I thought I was going to write about gratitude yesterday, the anniversary of my daughter’s birth. I began the day with my usual routine: make some coffee, play some sudoku, check twitter, write. What was going to be a difficult day anyway turned into a nightmare, an additional layer of trauma added to the rehashing of emotions that all the allegations and stories over the last month of sexual harassment and rape against powerful men has brought. I have backed off of my news feed, I dip in and jump back out. It may seem crazy, given that I have been open about my molestation as a child, my rape as a young adult, that I am not more invested in the women who are coming forward now. The actual crazy thing is that I grew up thinking it was just me, that I was bad, dirty, unworthy. That creates a hyper-vigilance that never turns off, a need for control in all situations. If I am the problem, if I control myself and my environment, I won’t be hurt again. Reading each day that the abuse of women is so wide spread that it is our most shared attribute, that we almost all have grown up being aware and careful and carrying shame that isn’t ours, well, the world is even more dangerous than I thought. I am struggling to feel grateful today.
As I snuck a quick peek at my twitter feed only to see that Roy Moore was the latest in the long list of men who have abused their power and the young women around them, I waited for his statement saying he was stepping aside, that he didn’t want these allegations to detract from the important work of the state, etc. Instead, he denied and attacked, using my God to back him up, he showed himself to be every powerless woman’s idea of a monster. The Republicans around him had an immediate choice, to support this man who was facing a stronger case than many folks who are actually behind bars or stand up for all women and say he has to go. The silence was sickening, was traumatizing, was crystal clear. This is the age of a president who admitted to sexual assault and was still elected. This is why so many women are angry and active and out of sorts and out of hiding. It is also why we are often shaken and skittish, why we are emotional and edgy. We understand the danger, we are living in a time that supports our abuser. We have to rely only on ourselves and our instincts, on each other now, when we can come out with our stories.
I mistakenly read the Sean Hannity comment, never a smart move as it tends to infuriate me or disgust me or cause me to twitter rant. This comment though, shut me down. Score one for Sean. He said it was consensual, between Roy Moore, 32, district attorney and this 14 year old girl that he picked up on a dark road and took to his cabin in the woods. He followed up by saying, “We can’t know the truth.” This is perhaps the ugliest response possible. It implies that unless you were actually a witness, you cannot be sure. These things happen without witnesses though so the victim will never be believed with this line of thinking. Never. Never able to prove her case, never able to explain why it took decades to tell, when any DNA is long gone, why it took hours of therapy to speak up. These are not recovered memories, these are our lives that have been destroyed because we as children and young women were used as objects for the gratification of powerful men. Until that stops, we are reducing half of our population to quivering, frightened half-people. My God, what we accomplish even with all of these wounds. What could we truly contribute if we grew up strong and unafraid? If we believed we mattered and were capable?
When I first told my mother about my father’s abuse, I was a young adult, he was long dead. She listened to my story and then stated, “He is gone so I can’t ask him.” That statement was almost as damaging as the actual abuse, it certainly set the stage for the next phase of my life when I would be raped and didn’t tell, again. To understand that my voice did not count, that my story and recounting with specific details and absolutely nothing to gain still did not provide enough “evidence” to be believed, the results have scarred me to this day. Enough that Sean Hannity’s comment sent me back 30 years and left me in the filth and the devastation of my emotional life as I sat in the kitchen with my mother. You can know the truth, we are telling you.
I hid under blankets yesterday and avoided the world, I found little to be thankful for, I was aching with my wounds exposed. Today is a new day though, a gift I understand, to wake up and find some joy before I look at any news or attempt to solve any number puzzles. Today I am going to rake some leaves and maybe burn some, the smell of a bonfire will bring release. Another day I might be strong enough to join the battle, to stand up for those women who have spoken so loudly and bravely. I have to keep the oxygen mask on me first, I cannot take care of the other injuries until I regain my strength. Unfortunately in these shameful times, that may take a while.
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