Friday, May 31, 2013

The Process of Going Public (Part 2)

If you read my earlier post "The Process of Going Public" you know that a local Chicago Sun-Times publication, the Oak Leaves, did a story on my efforts to help survivors of sexual abuse through my organization "R U PHIL?"  This is the continuation of that post.  I suspect there will be many of these "Going Public" posts to come.
The article came out last week (posted below).  A week or so later than anticipated which gave me extra time to 'twist in the wind' and wonder what response I would get to the article.  As I mentioned in the first post I felt vulnerable and naked in revealing my story to a perfect stranger who planned to write it down and put it in a place for the world to see.
When I saw the article online I felt tension and anxiety in my stomach.  The same tension and anxiety I felt when I was 'twisting in the wind' only 10 times stronger.  I literally stopped breathing when I saw my picture when I was scrolling through the Oak Leaves' website.  My face has been in the paper many times in my life but it was all sports related not about the my real story or my whole story.  Reading the article was uncomfortable but I made it through it.  I thought it was well written.
I posted it to the R U PHIL social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook but I was hesitant to post it to my own personal Facebook page.  My personal Facebook page would be the quickest way to alert people to the story and a one-time announcement to friends about my story and what I was doing.  If they wanted to follow the story and R U PHIL they could do so by going and 'liking' the R U PHIL page.
What a tremendous response from friends and people that I don't even know!  The story from the paper was copied, tagged, liked (and all the other social media terms) many times by people.  People have reached out and told me their stories which is what I want.  I hope that my speaking out will help other speak out, get help if they need it and stop any cycles of abuse that may be happening in their families or communities.  I am touched and feel empowered by all the responses.  
I even had one friend call me and ask, "Are you sure you want to be out there like that?  Are you ready for the fishbowl?  Have you thought about the dark side?"
Yes, yes and yes are the answers to that question.  If my willingness to be uncomfortable and transparent with the world will help others then I am willing.
Great things aren't accomplished without great sacrifice!  Somebody said it.  I believe it!

That's All I Got!
I'm Out!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Am I Forgiving?

What role does forgiveness play in your life?  Have you been able to forgive those who have trespassed against you?  What about 'Forgive and Forget?'  Is that twice as troubling?

I struggled and continue to struggle with the concept of forgiveness.  As a believer in God and as a Christian I am required to 'Forgive and Forget' but how does that work in real life?

As a survivor of sexual abuse as a child, I have had a lot to forgive.  The abuse was in my home.  My step-father was my abuser so I had to deal with the subject of forgiveness when it came to him as well as with my own mother who was supposed to protect me.

When it comes to my step-father, I have forgiven him.  Or maybe I should say that I am trying to forgive him.  This is a fairly recent development in my life.  I figured out that being mad, bitter or feeling powerless because he has not been punished for what he has done to me and others only continued to give him power in my life.  At the same time, that anger, and bitterness only made me weak.  I learned through my relationship with God and counseling that the most powerful thing I could do is to try to forgive him.

I am troubled by my form of forgiveness.  Is it really forgiveness, how does God view it?  What happens if my form of forgiveness is tested by a face to face meeting with my abuser?  For the record, I have not had contact with him for 20+ years.  So I forgive him as long as my forgiveness is not tested????  That seems wrong but I am a work in progress.  All I know is that at this point my form of forgiveness gives me peace.

My form of forgiveness allows me to not be angry or bitter about my life or the years that I have spent struggling as a result of his abuse of me.  I have released it, although there are still times when it is front and center.  At the same time I know that I would never allow him to speak to me or stay in the same room with him.  I know that I would confront him if he tried to explain away his abusive actions towards me.

So in essence I forgive but I don't forget.  I have lived by that motto.  I can forgive you but if your trespass against me is offensive enough you will not be allowed back into the position of trust that you once held.  Fool me once shame on you.  Fool me twice shame on me, right?

So I have to ask myself and you the reader a question.  Is this forgiveness?  I'm hoping so but I'm not sure.

That's All I Got!
I'm Out!

The Process of "Going Public"

Yesterday I took the next step in "going public" with my childhood sexual abuse.  I was interviewed by a local paper who pursued the story after hearing about it through our great P.R. guy Matt Baron at Inside Edge.

I found this process to be more awkward for me than talking to a room of strangers about my abuse or talking into a camera about the abuse.  I think because it was intimate conversation and I knew this 'intimate' conversation would be made public in the near future in the form of an article in the local paper.  This virtually guarantees that plenty of people who know me but not that intimately will know my story.  Even now thinking about it I get a pit in my stomach.

Despite that 'pit' I forced myself to be as open and as engaging as I could.  I tried not to pull punches and just talk about my experience and why I started RUPHIL.  I have talked with many reporters in my life but almost always in a sports capacity.  This time I was talking with a reporter that knows about my story but I knew nothing about her and I had to emotionally strip naked in front of her and anyone who will read the article when it comes out.

I felt like she asked her questions on and off the record in a sensitive and caring manner no matter how hard the question.  Her style made the process go as smooth as it could be and I am thankful for that.

We met at the public library and just found a place to talk.  There were people somewhat close by that I am sure could here our conversation.  I was very aware of their presence.  As I talked I could feel my head starting to perspire.  I just kept telling myself to be open.  We finished by taking a picture for the article.

Afterwards, as I was walking to my car I again felt proud and felt that I cleared another hurdle.  A hurdle that will bring others to the table to discuss their experiences.

Next up is a profile with some bigger publications including the Chicago Tribune.  I will likely break out into a full sweat for that one!!

That's All I Got!
I'm Out!