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Dethroning the Rooster

May 30, 2010

Some of you know how restricted my online time has been while I’ve battled a nasty killer bug. I’ve spent little time on group links, facebook, or anywhere else. But when I received an email from a friend asking when I planned to get the rooster off the dung heap, I figured it was about time to get back over here and change that Latin quote of the week that turned into a Latin quote of 2 months. So today, I’m officially moving the rooster and he can be proud somewhere else.

I’m going with: Si vis me flere dolendum est primum ipsi tibi, or If you wish me to weep, you yourself must first feel grief. This quote comes down to us from Horace in Ars Poetica, explaining to the writer that emotion must be felt in order to be conveyed successfully in words. How many of you have ever been writing and found yourself laughing out loud, crying or experiencing any number of the vast emotions that make us human? Even though we have not been through what our characters experience, we can feel their emotions because we empathize with them.

Over the years, I have been privileged to work with some abuse victims. Professionals classify abuse by type: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. IMO, anyone who experiences sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect also experiences some degree of emotional abuse. Even after bruises and fractures heal and scars fade, the emotional abuse often remains untreated for years. I’ve heard some healthcare providers say, “Don’t dwell on it.” “Move on with your life.” Or behind closed doors, “Mrs. X would be okay if she’d just get a life.”

Some victims never get over it simply because they never receive a referral to a competent counselor or psychiatrist. Primary care physicians are writing prescriptions for antidepressants like they are candy, masking the problems with mood elevating drugs. Is it any wonder the illegal drug trafficking in this country is out of hand? We’re all taught to pop a pill to get over everything.

Without counseling, recipients of emotional abuse often develop a victim mindset that remains with them, opening them to exploitation and future abuse. Some lock their doors and rarely go out, preferring to isolate from the world as a means of “protection.” Their self-esteem is lower than the floor and they often come to believe they are worthless and deserve what has happened to them.

I find it interesting that most submission guidelines for romance novels say “No abuse; only consensual sex, etc. Now, I don’t want to read a graphic rape scene or have my heroine pummeled while I sip my morning tea. However, I do like to read of strong women who survive abuse and become well-balanced individuals who are not controlled forever by fear, anger, hate or an inability to trust. And honestly, this is a topic I think needs to be addressed, especially in fiction written for a primarily female audience.

The heroine in my upcoming release, Highland Treasure, was a victim of childhood abuse. She is a compilation of some of my patients, tossed back in time. I named her Angelaspera (angel full of hope), because, for abuse victims, hope is a saving grace. She’s a survivor who carries a lot of emotional baggage. Of course, with the hero’s help, she gets rid of that baggage over the course of the book. In reality, most victims take longer to recover and some never do.

So for my next few posts, I’ll be addressing the victim mindset and some of the behaviors and attitudes needed to overcome it.

Until next time, happy reading and writing!

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Dean Young permalink
    May 30, 2010 9:19 pm

    Good subject which many are afraid to tackle. Family secrets are hard for people to discuss and take a long time to heal from.
    I look forward to seeing the direction you go with this subject

    • May 31, 2010 7:13 pm

      Thanks, for stopping by, Dean. You are so right. Secrets are often at the root of the problem. Some people fear getting a loved one in trouble or tearing a family apart. Others fear embarrassment. Some people who have appropriate referrals do not get the help they need because of secrets.

  2. jbrayweber permalink
    May 31, 2010 6:46 am

    Great blog, Mary.
    In my first manuscript, my heroine was gang raped. It is a historical and I do it in retrospect. The incident was one of several obstacles she had to grow from to be the strong, brassy woman she had become. I feel like my writers may avoid darker subjects like abuse. However, far too often these things happen and shape lives.
    I look forward to future postings.

    • May 31, 2010 7:22 pm

      Hi Jenn! I had a few scenes where my heroine described what happened to her mother and herself. I was crying all over the page when I wrote it, even after I toned it down. My heroine wants revenge on her grandfather for marrying her to a brute. She does it by giving him her “memory” of her mother’s death. The telling is cathartic for her, and also shows the inner strength she had to possess to survive.

      From a historical perspective, while women in England were under a Lord/husband’s control, in the Scottish Highlands they had a very different view and women were not chattel. If a Highlander ever thought to strike his wife, it was expected that she would take her dowry and leave… and probably start a feud. I think it’s the Celtic effect that women were viewed with more respect, but found it interesting that unspoken laws existed against abuse of any kind.

  3. May 31, 2010 7:19 am

    I can relate to this post. I’ve known victims of abuse and have at different points in my own life, experienced one type or the other.

    Your points are dead on. No one ever really gets over it but with time, healing and professionals that care, you can ease the sting and live a life that does not strangle you in fear’s grip.

    • May 31, 2010 7:29 pm

      Lakisha: thank you for sharing your thoughts. It’s sad how many people live in fear and how many people allow themselves to be victims.

      If you want a good example of a victim mindset, look at most authors waiting for editor/agent appointments at a conference. They so want to impress the editor/agent that they forget, they are the author. The editor/agent wants to buy a good story. Yet the author is so nervous, she does a poor sales job. She’s allowed the editor/agent to have a superior stand rather than meeting the person as an equal. The author has allowed herself to be a victim. I’ve done this myself on occassion.

      I hope to address the spectrum of victimization from the small to the large to help us all realize we can take control of our lives and situations.

  4. May 31, 2010 7:58 am

    Great post on a VERY delicate subject and I’m glad you’re doing better. Take care of yourself, Lady Mary.

    • May 31, 2010 7:30 pm

      Hi Maeve, thanks for stopping by. I am glad to be feeling better. The hardest thing is not throwing myself into everything and following restrictions. E-coli is a bad critter.

  5. May 31, 2010 8:11 am

    Well done post on a sensitive subject. I’ve had friends who were abused my their husbands/boyfriends, both physical and mental. Very sad.

  6. May 31, 2010 8:23 am

    The whole point of what we write—romance—is to give hope. We tell a story and, in doing that, we affirm, yes, this is possible. Who needs that more than a victim of abuse?

    You are not what somebody did to you. But that pain is mind numbing. It robs you of your dreams, your hopes and your future—even your self worth. Sometimes, the right book, the right story is the answer to that. It’s like opening a door in a dark room. There’s a shaft of light and you think, yes, maybe there’s a way out.

    Stories are more than entertainment. They’re roadmaps. They give us hope there’s another ending. And, if there is an alternative ending, there’s still hope. We’re still in control. So, I say ‘go for it.’

    • May 31, 2010 7:33 pm

      Emma: this is so beautifully said. Hope is the key if we but hold onto it. Thank you for stopping by.

  7. May 31, 2010 2:15 pm

    Wonderful post, and I’m looking forward to reading this topic. The heroine in my WIP, a paranormal romance/urban fantasy, is a victim of physical and emotional abuse who’s managed to rebuild her self-worth, at least on some level, by throwing herself into school and career. I’m trying to be “real” in how she reacts to being taken captive and having that career “worth” stripped away from her. Thanks for posting about this!

    • May 31, 2010 7:42 pm

      HI Suzanne: There are so many victims who try to recover by throwing themselves into work or something else without ever facing the issues that plague them. Then disaster strikes and they are left feeling worthless or once again become the victim.
      In a later book in my series, I had a heroine who was an emotional abuse victim. In the opening pages, I had her facing one of her fears. I had a contest judge tell me, she was acting out of character because she would never act as she had. My experience with abuse patients tells me they rarely act as “normal” people think they would. That’s one of the reasons I decided to address this topic. If contest judges don’t understand what a victim is, they cannot authoritatively know how they’ll act. In the few books I’ve written that did address some form of abuse, I’ve let some abuse victims read them. Their response is generally, “Thank you for making me feel valued.” or “More people need to tell these stories.”
      I salute you for tackling the topic in your wip.

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