I got my hair cut yesterday. The hairstylist next to me was without client and sitting in her chair musing about events in the news: “And what about that guy in Hollywood and all the women…” what took them so long to come forward?” Sitting in my chair, eyes closed while my hairstylist snipped away, I could feel a soft roiling bubbling in the area of my solar plexus.
~center of the ribcage, a folding in from the outside~
You see, earlier in the day, I’d spent quite a bit of time reading news events as well. What struck me most and was sitting in my gut when this question was posed were two videos. One, on YouTube by actress, Rachel Evan Wood and the other, an interview on BBC with Emma Thompson, (also an actress). Both women were commenting on the latest “scandal” in Hollywood committed by a famous powerful producer. (I’ll use HW for reference sake).
Rachel’s 14 minute monologue was so moving and clear it aroused in me a movement forward in my own healing and evolution.
Rachel specifically addresses this question of why “they don’t come forward” and “waited so long.” In short, because I encourage you to watch the video, she says, “she is scared.” She stated, every time a victim has to tell her/his story it re-traumatizes the individual. And, there is a price to pay, both emotionally and financially. (that of taking the perpetrator to trial). Then she posited, “Are we asking the right questions?” Not what is going to happen to HW. No, the bigger questions: How do we break the cycle of abuse of power and authority? What do these behaviors say about our society as a whole?
As the scissors removed more of the dyed hair color from my hair, I clearly (with a somewhat shakey voice) answered, the query of the hair cutter: “When you have experienced trauma, and you have to retell the event, you are often re-traumatized. The experience comes right back. Can you imagine how difficult this must be?” She stayed quiet. I heard my hair cutter say, “Oh, I never thought of it that way.” That was the end of that conversation. It was enough.
After hearing Rachel speak, it came to my attention, that, especially in the past few years, whenever I heard or read a story of sexual assault or someone being victimized by a sexual predator, I was being triggered*.
“something that reminds you of a painful, frightening, or dangerous situation previously experienced. Likewise, something that causes you to react or behave in a certain way.”**
~a crawling sensation on the top layers of the epidermis~
And yesterday, I remembered every “incident” that had happened to me in my life.
Some are quite clear.
Others, fairly foggy.
~safety broken, where do I land? where is my ground?
In some, I see a room. I “feel” the man’s energy, the situation/environment. And I remember as a teenager and then a young woman in my early twenties, after the incident (s), telling friends:
they laugh at the absurdity and impossibility of this happening
another crying, saying he was a family friend and how could I make such an accusation?
The last experience, date rape.
Myself, sitting, at the kitchen table with one of the men (who I loved) and his friend, making me a gin and tonic, my back to him. I see my hand go to my lips, one sip and then, it’s ten hours later.
I remember going straight to work the following day. So confused. Humiliated. Ashamed. I was prone to blackouts and convinced myself I’d had too much to drink. Years later, in recovery, working through the 12 steps with my sponsor, so many memories came flooding back. And I realized, I had been drugged. All those years I had blamed myself for putting myself in harms way. Drinking too much. My fault.
And people ask, “why didn’t you speak up? Why did you wait so long? What were you wearing? What did you do to cause it to happen? Why did you go there? What were you doing out at that time of night?” On and on it goes. Because you are not taken for your word. You are not believed. And the more you aren’t believed, the more you begin to question your own validity, your own sanity: did it really happen? What happened? Am I making more out of this than what really took place? Did anything happen at all?
And too, I am not a victim nor a victim to my circumstances.
Implicit memory. It’s always valid.
Regardless of how foggy, how young, how much you do or don’t remember; if you believe something happened, if you feel something took place, in your body and in your bones, whether you can name your perpetrator or not, it happened.
Between the ages of two and five? The doctor tells the parents their little girl is with in-continance and the way to help is place their finger in her urethra to open the passage-way. There were hands. Many. Known/unknown.
~for how long
~when and why did it stop?
A darkened room. Five years old, trying on cousins hand-me-down clothes. Someone walks in? An uncle? The feeling even now, unsafe.
~the room’s air electric, vibrating~
This morning, walking my pup, I visualized that room and placed my current self on the corner of the bed. I took the 5 year old into my arms and told her she was safe. I told her nothing was going to happen, no one would touch her.
I told her she did nothing wrong.
Walking home from the dentist’s office, looking through the eyes of this 14 year old young woman, groggy from too much nitrous oxide. I feel myself in the dental chair, no assistant, it’s 1970. Pink angora sweater and maroon colored thin wale corduroy’s.
Body rising up from a complete blackness and a hand pulling the zipper to my pants closed. Walking home now, placing my 60 year old self there, I walk next to my 14 year old confused body, placing my arm around her. “I’ll walk home with you”, I tell her.
~no memory of the walk home, just the arriving home~
But now, in this moment, I want the younger Mary to know, “You did nothing wrong. This wasn’t your fault. You didn’t ask for this to happen.”
I live my life from this paradigm:
I chose everything. From before I was born. I believe I made contracts for all of my life lessons. Yes, including the ones I just described. So, if I chose all of these experiences, how do I reconcile them? Did I deserve them? Did I have it coming to me? I asked for them didn’t I? In taking this level of responsibility for my life and all of its circumstances, I have asked myself recently, is this how I “normalized” everything? And in doing so, was I complicit in my own suffering?
Perhaps yes and no.
Yes, I chose these experiences as life lessons and only I know what those lessons are and how they can best serve me. I am still learning and understanding.
~be careful what you ask for?~
(not meant to be humorous)
Boundaries? Absolutely. Understanding my right to my own authority and that no one can ever really take it away? Yes.
Acknowledging and claiming my own agency to what happens in my life?
Is what has happened to me directly affected how I interact with others/trust others/experience my sexuality through my life/what kind of parent I’ve been?
Of course! And what of my relationship (s) on the spiritual path? Teachers, mentors, guru? YES!
Forgiveness. Perhaps this is at the core of me having chosen these life lessons to unfold in the way they have; through my body. Through sexual abuse and assault and inappropriate touch. I have asked, “why did I choose this?” The most healing balm I can provide, is to acknowledge the choices and know, they need never happen again in this lifetime. This is the beginning of the end and the clear breaking of this cycle. The cycle of allowing others the right to my body without my consent.
I first placed light on many of these experiences starting many years ago. And now, my experience is one of integration. They are part of me but they do not define me. I’ve been wondering whether these are all cellular memories that will live in my physical body for as long as I’m alive. I’ve been contemplating the notion, as science says, that all the cells in our body completely regenerate every seven years. If that’s the case, how could I even still have those memories? I’m not a scientist and I might not have the whole regeneration thing down.
And, there still is the implicit memory. I do not doubt myself, nor think I was ever bad/asked for/deserved, any of the things that happened to me. And, I know, in my body, that they did happen. What is most important to me, right now, is, I DO have a choice as to how I want to work with the energies behind these experiences. I do have agency. I do have my own authority.
My deepest wish is that this current “hundredth monkey” falls with such a thunderous roar as to make going back impossible. Rachel Evan Wood says she is afraid. I want her fear to be vanquished. I wish for all fear to be removed. The silence must cease. Whether you tell one person close to you or tell it out loud to the masses. Whether you take a perpetrator to court or sit down one on one with a therapist, I encourage everyone (only if you wish/are willing/or want to), to seek whatever support feels safe and correct for you.
You, my lovely, are not alone.
Emma Thompson video:
Rachel Evan Ward video