So, recent events in the public eye have brought parts of me that I have spent months, years, and even decades trying to forget, ignore, or just flat out avoid; screaming to the top, refusing to be quieted any longer. And needless to say, it has proven to be an interesting process, to say the least. Those parts of me are demanding that I name them, claim them, and own them as the pieces of me that they are… to put them in their rightful place in the mosaic of life and experience that is me. Please know that if I didn’t feel the “have-to” of this, I would not be laying myself this bare to the world… ever. (Probably very much a factor of the very pieces I am talking about.) With that in mind, here we go…
Like entirely too many of us, I have said #MeToo. But beyond that I have spoken very little of it to anyone, ever. Again, like entirely too many of us, I wouldn’t risk the shame, the blame, being revictimized or retraumatized by not being believed, and we all know the list of “why-nots” by now. But a couple of weeks ago, as I watched the testimony before the Senate I couldn’t help but to imagine what it would be have to testify about the details of what happened. That’s when the bit of ground shifted under the wall that has secured me away from the details all this time. For the first time in my life, I did what a friend so eloquently called “totaled up the column.” You see, in the effort for self-protection and self-preservation I had separate, (but mostly equal) categories of things that had happened. I had kept the assaults, attempts, acts of violence, and actual rapes separate… but that day I did indeed “total the column.” And it staggered me.
It’s not that I haven’t faced these things over the years. Both personally, and with professional help. But I have never told anyone the details of any of them… just that they had occurred. And as any survivor knows, it’s the details that still haunt me. The situations, the men involved, the places, their faces, and the still visceral experience of every detail.
The man that exposed himself to me from his car, as he circled me several times as I walked home from the convenience store after buying bubble gum. I wanted to run, and tried to, but I was afraid he would follow me home and then know where I lived. I don’t think I ever walked to the store alone again. I was 11.
Or the time two of my teenaged guy friends sent me off in a car with a completely strange man and his girlfriend because he offered drugs if they did. Although we did not travel far from my house, getting back felt like a lifetime as he got me away from the car and his girlfriend, pulling me into the bushes and trying to assault me. I was 13.
The man that took my virginity for his twenty-fourth birthday, even though I was only 14. It took me many years to understand that at the time I didn’t even have consent to give… I was entirely too young to understand everything that was happening… that I had been groomed by him to believe that I had freely made a choice, that I owed him.
The time that took me years to realize that I had really said no the only way I could, when I was raped anyway by a man that made it clear that nothing I said or did was going to make a difference. Or the look of horror on his buddy’s face days later when he correctly read my eyes about what had really happened. He’d had a crush on me and was jealous about what he thought was my choosing… until he realized that it wasn’t. I was 18.
The man on the concert tour crew that told me my boss needed something from his truck, to get me inside where he tried to assault me… telling me again that my boss had told him to, and using all the other predatory tricks to try to scare me into complying… before I was able to get the hell out of there. I was 26, and that time I spoke up. I told the crew chief, who made sure I was safe and he in turn told my boss… who gave me the one of the greatest gifts I ever received. He believed me, and he apologized, and he told me that he’d seen for years how I’d been able to handle the 99.9% male crews I was part of, and that if I said there was something wrong with what happened, then he knew it had to be way over the line. That I know of, nothing happening to the perpetrator at the time… but my boss, crew chief, and many of the biggest guys went out of their way to protect me… some of them for years after. In an odd twist of fate, some months later, I was able to stop two young girls from falling victim to the same man, in a parking lot, after a show, half a continent away.
Since that time there have been countless times of having lewd things yelled at me in public, or having my body grabbed by strangers in crowds, on public transit, in the streets, all over the world… and more dick pics than anyone has ever wanted to see. The first (and last) dates that pressured me, tried to physically intimidate me, or let me know that my body was owed to them. I remember every incident, and detail, but if I were to catalog them all here, this post would become a 500-page book.
And finally, not as long ago as I would really like to admit, is the man that I was involved with, that had been close enough for me to have shared that I was a survivor. The man that once told me, in response to me being mad at him for his condescending behavior, “I know you were raped, but that’s not my fault, I’m not him!” Until he was… It was a semi-playful evening that turned really ugly, really quick. He believed that if he caused me to orgasm, whichever way he chose, then he was free and clear to do whatever he wanted to “get his.” That night, even though I tried many times to get away from him, he overpowered me, pinned me, and was so violent that he left me vomiting and bleeding for three days. He tried to tell me that I could’ve just said “no.” But when physically trying to get away from him, struggling with him, being forcibly restrained, whimpering, crying, and shaking weren’t enough indications of “no” why would I ever think that one-syllable word would make a difference?
I bring all of this up for me… because like it or not, these are parts of what makes me who I am. I can no longer disown the “bad” or painful parts of my story, or of me. These things do not define me, I am so much more than this. I am so much more than the “victim” or “less-than-a-person” that these men saw as. So much more than just an object for satisfying their need for power and control. Because, let’s face it… sexual violence is NEVER about sexual satisfaction, it has ALWAYS been about nothing more than power and control. And by leaving these broken pieces of me hidden away in the shadows inside myself, I am still leaving those men a place of power and control over me and my life…. And I absolutely refuse to let that happen any longer. Because of them I became a fierce warrior in my life, but I no longer need to fight them. I now stand in the center of my own power, my own life, accepting all of the pieces of myself without reservation… I will no longer fight to be who I am, I no longer need to defend that either. This is the truth of me, and no one can ever take that away.