Sexual Assault

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is an umbrella term describing any form of unwanted physical sexual contact in which consent is not given.

Triggers #donaldtrump #nevertrump 

So, all this talk about grabbing private parts in the media has me more than a little unsettled. It has reminded me of the years of sexual assault I endured in my marriage and it makes me physically ill.

A little background:

In my marriage, it was expected that the daily butt and breast grabbing was part of my (then) husband’s right to my body; “That ass is mine, don’t forget that.”

Translate that to I was nothing more than an object to be utilized in any way to please my man.

“You should be thankful that I still want to grab your ass” and “plenty of women would love to have this attention” was a recurrent theme when I asked him over and over and over again to STOP.

I would plead to him that his behavior and unwanted grabbing made me uncomfortable.

He wouldn’t stop.

At the time, I honestly felt he was right, that I should be thankful. My lack of self-worth left me vulnerable to being a victim. Unwanted touching was something I had to survive every.single.day. I was brainwashed by a man and a society that objectify women. I learned to push aside my instincts, and my need to be heard and respected.

I should be thankful. I should be thankful.

Suffice to say, there is more to my story, but what I aim to make clear by this disclosure is that any unwanted sexual contact is a sexual assault. Even within the confines of a marriage. You have the right to say no, and be to be heard. Your body is your own. You are not an object. You have a fundamental right to demand respect.

Today I AM thankful. I am thankful for my strength and tenacity on escaping my marriage. I am thankful for what walking away has taught me about myself. I am thankful for healing and finding my voice. I am thankful.

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The Phoenix

Sometimes it is very difficult for me to put into words what the past 6 years of my life has been like, the passage below from “The Book of Going Forth By Day” makes we weep. Not in a sad, mournful way, but more so a beautiful, echoing transformative weeping that reminds me of my tenacity in creating a life that mirrors who I am, not what my surroundings molded me into.

“The heat of transformation is unbearable, yet change is necessary. It burns up the useless, the diseased. Time is a cool liquid; it flows away like a river. We shall see no end of it. Generation after generation, I create myself. It is never easy. Long nights I waited, lost in myself, considering the stars. I wage a battle against darkness, against my own ignorance, my resistance to change, my sentimental love for my own folly.”

My useless and diseased thinking is largely gone. Oh, old habits can come back to haunt, but after the fire I am reborn and refocused. My biggest wish is to share hope with others who suffer in silence and fear believing in themselves.

“This is my body, my work. This is my deliverance.”

phoenix

“I flew straight out of heaven, a mad bird full of secrets. I came into being as I came into being. I grew as I grew. I changed as I change. My mind is fire, my soul fire. The cobra wakes and spits fire in my eyes. I rise through ochre smoke into black air enclosed in a shower of stars. I am what I have made. I am the seed of every god, beautiful as evening, hard as light. I am the last four days of yesterday, four screams from the edges of earth – beauty, terror, truth, madness – the Phoenix on his pyre.

In a willow I make my nest of flowers and snakes, sandalwood and myrrh. I am waiting for eternity. I’m waiting for four hundred years to pass before I dance on flame, turn this desert to ash, before I rise, waking from gold and purple dreams into the season of god. I will live forever in the fire spun from my own wings. I’ll suffer burns that burn to heal. I destroy and create myself like the sun that rises burning from the east and dies burning in the west. To know the fire, I become the fire. I am power. I am light. I am forever. On earth and in heaven I am. This is my body, my work. This is my deliverance.

The heat of transformation is unbearable, yet change is necessary. It burns up the useless, the diseased. Time is a cool liquid; it flows away like a river. We shall see no end of it. Generation after generation, I create myself. It is never easy. Long nights I waited, lost in myself, considering the stars. I wage a battle against darkness, against my own ignorance, my resistance to change, my sentimental love for my own folly. Perfection is a difficult task. I lose and find my way over again. One task done gives rise to others. There is no end to the work left to do. That is harsh eternity. There is no end to becoming. I live forever striving for perfection. I praise the moment I die in fire for the veils of illusion burn with me. I see how hard we strive for Truth, and once attained how easily we forget it. I hold that fire as long as I can. My nose fills with the smell of seared flesh, the acrid smoke of death, so that years from now I might look on that scar and remember how it was to hold the light, how it was to die and come again radiant as light walking on sand.

I change and change again, generation after generation. I find anguish than peace. I am satisfied with my birth and the faith to which it led me. I do not regret the discomforts and terrors of my mortality any more than I regret the company of angels. I have entered fire. I become invisible; yet I breathe in the flow of sun, in the eyes of children, in the light that animates the white cliffs at dawn. I am the God in the world in everything, even in darkness. If you have not seen me there, you have not looked. I am the fire that burns you, that burns in you. To live is to die a thousand deaths, but there is only one fire, one eternity.”

– The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day

Sometimes you have to look back, just to see how far you have come.

New Birth; I have come a long way   .00000

A Slow Death; 2009

            I don’t want to fight. I reign in my thoughts, like a turtle withdraws his head to fend off attack, carefully tucking in my pride. My words will not be right anyhow, I just want to crawl into bed and sleep so I can forget.

But he persists relentlessly and my silence infuriates him more than my words. I have played this game for years and never won. But here I am again. Stomach clenching, mind frantic, I am rendered helpless as he blocks my attempt to escape and locks the door.

Cornered, I scream vile obscenities, spewing anger. “Hit me, hit me, you crazy fucking bitch” his furious, baiting words come at me. Clenching my fists, I start a tug of war in my mind. If I hit him, he will kill me; if I do not, I die a slower death of submission.

Quickly, I escalate into a caged, wild animal desperate for escape; my bedroom serves as my cage, my husband, the captor.

I tightly squeeze my eyes shut and try to will it away. I open them and charge to the door but he follows my every move and I feel his hot breath on my face.

I am powerless.

My heart pounding, fear crawls up my spine. Hate fills every pore of my body.

I hate myself, maybe more than I hate him.

I am worthless.

Sobbing and pleading for mercy, I receive none. “I told you that you are crazy!” he screams at me. Defeated by these words, I think he is right, again.

Too Sensitive? Too_______? Fill in the blank.

I was accused of being “too chipper” when asked how my day was yesterday, which made me laugh at first, but then I paused and considered why someone would take issue with me being joyful? I reflected on the first half of my life; my dysfunctional childhood and marriage where criticism ran rampant and I was always “too sensitive,” “too loud,” “too this,” or “too that.” For too long, I internalized other peoples’ condemnations which had me convinced I was inadequate and somehow flawed. The point of this disclosure is to share what I know to be true; feelings and reactions are genuine, learned through exposure to a highly critical environment, and we should not allow others to discount them. Even the good ones. I am chipper, most of the time. And I claim it.

With that said, we should also consider the person who is being critical. Often, critical individuals struggle with their own inadequacies and choose to try and make themselves feel better by criticizing others. In other words, outwardly manifesting their own feelings of unworthiness.

Who in your life lifts you up? Who is often critical? There are so many loving and supportive people in the world, surround yourself with them.

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The Silence is Deafening

I have been struggling with a class conversation on domestic violence and whether to speak up when you see someone being victimized. My frustration comes from many places. Beginning on a personal level, I was in a domestic violence relationship for many years and one of the (many) reasons I stayed was feeling like I had no support because no one seemed to notice the way my husband undercut my thoughts and feelings by the way he spoke to me, or about me to others, or that I was often upset and stressed. At the time, I didn’t know how to reach out, or how it would be received if I did? After all, my (then) husband was often the fun, life of the party guy. My family seemed to love him and seemed to look past his harshness toward me, but then again he also treated me like a princess at times. Of course, my family has its own dysfunctional system in place. Did no one ever question why I was forced to take car rides and then came back puffy eyed and broken? I remember feeling hopeless when no one seemed to notice, and that hopelessness kept me isolated and questioning my own sanity. I was slowing drowning and didn’t know how to swim. Basically, I was in a frantic doggie paddle trying to stay afloat and still try to be a good mom. Would I have listened if someone spoke up and said “you deserve to be treated better” or better yet to my husband “your treatment is unacceptable?” I don’t know. But what I do know is a seed can be planted when someone steps up and speaks out. I can close my eyes and clearly remember a scenario in which a stranger spoke up on my, and my children’s behalf. It was at a gas station and my (then) husband was screaming at the attendant because of some perceived slight. The children and I were in the van and could see this interaction taking place. My (then) husband came to the van yelling about “how dare this idiot, lowly gas station clerk not give him paper towels” and when I asked my (then) husband to calm down his rage was directed at me. The attendant came over and asked me if the children and I were ok, and explained that he was worried about our safety. I, of course, said we would be fine but was, as always, inwardly not so certain. Long story short: this man’s simple, but powerful gesture, planted a seed in my head that not everyone thought my (then) husbands behavior was ok. This of course is the very short snippet of a very long battle of coming to terms of my situation. But my issue is, as a social worker, I feel it should be my duty to speak out and step in when I see this happening in public. I understand that speaking out can endanger myself and that of the victim, however, the victim is already in danger and has most likely lived through much worse than what is being publicly displayed. I don’t think domestic violence is going to be eradicated until people begin to stand up and declare, “No more! This is unacceptable!” That means within our families and in public. Apathy does nothing to promote change, and as a social worker and as a human being, I demand better and work hard at being an agent for change. I am working to educate myself so that I may interject in a manner that can be effective, but I refuse to remain silent. Silence can be deafening, and is just another way to re-victimize.

An open letter to the victim blamers of the world:

 As much of the world continues to consider domestic violence a woman’s “fault” for being weak and not walking away, I know better. I will fight until my dying breath to change perceptions of domestic violence, it is one of my missions: to educate, to inform, to change perceptions, and to fight for those who cannot.

I am angry. I am angry at the displaced blaming, the sheer ignorance and bias that permeates our society. When did it become a woman (or man’s) fault for the violence perpetrated upon them? How did society turn someone’s violent, controlling, obscene behavior into “why didn’t she leave?” “she should have taken the stairs” “she married him didn’t she” “she must have made him angry” and “he seems so nice.” 

Fuck that. “She” most likely grew up believing love is anger, love is control, love is conforming to make everyone happy, love is manipulation. She most likely believes that she is unworthy: because she is a woman, because she has been told she is crazy (over and over again)…until she believed it, because she has been threatened to have her children taken away, because she is told she couldn’t survive without a man, because she just. does. not. have. any. sense. of. worth.

So before you cast your stone, think beyond your nose.