Serving the City of Raleigh and Surrounding Areas

Month: April 2010

Big Ben

Anyone who listens to the radio, watches TV, or reads the paper has probably heard about the issues surrounding Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the issues regarding a possible sexual assault he perpetrated on a young woman in Georgia. You probably have also heard that he will not be facing charges for this but that the NFL is considering some sanctions. On my drive to work this morning I heard a discussion of this very subject that made my blood run cold. The DJs on the station were discussing their views, a male and female thought Big Ben should be fired due to his public standing. The other male on the show was infuriated and believed that since no charges were being filed the NFL should not be involved at all. Several issues came up – the fact that this is actually the second time Roethlisberger has been accused of this type of crime, comparisons to Tiger Woods recent issues, and the idea that the young woman must be lying since the charges were dropped. This last piece is what made me so sad and scared for other women who may have experienced a sexual assault. What makes it even worse – it was put forth by a female caller to the station. There are so many myths about sexual assault in our culture that make it nearly impossible for a woman to feel able to report a crime and often leads to victim blaming and perpetrator worship.

One of the most commonly put forth theory on women who accuse famous people of sexual assault is that these women are lying to get money from the superstar. Unfortunately, the media has made a huge deal out of the two or three cases like this in the past decade of so, leading people to believe that this is the norm rather than the exception. No woman, I repeat, NO woman would want to make something like this up if she knew what the consequences would be for her. Going through a sexual assault trial is akin to being reassaulted. You will have to tell the story of your assault multiple times with a defense lawyer questioning every detail that you provide, hoping you’ll get confused about the details of what was most likely the most horrific experience of your life. If your case has made it to trial you have probably endured highly shaming examinations involving hair removal and pictures and met with dozens of police officers who may or may not have believed you. And heaven forbid there was any use of drugs or alcohol prior to your assault or that you may have had sexual contact with the perpetrator, or any other person, in the past.

The reality of this is that women who are assaulted avoid pressing charges because they know what will happen to them. Seventy-five percent of the assaults that occur are perpetrated by someone the woman knows and most likely has been intimate with in the past. Alcohol is the most popular date-rape drug available. And officials estimate that approximately 85% of assaults go unreported. I constantly hear women who have never been assaulted say, “If someone did that to me, I would go after him with everything in my power.” Unfortunately, these women usually don’t understand the results of a sexual assault. They don’t recognize that women who have been assaulted feel they have no power and that something they did most likely caused the assault to happen anyway. We as a society do not support the survivors of assaults by providing them safe places to make reports and then believing them when it happens. And when the case makes it to trial, we require that the victim revictimize herself in order for the perpetrator to most likely be found not guilty. I have spent years working with victims of sexual assault, trying to show them that making bad decisions does not allow someone to rape them. Rape is not a physical crime, so much as a destruction of another person’s soul. And our society makes that okay when we label the victims as liars or sluts or drunks and celebrate their famous perpetrators.

Making Peace with Women’s Bodies

After too long of an absence, one of my clients finally broke my writer’s block. Unfortunately, this experience is so common among women there’s no way confidentiality will even be threatened by my sharing this. My client expressed her deep seated fear that if she gained weight, people would no longer like her and would even abandon her. This idea was based on her observations that being thin is what leads to happiness. Some of you may be asking yourselves, “where could she have possibly gotten this ide.” Some of you are nodding your heads in agreement because you too have seen the numerous ads for weight loss aids, diet foods, Lean Cuisine, and even chocolate that shows thin, happy people generally having a good time. Day in and day out, we are inundated with these types of ads from the time that we can watch TV. We are taught that some foods are “good” and that others, typically the ones people want to eat, are “bad.” At the same time, any advertisement for food on TV involves a thin woman sensually enjoying whatever it is that she’s eating and ravenously looking for more. Women are trapped. Food is both the enemy and the replacement for a sexual relationship.

What if, instead of this confusing food landscape, we were raised on a planet where food was simply food, neither good nor bad and in no way a replacement for sex? Would women, and in reality men, have such a conflicted relationship with women’s bodies? The surprise of this is that we do live on this planet – food is simply food, neither good nor bad. We can’t have a relationship with food that will replace our intimate relationships with others. The difference is that we have commercials, magazines, and even some television shows that tell us otherwise. Maybe it’s time to start listening to our own wisdom again. Maybe it’s time our rational brains were invited back to the party. Instead of looking for comfort in that Snikcers bar or bag of Doritos, look for it in those people in your life that you can trust. Instead of trying to gain control of your hectic schedule with mac and cheese, try saying no to some of the things in your life that are actually creating the hectic schedule. Simple, right? Absolutely! Easy? Well, that’s a different story. It takes constant mental aerobics for women and men to remind themselves what is real for a woman’s body. Whether or not we use them for this purpose or not (which by the way, is the woman’s choice), women’s bodies are built to create and sustain life. That takes fat, hips, and breasts. It’s time we started to remember that and stopped bombarding women and men with unrealistic images and ideas about bodies and food. Women really do come with curves, and those curves are beautiful, in whatever form they take. That should be respected, not derided.

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