THE WORTHINGTON POST SAID WHAT?…A Heavy-Handed Ode to the Clitoris

 

Georgia OKeeffe

Georgia OKeeffe

The BlogHer 2015 Voice of the Year Award reception is being held at their conference in New York City this weekend. Aliza Worthington, myself, and 98 other people are lucky enough to be attending as honorees.

While Aliza’s winning piece is hilarious, it is important to note that she published it during National Clitoris Awareness Week. The week was created by the organization, Clitoraid which helps victims of female genital mutilation.

The Worthington Post

ode to clitoris aliza worthington

Puns and a limerick to celebrate a special week. Please enjoy!

Today, I’m so sad to see Clitoris Awareness Week COME to an end. But I’ve decided to show my reverence by trying my HAND at some poetry. Yes, I’m doing some of my CHEEKIEST work as I help people peek under the HOOD of this magical organ. Rather than simply pay it LIP service, I felt poetry would help me go DEEP into the subject matter. I chose limerick form, because, of course, it begins with “L” “I” and ends with “C” “K.” Not to brag, but one friend called me a “cliterary genius” while another said I was a “cunning linguist.” Enjoy.

But grab a tissue. It will be touching.


Ode to the Clitoris

by Aliza Worthington
B.A. and M.A. from Johns Hopkins University 1990

There once was a girl from the city
Who needed to write something…

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I SAID WHAT?…Preventing Child Sexual Abuse; This Survivor’s Synopsis

The word Empower in magazine letters on a notice board

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. 

Child sexual abuse is an uncomfortable but necessary topic that I think deserves revisiting.  As such, I am re-posting my essay from a year ago in lieu of an April guest post. 

Providing our children with the tools to prevent abuse is a critical step in preventing it from happening.  Fortunately, many schools take time to address the difference between good touches and bad touches.  For those that do not, there is a movement in place to enact a law that requires it. 

School programs are great but conversations need to start at home.

If we work together now to empower our children and ourselves, then perhaps the next generation will have less predator stories, abuse memoirs, and survivor synopses to read.

Child sexual abuse is pervasive in our society; it knows no race, religion, gender, or economic status.  It has impacted generations of children; stripped them of their innocence and burdened them with trauma that can last a lifetime.

Last year, I wrote a blog post describing the day I first told my mother I was a survivor of child sexual abuse.  I stayed silent until I was 30 years old.  After countless conversations with fellow survivors and curious parents since that post, I felt it was high time I weigh in on this uncomfortable but necessary topic.

According to an article in Baby & Blog, “6 Ways to Protect your Child from Sexual Abuse”, “It is estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. To put this in perspective, that means “in a classroom of 25 High School Seniors, 3 of the girls and 2 of the boys will have likely been sexually abused.”

Child sexual abuse is about power.  Child molesters feel powerful when they exploit and take advantage of children.  If we tip the scale and take away their power, then perhaps we can stop the abuse.

How do we do that?  Empower the children.  Empower ourselves.

Empower the Children

“The fight against child molesters begins by teaching the children.” – Norman E. Friedman

When Norman Friedman, a veteran mental health professional, educator, and author of Inoculating Your Children against Sexual Abuse; what every parent should know! made this statement during a lecture I thought,

That makes sense.

Based on Mr. Friedman’s years of experience working with the predator population, he concluded that one cannot cure a child molester.  Therefore, the most effective thing we can do is empower children about their bodies and rights, and create an environment where they feel confident communicating with a trusted adult.

No Touch Zone.

First, teach them that everyone has a No Touch Zone.  This zone is not limited to the child’s private parts.  Friedman’s book outlines his definition and offers a noninvasive, appropriate, step by step approach to help trusted adults teach children about body parts, body rights, and what to say if a person attempts to court, solicit, or make them feel uncomfortable.

No Secrets.        

“We don’t have secrets in our house; we have surprises,”

is a phrase we adopted in our home thanks to Friedman.

Secret is a word we innocently use with children.  However, a predator’s efforts to create an inappropriate relationship with a child often includes secret keeping.  Friedman suggests that if we stop using the term, a child will recognize when it’s out of place and subsequently say something to that person as well as his trusted adult.

No Secrets policy in a family encourages open communication.  Once a child feels confident that he can speak freely, we need to make sure we are listening.

Listen.

It is important we make it a priority to send verbal and nonverbal cues that convey to our children we are available; always, whenever, and no matter what.  Listening and responding respectfully to both the good and bad things that are on their mind builds trust, offers reassurance that we care, and confirms that what they say is meaningful.

Young people exposed to life is tough and keep it in the family attitudes and who hear messages that it is their job to be responsible for adult feelings and needs add up to one thing in a child’s mind;

why bother talking, no one is listening.

Listening to our children is critical, but believing is lasting.

Believe.

When a child confides that someone approached him in an uncomfortable way, it might be easier to swallow the shock and impossibility of it all by downplaying the incident, particularly if it’s someone familiar.

But we need to take their words seriously.

Regardless of how the information made us feel or who the party was; that child felt violated on some level and had the courage to speak up.  That means we need to find a way to help him feel safe again as well as confront the party in question.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an adult recount their abuse experience and share how he had the courage to tell a trusted loved one only to be brushed off, ignored, told he was wrong or the cause of it.

Can you imagine being that little boy who was brave enough to say something, not believed, and then continually abused?

Empower Ourselves

It’s not enough to empower our children.  We trusted adults have to get in on the act.

Go with your gut.

A friend felt conflicted about telling her neighbor to take a hike when he wanted to play basketball with her eight year old son.  She felt bad for the lonely, old man even though her gut told her his request was odd.  Confronting him would be impolite, so she protected her son by making excuses when the child continued to ask if he could play with the man.

She ultimately took action.

To her son she said, “In many ways, he’s like a stranger to us.  We know him but we really don’t.”

And to the man, “Come on.  You know grownups don’t play with kids.”

After that, he left my friend’s son alone.

Advocate at all costs.

If you know someone in your family has a history of abusing others and you suspect that the person is being inappropriate with a child even if it isn’t your child, call him out on it.  If that’s too scary, anonymously call Child Protective Services.

It is not enough for us to avoid an abuser in the family because it is likely he is out in the world hurting someone else’s children.  So for the sake of that little boy and girl, their innocence, emotional health, and future please be strong;

take a stand.

We can’t wait for predators to rehabilitate or the laws to punish them accordingly.  And since the majority of molesters are not strangers, they will continue to live in our communities, interact with children, and be part of our families.

I’m sorry if this frightens you, but it is true.

So empower your children.  If a predator tries to court a child equip with the right tools, he’ll realize that he doesn’t stand a chance and will back off.

And empower yourself.  Let those who are inappropriate with children know that we trusted adults are paying attention.

Scale tipped.  Power stripped.

DONNA GWINNELL LAMBO-WEIDNER SAID WHAT?…Mother Love-a short story

Donna picture

Donna is a Writer, Reiki Master, Wisdom Keeper, all around adventuress and everyone’s cheerleader. She loves anything that deals with archery, armor, and swashbuckling and appreciates a good sword.

One of my first “blogger buddies”, Donna is a wonderful writer and blogger extraordinaire.  I hope you’ll take some time to check out her site.

Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner

Sweating and belching, the young mother rolls into the Emergency Room at precisely one minute before midnight. The attending physician’s eyebrows take on the appearance of his last patient’s electro-cardiogram just before she died.

dreamstime_xs_19673560 (c) Dreamstime.com

“What is it this time?” he says.

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From Sidelines to Service

photo credit: Sarah Fedorchick

photo credit: Sarah Fedorchick

Veterans Day 2014 started out no differently than any other; with good intention and marginal action.

Each November 11th, I’d think about my grandfather Joe, a World War II Navy Veteran.

The thought was typically followed by an appreciative email or indebted Facebook post.  Some years I’d even make the old fashioned phone call.  Soon distracted by child rearing logistics and household priorities, I’d call it a day and opt out of making the 45 minute drive to pay a visit.

This time however, I had left Skootch’s red accordion at Joe’s house a few days before and much to the child’s dismay, had only the purple one at home.  So in an effort to temper a peppering five year old, the boys and I piled into the Outback and joined my grandfather for lunch.

Joe greeted his great-grandsons at the door, offered respective kisses, and held them on the landing.

“Did you see my American flag?” he asked.

It was no surprise and nice to see that despite having recently lost his wife of 65 years, Joe remembered to dress the pole he had raised between a patch of hedges adjacent to the front stoop to commemorate the holiday and a defining time in his life.

“Do you know how to do a soldier’s salute?”

My grandfather faced the flag, modeled the salute, and instructed the boys to pay the toll.  “Now you do it.”

Bubbe smiled shyly and gave it a go.  The Skootch puffed his chest, cupped his palm and looked at it.  Joe helped the effort along.  The group crossed the threshold and stopped in the front hall.

“Do you fly one at home?” he asked.  Joe didn’t wait for an answer.  “Here take these.”  He snatched a pair of parade flags from a collection stored in a nearby bucket.

The Skootch marched up to the second floor apartment, waving his new toy.  The parade was short lived.  Toddler sized penguins and a Santa Claus were performing center stage in the living room.  He dropped the flag.

My grandfather rescued it.  “No.  Never let it touch the ground.  Out of respect and honor, the American flag should always point toward the sky,” he explained.  “Let’s put it in a safe place.”  He tucked the base into a puffy coat curled up on a Captain’s chair.

Bubbe followed suit; partially to secure the flag but mostly to search for his great-grandpa’s Kindle Fire and Oreos in a nearby hutch.

On route to the cookies, he noticed a glass display case perched near the front of the hutch shelf.  It was filled with mounted, decorated ribbons laid out like a Holland tulip field.

“What are these?”  Bubbe wiped away the dust.

“Those are my war medals,” Joe said and went on to explain them one by one.

“American Campaign…

European, African, Middle Eastern Campaign…2 bronze stars

Asiatic, Pacific Campaign…2 bronze stars”

There were six in total.  He circled back to the top row.  “These are my dog tags.  I wore them around my neck the entire time I was away.  Do you know why soldiers wear two tags?”

“No,” Bubbe said.

“If a solider dies, one stays on the body; the other gets sent home.”

“Oh.  I get it.”

Eavesdropping from the kitchen I thought,

Will he ever really get it? 

When my children are grown, what will service, sacrifice, and country mean to them?

It is wonderful that we have a proud, willing veteran in our family to share experiences but unfortunately, I can count on one hand the number of service men and women we know.  Outside of my grandfather, Bubbe and The Skootch have had only the opportunity to interact with veterans or those in active duty during elementary and religious school programs.  And as Op-Ed columnist, Maureen Dowd recently noted, with “one percent of the population voluntarily enlisting in the service,” it is likely that in the future, my boys will be exposed more regularly to comic book heroes than to everyday ones.

Thankfully sacrifice, service, character, and citizenship are still being communicated in schools, through extra-curricular activities, at houses of worship and in our homes.  Still, teaching young people the value of contributing to the greater good feels piecemealed, fit in, and a vehicle for resume padding.

The potential for further disconnect in these formal settings seems imminent now that such lessons are being muscled from the spotlight by college, career readiness, English Language Arts requirements and STEM.  In my state, there is even a motion to de-emphasize Social Studies.

Israeli citizens get it.  Out of necessity, conscription exists for most of the country’s Jewish Israeli population.  Upon turning 18, men and women are obligated to serve in the military for three and two years, respectively.  As a result, my 65 year old friend can relate directly to the experiences of an active soldier as well as identify with the five year old who knows he will one day fill those shoes.  There, generations of citizens connect through collective responsibility and common experience.

In 2010, my husband Mac’s Letter to the Editor was published in The New York Times in response to the article, “The Way We Treat Our Troops” which in part offered support for a mandatory draft.  The guy was onto something.  He wrote:

“If the good problem arises where we have an abundance of young people in the military during peacetime, they could be deployed toward other national services like helping the elderly, the indigent and the disabled or for cleanup after national disasters, mentoring children and so on.  America is a terrific place to live; if young people gave something back and worked alongside other Americans from all walks of life, it would tie us closer together as a country.”

In February 2013, New York State Congressman Charles Rangel introduced a most recent version of the Universal National Service Act to the House of Representative’s Armed Services Committee.

The bill requires all persons between the ages of 18 and 25 living in the United States, citizen or otherwise to perform two years of national uniformed or civilian service.  Those choosing uniformed service may also be inducted during wartime, a national emergency, or a contingency operation.  This CrossFit junkie would add that prior to selecting a service type; able-bodied participants attend basic training in cohorts.  There is something to be said for intense, group exercise.  It fosters camaraderie, physical and emotional growth, and team pride.

To date, the bill has not moved in Congress.

Yes.  I realize the devil is in the details and that bigger government doesn’t necessarily translate into better outcomes.  Yes.  We do have a responsibility to teach our children in our families and community about service, sacrifice, and selfless giving.  And yes, I too wonder about the mandatory component of such a program in a free society.

Regardless, I think it is time to take meaningful action.

Perhaps a national service requirement will shift expectations for and alleviate pressure on high school students, change the way the college admissions process is managed, reduce some of the direct financial burden on families trying to pay for higher education, and offer guidance for college graduates looking to take the next step.

More importantly, perhaps it will build awareness and understanding for soldiers and veterans suffering trauma, make care and reentry a priority for when they return home, and simply bring us closer as a nation.

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women

in the service of our country can never be repaid.

They have earned our undying gratitude.

America will never forget their sacrifices.”

-President Harry S Truman

There is a way to repay veterans like Joe.

Poppie in the navy

Let us step away from the sideline to work in tandem with those on the front line in an effort to strengthen and preserve the solidarity of an already great nation.

Let us pay the toll.

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse; A Survivor’s Synopsis

The word Empower in magazine letters on a notice board

Child sexual abuse is pervasive in our society; it knows no race, religion, gender, or economic status.  It has impacted generations of children; stripped them of their innocence and burdened them with trauma that can last a lifetime.

Since posting A Great Hill, I have had several adults share their survival story with me, have listened to enough friends express worry when weirdos try to groom or build unhealthy relationships with their children, and have heard one too many accounts from those who know of a predator in the family but feel paralyzed that I felt it was high time as a survivor, parent, and educator I weigh in on this uncomfortable but necessary topic.

According to the article in Baby & Blog, 6 Ways to Protect your Child from Sexual Abuse, “It is estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. To put this in perspective, it means in a classroom of 25 High School Seniors, 3 of the girls and 2 of the boys will have likely been sexually abused.”  But because sexual abuse is often hidden, I wouldn’t be surprised if these statistics are low.

Child sexual abuse is about power.  Child molesters feel powerful when they exploit and take advantage of children.  If we tip the scales and take away their power, then perhaps we can stop the abuse.

How do we do that?  Empower the children.  Empower ourselves.

Empower the Children

“The fight against child molesters begins by teaching the children.” – Norman E. Friedman

When Norman Friedman, a veteran mental health professional, educator, and author of Inoculating Your Children against Sexual Abuse; what every parent should know! made this statement during a lecture I thought, “Duh; that makes perfect sense.”

Based on Mr. Friedman’s years of experience working with the predator population, he concluded that one cannot cure a child molester.  Therefore, the most effective thing we can do is empower children about their bodies and rights, and create an environment where they feel confident communicating with a trusted adult.

No Touch Zone.

First, teach them that everyone has a No Touch Zone.  This zone is not limited to the child’s private parts.  Friedman’s book clearly outlines his reasoning and definition of the area and offers a noninvasive, appropriate, step by step approach to help trusted adults teach children about body parts, body rights, and what to say if a person attempts to court, solicit, or make them feel uncomfortable.

No Secrets.        

“We don’t have secrets in our house; we have surprises,” is a phrase we adopted in our home thanks to Friedman.

Secret is a word we innocently use with children.  However, a molester’s efforts to create an inappropriate relationship with a child often includes secret keeping.  Friedman suggests that if we stop using the term, a child will quickly recognize when it’s out of place and subsequently say something to that person as well as his trusted adult.

Having a No Secrets policy in a family encourages open communication.  Once a child feels confident that he can speak freely, we need to make sure we’re listening.

Listen.

It is important we make it a priority to send verbal and nonverbal cues that convey to our children we are available; always, whenever, and no matter what.  Listening and responding respectfully to both the good and bad things that are on their mind builds trust, offers reassurance that we care, and confirms that what they say is meaningful.

Young people exposed to life is tough and keep it in the family attitudes and who hear messages that it’s their job to be responsible for adult feelings and needs add up to one thing in a child’s mind; why bother talking, no one is listening.

Listening to our children is critical, but believing is lasting.

Believe.

When a child confides that someone approached him in an uncomfortable way, it might be easier to swallow the shock and impossibility of it all by downplaying the incident, particularly if it’s someone familiar.

But we need to take their words seriously.

Regardless of how the information made us feel or who the party was; that child felt violated on some level and had the courage to speak up.  That means we need to find a way to help him feel safe again as well as confront the party in question.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an adult recount their abuse experience and share how he had the courage to tell a trusted loved one only to be brushed off, ignored, told he was wrong or the cause of it.

Can you imagine being that little boy who was brave enough to say something, not believed, and then continually abused?  The thought of it breaks my heart.

Empower Ourselves

It’s not enough to empower our children.  We trusted adults have to get in on the act too.

Go with your gut.

A friend felt conflicted about telling the creepy old guy who lives on her street to take a hike when he wanted to play basketball with her eight year old son.  She felt bad for the lonely, old man even though her gut told her that his request was odd.  Confronting him would be impolite, so she protected her son by making excuses when the child continued to ask if he could play with the neighbor.

She ultimately followed her gut and took action.

To her son she said, “In many ways, he’s like a stranger to us.  We know him but we really don’t.”

And to the man, “Come on.  You know grownups don’t play with kids.”

After that, creepy old guy left my friend’s son alone.

Advocate at all costs.

If you know someone in your family has a history of abusing others and you suspect that the person is being inappropriate with a child even if it isn’t your child, call him out on it.  If that’s too scary, anonymously call Child Protective Services.

It is not enough for us to avoid an abuser in the family because it is very likely he is out in the world hurting someone else’s children.  So for the sake of that little boy and girl, their innocence, emotional health, and future please be strong; take a stand.

Here’s the deal; we can’t wait for predators to rehabilitate or the laws to punish them accordingly.  And since the majority of molesters are not strangers, they will continue to live in our communities, interact with children, and be part of our families.

I’m sorry if this frightens you, but it’s true.

So empower your children.  If a predator tries to court a child equip with the right tools, he’ll realize that he doesn’t stand a chance and will back off.

And empower yourself.  Let those who are inappropriate with children know that we trusted adults are paying attention.

Power stripped.  Scales tipped.  Game over.

Additional resources

Good Touch Bad Touch school program

Stop it Now

A Great Hill

Sharing resolutions and lesson learned from a personal experience with the hope that it might one day help someone.

Sharing resolutions and lesson learned from a personal experience with the hope that it might one day help someone.

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
Nelson Mandela.

Eleven years ago today, I climbed a great hill.

Sitting in the mall parking lot in the passenger’s seat of my mother’s white Oldsmobile, I told her the family secret that I had harbored for over twenty years; that her then husband of twenty five years sexually abused me as a child.

When the words finally came out, my body decompressed like a flattened tire.  I thought I was done, fixed, as if sharing this piece of information would easily mend everything and solve all problems.  That New Year’s Eve morning I stood at the top of my great hill expecting to see a welcoming horizon.  And at first, I did.  But understanding that I couldn’t stand in one spot forever, I continued on my way.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones.  I was born into a generation of women and men who, when experience trauma, are often encouraged to talk about it and seek help.  I eventually had someone to tell and immediately had someone who believed me.  I had the guidance of a talented, dedicated professional who worked tirelessly to give me the tools I needed to work through the rises and falls.  And I have a husband who has supported me every step of the way.  Even the bad guy went to jail for a short time.

These fortunate circumstances coupled with determination to live clean, if you will, helped me to move forward.   As a result, I have been able to scale more overgrown, rocky, and unmarked hills than I thought existed.  And although I couldn’t reach the top every time, I’m content with where I ended up.

However, one of many things I’ve learned in the last ten years is that there are consequences to pursuing one’s truth.  Expecting people to reflect, discuss, and perhaps change is a tall order.  Maintaining thin relationships, living in a box, and avoiding issues are seemingly much easier paths to take.

So why rock the boat?  Because as I started to value myself, I realized that regardless of what I was going to get back, I had to let people know where I was coming from.  Several times I’ve been pleasantly surprised; other times, not so much.  I’ve had family members haul off like a Real Housewife of New Jersey, friends just throw in the towel, and to mourn relationships of key people who weren’t able to meet me half way.  It’s unfortunate and sad but as my grandfather says, “That’s the way it goes.”

I’ve often wondered if it is worth some of this residual agida to continue my version of clean living.  It may sound reminiscent of a Kelly Clarkson song, but for someone who lived the first third of her life putting up walls, keeping things surface, and feeding the elephants in the room, I intend to spend the next two thirds of it living the most honest, genuine, meaningful, loving, and forthright way that I can.  For myself, loved ones, husband and most importantly our children; this I resolve to do.

As we welcome a new year, I wish you a year filled with health, truth, cleanliness, and the courage to climb.