they bite down hard and don’t let go easy

Good morning good morning. Outside my window right now it is still grey with morning clouds. I’ve got hot water with lemon and honey, and I am trying to remember how to breathe. I am trying to remember the point of this process. I am trying to remember how my limbs and lungs learned to function. I am trying to recalibrate after a deeply triggering experience and a week in the throes of — not flashback, exactly, but a deep and embodied re-memorying of what it was like to be a 22-year-old person trying to get away from a man who had brainwashed and abused her, and terrified for her life.

Last weekend, at the Survivorship conference, I had occasion to learn some new information about the man who sexually abused me, and in the aftermath, I have not been ok. I crashed. I have been sad and scared and triggered. I have been hopeless. (And yet, I want to say that the conference was, overall, a powerful and good experience for me, and I am so grateful to have been able to participate!)

Part of the crash was trigger, and part of the crash was a feeling of hopelessness, of sheer powerlessness to change any of the conditions that allow kids to continue to be harmed by the people who are supposed to care for and guide them. I don’t like to write here when I am in that place of hopelessness — I prefer to offer a sense of possibility and hope, even if it’s thin and fragile; I know how easy it can be to fall into despair, and I don’t want to be a part of that for anyone else. But this week, most of what I felt was despair: people do terrible things to children (and to other adults) and most of those who do will never be held accountable for their actions. Other adults will protect them. Our system of government will protect them. Even we who were abused will protect them — because we love them, because we forget, because we are afraid for our lives and the lives of others we love. This week it feels like violence and desecration are a part of the human constitution — how can we undo what people with the power  and money fight so violently and tenaciously to continue to have access to?

So this week I’ve had to go slow. I’ve been offline a lot, in the quiet, reading and thinking and remembering. My inclination during these triggered times is to hide deep in a hole, get as far away from everyone and everything as I can, which generally leaves me feeling lonely and isolated — and so, as I was able, I reached out, talked to beloveds, spent time around humans who I know are kind and generous and loving. I baked. I worked in the garden. I spent time cuddling a pup. Radical self care was hard work this week.

This is what I wrote on Monday, during our Write Whole group — the prompt I used at the beginning was a quote from Carson McCullers:

“All we can do is go around telling the truth.” I want that to be enough. Today I do not feel hopeful even though I feel that hope is meant to be my job, my vocation. Today I know that telling the truth can help an individual or damn her to confinement when she tells a story that people more powerful than her want squashed. We have to be inside out and sideways in our telling. This isn’t what I want to say. What I really want to say is that I am disheartened by humankind today. I know that people, that survivors, are resilient, that if we live through horror we usually are able to heal, if given the chance, and I also believe that in my lifetime, and for generations beyond my death, there will be no end to the destruction of children in the service of adult’s desires. I want to believe that there can be a change. I want to believe we can set aside our bloodthirst. I want to believe that we can be a different species— but children have been violated by adults since, it would seem, the beginning of time. What makes me think we could end such an entrenched practice and entitlement with just a few years’ outcry and naming?

I hear that President Obama wants to end rape on college campuses — how can that not be commendable? He forms a task force, and he names the issues in his speeches, and he encourages more study and research on the problem. Meanwhile, girls are still being assaulted at parties and in dorms by “friends” and classmates. Is it because boys need to be educated? Is it because we truly believe that the boys involved believe that their behavior isn’t wrong? How could we possibly believe that? It’s because they know their actions are normal and culturally acceptable — that this is part of what they get access to by virtue of being male. Mr. President, can we get a task force to undo that sense of entitlement? And while you’re at it, can we decommission the military and undo federal recognition for the catholic church while we task force the institutional sexual violence out of those sanatoria as well? Don’t you know that ending sexual violence on campus means changing the way that we as a culture make boys and make girls? That it means either arming the girls or actually training boys to be different kinds of people? How is your task force going to accomplish that,when it’s almost certain that there are persons on the very committee who will decry the heinous treatment of girls and promise to stop at nothing to root out this evil force veining its way through our campuses, and will then go home to a child bent over their homework, hiding in their room, crossing their fingers that tonight he won’t demand to give them “just a back-rub” that they know will end in something worse?

Today I am not optimistic, even though I do know that things can change. I know that men can change. I know that women can change. I know we are fighting a terrible battle when we attempt to take children’s bodies out from between the teeth of people who have been groomed to believe they are entitled to them — they bite down hard and don’t let go easy. I need some hope today. I need help from other eyes and minds, to be reminded what is possible.

Let’s be as easy with ourselves as possible today, ok? This work of recovery and lasting change is long and we need to sustain ourselves. Today I send you adoration and gratitude, and I take myself to the seaside for succor. Thank you for your breath and your stories. Thank you for your words.

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