This morning it’s quiet and grey, except for the birds, who are forever providing exception. Last night was some excitement at 11am with two red ticks making their slow, deliberate way through Sophie’s short fur. This will be the one time I praise pesticides, and am grateful for the tick repellent we apply to her neck every month, the stuff that may have kept the ticks from anchoring. Do I know what the pesticide is doing to my pup, to her nerves, to her behavior? I don’t. I trust the manufacturer, which is rarely a wise idea to do implicitly. I weigh the benefits of this poison against the damage that the tick’s poison could do: what a calculation.
Today, Sophie gets to visit doggie day care for the first time — this is the day care’s test run. Wish her heart (and mine) good luck as mama drops her baby off for her first day alone.
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This morning I get to spend a half-hour with Sharon Bray‘s Writing as a Healing Ministry class at PSR; I want to talk about communal freewriting as liberatory practice, for trauma survivors, yes, and for all of us. Sharon gathers up folks who want to lead writing workshops in their faith or other communities and, in a week-long intensive, presents them with many different workshop models, from AWA to poetry therapy and more. Participants do lots of their own writing and exploring, and get to meet facilitators who are out in the world already doing the work. The class sounds like a fabulous opportunity, and she teaches it every year during PSR’s summer session! Check them out!
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The latest People magazine has another cover story about Jaycee Dugard (don’t worry; the link doesn’t take you to the People site, but to HuffPo); the last time I bought People off the rack was when Jaycee had just been found (after a guard on the UC Berkeley Campus saw something odd, took her and her children aside, away from the man who’d held her captive for 18 years, and asked her what was up) and People offered maybe an exclusive about the immediate aftermath as Jaycee returned to the world.
I’m fascinated by Jaycee’s story — there’s a way in which I resonate with her experience, in the sense that she grew up through pre-adolescence and into early adulthood, under the control of a sexual abuser. She was kidnapped at 11, taken from her family, kept by a man and woman, raped and sexually abused for years. She gave birth to two children. This is barely surface; what I’ve just written hardly tells you anything about her. It’s a character sketch, plot details, scratch marks on her face. This isn’t a story.
I would dearly love to write with Jaycee in a workshop. She’s written or co-written a book about her experiences, and I’ll read it, of course, and I’ll also wonder how much more of her story there is to tell. What lives inside and underneath the stories the media and mainstream public all expect/want to hear.
The other thing that fascinates me, though, is the media/public’s engagement with the story of Jaycee Dugard. Here’s one story of child abduction and abuse that’s blown up and given massive mainstream coverage. This is not to undermine in any way the horror that Jaycee went through, but I have this question: Isn’t it true that we are so (encouraged to be) engaged with this story because Jaycee was abducted by strangers, at a bus stop. Her story is safe to publicize, and safe for us as a public to be openly horrified over, because it doesn’t challenge the story that we tell ourselves that children are harmed by those outside the family — any harm that comes to children in the family has to do with parenting differences, the rights of parents to discipline; perhaps the child had it coming, after all. After a story like Jaycee’s, we soothe ourselves by saying that we’ll watch our children closer and keep them close to home, where they will be safe from the monsters. Our mainstream narrative (and the lies as well) are kept safe.
I want to tell you that I know hundreds of people who were held captive and abused — but not by strangers. These are people kept in their homes, who didn’t have the fantasy, the luxury, of imagining what it will be like when they can see their parents and be safe at home again. These are people who grew up living in two worlds, just like Jaycee, who were beaten and/or tortured; some bore children. Some have scars. The scars on others are invisible. These folks are also telling, also writing, their stories, they are exposing deep truths about our society’s commitment to ‘family values’ — and they will never be seen being interviewed by Diane Sawyer. Why aren’t we also publicizing these stories? Why don’t these folks have time in Time magazine? (It’s too common, someone might say — everyday, common-place activities, like the rape of kids by parents, that’s not news.)
Jaycee’s story should be publicized — and so, too, should the rest of our stories. In combination, we would show (wouldn’t we?) the lie that is America’s self-soothing story about protecting the children. We would tear the story open, and in that raw aftermath, we would make way for something new to be born.
I want our societal story about rape and sexual violence to shift away from this focus on the monsters outside; I want us to open up the searchlight and see all the harm, all the monsters (who, in the end, look most often like regular people — that’s the most terrifying thing). I want us to have deeper conversations about who is safe, and where, and when. About what protection and accountability look like. About how to move, work, stretch, create, grow into a society that doesn’t feed on its youth.
Take 10 minutes for you today, to write or walk or breathe. Know that your story is important. Understand that your tellings are a part of this new narrative that we’re all working on together — your piece is necessary. Thank you for writing, and for sharing it.