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

Raw Vulnerability and Connection

“And I feel like I am naked in front of the crowd ‘cause these words are my diary screaming out loud and I know you’ll use them however you want to” Anna Nalik ~ Breathe

As this New Year begins I am thinking about how we often impose our perceptions on other people’s words and conceptualize those words into making sense in our world, rather than asking questions and really, deeply listening to one another. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is difficult enough, but feeling a need to meet others expectations really creates a wedge between true vulnerability and self-acceptance. To live abundantly and joyfully we need deep human connections, and truly connecting with one another requires raw vulnerability. How often do we miss the opportunity for human connection because we are afraid of “being naked in front of the crowd?” I have found my “naked” moments have revealed to me the ability of some open and self-accepting people to not only allow, but also sit comfortably with my vulnerability. On the flip side, some people’s inability to accept vulnerability comes from their own perceptions getting in the way of acknowledging that it is not about them and thus, insecurity ensues.

The desire for meaningful connection can lead us astray if we are trying to fit in and be accepted rather than being open, raw, and understanding. Trying to meet other’s expectations only creates a perpetual cycle of failure and missed opportunities for true human connection. It has been my experience that more often than not, people struggle with accepting raw vulnerability because they are equating it to their own self-worth instead of realizing it is not about them. With that said, it has been moments of raw vulnerability that has led me to the most meaningful relationships in my life. How very difficult that we have an innate need for self-protection of our ego and an innate need for connection, yet the two work like oil and water; they don’t mix. Which leads me to another quote that begs consideration:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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. 

Disingenuous at Best, Manipulative at Worst

Being able to recognize the signs of a manipulative person is sometimes difficult. It is important for us to have tools in our repertoire in order to be cognizant of behavior that is  disingenuous and/or manipulative.

Manipulation is often used to coerce a conversation, instead of engaging in one, and can be used to intimidate and control.

Often, we go along thinking the best of folks and second-guess ourselves instead of second-guessing another person’s motive. We all need to be more attentive to our ever-present, and often disregarded intuition. If it just feels yucky or off, it probably is.

I have compiled a short list of signs that might alert us to manipulative behavior. Face it, we all are guilty of manipulation on some level, so we need to keep these in mind to guard against other’s subtle or aggressive manipulation, as well as our own possible conscious or unconscious motives.

These are but a few tactics used, and some of what I have found in my research over the years:

Feigning innocence: Quite often a person who is being manipulative will be adept at pretending they have no idea what you are talking about when confronted with their manipulative behavior: Who me? Be careful not to question your own instincts.

Shame and guilt: “You don’t care enough about me”, “I would never do that to you” or “You are selfish” are a few phrases used to shame or guilt a person. This is also an attempt to deflect the responsibility away from them.

Minimization: When you attempt to explain your feelings, a manipulative person will assert that his/her behavior was “not that bad.” Meaning: you are wrong to feel the way you do.

Victim Blaming: Turning your circumstance, tragedy, etc. into their triumph: “Oh, poor so and so, I hope they manage to get their life back together.” This is an attempt to make themself look compassionate, yet it is a dagger thrown at the victim while simultaneously claiming a self-righteous stance.

Anger and Control: “This is the way it is going to be and there will be no discussion about it!” Slamming of doors, walking out, and yelling are tools used to manipulate and coerce a person into submission.

Remember, you have a right to your feelings so don’t give your strength and power away.

On Becoming an Adult Orphan

I sit sipping my morning coffee feeling unmoored from the loss of my mother. I am now forced to contemplate my life without a mother, without a father. I close my eyes and imagine myself as a young child whose balloon has escaped my tenuous grasp. I begin to weep as I look down at my unfurled hand, the same hand that held my mother’s just one short week ago as we laughed as if we had all the time in the world to share. I feel a penetrating void slowly burden every inch of my body. My eyes look skyward and trail the balloon as it floats aimlessly. Now what? No one is left who intimately remembers the day of my birth, no one who loves me unconditionally and imperfectly, as only a parent is able to, and no one who remembers my fears, silliness, challenges, and triumphs quite like a mother and father. I capture my last glimpse of the balloon as it bumps between tree branches and temporarily gets stuck as it meanders on its journey. As quickly as it gets stuck, the balloon breaks free and I watch it float out of sight. I understand. My life is forever altered, and nothing will be as it was. Goodbye sweet Mother