2008-10-03 / Columnists

It's My Turn

By Timothy Aaron-Styles

I have self-debated, for a long time about whether or not I should write this. I thought about Oprah's courage in bringing the matter to public discussion by sharing her own personal experiences. Once I became aware of the murder in Rockaway of a young lady by her male relative, because of what he had done to her that even became motivation. But still I internally debated.

Finally, my decision to write was confirmed after hearing journalist Dominic Carter's personal story, one more time - this time on the radio station, WNYC.

See, I, too am a survivor.

I am a survivor of a relationship with a beautiful woman, a very lovely, caring, intelligent, gifted and articulate woman - who is the survivor of a childhood filled with parental neglect, molestation and sexual abuse. Sexual abuse at the hands of several men, men who were supposed to be her protectors and guardians. Neglect at the hands of a mother who took the side of the stepfather, when her violated daughter brought the truth to her attention.

From our tumultuous relationship, I learned a lot of things about women, men, parents, Black families, and myself. Miraculously, there was some good that came from the experience. Lessons learned.

And while I survived, I did experience hurt. Psychological and emotional hurt experienced primarily due to having to accept the fact that no matter what I did or what I felt, I couldn't heal a person's past nor could I heal a person's present - no matter how much I loved that person or how well intentioned my motives were. I also learned that no matter how well intentioned, things meant for good sometimes cause damage. Permanent damage. Damage to one's own being. Damage to one's own reputation. No matter how much the good guy you intend to be and no matter how much you're not the cause or reason for any of the bad stuff.

See, I found that I had continually dealt with bitterness, anger and rage expressed towards me that had less to do with me and more to do with the people who had violated her when she was a beautiful, innocent child - long before I even knew she or they existed. Their sins had become my struggle.

My struggling with her personal wrath, towards them, became our relationship issues and would become public and I was faced with a situation, deciding whether I should suffer the damage to my reputation or air her historical dirty language in public, possibly causing more harm to her, which she didn't deserve.

So I took what I considered to be the loving action. I took the fall.

Anyway, fast forward: one of the first two questions a man should ask of a woman with whom he is interested in developing a meaningful, intimate relationship is, "Have you ever been sexually abused?" If her answer is in a negative (and truthful), then everything is okay. However, there might be another set of challenges as we all have human luggage we carry - different shapes, sizes, colors and brands.

However, if her answer is, "Yes," the next imperative question should be, any shape, form or fashion?" - key question. Deal breaker. The answer to this question, in my opinion, should determine whether a brother should pursue the relationship.

If she says, "Yes," then the next matter to determine is whether she is still dealing with issues related to her unfortunate abuse or whether she has been healed to the extent that a wholesome functional relationship is possible.

However, the thing to know is that, for the most part, a complete healing might never, ever be achievable.

You then have to make a decision whether the relationship would be worth your helping the sister and being patient and supportive - even joining in any further therapy that might be needed.

This helps you determine how real and deep your own love is.

Now, if the answer is, "No" or, "For a little while," or any other that indicates that the sister has never really dealt with the violation, hurt, disappointment, pain, anger - then I, in my humble opinion, and based on my experience, would advise any brother who asked me, "Don't do it."

Maybe later after she has had continual therapy.

That is, unless you're a brother who likes drama and conflict and engaging in miscommunications that turn into disagreements that morph into arguments that become confrontations that transform into domestic violence situations for which the man will "wind up" being blamed. No - don't do it!

Unless you're a self proclaimed superhero committed to trying to heal the sins visited upon someone by folks in the past who, though long dead or long gone and absent from that person's life, still linger in his or her horrific memories, bad dreams or innocently dysfunctional behavior. After battling someone else's pain, anger, rage and demons gives you pleasure.

Another valuable lesson I learned.

A lot of times when there are troubles in a relationship between two people, we just never really know the cause(s) of difficulties in that other person's life. We might think that it's something as simple as a person wanting or needing to be controlling or argumentative.

We might think that a person is being petty. Little do we know, unless told, of the real reasons behind a person being thorny in a relationship. Unless we inquire, and receive honest answers, little do we know a person's reasons for addictive behavior.

And although we may profess our awareness and acceptance that "all human beings have luggage," little do we know of the specific content - shape, size, color, and weight - of that "human luggage" that the other person carries. Not until we see it and have to help carry it.

Then we find that the luggage that person is carrying is someone else's ancient, tattered, polluted and contaminated luggage - all molded and mildewed luggage, which should have been discarded long ago.

Sometimes we get distracted and enchanted by how lovely and alluring the luggage looks on the outside.

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