Abuse/Guilt

When I arrived at Phoenix House, there was a female resident there who had been there for probably a year already and was still in the second of three phases possible in the program before you graduated the inpatient portion of the program. Michelle was sweet and shy, and seemed to have some level of cognitive and social delay. She was child-like in many ways and seemed to be overly-trusting of new people as shefollowed me around like a puppy and just seemed happy to be able to be near any group of the girls socializing. During almost every one of the “Full House Meeting Guilt Sessions” which meant that every resident, male and female, and as many staff members as they could have present at one time, was in attendance, any number of the male residents would confess to having coerced Michelle into any manner of sexual activity, from oral sex to penetrative sex. She was also required to stand and admit this in front of the group. It was clear to me that she was being taken advantage of and did not seem developmentally capable of true consent. After the Guilt Sessions, we would break out into the encounter groups during which Michelle would also frequently have “The Game” turned on her for her role in these sexual encounters, which was truly heartbreaking because I knew that she didn’t truly understand that she was being raped. She was being convinced over and over that she was “bad” and that she had an equal role in what were clearly sexual assaults, and in many instances was being blamed for the entire encounter, as her male and female peers yelled things at her like “you have a need of attention!” and “stop bringing Mark down!”.

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