1.26.2017

We will rise.



My past is a long and sordid tale. I'd buried half of it so deep inside that those memories hadn't crossed my mind in years and sometimes decades. I'd venture a guess that I don't know even 5% of the trials my grandparents endured. Each time I'm made privy to some new confession (about an older or deceased family member by a younger one who was one of only a few let it on the secret), I'm shocked that it wasn't something we talked about within our own families. Rape and incest and abuse? Check, check, check. When talking with friends, I hear the same tales. Grandma so-and-so was molested by her brother for five years. Aunt such-and-such was raped by a close family friend for a decade. My Grandma's cousin Susie-Q was raped by a date and her mom told her to keep it to herself like a good girl.


The stories are all eerily similar and typically involve a man in a position of power exerting sexual control over someone younger and less powerful. This was a common story a few decades ago, but almost as troubling as the abuse itself is the knowledge that women were told to keep quiet about their abuses. As if being violated in the most profound way imaginable wasn't enough, they were told to endure further violation by having to keep these abuses a secret. We wouldn't want to disrupt the peace, you know.

I've learned in my 33 years on this earth that the quickest way for me to find any sort of healing comes from an admission. I was once really ashamed about my past abuse of credit cards. In my late teens and early 20s, in response to some of the same sorts of abuses mentioned above and various other issues, I chose to cope in a few self-destructive and unhealthy ways. The first was to spend more money than I made. The act of shopping itself was therapeutic, and because of my own lack of self-esteem, I thought if I just possessed the right things, I would be worthy. That got out of control as I amassed thousands of dollars in debt and got eviction notices and utilities shut off. Ultimately, I dropped out of college my junior year as my life crumbled around me, only to claw myself out of the hole shortly thereafter, completely turning my life around and getting out of debt. Many people aren't as lucky. I was privileged to have the support system I did.

I carried around quite a bit of shame about that until I decided to come clean. Even though I was no longer a shopaholic (we joke about that term, but it's a real thing), I couldn't let go of the shame because it was a secret I was carrying around and I believed that the only reason the people in my life liked me was because they just didn't know. Once I came clean and began to speak out about the misdirection of my life in those late teen years, I felt the weight fall right off my shoulders. There was something powerful about taking control over something that once took control over me. By claiming it, owning it and using it to help others, I felt free from the bondage of that shame.

Looking around, I can see all the ways these secret shames manifest around us. Alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, drug addiction, eating disorders, shopping compulsion, even kleptomania are all manifestations of a buried shame. These secret shames are often not the fault of the shame-bearer. Especially in the case of sexual assault or molestation, the women end up carrying around the burden of shame from their own abuses. How twisted is that?

In my first attempt to free myself of the bondage of secret shame, I blogged about being raped. I'd never been open about that before, and I'll admit I didn't publicize that blog post to anyone. I didn't share it with Facebook or tell more than a couple of people about it, and this blog doesn't get much traffic anymore, so I knew that the eyeballs on that post were limited. I'm sure that on some level, it's the only reason I felt courageous enough to open up. But I had recognized that the act of opening up and sharing my secret shame was the first step in finding self-forgiveness and letting go of the shame.

I've also experienced sexual assault and attempted sexual assault. I've experienced sexual coercion and found myself doing things that horrified me because I was too scared to say no. I was also convinced for awhile that the message I'd received that I was only as good as what was between my legs was true, and that belief drove some really poor choices that I've had to come to terms with as an adult. I've been cat-called and degraded, put down and minimized, discounted because I'm female and derogatorily called "Sweetie" or "Snowflake" by men. I've had male relatives force me to do uncomfortable things and the world around me treat me like a lunatic because it made me uncomfortable.

I'm far from the only woman who has chosen to speak up, hoping to break the bonds of secret shame and raise awareness for the very real and continued mistreatment of women in this country. Unfortunately, for me and others like me, these admissions were met with resistance. Skepticism and blame, accusations of being "delicate" and "weak" and proclamations that we should just shut up and get over it, already.

I am so tired of every issue being political. Suddenly, being for women is political. Women are turning on each other now because it's become yet another way we divide ourselves. Are we going to start seeing more women blaming other women for their rapes? Asking them what they were wearing or if they'd had anything to drink that evening? Once an issue becomes so fiercely political, we can no longer reason or be intellectual. We act on emotion and carry our party line to the death, regardless of who we hurt along the way.

Coming to terms with our nation electing a man who has openly done, or been accused of doing, so many of those things I was working to overcome? I literally can't. I don't know how. Knowing that many of those voters were women? Who have daughters? Then, seeing those same women express outrage for a women's march of opposition? Clucking that women who march are entitled, spoiled brats who already have equal rights? It didn't just shatter me to my core. It literally devastated me. The anger, disbelief, disgust and confusion I've felt over the last few days has brought me to my knees.

How could WOMEN be shaming OTHER WOMEN in such a way? How can someone tell another woman she has no right to feel that she is still treated unfairly, or God forbid, FIGHT FOR THE RIGHTS OF OTHER WOMEN WHO AREN'T TREATED FAIRLY EVEN IF SHE, HERSELF, IS TREATED EQUALLY?

If Donald Trump's bragging of sexual abuse (and his future election after said bragging) wasn't enough to prove that we have so far to go in issuing equal rights in this country, I don't have much hope that there is anything that could prove it.

I'm in therapy now, working to overcome the self-hatred and feelings of worthlessness that came from a few decades of being made to feel like I was only worth what existed between my legs. I don't say these things to elicit sympathy. Let me be clear that I do not want sympathy. If I've learned nothing else from Brene Brown, it's that nobody wants sympathy. I want healing and I want awareness.

Most women never share their rape stories because we find ways to blame ourselves. We find ways to blame ourselves because that's the message we've received for most of our lives. From the time we are forced to kiss adult men who creepily want to kiss us to the questioning of our clothing when we were raped or our explanation for why we were drinking alcohol at the time of our abuse to the pathetic sentencing we hand down to white men who rape women, the message is still ringing in our ears.

You are only good for us if you will lay down, shut up and let us have our way with you. These stories seem to be angering people and making them uncomfortable. But let's not forget that we just elected this man to the office of president.



I am not too concerned with making people uncomfortable. And frankly, if it makes you uncomfortable to read about the abuse women endured, imagine how we felt experiencing it.

While you're busy yelling on Facebook that we're delicate snowflakes, telling us to shut up, get over it or stop being so sensitive ("Go on with your safe space, stupid millenials"), we're working behind the scenes to create actual, positive change (while you're yelling at us about that, too). Many of us are dealing with traumas that have been ripped wide open in this past year, yet still we rise. Still we work. Still we fight. We do these things in spite of, and because of, abuse at the hands of powerful men. We're a feisty group and we're going to change the world while you cluck and whine and belittle us on Facebook.

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