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Sunday, 19 February 2012

Blip

Sometimes when I'm using Blogger I jot down things as I go along, saving it to drafts for later revision. Yesterday I inadvertently published an entry I'm working on, and though I immediately reverted to draft, it's been burned to my feed.

Just so you know I've deleted my feedburner feed - it's way old and I think blogger now provides the same services. Sorry if you have to resubscribe.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Unbeknownst to you...

you are among friends. And if you should come forward to tell the truth, we will believe you, support you, and think more, rather than less of you. Be brave, and trust us to be understanding. 

A friend of mine, having seen my Project Unbreakable post, recently wrote to me about another friend, who had been sexually harassed in the work-place. My friend said she:

... was talking me through it with the self-doubt and guilt that I never expected a strong woman like her to be experiencing. She is an [...], and seeing that the field is intimate, that kind of reputation could cost her any future aspirations- she could, basically, become unemployable ( her boss warned her). Very sad. 

Stories like yours need to be heard if anything is ever going to change.

Here is my reply, for the benefit of anyone who is going through a similar experience. Please know that there are innumerable others out there like you - silenced by the social stigma of the crime for which they were not guilty. 

...It's a very sad but true fact that grown women who face sexual predation often feel that to come out with their story would actually do they themselves more damage than good - especially in terms of career. It's very understandable, due to the stigma we have about sex, to feel shame and be convinced that no one will believe us, or that they will think we are somehow at fault for what has happened. Like you said, the only thing that can change this is if survivors united and turned the tide - but the first few will always be ones swimming against the current - ergo higher risk of drowning. But it ain't killed me yet.

Seriously though, I'm fortunate enough to not belong to an industry where my career can be thus jeopardized. I suppose I've finally found a good thing about not belonging to any particular industry at all - or having career aspirations....

Though I am happy to report that having spoken to many people who have come forward, we are more often than not pleasantly surprised by the amount of validation and support we receive from peers. Like Project Unbreakable reveals, there are many many among us. So who knows, perhaps your friend will one day decide to expose her abuser too. If and when, I hope she nails him dead to the door. One of my good friends... her boss harassed her... [but] she kept cool and collected enough evidence against him (both professionally, as he was a dodgy administrator, and criminally), to basically ruin the rest of his life...

Essential skills they don't teach girls, eh? We don't need to know how to be GOOD (read: obedient). We need to know how to be strong. 

Excuse the off-hand tone of most of this post. It was taken directly from my email exchange with a friend. Plus if I can't make light of something serious, well, I probably wouldn't be here, so that's that. I've also removed any mentions of names and specifics for obvious reasons.

With regards to the life of sexual predators being 'ruined,' as I so glibly put it - it's important to remember that they did it to themselves. For a very long time I debated whether I ought to come forward with the truth concerning my experiences of abuse. My abuser is a relative - and I know and love his children. A good deal of my teenage and young-adult years were spent on feeling burdened by the knowledge that their father is a pedophile. I felt like the keeper of a secret - and I felt responsible for protecting them. It took me many years to realize that if he wanted his kids to have a father they can be proud of, he should have done what was right rather than what was easy. 

In short, if you go around harassing and abusing those near you - then you have marred your life already, all on your own - whether those you victimize speak out or not. So do the right thing by yourself, those who love you, and those who come across your path - don't be a fucking shithead. 

Doing what is right rather than doing what is easy also basically sums up why I decided to take part in Unbreakable. For others like me out there, I encourage (though I would not say that I urge, as only you know what you need) you to do the same.  

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The talented Mr. Charlie


I friended Charlie on Facebook because he is hilariously funny. Having met him in person I am happy to report that he's lived up to every expectation. Here's two related status updates that I loved... 

In the dream she walks toward me with a measured grace and matchless beauty. "You write the funniest posts on Facebook," she says, "everyone else's are rubbish." "Marry me," I say. "You see!" she says. "You're so funny!"

and another... 

"I notice you're able to translate your jokes into Chinese," she continues. "You clearly possess superior genetic material." "I also have a British passport," I reply.

Now is good

I posted on my Facebook: "You know you would feel better about everything if you could just do something, however small, for even just one person." At the time I was not thinking about myself, but about a friend of mine who I'd been talking to.

Then Hendrik came back with: "At a time in your life you must reach out your hand to another. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?", which is a quote from the Torah.


This then lead me to think about everything I had done since my experiences of abuse at a young age.

The thing is, reaching out to help others is the only thing I can do to make my abuse, which was a very negative experience, into a very positive one. It feels sometimes like I am a wall, or a dam, and I can be the shield that stops the harm which so often perpetuates from abuser to abused. I want to be the one to end that ripple effect, to turn the tide.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

I am Unbreakable


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
  s
  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
 Daniel: ok
 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
 me: yup
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
 me: thanks!
  I think some people will ALWAYS be lazy
 Daniel: yes
22:34 me: but if these lazy ppl think a bit more about childhood sexual abuse
  shrug
  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. 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Third time lucky?

The last two were a bit crap, and I kind of thought marking it out as a day different from any other would be just begging for doom and blight. But this year I thought I'd try something clever and see if I'd get away with it. Third time lucky, so they say.

Let's hope it doesn't end up with me sitting alone at the bar, with The Smiths playing in the background. But anyway...

Yoga earlier. It occurred to me that the way 五柳先生 reads is more or less how I think of my practice:   「不求甚 解;每有會意,便欣然忘食。」Following that, dinner for one as usual (and preferred, on week days) at the usual place. My week-nights thrive on routine. Half a bottle of riesling to myself, and Moby-Dick for company. Slow going, armed with so many other weapons of mass distraction (hello, Android), and the words itself requiring a bit of mulling and chewing. Enjoyable though, all the same.

Most thankful to be where I'm at. That I have the good fortune to be young and (relatively) sane and employed and dry and comfortable on a rainy day and to be blessed and gifted with the enjoyment of my body and my voice and my mind - and most of that, that you (plural) are here, there, and everywhere.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

In the middle of the night...

last night I woke up for no reason. Then I saw your email on my phone and read it. It made me feel better. I went back to sleep and you were in my dreams. We were at a hotel. There were a lot of pictures of me standing in wellies, at the edge of a waterfall, ankle-deep in wide, slow flowing water cascading over the edge away from me. Not sure what you were doing though I do remembering wondering what it would feel like to kiss you - if you'd brush my hair behind my ear. 

He Gets Around to Answering the Old Question

He doesn't see as well as he thinks he remembers.
His fingers sometimes find it hard to bend.
He often can't find the name to go with a face.
Sometimes he doesn't hear but decides to pretend.

Weekends, week by week, are closer together.
Sometimes he has to sit down to put on his pants.
No lady seems to mind if he calls her Honey,
never grins nor even throws a glance.

Sometimes he's told himself what all this means.
"Every year some more of me is dead,
but there's a lot of stuff still left to collapse."
He started to laugh but talked to himself instead.

"Think of yourself as a plumbing system, a clock.
As soon as you're done, you start to come undone.
It's almost interesting when you pay attention,
how working parts stop working, one by one.

So now you've asked me the oldest question of all.
You want to know how I'm doing. I told you before,
I'm dying. Been at it for years. Still, I think
I could hang a few more calendars on the door."

-Miller Williams (via The Writer's Almanac)

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Because I've only ever been good at doing two things

in retrospect, I probably behaved in all sorts of peculiar ways that didn't occur to me at the time. I'm fairly certain that hasn't changed. The way I see things and the way others see it is still tenuously connected by a 10-20 year gap...

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Spilled Milk

I can still hear the clink
of the milk bottles he brought home
10:00 in the morning after he made
his deliveries for Bordens.
Thirty-five years, they never
gave him off a Jewish holiday.
The goy he asked to do his shift
on Yom Kippur refused and
the next day he dropped dead.
They called it a Jewish curse.
Then they stepped all over each other
to work for him.

What could I do after his stroke?
I put him in a nursing home.
He knows me, but can't talk anymore.
Fifty years we lived together
he would never weep in front of me.
Now all the time his eyes are tearing,
but there is no more Morris to cry.

Lovemaking wasn't so easy between us
in the early years. We both felt guilty.
We thought we weren't supposed to enjoy
it and I was always worried
about becoming pregnant.
Later on we worried the children would hear.
But after they grew up and moved out
and I couldn't bear anymore
we began to have fun.
It wasn't always before going to sleep either.
Sometimes during breakfast
he would say, Let's go
and roll his eyes up to the bedroom.
Luba, he would say, I'll help you
take out the hairpins.

- Willa Schneberg (via The Writer's Almanac)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

413 Nanohertz

... and a reminder to self to read more Charles Bukowski. Any recommendations?