Red Carpet

Red carpet at 81st Annual Academy Awards in Kodak Theatre, Los Angeles, Author Greg in Hollywood (Greg Hernandez), Source Flickr (CC BY-2.0 Generic)

Watch Kim Kardashian on the red carpet sometime.  She smiles.  She preens for the cameras, turning this way and that.  She eats up the attention.

Many abuse victims are just the opposite.  We shun the limelight, feel awkward and uncomfortable if the spotlight is turned on us.  Instead, we prefer to go unnoticed, to fade into the background – wallflowers by choice.

Why is this?  Why is the very thought of attending a children’s play, a PTA meeting, or church service daunting?  Why is it difficult for us simply to enter a room full of strangers?

Staying at home seems so much safer.

Rejection

If pressed, we are likely to say that we fear rejection.  Often, this centers around our looks.  Some feature of ours seems less than perfect to us.  Our nose is too large or our hips too wide.  We’ve been trying for the past 20 years to lose the baby weight.

If not that, perhaps something about the way we dress is inadequate, in our estimation – deficient enough so that the entire audience may gasp, and draw back from us in horror.

We do not actually believe that will happen.  But we fear it, all the same.  Fear does not require a rational basis.  Ask any child whether there is a monster in the closet.

Monsters

Still, there is a clue here.  We’ve known monsters.  Been criticized by monsters for “flaws” we did not have.  Been assaulted by monsters, beaten black and blue, for our supposed defects.  Been violated by monsters, in ways we were too young to understand, then blamed for the violation.

That would undermine anyone’s confidence.  But there may be an even more compelling reason why we shy away from social activities and public events.  We were forced to navigate childhood without adult assistance.

Other children were taught how to deal with the challenges of growing up.  We had obstacles put in our way.  Other children were comforted and encouraged.  We were threatened and shamed, or our needs ignored altogether.

Inadequacy

That can leave abuse victims with a sense of inadequacy as adults.

Chances are our first reaction to a new experience will not be anticipation.  Rather, it may be panic.  What are we supposed to say?  How are we supposed act?  What if we make a mistake or fail to measure up?

Social interaction necessarily involves some uncertainty.  No matter how hard we may try, we cannot plan out every moment.  Viewed positively, this can be seen as exciting; viewed negatively, it can be seen as dangerous.  The history of abuse will incline many victims toward the latter.

Under those circumstances, just making small talk can seem like an impossible task.

Revealing the Emptiness

Deep down, what we fear is revealing our emptiness.  Forced since childhood to function above our grade level, we presume ourselves to be lacking in some fundamental way.  Like children, we believe that deficiency to be visible to others.

What we fear is rejection not for our appearance but, more profoundly, for who we are, in effect, for having “deserved” our abuse.  No child, of course, deserves abuse.  Unfortunately, recognizing that intellectually does not mean we believe it.

Until we do, Kim Kardashian will have the red carpet to herself.

Originally posted 2/27/16

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

https://avoicereclaimed.com/2021/04/11/red-carpet-2/


Fractured Lives, Part 2

Prince performing at Coachella Music and Arts Festival (2008), Author penner, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/penner/2450784866 (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

We continue our look at the lives of rock stars who have spoken publicly about their abuse.

Prince

“My mom had stuff in her room that I could sneak in and get…books, vibrators.  I did it.  I’m sure everybody does…”

-Prince [1A]

Prince Rogers Nelson a/k/a Prince called the film Purple Rain (the story of a tormented boy with an unhappy homelife) his “emotional biography”, but was contradictory when speaking about the abuse he endured as a child [1B][2].

Prince’s epilepsy was viewed as sinful, and an embarrassment by his parents.  Exposed to pornography early in life, he was thrown out of the house at age 12 when his father, John Nelson, found him in bed with a girl.

“Don’t abuse children or else they turn out like me.”

-Excerpt from the song “Papa” by Prince

Musically, Prince was a perfectionist, driving all the musicians with whom he worked hard [1C].  The musical polymath, known for sexual lyrics, is thought to have bedded dozens of women during his lifetime.  He died at age 57 of an accidental fentanyl overdose [3A].

Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame in 2016 [3B].  Many artists including Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Usher, and Alicia Keyes have cited him as an influence [3C].

Madonna

“It’s funny that way, you can get used
To the tears and the pain
What a child will believe
You never loved me

Chorus:You can’t hurt me now
I got away from you, I never thought I would
You can’t make me cry, you once had the power
I never felt so good about myself”

-Excerpt from song “Oh Father” by Madonna [4A]

Madonna’s relationship with her father, Tony Ciccone, deteriorated after her mother’s death from breast cancer in 1963 and his remarriage [4B].  She describes that relationship in the poignant song “Oh, Father”.

The singer has not mentioned physical abuse, but has acknowledged that her father was a disciplinarian, and that her stepmother was hard on her emotionally.

“Although it was devastating at the time, I know that it made me a much stronger person in retrospect.  It forced me to be a survivor.”

-Madonna speaking of her rape [5A]

In 1978, having moved to New York City to further her career, Madonna was raped at knifepoint [5B].  She was 19 y.o. at the time.

Madonna is today ranked as the best-selling female rock artist of the 20th Century by the Recording Industry Assoc. of America.  She is the recipient of 7 Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

Lessons

Though it may not at first seem obvious, there are lessons to be drawn from these fractured lives.  Here are just a few:

  • Any shame associated with abuse is the predator’s, not the victim’s – even if that predator was a parent.
  • Chaos follows abuse as night follows day.
  • Issues with authority are not uncommon following abuse.
  • Sexuality can be distorted by abuse.
  • Personal relationships are likely to be disrupted following abuse.
  • Self-destructive behavior following abuse can take many forms.
  • Control is often important to abuse victims.
  • Victims remain vulnerable to suicide, long after the abuse has ended.
  • Abuse does not destroy victims’ integrity.
  • Abuse does not preclude victims’ success.

Perhaps the most important lesson is that victims are not alone in their suffering.

[1A, 1B, and 1C]  People, “From People Archive:  Inside Prince’s Risque – and Secretive – Lifestyle” by People Staff, Updated 4/21/16, https://people.com/celebrity/inside-princes-risque-and-secretive-life/.

[2]  Diffuser, “Prince Condemns Child Abuse on ‘Papa’:  365 Prince Songs in a Year” by Dave Lifton, 8/12/17, https://diffuser.fm/prince-papa/.

[3A, 3B, and 3C]  Wikipedia, “Prince (musician)”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_(musician).

[4A and 4B]  Wikipedia, “Oh Father”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh_Father.

[5A and 5B]  The Cut, “Madonna Talks about Being Raped at 19” by Alex Ronan, 3/12/15, https://www.thecut.com/2015/03/madonna-talks-about-being-raped-at-19.html.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

https://avoicereclaimed.com/2021/03/28/fractured-lives-part-2/