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A letter to my abuser’s mother

A letter to my abuser’s mother…….

Dear Ex-Mother-in-law,

     For so long I have wanted to spill my soul to you. Even though I never truly felt like there was affection from your end. So please just take a few moments and read this, for I deserve at least that for the years of abuse I suffered at the mouth and hands of your son. I ask only this of you. So first, there are these two little people whom you ignore as if they don’t exist, they are your blood, your grandchildren.

     My son, I say my son because their father doesn’t deserve included in his life, is this blue eyed beautiful little boy. He has an energy that fills the room that he walks into. He has the purest of hearts. My little miracle boy. So many things I need to know about his health that could easily be answered by you and you alone. But its fine the way it is. As a survivor, I can get through those issues on my own as well.

     Then, there’s this little hazel eyed princess that came as a surprise to all of us. You see if you cared even the slightest bit, you would’ve have known that I was told I couldn’t have any more children after my son. So she is my second little miracle. She has this sparkle in her eyes that people fall in love with instantly. She is always smiling and loves with everything inside of her. But you’d know that if you cared at all. The bond that my children have is something short of a miracle. Something I wish you of all people could see. Honestly, now that I think about it, as much as I want that, you don’t deserve that.

     I will tell you my feelings as of right now in a moment. But I want you to stop and imagine how much richer your life would be with these two amazing little people. Now take moment to realize the only thing stopping you from having that is, YOU. So now to explain to you why I have so much anger towards you. Do you really know? Well, I am going to tell you. There is the fact that the “man” you raised became abusive and denied his own daughter. He stalked me and made me so scared I didn’t want to leave my house. I remember the day I filed the protection order, I spoke to you numerous times, and you stated that you completely understood why I was reacting the way I was. I hadn’t even told you what he had done to me. Then you have the nerve to get angry with me.

     You send me a message stating that you want nothing from me and that you think I am happy about where he is. He sits in a prison cell, unable to harm another person, I am happy about that, yes. However, I would prefer him to man up and take care of all 4 of his children. These children didn’t ask to be brought into this world, yet here they are. I do my part taking care of these two. I work, go to school, and take care of them on my own. He was given the opportunity to have time with them, and chose not to. You raised a coward, simply put. How could you be ok with the fact that your son takes it upon himself to destroy everything he touches?

     He has 4 children with 3 different women and only took care of one because I was there to love that little boy and support him in taking custody. Yet you guys have taken it upon yourselves to tell that young man that I never cared about him. So be it. When he is old enough to see his brother and sister I will welcome him back into my life with open and loving arms as I always have. The reason I am the angriest is because you seem to forget those moments that you asked me point blank why I put up with his crap. This supposed bond you and he share only seems prevalent when he sits behind bars. Yet here I am, never having said angry words to you, never having actually kept my children from you, never having done anyone in your family any wrong. He chose to do things the way he did, he put himself behind bars, he is to blame……………

Life Goes On………….

At 36 years old I often wonder where I am heading. After years of being told I was nothing. Years of being told no one else would ever love me like he did. Years of jealous tirades and drinking binges I simply realize life goes on. Sadly, not the way I had planned.

You see, I had planned on this life of love, marriage and raising our children together. I never planned to become “that woman”. The woman who is afraid of the man she once loved. I never planned on having to protect myself with a restraining order. Never once did I think, I would be afraid to leave my home, fearing I would end up badly injured or dead. Life had to go on, even when facing these fears.

At the very moment when I was so very sure I couldn’t move forward, my entire world changed. I received a final message (even though I had a restraining order) asking me how our children were. I didn’t respond, I never did. Then………. Silence. Nothing, no calls, no texts, no messages from yet another created Facebook account. It was purely and blissfully silent. Life goes on in a moment of silence.

Now, over a year after seeing the last message, I sit in college to be an advocate for women like myself. I see a future with no boundaries. And considering he is sitting in a prison cell for the next ten to twenty years, I actually feel like life can go on. My heart is open to the idea of love again. My mind is open to the thought of being able to be myself with no one holding me back from doing so.

There was a time in all of the hell that I honestly had no idea what I was meant to do with my life. Was I meant to be a battered woman? Was I meant to be a mom and a wife, living in a personal hell that no one knew was that bad? Was I meant to slowly fade from the world without anyone realizing I was gone? Was I meant to die that day? Was I meant to be here at all? It’s sometimes hard for me to believe in a higher power, and even still today being safe, because what higher power would make a woman deal with the abuse, the rape by her own husband, the lies, the deception? Do I believe in a higher power? I sure do. I honestly believe there is a reason for every single thing that happens. I was meant to go through what I did so that I could help other deal with things in the criminal justice field when their minds are not able to focus. I believe I meant to show them that life goes on, you just have to make it go on.

Life goes on. It can be beautiful. It can be lived. It can be happy. Life is what you make it. Walk away from the life that hurts you, and step into a life that can be exciting and wonderful. Know that even withstanding pain and sadness, life goes on……….

Victim, Survivor, WARRIOR

So just yesterday I agreed to be a speaker at an event being put on by my school in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I have written a speech and would love to share it with you ~Fayeth~

 

Hello……

Well first I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Marcy. I am a student here at Gateway in the Criminal Justice program. My ultimate goal with my degree is to be a victim’s advocate. I am also a single mom to two absolutely amazing children.

So I guess you’d probably like to know why or how it is that I’m standing in front of you today. Well on September 24, 2012 my now ex-husband and I were arguing about the fact that due to pregnancy complications I wasn’t able to have sex with him. To him the doctors didn’t know what they were talking about, so we fought about it. Well that day he decided he wanted to have sex and didn’t care if I said no. He slammed me by my head into the wall in the hallway and after collapsing on the floor he grabbed me by my throat and took me into our bedroom and physically forced me to have sex with him. I felt dirty, so empty, so alone……..This person that was supposed to love me was raping me. I never thought I would be “one of those women”

I knew deep down I should’ve called the police that day, but honestly I wasn’t sure if they’d believe me. It is hard enough to prove sexual assault, let alone being married to the person who committed the rape. According to RAINN.org, Marital rape is defined as Marital rape occurs when your spouse forces you to take part in certain sex acts without your consent. It is a form of intimate partner violence, i.e., an abuse of power by which one spouse attempts to establish dominance and control over the other.

You see it wasn’t even illegal for a spouse to rape until the late 1970s. And not in all states until 1993. So you see because he had never put his on me before that day, it was hard for me to really know that he had raped me. But that instant when I screamed “NO!” and “GET OFF OF ME!” I knew I was forever changed. He was gone from my home the next day and is now sitting in a prison cell for raping another woman. Do I feel guilty for not prosecuting him? Yes sometimes. But as a married couple, I handled things in the best possible way for the long term of mine and my children’s lives. He sits in prison until at the minimum 2023, by then my children will be 12 and 14, now that is the earliest he can be released. If he is released at that time he will be on parole which means he will be required by law to stay in the state of Minnesota for ten years following which means zero access to my children until they are 22 and 24.

With him in prison, and me slowly getting my life together, meeting amazing people here at Gateway that really genuinely care, and finally focusing on getting the help that I truly needed, my world is slowly turning from victim of domestic violence and marital rape, to a survivor of both. I am proud to say that because it has given me my passion to help others like myself, it has given me the strength to be the woman that stands before you, a survivor or as a few of my friends have deemed me, A WARRIOR!!!!!!!!

From the lighter side – Apples

This is a bit lighter than most of what you usually find here, but still worth a read. It comes courtesy of Blair Robertson.

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I know this blog is meant for articles concerning rape, sexual violence, domestic abuse, even something merely feminist in nature, and believe me, I’m gonna stretch this as far in one of those directions as I can, but today I’m writing about apples. Yes, apples. Call me un-American, call me a Commie bastard if you need to, but I simply get no thrill out of apples. (I don’t like pizza either, to further your political assassination of me, but that’s a rant for another day). I want to love apples. I wait, like most of us, for autumn, for that first bite into the perfect, crisp, just-off-the-tree apple. I bite in, and just don’t get it. I continue to take bites, waiting for that really good one. It doesn’t come. I buy apples of all different varieties, thinking I’ll find a new hybrid that’ll do the trick for me. They don’t. Over the years, I’ve honed my tastes to wanting a certain crispness, a certain tartness, I even know how many spots I want on my Granny Smiths. But I’ve reached a point in my life where apples offer me dwindling gratification. I could climb to the top of the damn tree to pick the one farthest out on the teeniest branch (thereby risking life and limb–mine and the tree’s), and it wouldn’t be any better.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m as eager to keep the doctor away as the next person. I don’t find apples offensive. I can eat them all the way to the end. (Well, not really. I think the seeds and the core are yucky.) I know they are healthy and good for me. My daughter just told me that eating an apple in the morning gives you as much energy as drinking a cup of coffee does, although I don’t believe that for a hot second. I buy them, and I eat them.

But let’s look at some alternatives. When I can get black cherries or Ranier cherries in the summer, every one I eat is so freaking delicious that I often eat the whole bag before I notice I’m doing so. Even though each one tastes quite similar to the last, each becomes an epiphany unto itself, each delights me anew, each is an experience in gastronomic transformation. And plums. Starting in June, I buy a bag of plums each week, until I find the bag of perfect plums, which usually only happens once each summer. And when I taste that perfect plum, I actually shiver with bliss. I don’t think there is a food on this earth that can rival the taste of the perfect plum. Maybe only getting one or two every summer enriches the experience. I know it gives me something to live for.

Back to the apple. Here’s where I can go all feminist on your ass, if you need some substance in this blog. With all the trouble apples have caused humanity, especially women, they should be better. Eve was deceived by the serpent, and ate the apple. Adam was not deceived, but just went ahead and sinned, eating it too. It caused us all to die. Because he ate it, God “put enmity between Adam and women.” There you go. Because she ate it, God caused her “very severe” pains in childbirth, and said, “your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” This man ruling over women is the source of all of our problems with men. And it’s because HE sinned. That right there is reason enough to be feminist. And then they had to wear clothes on top of that.Thanks for the bras, God! Now, I don’t believe one jot or tittle of that story, but if there was any truth to it, that damn apple should have been downright orgasmic. And maybe God didn’t even tell them, but made apples not as good after that, either.

So, when you look at it that way, I’m not sure my disappointment in apples speaks to my crummy politics, like you’ve decided. I think it’s perhaps a far more cosmic disappointment. Somehow, in the fucked-up creation of the world, apples were made to lose their charm for me. I’m not sure I can use any of these arguments to explain my dislike for pizza, but again, that’s an argument for another day.

What Consent is (and isn’t)

This entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson, and takes a look at an important subject: consent. She discusses what consent consists of, as well as what does not constitute consent. She also takes a brief look at how rape culture plays into this issue. This may be triggering, so please proceed with caution, and stop reading if you find yourself being triggered.
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“What is your definition of rape?” This question came at me, seemingly out of nowhere, one afternoon recently. Annie and I were sitting at a local brewery, having a beer with a couple of guys who work out with us at the gym. One was a man around my age; the other was a young guy, about 25, who is quite nice-looking, but shy and somewhat lacking in social skills. His looks, combined with his lack of self-confidence, leaves one often with a sense that he is arrogant and aware of being a “lady’s man.” I understand that this is not true, but I’m also sure that his physical expression is far more confident and practiced than is his verbal expression. The conversation had turned to a blind date the young guy (let’s call him Joe) had had the past Friday night, how much he had liked her, and how he had become too intoxicated due to his shyness around girls. She had ended up having to take him home and put him to bed. In the midst of this, he looked directly at me and asked, “What is your definition of rape?” Knowing nothing romantic had taken place on his date, I was taken aback by the question, and Annie immediately “received a phone call” and had to leave the table. I responded to him, “When both people don’t actually say YES. Not saying no is not enough, Joe.” He looked at me, confused, and said, “What do I say, then? How do I ask? ‘Wanna bang?’” He chuckled in embarrassment, then continued, “Won’t that ruin the mood?” I responded, “That probably would. Saying, all along the way, ‘Is this ok?’ or ‘Do you like this?’ will let you know that you’re not overstepping any lines, and will probably enhance the mood, because she will feel that she can trust you. The guys then, in their discomfort, began to joke amongst themselves about rape, and I had to excuse myself, because I don’t find anything about the subject funny.

That is a serious question, however, for men, old or young, who are uncomfortable with verbal expression, who are initiating sex with someone they don’t know well, who have been conditioned by our society to think that expressing themselves sexually is a natural thing, and that women couldn’t possibly have any objection if the mood has turned romantic. How does one ask? This is something parents should raise boys with more awareness of, something they actively discuss with their sons, something boys should be taught should NEVER be taken for granted, even if it is someone they have had sex with before, or are even married to. Actual rapists don’t care; the victim saying no has no effect on their intentions or actions. All men, however, become rapists when they continue just because the woman does NOT say no, with no clear idea of how she is feeling or what she is wanting. (Yes, I know the victim can be male as well as female. For the purposes of this article, however, I will have the victim be female.) And society still seems to think that is okay. It’s not. It is the part of rape culture that will make it almost impossible to overcome rape mentality, because these men don’t think they are raping. If she didn’t actually say no, she must actually want it, even if her body language is saying something different. She must be shy, or coy, or playing hard to get.

A woman close to my age was discussing this with me the other day, and said, “Oh, I don’t think men actually have to ask. They can tell what the mood is.” I couldn’t believe she said that. Hasn’t she seen the way men’s eyes glaze over when they are in the “sex zone”, doesn’t she know how difficult it is to break through that with so many men, to get them to listen at that point? I, myself, have been in the midst of sexual encounters that I thought I wanted to be in, when at some point things didn’t feel right. Sometimes it was someone new, sometimes it was with men I’d had sex with before, some many times before. I knew I immediately stiffened up, and said, “no, STOP.” I have been lucky enough, most times, to be with a man who respected that and stopped, however reluctantly. A few times, however, I have not. In my younger days, rape culture was not talked about, and if we got ourselves into the situation and they didn’t respect our request to stop, we were taught to chalk it up to a bad night.

Rape has been around as long as there have been people. Sex and power are often inextricable from one another, and rapists exist. But the sexual atmosphere leading to today’s rape culture is, I think, more specific. Through the 1950’s, girls and boys were both taught that “nice girls didn’t,” that girls should be virgins on their wedding night. The nuclear family was more intact, and I think boys were raised with a protective attitude toward their moms and sisters that translated to a similar attitude toward a girl they may like or love. The sixties came along with flower children, protests against war that acquired the slogan, “Make love, not war”, and the era of “free love” was born. This was a double/edged sword: it removed a lot of the stigma of women having sex outside the institution of marriage, and at the same time put more pressure on her not to say no. If love was “free’, why should anybody stop it? Because society was then and is now patriarchal, it actually just became an easier time for men to pass women around, and to pressure them into sex, because it no longer was a death sentence to their reputation. Or so they told us. Men could have all the “free love” they wanted, but women became sluts and were slut-shamed if they did the same. And there was no attention given to the rights of women. They were supposedly liberated, but liberated to do the bidding of men. Perhaps more women than ever began to suffer in silence. I remember seeing a short documentary in the early ’80’s called “The Silent Scream”, illuminating the horrors of abortion, but I always thought the title particularly appropriate for all women everywhere. We have had no sexual voice. Our “no” can’t really mean no, and our silence is tantamount to a resounding “YES.” My momma always said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”, and that’s kind of what the sexual revolution became for women. Free lunch was a man’s ticket to free sex, and the implications are myriad from there.

Verbal consent is a relatively new concept in today’s society, and a ludicrous one to a lot of men. A mood-breaker, an inconvenience, an unnecessary and uncomfortable bit of conversation to have. But it is the beginning of a voice for women–a voice long ignored, and a necessity a long time coming for women. Verbal consent is the first line of defense in the rape culture of today. Parents, teach your children well–teach your sons to wait to hear that word “yes”, and teach your daughters to make their voices HEARD.

Anniversaries

This entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson. In it, she discusses what it’s like when the first anniversary of a traumatic event comes up. Please, read with caution, as it may be triggering.  If you find yourself being triggered, stop reading, and do something kind for yourself instead.
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How do you “celebrate” the anniversary of a rape? What do you do, what do you think, how do you feel? Is there a guide somewhere? When we reach an anniversary of the death of a loved one, we may cry, take to the bed for the day, visit the cemetery, be inconsolable yet again, but we can still remember the beautiful life that was lost, look at pictures, share memories with others, talk to the loved one in the sky or in our hearts. When we reach the anniversary of a rape, especially the first one, how do we get through it? The memories come, and they are as intolerable as they were when they were happening a year ago. We can cry, take to the bed for the day, be inconsolable once again, but there aren’t the beautiful or fond memories to help offset the horror, there isn’t the loved one in our hearts to help us move forward.

This past weekend was the one-year anniversary of my daughter’s rape. We knew it was coming up, and we knew we had to get through it, hopefully without drugs or alcohol, without self-destructive feelings or behaviors, without going crazy with grief. My daughter, in her age-old wisdom, asked to go to a weekend-long music festival that happened to feature my favorite artist as well as hers. It was a new place, filled with thousands of faces that we had never seen, so they didn’t evoke memories.. There was good food, good beer at reasonable prices, and wonderful music, much of it rooted in the Appalachian folk tradition, which is our home and our heritage. We spoke of the events of the past year a couple of times, very briefly, but had enough distraction not to need to dwell on it or rehash it yet again. When the tears came, as they did a lot for me, we could blame them on the melodies or lyrics of the song we were listening to. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and we got through the day, the night, and the following day.

None of it went away. It never will. The horror of what happened to my beautiful daughter will be there, every year, every day. The pain of remembering will always be there, often when we least expect it. She still has negative self-thoughts born from the experience. “Survivor” is not a title earned easily. Wherever her life takes her, whatever success and happiness she carves out for herself, the anniversary will come along every year; it will need to be gotten through, and there will never be happy memories, as there are with a lost loved one, to help her (and me) through the day, the weekend, the year. But there will, next year, be the memory of the lovely music festival, and the memory of making it through the weekend. And each year, I hope there will be more memories of strength, of overcoming, of moving on, and each year, I hope it will hurt a little less. I do know that all she went through after the trauma, all the further victimization by her school,and all of her efforts to fix that, resulted in a better experience for the first girl raped on her campus this year. Helping one person helped her more than anything else could. And as each survivor of rape fights, to get through, to obtain justice, to stop the rape culture and the rapists in this world, these victories can be added to the victory of getting through, and moving forwards.

A letter to my abuser

*Trigger Warning*

This contains details that may be hard to read. If you need to stop please do. Your saftey and self preservation are important to us. If you choose to continue, thank you so much for reading.

To whom it may concern,

You……. Looking at this, I hate you. I hate you for what you put me through. I hate you for giving me something false to believe in. I hate you for putting your hands on me. I hate you for making me feel like I am not worthy of love. I hate you for being that man that feels as though I have no right to tell you no. I hate you for raping me. But most of all I hate you for distancing me from so many people. I hate you for telling everyone what I “did” but not telling anyone what you did.

I am 35 years old and I am scared to allow any other man near my heart because of you. You have left me in such fear of life in general. I am scared to be happy because at the very moment you and I reached the depths of happiness you changed. You became someone I don’t even know.

I sat and looked at your prison mugshot and just cried. Where did you go? The person in that photo isn’t you. Your eyes used to hold so much light and energy in the bright blue, now they are this blank grey that I am not even sure that is a good color to call it. You have this darkness in your face that I don’t even know any more. The man I met and married would’ve never done the things you have.

I very clearly remember September 24, 2012…… I like to hope you were very messed up on something as the you I knew wouldn’t have done these things. So here goes…………. On September 24, at 7 months pregnant, we were fighting in our upstairs hallway, screaming about the entire lack of being able to have sex. You didn’t understand it hurt, and it was dangerous for me and our daughter. You didn’t care. I told you to go to hell if you didn’t like it. Big mistake. You grabbed me by the face and slammed my head into the wall. I fell to the ground sobbing, you had never put your hands on me before…….. Then you grabbed me by the throat and dragged me into the bedroom and forced me physically to have sex. I cried the entire time. My husband, you, the man who was supposed to love me, had just hit me, and was now raping me. You made me feel so dirty, so lost, so empty. All of this happened with Leland watching from his bed. Later that evening, while making your dinner, Rhonda and Heidi sitting there, I was scared to tell her what had happened; Leland reached up on the counter (nowhere near the stove), you grabbed his wrist so hard that his fingers began to turn blue. I screamed, Rhonda screamed, and after arguing for a few minutes, you went upstairs. I made the decision as you were walking up the steps to be done. You again forced me to have sex with you when I got into bed, crying the entire time. You raped me twice in a single day.

Then a couple months later I found out the other things you had done while I was pregnant with Sara. To drug me and get strange men off of the internet and have them come to our home and rape a drugged pregnant woman whom you were supposed to love, is sickening to me.

Then there is the repeated breaking the restraining order. Why would you make me more scared of you than I already was? To make me afraid to leave home, to go anywhere or do anything. I couldn’t even go to the doctor. I was made a ghost patient when Sara was born because I knew you would try to find me. I also knew that if you found me you would come and try to take her and since I had a c-section I couldn’t allow any chance of that. I also ensured Leland was safe where you couldn’t get to him either.

I do want to tell you thank you. Because of what you did to me, it has given me a passion for helping others endure the court system while dealing with the pain of domestic violence. That’s right I am in college. That is something you always swore I couldn’t do. Well guess what? I am, and rather well might I add. You always disregarded my intelligence, there is not a single person I have come in contact with, that has made me doubt that. Every single person that I have met here has encouraged me. Something I am not used to. You didn’t have to beat me daily, weekly or monthly, your words over the years had beaten me down enough that you were never forced to lay your hands on me but the one time.

I have learned so much about myself in the nearly two years since ending our marriage. I am a good person. I deserve happiness, love, respect, and that I am beautiful. I now can say these things without hesitation. I can look out at the world and know there is a place for me and I am allowed to search for it. I am allowed to be happy. I am allowed to wear whatever I want to. I can wear my makeup how I want to. I know you don’t think you were doing anything wrong, but you were. You controlled me and every move I made. That is not a life any one should live. I deserve better.

I want you to take a moment of your pitiful life and look at where you are. You’re sitting in a prison cell because you lost sight of love and life. You became someone who do not want near my children. I say my children because you don’t deserve to call them yours. You had ample time to see and spend time with these 2 precious lives. You chose not to. You chose to completely turn your back on them. I am not going to tell them until they are old enough to really understand the depths of what you have done. As long as I can help it, you will have nothing to do with these kids.

I think the thing I want to say to you more than anything though is I am ready to forgive you. I want to forgive you for making my life so different than anything I ever imagined. I want to forgive…….. I do forgive you, but not for your sake for mine.

I am going to include lyrics to a song…… My song…… A song that has touched my heart since the day I heard it.

 

Warrior by Demi Lavoto

This is a story that I’ve never told I gotta get this off my chest and let it go I need to take back the light inside you stole You’re a criminal And you steal like you’re a pro

All the pain and the truth I wear like a battle wound So ashamed, so confused I was broken, and bruised

And now I’m a warrior Now I’ve got thicker skin I’m a warrior I’m stronger than I’ve ever been And my armor, is made of steel, you can’t get in I’m a warrior And you can never hurt me again

Out of the ashes, I’m burning like a fire You can save your apologies; you’re nothing but a liar I’ve got shame, ‘I’ve got scars That I will never show I’m a survivor In more ways than you know

‘Cuz all the pain and the truth I wear like a battle wound So ashamed so confused, I’m not broken, or bruised

‘Cuz now I’m a warrior Now I got thicker skin I’m a warrior I’m stronger than I’ve ever been And my armor, is made of steel, you can’t get in I’m a warrior And you can never hurt me…

There’s a part of me I can’t get back A little girl grew up too fast All it took was once; I’ll never be the same Now I’m taking back my life today Nothing left that you can say Cause you were never gonna take the blame anyway

Now I’m a warrior I’ve got thicker skin I’m a warrior I’m stronger than I’ve ever been And my armor, is made of steel, you can’t get in I’m a warrior And you can never hurt me again

Nooo oooh yeaah yeaah

You can never hurt me again

 

Sincerely,

Your EX-WIFE

Trigger Warnings

This entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson. In it, she discusses an experience from this past Labor Day weekend that was highly triggering for her, and reflects on triggers in general. Please, proceed with caution, and if you find yourself being triggered, stop reading and do something kind for yourself instead. Your well-being is, as always, of utmost importance. – Amanda

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Most of these blog entries come with trigger warnings–words, sentences, stories, something in the article may stir uncomfortable memories, may stimulate anxiety or fear, may be hurtful to read. I hadn’t thought too much about them, because I’ve dealt directly with the subject of rape and trauma since last September, when my daughter called me in the middle of the night. Seeing the words doesn’t seem to trigger anything in me. I do get irritated when I see someone, (usually a guy), casually use the word rape out of context, thereby cheapening the experience and furthering the acceptance of rape culture by making it part of everyday language. A young man on my Facebook the other day was asking if anybody knew a nearby plumber for flooding in his house, and mentioned that he “didn’t want to get raped on the cost.” I thought about making an issue of it with him, but I get tired, sometimes, of being the “bad guy” in such situations by people who tell me they didn’t mean anything by it. Still, stuff like that I can take; I hadn’t actually experienced anything that actively acted as a trigger for me.

Last night, however, that changed. My daughter is home now, graduated from college and living with me for a while. We’ve been uncomfortably aware of the anniversary of her trauma coming up, and have been taking active steps to distract ourselves that weekend, as well as any times now that we can. So, yesterday, Annie’s girlfriend drove in from out of town, to have dinner with her and go to our little downtown festival. I was slightly nervous having them amongst all those jesus-loving, drunk, homophobic rednecks, but I warned them not to be conspicuous. I drove them down, and dropped them off. Just after dark, I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. A man’s voice asked, “Is this Annie R.’s mother?” When I said yes, he continued, “We just found your daughter lying unconscious in the road.” I didn’t even realize it, but I started to scream and didn’t stop. I vaguely heard him saying, “Ma’am, I’m going to need you to calm down…” I thought he was trying to get me quiet so he could tell me my daughter was dead. He finally got around to telling me this was a “friend” of mine, and it was a joke. I won’t try to recreate my response to him; I’ll say only that it was still hysterical, and most of the words began with “F”. When I hung up on him, I was crying, shaking, sweating, my fingertips were tingling–I was in shock. I called my daughter and told her to come home instantly, but she convinced me she was fine, she had run into him and his wife, suggested to them they call her mom sometime, and had no idea or control over him calling immediately or what he said. I understood that with the rational part of myself, and told her to go on and enjoy herself. I continued to be beside myself, couldn’t begin to calm down. I fixed myself a drink, took three sips of it, and vomited. I talked to anybody I could, and called law enforcement as well as my friend, our former sheriff. When Annie got home, we talked at length. She very much understood, but hadn’t had a similar reaction, because she was standing there, listening to him, and knew she was okay.

I had been thinking about it the entire time, and had written on Facebook, “For those of you who have not been through it, the experience of rape and/or molestation leaves triggers in the victims, and the triggers can lead to a bad, even worse, reaction than did the actual event. When the horror happens, there is an element of disbelief for a while. When you are later hit by triggers, that element of disbelief is forever gone,and the reaction can be even more devastating. Anyone who has, even peripherally, known an experience such as this, would never in a million years let such a thing come out of their mouth. Joke it is not. The trauma is very real, as real as the last one, and carries all those emotions into this one. I think that my reaction was, in fact, worse, thinking that I had gotten her through all of that, only to lose her less than a year later.

My daughter had some interesting perspectives on it as well. She had been aware of triggers before her own attack, as a girl she loved had lived through a rape, and had numerous triggers. Annie said that in a lot of ways, those were worse for her than any relating to her own attack. She said that when it happened to her, she was physically there to know she got through it, she knows she is a survivor, and with a few exceptions, doesn’t react nearly as much to things that remind her of her own attack as she does still to those that reminded her of her friend’s attack. She says her heart still stops when she sees certain things, like military uniforms, because her friend’s rapist was in the military. She went on to say she feels worse for my pain than she does for her own, because the people who love her can’t do anything at all about their feelings, while she knows how to deal with her own as they come up. She’s certainly not done with that process, but she may indeed have a better handle on it than I ever will.

I have read a lot of y’all’s posts about things that trigger you, that set you off, and the damage they continue to do to you. You may not agree with what she said, and I really want to hear thoughts and reactions to this. Comment freely. Just know that, either way, it is no joking matter, and for anyone to make a joke about them is sick, heartless and cruel.

These kinds of reminders may never leave us entirely, but with time and therapy, I hope that they will be somewhat dulled for all of us. I also hope that they stay with us just enough that we all continue to work for change, in our judicial system, in our communities, in the general rape culture we find ourselves in. In some ways, perhaps our triggers will stop being debilitating and work for us, as triggers in the true sense, to fire away at rape, to disable it and kill it.

The What Ifs

Today’s entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson. In it, she explores something I am all too familiar with (as are all survivors, and most people in general). The “what if”s.

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What if I hadn’t gone there that night? What if I hadn’t spoken to him? What if I had turned right instead of left? How many of these do every survivor of rape live with every day, along with those of us who love and support them? Survivors and their loved ones live with as much a sense of guilt as that of trauma. This is partly the fault of the justice system, and the rape culture in America. What was she wearing, how much was she drinking, why was she in that part of town, why was she talking to him if she didn’t want to have sex with him? We’ve all seen articles recently about how women shouldn’t have to protect themselves against rape, parents shouldn’t have to teach their daughters how NOT to be raped, we shouldn’t have to polish our fingernails to detect date rape drugs; instead, parents, schools, society should teach our sons NOT TO RAPE.

It is human nature, however, to revisit the horror, endlessly, in our minds. My daughter said to me, soon after I arrived in New York following her phone call telling me what happened to her, “I’m sorry, Mom.” In the months following, she expressed regret that she had wine that night, that she had been nice to him, a new acquaintance, and offered him a place to stay on her floor when he said he missed his train. She even feels guilty about having worn flip-flops that night, (with her boy’s pants and men’s hoodie), instead of tie-up boots, because the seconds it would have taken to untie those boots might have brought her to her senses and made her fight. My regrets and guilt, as her mom, haunt me all night, every night. She called me every night when she got in from her evening, except very occasionally when she decided to assert her independence. That night, I hadn’t heard from her, so I texted her to see if she was in yet, and to see if she was ok. She texted back, “yes.” I expected her to call soon, but she didn’t. A nagging feeling in the back of my heart told me that wasn’t ok, but I assumed it was one of her “independent” nights, and went on to bed. She woke me about 45 minutes later, hysterical. What if I had texted her and told her she had to call? What if I had called and called her until she had to answer? Could I have stopped what happened to her? I’m a Southern mom, who always taught my children hospitality. If I hadn’t been, would she have not been so quick to feel for his situation and not offered him a place to stay? I’m very outgoing, never met a stranger. Was she trying to be more like me? I could go on and on.

The fact is, no victim of rape is responsible for what happened, no victim is guilty, no matter what. But I think a large part of the recovery period is that nagging sense of guilt, those middle of the night “what-ifs.” I know it is hindering my recovery. I know that I go there late into every night. I know that my tears have a lot to do with what I didn’t do to protect her, even if I couldn’t have, even if I was over 500 miles away.

I’ve said in an earlier blog entry that we shouldn’t live in the past, that, as my wonderful therapist Bob always said, “You’re gonna wreck the car if you spend all your time looking in the rear-view mirror.” Easier said then done, however. In a book I was reading last night, I found a passage that said, “The past is never really past…Do you know that song, ‘What a Wonderful World’?…Louis Armstrong? We hear it so often that it’s become about as moving as a beer jingle.But it’s beautiful. Have you ever listened to the lyrics, closely? The list of things that prove how wonderful the world really is? I’m taken every time by this: ‘the bright blessed day and the dark sacred night.’…”The past is like the night: dark yet sacred. It’s the time when most of us sleep, so we think of the day as the time we really live, the only time that matters, because the stuff we do by day somehow makes us who we are.We feel the same way about the present. We say, Let bygones be bygones…water under the bridge. But there is no day without night, no wakefulness without sleep, no present without past. They are constantly somersaulting over each other.” ( And The Dark Sacred Night, Julia Glass) I love that, the dark and sacred night. In the days following the attack, day and night, past and present are dark. I think that the darkness becomes familiar, and therefore dear, and sacred. Many of us forget how to live in the light, in the present. Sometimes that translates into PTSD, or other things. But it is impossible to live in the light without making peace with the dark, with the memories, the guilt, the what-ifs. This is where the day and night, the past and present begin somersaulting over each other. It can be confusing and disorienting, trying to live in the present with the past intruding time and time again, with no warning. We need to let that happen, we need to sit with the darkness, until some light shines upon it. In the dark, those things continue to have power over us; staying with them as we continue to define who we are in the light defuses the power, the hold they have on us. Only when we have visited those thoughts consciously, confronted them, talked about them with somebody trusted, can we move on. Do I know how? Obviously not yet, or this wouldn’t be on my mind. But I’m not as afraid of those things if I let them come, and let them sit, without them taking my power.

Maybe some day society will achieve a zero tolerance policy on rape; it will no longer exist in the gray area that so seldom benefits the victim. Maybe then we won’t have to wonder what we did wrong; justice will be so exact and so clear-cut that we will KNOW, down to our toes, that nothing was our fault. Until that time, I hope we can all remember that the “dark sacred night” is part of “What a Wonderful World” it is.

(As an afterword, I want to include a poem written by my beautiful, brave daughter, Annie Virginia, that I had not read previous to writing this. The mirrored images are amazing.)

It Would Not Have Happened

If I had been wearing shoes that didn’t slip off.
If I had not changed from my dress of the morning.
But that’s not what they say.
If I had sat on my chair and not my bed.
If I’d lost my keys.
If I’d found my keys, used my pocketknife.
If I’d had one fewer glasses of wine or one more shot of tequila.
If less people had told me to be nice to men.
If men had been nicer.
Always and on and back.
If they had played a song worth dancing to.
If Alanna had loved me, too, all these years.
If Southern hospitality weren’t stuck in my gentleman words.
If my hair were short.
If we hadn’t taken the time to clean up the deck of cards.
If I’d been more tired. If I’d been more awake.
If my body weren’t made of what the earth doesn’t tell anyone.
If Tati had never left. If Celeste had never left.
If I’d fallen down like I did in every city in Italy.
I am grateful for every scar of prevention.
How much smaller they are.
If I’d shattered the wine glass.
If the weather weren’t so nice.
If my voice hadn’t stuck in my chest like a scrap of hot metal.
If I had had plans Saturday morning.
If someone had been in the hallway.
If I had loved Allison more than myself.
If boxers turned off the predator in him.
Look, this is my boy armor, it has always been.
You don’t want me.
If I’d chosen a different house.
If I were sicker, if it showed.
Maybe that’s just it.

Hip Hop and Rape Culture

Today’s entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson. She is taking a closer look at the correlation between music and rape culture. (Link is set to open in a new window/tab.) Please keep in mind that this may be triggering. If you find yourself being triggered, please stop reading and do something kind for yourself instead. – Amanda

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I want to write a tip-of-the-iceberg- article about the effects of hip-hop and rap music on rape culture today. In one of her recent posts, Amanda Brock addressed the rape-laden lyrics of a lot of popular music; I want to focus on hip-hop. In my opinion, this genre had a direct causative effect on my daughter’s rape.

Becky Blanchard, in The Social Significance of Rap and Hip-Hop Culture, says, “Hip-hop music is generally considered to have been pioneered in New York’s South Bronx in 1973 by Jamaican-born Kool DJ Herc. At a Halloween dance party thrown by his younger sister, Herc used an innovative turntable technique to stretch a song’s drum break by playing the break portion of two identical records consecutively. The popularity of the extended break lent its name to “breakdancing”. She goes on to say, “Hip-hop music originated from a combination of traditionally African-American forms of music–including jazz, soul, gospel, and reggae. It was created by working-class African-Americans, who, like Herc, took advantage of available tools–vinyl records and turntables–to invent a new form of music that both expressed and shaped the culture of black New York City youth in the 1970s.” Rap seems to be rooted in the long oral traditions of Africa, expressing the oppression of the African and Afro-American people. Blanchard goes on to say, however, that hip-hop and rap were discovered by corporate labels, and the commercialization and commodification of the genre quickly diverted the lyrics from\ social, political, and economic problems into those of violence, misogyny, and homophobia. She claims that, “according to Davey D, “The business of music has bastardized rap.” “

For example, Dorian Miller-Rosenberg, in Music News, cites the 15 Most Misogynistic Lines In Rap History, including 1) “My little sister’s birthday/ She’ll remember me/ For a gift I had ten of my boys take her virginity.”–Bizarre, and 2) “Slut, you think I won’t choke no whore/Til the vocal cords don’t work in her throat no more?!”–Eminem.

One of the forerunners of the commercialization of the rap movement was Def Jam records, with one of its earliest presidents being Russell Simmons. Under Simmons, the rappers made the leap to the ever-present usage of the terms “bitches” and “hoes” for women, and the music was increasingly sexualized, with little regard for women’s voices or consent. His sexist attitudes and repudiation of women was highlighted in 2006, during his infamous approval of a Harriet Tubman sex tape. In one part of the documentary, he is asked why he can not address sexism and misogyny in hip-hop, and responds with, ““I think we have to challenge sexism as a whole…the way it stands in the community, not the poetry that is a reflection of it” (Womanifesto: Exploring Sexism, Misogyny and Accountability in Hip-Hop, For Harriet) He doesn’t seem to realize that the poetry he is selling is creating the community as much as the reverse.

As the company was working to become the multi-million dollar corporation it is today, a young woman went in and made herself indispensable, working with Simmons in his bedroom, with drunk partiers sleeping off the night before all around her on the floor. She soon became president of Def Jam records. Who do you suppose that was? Why, the mother of my daughter’s rapist, of course. And this was the environment in which he was raised. Women were ‘bitches” and “hoes”, to be raped or killed at will. In an article in UKEssays, entitled “Mysogynistic Portrayal of Women in Male Rappers”, they conclude that, “Kubrin and Weitzer in their study claim that misogyny is the general characteristic of rap music. Not all of the songs discredit women, but the objectification, intensity of insults and perpetuation of violence towards women stand out to the extreme.

Whatever his mother thought she was teaching him, this is what he learned. And what he puts forward, to this day, on social media. I only wish she had been more like the mother of Earl Sweatshirt, a noted rapper and member of the group Odd Future. His mother was a law professor at University of California; his dad, who left them when Earl was 6, was a famous South African poet and political activist. Earl got involved with the other musicians at a very young age, and was well known for his recordings by the age of 16. According to an article in New Times Music, by Kat Bein, “His debut mixtape made the rounds on hip-hop blogs as a fan favorite. It was equal parts artistic and shocking. The then-16 Sweatshirt showed an incredible talent for unique flows and a mature diction but made waves when pairing that musicality and rhythmic skill with near-obscene stories of kidnapping, rape, cop-killing, and deranged violence.” My son, a fan of his, said he simply could not listen to his music, because it was so filled with graphic and explicit rape imagery. He then did a horrendously violent music video, apparently seen by his mother. She promptly pulled him out of the group, and shipped him off to a therapeutic retreat school in Samoa, where he remained until he graduated. He spent time there working with rape victims, hearing their stories. He returned to music after he graduated, and his content reflected much introspection, growth and maturity. No longer did he rap about rape and violence.

The rape culture-reflecting and-producing hip-hop/rap movement doesn’t catch all the youth in its realm, not even all the musicians, but it takes the strong will of a solid mother and/or upbringing to resist. The music has a seductive beat, and the words worm themselves so far into the subconscious of young men today, I’m convinced it contributes to a lot of the rapes taking place. Annie’s rapist’s mother continues to maintain that her son was falsely accused, and has taken great strides to become a “Christian minister” since the rape occurred, so she will be viewed as a righteous woman and mother. But he was born into the rap culture, bred in its inner circle. He set out that night to rape somebody, and my daughter became the easiest target. If he hadn’t heard a rap song about it, he could write one.(He’s also a rapper, did I mention that?) Recently, on his Facebook page, he posted a picture of women learning martial arts that said, “GIRLS MUST TRAIN…Rape, Abuse, Domestic violence, kidnap, abductions, kwk, TRAIN or DIE.”