On my birthday last month I marked the occasion by making a submission to Project Unbreakable. I had meant to link to my image once it appeared on the site but there is a long backlog so I thought I'd just post it on here and facebook first.
The sign I'm holding up reads: "I was ten. It would have been easier if you were good at being bad so I could hate you. But you are not evil, just flawed. This was the most disempowering thing you said because it made you human. How do I love the sinner but hate the sin? It's okay. I forgive you."
What's both encouraging and frightening is that quite often, when I mention the fact that I am a victim of sexual abuse, the person I am speaking to opens up with his/her own experiences of a similar nature. For a lot of us, this happened when we were children/young adults. This further cemented my resolve to 'de-classify' my experiences in the hopes that taking away the surrounding taboo would make it easier for me (and my fellow survivors) to deal with our past.
As for my decision to show my face in the picture, post it on Facebook, and on my blog, Dan and I had a lengthy discussion on the matter - excerpts of which I share below.
Here, Dan had been criticizing my photos (it took quite a few takes to get the right one) because of my blank expression in most of them. He says my expression matters because:
22:18 Daniel: well I'm hoping it make it easy to connect
you've decided to put your face in it
me: most ppl cover their face
I don't really want to contribute to the sense of shame victims are often inclined to feel
In terms of sharing this on Facebook and on my blog, in a moment of serious self-doubt, I asked Dan if this is a good idea.
22:24 Daniel: the whole thing?
I'm interested as to why you are doing this on your birthday
or is that just a coincidence?
me: half coincidence
and half because i treat birthdays as a time for taking stock, I gues
and new year's in general
22:25 Daniel: ok, fair enough
you are accepting that posting something like this to the Internet takes it out of your control?
22:26 me: yeah
haters gonna hate
Daniel: and that you are willing to accept that is possible that everyone you ever meet may see this?
me: so much the better
it WOULD be dull if people never wanted to talk to me about anything else
but I doubt that will happen
22:27 most ppl have 5 minutes to spare for serious topics
Daniel: so not only do you intend to post it to the website, but also to your FB wall?
22:28 me: well I'm thinking about it
that's what I want to do
Daniel: and the purpose of the latter is?
me: because the whole point of everything I've been doing
is to call attention to it
me: the fact that child abuse happens all over the place
to people YOU KNOW
22:29 you just don't necessarily know that about them
but if even only a small handful stand up and speak out
I think it would be harder for perpetrators to get away with it
or even IMAGINE that they might get away with it
Daniel: it's a very brave thing to do, and I think you have good reasons for doing so
22:31 if I were in your shoes, one of the things that would concern me is that people would rationalize me today in terms of this event in the past
X is who they are because of this thing
22:32 but right now ppl rationalize me by saying so and so is such and such because she wants to be different
I hope that the same percentage of people will still have the opportunity to get to know me for who I am
22:33 Daniel: I think as long as you are accepting that some people will be ‘lazy’ in their thinking, then I think you should go ahead
I think some people will ALWAYS be lazy
22:34 me: but if these lazy ppl think a bit more about childhood sexual abuse
I don't tend to make things easier for myself
I check Project Unbreakable quite often, because other people stepping into the light gives me a sense of solidarity and empowerment. It feels good to think that the truth will out. I salute those who, like myself, have chosen not to cover their faces, but I am proud of each and every one of them just for taking part.
If you've read this far, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to care about an issue that I care deeply about. Really, thank you.