Sunday, October 21, 2012

Boy scouts, priests, and the powerlessness of the child

     I thought the Catholic Church had the monopoly on sexual abuse of young boys but I was wrong.  The Boy Scouts of America  recently published information (14000 pages of files posted on the Internet of cases from 1959-1985)of  young boys abused by Sout leaders and other figures in the movement.  The website got so many hits it crashed. Of course, there were many posts describing positive experiences as scouts but the amount  of abuse is astonsishing. 
    What's alarming to me is how this went on for decades and what it tells us about the place of children in society.   Alice Miller in her writings on childhood "For Your Own Good" and "Thou Shalt Not be Aware" describes the position of children as totally dependent on those who take care of them.  She talks about the triad of concealment- shielding the parents (or abusers), blaming the child, and concealing the trauma.   This is evidently what has happened here and with the church's abuse cases.  There is hope though. Miller states- "I can see the possibility of substantial improvement for patients in simply being able to articulate their feelings, formulate their resentments, and experience their rage toward their parents (or abusers) providing they are taken seriously. She describes Klaus Thomas's method of patients writing directly in letters telling about the abuse to a therpist. He successfully treated adolescents who had attempted suicide. 
     So there is an opportunity for healing these terrible traumas and perhaps putting a stop to them in the future ( the abused can become the abuser).   Much has come into the open in the last decades but  I'm waiting to hear of cases of young girls in these situations (even more powerless than boys in our culture). 
    When I was doing research for a crime novel ting I encountered so much information on abuse cases, I was almost unable to continue reading the devastating stories.  But we can take heart- childhood is past and one will never be just that powerless again. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"Girls Just Want to Have Fun"

     I know what constitutes fun in my daily life- writing, reading, watching a movie, or a walk in the park.  But what's fun in a social context?  In my 20's and 30's fun meant going out to bars and drinking and possibly dancing. A friend of mine described her 20's as a decade lost to booze. 
     Awash in alcohol- yet, there was an innocence to it.  There weren't date rape drugs slipped into unsuspecting sorority girls's drinks.  Bars closed at 2AM or 4 unlike these days in Spain where the night extends past noon the following day with after hour clubs and morning clubs.  When I was teaching university students, a young woman was upset because her parents expected her home at 6AM.  I couldn't imagine what the problem could be but she explained it was a time limit set.  Her parents wanted her home for breakfast.
   Fun, well in my 30's bars were replaced with dinners at friends' houses.  There was still drinking but a different enviornment.  At some point in my 40's I tried the test to prove I wasn't an alcoholic- never more than 3 drinks at any one event.  I did this for a year, carefully weighing maximum effect per drink for New Year's or other celebrations.  I rarely surpass this quantity and despite growing up in a heavy drinking culture (Latvian) I've managed to escape the terrible effects of alcohol or alcoholism. 
   These days I'm trying to figure out what fun is.  Novelty holds a key.  A new place (travel), new restaurants, in a never ending search for sensation.  Shopping works in American for this reason but it's not what I'm looking for.  I can try to figure it out in a process of elimination.  Dates at this point are rarely fun, meals out with friends can be.  I've discovered my job can be fun.  In the end, I'm with Sheryl Crow and Cyndi Lauper.
   Or in my poem, "Another Look at Happiness."