Good Monday morning — here’s the grey fog, the greet of cloud to hills, the way the city sounds are obscured and muffled by the weight of the shallow wetness. Here I am in how much I want to be alive today. Where are you on this Monday?
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What does it mean to get rescued? This was the weekend of mother stories, and I’ll write more about those tomorrow — today what I have is the shallow ache of missing: I miss my mother, I miss what she could have been, I am angry and sad and longing, I am still a twelve year old girl waiting for her to stand up for me.
Today I am thinking about rescue.
I spent all last week not hearing anything about the women in Cincinnati. Early in the week, I caught a headline and brief story on the BBC — this was late at night, maybe last Monday after the survivors workshop. The reporter was talking about three brothers, three women who’d been held captive, and a city that was celebrating. The story shared few details — they talked to someone in Ohio, a neighbor of one of the abducted women, who said the whole city was rejoicing. “We’re just so glad that they’re alive.” I arrived at my destination, turned off the car, put the story out of my mind, and proceeded not to get any further details for the rest of the week. I managed to see nothing on social media, and to hear nothing on the radio news: maybe the media was saturated with the story last week, but I’d apparently found a way to walk between the raindrops — if I hadn’t caught that BBC story, I’d have known nothing about these women until someone mentioned it in another workshop.
I still haven’t gone looking for details. I haven’t found stories to repost on our facebook page. I don’t want more of this story.
What I want to feel is simple fury at the perpetrators and joy for the women who finally escaped. I want to be glad that people are (apparently) celebrating the women’s rescue. But I am stuck in the smaller, less sensational, unwritten story: that the kids in the house up the block from that one where the women were held captive, the kids who are being sexually abused by a parent or other relative, will go a lifetime understanding that they were not worth rescue.
I don’t get excited when I see one of these rescue stories. I get numb. I think, Oh, another one.
This is a terrible thing to think.
I think about all the women all the people in Cincinnati (and Seattle and Sheboygan and San Francisco) being raped by their parents or “caregivers” today who will not get balloons or a parade, who won’t get media coverage, who were not “abducted” in the ways we recognize as abduction in this culture — instead, we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or born into the wrong family or otherwise unfortunate enough not to get abused by someone that the media deems newsworthy. We won’t get settlements. We won’t get cover stories. We will look for just a couple folks to really listen to what happened to us, and most of our friends will tune us out and wonder when we’re going to get over it.
The folks who are abducted and held captive have experienced something horrible and deserve our compassion, our witness. They deserve justice. They deserve for this not to have happened to them.
And the kid who’s being misused by her mother’s boyfriend this morning: she deserves the same thing. She deserves Chris Matthews to be horrified on her behalf, taking up an entire news program spilling this guy’s name and face for the country to witness, shaming him for his crimes and violations, and holding her up for us to applaud: you are so strong and brave; you dealt with so much horror; we as a country are going to help you heal. Imagine if we all got that message.
We all deserve for our communities to notice what is being done to us and to take action on our behalf. We deserve to have our traumas taken seriously.
No matter how much we deserve it, most of us are not rescued. We save ourselves. We run away, physically or psychically or both. We cut off family. We cut off parts of ourselves. We stop coming home from school. We get married to someone who will take us out of the situation. We drink or drug to escape. We dive into work or school. We find ingenious and brilliant ways to get away — Yes, some of those tactics our psyches come up with aren’t going to serve us in the long term — and then we will rescue ourselves again. We go through this practice again and again and again. Sometimes that’s called self-parenting.
We save ourselves and then we do not find praise for our accomplishments, even within ourselves. Often, instead, we criticize ourselves for taking so long to get away (at least, I do this — do you, too). What if we took some time to celebrate how we became our own knight in shining armor? What if we said thanks? What would that look like, to honor the self that chose to live?
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What does rescue mean for you this morning? Maybe you’ve already written about the Cincinnati case — maybe you want to write about rescue more broadly. Were you (or your character) rescued? What did your escape look like? What would it look like for you to celebrate how you have saved yourself? Give yourself twenty minutes with this today, if you can take that time — or ten minutes for the write and ten minutes to breathe into whatever comes up for you as you write. Follow the words wherever they seem to want you to go.
Thank you for the brilliant and scary work you did and are continuing to do to get free from trauma. Thank you for holding others in your community as they do the same. Thank you on this Monday for your words.