Tag Archives: safety

Jaycee and the rest of us

bright purple graffiti of the word LIBERATEThis 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.

is protection safety?

stencil graffiti: the night conceals the world / but reveals the universesix forty-two means I need to be in the shower in 10 minutes. 8, really.

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Small and fun erotic reading circle last night — I love getting that monthly connection with the center for sex and culture! Next ERC’s on July 27th, 7:30pm.

Also! I am asking for your help in raising funds so that I can attend the upcoming Tomales Bay Workshop (I was accepted into Dorothy Allison’s workshop, which is a dream come true: http://jenstomalesbayworkshop.chipin.com/the-tomales-bay-workshop

And! I am loving my online Reclaiming Our Erotic Story workshop, and am learning much that I can use during my next online venture!

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Here’s what I’m thinking about today:

what does protection mean to you? or safety? are they related?

yesterday, she asked me about protection, about knowing that people have my back, about letting someone have my back.

I said that when someone says they’re going to protect me, that’s when I get nervous, given that it’s never been the case — and most of the time, when someone was supposed to protect me, their protection was a spectacular failure, or required some specific and terrible payment in return.

This makes these things difficult: being in community, being a deep ally, allowing others to be ally themselves to me. True friendship means exchange, means trust, means not just saying, I’ll be there for you, means also, I’ll let you be there for me.

So we worked with this idea. It’s still jangling around inside me.

What about for you? 10 minutes (or 15) and begin with either, “This is what protection means…” or “This is what I want protection to mean…” (or she, or you, or they want protection to mean…)

Thank you for the ways you stretch, bend, open the places that have learned only closed. Thank you for your grace and always for your words.

Safetyfest 2011 is less than a month away!

Promo Poster for Safetyfest 2011 - April/Abril 14-17, 2011

Mark your calendars: CUAV’s second annual Safetyfest is coming, April 14-17!

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From CUAV‘s Safetyfest Blog: Safetyfest is a 100% free festival celebration of all the fierce ways queer and trans people in the Bay Area stay safe and strut our stuff. Our communities already have so many of the tools we’ll need to end violence and be truly safe in all the ways we deserve to be–we just need to share them!

It’ll all kick off with a sexy launch party in Downtown Oakland, followed by dozens of amazing free workshops, cultural events, and art and healing activities on both sides of the bay, and wrap up with a hella fun closing party in SF.

The first-ever safetyfest took place in 2010 and was super fabulous beyond our wildest dreams–over 300 people attended! This years festivities will build on last year’s strengths and deepen the impact of what we can do together. We’re bringing back the most popular workshops from last year like self-defense, sexual consent, writing, BDSM, Bay history bike tour, and more, and adding new workshops based on feedback from attendees and other folks in our community. What do you want to see at safetyfest this year? Send your ideas to safetyfest@cuav.org.

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Visit www.cuav.org/safetyfest to We need your help to make safetyfest a reality!
, check out the  full calendar, get updates and learn how you can participate! (And, speaking of participation, visit http://www.volunteerspot.com/login/entry/322345634360052045 to learn how you can volunteer with Safetyfest!)
Please also visit the Safetyfest Indiegogo page at http://www.indiegogo.com/safetyfest-2011 and donate, donate, donate! Safetyfest is free to all attendees, and we need your help to make safetyfest a reality! While you’re at the Indiegogo page, make sure to watch the incredible video that CUAV/Safetyfest staff & volunteers put together so that you can learn more about this amazing, revolutionary event and why it’s so necessary for you to be a part of it!

DOE: what if we took back our dangerousness

neighborhood passion flower in the late morning San Rafael sun

neighborhood passion flower in the late morning San Rafael sun

It’s a Wednesday, which is a Declaring Our Erotic day!

Today I’m thinking about the idea of safety, of the psychic/emotional kind — not of the “please don’t tie me up with nylon panty hose because those dig deep into my skin when I pull at them” sort.

This idea of emotional safety, around sex and otherwise, particularly for survivors of sexual trauma, is important, and worth nudging into some.

What is safe? There’s physical safety, and then there’s emotional or psychic safety — there’s knowing that I’m unlikely to get beat when I walk out the door, or when I walk back in, right? There’s knowing, and attending to with enormous gratitude, that there aren’t bombs falling from the sky where I walk to the bus, there are no mines lining the roads that the bus drives to get me to my work, there are no check points, no guards, no ‘insurgents’ — and, too, there’s the fact that in the years that I broke away from my stepfather, there’s been no assault in the night, no agents sent to harm me or those I love — all of which I absolutely feared. There’s knowing there’s a roof over the place I sleep, that I have stability with that place, that there’s food in my cupboard and refrigerator, there’s a bed and a door that locks — these are all markers of physical safety. I can walk around the neighborhood without being worried about stray gunshots from police weapons or other weapons. The amount of privilege I have to be able to say all of this is astounding — to just step back and be aware — measures and measures of physical safety.

(Am I still conscientious and aware when I walk out into the day? Yes. Do I still often walk out into my day with my ears buttoned up with headphones and music?  Yes — another layer of physical safety.)

And so it is that the sort of safety I tend more to be concerned about is of the verbal, emotional or psychic sort, having to do with triggers and rememberings, having to do with communication, how what you say, and how you say what you say, impacts me, and, too, how what I say, and how I say what I say, impacts others. I think about being a ‘safe place’ for other folks, and wanting other folks to be a ‘safe place’ for me, especially my friends and my spouse. That I need them to be safe so that I will be safe —

But yesterday, when I was journaling, I wrote:

What if I’m putting too much energy on safe — on how often I need to be safe, on where safe resides. Can safe be in me, no matter what the other person is doing? How do I step into that place? Safe is in me, of me — that’s a significant shift.

What if there were a way that I knew I was ok, now, in this time, no matter what the person I was with was saying — or, let’s say the person I’m with is doing something that I find triggering, that reminds me of something my stepfather would do: what if that was no threat to my emotional, inherent safety?

I’m not talking about asserting that I’m safe even when I’m getting nonconsensually hit. I’m talking about emotional or psychic safety being something I have access to, even during sex, even when I risk asking my lover for something new or different, even when the other person doesn’t respond the way I hoped they would (or, maybe even worse, when they do respond positively!) — what if that didn’t compromise my sense of safety, my sense of being-ok-ness?

The word safe means, variously, not in danger or likely to be harmed; not dangerous or likely to cause harm; not harmed or damaged; something that does not involve any risk.

And so that last: there again, to my question above about whether I’m putting too much energy on being safe: do I really want a life that doesn’t involve any risk? I actually want to take more risks. What if safe is a knot I’ve tied myself into, this idea that I need or am supposed to be safe all the time: what if I were to let that go, find another word for my emotional wellness that didn’t tie into not taking any risks.

And what about this ideas that girls are supposed to be safe: not dangerous or likely to cause harm.  Sugar and spice and everything nice, all that: what happens when we shove at that idea, some, crumble it, take back our dangerousness?

Safe can be a trap, for me. (It’s a privilege to get to say that, to get to be aware that I want more risk in my life.) Safe, too, can be a way that I control others: what you’re doing/saying makes me feel unsafe.  How often have white women used that to turn a dialogue away from talking about racism, for example?

Sex, for me, always requires risk — and so is never safe, just by definition. What if that’s ok?

Erotic writing has been a way for me to negotiate that risk, that space between safety and desire, a way for me to feel it in my body before I put my body against someone else.  And can help me step off the page, too.

I’m asking this question today: what if I’m ok even if I’m not completely safe — that is, even if I’m taking risks and I can’t know or control the outcome.  What would I do, who would I be, if I didn’t always have to be safe?

What about you?

Thanks for your fierce questioning, the generous work you did yesterday, the kindness you’re going to offer to the world today.