Earlier this summer, I publicly came forward as the third woman sexually assaulted by San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. At the time, he was a United States Congressman, and Chairman of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee. Mr. Filner and I met in a public place to discuss the memo our new First Lady, Michelle Obama, had requested as to how my national initiative, The America’s Angel Campaign, www.americasangel.org, would address the horrifying escalation of violence in our military families.
As a clinician who has worked with abused women and traumatized children, as a patriotic citizen with a vision to inspire a national movement to strengthen the American family, and as a woman in touch with her instinct, how could I know, on that sunny day in San Diego, that I was entering the danger zone?
24 years earlier, I had my first experience of being restrained and assaulted by a man. In that moment, so many years before, I swore I would do whatever I had to do to empower my life, and the lives of other women, to never be in that position again. And, so I had. Yet, I discovered that even after climbing out of a victimized life, even earning my graduate degree against all odds, even creating programs to empower violated women, a Congressman in a public place with the opportunity to involve the White House in breaking the cycle of domestic violence, even then, again, as a woman, I was victimized.
The link between sexual harassment and domestic violence is narcissism, the dominant trait of men who feel entitled to degrade, dehumanize, and violate us. It is this male narcissism that haunts our female intuition and denies us equality to move about our lives without fearing for our survival. This is our common thread as women.
Over the decades, we have marched, rallied, built shelters, established hotlines, and even changed laws in a Herculean effort to stop the violence against us. Yet, the rates still rise as high as the hands that strike us down.
We share this planet with cultures that have no word for violence because they don’t know what it is. I have walked in civilized cultures where women have no sense to fear for themselves, where they can walk a street alone at night knowing their gender does not make them a target. What do these people know that we don’t? They know that their families and society can only be as compassionate, happy and peaceful as the children they raise.
Narcissism is normal in newborns. Living in the little world of “I,” the baby brain has no way to understand where the milk comes from or who soothes him when he cries. He just knows about “I.” What shifts this egocentric stage of “I” to “I and Thou” is the quality of nurturing the baby receives. Research shows that sons are more vulnerable than daughters, including a greater biological desperation for connection with mommy than females have. When a mother meets her son’s instinctual need for laughter and lullabies, his brain learns it is safe to trust others. This is how the shift begins. But, if a baby boy doesn’t have a “Happy Dance” with mommy, his brain won’t budge from his safe little world of “I.” In clinical terms, we call this arrested development. In practical terms, we call it narcissism. In my book, I refer to it as mother rage. In personal terms, you may call it predator, stalker, rapist, abuser, liar, or murderer. For me personally, I add politician. Whatever you call it, the common thread is narcissists are still stuck in the “I” of infancy. Our insisting they “Just say NO!” to violence will not change the innate wiring of their brain.
Sisters, we say we want the violation and violence to stop. We rally for our freedom to live without fear. But, until we address the root cause of why little boys become violent men; until we value what peaceful cultures value, the violence against us will continue.
This might come as a terribly inconvenient truth, or the greatest truth to set us free, but since the dawn of time, how we mommy matters. This profound reality puts the power to end our violation in our own hands. Mother Nature gave it to us. If you want to argue with her, be my guest. If you want to create the change, she’s your go-to-girl.
We have a long way to go. We can start now.
Morgan Rose is a mental health professional who specializes in women’s issues. Her book, On Becoming NaughtABimbeaux: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Prince Without Ever Kissing Another Frog, reveals the psychology of dating, relationships, and intimacy.