Ask Lala! Expert advice and opinion on abuse
Got a question? Lala@stopabusecampaign.org
Laura Fogarty joins the the Stop Abuse Campaign online community with a brand new column we call, Ask Lala! If you have questions or concerns or you’re in need of some guidance about abuse of any kind just Ask Lala!
If it’s help or expert advice you need, Ask Lala! If it’s someone to listen and understand an issue or problem, Ask Lala! Lala not only speaks from her own insight and wisdom as a survivor, mother and author, but through our partner, npeiv.org, is directly connected to America’s leading experts across the field of abuse. She offers their wisdom and insight as well. No matter the question,no matter the abuse, Ask Lala provides personal insight and professional guidance. Lala will select letters to share and answer (each week online). If we publish your letter you will remain anonymous
Happy Spring! What a joyful time of year we are in! More sunshine, longer days, and more light in our lives can only be positive things! For those who have been victims of or are survivors of one type of abuse or another, the healing process can be long and arduous. Abuse in one’s past can lead to a host of psychological and physiological problems. The good news is that there is a path to healing! That path is different for every person, but by reaching out for help, there is definitely hope and healing for every single one of us!
Live in the light, Lala
Dear Lala, My daughter recently moved back home after leaving her husband of nearly ten years. I had no idea the abuses she had suffered at his hands and at times my guilt overwhelms me. This question, however, is not about me but about the changes I have seen in my daughter since her moving in with me. She is not the same person she used to be. She is short tempered, and my questions are often answered with silence, rage or a quick exit. She seems very distracted and distant and reluctant to talk to me about much. The little that I do know horrifies me to think about. I can’t imagine what this has done and is doing to my daughter. What can I do? Thanks, Donna
Dear Donna, You don’t mention whether or not your daughter is receiving counseling, but she most certainly could benefit from speaking to a professional. Try to step away from the guilty feelings you have regarding the way your daughter used to live. Very often victims of abuse are very secretive about the abuse and go to great lengths to keep it hidden. Your support and encouragement are invaluable to your daughter right now. Please consider helping her seek some counseling. There is hope and healing for both of you! Lala
Dear Lala, My nine-year-old son was molested by a priest at his school. This man was essentially an extension of our family- trusted, loved, welcomed in our life and in our home. Since our discovery of the abuse, our son has become withdrawn and frequently wakes at night in what our pediatrician has labeled night terrors. We have a long road ahead, I know, but what can you tell me about my son’s hope for a normal future? Thanks for your help, Charles
Dear Charles, First of all, thank you for believing your son! With professional help and your love and support, there is every reason to hope for a bright future for your precious son. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects survivors in a variety of different ways. The following website offers insight into not only the causes but also the treatments and recovery strategies for children who suffer from PTSD.http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/
Hi Friends! With the New Year upon us, it is a nice time to remember that we can be on a hopeful journey, no matter what direction our life’s path is taking! It is a hopeful journey here at the Stop Abuse Campaign, as we work together to end abuse, in all forms, within the next twenty-five years. Hope and healing are integral parts of our campaign, as we shed light on abuse, and work, with hopeful hearts, to arrive at the day in time when abuse is gone.
Live in the light, Lala
Dear Lala, My sister seems to be in a perpetual state of depression. I worry about her daily and now that the holidays are over, I am thinking she may be less likely to cause herself harm. I worry about her ending her life, but now that we are well into the New Year, I think my concern may be unfounded. I have heard that the rate of suicide is exponentially increased over the month of December than in any other month. Should I be worried, or breathe a sigh of relief? Thanks, Deb
Dear Deb, How wonderful for you to be such a concerned and compassionate sister. Thank you for reaching out. According to the CDC, the idea that suicides occur more frequently during the holidays is a long perpetuated myth. Their statistics indicate that the suicide rate is, in fact, lowest in December. Having said that, if you are concerned that your sister suffers from depression, it is always the right time of year to get help. You don’t say whether your sister is under the care of a physician, but that is a great place to start. Perhaps you could help her find a support group or therapist. Talk to your sister, tell her you are willing to help her find the right path for healing. Listen to her, as well. Keep an open mind and an open heart to give your sister a sense of hope in this time of her life that may seem, to her, dark and hopeless. Thank you for helping to shed light, not only for your sister, but also for others! Best wishes to you, Lala
Dear Lala, My father was recently moved from the hospital to a rehab center. I thought he would be getting therapy after his recent stroke to help him transition back to being at home, but so far, I am not seeing any evidence of this. I am very uncomfortable with his current situation and maybe I am just over reacting because I am upset over his health, but I don’t know. He is complaining that he is being mistreated but I am not sure his mind is completely together. Another problem is that I have to schedule a time to visit him and there are no unscheduled visits allowed. What do you think? Thomas
Dear Thomas, I am so sorry to hear of your father’s recent hardships. Thank you for looking out for him and for searching for answers. Each of your concerns is alarming, but to me, the most serious is the need for only scheduled visits. This is a big red flag. I encourage you to find another treatment facility for your father. He is uncomfortable and you are uncomfortable, and this should not be ignored. Trust your instincts! Along with finding a new treatment option for your father, please consider speaking with the management of this center. Also, it would be a good idea to contact your local social services to see if perhaps this facility needs to be investigated. Our elderly are among the most vulnerable and the residents of this facility need your voice. Being mistreated in an elderly care facility can make even the most optimistic person feel hopeless, and without hope there can be no healing. Thank you for the gift of your time to help your father and others who share his plight, Lala
Hi Friends! I hope this gorgeous autumn finds you happy and peaceful and full of light! When we talk about abuse survivors, we tend to call women and children to mind. True, women and children are very often victims and survivors of abuse, but it is important to remember that men are victims and survivors too. One in six boys will be sexually abused before he reaches his eighteenth birthday. Boys and girls are equally likely to be victims of bullying, and domestic violence does not discriminate. Just as abuse does not know the bounds of race, socioeconomic status, geography or gender, neither should healing. Survivors should never be ashamed or afraid or silent- no matter what! Everyone should be able to acknowledge, to escape and to heal. Live in the light, Lala
Dear Lala: I am not sure this is the most appropriate venue, but here goes!
I recently had a young guy I know ask me about resources for adult survivors of childhood abuse. I do not have a good answer to this query. He definitely needs someone to talk to, some counseling, some help, and I hate not having an outlet for him. He goes to school, doesn’t have insurance, but certainly works his butt off. Do you have any ideas? Are there any resources for someone like him? I think his abuse was decidedly verbal/emotional and very likely physical. Grrrr… I hate being so useless. Thanks Lala, Meredith
Dear Meredith: Thanks for asking! This is not an inappropriate venue for survivor questions at all! Thank you for helping this young man and certainly you are not useless! You are so kind to reach out for him. You can go to the Male Survivor website at http://www.malesurvivor.org/ to get some help getting started. He would benefit greatly from an abuse support group, and you can find a host of resources not only onmalesurvivor.org but also on NOVA National Organization for Victim Assistance | NOVA www.trynova.org Thank you so much for your thoughtful concern for this young survivor, Lala
Dear Lala: I was molested by my parish priest from the ages of 8 to 13. This man had been moved from parish to parish before someone much stronger than I finally spoke up. He is now in prison thanks to the courage of the survivors who came forward together ultimately getting him defrocked and arrested, tried and convicted. Even though I have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to fear, thanks to the courage of others, I have yet to tell anyone what happened to me. What can I do? Is it too late to heal or move on from this? I am very embarrassed that this happened to me, but also even more ashamed that I did not speak up, even when given the opportunity. What can I do now? Henry
Dear Henry: Everyone deals with abuse in their own way, in their own time. No matter how you handle the aftermath of being sexually abused, you are not in the wrong! This man was stopped and that is a wonderful thing. The fact that you feel badly about it, while understandable, is not healthy. Please seek some counseling, if you have not already, and also, please know that you have no burden of responsibility here. Is there someone you can tell? A friend who would listen and understand? It would be so helpful to you if you could find someone to share your story with. Let go of the shame and embarrassment and embrace a path of healing and recovery. The priest who abused you and others should be the one ashamed, not you – for dealing with the abuse in your own way, in your own time. SNAP, a network of survivors abused by priests, is a wonderful organization with a wealth of information for survivors. http://www.snapnetwork.org/ Please be kind to yourself and know that you are not alone, Lala
Hi Friends! I hope this week’s column finds you happy, healthy, and enjoying the final days of summer! Recently I have received several questions from abusers themselves, which puts a unique perspective on the complexities and faces of abuse. This might seem odd, that I have chosen to respond to the questions of those who are abusing others, but bear with me, if you would be so kind, for the following thought: abusers who reach out for help, deserve that help-not more shame. Abusers become abusers for a reason, and that has a profound impact on all of us. Abuse affects us all, whether we are the victim, the abuser, or neither. That’s right – abuse affects even those who are certain they have never been directly connected to abuse. According to the CDC, the cost of abuse in our country alone is 500 billion dollars a year, one of the many examples of how abuse impacts every single one of us. People use drugs for a reason; people become prostitutes for a reason; people murder for a reason; people steal for a reason; well, you get the idea…Live in the light, Lala
Dear Lala, I am the mother of three children under the age of five. I have never thought of myself as a violent person, but, and I am ashamed to admit this, I have found myself lately spanking more, and yelling uncontrollably at times. I just feel so overwhelmed sometimes. Actually last week, I smacked my four-year-old in the mouth for calling her baby brother a stupid brat. I’m not sure what my question is, really, I am just looking for an answer to how can I teach my children to be nice to one another when what I am doing to discipline them seems to be the complete opposite? How can you say “don’t hit” when that is what you do to get them to stop? Sorry for this confusing question and thanks for your help, Sarah
Dear Sarah, Thank you so much for taking the time to write in, and for opening up about your life and the demands and pressures of caring for small children. Feeling overwhelmed can lead to behaviors we would not characterize as normal for ourselves. Please know that I understand your frustration and I applaud your willingness to reach out. You are so right about the paradox created by using violence to stop violence. How are we teaching our children not to hit or otherwise degrade others when we are doing that very thing to them? The answer is, we are not. Abuse begets abuse; violence breeds more violence and the only way to stop it, is to stop it! So simple, really, and so very achievable. Please visit http://www.parentsanonymous.
Dear Lala, I have been dating my girlfriend, well, now ex-girlfriend for two years. I admit that I have occasionally been a bit on the aggressive side when she provokes me. I mean, she can make me so angry and sometimes I have shaken her or maybe once or twice hit her, but nothing serious. She has broken up with me and now there is a restraining order involved. Ridiculous, I know, but she has some overly sensitive issues and she sees me as a threat. I have apologized but she won’t even take my calls anymore. I wonder, how common is it for a woman to overreact like this after a fight, and how can I get her to understand that I won’t hurt her again? Thanks, Howard
Dear Howard, Please leave this woman alone. It is never okay to hit a woman and your thoughts on how it is her fault are frightening. If she has a restraining order in place, you need to stop any and all contact with her. I strongly encourage you to seek some professional counseling before becoming involved with anyone else. I understand that you see this issue very differently than what I am telling you, but rest assured, if you get some professional guidance there is every reason to hope that you too can recover and move forward. Abusive behavior is a choice and with the proper tools, you can learn to experience mutually satisfying relationships. Thank you so much for reaching out, Lala
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Hi Friends! First and foremost- thank you all so much for the poignant, thought provoking questions. Keep writing! This week has brought me a varied list of questions with seemingly no common thread, but truthfully, there is always a commonality for any and every type of abuse and it goes something like this: abuse begets abuse. In other words, one type of abuse leads to another, so in this way, all types of abuse are connected. A myriad of societal woes stem from each different variety of abuse. To end one kind, we must realize the interconnection that exists and put an end to abuse in every form! Live in the light, Lala!
Dear Lala, I have recently discovered that my nephew, an accountant who was trusted by my siblings and me to manage our mother’s finances, has been taking money from her without her knowledge. This nephew told us he would be taking a small percentage from my mother’s nest egg to cover his expenses. Well, this man had been taking roughly fifty percent of the earned interest on her savings account, in addition to keeping one hundred percent of her monthly Social Security check for himself. My eighty-five-year-old mother is the one who discovered the discrepancies between the monies the family had agreed upon and the amount actually taken by my nephew. We have resolved the issue by relieving the once trusted nephew of his duties. My question- how common is this? Thanks for your insight, Charles
Dear Charles, I am so sorry to hear about the exploitation of your mother. Sadly, this is a very common occurrence for many of our elders. A vast majority of the millions of cases of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation go unreported each year. Financial exploitation plays a definite role in the problem of elder abuse as a whole. Taking money without permission, or stealing, is a crime, and unfortunately this crime against elders is widespread in our country. Thank you for righting this wrong that was committed against your mother. Some of the most precious members of society, our elders, deserve light to be shed on this issue! Thanks for helping to bring this insidious topic out of the shadows, Lala.
Hi Lala, From roughly third to sixth grade, I was molested by my father. It has only been within the last couple of years that I finally admitted what had happened to me. He molested all three of his daughters, and when this came out, I was able to remember what happened. Funny how our brains try desperately to protect us from some realities. I have sought therapy and through this found that I have encapsulated many memories of abuse into just one memory. Also, something called dissociative disorder was mentioned. Have you heard of this type of thing that has happened with other survivors of child sexual abuse? Thank you, Anna
Dear Anna, Thank you so much for having the courage to share your story! Many survivors of sexual abuse find therapy to be a wonderful tool in the recovery process.When we use the word “admit” to describe being a victim of a crime, we do ourselves a terrible injustice. You, Anna, have nothing to “admit.” You have acknowledged that you were sexually abused by your father and that is an incredible step. Many survivors of sexual abuse repress memories or dissociate from them. This is a very common happenstance, as are a host of other psychological disorders. You are not alone! There are over forty million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States today- an alarming and staggering statistic. I hope you are on a peaceful path to recovery, Lala
Dear Lala, I just witnessed a terrible happening in the grocery store parking lot, and I am pretty sure I did the right thing, but I would like to check, just in case. A man was yelling at his wife near the cart return and suddenly began smacking her with his hand on the side of her head. He was a large man, and she was rather petite. Several people, myself included, ran over to help this woman after she was knocked to the ground. She assured everyone she was fine and got in the car with this lunatic. I wish I had called the police, but all I did was make sure she was okay and they drove away. Should I have made her stay with me? Should I have called the police? I can’t get the image of her falling to the ground out of my mind. Thanks so much, Carolina
Dear Carolina, Upon seeing one person physically assault another, it is a good idea to call the police to get the victim out of harm’s way. From the way this story sounds, the woman involved was already out of immediate danger by the time you and the others were at her side. Calling the police at that point may have only aggravated the situation for her later. A victim of domestic abuse has to be willing to report the abuse and follow through in order for charges to be filed. Often times, the only thing we can do is offer help, but not push, as this could make things worse for the victim. Thank you for rushing to this woman’s aid, and for your thoughtful concern, Lala
Dear Lala, I suspect that my brother-in-law is beating my sister. She almost always has fresh bruises and never quite knows where they came from. I have seen him shake her and also she has admitted that he has hit her on occasion. He had a violent temper when they were dating, but she always assured me that he never hurt her. Now, I am not so sure about her safety. Can I call the police? Can I report something just because I suspect it is getting worse? Do I have to see him hit her in my presence? What can I do? Lydia
Dear Lydia, If your brother-in-law hits your sister in your presence, you most certainly could call the police.You really can’t report a suspicion, especially given the fact that your sister sometimes denies the abuse. I would encourage you to let your sister know that you will help her if she should ever want it. Let her know that you will be with her for the police report and for the support she needs to get through pressing charges. You cannot make her do this, she will have to be a willing participant, but offering help is the first step. She may need counseling to help her get there, but your support will be invaluable should she decide to report the abuse. Thanks for helping to shed light on this difficult topic, Lala
**********************************************PREVIOUS QUESTIONS ANSWERED**********************************
I’m too embarrassed to ask family and friends and it seems that the Internet has conflicting information. I don’t have children of my own so I don’t have “mommy friends” to talk to.
I have recently spent time babysitting for a good friend who had to go back to work. I have noticed her almost 7 year old daughter seems to be “playing” with herself. Once I noticed her doing it, it seems like I notice it more often now. I watch the little girl from late afternoon until past her bedtime 3-4 nights a week. Should I be concerned and say something to my friend? Or not say nothing at all? Maybe it is normal, but it seems from what I have read. She should have grown out of any “self discovery” by now. Thanks, Concerned Friend
Dear Concerned Friend, Thank you for this timeless and thought provoking question. This is normal behavior for a seven year old. Children develop at different rates so what is “normal” for one child at a certain age, may be “normal” for another at a different age. Please don’t be embarrassed to ask questions, or discuss issues regarding child development, because the more we are aware, the safer all of our children are! Thanks for allowing me to shed some light, Lala
My 7 year old daughter takes dance classes. Each studio is equipped with window and blinds. They have benches in front of the windows. The problem is they draw the blinds. I have told them that I am not comfortable with this. Sometimes they open the blinds, sometime they do not. I was told that every studio does this. I feel like it is a bad practice all around. Am I being over protective? Thanks,Cindy from Indianapolis
Dear Cindy, Parents must always be able to view lessons of any sort. Limiting, or even better, avoiding situations in which your child is one on one with an adult instructor is a great way to keep children safe. You are right; it is a bad practice all the way around to keep children in any youth serving organization behind closed doors while denying parents access. If a situation in which you are about to place your child makes you uncomfortable- trust your instincts! You are not being over protective; you are being smart and safe!
Author Laura Fogarty mothers her children, surfs, writes, and edits while residing on a Carolina seashore. A survivor of abuse, her life lately has taken many glorious twists and turns for the good. She is employed by the Office of Special Media – an organization dedicated to promoting nationally the causes of various non-profits. [/box]