Friday, November 11, 2016

My Heart Cry

Yesterday I had the first flashback I have had in over 20 years. Over 20 years ago, I took power back after my sexual assault. I went through extensive therapy, to fix and strengthen the broken parts of me. I relived my experience while giving my deposition to an unsympathetic and doubting man to help change the law in my state. I told my story to individuals in order to raise awareness for this injustice. Through the grace of God, support of others and inner strength I did not know I had, I even got to the point of forgiveness and a continued relationship with my abuser (this is not something I would advocate for in most circumstances). My healing journey brought me to the place where I could honestly say that while I would never want to relive my experience, I would not change it--for it shaped who I am, and I really like her. My point is that I have come to a place of healing that many in this situation will not reach.

Being that this is where I have been in my sexual assault journey for over 20 years, I was blind-sided by the flashback. It was just as real as if it had just occurred and left me shaken. I learned long ago that I cannot control these experiences, they come when they are triggered. They are a visceral reaction to my previous experiences and my current state. It does no good to try to suppress the flashback. Instead, I have learned that if I let it play out, give grace to that innocent girl, and give myself time to process it, I can find my balance again. It also helps to understand the trigger--what in my current life has set off this flashback?

This time, I realize, it is fear. Fear of not being heard and validated. Fear that the world is not safe. Fear that society does not stand with me, does not hear me, does not validate me. For me, my reaction to the election results is more than sadness at not winning. It is a lump in my gut that will not dissipate. It is fear. The victim of sexual assault in our country has the obligation to prove way beyond a shadow of doubt first that the assault even occurred, second that she did not agree, and third that she was completely innocent. Not just innocent of explicit consent, but every conceivable implicit consent (Was she wearing too short of a skirt? Was she possibly intoxicated? Did she walk into a dark alley after looking his way, thus implying she wanted it?). As we learned from the Stanford rape this year, she finally has to prove she is worth more than he is as a person for him to receive a punishment that affects him a fraction of how it will affect her. Here I am, 20 years and a lot of therapy and support out, more whole than many with similar experiences, brought to my knees with a vivid flashback. In public. In broad daylight. It doesn't really go away. Ever. When our country elected Trump, the message to this sexual assault victim was a solid stand with my perpetrator. That might not be what your vote meant to you, but it is what his victory told my soul. By voting in a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women, my country told me that behavior is okay. It tells him, it is okay. Voting him in to office has reinforced his behavior. This is the part I am struggling with. This is what has caused enough primal fear in me to trigger a flashback.

I can't pretend to know another's experience, but I wonder if this isn't the same fear sitting in the guts of minorities in our country? I have heard of multiple racist and sexist accounts against my friends' children. These have occurred in the days following the election. Voting for Trump, despite his hateful comments about minorities, women, and other so-called "lesser-thans" is viewed (by me, by Trump, and by many others out there) as approval for him and his behaviors. Conservative Christians and other really good hearted people out there, I get you. I grew up with you and I grew up as one of you. My life circumstances may not allow me to be you anymore, but I get and I love you--and I hear you. You wanted change that aligned with your values. You wanted change that heard your struggles. You don't agree with his hateful comments, and you may not even like him as a person--but you needed the change he promised to bring. The problem is, on the ballot there is only one box to mark. You don't get to mark yes for him, but no for the hatred he spews.

When I told my mom (who loves me very much and does not ever want to see me hurting) that I had had a flashback yesterday, she urged me to get therapy. She wanted me to find a way to fix myself so I could live successfully in this society. While I appreciate that this comes from a place of love and isn't a bad idea, what I hear is that I am broken. The reality is, my world is broken. When Trump's views on sexual assault became clear, I was still okay. Why? Because there was outrage. Society stood with me and all the other me's out there and said, "We will not stand for this! This is wrong!" His ratings dropped. I felt surrounded by support from the majority. However, when he won the election, the message to me was it is ok. It is ok that the man who will have the most powerful position in the world feels free to misuse his power against women. I wonder if people of color across our nation had the same reaction when he said hateful things about their race, when he incited others at rallies to show their hatred?

One thing that has been shown over and over in occasions of violence is that silence is the same as acceptance. The same. It sends the message of acceptance to the victim. It sends the same message to the perpetrator. This silence has to stop. The message has to change. The thing is, sexual assault happens to 1 in 4 women in college. Right now. Today, 1 in 4. Twenty-five percent of males are not causing all of this pain. In fact, the number of people causing the pain represents a very small percentage of those in our society. The same is true for those people doing overt racist acts. The problem is that a small percentage of people doing similar acts to multiple people makes this a very big problem. If our President does not see this as a problem, and in fact incites this very behavior, the problem will grow. We have learned from this election that racism is more rampant than we once knew. Those of us who come from a place of privilege don't experience it daily, so we were able to believe that it wasn't as bad as it is. Now we know. Our power doesn't stop with the ballot. We need to be very clear of our expectations for those we have placed in power.

Trump is here for the next four years. I accept that. We have had Presidents before and will have Presidents again that I don't align with. I accept that. However, we don't have to and should not accept his hateful comments. He needs to acknowledge the power his comments have as the President of the most powerful country in the world. He needs to acknowledge they were wrong and that those sentiments will not be tolerated in our country.

I don't feel safe--I don't feel that my daughters are being raised in a community that has their backs. I don't believe people of color feel safe. I don't believe the LGBTQ community feels safe. I don't feel people with disabilities feel safe. Everyone deserves to feel safe. If you believe that God calls you to take care of the "least of these" in society, or if you believe in taking care of them because you are just a good person, than please, stand with us. Hear us. Please don't discount us as just being emotional or "sore losers". Hear us and tell us you will keep us safe. An easy way to tell me you hear me and stand with me is to write letters to every person you have voted into a position of power. Tell them that you expect them to stand strong for the safety of all people in this country. If you voted Trump into office despite disagreeing with his stance on humanity, make that very clear to him. If you need a template for your letter to get you started, let me know. As parents, we don't make our children guess our expectations. Instead, we clearly state them ahead of time so they have a chance to meet those expectations. We, the people, are now Trump's boss and we need to make sure he understands our expectations prior to his inauguration. Another way is to share this perspective with your friends and ask them to join you in setting expectations. Remember, Trump ran on the platform of being different than the establishment. Therefore, we can not expect him to follow the implied rules of the previous establishment. We cannot sit back and hope and pray that he will be for all people. Also, if you see people peacefully protesting, listen to them and stand with them. Obviously, your experience is quite different from theirs or you would be standing there with them. Find out what it means for them. Chances are, they aren't wasting their time, standing, marching, holding up a sign and chanting until they are hoarse because they didn't have anything better to do. It is because they have been hurt or they see hurt and need change and healing.

This blog post is for every woman who has experienced sexual assault. If this election has had this affect on me, what is it like for those women who are just beginning their journey to healing? I have put in a lot of work towards building a strong self, taking back the power that was ripped from me so long ago. Writing this blog required me to be very vulnerable. To take down the walls of strength I so purposefully constructed. If you are feeling inclined to take action steps to stand with me, please leave a comment and let me know how you have made an effort to make this country a safe place for all people. I still believe that love is more powerful than hate, and that together we can make influence the outcome. Thank you for taking the time to hear my heart cry.


Rona said...

I hear you, N, and I'm crying with you. Thank you for being brave and sharing your deepest hurt. We must be better. I stand with you and with everyone who is so justifiably afraid. I'm figuring out ways to intervene when I see acts of bullying and harassment. I am horrified and feel betrayed by those who chose a sexual predator and bigot to lead our country, who were willing to be associated with that kind of blatant evil on the chance that they might get a supreme court justice they like. But that horrible, abusive man does not lead me. Jesus does. I choose the way of love. I've got your back.

Sandy Miller said...

OK, now that my vision is no longer blurry form the tears... your willingness to be vulnerable and honest despite the obvious pain is brilliant, especially when couched in such kind and balanced words even towards those who voted for him. Thank you for setting the bar so high. And thank you for being brave and vulnerable and talking about what I know is a painful wound to expose. My Dad always said, "God is what happens in the space between people". You are an example of God acting through one person to share his Love with many.

I tried to keep silent through the election cycle and even for the first couple days afterwards; I'm not a great fan of conflict. But the harder I tried to keep quite, the more I felt like crying until a big void crumbled and I burst out bawling in my husbands arms. He reminded me, as you have, that what we permit, we promote. I felt empty and aching because I was not walking the road that Christ tells us to walk. Sometimes that includes not just peaceful mediation, but taking a stand for those who are too afraid or disempowered do so for themselves. I am with you, and with every woman, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, african american, hispanic, asian, disabled, muslim and otherwise marginalized human being living through this dark moment in our lives. I am with you.

Terra said...

i love you and i love your heart. i'm so sorry for the terrible pain of the flashbacks and fear. i (we) stand with you, N. we stood with you when we determined whom we could not, would not ever vote for; when we talked to our children about attitudes, values, words and actions that would never be tolerated and should be fought against and cause for outrage; and when we choose daily to live a life of love, defending the vulnerable, welcoming outsiders, seeking justice and hoping to live a life pleasing to Christ where all lives are deeply valued ... oh how beautifully He loved and protected and defended. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. It's one of the many, many things I love about you. We stand beside you, my beautiful friend.

"Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and oppressed." Psalm 82:3

Natasha said...

Rona, Sandy, Terra,
Each of your comments were balm to my soul. Thank you for reading, considering and taking the time to respond. I really appreciate each one of you!

To everyone who has read this blog post, thank you. I have been overwhelmed by comments, public and private. My little blog post has already been read by over 2000 people. I am humbled by this response. We can be the change we want to be. We can lift one another up and also demand that the hatred stops. Thank you!

TesoriTrovati said...

I stand with you, Miss Natasha. I stand against hatred, intolerance and bigotry of any sort. I am so sorry that you are experiencing the wounds re-opening because of this election. Thank you for being so open and honest and also so very balanced in your approach. I will carry your words with me as fuel to sustain the vigilance that is needed to ensure that we will not turn a blind eye to those who would dismantle decency and respect in the name of change. You are my 'something good' today.

Natasha said...

Thank you, Erin--you were just my 'something good' today as well. I am also sorry this re-triggered my pain, for I don't want to relive it again. However, I know I am strong and I will survive this as well. I also so appreciate the conversation that this has started with people in my life (and people I don't even know). I appreciate the opportunity to build a bridge of conversation between two sides of a broken landscape. I appreciate every other survivor who has shared their fear and pain with me, that expressing my pain has given them words to speak their hearts as well. I appreciate you taking the time to encourage, and sharing that gift with me!