*Personal share of sexual abuse/assault. May be triggering.
While searching for a partially used journal (instead of buying another one that will likely only be partially used 😉 ) I came across my journal from when I first began my healing process.
I didn’t remember having it and am a bit surprised I kept it. I got rid of almost everything when we began our relatively brief nomad lifestyle about seven years ago.
I opened it to an entry with the image above dated 3 months into my healing process… a drawing of the shirt I designed for the “Clothesline Project” at an event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It was an event put on by the local rape crisis center (where I was going for counseling and group) and the local university.
There was a candlelight vigil as we marched around the campus, speakers talking about the prevalence of sexual assault, and survivors sharing their stories.
According to my journal, there was a part of me that wanted to get up and speak too. There was another part that didn’t know what to say (this wasn’t really about not knowing what to say, it was intense vulnerability that made me think something really bad might happen… the shame I felt may be seen by others).
It may be hard to believe I wouldn’t know what to say to look at all I’ve said publicly in the last 8ish years (since I began sharing on YouTube). 😉
“Love your child more than the offender”… I had been struggling with anger and hurt around my mother’s denial and deflection about my step-father and guilt for telling her shortly before she died.
“There does not have to be intercourse for it to be CRIMINAL SEXUAL ASSAULT”… Whoa! All caps. Clearly I was feeling a lot around that.
I had just learned (in a Victims of Violence Sociology class) the criminal codes for sex crimes.
As I listened to him read through the statutes in class that day, with my gaze turned down at my desk, the tears welled up and eventually fell onto the paper below.
One of the ways I coped was minimizing my experiences. When I would reference my experiences as something bad I would say I was “molested” which made it (seem) “not too bad”.
I didn’t realize it but I had held my breath as he inched closer to defining what I experienced as an actual crime, with a sentence of years in prison.
My shield of minimization was shattered!
The shirt was me coming to terms with my reality. No longer being able to minimize or rationalize my mother’s denial and deflection… or my own.
The all caps was my way of trying to acknowledge… and feel, that what happened to me mattered even when my mother, society and my own mind tried to tell me each incident only mattered if a penis entered a vagina.
It took a bit (or a lot 😉 ) more time beyond this event for me to truly honor the impact that just one experience, regardless of any criminal statute, had on me.
ALL abuse matters. ALL abuse is deeply impactful. Yours and mine regardless of any criminal code or lack of accountability.
Several years later as I hung shirts for the Clothesline Project at the local community college for an event we (the same local rape crisis center where I was then working as a therapist and advocate 🙂 ) were doing for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I reached down, grabbing the next shirt out of the box… a full-circle moment.
It was my shirt. The shirt I created as my hands shook and my heart pounded, trying to paint those words, acknowledging publicly what I had so desperately kept hidden for so many years.
I hung the shirt with steady hands, a deeply rhythmic heartbeat, and pride in the courage and vulnerability of embarking on my Courageous Journey.