February 11, 2000
Our Town Column (weekly column)
Gail Mountain (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Balance power: Work to ‘become the change you want to
Last week, I was tempted out into the cold of the night –
twice – to attend two community evens, a book reading
and a lecture. First, I heard Greg Gibson speak about his
book, “Goneboy: A Walkabout.” Then I heard Sharon
Simone speak about her life, the story of a little girl who
had been sexually abused by her father.
Both events seemed to be about two different things. Gibson
lost his son to a shooter and Simone lost her childhood to
an abuser. But, the common denominator was violence.
The violent connection to Gibson’s story is obvious.
His son was randomly, brutally murdered on a college campus.
Simone’s violent connection was a little less obvious,
to the uninitiated, as she was billed as the victim of sexual
abuse. And, her lecture did not, specifically, focus on the
sexual abuse she had suffered at the hands of her father,
an FBI agent who was also an expert in child abuse. She said
she was beyond that.
She wanted to talk about the absolute root of violence which,
she has come to believe, is the imbalance of power in relationships.
If there is no equality of power, then the seeds for violence
are there, ready for action, against the self, or against
others, she said.
Certainly, there was no balance of power between this child
and her father, a well-respected G-man.
Most striking about Simone’s talks was how she still
struggles with the baggage she brought to her children: three
out of six kids were suicidal; two were in battering relationships;
one was an alcoholic; one remains addicted to drugs. The others
Simone, now 55, was successful, a wife and a mother. She believed
she had overcome her abuse as a child, until she hit her 40s
and lost her ability to stay in control of her feelings of
hurt, anger and betrayal.
As a result, she sought help. She confronted her father and
won a case in court against him. She said she needed to do
that to feel she now had power over a situation she had had
no control over as a child.
She needed to find that balance of power.
Once she had done that, she was able to learn about her own
behavior which, although it had resulted from her very real
trauma, was affecting her entire life as well as the people
A major component of her life, of keeping herself feeling
in control, was to constantly give and do. It made her feel
strong and powerful but it made others feel inadequate and
She also learned that, as a result of feeling she was ‘under
her father,’ symbolically as well as physically, she
rebelled against boundaries and gave her children few rules
She literally ran from feeling anything. She became violent
toward herself, preferring to feel the pain of hurting herself
rather than the pain of what her father had done to her.
And, she said, in a voice still tinged with sadness, she learned
that one of the most painful of her losses was ‘there
can be no singing, no candles lit in celebration.’ She
was unable to feel joy.
But today, Simone is okay, and from her own experiences she
developed a personal philosophy about the balance of power
that she is expanding to apply to a broader community of victims
That philosophy revolves around the belief we all have some
ability to make change—by becoming the change we want
to see. It is not a unique philosophy. It’s not even
unique that powerlessness breeds violence. Some know it, some
But, what is unique is Simone’s ability to overcome
the ultimate (outside of murder) violence that can be done
to a child, sexual abuse by a trusted parent; accept her own
destructive behavior, face it head on and work to untangle
it, and put a face on it and take her story on the road to
help the rest of us understand the ramifications of the loss
of individual power.
We may never know the power imbalance that affected Wayne
Lo, who murdered Galen Gibson, but it’s a safe bet it
From Simone we can learn to be aware of any imbalances of
power in our own lives and work to balance it.
If we don’t, Simone said, people will put up shields.
They will not be in contact, and it is being in contact that
allows us to feel. ‘One of the profound effects of violence
is separation from oneself and others,’ she said. ‘What
if it’s about us, not just me?’ she asks.
Think about that.