Oak City Psychology

Serving the City of Raleigh and Surrounding Areas

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 2)

Five for Friday – 5 Reasons for Oak City Psychology

I thought I’d do a less “waity” topic for this 5 for Friday (see what I did there?  If not then you need to read my last 5 for Friday)  Folks who are North Carolina natives probably understand the reference to Oak City in the name of my practice but I thought I’d give my reasons for choosing Oak City Psychology as the name of my new practice.

  1.  Raleigh is the City of Oaks.  That’s right, Raleigh is known as the City of Oaks because of the number of oak trees both in the city and surrounding areas.  On New Year’s Eve, they drop an acorn.  In November, they host the City of Oaks Marathon.  Students from college campuses talk about getting hit with acorns thrown by unruly squirrels on campus.  Oak trees are to Raleigh as peach trees are to Atlanta.
  2. Trees make for awesome metaphors.  The image of a tree growing is, to me, one of the most powerful images to use in therapy.  I constantly talk to clients about growing strong roots, finding time to shed their old lives (or leaves) to make way for new growth, the struggle to grow strong regardless of their environment, and being part of a community (or forest).  Trees have symbolic meanings related to strength and protection, as well as support, loyalty, and wisdom.  What better image for a therapy practice than a tree?
  3. Oak trees symbolize endurance, strength, stability, and success.  Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Celts all recognized the oak tree as a symbol of strength, even wearing oak leaves to signify powerful people in their society.  Druids considered the oak tree to be the bearer of good luck, fertility, potency, healing, and good health.  Oak trees have been and continue to be awe inspiring natural wonders.  As cheesy as it sounds, I often think the same thing of my clients.  I am constantly amazed by the trials they can withstand and the strength they show.
  4. All the other names sounded wrong.  I literally came up with about 200 other names for this practice.  I looked at every NC state symbol, geographic feature of my area, meanings for different colors, gemstones, and flowers, imagery that I liked, words that described my philosophy of therapy, words that represented my name, and on, and on, and on.  This went on for weeks.  My friends and family became annoyed with me.  But I just kept coming back to Oak City.  Which leads me to the fifth reason . . .
  5. Sometimes the right name just comes to you.  I’d love to say that I consciously sat down and pored over books on symbolism, studied the history of Raleigh, and then chose the perfect name.  But honestly, sometimes a name just comes to you.  Being a native North Carolinian, I knew that Raleigh was the City of Oaks.  And, I do love to use trees as metaphors.  But that’s not what was top of mind when I thought of this name.  As soon as I knew we were moving back to NC, I knew Oak City Psychology was going to be my practice someday.  Sometimes you just know.  Hopefully, that’s a sign that Oak City Psychology is meant to be here, that it will provide support for clients who need to find their strength, and that it will be a place for growth and healing for years to come.  For now, the seed has been planted.

Welcome to Oak City!

As many of you know, I recently moved with my family back to our home state of North Carolina.  I will admit, this has not been the easiest transition for me personally or professionally.  Change is hard.  Waiting for things to happen is hard.  Trusting that you are making the right decisions is hard!  Luckily, I can say that the change and the wait and the trust has paid off, and Oak City Psychology officially opened today!  While it is still a work in progress, this new office has wonderful energy.  It has truly been a labor of love as my family and I painted, shopped for furniture, assembled furniture, designed rooms, redesigned rooms, shopped for more furniture, and were finally satisfied (for now) with the finished project.  Oak City is not the large building that my last practice was.  It is not full of other therapists and support people (yet).  Right now, as I type this, it is just me.  I’m back at the beginning.  Dreaming about the wonderful things I hope to accomplish in this new place.  So it’s time to step into the new, embrace the change, and trust the process.  Welcome to Oak City!

 

“Politics” are Personal

Today was a day of landmark decisions by the Supreme Court related to marriage equality.  Many people will focus on what this means for civil rights, legal arguments in states that do not yet allow same sex marriage, and the change of definition for “traditional marriage.”  All of these aspects are great for debate and intellectual discourse, but they don’t tell us much about the impact on actual humans.  As I have said in previous posts, many of my clients are GLBTQ.  In sessions, we often talk about the impact of laws that do not allow them to marry the people they love.  They rejoice in the triumphs and sorrow in the losses.  It is a real life lesson on how our legal system impacts real people with real lives and real families.

Laws are not just about acts that our society finds unacceptable.  They often imply or flat out state that the person doing the action is also bad or unacceptable in some way.  Can you imagine going through life believing that loving someone is bad?  Now, most of my clients know logically that this is not true.  They recognize that society’s laws simply have not caught up with our recognition of changing morals and science.  But what they feel and believe is a different matter.  My gay clients come in feeling broken and beaten down by a world that finds them strange at best and abhorrent at worst.  They hear pundits and “scientists” comparing their committed relationships to pedophilia and bestiality.  They are told by lawmakers that their relationships are such a danger to society that they have to be outlawed by constitutional amendments and marriage bans.  I can see the weight of these things on my clients, even when their rational lives show no signs of damage.

And what about the children who are raised in these loving and supportive relationships?  They have been told that their parents are not valuable enough for society to recognize their relationship.  And if their parents aren’t valuable, then the children must be the same.  When we devalue our children’s parents we devalue our children!

I rejoice today.  Not because a huge legal shift has occurred in our country.  No, I rejoice because for my clients, who I have come to know, respect, and love as the amazing humans they are, our world is one small step closer to seeing their value.  Our world is one step closer to recognizing their relationships as a valid way to love, one step closer to recognizing their children as offspring from a valid relationship.  For me, “politics” are personal.  Laws are personal.  We are talking about the lives of real people changing, hopefully for the better and hopefully at a faster pace.  I rejoice with my clients and for my clients.  Because they have value and worth.  Because they love.

Feeling Privileged and Why That’s Not a Good Thing

When I was in college at UNC, I read an article that had a profound effect on the way I view my life.  Peggy McIntosh wrote about White Privilege.  This is the idea that some of us have “an invisible package of unearned assets that [we] can count on cashing in each day.” (p. 30*)  McIntosh found that she had difficulty explaining this concept, even to people who were open to discussing issues of diversity.  So she made a list of these privileges.  I wanted to share a few of them to give you the idea and then share my own list that I have made recently.

1.  I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2.  I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
3.  I can go into a bookshop and count of finding the writing of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can deal with my hair.
4.  I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color. 
5.  I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
6.  I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
7.  I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
8.  I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
9.  I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.

These are just a sample of the 46 privileges that McIntosh came up with for herself.  Most of these privileges are good things and should be extended to everyone.  Having privilege is like playing baseball and automatically getting to start on second base.  Or playing basketball and always getting to inbound the ball at half court.  It’s not that those things are bad, it’s that they are not extended to everyone who is playing the game.

This article was brought to mind for me this morning because of a very big issue that has arisen in many states and finally became personal to me because it happened in my home state.  Yesterday, North Carolina added their first amendment to their state constitution.  But rather than protecting the rights of their citizens, this amendment took rights away.  I have always avoided discussing political issues on my professional websites, blogs, and Facebook pages because of a fear of alienating potential and current clients.  However, this has become more than a political issue for me. 

Let me begin by saying that I am an ally for the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community.  I work with members of this community in my practice on a daily basis and so many of them come to see me because of the overt and covert discrimination that they face on a daily basis.  They come to see me because I am one of the few professionals who will advertise that I am an ally.  They come to see me because it is one of the few safe places they have in their lives.  So for me this has become a mental health issue that is impacting my clients, my colleagues, and my friends. 

So, yesterday when my home state passed an amendment to their state constitution banning same sex marriage and declaring that the only union that would be legally recognized would be a marriage between one man and one woman, I became angry, sad, ashamed, and determined.  I also have to recognize some level of feeling privileged and not in a good way.  I recognize the impact votes like these in states so far from where I practice have on my GLBT clients.  They are constantly aware of the atmosphere in this country and it creates a sense of fear and mistrust in their lives.  So I decided to make my own list of privileges.  Some of these are based on posts I saw from my friends on Facebook yesterday and today, some are based on things clients have said to me through the years, and some are based on just my own thoughts.  I hope they give some people pause and cause them to think about how their beliefs impact others.  But mostly, I hope it shows people who identify as GLBT that they do have allies and that we are aware of the lack of justice that is in our country right now.

Heterosexual Privileges:
1.  I can decide to marry the person that I love and be confident that my current state and any other state in which I choose to live will recognize my marriage as a legal union.
2.  I can hold hands with, kiss, and hug my partner in public without worrying about my safety or the safety of my partner.
3.  When I am out with my partner, other people do not stare at us trying to figure out if we are in a relationship.
4.  I can attend any church or religiously affiliated organization and not worry that they may not accept my life partner.
5.  No one questions whether my “lifestyle” is a choice.  It is assumed that I was born straight.
6.  I never have to “come out” to anyone.
7.  I never have to fear that by coming out I might jeopardize my career, my family, or my safety.
8.  I never have to worry that my children will be rejected because of the sex of my partner.
9.  If I am ever hospitalized, I do not have to worry about whether my partner will be able to visit me, make medical decisions, or have medical information about me withheld.  The same is true if my partner is hospitalized.
10.  In the event of my death, I have no fear that our children may not be raised by my partner.  My partner does not have to fear this either.
11.  When I started dating my partner, I had no concern that my family and friends would disapprove of him simply because of his sex.
12.  Either me or my partner will always be able to sign permission slips for our children, make medical decisions about our children, and pick up our children from school and daycare.  With no questions asked.
13.  I do not have to worry about being evicted from my home in the event that my partner dies, regardless of whose name is on the deed.
14.  I never have to worry about people trying to “save” me because of the sex of my partner.
15.  I do not have to worry about whether my family doctor, my OB/GYN, my therapist, my psychiatrist, or my pharmacist will disapprove of my “lifestyle” or if they might even deny me treatment.
16.  No one thinks about my sex life when they are introduced to my partner.
17.  No one has ever reacted to me with fear or disgust because of the person that I love.
18.  I can receive tax advantages for being married.
19.  I do not have to worry about having health insurance because my partner’s insurance will automatically cover my health care and the health care of our children.
20..  I have never been told that I am a sinner or that I will go to hell because of the person I love.
21.  No state has ever made a law or changed their constitution in an effort to deny my rights to marry.
22.  If I chose to do so, I could ignore all of these privileges and live my life in total denial that they even exist.

These are just a few quick things that I came up with in the 15 minutes that it took me to type the list.  I’m sure there are more.  I am also equally as sure that my GLBT clients are aware of these things everyday.  Can you imagine living your life without these rights?

*”White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies” by Peggy McIntosh.  Published in:  Feminist Frontiers:  5th Edition edited by Laurel Richardson, Verta Taylor, and Nancy Whittier.

Toning Shoes for Girls?!?

I was signing into my personal email account the other day, when a news item caught my attention. Skechers Shape-Ups . . . for girls! Now these ridiculous shoes have already made it into the closets of many women, even though there is no evidence they follow through on the leg toning abilities they claim to offer. But really, do young girls really need to be concerned about how toned their legs are? the headline itself kind of got my blood boiling, but then I read the story. These shoes are being marketed primarily on child centered television. Skechers is also not offering an equivalent type of shoes to boys. Do boys not need strong legs? That is what Skechers claims they are offering in the statement they released in response to a petition to get the shoes off the market. They even compared these shoes to Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s Let’s Move Initiative, saying the shoes are about being active. Um, no they’re not. Tennis shoes are about being active. These shoes are about telling women and now girls, that nice legs are toned (and preferably tanned). In related news, the Today Show ran a piece this week about a mom in California giving Botox to her 8 year old daughter before pageants. What possible reason could an 8 year old have for needing Botox?

These two stories have truly made me question what the future holds for little girls. I work with women everyday who loathe their bodies and can tell you exactly which parts are wrong. They have learned their worth is measured by how their outsides look, regardless of what that does to their insides. And these women did not grow up with anywhere near the amount of pressure young girls experience today. I am not advocating that these products be removed from the market (well, except maybe the child Botox), but I am advocating that parents become smart consumers and that they teach their children to do the same. One of my favorite things to do with younger clients struggling with eating and body image is to look through the fashion magazines with a critical eye. Talk about the photo shopping, hours of hair and make-up, and unrealistic expectations being placed on the models. Talk about whether all of that sounds healthy. Educate them on what is realistic and what is simply Hollywood magic. Our children are smarter than we think they are sometimes. Some of these young women that I work with understand the pressure in those glossy pages better than I ever have. Understanding it doesn’t always mean that they can fight it though and sometimes that pressure gets the best of them. The ones who move through that and go on to feel proud of themselves for the size of their heart or brain rather than the size of their jeans, have parents who teach them that looks are not the key to success. Wearing the right makeup or making frown lines disappear will not make you feel good about yourself. And who knows, maybe if more of us felt that way, these products would disappear on their own. We can always hope.

Is this an Eating Disorder?

Because of my specialty in Eating Disorders, my family and friends are constantly telling me about the bizarre diet and exercise habits of someone. Whether it’s the person who’s at the gym constantly or the one who will only eat wheat toast, (with no butter!) for breakfast, the common question is, “Is that normal?” Let me tell you, that’s a tough question to answer. In reality, what my family member or friend usually means is, “Should I be worried that this person has an eating disorder?” Also not an easy question to answer based on one odd behavior or eating habit. An eating disorder is a culmination of several behaviors based on a central fear of fat or being fat. For example, I happen to be one of those people who doesn’t like my food to touch. Does that mean I have an eating disorder? Absolutely not! I love food too much for that, but that might be the topic for a different blog. Is it a somewhat disordered way to eat? Definitely. Does that mean you should ignore when your formerly cheeseburger loving friend suddenly becomes a vegan? No it doesnt, but it also isn’t enough to diagnose them with Anorexia. Eating disorders are complex disorders consisting of both specific thoughts combined with a myriad of behaviors on a spectrum from things we all do that might be a little weird with food to rigid rules about the method and specific food that can or cannot be eaten. Which paritally explains why the “is this normal” question is so difficult. Making a judgment on what is or is not normal based on one odd behavior is extremely difficult. A clinician uses all of the data gathered in an initial meeting that lasts about an hour to make a decision about an appropriate diagnosis – and even then it is difficult. A 5 minute description of your friend who will only eat ham sandwiches cut in the shape of stars for lunch, does not provide the level or amount of information needed to know if that is a behavior to be concerned about. Now if that friend also refuses to eat entire food groups, constantly pinches invisible fat around her waistline, and spends two hours a day exercising, my red flags start waving. So to make a long explanation a little shorter, if you are concerned about one of your friends or a family member never hesitate to contact a professional who specializes in eating disorders. And, talking to your friend or family member may help them to take the sometimes scary step of seeking help. If that family member happens to be your child, as a parent you have to right, and I might add responsibility, to find the help that child needs to move past these symptoms before they become a way of life. www.edreferral.com is a great site for finding referrals in your area. This is a site that only includes professionals who specialize in working with eating disorders.

Surviving Thanksgiving

For most people, Thanksgiving is a time of celebrating the things that we are thankful for, be it family, friends, or just lots of football. It is also a time where binge eating is the norm. The expectation is that we will all eat ourselves into a coma and feel full for a week. For most of us this is fine. We bounce back from this binge and go about our everyday lives. For someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, this is a nightmare. Someone who restricts their food intake sees nothing but a day of avoiding all the sights, smells, and meals of the day and someone who binges feels like their dirty little secret has been discovered and will spend the day looking for ways to compensate. How can someone who has struggled for so long to eat in a healthy way participate in such an unhealthy style of eating? Can Thanksgiving become something more than just a day to stuff ourselves on turkey and pumpkin pie? I thought I’d put out some ideas for folks who need some grounding during this holiday, whether recovering from an eating disorder or not.

Firstly, let’s all take a step back and try to remember that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks (it’s in the name of the holiday) and not about how many pumpkin pies you can eat. Allow yourself to be thankful for the people who prepared the food and the hard work that went into the planning for this meal. Make every attempt to enjoy the company of those you care about. For people who have struggled with an eating disorder, this might be the first holiday you’ve experienced where you could actually allow yourself to enjoy the food, and that truly is something to be thankful for. It will also most likely be difficult and you may struggle. That’s fine. Get your support system lined up before the holiday rolls around and you’ll be able to handle those stumbles.

Also, rather than gobbling up all the turkey within arm’s reach, take a few minutes to savor the food. Make an attempt to eat more slowly and truly taste the flavors. Many families save these “special” foods for the holiday season, so take the time to actually taste it. If you’re feeling really rebellious, make the decision to have these foods more than once a year. That can often take away the urge to overeat these “special” treats. If you have struggled with restricting it will most likely be scary to participate in a holiday where everyone else goes back for seconds and more. Work hard not to compare your plate to that of others. This is good food, and you deserve to enjoy it!

Now this last bit might be touchy for some of you. Some people love Thanksgiving because they get to spend time with family they don’t see often. Others dread it for this very same reason. It can be difficult to be around family members that you may have been avoiding since last Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution for this. If you family is abusive, the healthiest decision may be to forgo the traditional celebration. This is difficult, but you have to make the decisions that are right for you. However, if you’re just annoyed by your family it may be grin and bear it time. There are a lot of ways to deal with this situation – have a stress buddy that you can call at the end of the day to vent, rely on your significant other to keep you sane, and plan a little alone time throughout the day to keep a check on your sanity. As with the thankfulness piece, focusing on the positives of the day rather than dreading the tension can also make this holiday much easier to endure.

I hope you can use some of these tips in your holiday celebration, if only to remind yourself to focus on giving thanks. May you and yours (whoever they may be) have a blessed holiday that truly encompasses the meaning of Thanksgiving.

The Secret of Happiness

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. – Thomas Jefferson

If you’re American, you know these words by heart almost from birth. It’s the foundation upon which our country was built. But what do they mean? In particular, what is “the pursuit of happiness?” Pure scientists would have us believe that happiness is simply chemicals floating between neurons in our brain. New agers equate happiness with inner peace. Dictionary.com defines happiness as the state of being happy and then procedes to define happy using synonyms such as joyful, blissful, and exuberant. All well and good, but really, what is happiness?

I watched a few movies recently that got me thinking about this question. One of them (which I truly don’t recommend watching because the movie was pretty terrible)was True Confessions of a Shopaholic. In the opening scene, you see the main character as a little girl talking about how happiness became a shiny pair of shoes for her. The gist of the movie (spoiler alert) is that because she equates new things with happiness she finds herself in massive amounts of debt with plenty of things and having completely destroyed the most important relationships in her life. Which of course, this being Hollywood, leads to an epiphany on her part after which she completely mends her shopaholic ways and finds true love and friendship. Ah, if only life were that easy.

The second movie I watched was Julie and Julia (which actually was pretty good)in which we meet Julie a woman on the brink of turning 30 who decides to find happiness by cooking her way through Julia Child’s cookbook while writing a blog. Along the way (again spoiler coming) she comes to realize that it is not the act of cooking, or the even the food itself that creates happiness but the ability to spend time with friends sharing an experience.

Thirdly, I watched a documentary called This Emotional Life (which was fantastic) that explored what science has found about how to create happiness in our lives. Ironically enough, the findings seem to point to the very premise of the first two movies: it is not things, deeds, adventures, or even money that make us happy – it’s having people to share those things with. I know, Hollywood actually got something right for a change, although in a kind of unrealistic, sugar coated way.

I was amazed to learn that research being done all over the world shows that relationships change our brain chemistry. The smile of your own newborn releases that same chemicals in a mother’s brain that cocaine creates, which creates a euphoric feeling. And hearing laughter almost doubles the amount of chemicals. People who were shown pictures of people they love during a brain scan showed activity in the areas of the brain where positive emotions are regulated. There is also research being done on lottery winners and “the lottery curse.” What this research is finding is that the people who adjust the best to winning large sums of money out of the blue, are those who have close relationships which remain stable after winning. Now, this research also found that people with more money tend to be happier than people with very little money and that lottery winners who actually change their status in life show the largest happiness gains. But again, these results changed if the winners lost their close relationships along the way, leading to very depressed, uber-rich people who made poor decisions about their winnings. It seems good relationships even lead to better decision making!

The moral of this story – happiness is not a new pair of shoes, a journey through cooking, or a huge sum of money. Happiness truly is about who we have to share it with.

“It’s so much more friendly with two.” – Piglet

Mommy Survivor

Soon after Mother’s Day I received an email from my cousin that made me laugh and then made me really sad. Here’s the email and then I’ll explain what I mean:

THE NEXT SURVIVOR SERIES
Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and 3 kids each for six weeks. Each kid will play two sports and take either music or dance classes.

There is no fast food.

Each man must take care of his 3 kids; keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, complete science projects, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of ‘pretend’ bills with not enough money. In addition, each man will have to budget enough money for groceries each week.

Each man must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives,
and send cards out on time–no emailing.

Each man must also take each child to a doctor’s appointment, a dentist appointment
and a haircut appointment.

He must make one unscheduled and inconvenient visit per child to the Emergency Room.

He must also make cookies or cupcakes for a school function.

Each man will be responsible for decorating his own assigned house, planting flowers outside, and keeping it presentable at all times.

The men will only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done.

The men must:
shave their legs,
wear makeup daily,
adorn themselves with jewelry,
wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes,
keep fingernails polished, and eyebrows groomed.

During one of the six weeks, the men will have to endure severe abdominal cramps, backaches, headaches, have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from other duties.

They must attend weekly school meetings and church, and find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting.

They will need to read a book to the kids each night and in the morning, feed them,
dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair by 7:30 am.

A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child’s birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size, doctor’s name, the child’s weight at birth, length, time of birth, and length of labor, each child’s favorite color, middle name, favorite snack, favorite song, favorite drink, favorite toy, biggest fear, and what they want to be when they grow up.

The kids vote them off the island based on performance.

The last man wins only if he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse
at a moment’s notice.

Now, those women out there reading this will find this hillarious. Those men out there reading this are possibly somewhat offended. And thus begins the battle of the sexes as set up by society. The truth of the matter is that it has largely become the woman’s job to take care of the emotional side of family relationships as well as the logistical side of family life. I know many men will say, well that’s because I work, but the reality now is that women also work, often full time, outside of the family. And thus begins the battle of the sexes in couples therapy. It is happening more and more often that couples enter marriage therapy because the wife has simply collapsed under the enormous pressure of maintaining family life. This battle over whose “job” taking care of the family is has created a divide between men and women. Some women thrive in this type of environment. They spend their time planning family outings, making family meals, and attending school functions – it gives them energy. Other women attempt to do all of these things and feel like utter failures when they are exhausted by the end of the day. This is because we all have different talents and strengths. Notice I said different, not better. The truth of the matter is that if you’re a mom and doing all of the things in this email makes you feel fulfilled and full of energy, that’s great. The problem occurs when you’re a mom and you feel completely drained and empty after doing all of these things. That means you need help and you will need a partner who supports that need for help, even if society doesn’t. Otherwise, you and your partner will end of in my office, or divorce court. That’s what makes the funny sad.

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.

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