October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. It’s a pet concern of mine because of the damage that was done to me by the violence that occurred in my own household. The scars are deep and wide.
Violence and trauma affect people differently, but the one thing we do know is that there is almost always long-term damage. I’ve often said that the physical wounds heal much quicker and more completely than the emotional or psychological wounds we suffer. Partly that is due to the psyche’s own self-preservation defense system. When a trauma happens to a child who is not equipped to handle it, the brain will often wall it off. Much like the walls that are used to dam up a river though, there is a constant pressure, a psychic drain on the individual to maintain their equilibrium
Eventually, that psychic drain becomes too much, and the pain and the memories can either start to leak out, as they did in my case. I self-medicated for years, I probably still do with food, as the memories and hurts break through my mental defenses. In other cases, they come flooding back and are overwhelming to the individual. “I don’t know what triggered my memories. Could have been the daffodils as I was walking along. I always loved daffies as a child.” Said Dr. John A. King when I spoke to him.
What happened to Dr. King was sexual abuse as a child by his parents in a most shocking and appalling manner. He retells his story in the movie Stopping Traffic which is currently playing at the Laemmle on Second Street. I saw it this past Saturday and was shocked and disgusted with the reality it paints of how many children are trafficked sexually across the planet. Stopping Traffic is a documentary that peels the veneer back on child abuse and human slavery as it exists today.
I asked Dr. King what his experience was in watching the movie at the premiere, “It’s tough watching it. I didn’t remember lots of the interview. But the positive response from the audience has made it worthwhile.” Seeing this movie is not a fun experience. King is a burly Australian man who rather epitomizes strong masculinity, but when I saw him shed tears, I just wanted to hug him and tell him it’s all going to be alright. “It’s a raw and honest moment in my life. In many ways, it’s made me really comfortable with being a man today. I’m comfortable in my masculinity in new ways” King said.
Trauma always leaves a mark. There is always a reminder that it happened even if the immediate pain is gone. There is an echo or an endless rippling throughout one’s life. The effects on those around the survivor can be catastrophic as well. For the spouses and family of abuse survivors there are endless unanswered questions, but once the abuse is uncovered, an explanation becomes available for all the behavior of the survivor that never made sense before.
As the movie Stopping Traffic makes clear, the long trail of sex, and sexual trafficking extend throughout the globe. From the boys of Afghanistan that are sold for pleasure to the girls of downtown Dallas that exploited for SuperBowl Sunday, the scourge of human slavery did not end with the 13th Amendment.
The topic is taboo, painful and rarely discussed in polite company. Yet it happens with surprising regularity. In just the past week there have been six cases of teachers who were abusing their male students – but the press will likely whitewash them and call them “relationships” –which they’re clearly not. The human trafficking that happens at the US/Mexico border for boys who will provide labor is also rarely covered.
At the end of Stopping Traffic, Dr. King says, “I’ve accepted what happened to me. I have to be okay with it. But it’d be nice if someone else was pissed off about it.” I think that puts a button on the topic beautifully – the survivors have to live with what has happened to them, the rest of can, and should, be pissed off about it, and trying to stop it.
Stopping Traffic is playing through Thursday at the Monica Film Center on 2nd through Thursday, October 4 at least. You should go see it.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra