Fern touches on a sensitive subject
In these final days of pregnancy, I have been doing a lot of resting. Of course, I do my exercises and swing my hips as often as possible (lordisa, do they hurt!), but I must admit I have been spending a lot of time off of my feet. This has facilitated me doing something I don’t really do- watch TV.
A large part of our meager income is thanks to the honeyman’s graphic design skills. While I am not typically a TV watcher, honeyman likes to have it on while he works- being from the Big Apple, he works well in chaotic and noisy environs. So, of course this means that as I am sitting on my big butt, I, too, have been watching TV.
It’s worth noting that we do not have cable. Which means our choices are blessedly limited- cable TV can make a person batshit crazy with all of the inane choices available. But this also means that even when we don’t want to see them, there are some pretty heavy, fear-mongering shows on network TV. Shows such as CSI and others like it can’t seem to go five minutes without uttering words such as “rape” and “sexual assault.” There was a time when I would have felt compelled to watch such shows (many, many moons ago), but since life is scary enough, these were the first to go when I stopped watching TV more than 10 years ago. In addition to the crime-dramas, there are the readily available news shows, also heavy with the fear. And it is one of these shows that has inspired this post.
This past Friday evening, the honeyman and I rented a movie (the A-Team was awesome, ya’ll!) and made some pasta for one of our final date nights as non-parents. We turned on the tube while we were waiting for dinner to finish, and set up our little nest for comfortable action-movie-watching. The show that was on was a news show featuring the Peace Corps. As we watched, a story unfolded about a lovely, idealistic young woman who was murdered while teaching in a foreign country. She had discovered that one of her fellow volunteers had been sexually assaulting some of their young female students. An email and an information leak later, and the young woman was found dead in her hut, after letting her dog out.
The show went on to feature other women who had been assaulted and raped while on duty with the Peace Corps. It was gut-wrenching to watch, but I wouldn’t stop. The honeyman kept checking in- was I sure I wanted to watch this? I nodded, and remained steadfast. As I listened to these women tell their stories on national television, thoughts of my own fears and experiences began to surface. I went to the places in my heart that for so long I had ignored, suppressed, pushed down, way deep down. It’s only been in the recent present that I have begun to accept and deal with my own experiences with such an unfair and atrocious reality. And I, like so many women, must answer to these memories every day.
There was a time in life when I thought that I could erase the things that had happened to me. I could numb my fears with alcohol, with food, even with sex. It wasn’t until I found some compassion for myself, and began to tell my own story, that the healing began. And it’s funny- it’s still only beginning. Not a day goes by when I don’t remember it, when I don’t feel it. It never stops happening.
I won’t patronize you with numbers and statistics on sexual abuse and it’s prevalence in our culture and others around the world. Statistics don’t heal, they don’t comfort, they don’t understand. Instead, I encourage you- hell, I demand you- to tell your story. Tell it, and tell it again. Find your tribe. Dance to your pain. Look it in the eyes and laugh at it. Own it. Wear it on a t-shirt, make art about it, have a party to celebrate it. Make it yours. You will find others like you. And as much as it hurts to know that others have endured something like you have, investigating your pain earns you strength, resilience, and best of all, love. It’s not magic, people. But it kind of is.
It’s taken me a lot of time, effort, crying, sharing, walking, dancing, tree-climbing, singing, screaming and other sorts of unorthodox therapies to come to a place where I can face my demons. It hasn’t come easy, but it has come abundantly. I now have a loving tribe, women and men in my life who listen in earnest and share healing love energy. It’s taken a lot of sorting through the rubble of acquaintances and experiences to find my true friends. I am continually astounded at what I discover about the women in my life each time we share in ritual. I find more strength and loving within myself, and I see it reflected in the faces of my tribeswomen- and in the men in our lives. I see the faces of the oppressors, of the barbarians softened into faces of respect and protection in the man I love and the men who love the powerful women in my life.
I’ll never stop holding out hope that one day such stories will be something we read about in the herstory books and we try to imagine the horrors of, like we do the Holocaust. But until then, I will delve down deep into my own pain, and while I am there, will take the hands of the women like myself, and smile, as we walk our paths to a place of healing.
Peace, peace, peace. Ferocity and love to all who have been hurt in this way. May we find each other, embrace, and dance on.
Following are some suggestions for how to find your tribe, how to protect yourself, and how to nurture the love within.
– First and foremost, share your story. Whether it’s through a support group, a dance class, an herbal lecture, or a sewing circle, find a group of women, and start talking.
– Get out in nature. Breathe in the air, put your bare feet on the ground, feel the life in a huge tree. Reconnect with Mother Earth. She has infinite healing powers.
– Take care of your health. You will feel better and have more stamina for the healing work when you feel and look your best.
– When you are out and about alone, walking, biking, running, skateboarding, or whatever, navigate well-lit and well-traveled areas, and always let a trusted girlfriend know where you’ll be and when you expect to be home. It may sound goofy, or even dependent, but knowing someone has your back is empowering, and let’s face it, it’s just a damn good idea.
– If you live alone, consider getting a dog. Preferably a medium-sized to large one. Yes, it is a big responsibility. But a dog will be more loyal to you than any gun, knife, or taser, likely won’t be wrestled from you and used against you, and will be a deterrent before any need arises to use force. And there are trainers who specialize in pairing guard dogs with women specifically for this purpose.
– Make art and journal. Be as messy as you can be when you create. Life is messy and erratic, and abuse gets on our hands and hearts. When you can see your fears and your dreams come alive in color and texture, they will be more easy to recognize in real, waking life. The power lies in awareness.
– Finally, love your Self. I cannot stress this enough. No matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you come from, or what you think you look like, be your most beautiful and loving Self. Be your own best friend, laugh, and forgive.
Wilddog Ollie and the Bulldozer- home security systems, personal trainers, therapists, and potential weapons of mass destruction.
Healing blessings to all.