WHAT'S KNOCKING?: Quest 2016

 In Engage in the WoW Circle, Weekly Wonder For You

As many of you may know, I’m participating in Tracking Wonder’s Quest 2016.  I did so last year, and the prompts from the quest visionaries led me into unknown waters that ultimately, albeit painfully, helped me grow professionally and personally. So of course I had to join the Quest this year. But instead of posting my response to every prompt here in Weekly Wonder, I’ll only be sharing those responses that offer deep connection with you, dear Woman of Wonder. Read on.

Today is Day #2 with author and founder of the Good Life Project Jonathan Field. Here’s the scenario he presented to us:

You wake up to discover a knock at your door. A wealthy uncle you barely knew has passed and left you a fortune. It’s more than enough to live out your days in glorious splendor, but there is a condition. To be eligible to collect, you must commit your full-time working energies to the pursuit of an answer to a single question of your choosing for the next 12 months.

You are welcome to continue that pursuit after the year ends, for years or decades if it warrants, but you must remain fully focused on seeking the answer until the last minute of the 365th day. A minute shorter, the entire inheritance goes to your annoying and equally long lost cousin, Philly.

What is your question?

I’ve spent the last 24 hours pondering this situation. So many thoughts have ricocheted through my head that I’ve lost track.

I’ve considered turning down the offer because in my life I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor; I’m happier now being poor than when I was financially better off.

I’ve considered taking on Uncle Rich’s challenge only in order to pay off the school loans of everyone I know, myself included. (And yes, my children would love me even more.)

Then, I’ve pondered if there is a single question I could really live for 365 days because, make no doubt about it, this would be work. It would be exhausting, and I’m not sure I can single-task after years of multi-tasking. I’m not sure I have the energy.

Social consciousness entered my thinking. So many things gone crazy in our world right now—from racism and terrorism to the environment, violence, and guns. And all of these need important questions asked of them, dialogue to occur, and answers pursued.

But last night, my “question” became so obvious I was stunned I hadn’t thought of it sooner.

“What could I do to reduce this chilling statistic: 1 out of every 5 women by the time they reach 18 will have experienced sexual trauma?”

Maybe over Thanksgiving you found yourself in a gathering that included ten women. The above statistic suggests that at least two of you have been sexually traumatized before you could vote.

But there are two more issues that also need to be brought to greater awareness related to women and sexual trauma that the 1:5 statistic doesn’t address that I believe must become part of a larger conversation whenever we talk about women and sexual trauma.

The first is found in the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Report, a study that is still ongoing, following over 17,000 men and women who initially completed questionnaires about their childhood experiences, including adverse childhood experiences, such as any type of abuse (sexual, physical, mental), neglect, or household dysfunction.

The study found that:

Childhood abuse, neglect, and exposure to other traumatic stressors which we term adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are common. Almost two-thirds of our study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one of five reported three or more ACE. The short- and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures include a multitude of health and social problems.

The ACE Study uses the ACE Score, which is a total count of the number of ACEs reported by respondents. The ACE Score is used to assess the total amount of stress during childhood and has demonstrated that as the number of ACE increase, the risk for the following health problems increases in a strong and graded fashion:

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Depression
  • Fetal death
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Illicit drug use
  • Ischemic heart disease (IHD)
  • Liver disease
  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Smoking
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unintended pregnancies
  • Early initiation of smoking
  • Early initiation of sexual activity
  • Adolescent pregnancy

 

In short, the consequences of childhood abuse and neglect (including sexual trauma) are cumulative and cause significant consequences well into adulthood, consequences that impact not only the health and social-well being of the traumatized but also their families.

And this brings up the second issue that needs more awareness. For every woman or girl who experiences trauma, there are countless relationships, besides the one she has with her self,  that are disrupted. Her emotions of guilt, shame, distrust, suspicion, embarrassment, abandonment, fear all take there toll on personal relationships. These can be relationships the girl or grown woman has with her mother, father, siblings, husband, lover, children, coworkers, students, her own body. Old memories get stirred up (remember, 1:5 women have experienced sexual trauma; many never tell their story). Words are spoken that can’t be taken back. Words aren’t spoken because sexual trauma is such a taboo topic. Whatever was once “normal” is now labeled “before.” All the chaos is now “after.”

In essence, there are ripples turmoil inside the woman or girl who experiences trauma. There are ripples of turmoil outside of her with current and future relationships, and this happens regardless of whether or not she tells anyone at the time of the trauma, keeps silent for years, or tells those close to her decades later.

The cost alone to society is staggering. In 2008, child abuse (physical, sexual, mental) in the US cost the economy $124 billion dollars.

But it’s the lost dreams of sexually traumatized women that cost us so very much more. When women suffer from depression, anxiety, entertain thoughts of suicide, sell drugs, or their bodies because of being raped or molested, life becomes hopeless. Dreams are banished. Great things go undone.

The loss to society from women who’ve experienced trauma and are unable to bring their best selves to their professional and personal lives is immeasurable because it affects more than just the woman.

All this I know well from personal experience. The ripples are far and wide.

There is a quote by poet Ranier Maria Rilke that I heard a year or so ago about asking questions:

I would like to beg you…as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

“What could I do to reduce this chilling statistic: 1 out of every 5 women by the time they reach 18 will have experienced sexual trauma?”

Though I’m not sure I can begin to love this question, as Rilke suggests, I can live this question in 2016. Perhaps, someday, far in the future we women who’ve experienced sexual trauma, without even noticing it, will live our way into the answer.

Wishing you peace and light during this season short days and long nights,

ginny-signature

PS: I’d love to hear your thoughts on this prompt from Jonathan Fields…what’s your question that you could live for 2016? And I’d love for you to join me and over 300 others on Quest 2016. It’s a terrific group of creative entrepreneurs, thinkers, and doers.

PPS: WONDER Compass guests return next week with poet Tania Pryputniewicz on OWN YOUR STORY. You will not want to miss this.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Barb Buckner Suarez
    Reply

    A BIG questions, Ginny – but one that so needs to be lived into. I’m inspired by your courage as this Woman of Wonder. On behalf of all the women that this statistic of 1:5 represents, thank you for giving voice to them so that they might be more than just a number. XO

    • Ginny
      Reply

      Thanks, Barb, for reading and responding! I think we all TW devotees draw inspiration from one another, you know? I’ve been inspired by the work you do for moms, dads, and babies, of speaking out and speaking up, even though not everyone is gonna agree with us. Inspiration is contagious and infectious in so many good ways. xoxo Ginny

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