Context: It's often emphasized in our culture "what did you do?" This focuses our attention on the masculine pole in the dance between action and inaction. I think it's equally important in the creation of impact "What didn't you do?" When we see a young girl being raped and do nothing this sends a message that is as loud about our culture as the person sends who is raping the girl. It is the combination of some people "doing something" and others who know "doing nothing about it," that leads to a reality in which rape is culturally tolerated. This is the case whether that is rape of the mind, the heart or the body, though again a chauvinistic culture that focuses on the physical body as "mattering" and the mental/emotional bodies as "not mattering" will not even address the rapes that occur of people's hearts and minds.
According to Peter, he discussed our sessions with Sarah and she was "uncomfortable" with what was happening. According to Peter, he "loved me" and was comfortable with his role in what happened. One of the common assumptions that can come into this void of contact from Sarah is the message that Sarah, concurrent with the fear I saw in her eyes when she looked at me, was uncomfortable with me or my behavior in the session: that I was somehow a threat.
Young children always default to problems being "their fault," in a phenomena that is well-known by psychologists. It is less clear to some that this happens in adults touching on material/emotions that activate regressed states, which are always present with unresolved (dissociated) traumas. In this way I can be with an adult lover in one moment and ask her "why did you turn away when I asked you this question, rather than answer?" only to find when I look in her eyes that I am now in the presence of a terrified little girl who is afraid of being punished for doing something wrong. When this look shows up in a lover's face it is essential for the moment not to become re-traumatizing that a change in tone take place that is more in line with talking with a scared child, until the period of regression has passed and the adult self has the knowledge about what's going on (difficult if the self remains dissociated - in this case it is closer to schizophrenic break in which the adult returns to the body and denies any knowledge of the fear that registered on the face in those terrified moments in which consciousness was turned in the direction of the regressed child), at which point a more adult and analytical tone can be resumed without shaming the persona that is too young to analyze itself. I mention this because at this stage in my inner work my parent's and culture's consistent denial of all abuse, coupled with the lack of skill in bringing that to my adult's attention left me going in and out of younger ages without having the paradigms or support available to me to consciously navigate these movements or know what was going on. In this way it was my body and my re-enactment of childhood coping strategies that alerted my mind that "something was up," without illuminating to my adult mind what was up, and more importantly, what do do about it. Peter Sandhill and Sarah Sandhill's consistent denial that anything was up, and if it was, that it had anything to do with them, left my conscious mind holding the idea, encouraged by Peter, that there was something faulty about my protections and nothing faulty about the "therapy." This is among the greatest harms that was done to me in this work. No child or therapeutic client, subjected to abuse who responds defensively to protect the violated self should be left with that message. The role of a healthy therapist is to affirm: "You are doing and you did what you could in an unsafe environment to protect yourself from adults who either did not know how to keep you safe or who were actively hurting/using you for their own agendas. There is nothing wrong with your impulse to protect yourself. It is healthy. Our job in our work is not to make you vulnerable or blind to further abuse, or more tolerant of it. Rather, it is our role to help you understand the abuse, integrate the feelings and understand them, and to help you develop new and more conscious protections of your innocence that you now have available as an adult, but did not have as a child with no adult advocate."
I cannot say enough how important this message is for an abuse survivor, or how much grief I feel that this message was not available to me in the community of facilitators, teachers and community leaders that I chose, in good faith, as my paid advocates and teachers. It is a great sadness what was lost to me by this behavior, and almost as sad what was lost to the individuals who encountered me subsequently without the eyes to unravel this until now. The person we each are when we have suppressed and shamed abuse vs. the person we are when we differentiate ourselves healthily from our abusers is enormous. We are bound to take on the shame given to us by adults until there is at least one safe person who cares enough and knows enough to unravel the wound and take it off our shoulders. It is the practice of most shame-based parents, without any help or formal training themselves, to give the child the message: "This is your fault. You are to blame. This is all because of you," and in so doing rid themselves of the shame they have been carrying since their own parents gave similar messages to them. In this way the wound is paid forward, not given back, and the cycle of abuse infects a new generation.
Questions: What are the ethical responsibilities for someone in Sarah Sandhill's position upon learning that a paid professional she has personally recommended has violated agreements and healthy practices that are there to protect a client she has also seen in paid session? What is the role of a co-doctor if she observes a fellow-surgeon bypass hospital protocol and good practice to touch an open wound without washing his hands, or prescribe medicine without learning about potential allergens?
Concern: Sarah has later stated that her marriage will always come first. This is in my view a misunderstanding. When a professional violates a patient's right to best-practices that professional is jeopardizing not only the client's well-being, but their own, since ethical and legal boundaries are in place to protect the client and patient. A truer understanding of "protecting my marriage" is to immediately act to undo the harm caused by a spouse in a professional role. Assuming that the spouse has any intelligence, they will thank a spouse or colleague that protects them by preventing further damage and undoing the damage that was done. This is not hard to do at the time. It is as simple as Sarah saying to me: "May I talk to you. I'm concerned about your well-being. Some of the things Peter has told me do not sound like they would be good for a homosexual virgin to explore in paid session. Peter is still learning. I recommended him to you and I want to know how you feel and point out some of the things that might be simmering for you beneath the surface so you can talk about them and be clear that there is nothing wrong with your fear. If it's true that this has been hard for you, I also want to refund the money Peter took, since you did not come to him seeking a lover and we don't believe in prostitution at HAI." This would have made Sarah a very safe person to turn to, and might have resulted in my doing immediate work with someone who, for once in my life, put my safety before other agendas. And that would have led to a very different probability field in my relationship with the HAI women I engaged with.
My concern is that as long as Sarah believes that undoing Peter's harm to HAI participants is a threat to her marriage, herself or her husband, rather than the way to alleviate the threats that Peter creates for himself, HAI and participants with his need to pretend to have more competency than he has and not make mistakes, then Sarah will in fact continue to be a participant in a protocol that does harm herself, HAI and Peter, and presumably the marriage. If the marriage is held together, on the other hand, in a contract in which Sarah does not get to point out her husband's flaws without legitimate fear of abandonment, she is not modeling healthy relationships to the women of HAI, but rather the old "enable the abuser or he will leave me," template which leads so many women to put up with abuse to self and children in order not to re-live the childhood patterns of abandonment. It is for this and other reasons that I believe it is necessary for the facilitator body, which contains two marriages, to be reviewed by an objective, licensed professional who can give candid feedback to the facilitators, and the community about the fitness to do work that according to Peter Sandhill they are not licensed to do.