The Girl Who Jumped Out of a Pie and Into a Gilded Age Morality Tale

Food, Sexual violence, Sexuality, trauma

ON MAY 20, 1895, 16-YEAR-OLD Susie Johnson, wearing nothing but gauze and haloed by a flock of live canaries, burst through the crust of a giant pie. It was polo player John Ellliot Cowdin’s 10th wedding anniversary, and the dinner was lavish: 16 courses from clams to coffee, each punctuated by champagne. Two models entertained the male guests. There was a later rumor—likely apocryphal—that their hair color was coordinated with the wine, the brunettes pouring red, the blondes pouring white. Susie Johnson, dancing out of double-crust pastry, served herself.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo: Hugo Aitken/Unsplash.

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Dealing with Complicated Feelings Around Abusers

mental health, Sexual violence, trauma

Recently, a man I know was outed as a serial sexual harasser. I say “know” in a rather unfortunate sense: I’d been approached online by, went on a date with, and even kissed the guy a couple years ago. His too-forward sexual advances had always left a bad taste in my mouth.

When the revelations went live, with dozens of women telling stories of his disrespectful and aggressive behavior, I felt happy he was exposed, yet ashamed I hadn’t listened to my gut instincts. I blamed myself for overlooking his boorish behavior and letting my hope that he could end up being a decent guy take precedence over the warning bells clanging in my head.

Giving that man the benefit of the doubt was not my fault. And if you’ve stayed with an abusive partner, or even given a guy a second chance after he harassed you, it’s not your fault, either. The pressure to be kind, generous, and forgiving — especially as women — is drummed into our heads from birth.

Read the complete article at Talkspace. Featured image: Court Prather on Unsplash

One Year After #MeToo

mental health, Sexual violence, trauma

The day after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before congress about her experience of sexual violence in relation to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) received the highest number of calls in its 24-year history. More than 3,000 people connected with the network on September 28, part of a record-breaking increase in the number of survivors of sexual violence requesting services since the #MeToo movement began last year.

Read the complete post at Talkspace. Featured image: Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

Do You Have to Forgive to Move On?

accountability, mental health, trauma

My mom had one response to our childhood complaints of schoolyard mean girls: “They’re probably having problems at home. Let it go.”

I, of course, wasn’t having any of it. “But they’re mean to me,” I would wail. “Can’t you take my side?”

Now that the grade school social scene is firmly behind me, I understand that my mother didn’t literally mean that every kid who picked on others had a difficult home life. She meant instead that people hurt one another for a reason, and understanding those reasons can help us make sense of hurtful experiences and move on.

Research on forgiveness backs up my mother’s advice, with numerous studies (below) finding that forgiveness not only encourages emotional healing, it can improve your physical health.

But many kinds of trauma go much deeper than a few grade school taunts, and even “normal” childhood hurts can leave big scars. When it comes to deep experiences of pain and anguish, from traumatic accidents to sexual assault, is “forgive and forget” actually the best advice?

Therapists say the act of forgiving can help us move on, but only if it’s something we feel genuinely.

Forgiveness is Good For Your Health

In the 1970s, burn surgeon Dr. Dabney Ewin discovered a trick. He began noticing that burn patients coming into his emergency room brought another kind of heat: the fire of their anger toward themselves or whoever caused the accident. Ewin soon found that when he encouraged his patients to let go of their anger and devote their energies toward healing, patients got better faster.

While Ewin’s experiments in the healing powers of forgiveness were anecdotal, numerous studies have found a relationship between the act of forgiveness and improved mental and physical health. Forgiveness for past trauma lowers stress levels, increases emotional wellbeing, and even decreases patients’ heart stress and blood pressure. In fact, one study found that failure to embrace unconditional forgiveness is correlated with mortality. Translation: forgiveness can be life-saving.

Read the full piece at Talkspace. Cover photo credit: scem.info