Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


C. and Kathy remind me that I probably gave short shrift to that morning panel of victims/survivors, and that readers are probably interested in their stories, and in particular what it means to go public. That was indeed a considerable focus of the panel.

One of the panelists was Barbara Feaster, who tells her story here. Apart from the very unusual detail that she was rescued because her father confessed to a clergyman that he was raping his daughter, this is an all too common story. The story after her rescue is unusual, however, both in that she was well served by the child welfare system, and her caseworker in particular; and that she has chosen to be publicly outspoken about her experience. For her, that is the ultimate victory: not only to transcend the damage done to her, but to devote her life to the cause of other children and to prove by speaking out that she has nothing to be ashamed of. Shame is the greatest burden that abused children have to bear, and clearly she has defeated it.

Another of the panelists whose story is available on the web was Michelle Renee, whose Internet presence is a bit less inspiring, in my view. She has turned her victimization into a business -- and now she's even picked up sponorship, like Tiger Woods, in this case from Jenny Craig. I must confess I don't remember this, but apparently in 2000 she was the victim of a spectacular crime that filled up CNN for a couple of news cycles, when she and her daughter were held hostage and wired with explosives by bank robbers. She was previously abused as a child, so now she is able to view trauma from the standpoint of child victim, mother, and adult crime victim. I certainly admire her courage and resiliency, although the way she has commercialized her fame may seem slightly off kilter to some.

As for why the panel consisted entirely of women, I would say that it is generally more difficult for men to admit that they have been abused, whether sexually or physically. Men are supposed to be strong, and dominant. Victimization doesn't go well with the gender role. One man who has very courageously broken this mold is professional hockey player Sheldon Kennedy, who was abused over a period of years by his junior hockey coach. How he found the courage to come forward in the macho culture of the NHL I'm not sure, but as far as anyone has reported publicly his teammates, and the fans, were supportive. Perhaps if more men did come forward they would find it is a path to healing, as Barbara Feaster has.

But I'm not a clinician and as a social scientist this is not an issue I have studied. Perhaps readers will have more to say about it than I do.

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