Survivors of Extreme Abuse: The Awful Rowing Toward Social Emancipation
Hi. My pseudonym is Carmen Holiday, and first of all, I’d like to thank Neil for providing me with this wonderful opportunity to speak, and thanks to all the folks who make this event possible year after year. It’s just an incredible gift, and I’m honored to be here
So I’m Carmen Holiday, also allegedly Cohen, Angleton, Gottlieb, Mengele and many others, meaning that I’m also a product of other minds.
I’m worried I’ll leave out a critical “allegedly” and get someone in trouble, so let me just categorically stamp this entire presentation with a giant “allegedly” stamp, and I’ll do my best along the way. These are strictly my beliefs and opinions unless otherwise noted.
Last fall I wrote a paper about the current social plight of survivors called Survivors of Extreme Abuse: the Awful Rowing Toward Social Emancipation, and I’m going to talk about some of the issues I covered in that paper here today.
When I first realized I was really going to do this thing, I asked a dear friend of mine, who has given a lot more presentations than I have, if she had any ideas for me, any great wisdom to share about the process. And she said, “Well, first and foremost, make sure you’re clear about what you want your take-home message to be, so it won’t get lost in the minutia.”
So I thought about what I could say that might possibly be useful in some way, and I came up with this, as my “take home message,” lest it get lost in the shuffle: It’s true that we survivors have suffered horribly. Many of us have been tortured, both physically and emotionally, in ways most people couldn’t imagine in their worst nightmares. We’ve suffered catastrophic losses. Most of us have lost our families of origin, some of us our own babies and children. And we’ve survived, against terrible odds, only to be disbelieved, ridiculed and ostracized by society at large.
But we’re still standing. And I believe we’re still standing because there was something in us that no one could steal from us: and that’s love. As Anne Sexton wrote, in a letter to her friend Phil Legler: “The sanest thing in this world is love.” And I believe that love is a mighty force to be reckoned with, and that it compels us to share, and I’m going to argue that it can be a powerful, transformative force if it’s shared in the form of telling the truth. And we survivors have some powerful truths to tell.
So, how can truth telling be a transformative force?
On a personal level, telling your story is universally recognized as a crucial component of the healing process, but it’s also important that our stories be heard. Contrary to the old axiom, ignorance is usually not bliss. Except possibly in the short term. Ignorance is helplessness.
The public needs to understand who’s been doing what behind its metaphorical back so that people can protect and empower themselves and their loved ones. A population kept in the dark is a population vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation.
Survivors of extreme abuse have intimate knowledge of unspeakable treachery going on behind closed doors, including the deliberate, trauma-based dissociation of children, child, drug and arms trafficking, child pornography and murder. We can also identify the criminals committing these crimes, some of which are perpetrated by vast organized crime syndicates. In spite of great efforts by those in power in the last few years to normalize torture and state-sanctioned murder, the public would not abide these horrors if they had this information, if they knew what was going on.
I also want to put in a plug for imagination, here, because after enlightenment, transformation requires creative dreamers. Imagine, for example, if all the personal histories in this room were published in one huge volume. Imagine if each one of us had the benefit of knowing what all of us know: All the hard earned wisdom of how to navigate this horrific mess, all the validation – it would be profoundly transformational. And imagine if that book were widely distributed and well read. What if there were a book right next to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of The United States called A People’s History of Ritual Abuse-Torture and Mind Control?
What if you could walk into your local police station, report ritual abuse crimes, and their first question were “Who’s the leader of the cult?” instead of “Are you on any kind of medication?” What if you could tell your District Attorney that you’d been deliberately dissociated, and that one of your splits had been used to perpetrate a crime, and she said, “Do you have your handler’s contact information?” Instead of “How did you get in here?”
If secret societies, from backwater covens to shadow governments, to transnational corporations, were exposed for what they are, radical reform would be possible, because a citizenry armed with the truth about who’s really doing what can demand accountability. So we’re all stewards of important insights, and what we chose to do, or are able to do with that knowledge does have an impact on other human beings. As Goethe said: “None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free.”
People need to wake up to the fact that the human mind is vulnerable to manipulation. The average Joe knows nothing about thought manipulation, let alone deliberate dissociation. We need to wake up Joe.
Cognitive scientist and political analyst George Lakoff wrote a book about the political ramifications of how the mind works called Don’t Think of an Elephant. He talks about why we human folk are susceptible to unconscious manipulation, and why it’s crucial in a democracy that people understand how and why. He writes: “Most of us think we know our own minds. This is because we engage in conscious thought, and it fills much of our waking life. But what most people are not aware of, and are sometimes shocked to discover, is that most of our thought – an estimated 98 percent – is not conscious.” He points out that “Deft politicians (as well as savvy marketers) take advantage of our ignorance of our own minds to appeal to the unconscious level.” 98 percent – that’s a lot of real estate open to exploitation, and some of us have had a whole lot of that space commandeered against our will.
No one wants to believe that they’re not 100 percent in control of their own minds, even though that sense that we are is just a useful illusion. Part of why our experiences aren’t palatable to Joe is that this is such a threatening idea. No one wants to imagine that it’s possible that they could be manipulated like we were manipulated. There must be something innately wrong with us.
Lakoff writes: “Our knowledge of the mind and the brain has expanded so rapidly over the past three decades that hardly anyone has been able to keep up…this book is devoted to the democratization of knowledge. What is at stake is the deepest form of freedom, the freedom to control our own minds.”
Someone has to step up and tell folks what the shadow class has been up to. We need to help Joe “Lose the official illusions,” to quote Howard Zinn, whom we lost, sadly, this past January.
So what keeps us from speaking out, from outing our perpetrators? Well, lots. First of all, the preconditions for being able to disclose extreme abuse at all are staggering. These include surviving the ordeal in the first place, and surviving with enough of our humanity intact to be able to comprehend and express it. In other words, we have to have been sufficiently resilient and very lucky.
When we’re in a place where we’re able and willing to tell, we face some pretty serious challenges. One fairly persuasive disincentive to telling is having been threatened with death if we dared to, and some of us have witnessed others lose their lives for spilling secrets and exposing criminals. Those of us who were victims of mind control have even more pernicious don’t tell challenges, as many of us were programmed to self-destruct if we dared to speak about our abuse. So telling can be a tricky process before we even set foot out the front door.
When we do go out into the world, with our pain and horror, who do we tell? Coral Theill, author of Bonshea wrote: “A woman’s first scream is for help. Her second scream is for justice.” Well, for ritual abuse and mind control survivors, seeking justice can be another labyrinth of hazards and dilemmas.
For example, secret society superstructures can allegedly make reporting cult crimes problematic. Victims of any organized crime conglomerate run the risk of reporting to someone who’s “connected” – someone who’s part of the network. And, since the truth about our experiences is suppressed and denied culturally, we’re likely to have our disclosures dismissed out of hand regardless of where we turn. Officials who lack specialized training are not likely to have a solid handle on post trauma stress syndromes, or cult psychodynamics or criminal cult social dynamics.
Time is another stinker. It typically takes years of recovery time to get to the point where you’re able to remember and begin to seek justice, so there are statute of limitations issues involved, as well as evidentiary issues, and, of course, officials tend not to see it as a priority as compared to current cases.
Corroboration can also be hard to pin down. It can be difficult to find fellow victims for various reasons, not the least of which is never having known their true name, or not knowing their present name, as many survivors change their names for personal safety reasons. For survivors of organized crime, some witnesses may still be affiliated with the organization, some may be too broken to remember, and some may to be too scared to talk.
In terms of structural challenges, the legal framework generally isn’t in place yet to deal with ritual abuse and torture, but some provisions have been made, in a handful of states, and efforts are underway to address these shortfalls.
In 2008, advocates Linda MacDonald and Jeanne Sarson wrote a report called Torture of Canadian Women by Non-state Actors in the Private Sphere in their effort to make all of Canada a “torture-free-zone.” They point out that since there’s no specific law criminalizing non-state actor torture in Canada, women can’t press criminal charges identifying that they’ve endured torture. They write: “The women frequently experience discreditation, are considered ‘crazy,’ or are labeled mentally ill when seeking professional help.”
Because mind control is impossible, and therefore doesn’t exist, zero provisions have been made, as far as I’m aware, for legal redress. But in terms of medical mind control “experiments,” hope is on the horizon.
Historically, scattered attempts have been made to draw attention to state-sanctioned experiments committed from the ’50’s through the ’70’s, but with limited success. Apart from a few minor exceptions, survivors haven’t been compensated, and investigations and hearings have not resulted in individual perpetrators or institutions being held accountable.
But momentum is growing as more and more survivors of these atrocities come forward, and various related commissions and coalitions are forming to demand acknowledgment and accountability. One such coalition, called the US Truth and Reconciliation Coalition, is currently being launched by Kathleen Sullivan’s North America Freedom Foundation, or NAFF, in an effort to investigate mind control experimentation, torture, enslavement and related human rights violations.
The crime of human trafficking is another common experience among survivors. Some of us have splits who were sold for sex, and some of us have children who were or are being trafficked, a tragedy that gives a whole new meaning to the word “torture.”
The sexual exploitation of women and children is a highly lucrative activity, in part because, as they say, you can sell a weapon or drug once, but you can sell a person hundreds of times. As an estimated 32 billion dollar a year industry, human trafficking is tied for second place with arms smuggling, behind drug trafficking. Yet prior to 2000, no comprehensive Federal law existed to protect victims of trafficking or to prosecute their traffickers. And it wasn’t until two years ago that the US State Department, in their annual reports on the status of human trafficking, acknowledged domestic trafficking at all.
One of the findings was that, contrary to popular perception, the vast majority of sex-trafficked victims in the US are Americans, and predominantly young Americans. That number was estimated as ranging from 100,000 to 300,000, a year, most of them teenage runaways, compared with imported sex workers numbering only between 15,000 and 18,000. And these numbers are based on officially documented cases. So in spite of the fact that the overwhelming majority of sex-trafficked victims are Americans, it wasn’t until 2008 that the State Department acknowledged American born victims at all.
Louise Shelley, founder and director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center in Washington, told the conference that: “This is important because we are the only advanced democracy in the world that has the preponderance of its victims be its own citizens and have it be youth. And this is something that we’re not paying enough attention to. We have an enormous problem of victimization in our country, and a vulnerability, and we’re not talking enough about it, and we’re not doing enough about it.”
In February of this year, Ohio’s first ever Trafficking in Persons Study Commission released it’s results. Some of their findings reflect common unjust practices. Matt Leingang, reporting for the AP, wrote: “The report said that besides weak state laws in Ohio, law enforcement agencies often don’t recognize human trafficking when responding to reports of illegal activity. For example, Ohio is quick to label child prostitutes as delinquents and to incarcerate them, rarely looking further at the adults involved.”
Among the observations the subcommittee presented to the commission for consideration was the following: “Those who purchase youth remain protected, receive minimal charges and are rarely prosecuted in a significant way, while traffickers also suffer minimal consequences.”
We’re vilifying at-risk teenagers and protecting rapists and handlers. So we have a long way to go, in terms of social justice.
Where else do survivors turn for help? Many of us choose psychotherapy. Unfortunately, good help is sometimes hard to find. One major obstacle is cost – well-qualified health care professionals are usually very expensive in this country. For many survivors, this fact alone precludes access to professional help. Finding a qualified therapist can also be a big challenge. One reason for this is that the specialty has only relatively recently gained any traction in academia and in the mental health community. Another reason is that mental health care providers often face the same credibility challenges professionally and legally that their patients do socially because of the all-pervasive climate of denial of DID and other dissociative syndromes.
But some brave souls wade right in anyway.
In the April 2010 edition of Lynn Wasnak’s fabulous Many Voices magazine, therapist Cynthia Henrie generously shares her views “from the other side of the couch,” as she puts it. She got her first case of a teenager with DID while working in a residential treatment center, where she’d worked for ten years. She writes: “When the boy began accepting his multiplicity…and being more open with other clinical personnel, my sanity and credibility were suddenly challenged.”
She notes that before this came up, she’d been credited with being the best therapist they had on staff. She was removed from the case and transferred to a different program. In her words: “They accused me of causing him to become decompensated and fragmented. It was horrible and devastating. The truth is, they pressured me so much that I actually had a break down and had to take a lengthy stress leave to cope with the extreme pressure and demoralization they put me through.”
She also writes: “I am glad it happened though, because it taught me the pressure that clinicians face and why they are taught so little about dissociation in schools and clinical programs. I’ve heard many clinicians, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists say they don’t believe in DID or have never met a ‘true case.’”
From our side of the couch, talk therapy poses a few thorny challenges as well. First of all, even mental health professionals who specialize in dissociative syndromes struggle with credibility issues, in part because the context of our abuse is so completely hidden from public view. Clouding this issue horribly is the fact that a programmer can allegedly make a split believe she or he is anyone, or anything, or has seen something that is impossible. And some victims of mind control have the added layer of dissociation hell in that we’ve been programmed to switch to splits who will behave in such a way as to destroy our credibility should we begin to remember, and especially if we start to talk about it.
And memory content can include such baffling, inscrutable experiences as forced drug-induced hallucinations, splits speaking in foreign languages, or cult languages, sensory information or narratives from different memories getting lumped together, as sometimes happens (especially when new memories emerge), and the list goes on and on.
And because a survivor may be anywhere on the dissociative continuum when they seek help, or at any point along their healing trajectory, even they may not have enough, if any contextual insight about their experiences to make their case very effectively.
It’s no small wonder, then, that survivors commonly get grossly misunderstood and misdiagnosed. What we say is liable to be read as symbolic at best, or grounds for pharmaceutical interventions or even institutionalization.
Other sticky issues around talk therapy for survivors are to do with equity and trust. The fundamental power imbalance inherent in the way therapists have traditionally been trained to interact with a patient can be counterproductive, because it can feel demeaning and dis-empowering, and we already know all about that stuff.
Along the same lines, the expectation that the therapist should be made aware of intimate details of a patient’s life while they withhold their own histories and honest emotional reactions repeats a familiar dynamic for some survivors. For victims of mind control, it echoes the tyranny of a programmer or handler having intimate knowledge of the many splits they’ve created or have access to, while the victim typically isn’t allowed to know so much as that person’s real name.
Trust is another major challenge in terms of therapeutic relationships for some of us. We typically and understandably emerge from our traumatic experiences with profound trust issues, so that can be a big barrier. So it’s important that clients be treated with respect, and that the therapist’s objective is to empower the client and help them along their particular healing trajectory as a partner, instead of trying to impose their own cure.
Fortunately for us, there are respectful, courageous therapists out there like Henrie, who dare to listen, without judging, and who’ve made great sacrifices, and taken great risks to help us. And we’re honored to have some of them here with us today. I think it’s important to remember that our allies have a choice – they weren’t dragged into this mess kicking and screaming like we were, they could just walk away. But they don’t, they keep fighting the good fight for us and with us.
Survivors in institutional care are especially at risk for mistreatment. Common practices in mental health care facilities can be re-traumatizing, and, for the past few decades, the trend has been toward medicating symptoms and away from exploring root causes. As a backlash to being seen as unscientific and oppressive in the 1970’s, it’s been observed that the discipline of psychiatry shifted radically, beginning in the early 1980’s, to a new paradigm. In their efforts to frame psychiatry as a more legitimate, hard science, there was a move to be theory-neutral by focusing on symptoms only, and dismissing root causes.
In what other scientific discipline is it acceptable to ignore causation?
In my humble opinion, a psychiatric oligarchy that’s pre-occupied with proving it’s not a soft science is doing us no favors. Some of us have had our fill of hard science, having allegedly been frozen, drugged, electro-shocked, starved and implanted with hardware by men and women in white coats. I believe soft, warm and fuzzy science is in order.
Another commonly cited influence for the shift in focus toward symptomatology and away from causation is this: Whereas treating someone with a history of extreme trauma is a complicated, time consuming, delicate task, a disembodied bundle of symptoms can be treated with drugs. And that’s very good for Big Pharma’s bottom line, but very bad for survivors of extreme trauma.
A study published in 2006 called Financial Ties Between DSM-IV Panel Members and the Pharmaceutical Industry found that 100 percent of the members who contributed to the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia/psychotic disorders had financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. 100 percent – every last one of them. So Big Pharma gets to use the DSM to sell its products, and survivors of extreme abuse get reduced to a checklist of symptoms.
Another potential barrier to trusting mental health professionals for a mind control survivor is having been victimized by them as a child, and this brings us to the true history of psychiatry in this country. Some of us were an integral, involuntary part of that history as children.
Many of the psychiatrists and other scientists and academicians who were involved in mind control activities post WWII were not rank outsiders, but mainstream professionals. As Dr. Colin Ross, author of The CIA Doctors, was quoted as saying at a conference in 1996, “Virtually every leading psychiatrist in North America between the 1940’s and the 1970’s was involved in some aspect of the CIA’s mind control research.”
He also said: “The history of psychiatry in the second half of the twentieth century has undoubtedly been strongly skewed – not by an agenda that has to do with academic research, not by the best interest of clients, not by ethical psychiatry – but by an Intelligence agenda.”
In John Marks’ book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, he describes Dr. Harold Wolff, and his relationship with the CIA. Wolff was a world famous neurologist, and, in 1960, President of the American Neurological Association. These accounts elucidate, in Wolff’s own hair-raising words, what that Intelligence agenda really was: “Once he figured out how the human mind really worked, Wolff wrote, he would tell the Agency ‘how a man can be made to think, feel, and behave according to the wishes of other men.’”
In order to aid him in his efforts to understand men’s minds, he asked the Agency to give him access to everything in its files on “threats, coercion, imprisonment, isolation, deprivation, humiliation, torture, ‘brainwashing,’ ‘black psychiatry,’ hypnosis, and combinations of these with or without chemical agents.” Pretty nasty shopping list.
Wolff created an organization called the Society for Human Ecology, to study how to best “indoctrinate and motivate” people, by focusing on man in relationship to his total environment. In 1957, Wolff invited onetime Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle to join the board. Marks writes that: “…he came on the Society board despite some reservations. “I am frightened about this one,” Berle wrote in his diary. “If the scientists do what they have laid out for themselves, men will become manageable ants.”
So it was all about control, every tyrant’s fondest dream.
Marks’ work was based on documents he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and from interviews with many of the key players. Well, the official history of the federal agencies that conducted mind control experiments is riddled with critical and, in my opinion, criminal omissions. To state the obvious, our stories, the perspectives of the unwitting and unwilling subjects, are almost categorically left out. Official documents and interviews with the perpetrators involved predictably give a very distorted view of the facts.
Contrary to the official story, the CIA and other government agencies did successfully hone the art of mind control, (an art that other cults and cultures have exploited throughout the ages) to a truly awe-inspiring level of sophistication. By throwing lots of money and research and profoundly disturbed doctors at the problem, they expanded on the research done in German prison camps and got their wish: traumatized, toy people.
Official documents invariably state that it was all for naught, that mind control was never achieved. Well, that’s BIG FAT LIE number one. In my opinion.
Also contrary to the official story, it wasn’t just “men” who were being manipulated and experimented on. In my alleged experience it was almost exclusively children who were being tortured and programmed. In her Report to the Presidential Committee on Radiation and Mind Control in 1995, the intrepid Claudia Mullens wrote, of the subjects chosen for the experiments, “Most were females between the age of five and early thirties.”
A third gaping lapse in sincerity, in official documents and publications based on them, is that they talk about “experimenting,” “de-patterning,” “psychic driving,” electro-shocking, drugging and hypnotizing, when what they were actually doing was torturing people, full stop. But since no doctor was going to risk his sterling obituary in the New York Times, (or being tarred and feathered in the streets) they used euphemisms and sometimes very elaborate but vague obfuscation to describe their work, further dishonoring their victims.
And in my experience, only some of what was done was experimental in nature – much of it was just standard procedure. To put so much emphasis on experiments obscures the fact that they were successful, and that methods were standardized and implemented as a matter of course. Allegedly.
So what did they do with their new toy-people? Well, they said they were only after the Russians, but as it happens, certain factions allegedly made lots of money and blackmailed lots of politicians by sexually exploiting our splits in every conceivable manner. They allegedly trained some of them up for combat, and others were trained as couriers, smugglers, spies and assassins, among other horrors.
So it’s easy to see why secrecy and damage control are something of a concern to these folks, and it’s easy to imagine why some of us look upon the world of psychiatric “care” with a little skepticism. It might be equally obvious who benefits from keeping the basic facts about a natural mechanism like dissociation from the public purview: the shadow elite who exploit it. The way I see it.
There are several books out, now, about the CIA and mind control, and even ritual abuse, but there’s also a whole lot of disinformation and censorship going on. Also, books about our stories tend to be issue silos, intentionally or unintentionally omitting important contextual information, like blind hands feeling only part of the elephant. We need to back up and see the entire creature.
For example, child sex-trafficking and child pornography are rarely mentioned in the context of ritual abuse and mind control, which, to me, is like writing a book about Vegas but leaving out the casinos. Also usually omitted is the fact that many ritual abuse practices are means to an end, mind control, and that mind control isn’t just about turning children into sex toys or lethal weapons, or the subsequent commodification of these children, but is, in my view, part of the much wider objective of general social control.
Russ Baker, award-winning journalist and author, wrote a fascinating, 592 page book called Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years, the result of exhaustive research. In his words, “The more I learned, the broader my questions grew. And as my research deepened, disturbing patterns coalesced.”
He writes about what he describes as: “The cozy relationships between titans of industry, finance, media, government, military, and intelligence – and the revolving door between those sectors.” And he goes on to expose this incredible interconnectedness amongst what emerges as a relatively small group of elites whose families have been major players for generations, in some cases back to the founding of the country.
He notes in several places that a number of these men have Masonic affiliations. He writes: “One does not need to put too fine a point on this to recognize that such bonds of loyalty and discretion…do wonders for preserving secrecy over long periods of time, and are therefore enormously useful for maintaining discipline within vast covert operations networks.”
As a depressingly vivid example of these disturbing, cozy relationships, Baker writes the following about the lack of firewalls between media and power brokers:
Bush got money from Uncle Herbie (George Herbert Walker Jr., Skull and Bones, 1927), an investment banker. Uncle Herbie also was instrumental in bringing in others, including Eugene Meyer, a Yale graduate and owner of the influential Washington Post. Meyer’s investments were handled by Brown Brothers Harriman.
Meyer was one of many media titans, such as Prescott Bush’s good friend and fellow Bonesman Henry Luce, founder of Time magazine, and William Paley of CBS (on whose board Prescott sat), who shared an interest in intelligence. In a 1977 Rolling Stone article, Carl Bernstein, famed for breaking the Watergate story in the Washington Post, states that both Luce and Paley cooperated regularly with the CIA, and even mentions his own paper’s history with the agency.
In the book Secrets: The CIA’s War at Home, written by Angus MacKenzie, he wrote: “Only recently in the history of the world’s oldest republic has secrecy functioned principally to keep the American people in the dark about the nefarious activities of their government.”
Well, just last month, journalists Bill Arkin and Dana Priest wrote a firestorm of a series of articles published in the Washington Post called Top Secret America, which exposes the massive outsourcing of US Intelligence since 9-11. The series of articles begins: “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”
Among the findings: An estimated 854,000 people hold top-secret security clearances. More than 1,200 government organizations and nearly 2,000 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in 10,000 locations.
In an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Bill Arkin described how he and Priest realized that “Something had been created since 9/11 that wasn’t normal, that wasn’t on the books, that looked like it was a gigantic superstructure on top of regular government.”
Adding insult to injury, according to several news agencies, Google recently teamed up with the CIA to fund a startup called Recorded Future, that monitors thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts, looking for patterns and relationships.
So, clearly we’re not moving in the direction of transparency and freedom, but toward ever-increasing secrecy and oppression.
So, how can we prevail over such powerful forces? Well, in the case of secret criminal organizations, the key to their power, apart from ruthlessness, is secrecy. And that’s the good news, because secrecy isn’t like extreme wealth, lethal technology, vast networking, or other crucial staples of their success. Secrecy can be annihilated with words. And that’s why they have to work so hard, in so many arenas, to shut us up. If their power lies in secrecy and ruthlessness, ours lies in truth-telling and loving kindness.
As Emma Goldman wrote: “The most violent element of society is ignorance.” So we need to democratize our knowledge. Joe needs to know what we know.
We need to help right this topsy-turvy world where sexually exploited teenagers get incarcerated but their rapists and handlers go free, where doctors who perform monstrous acts on defenseless children are widely revered, and their victims are labeled “crazy.” The sanest thing is love.
These criminals who’ve been tragically divorced from their own humanity are not invincible. They can destroy thousands of documents, but they can’t destroy the truth. They can’t gag the countless witnesses to their repugnant crimes. And in spite of all of the monumental barriers to speaking out that I’ve laid out here, many survivors and allies have stepped up and risked much to tell the truth.
Howard Zinn reminded us repeatedly that change happens from the bottom up. He said, “It will look small and pitiful, but that’s how movements start.”
If it’s too dangerous or difficult for you to speak out, there’s still a lot you can do. Foster solidarity. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re on your knees, and when you get back up again, help someone else up off the floor. Support an advocacy organization, or truth-seeking coalition. You can fill out questionnaires, and participate in surveys. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we survivors and our allies are doing amazing, courageous things.
Because in spite of everything our perpetrators robbed from us, and all the obstacles we face, we’re not doomed to stand idly by, in silence, while they exploit another generation of innocent children. And if our suffering isn’t publicly acknowledged in our lifetimes, if we don’t live to see our truths exposed, then let our shoulders be the ones the next generation can stand on.
In the words of Arthur Schopenhauer: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident.”
We made it here today because, although we may be battle-scarred, we’re not broken. We may have wanted to give up a thousand times, we may have tried to give up a thousand times, but here we are. We hope for something better. They couldn’t extinguish our hope. Or courage. If there’s one thing present in spades in this room, it’s courage.
When you were young, you had the courage to fight for your life and your sanity, year after year, armed only with the coping skills of a terrified child. You may have kept up the battle carrying the heavy, awful burden of having watched others die in your wake. But you’re still standing.
As an adult, you’ve had the courage to remember, when so many others haven’t. You have the courage, every time a new memory bomb is dropped on your life, to get back up, shake off the dust and carry on, with yet another horrible truth you have to find some way to come to terms with. You have the courage, every single day, to walk this world under the weight of terrible secrets, terrible knowledge, in a culture that almost categorically denies your reality.
But together we will prevail. Love will prevail.
So I encourage you to tell your story, if it’s safe to tell, to help expand our humble little mosaic of voices so people can begin to understand that things are not always what they seem, that people are not always what they seem. And so that we can re-ignite the hope that has been denied to so many, for that child who is inevitably going to come to harm tonight, in some lonely, secret space, but will pray for mercy and dream of love.