sexual abuse

Sonja Larsen: Her Memoir Red Star Tattoo Is A Life-Changing Read

This summer my friend Nessa passed along a copy of her friend Sonja Larsen‘s impeccable memoir Red Star Tattoo: My Life As A Girl Revolutionary and I was hooked from page one. Larsen’s past is full of lots of different topics that are both fascinating and painful, such as being part of a cult and experiencing sexual abuse. Sonja’s talent lies in being able to appropriately delve into her shocking and painful past experiences without making them too heavy or going to the opposite end of the spectrum and presenting them in a salacious or tabloid-like manner. The book is educational without taking itself too seriously. It’s fun to read too! These are just a few of the reasons as to why I highly recommend that you take the time to read it.

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I am grateful for Sonja’s decision to turn her life into a memoir, because it reminds me that I need to let go of my own shame and there is nothing in my past that should ever prevent me from moving towards a more enjoyable future.

Thank-you Sonja for sharing and for taking the time out of your day to let me interview you!

Sonja Larsen: “If I ever felt like a freak or an outsider…well if you’ve read my book you’ll know that I was definitely a freak and an outsider in lots of different ways, so often in my life. You know, my Dad was a pot dealer. My mother was a communist. You know, but I think part of my growing up was that I actually kind of was raised to believe, because my parents were a little bit hippies at first, that being an outsider was not such a bad thing, that if you were questioning the system that was good. But I think really what has got me through it is sometimes realizing that you’re not alone. That everyone is sort of making it up as they go along.”

FOXCATCHER: Heavy Yet Hopeful Film Deserves Oscar Noms

Tonight I went on a solo-trip to the movies and I was not disappointed. I watched director BENNETT MILLER‘s film (Miller also directed MONEYBALL and CAPOTE) FOXCATCHER. The film was painful, and it was a lot to take in, but it reminds me of how important (and healthy) it is for vulnerable emotions to be expressed (at the appropriate time and place) instead of held in. Nobody can be tough and all-powerful, and when we try to be the consequences are horrible.

If you do yourself a favour and go view this film, I think you will have the privilege of seeing a TRUE STORY represented on the big screen that proves masculine standards in our society, and the idea that being vulnerable is always a weakness, can destroy lives.

Steve Carell as John du Pont

STEVE CARELL perfectly captures the pain of a person who cannot be open and vulnerable with other people: source.

CHANNING TATUM is touching, real, and outstanding playing real-life GOLD MEDAL WINNER for wrestling at the 1984 Olympics MARK SCHULTZ. MARK RUFFALO plays SCHULTZ‘s older brother DAVE (also a gold medal winner at the Olympics for wrestling in real-life). JOHN DU PONT is a power-hungry, jealous, bitter, and deeply sad individual who is played by STEVE CARELL. The end of this story in real-life is depressing beyond belief, and I don’t want to give away too much about the film. Nevertheless, I was totally sucked-in to seeing how the events unfold (I already knew what happened in real-life before seeing it) because the performances are done with such a sense of humanity and sense of respect for the individuals TATUM, RUFFALO, and CARELL are playing.

As much as Carell plays an unattractive individual who is mentally unstable and abusive, I could still see where the character was coming from and that is not an easy feat consider how much of a “villain” Du Pont could be considered to be.

I already know that Steve Carell can convey the underlying lack of confidence that drives people to be unlikable characters, but here he takes this to another level. The ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS are being announced on January 15th, and I hope Carell is given a Best Actor nomination. The way he plays the character showed me, yet again, that confidence and loving oneself is the first step necessary before you can create healthy and positive relationships with other people.

What a team! MARK RUFFALO (hugging Tatum) plays Schultz’s older brother DAVE: source.

I am a female and therefore I often focus on the oppression of women (and having studied Women’s Studies for my B.A. might also have something to do with my female-centred focus). Watching FOXCATCHER made me thankful to be a female, because as an Olympian-wrestler Mark Schultz does not have much room to express his feelings. He needs to work on improving his fitness and what is going on in the inside is mostly irrelevant.

Ruffalo’s portrayal of Mark’s brother Dave is inspiring. Ruffalo as Dave Schultz shows that men can be strong, masculine, and athletic while still caring about other people and how they feel. Dave Schultz focuses on trying to help his brother express himself. He tries to provide Mark with positive love and affection, but this is hard for Mark to receive as he doesn’t seem to have much love for himself. The relationship between the two brothers is beautiful. The relationship between John du Pont and Mark Schultz is horrific and reminds me of how horrible it is to be under another’s power and to feel helpless to resist against abuse because you think you need their support.

 Exclusive 'Foxcatcher' Trailer: Bennett Miller and Channing Tatum Talk Playing Through the Pain

(STEVE CARELL as JOHN DU PONT and (right) real-life (now deceased) DU PONT: source.

Mark Schultz has already won a gold medal at the Olympics when he is contacted out-of-the-blue by rich benefactor John du Pont. John du Pont is one of those people I would totally be creeped-out by and would try to avoid. Mark needs funding to train to his best abilities and he does not have his parents in his life, so he is flattered by du Pont’s attention and du Pont’s belief in his potential.

Mark Schultz leaves where he trains with his brother Dave as his couch, and moves onto the isolated compound that du Pont resides on with his aging mother, JEAN DU PONT (played by VANESSA REDGRAVE). Mark thinks he has hit the jackpot when he is given his own large home to live in on the property, and the wrestling training facility also at the Foxcatcher compound is state-of-the-art.

Mark thinks he’s got it made, but as these stories go on the big screen and in real-life, there are always strings attached. Some people are genuinely giving and do not expect anything in return, but when things seem too good to be true they probably are.

Unhealthy relationships are cleverly explored in FOXCATCHER: source.

Gradually Mark begins to experience the negative downsides of being completely reliant on du Pont and under his tutelage, but he feels he is already in too deep to get out. The real-life Mark Schultz is currently claiming the film defames him because of one scene in particular that insinuates that there was a component of sexual abuse between du Pont and Schultz. I think that this seems entirely plausible given the real-life details of the story, but maybe the filmmaker is unfair to extend the facts to include this representation of the degree to which du Pont abused Mark Schultz.

It is interesting that the real-life Mark Schultz is so offended by this, because it might be a reflection of how hard it is for him to come to terms with the abuse that took place and he might feel shame that this man did take advantage of him sexually because there is still so much stigma surrounding men and sexual abuse. It is also possible that there was no sexual abuse and that is the reason he is bothered by this part of the movie, but either way, it draws attention to the stigmatization surrounding men, and in particular men in sports, who experience sexual abuse at the hands of their mentors and coaches. So many people still possess the idea deep-down that any man who gets sexually abused was “asking for it”. I think this mentality is disturbing, but I also believe it is still prevalent in our culture.

WHY IS THIS FILM HOPEFUL? I have mostly written about the darkness in FOXCATCHER. But, I left the film feeling hopeful. That is because it re-confirmed to me why I feel it is so important for me (and others) to work towards being honest and sharing with others what is going on in our inner-worlds. I think when you try to repress the hurt you have, and the rejection you have experienced at the hands of your parents or others in your childhood, it remains inside of you and influences what you do and how you treat others. I am proud to say that I go to a counsellor to help deal with the pain I still have inside of me, and to work on improving my own self-confidence and as a bi-product of that, my relationship with others.

Bottling up your emotions never works: eventually those emotions are going to burst, it is just a matter of WHEN and more importantly HOW.

Foxcatcher shows that if you do not attend to your own needs and deal with your painful past, then you might end up destroying yourself or the people closest to you. FOXCATCHER is tough to watch, but so very worth it!