The kindness and love expressed by all these beautiful comments on my Facebook post overflows my heart and moves me to tears. Thank you so much for taking the time to read what I wrote and offer your support and friendship. It means so very, very much to be so compassionately embraced! Thank you for being a safe audience to share this story.
While I certainly questioned uploading this post to my website and to Facebook, not knowing what – if any – the response would be, I don’t feel brave or heroic. I was moved to scribe it because I was/am so frustrated and fed up. Frustrated that patriarchal power dynamics seem to condone – perhaps even encourage – violence and oppression; fed up by the silencing that occurs because blame is placed on the victim of violence, shaming the victim to silence. The “If you speak up, we will beat you up” mentality is so pervasive and has to be eradicated.
Why did it take so many years for us to learn about the many women sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby? Why are so many people – men and women – ashamed and afraid to come forward and report the assaults on them? Because we are told to question ourselves, maybe it was our fault. I say, No!, and fuck that. WE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG! It doesn’t matter if the assailant is a world-renowned, father-figure comedian or a hot, brilliant actor or a record-setting athlete, or an amazing musician or a military leader or the neighbor who seemed so nice. Considering the “justice system” gives way for defense attorneys to present a line of questioning that is super inappropriate and damaging to the plaintiff shows how much work needs to be done. If a person is raped, they are raped. How and why that happened is on the rapist. This mythology of a person not being able to control themselves is ridiculous and embarrassing to humans as a species.
And why are women “at fault” for being desirable? Sexual attractiveness is one thing, sexual violence is another. Just because someone is flirting and embraces the loveliness of their figure with clothing that accentuates it doesn’t mean their body gets to be taken by whoever wants “a piece of that.” You don’t get a piece of any person’s being unless you are invited and it is freely shared with you. And, guess what? We can change our mind. I noticed how I included the fact in my “Once Upon A Time” post that I was in a “full-length flannel, unsexy nightgown, with a blanket over me.” Why? Because, I wanted to make sure that people knew I wasn’t “asking for it.” Nobody asks for rape, no matter what they are wearing or what they are doing or what they had to drink or what kind of dancing they were doing or what kind of whatever.
So why now, after 20+ years, was I compelled to share this part of my history? Something snapped, an avalanche of circumstances piling on released me to share my story; one story in millions of stories. The Stanford case was certainly a trigger. Processing my years of abuse was another trigger. I’ve seen therapists for Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (a result from not only the rape, but years of child abuse), and am now working on it through EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy. Through my UA job, I have worked with human rights activist Bill Simmons – a UA professor who spearheaded the launch of GlobalHumanRightsDirect.com. Earlier this year, I attended one of Bill’s “Issues in Human Rights” classes to listen to the story of a South Sudan refugee who bravely faced the terrors of civil war and worked so hard to survive and make it to this country, who said that stories of trauma can only be healed and addressed when we share them. I read the posts by Sara Ahmed who recently left her professorship at London’s Goldsmiths because of unanswered sexual harassment charges at the university. Her post on Equality Credentials is powerful and inspiring.
I’ve worked to utilize meditation and yoga to embrace self-love and incorporate stress-triggering coping techniques – still an ongoing process! The night I wrote “Once Upon A Time,” I had attended a restorative yoga class that apparently released something bodily and subsequently mentally.
Trauma is stored throughout our being, and it takes a lot of work to get it out. This can be super daunting and overwhelming, so we have to give ourselves room to take it one day at a time and we have to remember to breathe. Trauma takes our breath away and lodges those memories in our bodies, brains, mind and spirit.
Dealing with trauma is a hard row to hoe. The easiest path for trauma victims is to accept that we are unworthy of love, because that is what has been implanted. It is easier to be abused, because that is what we are used to. It is easy to be suicidal because we don’t understand why we are worthy of living. I’ve been suicidal. I’ve wondered why I am worthy of being alive. Those damaging thoughts have ebbed away because I’ve consciously forced myself to be in relationships that are uplifting and loving and reject relationships that are not.
I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to self-love, self-compassion and self-acknowledgment. But, I’m getting there. I’m allowing myself the baby-steps. And, I’ve fully opened my heart to the people who love me. And thank you for loving me. It’s not an overstatement when I say that each and every one of you have kept me alive. My life is worthy, your life is worthy. We are all worthy. And sharing love on a daily basis makes all of the difference.