Younique Foundation: A Haven

It has been a while since I have posted. I maintain blogs and write for other sites, making it difficult to find time to write for my own.  Alas, Irony.

Younique-Foundation-Logo-Large

Image belongs to the Younique Foundation.

However, I wanted to write about the Younique Foundation and their work at the Haven Retreat for woman traumatized by childhood sexual abuse.  If you have visited this site before, you know that I am passionate about women’s rights and about fighting sexual abuse whether institutionalized abuse, such as was experienced in the Laundries and mother and child homes, or in our everyday lives.  If you have read my book, The Diaphragm Blues, you know I was sexually abused as a child in more than one circumstance.

Although I had accepted that early childhood trauma was my normal, and the norm for several family members, what I did not realize was the impact this trauma had on my life and continues to have on my life.  Like many other victims of Sexual Abuse, I felt that acknowledging it and forgiving my attackers, because who wants to hold onto that hate, was enough.  It wasn’t.

For as long as I can remember, I have had panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and PTSD. After my divorce and my move to Hawaii, my symptoms got worse as I started to feel insecure and unsafe.  What I discovered through therapy and the Younique Foundation, was simply that I was wired to live in the fight or flight dynamic because of my childhood trauma.

When children are traumatized, sexual abuse or otherwise, the limbic system of our brain (which seeks survival, pain avoidance, and pleasure), stores and associates those trauma memories with our senses.  When trauma occurs, our limbic system stores these memories to protect us later from other potential threats. Later in life, survivors of trauma start to associate every day happens with danger, survival, and pain avoidance reactions that are connected to our memories of trauma experienced.  Thus, connections between the limbic and the neocortex (our rational brain) become hypersensitive to danger alerts in situations where no real danger is present (PTSD).  Childhood trauma is a bit different than trauma occurring in adulthood, because in childhood our brains are still developing, and these feedback loops, as I am now thinking of them, become programmed during brain development.

The science is complicated, but the Younique foundation does a good job breaking it down for the rest of us. You can read more about “Trauma and the Brain” on the Younique Foundation Resources, but there are scores of studies regarding the brain on trauma, and a bit of simple research offers a great deal of enlightenment on this topic. The key study for these findings originated with the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego.

But now I want to tell you a bit about the Younique Foundation.  I discovered them through my boyfriend’s sister who knew of someone who had attended the retreat.  The Younique Foundation is the love child of Younique, and the Dream of Shalane Maxfield.  Younique the company works to empower and validate women through the use of cosmetics, and helping women establish their own business.  Founded by Derek Maxfield (CEO) and his sister Melanie Huscroft (COO), Younique the makeup company was formed in the hopes that it would eventually fund the Foundation and heaven retreat, and so it is not an afterthought but the reason for Younique. I had the opportunity and privilege to meet Shalane Maxfield, Derek’s wife, at the end of my time at the retreat.  Her passion for helping women is one of pure altruism, and this is such a rare quality nowadays.

The Haven Retreat at Younique is free for women who apply and who were sexually abused before the age of 18.  Although you have to get yourself there, travel expenses, they handle the rest.  The Younique Foundation specializes in helping women understand their brains and why they may have certain coping behaviors, and why they rely on coping behaviors rather than healing. For myself, I discovered several coping behaviors and PTSD triggers that I was unaware of before. Haveing awareness of how your brain works, your actions and triggers is the first step in being able to confront and heal from a trauma that is literally embedded and programmed in your brain. Programming that can be changed.  That’s the key!

Awareness, in fact, is the first of 5 strategic steps in helping a survivor heal from trauma. The other measures include acknowledgment, power through surrender, mindfulness, and faith.

At this point, I feel I need to alleviate any potential worries about these steps in connection with religion. When I first read the steps, I was worried I might be entering some religious establishment wanting to save me from myself. Since some of my trauma happened in the Catholic Church, you can imagine how I was a skeptic.

This concern, however, was not the case. The Foundation bases all they do, the theory, information, and therapy on science and personal spirituality, which is not to be confused with institutional spirituality. If you are religious, no matter what path you are walking, that is fine. But it is also fine if you are not religious. The Foundation does explain how a connection to something larger than yourself is helpful in the healing process, but that something bigger than yourself can be science, the earth, nature, or God. The connection is what is important.

For me, the Foundation’s Haven Retreat was a life changer, hands down. In four days participants are exposed to some intense therapy, classes to help you understand yourself better and why you do what you do, the whys of the traumatized brain. Most importantly, participants receive tools for the road to health: resources, skills, new habits to create, and help for recovery and a successful life.

If you are a survivor of early childhood sexual assault and you are ready to make some positive changes in your life, apply. The process could not be simpler, and you will be provided with a safe environment to start your road to a happier life.

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An Open Letter about Feminism to My Brothers

Dear Brother,

My Dad encouraged me to speak out.  He was a feminist!

My Dad encouraged me to speak out. He was a feminist!

I write to you today because I realize how uncomfortable you have been of lately. The Third Wave of Feminism (as it is being dubbed) is blooming (and praise be for it), and you are hearing women speak out about rape cultures, feminism, wage inequality, and the fact that the glass ceiling has not, no matter what PR spinners wish to say, broken. And because of social media, this third wave of feminism is loud, louder then even the first or second wave of feminism.  Women have a large medium to play with and they are using it.  But,  I see your discomfort on Facebook, on Twitter, and other social media outlets.  Many of you are feeling attacked and I am deeply sorry for this.

Please do not feel we are attacking you! We are NOT! We are attacking a system.  Many of our brothers stand with us and also reject a system that objectifies women, promoting the idea of the female as a means to an end. Many of our brothers object to a rape culture.  But what we have to say may make you uncomfortable.  When I talk about my rape, I am NOT blaming you, unless you were the one who did it and trust me, I would not be FB friends with you if that was the case!

Rather, it is important to understand something my dear brother: for decades we were asked to be silent about sexual abuse, assault and gender inequality.  And if we weren’t silent, we were threatened or attacked. Every woman in my immediate family, and yes we have all been sexually assaulted and raped, were threatened for speaking out one way or another: threatened by our attacker and by society at large. You see, this is something you don’t talk about in good company.

Nicolas Mollet, Rape, Events.

It’s like politics or religion, keep your mouth shut. That was the standard. If you did speak out, even your family could punish you for your transgression. Police force, school officials, and other authorities in our culture told us to be quiet.  And if we weren’t quiet we were more often than not, blamed for our attacks. Just like we are often blamed for encouraging an environment in which cat calls are generated: “you asked for it because you dressed like a slut.”

1920s competition

But the idea of dressing like a slut has been so subjective throughout time, and yet it still haunts us women: we exposed our ankles, we were sluts. We exposed a bit of shoulder, we were sluts. We allowed our breasts to be held up in a bra, we were sluts. We took our bra off, we were sluts. We exposed our legs in hot weather, we were sluts. We wear yoga pants, covering our bare legs, we are sluts. You see, this attitude, over time, has bubbled in the cauldron.  And the Cauldron is about ready to explode.

But should you feel threatened by this? No, my dear brother. Not unless you are contributing to the culture, you should not feel threatened by it.  But sadly many of you do. I know because I’ve had conversations with you over Facebook, on twitter, and face-to-face. I have been told that we need to get rid of the word “feminism” because it means that we hate men and are actively into male bashing. What we hate, dear brother, is a disgusting cultural norm that must be revised, but we don’t hate you. Why should we hate our counterpart?

Mabel Capper and Suffragettes with Petition

Feminism was never defined by feminists as male bashing; a matter of fact, feminism defined as a way for women to bash her fellow male counterpart was created by people, men and women alike, who wanted the status quo of gender relationships to be maintained. Why?  One reason was economics.  Consider the recession of the 1970s, and the fact that women coming into the employment market threatened men who were losing their jobs. You see, not unlike today, a corporation could hire part-time female workers for a lot less money than they were charging their male counterparts. Hell, they could hire a woman full time and still pay her less for doing the exact same job as her male counterpart. As men were laid-off from their jobs, a new market niche open, one for women, and many families were desperate for those women to go in and take those part-time jobs. But this should not be understood as male bashing feminism. It was survival.

I don’t want to give you a history lesson, but I do want to encourage you to go out and get a history lesson about feminism, my dear brother. The thing is this, people were feeling threatened, and a PR campaign was created in proclaimed that only lesbians, and male haters, were said to be feminist. The good woman, rejected feminism. This is the same bullshit that we are seeing today with the #IDon’tNeedFeminism and #WomenAgainstFeminism movement that is occurring in reaction to the third wave of feminism. Yes, history is repeating itself. And the sad thing is, most of these men and women who are part of this movement, don’t understand what feminism is. They also don’t understand that they are acting against their own self interest by rejecting feminism.

Gender Equality

So what does feminism mean? It means simply this: that men and women enjoy equal rights. These equal rights are to be understood as being enjoyed in the political realm, the economic round, the social realm, in short – in life. Equality. We ask for no more. We don’t want to rise above man, we don’t want to smash man, we don’t want to be better than men. We want equality and we want justice. Equality does not exist between the sexes presently, and it cannot exist if we continue to encourage and and nurture a culture norm that sees women as objects. That’s the truth.

My dear brothers, please do not feel threatened by the stories that you are hearing women share about their rapes and sexual assaults, about the economic inequality that they are suffering, or the fact that they feel ignored in this world. They are not blaming “you;” that is, unless you have done something to be blamed for. Rather, they are blaming a cultural norm that has gone wrong, and they are asking you, dear brother, to stand with them. I am asking you to stand with me!  I need you!  I need your voice and your conviction.  I need you to be willing to question your assumptions about gender relationships. I need you to speak out when you have been treated badly as well. But above all, I need you to stand with me. I am not asking you to sit in the sidelines. Fight with us and help us make a better world.

Mahalo,
R

No, writing about how rape is wrong is not a rant!

Image

I am linking to a powerful blog post by Lauren Nelson, “So You’re Tired of Hearing About ‘Rape Culture’?”

Read this post by Lauren.

We must talk about rape culture, even if it makes us uncomfortable.  Someone called my discussion of rape and sexism in Writing The Diaphragm Blues and Other Sexual Cacophonies a rant.  It broke my heart to hear my book was a rant and to see that single star in the review.  But I realized that the politics in my book, my view on rape culture and victim blaming would strike some folks the wrong way.  That is the risk you take when you put yourself and your life out there for others to read and judge.

Then I realized, after some soul searching, my book was far from a pointless “rant,” rather it is a well supported war chant, with jokes thrown throughout for good measure, against rape culture, victim blaming, and misogynism.

At least most of Twitter get’s it right, read how the topic is trending now!

People today are complaining about the constant beat of rape culture literature, about how they are done hearing about it and “can you all just get off your soap boxes. please.” Rather, we are asked to just put up images of “grumpy cat” and other cute but weak memes for the sake of ignoring the truth, the critical reality of a culture that basically allows for victim blaming and rape.  The answer is NO. We should not stop talking about it until rape is considered unacceptable in all corners of the world, in all social structures.

I am a survivor of rape, of multiple rapes and I am sorry if you think I am ranting, but I am certainly NOT going to clam up.  We must all rise above and be better beings.  For those of us who just can’t bare to talk about this topic, who finds it a bore, a rant, and would rather ignore it, well … here is a nice image of grumpy cat for you, but by the look of this image, rape pisses Grumpy Cat off too 🙂

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And as my friend Amber always ends her rants: Good Day! 🙂

Statement from the President on the House Passage of the Violence Against Women Act | The White House

WAVA - PassageStatement from the President on the House Passage of the Violence Against Women Act | The White House.

The Violence Against Women Act is one of those acts that should’ve been a no-brainer. This bill should have been passed immediately in order to protect women, no matter the woman’s background.  I am amazed and the amount of people who voted against it …. glad they were the minority. Thank goodness the VAWA finally passed the House of representatives. It breaks me heart to see how much we must fight for simple justice and equality.

Rebecca

New Delhi Gang Rape Victim Partly To Blame For Brutal Attack, Lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma Suggests

Here we go again:

“Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady,” Sharma said. “Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect.”

via New Delhi Gang Rape Victim Partly To Blame For Brutal Attack, Lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma Suggests.

Please take the time to read this article by Huffington Post writer Meredith Bennett-Smith.  You know, I am sorry to have to keep posting about rape, slut-shaming, and victim blaming. Honestly, I would much rather talk about the progress I’m making on my new vision board, the process of writing, or the fact that I was lucky enough to have been cast in the play Harvey. But, the world keeps throwing these issues in my lap, over and over and over again.

I feel that we are at a pivotal point in our history: the world is waking up to the horrific and negative rhetoric surrounding victim blaming and shut shaming. The reality about violence against women, a global epidemic, is finally becoming a global magnified discussion – thanks, in no little part, to social media. In the end, this New Delhi lawyer looks like an asshole with his absurd rationale (see quote above). Please read and write about this issue. The more people talk about it, the more we can change things. R

Steubenville High School Rape &, ‘Anonymous’

I have been asked by a few folks why I have yet to post about, or talk about the Steubenville High School Rape investigation, and the participation from the “group” Anonymous.  To be honest, this particular story just hit too close to home. It’s taken me a little bit of time to digest, and even be willing to watch much of the media on the story – it’s a little like ripping off a bandaid. You know you gotta do it, but you avoid it as well.

As I disclose in Writing the Diaphragm Blues and Other Sexual Cacophonies, I have been raped and sexually assaulted at different times in my life.  One sexual assault happened while I was in 7th Grade at Orange Grove Jr. High.  I was attacked by some of my cross country teammates, and I am convinced I would have been raped if my mom had not shown up when she did.  Worse than the attack was how the administration and the local justice authorities handled things at the time. I was slut shamed and victim blamed when asked by police and the administration whether I was wearing a bra or underwear under my track uniform at the time – as if a negative answer to those questions could justify the act of molestation. The boys, well they got a slap on the wrist. Me, I was left with a complex for the rest my life – if I don’t dress the right way, I am asking to be attacked because I deserve it. Today when I decide to go out into public without a bra on, I consider it an act of protest – a reflection back to when I was a bra-less child being held down by several boys, my body probed by their unforgiving hands.

What upset me the most was how these boys were coddled not only by the justice system, but by the administration of the school at the time (I can’t imagine the same folks run the school today). The justification? They were boys. Boys will be boys, after all. It wasn’t so much that the school or the justice system were saying they did no wrong, but it was their effort to explain why they did wrong, and how I, apparently, helped them do wrong (not being old enough to have Mom’s permission to wear a bra), that stuck with me.  Further, a few of the boys came from affluent families – we wouldn’t want to tarnish those families … Would we?  That would be wrong!  Unthinkable!  Afterall, boys will be boys… Let’s give the boys a good scare, and close the book. As for the young girl, let’s give her an “end of the school year” award, and call it a day.

What fucking bullshit. The award given to me was called the “citizenship” award, but we all knew exactly what that award was really for. As a scholar today, and a scholar on the idea of citizenship, I now find the award rather laughable. To defined citizenship as silence – an agreement to the way things are.

If I sound bitter, I am. Bitter, but it is important to know that I have forgiven the boys that attacked me and the school I attended. Yet I cannot justify and encourage a system that defends and justifies acts of violence under the “boys will be boys,” or slut-shaming/victim blaming rationale. Our society is filled with this kind of bullshit justification. Think about it, banks are too big to fail. Football teams are too important to let a few bad eggs bring them down. Families are too important to tarnish.  This philosophy has done great harm in our society, not only from a personal point of view, but a collective point of view: economically, socially, politically, and philosophically.

The case at Steubenville is heightened by the fact that Anonymous has leaked videos showing the girl being attacked.  Showing the boys laughing at her, carrying her around and partying with her seemingly dead, lifeless body. The investigators being protested for their slow and crude investigation say that we can’t let social media try this case. But the boys that raped and killed this girl placed their own trial on social media, in effect asking for a public debate.  Indeed, on the night in question, they bragged and advertised their night of party and rape.  Example twitter posts included: “The song of the night is definitely Rape Me by Nirvana,” and “Drunk girl – rape.” They advertised their actions on Facebook as well – they made this public!

I am not sure how I feel about Anonymous generally – there are times I have celebrated their actions, and other times I have sat there disturbed.  But I must admit, I wish Anonymous was there to out the people “investigating” my ordeal in Jr. High.  Maybe justice would have been done.

This brings me to the next question, is the discourse about this particular rape, and the information leaked hindering justice or helping justice? In my opinion it is helping justice, and it is also helping to challenge wide and long standing justifications of rape and sexual assault. Much of our justice system is silent on rape.  We see this in the US and globally.  With this case, Justice has moved rather slowly when the evidence appears plentiful, there for the taking. I wait to be proven wrong.  Of course, I have no interest for justice to move so quickly that the gathering of evidence, and the arresting of guilty parties are done sloppily, not able to hold up in a court of law.  But if these boys were ever worried about getting a fair public trial, without a jury prejudicial to their actions, they should not have tweeted about what they were doing nor should they have put Facebook posts out there. In the end, these boys ruined their own chance at an impartial jury.

For good or bad, I’m rather glad this rape case is being tried in “the public,” as well as “social media.” It is time to make the issue of rape and sexual assult a public issue. We must talk about it. We must discuss how for centuries we have justified the act of rape through various means: women are objects, women are things to be owned, children are things to be owned, he or she deserve it, he or she asked for, look at how he or she dressed, she really wanted it.  She looks dead, maybe it was her last wish, we are just fulfilling her last wish (watch the video above).  We rarely blame the person who has committed the act, or if we blame the attacker(s), we justify their actions …. “it was wrong, but if the girl didn’t drink, this wouldn’t have happened.” The public must see these videos. Yes, they’re hard to watch … excruciating, and heartbreaking. I sat there with my palms sweating. My stomach turning … teeth grinding.  My heart pounded as I ran to the bathroom to eject my breakfast.  The drunk boy, sitting on his rocking chair, laughing and giggling at her dead body, “maybe it was her last wish, to be raped.” How funny is that… Even drunk… How humorous. But I watched because someone, all of us should be witnesses to her death.  Her death is for nothing if we do not bring meaning to it.

Chapter One: Under Where? Underwear!

As promised, here is a short excerpt from my memoir that examines one woman’s journey discovering and understanding her sexuality, her role as a woman, and herself.  In Chapter One, I talk about how we are often introduced to the idea of sexuality with a simple question: Where do Babies Come From? 

On
Facebook I read a status update that my nephew was told by a friend of his
that babies come from the great baby cloud. Since cloud computing is
getting so very popular, I could not help but imagine Google being
behind this operation, talk about Google+, with Apple on its heels for
iTunes downloads. Picture this, baby souls stored in “the cloud,” being
pumped with information from the Internet – twitter feeding the
virtual soul fetus along with Facebook wall updates, and targeted
advertisements.  Advertisers would be in heaven! Consider the potential
of training a child to be a consumer even before he or she popped out of
the womb!  Capital delight!

I also examine the sad truth that for many women, including many in my family, the first introduction to sex is rape:

Writing
this memory down, I sit and wonder what my Mother must have felt or
thought with my imitation of her eye drawings: for I now know this was
her first memory, and the eye was what she focused on as she was being
raped. She was a very young child when it first happened. This sexual
abuse would follow her throughout her childhood, adolescence, and into
the throws of young adulthood. Much of it stopped at thirteen or
fourteen when she pulled a gun on her attacker, her Stepfather, and
hitchhiked out of Fairbanks, Alaska, taking the Alcan highway. Maybe
she viewed the single eye as not only a physical example of her
attacker, but as the all-seeing Ra, a universal god.

Do the myths we tell our children about sex and sexuality eventually lead to larger misconceptions, such as the myth that women deserve to be raped, that it is the only thing that can control her? Or, rather, is this slippery slope argument without steam and substance?


Writing the Diaphragm Blues looks to the comic moments of sexuality, to the more serious consequences of sex and violence – all though the eyes of one woman, her experiences, and her efforts to better understand herself and her place in the world.