#ImNotLooking: Sexual Assault in the Form of Exploited Nudity

Link to "The Sexual Violence of Non-Consensual Nudity"

Link to “The Sexual Violence of Non-Consensual Nudity”

Sexual violence meets the camera. “Leaked nudes”, also known as a crime called revenge porn – the non-consensual distribution of a sexually explicit or nude photograph of an individual – occurred long before anyone was tweeting tweets or sharing their lunches on Instagram. What belongs to one person suddenly becomes common property. Bodies, meant to be shared with only those whom they choose, are dissected into soulless parts to be enjoyed by strangers who cannot discern between sexual beings and sexual objects. It’s not a phenomenon limited to the women who choose – and excel at – careers which lead them into the limelight. Whether the “leaked” [stolen] image came from the privacy of a celebrity or a nonentity, the crime is just as heinous.

If the common woman’s body is free for the conquering how much more the body of a woman who dares to make a name for herself? You’ve likely read it dozens of times this week alone…the classic “She deserved it”. Victim blaming at its finest.

Until all women are treated as fully human, deserving absolute respect and privacy regardless of who they are and possessing autonomy over their own person, there will always be stolen nude images floating across iPhone screens.

In their piece entitled ‘Yes’ Is Better Than ‘No’, a NY Times article written in response to the recent passing of the “yes means yes” law ( Senate Bill 967 ) in California, Michael Kimmel and Gloria Steinem write:

Invading bodies has been taken less seriously by the law than invading private property, even though body-invasion is far more traumatic. This has remained an unspoken bias of patriarchal law. After all, women were property until very recently. In some countries, they still are.

Regarding the latest theft of private, intimate celebrity images, Jenny Trout writes:

Victim blaming runs thick in situations such as these. “If she didn’t want those pictures on the Internet, she shouldn’t have taken them.” In other words, the price of these women’s private expressions of sexuality and joyous celebration of their bodies is public humiliation. Very little is said about the people stealing and releasing these photos, beyond the occasional words of gratitude to them for serving up what we are presumably owed.

“Don’t send nudes,” we tell our daughters, rather than telling our sons, “Don’t violate the privacy of a woman who trusted you enough to share herself with you in a playfully sexual context.” We don’t teach our children not to revel in revenge porn, we teach them to put boundaries on their sexual expression, to hide their bodies away, because that’s where the real shame is. Baring another human on a public stage for ridicule and critique is an excusable, even understandable, action.

We don’t tell our sons, “Don’t send people photos of your penis to someone if they haven’t told you they’re OK with it.” It has become commonplace for men to send photos of their genitals in misguided attempts to woo potential partners, or to retaliate against some perceived wrong a woman has inflicted upon them. Why these men see romance and spite as two scenarios deserving of the same response is never examined. In fact, many men seem utterly baffled when their advances aren’t welcomed. “What do you mean you don’t want to see my penis? What are you, some kind of uptight feminist? Some kind of lesbian?”

Perhaps the most offensive aspect of our conflicting attitudes toward nudity and the importance of consent is that while women are derided for their own exploitation, the actions of a man forcing images of his genitals upon his victims are utterly erased when the tables are turned and his behavior is exposed.

Link to "The Celebrity Photo Hacker's Message to All Women"

Link to “The Celebrity Photo Hacker’s Message to All Women”

One woman named Jo bravely shared the story of her own assault by stolen images from nearly ten years ago on Human Parts, a collection of essays from Medium:

I didn’t know it was possible to feel so naked until that moment. I didn’t know that being objectified feels a lot like pins and needles, like chilblains. The dawning of my vulnerability left me feeling dizzy, shaky, not fully real; definitely not respected or dignified or beautiful. I felt like a snail with a crushed shell—a fleshy smear on the pavement, exposed and homeless (by Jo Harrison).

Despite the thousands of articles, blog posts (this one included), and rightly irate tweets which have surfaced this week, those photographs can be neither un-seen nor un-stolen. It is a disturbing truth for celebrities and non-celebrities alike who have been victims of stolen nude images.

I wish it were that easy. I wish everyone, from Jennifer Lawrence to Jo, could settle into their beds tonight, resting peacefully in the knowledge that what has been stolen and exploited has been erased from the minds and computer hard drives of the public, as if the theft never occurred. As if their privacy had never been invaded.

But since that can’t happen, do those women a favor. It’s the least of what they deserve. Treat stolen images of naked bodies the way they ought to be treated: absolutely private.

And teach your sons to do the same.

None of us are entitled to see them, to scrutinize them, to compare yourself to them, or to (cringe) get off on them.

Because a woman’s body – and the authority to decide what happens to it – belongs to no one but herself.

NCADV Announces the Launch of a New Domestic Violence Resource

Link to DomesticShelters.org

Link to DomesticShelters.org

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (USA) has just announced the launch of a new online resource for victims of domestic violence. DomesticShelters.org is designed to assist abuse victims in finding nearby shelters and domestic violence crisis centers. The site allows an individual to search by their zip code and provides results within a 20 mile radius. Other resources are also provided, such as online forums, articles related to domestic and sexual violence, information on national and global organizations and state coalitions, and FAQs.

DomesticShelters.org describes its services:

“We make finding the right shelter and information about domestic violence easier. Instead of searching the Internet, it is all right here. We’ve painstaking verified information on shelters in LA to shelters in NY, and every shelter in between. If you or a friend is suffering from physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse or verbal abuse, this free service can help. Select domestic violence shelters based on location, service and language needs. Find 24-hour hotlines in your area, service listings, and helpful articles on domestic violence statistics, signs and cycles of abuse, housing services, emergency services, legal and financial services, support groups for women, children and families, and more.”

Users can also find information related to internet safety (how to delete browsing history, etc.). “If you are using personal devices to visit doemsticshelters.org, clicking on the ‘Leave Site’ button in the upper right hand corner will redirect you to weather.com, in the event you’re surprised by someone and need to quickly change what you’re viewing” (Domestic Shelters).

Follow Domestic Shelters on Twitter! @domesticshelter

Kirsty Hopley: “Through a Child’s Eyes”

Photo Credit: Child's Eyes

Link to “Through a Child’s Eyes”

In her guest post for the Let Toys Be Toys campaign (linked above), Kirsty Hopley, co-founder of Child’s Eyes, connects the gender-specific toys, books and media which children see and receive, often from birth, and the heavily sexualized media they ingest. Boys and girls are forced into damaging stereotypes – for example, boys are to be strong and girls are to be sweet – and the sex-saturated messages they receive only reinforce these dangerous, short-sighted representations of what it means to be male and female.

Speaking on the media’s influence on a child’s perception of men and women, Kirsty writes (linked above):

…children see women portrayed on the front of magazines, in music videos, on TV being admired or judged for the way they look. They see men in the same media dressed in clothes being admired or judged for what they do.

Children see media in supermarkets and newsagents screaming gender segregation in the same way as toy and book marketing, yet in a sexual way. Scantily-clad women next to clothed men on most widely circulated tabloids. ‘Big Boob special’ in the men’s section but visible to children, rape on all of the prominent women’s mags and body shaming on the rest.

Men’s media and tabloids contain an abundance of women for sexual pleasure and popular women’s media portrays women as items to be fixed or sensationally reports on the myriad of ways in which women are sexually abused by men.

What we end up with if we, as a society, allow commercialism to dictate gender roles so stringently, is a norm where each gender ‘others’ the other. In ‘other’ words, each side does not view each other as the same type of human with the same feelings. Different, not equal.

Related Posts:

Baby Dolls and Basketballs: the Connection Between Children’s Toys and Violence Against Women

Fighting Sexism in the Toy Department 

When Sexy is All that Matters

Princesses vs. Heroines: Preparing Girls for Real Womanhood

Tough and Tender: Preparing Boys for Real Manhood

A Pornography Society

Pornography and Rape in Primary School

Talking to Your Kids about Sexual Abuse 

Brooke Axtell: “7 Ways to Help a Teen Survivor of Sexual Assault”

"7 Ways to Help a Teen Survivor of Sexual Assault"

“7 Ways to Help a Teen Survivor of Sexual Assault”

Brooke Axtell, an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, gives parents seven simple guidelines for reacting to their child’s assault and how to help their child work through the trauma of sexual violence. She writes (linked above):

As the Founder and Director of Survivor Healing and Empowerment, a healing community for survivors of rape, abuse and domestic minor sex-trafficking, I want you to know that there are many ways you can compassionately support the teen survivor in your life.  44% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18, so we need to carefully assess the unique needs of young men and women who have endured this trauma. Some of the resources I share will be more applicable to teen girls, but many of these suggestions serve survivors of all gender identities.

Visit WCSAP for helpful webinars on sexual violence, like these: Teen Survivor Support Groups , Identifying and Preventing Suicide in Post-Sexual Assault Care with Youth

FORGE also provides many helpful webinars and resources related to transgender victims of sexual violence. For information specific to transgender survivors, listen to Transgender Youth Survivors.

Related Article: 12 Ways to Support a Survivor of Abuse

For more related articles, visit the Teen Dating Abuse archive.

Katie’s Story: “A Letter to Women in Abusive Relationships”

Link to "A Letter to Women in Abusive Relationships - From a Survivor of One, Me"

Link to “A Letter to Women in Abusive Relationships – From a Survivor of One, Me”

In her open letter to women in abusive relationships, Katie Portman writes:

It’s so subtle that by the time you’ve noticed what’s really going on, it’s too late.  Before you know it, you’re in way over your head wondering what the hell has happened. You become confused, upset, bewildered and terrified. You long for the man you met and don’t recognise the monster he has become.

You hang on to the memories of the man you fell in love with and to any bit of positive, reasonable behaviour as proof that he IS ok. That you will be ok. But deep down in your heart, you know the truth. As did I.

I say this to you because I understand what it is like to love a man whose behaviour is often monsterous. Because I’ve lost count of the amount of times a female friend has said to me, “if any man ever hit me, I’d be out of there like a shot!” Because it infuriates me when people say“why doesn’t she just leave?!” as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to do.

Most people like to think / need to think that abusive relationships are black and white, but they’re not are they? We know that. The abusive men we love or have loved don’t start out hurting us at the beginning nor are they always total monsters. That’s what makes it all so confusing and so hard.

But they are weak. And cowardly. And demanding. They need love and affection in impossible amounts. They are brilliant at crying, at faking emotions and making you feel that somehow their behaviour is all your fault. Experts at manipulation, tyranny and bullying…

Do you feel like you are controlled? I know I did. I certainly remember realising that he did his best to control me, as much as I resisted it. Or perhaps it’s worse. Perhaps you know that you ARE controlled.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

How do I know? Well, because I am proof. You can read my story here, if you fancy it. About how a man I loved tried his best to destroy me. It may make you feel less alone. Inspired perhaps. Either way it is my hope that it might bring you some comfort. That you’ll realise that it happens to the best of us.

Childhood Trauma and ADHD

Link to "How Childhood Trauma Could Be Mistaken for ADHD"

Link to “How Childhood Trauma Could Be Mistaken for ADHD”

Recent studies have shown a notable similarity between the behavior of children diagnosed with ADHD and the behavior of children living in traumatic and abusive situations:

Though ADHD has been aggressively studied, few researchers have explored the overlap between its symptoms and the effects of chronic stress or experiencing trauma like maltreatment, abuse and violence. To test her hypothesis beyond Baltimore, [Dr. Nicole] Brown analyzed the results of a national survey about the health and well-being of more than 65,000 children.

Brown’s findings, which she presented in May at an annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, revealed that children diagnosed with ADHD also experienced markedly higher levels of poverty, divorce, violence, and family substance abuse. Those who endured four or more adverse childhood events were three times more likely to use ADHD medication.

Interpreting these results is tricky. All of the children may have been correctly diagnosed with ADHD, though that is unlikely. Some researchers argue that the difficulty of parenting a child with behavioral issues might lead to economic hardshipdivorce, and even physical abuse. This is particularly true for parents who themselves have ADHD, similar impulsive behavior or their own history of childhood maltreatment. There is also no convincing evidence that trauma or chronic stress lead to the development of ADHD.

For Brown, who is now a pediatrician at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, the data are cautionary. It’s not evident how trauma influences ADHD diagnosis and management, but it’s clear that some misbehaving children might be experiencing harm that no stimulant can fix. These children may also legitimately have ADHD, but unless prior or ongoing emotional damage is treated, it may be difficult to see dramatic improvement in the child’s behavior.

“We need to think more carefully about screening for trauma and designing a more trauma-informed treatment plan,” Brown says.

Dr. Kate Szymanski came to the same conclusion a few years ago. An associate professor at Adelphi University’s Derner Institute and an expert in trauma, Szymanski analyzed data from a children’s psychiatric hospital in New York. A majority of the 63 patients in her sample had been physically abused and lived in foster homes. On average, they reported three traumas in their short lives. Yet, only eight percent of the children had received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder while a third had ADHD.

“I was struck by the confusion or over-eagerness–or both–to take one diagnosis over another,” Szymanski says. “To get a picture of trauma from a child is much harder than looking at behavior like impulsivity, hyperactivity. And if they cluster in a certain way, then it’s easy to go to a conclusion that it’s ADHD.”

A previous edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders urged clinicians to distinguish between ADHD symptoms and difficulty with goal-directed behavior in children from “inadequate, disorganized or chaotic environments,” but that caveat does not appear in the latest version. Unearthing details about a child’s home life can also be challenging, Szymanski says.

A child may withhold abuse or neglect to protect his family or, having normalized that experience, never mention it all. Clinicians may also underestimate the prevalence of adversity. TheAdverse Childhood Experiences Study, a years-long survey of more than 17,000 adults, found that two-thirds of participants reported at least one of 10 types of abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction. Twelve percent reported four or more. That list isn’t exhaustive, either. The study didn’t include homelessness and foster care placement, for example, and the DSM doesn’t easily classify those events as “traumatic.”

It’s not clear how many children are misdiagnosed with ADHD annually, but a study published in 2010 estimated the number could be nearly 1 million. That research compared the diagnosis rate amongst 12,000 of the youngest and oldest children in a kindergarten sample and found that the less mature students were 60 percent more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis.

Related Posts:

Effects of Abuse: Brain Development in Children Exposed to Violence 

Understanding the Behavior Common to Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Children of Domestic Violence

8 Notes on Counseling Abused Children

Dealing with Psychological Trauma After Abuse

‘Other People’s Children': the Need for Open Discussion about Abuse

The Role of Environment and Response in PTSD Recovery 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Children 

Christine Cissy White: “Why Survivors Need Each Other”

Link to “Why Survivors Need Each Other”

Christine Cissy White, a survivor of childhood abuse, shares (linked above):

“Most of us have learned not to drink, abuse, and be violent (yay us!), but the more subtle aspects of self-care and recovery are healthy nurturing, interdependence, making time for love and joy. Those can be mysterious.

What I know is talking to other survivors helps most. We can laugh about missing the “ease” of numbness while knowing the agony of being emotionally blunted isn’t worth the trade off. We can share how strenuous the process feels and is. And we can learn from each other.

…I was reminded, survivors have symptoms. They can linger for a long time. That’s just how it is.

Most days, we are high-functioning warriors building and rebuilding lives and selves. On those days, there is no shortage of people to talk with and relate to.

But on the days we feel tipped over inside by trauma, we need one another, people who get it as though we are sharing the same orange and saying, ‘It’s juicy, tangy, messy, and sweet.’ It’s a sensory, tactile knowing, not theoretical or abstract or requiring a co-pay or short educational asides.

I crave more of this. I have always craved this. I want to be able to say and hear others talking about the important and unglamorous healing of developmental trauma. I want to hear people who document and describe what breaking the cycle actually requires.”

For more stories of and resources for survivors of childhood abuse, visit the Childhood Abuse archive.