Archive | July 2012

quit loving them to death: a re-blog by Neil Schori

Neil Schori has written a great article about enabling those that we love.   We are literally loving them to death, as we make excuses for dysfunctional and very hurtful behaviors.   I know that Neil would love for you to pass this on:

QUIT loving them to death!

I’ve counseled people for over 10 years for just about every kind of problem under the sun. I’ve helped people with broken marriages, eating disorders, cutting, and just about every kind of addiction there is today. There is one problem that makes me more upset than just about any other. And it isn’t even the issue that is presented to me to “fix.” It is the issue BEHIND the issue. It is enabling.

Enabling can be done in a marriage when the unfaithful spouse has excuses made for him by the very wife that he betrayed. Usually it sounds like this: “Bob wants to be faithful to me. He just has an unusually high sex drive. And his dad was the same way. I’m pretty sure it’s genetic. Men aren’t good at being monogamous, anyway.”

Enabling can also be done in a relationship that has been broken by domestic violence. It may sound like this: “Adam is a good man. He only hits me when his boss stresses him out at work. He’s been doing much better recently. He brought me flowers yesterday. He really loves me!”

QUIT loving them to death!

Enabling is often done in the context of substance abuse, too. Many times, the addict’s loved ones are afraid that the addict will never talk with them again if they refuse to buy them alcohol at the store. They are afraid that the addict will become abusive to them if they tell them it is time to get help. They feel bad when they refuse to give the addict money when they are asked because just maybe…this time…they really will use it to buy formula and diapers for the baby.

While all of those scenarios are hypothetical, there’s a good chance that you see your own family in that mix. If you are playing the role of enabler…please pay attention now! You are digging their grave today. You must quit loving them to death.

I know it feels like you’re doing the right thing…but you’re not. What you are doing only feels right, now. Soon, you will be filled with regret and will be asking all of the “what ifs.” There is nothing loving and kind…nothing right and good…about not confronting the wrong behaviors of the ones we love.

Imagine for a moment what you would do if you saw your 3 year old walking over to the stove top that you had just turned on. Would you get in her way? But what if she cried loudly and told you that she “really wanted to play with the stove!!”? Would you allow her to walk by you and melt her skin to the burner? Of course not. Because there would be nothing loving about your choice to let her do what she wanted to do.

If you are struggling with any of these issues today, I want to encourage you to stop enabling behaviors in your loved ones that are leading them straight to their early deaths. Choose to get them help, today. Get help for yourself, while you’re at it! And don’t waiver. Prepare yourself to hear about how bad you are being to them and that if you really loved them that you never would do this to them. Calmly respond like this: “I love you enough to tell you the truth, and I’m ok with you hating me for the rest of your life because of it.”

Then take a deep breath and walk away while you have a good cry. After you’ve released your tears, you will soon begin to sense a deep satisfaction that you truly did the right thing…no matter the personal cost.

Pastor Neil Schori


the difference a little 9 year old girl has made

Never doubt that you can make a difference.  This little girl inspired me when I first heard of her, and then her life was tragically taken.   Her dream lived on, and now thousands have fresh water out of 100 wells, all because of a little girl named Rachel.

Rachel’s Gift. One Year Later.


Monday, on the one year anniversary of Rachel’s death, our staff took her mom and grandparents to Ethiopia to visit some of the 60,000 people Rachel helped. Watch the video:

 Rachel’s story.

Tekloini Assefa stood in the middle of a huge crowd, surrounded by Ethiopian priests, mothers, and children. Rachel Beckwith’s mom, Samantha, Rachel’s grandparents, and others in our group sat listening. We had all flown halfway around the world just two days earlier to visit some of the 149 communities Rachel helped in the north of Ethiopia.

Samantha Beckwith
“Samantha, your little girl is an inspiration to us all. We have heavy hearts imagining what it was like to lose Rachel due to such horrific circumstances. It is something no parent ever wants to contemplate, let alone live through. Even more remarkable is that Rachel developed such a big heart from such a young age — that she understood and felt the pain of others on the other side of the world. To give up her birthday presents so that other children can improve their lives, is the most beautiful gift a person can give.”

A little over a year ago, Rachel was your average nine-year-old. She loved Taylor Swift and had a secret crush on Justin Bieber, although she’d never admit it. She had a loving family and a heart that wanted to solve every problem she saw in this world. Once, she cut off all her hair and donated it to make wigs for kids who had cancer. So when she sat in church one day and heard Scott Harrison from charity: water give a talk about how kids her age in Africa didn’t have clean water to drink, she immediately decided to help.

With her mom’s encouragement, she created a fundraising page on, telling her family and friends that she didn’t want presents for her ninth birthday. Instead, she asked them to donate $9, as she was turning 9. Rachel wanted kids like her to have clean water to drink.

She had a big goal: to raise $300 and give 15 people clean drinking water. She fell a little short, raising $220, and told her mom that she’d try harder next year.

A month later, Rachel was in a tragic car accident on highway I-90 near Seattle, Washington. A trailer had jack-knifed into a logging truck, sending logs tumbling down the freeway. More than a dozen cars were caught in the pile-up, and the trailer smashed into the back of Rachel’s car.

She was the only person critically injured, and on July 23rd, 2011, she was taken off life support.

When the news spread about Rachel’s story and her birthday wish, people all around the world began to donate on her page. Some gave $9, some $19, leaving comments like “This is the rest of my month’s salary…..” A month later, 30,000 people had given more than $1.2 million.

All of us at charity: water were blown away by the generosity. The comments and notes that were left on Rachel’s page caused many tears in the coming months, and Rachel’s story continues to inspire us today.

Last year, we sent 100% of the money from Rachel’s campaign to our partners in Tigray, Ethiopia, and they began to construct water projects for people in need. We made a promise to Rachel’s mom that one day she’d come with us to Ethiopia to meet some of the people Rachel’s wish had helped.

Monday, we fulfilled that promise.


On the one-year anniversary of Rachel’s death, we woke up early, at 5:30 A.M. We piled into Land Rovers and began the two-hour drive to Bahra village in the north of Ethiopia. We heard the community had planned both a memorial service in Rachel’s honor and a celebration of her life.

We didn’t know it then, but honor would become the theme of our entire day.

First, we visited a church. The priests there knew all about our arrival, and they knew Rachel’s story. They told us they had been up since midnight, praying that God would keep Rachel’s soul in peace. A photo of Rachel stood on the ledge, surrounded by candles. We paused, listening to the priests recite their prayers, singing ancient Ethiopian hymns over Samantha and her parents.

From the church, we walked to a new well nearby that was funded by Rachel’s donations. We cut the ribbon and watched water splash into bright yellow jerry cans. This water didn’t have dirt or leeches in it, and it didn’t carry deadly disease. It wasn’t far away from people’s homes, and they didn’t have to walk for hours to find it. It was right there, in their village, and it was crystal clear. To prove it, Samantha took a long drink.

The children wrote notes about Rachel, and handed them one by one to Samantha. A famous priest read a poem he wrote especially for the occasion, and then the village gave gifts to Rachel’s family. A mother from the village made a speech and said Rachel’s story would be a lesson to their children. She said that all the mothers in her village were praying for Samantha. Another community sectioned off a plot of land and called it Rachel’s Park. They invited Samantha and her grandparents each to plant a tree in Rachel’s memory.


Near the well, our local partners, Relief Society of Tigray (REST), commissioned a marble sign. It read “Rachel’s great dream, kindness and vision of a better world will live with and among us forever.”

Her photo was nested in the marble, a permanent fixture in Bahra village. It will serve as a reminder to all the mothers who draw water from this well that a mother’s tragic loss and a child’s dream brought clean water to their village.

60,000 people in over 100 villages will drink clean water because of Rachel’s wish.

Rachel’s mom, Samantha, continues to fundraise in Rachel’s honor.
Visit her current fundraising campaign to donate.

— the charity: water team

what about the boys? FORBES re-blog

Passing on yet another great article for male survivors, written by Todd Essig, of FORBES.

Todd Essig

Todd Essig, Contributor

The Penn State NCAA Penalties: What About The Boys?

Today’s news includes the NCAA sanctioning Penn State for its complicit silence when administration learned of possible sexual abuse perpetrated by Jerry Sandusky. Lots of details, and of course the inevitable controversy in which people line up on two sides and shout “too severe” and “too lenient” at each other (as well as people like me who think the NCAA got it right). In the midst of this media maelstrom it is easy to forget what this is all about: the sexual abuse of boys by a powerful adult gratifying his sexual desires at their expense.

To keep the boys in mind in mind I turned to my friend and colleague, Richard Gartner, Ph.D., who is a pioneer in the treatment and study of male sexual victimization.  His most recent book is Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life after Boyhood Sexual Abuse. I’m reprinting the following with his permission. It’s a piece he wrote several years ago to remind people about the consequences of the sexual abuse of boys. It applies just as well today to Penn State as it did previously to Michael Jackson and renegade priests:


Now that Michael Jackson has gone to find a new Neverland and renegade priests are yesterday’s news, the public may mistakenly assume the problem of childhood sexual abuse has vanished as well.

But what about the boys? By age 16, as many as one in six boys in America has had unwanted sex with an adult or older child. And what about the millions of men, abused as children, who continue to live with the debilitating effects of shattered trust?

Unfortunately, the media did little to explore the lasting effects of boyhood sexual abuse, instead focusing mainly on the daily tribulations of a wayward pop star and the crises of a church that harbored predators. But at least those scandals brought boyhood abuse into the public discourse – at least we can talk about it now.

It’s disturbing to think about what it means to a boy when he’s sexually abused by someone he trusts. Uncomfortable as we feel, however, we must either face the reality of his experience or continue to live with its aftermath.

Abusers use their age or authority to satisfy their own needs without regard to those of their victims. Seemingly unbreakable bonds are broken when treachery is introduced into these relationships. Consequently, many sexually abused boys grow up distrustful, considering people dishonest, malevolent, and undependable. They often become frightened of emotional connection and isolate themselves. This may alternate with merging with loved ones so they hardly know where they end and others begin.

Confusing affection with abuse, desire with tenderness, sexually abused boys often become men who have difficulty distinguishing among sex, love, nurturance, affection, and abuse. They may experience friendly interpersonal approaches as seductive and manipulative. On the other hand, they may not notice when exploitative demands are made on them – they’ve learned to see these as normal and acceptable.

Believing sexual closeness is the way to feel loved but experiencing love as abuse, some of these men solve their dilemma by engaging in frequent, indiscriminate, and compulsive sexual encounters. These are not free, joyous expressions of erotic passion. Sex is pursued incessantly, but with little chance for intimacy. Although strongly desiring love, these men have no sense of feeling loved once the sex act is concluded. They’re left feeling empty and lonely, while the idea of fully pursuing relationships fills them with dread. Many believe sexually abused boys almost inevitably become sexually abusive men. But, while a significant proportion of male abusers were victims themselves, there’s evidence that relatively few sexually abused boys actually become abusers. Because of the myth, however, many men fear they’ll become abusive or worry that if they disclose their history, others will consider them predators.

Sexually abused boys are also troubled if they were aroused while being abused. Teenagers have little control over the hormones surging through their bodies. But if they’re stimulated by aspects of their experience, they may feel they participated in or even invited the abuse. This confuses a boy who also knows he was repelled by the experience. Feeling guilty about any sexual pleasure he felt during his molestation, he may become ambivalent about all sexual pleasure.

Also, masculine gender expectations teach boys they can’t be victims. Boys are supposed to be competitive, resilient, self-reliant, and independent, but certainly not emotionally needy. “Real” men initiate sexual activity and want sex whenever it’s offered, especially by women. For many men, these qualities define masculinity.

As a result, boys may not even recognize their sexual victimization. They may assert that they weren’t abused, weren’t hurt, or were in charge of what happened. For them, acknowledging victimization means admitting they’re weak or “not male.”

Finally, when the abuser is male (and even sometimes when she is female), many boys – whether straight or gay – develop fears and concerns about sexual orientation. Conventional wisdom says sexual abuse turns boys gay, although there’s no persuasive evidence that premature sexual activity fundamentally changes sexual orientation. Nevertheless, a heterosexual boy is likely to doubt himself, wondering why he was chosen by a man for sex. A homosexual boy may feel rushed into considering himself gay, or may hate his homosexuality because he believes it was caused by his abuse. Whether boys are gay or straight, these manipulative introductions to sexuality can set lifetime patterns of exploitation and self-destructive behavior.

These aftereffects are ugly. They’re not only painful for victims but also costly to our society. Boys who grow up without coming to terms with their childhood abuse often struggle as men with addictions, anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide as well as the inability to develop or maintain relationships.

The good news: healing is possible. A first step is acknowledging abuse occurred and articulating what has been silenced. Putting the experience into words is freeing for many men, whether they tell a loved one, a professional, a confidant, or simply write in a journal. Beyond that, there are several options. Knowledgeable professionals can help, as can healing retreats, some 12-Step programs, and men’s groups focused on victimization and masculinity. The Internet offers several options, including web sites for sexually abused men such as, where men can find one another and talk, anonymously if necessary, about their common dilemmas.

male survivors … triggers and self care: a re-blog

I counsel women, most often regarding domestic abuse and sexual trauma, so when I initially put this site together I had no idea that so many male survivors would be reading it, and that it would be helping and encouraging them as well.  For all of the wonderful men who are following my blog, this is for you.  My heart is broken by your stories, and I am humbled by your trust.

Sandusky, Triggers, and Self-Care

Some things you can do if news coverage of abuse stories is triggering you.

Feeling powerless can be a major trigger for many survivors. So too is the feeling that your voice is not going to be heard or your thoughts are not important. The current coverage of the Sandusky trial (and the other stories that are sure to follow) can easily to give rise to these feelings. Since the start I know I’ve struggled with both these feelings and it’s very likely that a lot of other survivors and their loved ones will be triggered as well. As the Sandusky trial focuses society’s attention to the issue of sexual abuse, it is also inevitable that someone is going to say something (or not say something) that will send someone else into a spiral of anger, frustration, sadness, or even fear.

My hope in posting this information with you is to share a few things:

1. What does being triggered feel like?,

2. What can I do if I feel I’m becoming triggered and/or feeling overwhelmed?, and

3. What can I do to make a difference?

What does being triggered feel like?

Getting triggered does not give rise to a simple, uniform set of symptoms that can be easily labeled. Everyone (survivor or not) presents a unique blend of emotions and reactions to any given stimulus. But, if you find yourself struggling with more negative emotions than usual—anger, sadness, anxiety, bitterness, etc., if you are noticing that things that normally do not bother you are becoming stressors (for example, maybe you are more irritable in traffic than normal); and/or if you find yourself pushing others away and wanting to be alone—these can all be signs that you might be upset and need to take some time to rest, reflect, and exercise some self care.

What can I do if I feel I’m becoming triggered and/or feeling overwhelmed?

It’s important to remember a few things: First, all of these emotions are normal reactions to having a painful subject discussed. Outside of the therapeutic environment, where these feelings can be processed, there is a higher risk that these emotions can be destabilizing. If you feel yourself getting triggered (e.g. if you are having strong emotional swings, feeling out of balance and unable to focus, and/or if you find yourself more irritable and moody) and do not have a therapist to process these feeling I strongly recommend finding someone to talk with, even for just a session or two. Our resource directory is a great resource for finding people local to you. And if you do not see a therapist in your area listed, contact your insurance provider or the nearest rape crisis center and ask for help finding someone to speak to. As always, if you are in severe crisis or considering self harm and have no one else to speak to call your doctor, emergency services (such as 911), or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US or the Samaritans in the UK.

Hopefully, you can find some support and exercise “exquisite” self care during this time, as Dr. Howard Fradkin encourages us all to do. A few tips along those lines:

  • Ensure you are getting proper rest. This is especially a time to make sure you are getting enough sleep every day.
  • Try to exercise regularly and maintain as regular a schedule of self-care as possible: mediation, yoga, and working out are all excellent ways to disconnect from all these stories and get recentered on the most important person—you.
  • Maintain a healthy diet—Again, this is even more important in times of high stress and anxiety. Simply avoiding junk food and eating a few more fruits and vegetables can make a huge difference to how you feel physically. As you feel better in your body, you will feel better in your mind.
  • Try to moderate, or eliminate, use of alcohol and other mood altering substances. If you find yourself self-medicating to a greater degree at this time, it is especially important to discuss that with your doctor or therapist. And please, inform your doctor if you have increased your use of prescriptions.
  • Perhaps most importantly—do something FUN. Regardless of whether you are a survivor or not, there is a part inside all of us that needs to be allowed to have some fun. Do a silly dance for no reason, sing a song that you love (whether you can sing or not), for example. And if you have children, make sure to make time for them and play a game or go for a walk.

What can I do to make a difference?

If you are looking for some things to do that might have a positive effect, here are a couple suggestions.

  1. If you feel an overwhelming urge to say something or do something—stop. First go for a cleansing walk. Take a walk around the block or get up from your desk and go get a glass of water. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths and try to focus on something calming—a color you like or the sound of ocean waves, for instance.
  2. Try to spend at least an hour each day with the TV, Internet, and radio (if it’s tuned to the news) off, and do not read or listen to any information on the trial. Find something else to focus on in your life. The most effective thing you can do at this time is make sure you are doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.

ONLY AFTER doing both of these things, if you still feel a strong desire to do something productive here are a few suggestions.

  • Write an email, or better yet handwrite a card or letter to the brave young men who are testifying in the Sandusky case. You can send messages to Voices4Victims, which is working with the accusers’ attorneys to ensure that these messages of support are getting into these courageous young men’s hands.
  • Spend some time doing some volunteer work for a community organization, preferably doing something wholly unrelated to survivor issues. There are a lot of people and organizations that need help and are being ignored as our attention is focused on these matters. Go improve a local or donate, give some time to an animal shelter, or donate blood for instance.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. (if you are in a large city, find your neighborhood newspapers) Don’t try to send a message to the national media outlets, the likelihood of your message getting through is much higher on the local level. That said, remember that the act of sending out a message should not be to get a response, but rather to feel empowered by expressing yourself. Keep any letters you write short and try to focus on statements of support for surviors who are testifying in court, and/or that resources such as MaleSurvivor are available to provide support for healing, and/or that healing is possible for every single survivor.

Lastly, here are two things that I strongly caution you against doing.

DON’T engage in debates or battles over the Internet in chat rooms, discussion boards, or comment pages. There are people out there who will not believe you, who will attack you for their own reasons, and who are just generally rude and immature. Fighting with them will not help you feel better. In addition, I strongly recommend that you NOT disclose in one any of these places. Except, of course, for the MaleSurvivor forums, none of the places are a community of healing where you are likely to receive the support you deserve and need after disclosing. This is true even if you have made great progress in your healing.

And maybe most importantly:

DON’T allow yourself to fall into despair. Having been in the courtroom for the first two days of the trial and seeing and hearing the first two young men speak with such courage and bravery I can tell you that something truly amazing is happening in that courtroom, and every single one of those brave young men has a great deal to be proud of. We have much to be hopeful about. It’s important to remember that healing IS possible for every single survivor and we are all, collectively, making strides every day. It can be hard to see the big picture that as awareness increases, so does the possibility of healing. And that, in the long run, is what will help all of us get better.

As always, please remember that there is a whole community of support at MaleSurvivor to help you as well.

—Photo credit: ST33VO/Flickr

a hard watch: the reality of an abusive home

The average battered woman tries to leave seven times before she is finally able to leave for good.  20/20 shares with us the story of a very brave woman who gets the courage to leave an abusive relationship after years of being brainwashed that she is the problem.  How I wish that every judge could see this clip and have the same response in their courtroom as did the one who presided over this case.  I’m hoping that this clip will help give another woman, who fears for her life and for her children, the encouragement to leave.   You are not alone, you can do this.