Sunday, July 6, 2014

I don't know a lot of things ...

Warning:  This blog post discusses child sexual abuse.  If this is upsetting or triggers thoughts you can't deal with please call Lifeline: 13 11 14 or Bravehearts 1800 272 831

Rolf Harris was sentenced on Friday night.  He got five years and nine months.

Is it long enough?

What is long enough?

Ten years?

Life?

Death?

Castration?

Public flogging?

All of the above?

I'd like to think the victims of Rolf Harris are feeling something other than let down, but my guess is that's exactly how they are feeling.

The man who abused me died before he received any type of sentencing.  

He abused many girls during his lifetime and ultimately never paid the price for his crimes of stealing our innocence.

Maybe if I had done something, perhaps he would have spent some time in jail? 

But I did nothing.

Not a thing.   Ever.

My adopted sister did something ... but not until she found out he also abused her daughter.

She had him charged.

She asked me to help and I said no.

I did nothing.

Not a thing.  Ever.

I just couldn't.  I couldn't face him again and I couldn't bear to describe in detail what used to happen.

I wish I could explain what it is like being the victim of child abuse ... but I can't even articulate it inside my own head.  You see I don't know what it feels like to not be a victim, so I don't have anything to compare it to.

I don't know what it is like to go to bed as a little girl and feel safe and secure knowing my mummy and daddy will protect me from scary things and people.

I don't know how it feels to have a daddy who loves me no matter what.

I don't know how to not have the thoughts of the things he did when he used to sneak into my room when everyone was sleep.

I don't know a lot of things.  

Things others take for granted. 

A lot was taken away from me by a man who thought it was okay to adopt daughters to then use as his playthings.

I sound angry and bitter, except I'm not.

I'm simply stating the facts.

It is what it is and we are all dealt a hand in life and it is up to us to play it as best we can.  I feel like I've played my hand well.   There were  times I got a bit lost, loved the wrong people, lived recklessly and hid from my feelings behind some massive walls. 

But all in all I've turned out okay. 

Except it never really goes away.  Victims of child sexual abuse will always be victims of child sexual abuse because there is no erasing it.   

No amount of therapy, denial, wall building and whatever else we choose to throw at it will make it go away.  

These publicised cases of child sexual abuse stir up a lot of feelings for me and every other person who had their innocence stolen by a pedophile because just when you think you've packed it up and put it in a suitcase on top of the cupboard ... bang!

Out comes another Robert Hughes or Rolf Harris and it starts all over again. 

Victims of child sexual abuse are everywhere.  I can guarantee that every single person who reads this will have someone in their circle of friends who is one.  You may or may not know, but they are there, silently reliving things they'd rather forget.

These public cases really do come at a price.  We can't hide from the media - we hear news of it every single day.   

I work in the media and it is part of my job to read, hear and see footage of these court cases.  

Does it have an impact on me?  Absolutely.  

Does it have an impact on every other victim of child sexual abuse?  Absolutely.

So is 5 years and 9 months enough time in jail for a child sexual abuser?

No.  It really isn't.

If this blog post is upsetting or triggers thoughts you can't deal with please call Lifeline: 13 11 14 or Bravehearts: 1800 272 831

Photobucket

Thursday, May 29, 2014

No means no. No exceptions. No Caveats.








I have held off reading the #YesAllWomen tweets because, to be honest, I'm outrage fatigued.  If I'm to be totally honest, I'm actually "feminist outrage" fatigued.   It seems every second day there is something for feminists to be outraged about and Twitter seems to provide the fuel for flaming the outrage fire.  Being outraged all the time is tiring and if that is what it takes to be a feminist, well I guess you could say my apathy far outweighs my desire to fight for equality, that and I tend to verge on the side of lazy when I'm not at work.  Cute kitten pictures and witty quotes are more my thing.

This morning I felt it would be safe to have a look, and given that I work in the media, I really should know what's going on.  By now the outrage fire should be nothing more than smouldering embers.  I was wrong.

The tweets are still strong and filled with feeling and intent.  Usually I'm bored or tired of the issue after reading twenty tweets of people saying the same thing, but these are different to the usual Twitter outrage.  They speak a long silent truth.  They reflect what I feel deep down in side.  They make me sad.  They make me mad.   They make me think and look at myself.

I have never jumped on the feminist bandwagon because I truly believe I'm not one and that men and women are fundamentally different in all ways and I kind of like that.  I like a man opening a door for me.  I like a man who steps back and lets me go first and I like a man who feels he needs to protect me.   I also believe that if my husband is working hard all day he deserves to come home to a cooked meal if I'm home before him.   I also don't mind the occasional wolf whistle, so surely I can't be a feminist?  That's my fluffy pink slippers view of feminism.

Before you all hang me out to dry ... deep down I know these things aren't what fundamental feminism is all about ... I don't want to think about the real reasons because it's too close to me.  I would have to think about things I have long packed away.   I would feel like I need to be involved, need to speak up and need to be doing something.

After reading the #YesAllWomen tweets, I actualy felt like I was betraying the sisterhood by doing and saying nothing.  By holding onto my quaint, fluffy, beliefs I keep myself safe ... out of the fray, it's easier.  But it really isn't.
 
Two tweets made me stop breathing.  Two tweets forced me to think hard about what I really believe and what being a feminist was all about.  

The first tweet that stopped me in my tracks was this one ... 


And how true. 

There are different types of rape ... it's not only rape because a woman is violently forced to have sex by a stranger who attacks her on the way home in the dark.   If a woman does not want a man to touch her or have sex with her and he does ... it is rape.  All rape is rape.  No matter what the situation.  Sadly so many women live with rape, some every single day, and never report it. 

Rapes often occur after a night of drinking, dancing and perhaps flirting.   How many women wake up after one of these nights knowing they were forced or felt obliged to have sex?  This is rape.  

As women we've been conditioned to question ourselves about these situations ... somehow it had to be our fault.  "Was my dress too short?"  "I wore a g-string, that must mean I'm asking for it?" "I let him kiss me, I sent a signal I wanted more?"  "I let him up for a coffee - I only wanted coffee, but I probably sent the wrong signal?" "I've had numerous one night stands (on my terms) and if I reported him they wouldn't believe me because of my history?"  "I was too drunk?"  "I was too high?" "I was flirting with him all night?"  "He paid for my drinks, I guess I owed him?" 

When a rape of this type is reported, I wonder how many of the accused perpetrators say "she was asking for it?".  How often did you hear that phrase as you were growing up?  "Don't go out dressed like that, boys will think you are loose."  "Look how short that skirt is, she's just asking for it dressed like that!"  "It doesn't surprise me that she was raped, she was always flirting with the boys, she was asking for it."  And surprisingly, it wasn't only the men who said this.

What about marital rape?  How many women live day to day in marriages where they are forced to have sex?  It might not be violent force, but it can be emotional force.  A sense of entitlement by some husbands.  How many women go into the bathroom afterwards and silently cry as they clean themselves up, to come back to bed and sleep with their husbands?  How many women say "I just do it because it's easier than saying no"?  How many women truly believe this and how many men make them feel this way?

How many sexually abused children never speak out because they blame themselves?  How many wait until they are an adult before they feel like they can talk about it?  How many are not believed by family members when they finally do speak up?  How many find themselves on trial, trying to prove the type of person they are, rather than the person who allegedly committed the crimes?  Woody Allen's step daughter for example, whose situation really upsets me.  It's not about Woody Allen having to prove he didn't do it ... it's about her having to prove he did.   It was the same for Sarah Monahan and Robert Hughes (now convicted) and now the Rolf Harris trial.

No one wants to think that a man they love or gave birth to could be capable of doing such things.  We always want to see those we love and care about in nothing but the best light, which is a perfectly normal, but for the women involved in these cases ... a grave injustice.

This was the second tweet rocked me to my core: 

So do I.  My sons should be reading these tweets.  I should be ensuring they understand that no means no ... no exceptions.   Have I been vigilant in teaching my boys this?  I'd like to think so, but I have never laboured the point and therefore don't think I've given this as much attention as I should have.  I've spoken more about a man should not hit a woman and less about the different types of rape.  

As each generation passes the next generation is better informed, more understanding, but we still have a long way to go.  

It really is up to us ... right now ... the mothers and father of sons, to teach our boys to respect women.  To instill in them that a woman owns her body and a man has absolutely no right to it unless she invites him to - and by invite it means she say yes ... without coercion.  It is as simple as that.  No exceptions.  No caveats. 

Photobucket

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ten years is nowhere near enough!

Back in February I went to the doctor for a check up.  I wasn't sick as such, but I wasn't feeling particularly well either.  

I had put on a lot of weight.  I was retaining fluid.  I was tired, lethargic and unable to stop eating all the wrong foods.  I craved sweet sugary starchy foods and fresh white bread with lashings of butter.  Plus my exercise regime consisted of 30 minutes per week with a personal trainer and a walk with a friend.

She sent me off for some blood tests and I figured it would be the same as usual ... everything would be okay but my thyroid medication would probably need adjusting, explaining the tiredness and lethargy.

A few days letter I received a call from my doctor's surgery requesting I come in to discuss my results and not to panic it wasn't urgent.  I ate more chocolate and white bread to ease my worry.

Two days later I was sitting opposite my doctor hearing the words "pre diabetes", overweight, life expectancy".   Okay, now you have my attention ... "life expectancy, what do you mean?  It's not like I have cancer or anything?"

She told me that diabetes would take 10 years off my life expectancy and if I changed nothing about my lifestyle I could expect to be a diabetic within two years.  Ouch!   She also measured my waist, with one of those special health tape measures and I was at the high end of the red area ... red meaning "danger".

Her advice was to change my lifestyle by eating a more balanced diet, exercising more and losing 10 kilograms.  She also referred me to a weight loss clinic.

I left feeling a bit overwhelmed, okay I'm lying ... I was a lot overwhelmed and all I really wanted was a hot chocolate and a piece of banana bread.    Instead I went to work and pushed it to the back of my mind, that is, until I was driving home later that evening.

Ten years off my life expectancy ... is that a big deal?  Should I be worried? I started to work it out in my head.  So, if diabetes would reduce my life expectancy by ten years that means living a reasonably healthy and active life until 80 would now become 70.   She also mentioned that the last 10 years of my life would be spent dealing with the myriad of diabetes related illnesses that I would now have.  That takes me back to 60 ... I would be relatively healthy until I was 60.   Given I'm currently 50 ... THAT IS ONLY TEN MORE GOOD YEARS!!!!!!!!!!  

Yep.  That.  Changed my life.  Changed my outlook.  Changed my eating habits.  Changed everything.  Ten more years is not good enough.  I've too many things I want/need to do and ten years will go by in a blink. 

That was the last week in February and from that night everything changed.   I had been toying with the idea of quitting sugar for the  few weeks before that and had even inquired about joining the "I Quit Sugar" program, but I'd just missed the close off.   Never mind, I ate some more chocolate while I thought about it some more.  However, the game has changed and the time for thinking about it has been and gone.  It was now time for action.

So, here we are two months on and I can say I've successfully changed my lifestyle and am definitely feeling better.  On 27th February I gave up sugar (fructose) and find I'm no longer craving anything sweet, including my beloved chocolate.  I'm not missing out on any food, I'm not hungry and most importantly, I'm not dieting.   I've also just given up gluten, which has never really been any good for me, and I've found that harder than giving up sugar.  I do feel better for it, but I miss bread ... even though I'd progressed from white bread to grain bread!

I've lost 5 kilograms over the two months and have stopped retaining fluid.  I am fitting into clothes I haven't worn in ages and I'm baking more brownies and treats than I've ever done!!   I'm growing my own salad and smoothie greens and I'm exercising 4-5 time per week.  

I hardly know who I am anymore.  I haven't found this change as difficult as I have in the past and I believe there are two reasons for this.  One, I want more than ten years of good quality life and two, I've made one change at a time and done it slowly until I no longer have to think about it.  Not eating sugar and going to the gym or the park to exercise is now just part of my day, like cleaning my teeth or having a shower.  It's true what they say about taking 21 days to make a habit.  I've just never exercised or followed a sustainable eating plan longer than 21 days in a row to let it become a habit.

Whenever I've dieted in the past it has been on a program that is not sustainable in the long term.  I have an under active thyroid and this can be problematic when trying to lose weight and also when exercising.  If I go for a hard core exercise program like that advocated by 12WBT I end up crashing half way through because I come down with a virus and I can't recover.  Also, when I reduce my calories to 1200, I start to lose weight but then nothing.  A very slow metabolism caused by my under active thyroid is exceptionally good at holding onto fat.  

I've been seeing a trainer since June last year and she is training me in a way that keeps my thyroid happy and I have not been sick at all.  I've recently upped my exercise regime by adopting High Intensity Training (HIT) or Tabata Training and this has made a significant difference to my strength and fitness, again without the stress a hard core exercise program puts on my body.   By hard core I mean training for in excess of 30 minutes six days per week.  I currently train 4 days each week and it looks like this:  

Monday:   HIT hill runs 4 x 30 secs & 4 minutes of tricep dips & pushups & bicep curls (not 4 minutes each - a total of 4 minutes) and a ten minute walk.   I also combine this with walking the dog so will generally get a much longer walk.

Tuesday:   PT session - 30 minutes

Wednesday:   Rest day

Thursday:  1 hour walk with a girlfriend

Friday:   Gym session - 30 minutes - cardio and strength Tabata Training or training in the park after walking the dog.

Saturday:  Rest

Sunday:  Rest - or sometimes a Gym session

When I go out or go to a friend's home to eat I don't go with a list what I can't eat ... I eat whatever is available or cooked for me in moderation.  I don't want to be "that" person who doesn't eat stuff and makes it hard for my friends to prepare me a meal.  I find the next day I'm not very hungry and I eat light foods all day.  I'm no longer obsessing about food and I'm only eating 3 meals a day.  No snacks at all ... not because I'm dieting ... but because my body doesn't want them.  

I don't proclaim to have the answers to a healthy lifestyle.  But what I do know is I've made a conscious effort to find what works for me and I've done it.  I'm someone who needs a big incentive or a deadline to get things done ... seems like losing ten years was my incentive this time.

It has been a total lifestyle change.  I still have 5 kilograms to lose and I'm sure over time it will go ... I'm not pushing it because I don't want a short term fix.   This is the rest of my life I'm talking about here and I want that rest to be MUCH longer than ten years.

I want to be that crazy 85 year old lady you see on the news jumping out of a plane ... I'll be sure to wave to you!    

Photobucket

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I could dance all f*ck'n day ... oh yes I could

So ... it's been a while.  A lot has been bubbling away in my mind but nothing I've really wanted to write about.  That is, until today.

You see, I turned fifty last year and oh my goodness ... the moaning and grumbling and dislike for growing older that has spewed forth from me has been, well, a little lot over the top.

A couple of days ago I read something that stopped me in my tracks and gave me cause to take a long hard look at myself and the amazing privilege I have of growing older.

My friend Rebecca Sparrow wrote a blog post about embracing ageing and why her babysitter, Emma has made her feel this way.   Emma is 22 and has stage 4 melanoma ... to put it bluntly, this is a death sentence.  Emma won't turn 50, she won't turn 40 and it's possible she won't even turn 30.   Those years included some of the best times of my life ... life being the operative word.

I am alive and healthy.  I am also fifty and damn lucky to be so.  It's funny how I can look at that number now and not feel the angst I felt as little as seven days ago.  Reading Bec's post gave me cause to sit down and reflect on what being fifty means. 

I am lucky.  So very lucky.   My beautiful friend Suzy Connor died from cancer almost two years ago ... she didn't reach fifty, but while she was with us she gave life a damn good shake.  In fact I have worn a Suzy Connor Challenge charity bracelet on my wrist since she left us, to remind me that I am here.  In a way I have let her down by being so negative about turning fifty.

Another friend Tracy Rudd also died from cancer just over a year ago ... she also didn't reach fifty.  So many other people won't have the privilege of reaching fifty.  I am lucky.  I am fifty.

Over the last few days I've reflected on growing older and have realised some things that I'd not noticed before - some really important and empowering things.

I may be fifty but that doesn't mean I've stopped growing emotionally, spiritually and knowledge wise.  There is still so much I don't know and so much I still want to see and do. 

I will own the wrinkles around my eyes and mouth - they mean I have laughed and laughed and that my life has been filled with joyous moments.

I will also own the mistakes I've made, the lessons I've learned and relish in the way being fifty gives me a different perspective.

I have noticed that I worry less about small things.

I'm less self conscious.  I am much more comfortable with who I am and what I do and don't know.

Of course I still have some insecurities - to not have would make me arrogant.  But I'm okay with that.  Those insecurities will help me to continue to grow.

I will own my grey hairs because, well, they are mine, but I will cover them up with hair dye because I'm not quite ready to embrace grey hair yet.  I 'll save my Helen Mirren phase for when I reach sixty. Then look out ... I'll not only keep the grey hair but I'll be running around, on a beach in a bathing suit.  Oh yes I will!

This morning I saw a video on my Facebook feed ... thank you Nicky Pawsey Foster for sharing it.



The 88 year old lady in this video cemented very clearly in my mind that growing old is to be embraced and those of us who have the privilege of partaking in it ... should grab life as hard as we can and dance the shiz out of it.     As she says at the end of the video ... "I could dance all f*ck'n day".

She's right you know. 

Life may not be the party you expected, but while you are here you might as well dance!


Photobucket

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Forgive me Father for I have sinned ...

If you are a Catholic and were subjected to the guilt filled upbringing that accompanies Catholic schooling and attending church every Sunday, you will have very strong memories of those words.

Last night I went to bed with a good dose of Catholic guilt - something I haven't had in quite some time.  

Oh don't get me wrong, I feel guilty about a whole lot of things ... working too much, not working enough, lunching with friends while hubby is working, not spending enough time with my teenagers, refusing to do my teenager's washing and the list goes on and on.  But that type of guilt is more "mother and wife" guilt.  

Catholic guilt is a whole other ball game.

Let me explain why I felt so guilty.

Last night I shamed someone on social media.  Shaming people, those less fortunate than me or those who have been caught on camera in awkward and unattractive poses, is not kind and something I have avoided doing.  Until last night.

I can't put my finger on why I thought it was okay to do it last night ... perhaps it was the fact that when I first saw the picture it did make me laugh.  Out.  Loud.  On face value it was very funny and the accompanying caption was very clever, and funny too. 

In hindsight ... not so funny.  Just mean and cruel.

I saw it earlier in the day when I was working, and out of respect for my employer I didn't share it at that time.  I have a rule that if it's not something I'd share to the listeners or on the work Facebook account I can't share it while I'm working.   That in itself should be enough to make me stop, think and assess whether I should share it at all.

Last night I saw it again in my timeline and quickly shared it with my friends.  Almost immediately I began to feel uncomfortable ... not enough to take it down though.   The cloud was starting to settle above me and the slow drizzle of guilt washed slowly over me.  By the time I got into bed the cloud was bucketing down on me and I lay in bed feeling all kinds of awful.  A friend* on Facebook commented that we should be celebrating people who feel comfortable no matter what they look like.  She is right.  So very right.

The lady I shamed was someone's daughter, mother, sister, friend ... somewhere she is something special to someone else. 

I was going to remove the post from Facebook this morning, but it seems Facebook has done that for me.  

Life is hard, really bloody hard for some people, and none of us have the right to shame people.  Somewhere, somehow the internet has made it okay to find people who look different and surreptitiously photograph them and post the photos on the internet for the world to ridicule.  We've all laughed at them.  We've all probably shared them.  Thankfully not all of us take the photos.

In a world where I have friends who are right this minute dealing with cancer, death, suicide, mental health and everything in between ... and in a world where millions of people are doing it tougher than I could even imagine ... I think we need to practice a lot more kindness, tolerance and Catholic guilt.  Or whatever it is that makes us stop and think about the things we do and say to others.

* Thank you Sandra Skelton for reminding me to be kind



Share this post