You Can Know the Truth

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.

We Are Roaring

A whisper can be carried away by the breeze, the message lost as roars and hollers around fill the space it tried to claim. Whispers are the risky first steps, the ventures into reality of our inner lives, the worry, the fears, even our secret loves. We test to see if the world about us falls apart when a truth is spoken. As a child, as a young adult, I whispered some of my secrets only to be shutdown and taught that even my quietest voice was not to be trusted or valued. When I began writing, later when this blog became my roar, I found a safe space to allow my voice to grow in volume and intensity. I am learning to speak my truth and live into what that means, accepting all the consequences and freedom that brings. I didn’t expect to hear so many other voices, no longer whispering , shouting out stories that tear at our souls. Loud, angry, hurt voices speaking openly about sexual harassment, about choosing to suffer in order to keep jobs, fear of not being believed blinding them to their own power, The whispers have turned into a roar, saying no more no more no more.

I am heartened by the bravery of all these friends and strangers posting #metoo on public forever forums, sharing stories that break my soul and anger me that this problem is not so rare, that I am not special in my suffering. I am shocked and saddened by the sheer number, a scroll through my social media accounts show that women are finding the courage to share that they have been treated as objects time and again, that they have been silenced by a system that forces us to prove our claim rather than the abuser prove his innocence, even when the accusers number in double digits.

I have searched and searched for the upside to this political nightmare. I believe that God will use all to His glory but I could only see daily how more and more of His people were being marginalized and demoralized and put at risk through the divisiveness and hate rhetoric. Yet this president has accomplished one thing, whispers are turning into roars. Women who felt triggered by the comments he made on the bus with Billy Bush and found ourselves shrinking each time we heard his voice, have now said, enough. We found that more and more of us are feeling the same way and, my God, have like histories. It was only a matter of time before Harvey was outed as an abuser, who is next? Women are angry and talking out loud. We are pushing our way into that glory, to a space of no shame, to a celebration of all that it is to be women and children of God.

The men in our lives have choices as well. Their own voices matter in the midst of this uprising. Will they find their own voices and ask God’s forgiveness for the times they ogled the waitress, they hugged the cashier, they held the hand of the hostess as she took him to his table, made their own comments with their buddy at the bar, or didn’t object when another man did all of this? See all these women weren’t harassed by only a handful of men. This is systemic, we have a problem in how men see us, actually look at us. We are not bodies for male pleasure. Long ago a manager at a restaurant where I worked was instructing others in training on how to interact appropriately. He said, if you wouldn’t do it with your spouse watching, don’t do it. So simple, the perfect start for those men who respect their spouses. For those who don’t we have bigger issues to address, a different blog. Right now, the streets are filled with roaring women. Thanks be to God.

Philippians 2:3

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

Putting on a Baggy Sweater today

My earliest memories are of sexual abuse by my father. I grew up in a town that had a thriving pedophile culture, my father’s actions were supported by his friends. He shared me with other men, they shared their daughters. I learned not only that I was made for the enjoyment of others but that men would hurt me. It took over 40 years to regain a sense of my own body, to allow men into my world. Only recently, at the age of 52, have I begun wearing bright colors, clothes that actually fit my shape, no longer so afraid to draw attention to myself. Years of hiding underneath baggy sweatshirts, black sweaters, trying to fade away literally through an eating disorder have been slowly put to rest as I finally, finally heal. Avoiding triggers, those places, movies, events that would send me reeling back into my victimization, I have emerged bit by bit from my cocoon. I never expected a presidential election to awaken that sick feeling, to create a terror I can barely express.

I have learned to listen to my gut, to understand where the real threats are. Alarms go off, I have learned to flee, find a safe place, tell other adults, just like I teach my Plum. These are important lessons we all teach our children. When something doesn’t feel right, that is enough. I was adamant with my children that they never ever had to give hugs, sit on laps, accept kisses even, maybe especially with relatives. Shaking hands, being polite is perfectly acceptable. Boundaries, learning from early on to establish and hold those, teaching them to protect themselves for all the times I wouldn’t be next to them to ward off danger. We teach our children to avoid creepy men, we listen to them when they tell us some adult makes them feel uncomfortable. We rush in now to dig deeper, to remove our child from impending peril, allegations are enough. What message are we sending to these same children when we refuse to listen to our brothers and our sisters when they say Donald Trump is dangerous to women, how much more evidence do we need?

This election is no longer about which party should win, I don’t think that has been the case for a long time. Personally I wish Elizabeth Warren had been our first female president, I could really get behind her ethically. What I cannot understand is why we still even have a race. The second debate is tonight, I don’t know if I can even watch. The flood on my news feed regarding the video that surfaced in which Donald Trump brags about his attempted sexual assault has sent me into a tailspin this weekend. Feeling an obligation to promote education about his behavior, I retweet and share, then curl up into a ball and hide.  He is literally making me sick. How am I going to survive the next month, how can I maintain my status as survivor when my very country is threatened by a man who wants to lead all women back to victimhood? I grew up in a town that supported this thinking, what if our entire country allowed women to be objects?

I read posts where men say they have daughters, wives, mothers so they feel they must condemn his remarks. That’s a start. What about condemnation just because it is wrong? He is wrong?  How about a revolution, a rising together in which we all agree that when danger lurks we listen to our gut and flee, right to the voting booth.  God help us otherwise. God help me, I truly don’t know how to survive a country led by this scary man. I don’t have enough baggy clothes to fit around us all.