleeping). Immediately upon contact, he begins to hump, to thrust his pelvis. This male may experience ejaculatory problems due to the muscle tension he creates in the pelvic area. He creates similar problems for his wife, who feels done to instead of with.
The skin is the largest organ of your body. Soaking it in diluted hydrogen peroxide is very beneficial to your body. Minute amounts of pure atomic oxygen are delivered simultaneously everywhere around your body, greatly stimulating the detoxification process. You can go to Lourdes mineral springs in France for a bath, or you can simply prepare a bath at home, by adding 20-50 millilitres of 30% hydrogen peroxide to the entire water volume (100 litres). It would be best to use filtered or rain water with no chlorine and other chemicals. If you have a pool, you can replace the chlorine water treatment by the ozone water treatment system. Ozone (or UV) water treatment is borrowing yet another example from nature. Ozone, produced naturally from oxygen by UV rays in the atmosphere, reacts with the moisture in clouds, producing pure and healthy rain. Having the ozone treated water in your pool you can swim in it, and drink the water from it too.
Women suffer from migraine three times as often as men. It seems to run in families, passing from mother to daughter.
Migraine may start during childhood, even as young as six months, but in the child, migraine is more likely to be in equivalent form, often as abdominal pain.
True or “classical” migraine may not start until the 20s, but a careful history will often reveal that the girl suffered from abdominal pains as a child and “ordinary” headaches and the occasional “sick headache” as a teenager.
Migraine headaches are influenced by many factors. In women, hormones seem to play an important part.
Migraine is common in the premenstrual phase, where the rising level of the hormone, oestrogen, is believed to be responsible for the full, bloated feeling due to retained fluid and the irritable personality and reduced performance of many women at this time.
In some women, migraine occurs at mid-cycle when they ovulate.
In half the sufferers, pregnancy provides a respite but the headaches return once the child is born.
There is, of course, no consumer protection out there on the street and when a person buys a drug there is no guarantee of purity. Most illicit drugs are “cut” or adulterated with impurities to make the amount go further. This happens with pot as well as heroin.
One’s attitude to this drug may be influenced by one’s own use of it. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of ill-informed opinion bandied about.
Many use the argument that if a law is held in contempt by some or even a majority, then the law should be changed. The private use of cannabis is being asked to be decriminalised while retaining the law against those who “push” or sell the drug for profit.
Some claim that if it were made legal, its manufacture and selling could be regulated and abuse avoided. Has that happened with alcohol and tobacco?
There is no doubt about the effect of alcohol on driving performance. The statistics for road accidents indicate we have a major problem with those who drink and drive. Cannabis also affects the ability to drive a motor car. It impairs the performance and, like alcohol, mixing different drugs makes the situation worse.
There is as yet no reliable method of checking the blood levels for cannabis and being able to relate this to the ability to drive with safety. Tests which have been conducted show that even mild cannabis use may adversely affect driving ability.