Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Tag: support

I chose not to press charges against the perpetrator when I was raped 30 years ago. I didn’t want to suffer re-victimization in order to prove he was guilty. I didn’t want to put myself on trial, proving my victimization, justifying my choices, verifying my credibility, demonstrating my reliability as a witness to my own experience of rape. I didn’t want to be placed on the witness stand where my integrity and character would become the topics of the trial.

I was at a bar with friends. I met a man. We kissed. He asked for a ride home. We left the bar together. And suddenly, according to some perverse understanding of relationships upon which the criminal justice system operates when it comes to rape, our friendly engagement and public displays of affection had apparently given him permission to insert his penis into my vagina!

Who is on trial?

Who is on trial?

At least, that’s what the investigator from the District Attorney’s office said would happen if the case went to trial. She empathized with me, validated my experience and seemed to covertly agree with my protests of injustice. But she also reinforced the fact that my history of drugs, alcohol and sexual engagements would be used by the criminal’s attorneys to prove his innocence.

Unlike the vast majority of rape victims, the morning following the Friday night incident I called the rape crisis hotline and went to a local hospital for treatment of my injuries (bruising on my legs and arms and tearing of my previously un-penetrated vagina). With the support of a rape crisis counselor who met me at the emergency room, I reported the crime to the police. They interviewed me, took photographs of my bruising and collected physical evidence. At the end of the emergency room ordeal, I accompanied the officers to the site of the crime as well as to the bar where we met.

The police gathered information, identified the criminal and arrested him later that day. He spent the weekend in jail and was released on bail the following Monday.

Unlike Emily Doe who courageously took the stand, suffered the humiliation of her own life and history being put on trial in order to bring about justice, I chose to drop the charges I’d filed. I wasn’t willing to have my life become the target of his defense. I wasn’t willing to be re-victimized by a criminal justice system that continues to make rape victims the guilty ones by allowing our alcohol and drug use or sexual histories to become part of the trail.

Emily’s letter to her attacker reveals much about why, out of  every 100 rapes, only 7 of these crimes lead to arrest and only 3 are referred to prosecutors:

“I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who didn’t even take the time to ask me for my name, who had me naked a handful of minutes after seeing me. After a physical assault, I was assaulted with questions designed to attack me, to say see, her facts don’t line up, she’s out of her mind, she’s practically an alcoholic, she probably wanted to hook up…”

To add to the injustice of it all, even after being found guilty of three felony charges related to sexual assault, the criminal was sentenced to only 6 months in county jail plus probation. And, assuming he’ll be on his best behavior, he’s likely to serve only 3 months.

I stand with Emily and others in protesting the sentence handed down by the judge who has a history of bias in favor of student athletes. The judge justified his leniency by expressing concern that the standard sexual assault sentence of  6 years in prison would have “a severe impact” on the criminal, a former Stanford University student.

Isn’t severity the message demanded by justice? Doesn’t the serious violation demand a harsh sentence? What is the message being sent to the criminal by letting him off easy? What is the message being sent to other perpetrators? Other potential victims?

“If you’re a young white male and have a potentially bright future ahead of you, material and social resources, we’ll let you off easy and trust that because you come from a place of affluence and privilege, you’ll get the rehabilitation you need and become an upstanding citizen.” 

I wonder if the judge would have given the same sentence had the offender been from the wrong side of the tracks, a struggling community college student working at a gas station or any one other than a former Olympic hopeful who also happens to be a caucasian male?

Brock Turner is an adult deserving of the maximum penalty and time for rehabilitation as a sexual offender, not a slap on the wrist and a few months of jail time to consider the errors of his ways. In the United States the average prison time for rape is 8-9 years in prison. Three to six months is not enough for the needed punishment and rehabilitation–which is ultimately the goal of our criminal justice system, isn’t it?

Last month Chloe Sun at Asian American Women on Leadership posed the question, “How do you let others know who you are without coming across as self-promoting?”  She noted that, as leaders of various ministries and organizations, we must promote our causes and invite others to join us. Publicizing and being a spokesperson for what we’ve given our lives to is part of the job.

My passion is helping Christian women love themselves as we love God and others. Thirty years of ministry and clinical work shows me that while many excel at loving others and God, we often neglect our own spiritual, mental and physical health. Where did we learn this?  Not from the culture around us, but with encouragement from an unexpected source.

Growing up in Christian community, I often heard authorities challenge the concept of self-love. I especially remember an acronym taught at camp: How do you get JOY? From putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.

Such thinking can arise when scripture verses like Philippians 2.3 – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” – are read outside of their fuller context, promoting a distorted view of self-care as secondary to caring for others.  When read at face value, such admonitions  seem to tell us that loving others means negating ourselves, thus encouraging our insecurity about being “too much”, taking up too much space and using too many resources.

Yet such insecurities are anything but loving. How is my playing it small and being afraid to step forward to share the good news of what God has taught me and is doing through me helping anyone?

An exposition of the biblical and theological meanings of love is beyond the scope of this post. My point is that when biblical texts or church teachings contribute to anxiety and self-neglect, we’ve clearly gotten the meaning wrong.

Love the Supreme Emotion

From a social sciences perspective, love is a sharing of positive emotional connection between people that elicits a desire to act in ways that support mutual well-being. When I “promote myself” in teaching a class or facilitating a retreat, I ooze with love. Few experiences give me as much positive emotion as supporting psychological, physical and spiritual well-being in others. Most often I feel that sense of positive connection among the entire group strengthen as we move through our time together. And we all leave with a stronger commitment to loving ourselves as we love others.

When our self-promotion comes from a place of love, then refusing to self-promote may be the most unloving thing of all. Letting others know who we are and inviting them to join our causes, participate in our programs or purchase our products and services is an act of love.

I’d love to support you in loving yourself as you love God and others. You can still sign up for “Self-Care through Mindful Awareness” this Saturday, March 22nd, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in South Pasadena. I’d love to support you in loving yourself as your love others either this Saturday or at a future workshop, yoga class or retreat. Sign-up for my newsletter (lower right sidebar) to get updates.

Thanks to my sisters at AAWOL who originally published this blog on their website. If you like what you read here, consider following their blog also.

Yesterday I passed my semi-annual breast exam with an “all’s clear” from the doctor!

Thanks be to God!

And thanks be to my own good choices over the past twenty years!

Hereditary and genetic predisposition for diseases like cancer can’t be altered–although researchers in the fields of epigenetics and psychoneuroimmunology are working on it–but how we live each day significantly impacts our risk. Research indicates that where we live, what we eat & drink, the quality of our relationships, how we manage stress, exercise and many other choices we make each day profoundly affect disease onset as well as our ability to recover.

An Example of Self-Neglect

Growing up with a mother who neglected her health gave me a good example of what not to do.

Moira Diedre Ford & Moira-Cecily Brady 1983

A diagnosis of breast cancer in her sixties did little to change her lifestyle. In fact, even after a second round of breast cancer followed by lung cancer a few years later, she smoked her Virgina Slim cigarettes right up until her last days of life.

In her last weeks of life she was confined to bed and on respiratory assistance. Yet, several times a day she’d rally the energy and strength to get out to her balcony for a smoke lest she blow up the entire house by lighting up in the vicinity of the oxygen tanks!

Mom had courageously overcome other addictions but remained a slave of nicotine until her final breath. Sadly, her cigarettes were her “precious” delight, her tonic for what ailed her, what she valued more than life itself to some degree.

Addictions do that to us. The immediate gratifications of soothed anxiety, numbed pain, and avoided interpersonal conflicts, lure us into a state of forgetfulness about our deepest values and highest aspirations.

Waking Up to My Own Need for Self-Care

My breast cancer diagnosis at age 30 woke me up to the way I’d been using alcohol to cope with mom’s dying. It was painful to visit her. My arrival was often her excuse for a smoke. “Help me up and we’ll have a visit on the balcony” she’d say with both a genuine gladness to see me and a sense of relief that she could get her fix. The last six months of her life I’d often pick up a six-pack on my way to visit and nurse a beer while she smoked her cigarette. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Six weeks after her death I received my wake up call. “Early stage…micro-invasive in-situ breast cancer…less than 5% chance of occurrence…” — none of that mattered. To me, it was cancer. And my early research indicated a correlation between alcohol use/overuse/abuse and breast cancer. Having watched my mom make poor choices for her own health, I choose a different path.

Me & Mom in a Box 1984 - Remarkable & Silly Mother

My mother was an amazing woman whose life inspired me in many ways. Her intelligence, humor, generosity, charm and diversity of friendships with men and women from all walks of life are gifts that continue to inform my development. I am forever grateful for those blessings.

Today, I also give thanks for the twisted blessings of her imperfections. I saw the damage her midlife struggle with addictions did to her well-being as well as the ways it undermined my own adolescent development. I’m grateful that my wake up calls came in my young adult years and I had her life as a model of what I didn’t want to become. I’m grateful that observing the consequences of her self-neglect inspired me to make self-care a priority. I imagine my mom is delighted that I’ve chosen the path I have. And for that, I am also grateful.

A Daily Choice

To choose a different path than those we grow up experiencing takes courage, determination and support. If your models for self-care were less than optimal, let them become inspiration for choosing a more loving way for yourself.

Find new role models. Surround yourself with people who take care of themselves and you’re more likely to do so yourself. And beware of spending too much time with those stuck in cycles of self-neglect or destructive patterns. Behaviors are contagious.

Enlist your friends, family, co-workers to support you in better self-care. One of my coaching clients gathered a group of her co-workers for a lunchtime health coaching group that I’m facilitating. Another client joined a workout studio that builds community support for fitness by creating a family atmosphere among the members.

Self-care or self-neglect. Which will you choose today?