Tag Archives: Fearless Words

Fearless Words: A free writing workshop for women survivors begins May 26!

San Francisco Women Against Rape is once again offering the Fearless Words Creative Writing Workshop for women survivors of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and child sexual abuse. Group begins May 26. Eight Tuesday evenings, 6-8pm at The Women’s Building San Francisco (18th and Valencia). Woman-identified writers of all levels are invited to attend this workshop, created especially for survivors of sexual violence to discover our voices, create political dialogue and develop our craft as writers, while using writing as a medium of healing and transformation. Facilitated by Jen Cross, this group is free, wheelchair accessible, and runs 8 weeks. Call Tabitha at 415/861-2024 for a short intake interview or for more information. Thank you!

NaBloPoMo #15: I get clean by writing it

Today’s post comes from the Fearless Words writing group — our prompt came from the group itself: how do we get clean?

How do you get clean? You know — inside? How do you begin to release that sense that you are dirty, soiled, smeared with someone else’s stain?

We took about 8 minutes — and this is what came for me (with only small edits):

I get clean by writing it. I take the stories out of my body and let the page hold them, too. And I get clean by crying. So many buckets and buckets of ears, a sea full. a world full. I cry because crying is what brings the body back to itself. Cry and dance and sweat and move the damp through the body’s pores and the toxins are flooded out. They say that every seven years, every one of the body’s cells has replaced itself. One day I realized that this means that he has never touched the skin I’m in now. I have sloughed and shed the places he put his body against or into mine — I have sloughed him. I get clean by getting messy, by telling the truth, surrounding myself with a love that never thought me dirty in the first place.

NaBloPoMo #10: She did fight back

Again, I’m sharing a prompt and a write from a Fearless Words group meeting. For this exercise, we first wrote for three minutes from each of the following phrases: I remember / I don’t remember / I wish I remembered / I wish I didn’t remember…  then we took 8 more minutes to write about anything we wanted.

Here’s what came up for me:

I remember sitting slow on the back porch. I remember there was no back porch. I remember the concrete of the back patio, the smell of the yew hedge that separated the patio from mom’s garden, and how ugly those hedges were. I remember felling lost most of the time, and feeling broken and wanting to be really lost and not knowing how to run away. I remember when I understood I shouldn’t write anything real in my journals because he might read them —

She doesn’t remember exactly how it started or how old she was or where her body was or what the word “started” means when it comes to something like this, like his being in charge of her skin, her movements, her thoughts. She doesn’t remember when her mother lost her voice or when her mother stopped standing up for herself. She doesn’t remember forgetting how to breathing and learning to split her mind away from itself, learning to think two or more thoughts at one time — nor can she remember not being able to do that.

I wish I remembered those things. I wish I had concrete details, facts and numbers, time and date stamps, supportive documentation, ways to enumerate the step-by-step of his escalation. I want want to look back and point, stand with the young self I was and say, Look, there. That’s when it happened. That’s when he took over. That’s the moment when everything changed. You weren’t crazy. You were right. I wish I remembered all the ways I stood up for myself, the ways I tried to tell mom what he was doing, the ways I tried to escape, so I could tell the self who did those things, congratulations. And also, thank you.

I wish I didn’t remember everything he taught my body. I wish my body didn’t remember those long hours of lessons, the phrasings and indoctrinations. I wish my body could shed itself of that muscle memory, especially after all these years. I wish I didn’t remember how he taught me to shame myself, to blame myself or my sister, how he taught me I was at least (at least!) partly to blame. I wish I didn’t remember how he looked, what he smelled like, and how he cried.

What I remember now comes from the stories I have written and shared, what I remember rises out of the stories I tell myself. I wonder about allowing myself to remember my own resistance, how I pushed back at him and fought, that 15, 16, 17 year old girl in physical altercations with her 40-something stepfather , how I battled hm physically and in front of my mother and sister, how I forced him to show them, over and over, who he really was. This was a telling, one more telling, one more that my mother refused to acknowledge. I remember pushing his limits of what could and could not be said when my mother was present, I remember risking his wrath if only she could hear me, would understand what he was doing to her daughters right under her nose. She was not able to hear me — this is the way I save her now. I say that she could not hear me — not that she would not. And, of course, my body resisted — in her very musculature. I tell myself these stories to counteract the other stories, the ones I rehearse so easily, too often, that I simply capitulated, gave in, and never asked for help, never told. These are not true stories, and I want to honor the girl I was enough to tell her whole truth, with all its layers and mess. She did fight back. She fought like hell, and eventually she fought our way free.

NaBloPoMo #6: she didn’t quit

For this write (the second for this week’s Fearless Words group), because we’d been talking about ways we reclaim our bodies, I invited us to write to a prompt from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Two Countries” – Skin had hope. That’s what skin does.

We took about 10 minutes. Here’s what came for me:

I have been looking back at old journals recently, reading the self I was at 29 when my ex-wife and I had just lost a child and I, only five years out of my stepfather’s abuse and control and mental manipulation, was trying to do everything right — mourn right, partner right, be an adult right, study right, show up right. The self that shows up in those old journals is hard to read — she feels self-centered, whiny, repetitive, closed. I get embarrassed for her, for me — my god, did I really sound like that? And then I pull back, remember all she was carrying, all she was grieving, all the healing she hadn’t even begun to be able to consider doing yet. And then I am grateful for that 29-year old self. For showing up, day after day, putting one foot in front of the other, one word in front of the other. For continuing to have hope. For continuing to desire, even when she had every single reason in anybody’s logical world to quit desiring and just sit still and stop. She had earned the fucking right to quit, and she didn’t.

Naomi Shihab Nye wrote, “Skin had hope. That’s what skin does.” That 29 year old woman, with all her confusion and loss, her struggle to be in her body ever at all, she had hope. Ridiculous hope. Her skin, even, had hope. even while she wrote over and over, What good is this doing? What’s the use of any of this work? — still, she listened to her hungers and she followed them. She got me here now, skin still hungry and hopeful, able to feel accept kindness and love.

NaBloPoMo #3: rewriting the broken story

(All right, November — I see your challenge. No problem. So we won’t do a post every day this month. But we’ll still have 30 posts. So there.)

Last night at Fearless Words, for our first prompt, we created a list of myths and stories that get told about survivors (for example, that we are weak, asking for it, too needy, too emotional, not strong enough to just get over it, brave and strong all the time, not good enough, dirty, stupid, and so on…) Then we talked back to those messages —

We had fifteen minutes. Here’s what I wrote:

Survivor is a story, one we create ourselves, one we buy into or not, one we step into or out of, just like woman is a story, or any other identity label is a story. Our culture tells us what “survivor” means, and if we don’t look like the porcelain victim doll that gets held up as an example, then maybe we are not that thing after all. Survivors are broken and brave, ruined and victims and always at least partially to blame for their abuse — right? Isn’t that what they say?

But that gets underneath my skin, tears at me, sets my teeth on edge — especially the language of broken, damaged, ruined. I hear those words for us all the time, from outside of our communities (Law & Order: SVU anyone?) and from inside, too — we internalize what they are saying about us. We take on all the parts of their story about us because we so badly want to belong. But I don’t believe we are ruined or stained or broken. I do not believe that our souls got warped or that we are somehow made wrong by someone else’s acts of violence and violation.

(And anyway, why does that story not penetrate the rapist, the violator? How come they are not called broken? Ruined? Untouchable? What if the script got flipped?)

We are called broken because once we were property — and a raped female (child or grown) was less valuable on the marriage market. Our literal commercial value dropped once we ere no longer virginal — and so we were ruined, and someone else’s action against us caused us to be punished.

We are not broken. Our souls were not murdered. We ached and felt lost and scared and were not protected the way we needed to be. We may have even felt like part of us died when we were violated — but we did not die. We lived, whole and human and resilient and strong and terrified and lost and in need (as all humans are in need) and weak (as all humans are sometimes weak) and stuck and then not stuck and then stuck again and then…

Our whole selves, even the most hurt parts, persist in us. We are not broken. We did not die. We live.

Fearless Words: A free writing workshop for women survivors (with SFWAR!)

San Francisco Women Against Rape is offering our Fearless Words Creative Writing Workshop for women survivors of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and child sexual abuse. Group begins August 28. Eight Wednesdays, 6-8pm at The Women’s Building San Francisco (18th and Valencia). Woman-identified writers of all levels are invited to attend this workshop, created especially for survivors of sexual violence to discover our voices, create political dialogue and develop our craft as writers, while using writing as a medium of healing and transformation. Facilitated by Jen Cross, this group is free, wheelchair accessible, and runs 8 weeks. Call Tabitha at 415/861-2024 for a short intake interview or for more information. Thank you!

Fearless Words: A free writing workshop for women survivors (with SFWAR!)

San Francisco Women Against Rape is offering our Fearless Words Creative Writing Workshop for women survivors of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and child sexual abuse. Beginning June 4 (just two weeks away!) Eight Wednesdays, 6-8pm at The Women’s Building San Francisco (18th and Valencia) Woman-identified writers of all levels are invited to attend this workshop created especially for survivors of sexual violence to discover our voices, create political dialogue and develop our craft as writers, while using writing as a medium of healing and transformation. Facilitated by Jen Cross, this group is free, wheelchair accessible, and runs 8 weeks. Call Lisa at 415/861-2024 ext. 302 for a short intake interview or for more information. Thank you!