It seems like women have come a long way in protecting themselves from sexual misconduct since the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas issue. More lawsuits have been filed than before and businessmen have been required to take sexual harassment classes. However, emotionally the issues for women who are targeted are still the same. Young women today still blame themselves when something goes wrong and secretly inside society still blames them too.
Women still hear the negative comments, even if sometimes they are in their mind. "You shouldn't have put yourself in that position." "Maybe you sent him mixed signals. After all, you were nice to him, weren't you?" "What were you wearing?" "You were drinking, maybe you just don't remember it correctly."
My 20-something client, Ally, was raped at college by an ex-boyfriend recently, and never even told her parents for that exact reason. She knew her dad would blame her, saying her it was her fault -- especially since it was at a party where alcohol was involved. She also didn't tell her fiancé. She just broke up with him. She called her parents and told them that she couldn't take college anymore and asked them to come and get her. She basically quit school, moved home, called off her wedding, and contemplated suicide. She felt like it was all her fault and didn't want to hear from anyone that would make her feel worse.
Afterwards, she ran to a friend's dorm room, who called their female volleyball coach at school, who was then required to report it to the police. The guy denied it, and since she refused a rape kit, it was all over in a day -- at least for him. He got away with it, but has damaged her life forever. And here's the worst part. She texted him the next day and apologized for reporting it.
A male friend I recently discussed this with (who has a psychology degree) says, "Why do you believe her? Her text proves that it probably wasn't really rape or why would she apologize?" And many people who don't understand how rape and/or sexual harassment affects a woman emotionally think the same thing.
That's why Anita Hill wasn't believed by many. She contacted Clarence Thomas several times after he had sexually harassed her. Again, many people, men in particular, didn't and still don't understand how someone could contact the person who has abused them and either apologize or act like nothing happened.
Here's what people need to understand: The most important thing to a young woman is approval, and because of this they are easily convinced that everything is their fault -- especially when it comes to what men do. They can excuse a man's behavior because they want his approval so badly. In fact, they not only can convince themselves that it's their fault, but they can choose not to say no because they don't want to hurt his feelings. But being "held down" (as Ally was) is the first clue that it was rape.
I am not denying that women have sometimes given false allegations. There are girls that have lied and ruined a boy's life. Often because of that same fear of judgment if they admit it was consensual when their parents don't think they have sex. But the issue of rape has become more and more of an issue on college campuses and both the boys and the girls are not getting educated in what to do in these situations. The school, and her coach, offered Ally no counseling that could have helped her through this.
What people need to understand is that after any kind of "sex" has happened to a young girl, especially when it's someone she knows, she often still wants to know that he likes her. This is the a key reason that incest often doesn't get reported. A friend of Ally's was sexually assaulted by her uncle and never told anyone for this same reason, after all, it's her uncle. Even when raped, a girl or woman often doesn't go straight to feelings of anger as she should. I know it's hard to understand, and is in fact incomprehensible. But instead, she usually feels vulnerable and shamed. Ally says she was so confused that she didn't know what to think. It all happened so fast and turned into whether or not a crime just occurred instead of anyone helping her emotionally process what had just happened to her.
One of the saddest parts of Ally's story is that she's afraid to turn to her parents because she believes they won't support her. She finally told her fiancé, but he didn't really understand either. Most of her approval issues that keep her from feeling angry come from her dad. She admits that she's spent her whole life trying to win his approval and can't. He guilt-trips her if she misses church for her work, if she spends her own money on a tanning salon, if she sleeps in late, etc. In fact, he basically told her that something is wrong with her, i.e. that she's a bad person for ending the relationship with her fiancé because he's such a nice guy. Her dad's criticisms keep him in control of her and keep her trying for his approval, just as she does with the boys she dates. She excuses her dad's behavior, just as she did her rapist.
This is common. Most of us have had someone who was critical of us in our lives, and it was usually our parents. We tried and may still try for their approval -- and then transfer that need to others in our adult life, like Ally did. When we seek someone's approval, we often don't show our anger when we should and don't set boundaries regarding what they do to us. That's no different than Ally's behavior when she sent that text to her ex-boyfriend who raped her or Anita Hill when she re-contacted Clarence Thomas after he was inappropriate with her. People have trouble "getting it" because they don't recognize or admit their own need for approval. When someone lacks the ability to confront someone with their anger after being abused, it is almost always because of their desperate need for approval.
But Ally is getting stronger since she started therapy. She has gotten in touch with her anger at the ex who raped her, is writing an angry letter to her coach, who has a therapy degree but did not emotionally support her when it happened, and she is gradually dealing with her father. But she does know that she has to get a full-time job and move out from her parents' house before she can truly be strong and independent.
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Beyonce's recent Lemonade album and HBO video special, addressing long-standing rumors about JayZ's fidelity, betrayal and reconciliation, also upset me. Not the actual album and video, but the article in US Weekly (May 16, 2016) regarding her taking advice about the situation from her mom. She also supposedly worked the whole issue out by telling JayZ she "wanted him to spend more time with his family and leave the partying behind." US Weekly says that according to a close source, "Jay agreed and they overcame their problems."
First of all, Beyonce's 62-year-old mom gave Beyonce the advice to work it out. And of course she told her that since that's what she did herself years ago when her now-ex fathered a child with another woman while they were still married. US Weekly calls her mom "the best therapist" for Beyonce, citing a source close to the couple. They also said, "Beyonce married her father, basically." Beyonce even says in her lyrics, "You remind me of my father, a magician, able to exist in two places at once." Beyonce's mother is advising her to repeat her own pattern, even though she herself went through terrible pain. No, her mom is not the best therapist for Beyonce! Also, getting JayZ to stay home more and stop partying does not resolve the issues of her pain or his disrespect toward her. Her resentment will not just go away with time. Nor does his bad behavior or desire to cheat magically change. Beyonce supposedly threatened to leave, but of course didn't. This is what most women do in this situation, especially when they have children and when they've had fathers who have cheated and mothers who stayed. They just threaten, but don't actually leave. And the men know this.
I'm not saying she has to divorce him, but the issues are not resolved. They both need therapy. Needless to say, she needs to resolve her father issues as well as confront her mom regarding staying so long. After all, her mom was her role model. And JayZ needs to deal with his low self-esteem and/or whatever else causes him to cheat, as well as his disrespect for someone he claims to love. This "deal" they made for him to stay home and not party will only last so long. Besides, there are plenty of other ways to cheat, especially these days.
Besides recommending therapy for both, I recommend that Beyonce also use her financial power. As a therapist, I have many times recommended that women (and men) whose mate has habitually cheated, to get a signed legal divorce contract ready that changes how much the cheater gets (of his and/or her money) if he cheats again. Although this doesn't psychologically change or heal a cheater, it makes for a good motive to stop. I do hope they both get some real therapy soon.
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Comment from last month's "Girl Crush" Q & A:
Hey I wanted to give you an update. My story about. Having a girl crush has been bothering me. So I was reading the other article in your March newsletter, "My Mother Damaged My Self-esteem, and Still Does," I'm like that's so me! I confronted my mom maybe 20 years ago, but she never acknowledged anything and we fell into the same routine just like in the other story.
As a teen I wasn't permitted to have relationships with females. My mom squashed them by telling me I was weird and that others would think that the person was probably trying to molest me. Which freaked me out so I would push people away. The situation with my daughter and my friend in the last Q&A has brought up major feelings and anger at my mom and I'm not one for conflict......so I superseded it now to the point of a major bleeding ulcer.
Well my mom started treating my daughter the same way about this friend of mine, and I just lost it. I confronted her with both barrels and while doing so I figured out I never really had an issue with this "girl crush" thing. It was just that annoying voice of my mom's in my head bullying me. I absolutely love this girl and her relationship with my daughter and I'm not about to let my mom destroy my daughter too. I kept rereading your newsletter and I had just had enough, so I set boundaries with my mom and this time I meant it. I was not meek or mousy like usual. Guess what, I feel great -- better than in a long time. So thank you thank you!!! Btw love u girl!
Just to let you know that my wonderful friend that you knew, Suzy, passed away last week-the day before her 93rd birthday. My heart is very heavy but full of song too...thanks to you. There wasn't a birthday or a Mother's Day or even a phone call that went by without me telling her how much she meant in my life and how very dearly I loved her-and that I learned from you! With my love and gratitude.
I love your pictures of your backyards in Colorado and Tucson. My husband and I live in Colorado and lived in Tucson for 20 years. Both are so beautiful! I was skeptical about your article Why Marriage Doesn't Work (July 2015). While reading, I realized you nailed it. Thanks for the newsletter!
What a truly amazing Newsletter you sent out this month. I read
almost every word and have forwarded it to my daughter in Boise. You
do what most "therapists" don't do . . . HIT THE NAIL ON THE
You're as lovely as ever darling. I will always consider you to be one of the most important and influential people in my life. I will never forget what you did for me.
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Carolyn Bushong, L.P.C, is an expert on relationships and a licensed therapist. She is known for being one of the top relationship therapists in the country and the author of 3 relationship books. She has appeared on Oprah, the View, and many other TV shows, and she has been giving relationship advice on Denver radio for more than15 years. She has been helping people like you improve your life and relationships for more than 30 years. Cosmo, US Weekly and other magazines quote her expert relationship advice, and McCall’s named her one of the “Top 6 Passion Doctors” in the country. Carolyn Bushong always has fresh, up-to-date, hot information on topics that will inspire you and change your life and improve your relationships. She has clients all over the country, some who come into her office and others who receive Carolyn's expert advice through phone counseling. Carolyn Bushong is an excellent psychotherapist, but she also lives what she teaches, as she is in a happy, healthy relationship with Alan, her mate of 28 years.
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