Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Thoughts: Oprah's "200 Men" Episode

"Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. It's accepting the past for what it was and using this moment - using this moment - and this time to help yourself move forward."

Oprah Winfrey recently dedicated an entire episode of her show (November 4, 2010) to allowing 200 brave men to share their stories of childhood sexual abuse. (Click here to watch the full episode via Oprah's website.) I typed my thoughts as I watched because I wanted to open up a discussion thread about it on my support group's Facebook page. I've copied and pasted these thoughts here because I know some of you aren't members of the group... but I want to hear what you have to say in reaction to the show as well. Feel free to discuss things in the comment section, even if you disagree with something I've said. I think it's incredibly important to get some dialogue going about male survivors and how we can help them talk about their experiences. Please pardon the format. I wanted to break it down so you could sort of follow along if you haven't watched yet or if you want to pull the show up and see exactly what parts of the show I'm discussing here - time stamps for each item are in parentheses.

#1 (00:01) - The opening shot of all the men with their pictures got me all choked up. I know some of these guys through the online support group and through Facebook... and to see them with their pictures just brings home the point that for most of us this happened when we were so young and so vulnerable... heartbreaking.

#2 (04:20) - Watching Tyler Perry talk about how he feels lighter since he publicly disclosed the abuse... makes me happy. I hope more people (especially men) will learn that it's okay to talk about this. There are two men in my life who I know were victims of CSA and due to society's "man up" attitude, they both are suffering with a lot of shame. I realize female survivors have stereotypes to overcome as well. I'm not trying to discount that.

#3 (06:24) - The number of men abused by more than one person blew my mind. I had two perps, one as a child and one as an adult. Wonder how many women have been abused by more than one person?

#4 (08:25) - To hear them talk about grooming, it makes me wonder where my "grooming" began. Since I have no memory prior to the abuse... makes me feel icky to think about it. Just wondering if any of you remember your grooming, or was it such a way of life that you just don't know it even happened?

#5 (10:45) - There's a man on the show (one of the identical twins) who talks about his heart breaking when he sees his son because his son is the spitting image of him at that age. My son looks a lot like I did as a child and sometimes when I see him feeling free and happy and playing like he hasn't a care in the world, it makes me sad. I don't remember having that freedom... and quite frankly it angers me.

#6 (13:05) - I'm listening to these twins talk about the abuse they experienced at the hands of these priests. I want to break something. I am physically shaking as I type this. Outraged. People who perpetrate any kind of abuse - especially this kind - deserve the harshest kind of punishment.

#7 (14:54) - I love how Oprah talks about the fact that the shame/guilt is not ours to hold on to, and how the pain is huge no matter how when/what/who/why/where things happened to us. I get really upset sometimes when people turn their abuse stories into a competition. If it hurt, it hurt. Period. There's no reason for us to discount our own experience just because we think it wasn't "as bad" as someone else's.

#8 (19:39) - Speaking of how we were changed because of the abuse, how we never know who we would have been... how it changes who we think we are... I don't struggle with that anymore. I don't live in that anymore... but I know it was a huge hang-up for me on my healing journey early on. I know a lot of people who live in that bitterness of "damn you, you ruined me" and I totally get it.

#9 (21:04) - I like what Oprah and Tyler say about taking your power back from your abuser. That forgiveness doesn't mean saying, "That was okay what happened to me." It means "I am not gonna let you continue to hold the reigns over my life." "Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. It's accepting the past for what it was and using this moment - using this moment - and this time to help yourself move forward." Love that.

#10 (25:00) - When Oprah speaks of never knowing what's going on inside the homes on your block - that hits me hard... there was a huge group of kids within a two block radius of my house and I have ZERO doubt in my mind that every SINGLE child in my circle of super-close childhood friends was being abused in some way. I realize a certain amount of curiosity is normal in kids, but this group of kids I played with knew WAY, way too much about sex and foreplay type stuff. Freakish to think about now as an adult, that normal play with my neighborhood friends was like "Let's play orgy." Disgusting. Thoroughly disgusting to think that we hardly ever played "normal" childhood games.

#11 (28:40) - Oprah says feeling shame is a natural process to have to go through when you are abused. Great point, and again, love what they said earlier about how it's healing to let go of that shame when you learn that it's not yours, that it belongs on the abuser.

#12 (I'm not sure at which point this one dawned on me, I must have zoned out and had a moment to myself here.) - Re: drug use... I tried drugs at 14. I think I was just curious about them at the time because it never went further until later in my life and I don't think I truly, consciously connected it to my abuse until just this past year, but I know I eventually started turning to my migraine headache medicine to put me to sleep when I was a teen. I don't think I knew why I wanted to do it. I just did. I just wanted to sleep all the time. ALL the time. I remember a point in my life, especially as a teenager, when the only things I thought about were sleeping, eating, and thinking of a way to die and make it look like an accident so my family wouldn't have to deal with me anymore.

#13 (31:46) - Regarding the mother who is still with the abusive father, I still have some anger toward people who enable my abuser and protect him from dealing with what he did to me and the way his own abuse affected him. I also feel a HUGE amount of guilt for not reporting the guy who raped me. I wish I could remember his name. I would go report it now if I could.

#14 (35:11) - Statistics: 1 in 6 boys. Oprah's question: Why don't we know this? The men say being a boy, the sense that they felt complicit because their bodies responded... the attention... kept them silent. Same things that keep a lot of women silent. I really hope someday the guys can see that they have a lot in common with us as female survivors... they keep describing some of the EXACT SAME THINGS that we go through as girls. A lot of girls get labeled as easy, stupid, complicit, seductors, etc. It breaks my heart that some men feel like they can't trust us to support them because we're women. Vice versa, a lot of women don't trust men to help them either. I get it, but we need to find some common ground to get this BREAKING THE SILENCE thing rolling.

#15 (Just some final thoughts.) - Can't wait for the next show, which will focus on the partners, wives, and parents/families of these men. (November 12, 2010. Check your local listings for show times.) I'll be doing the same commentary type blog soon after it airs. I am so grateful for these fellas who came together to talk about it all. ♥

What are your thoughts? Ladies? Gentlemen?


Kelly M. Williams said...

The show was good in that it started an important public conversation. It was bad in that I'm VERY concerned that she opened up a lot of pain for these men and then left them hemorraging. The looks on the faces of some of the men broke my heart and it was obvious to me that Oprah had opened up a level of pain that she is not professionally trained to deal with. I've had it happen to me at church where the speaker opens up doors they don't know how to shut and I've been left on my own to deal with the fallout. I hope to high heaven she is providing counseling for each and every person who was sitting there in that audience!

Louise Brookes said...

I just saw a news article about the Lost Innocence Initiative in the US and them rescuing over a thousand children since the campaign started from child prostitution rings.
When I think kids go to school at five. Then at that age it could be possible to educate re: good touch bad touch and telling someone safe if it's bad touch; and keep providing that opportunity throughout school so that if at any time something has started at least there's a way out for a child. Recently I heard about the book by Kevin Lewis who was treated very violently by his parents, he lived so close to my family in South London.I realised that if there had just been a bit more community involvement; his experience would have been noticed. As it was it went unnoticed. What you wrote Megan re: the childhood games, I totally understand and I wonder if even one responsible adult overheard such things whether once again there would be another opportunity to stop abuse.
I'm grateful you shared your thoughts. I watched the show and couldn't help but see palpably how negative the ripple effects are not just if you've experienced abuse directly but if someone you love has. Somehow we have to reach out to the broken parts of society and invite them back into caring communities, because I think an awful lot of abuse happens simply because the doors are closed.

Anonymous said...

As one of the 200 men in the audience I would like to share.Everyone at Harpo were very gracious and kind. Being on the show has changed my life. While standing among those men I could not help but to relate to their pain and trust men for the first time in my life.In the begining Opra cried while the camera panned around catching us with our pictures from the age we were molested. The most important message is that we must no longer remain silent. I desire for men and women to join forces to battle all forms of abuse.The show was a gift from the time I sat with three other survivors for dinner till I got on the plane to return home. Eating dinner for the first time I spoke to a man about being raped by a man and he did not flinch we all knew how to respond to each other.By speaking out we will remove the taboo of talking about rape and abuse and perpetrators can be caught as a result. Feel free to contact me at Edwardschline@gmail.com or on facebook my fb page is Edward Schline 67 of us who went have formed a group to try and make a difference in a cause we all are devoted to.Love and Kindness peace thankyou

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