Posts in Category: Parenting After Abuse
Fifteen?! Yes FIFTEEN. So bookmark this or PINNIT or whatever. This is a damn good list. Pinky swears. And I scaled back for sequel, so. There could be more, but I didn’t want to be obnoxious about it. Ahem.
So ‘Personal Development.’ The big ‘ole PD. Ugh. Is that what you’re thinking? For the most part, I suppose you could say that’s what I think about that whole world of know-it-all gurus too. It’s a saturated market. But then, aren’t all industries with professionals and would-be professionals? Keep in mind – there are a lot of self-help and PD books out there that DO SUCK. These don’t. You can take it from a converted skeptic who opened up her heart and mind a long time ago, to break free from pain, debilitating self-doubt and self-medication to begin crawling out of a black hole. So many of these book choices may not shout PD, but they’ve impacted my life in REAL and TANGIBLE ways. I’ve savoured all of them, four of which are in my current roster in the midst of being digested.
*Warning: this post may be triggering to some, or feature content that some might find all too real or broaches topics and feelings you don’t necessarily want to read right now while you’re holding your kid or are in the middle of making dinner. Whatever it is. This for readers stopping by for the first time…please know that the piece below has been written in support of survivors of sexual abuse, violence, and assault.*
The panic attacks started about 2 weeks ago. Intense, demobilizing, sending shards of stabbing pain through my neck and back. I’d never known what a ‘panic attack’ was to feel like, to experience, that I can remember. Since I’m being honest, it’s not that I’ve not had them before, it’s just that I was so heavily self-medicating at the time that my recollection of much of anything during my first-time experiences with remembering childhood trauma is hazy. Flashbacks yea, I remember that part, panic attacks – no. By that time I was well on my mind-numbing way.
You see, a panic attack doesn’t necessarily take place as a direct result of trauma. Some people have them for a myriad of other reasons. Often they make zero sense at the time and it’s a body memory thing. Sometimes they are directly synced to memories, other times not.
With so much happening in the media right now, it’s hard not to be triggered as a person with traumatic amnesia. (There I said it.) It’s a veritable mixed emotion tidal wave, one that surges with a deep sense of belonging and a voice shouting inside of me, “FINALLY.” People aren’t talking about sexual violence and abuse in hushed tones. Another part of me knows I’m being triggered and I sign off from all of the discussion, the articles, the commentary, the debate, the hate and the support. It is all at once and at the same time; empowering and damning.
As many of my readers and friends know, I am a survivor of rape and abuse. I have been vague about when, where, how often, how and by who for many reasons. Often a person’s silence has much to do with their relationship with their perpetrator(s). It’s often someone we know. Sometimes it’s a mix of strangers and those we know over many years. Sometimes we don’t remember until decades later, our bodies and minds saving us from the brunt of that which they could not bear, generations deep. As startling as it is to some, we have been abused in these ways by our own family, close family friends or people in positions of power that we trusted. The feared. I understand that these topics are often too disturbing and heart-wrenching for anyone to really talk about on a daily basis, never mind constantly, ad nauseam every day while everything they ever believed about the good people in the world is being confronted.
Which is precisely why I have learned to surround myself in my never-ending journey as a self-healer with other female survivors. As a mother now, who has almost zero time to get swallowed up by re-living trauma. Women like us, we find each other, we find solace and strength in sharing our truths; our stories with each other. And we lift each other up.
An example of this happened this very morning wherein one amazingly good woman in my life listened to my words as my eyes skittered in shame and I apologized over and over again. It was the first time I was sharing something like that with her, and parts of me knew I would be speaking her truths too and that it was okay. After our FaceTime session together, (therapy happens in so many glorious ways) she sent me an email. In it was a poem she told me she wrote, inspired by me.
She saw things, she understood things I didn’t even speak with my words alone. What she articulates in darkly poetic-like prose, I am sure now, more than ever; will speak to so many more very much like me. So many more than we will ever know. I asked her if I could publish her poem because this poem is a ROAR. It speaks to hearts of survivors, though our stories and timelines may differ, our silence and shame is very much the same. She said yes and chose to do so anonymously. Speak the words aloud and listen with your brain and heart. Know these words to be true for countless others and hold them in your hearts tonight as you hold your little ones’ hands (if you have children) around the block tonight greeting devilish ghouls. Hold those little hands tight.
“The recent events in Canadian media have brought a lot to the surface, for a lot of people. For me, it’s brought a heaviness. A sadness. An unshakable understanding of inequality, but also of shared experience. I do not know one woman who has not been affected by sexual harassment or assault. Not one. This saddens me deeply. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a plethora of strong, incredible, supportive men in my life. I love men. But, I don’t love how many of my sisters have been deeply wounded without choice at the hand of the desire and dysfunction of the opposite sex. I see this problem as a systemic one. A heavy one. An important one. Why is it often overlooked?
I wrote this to shed some weight. Anonymously. For all those too shamed or scared to let their song free.”
Written by: Miel Larkin
The way women carry the world
without stopping to listen to their hearts pounding
without breaking or breathing or thinking and then
they corrode under the weight of 1000 men
the ones who looked hungry when we walked in the night
the ones who talked down when we put up a fight
the ones who are hiding in memories blocked
the ones who hold us and melt hearts that are locked
the ones who took without ever asking
the ones who can be without ever masking
their bodies, their dreams, their passions, their drive
the space between sexes, a massive divide
I carry the weight the way I carried my child
inside me so deep, something grows wild
but oppressed, kept quiet and still
until it starts to grow and kick and shrill
and out it comes when you feel spirits might
and even the stick in your teeth clenched tight
ain’t no match for the weight of the thing inside
the terror and hurt
the sadness, the marrow
the bones and the grit and the masks
that we wear
the worn out smiles
and the blow-dried hair
Muscles ache without reason
and my eyes are listless and I blame it on the season
but really it’s the weight
that I carry
that I fear I’ll hand off to
the man that I married
and the child I mothered
and the home that I keep
and that someday I’ll break
and words will become weep
and weep will consume me
because there’s no more words
So I look to the birds
and I sing them my song
and imagine the freedom
in flight and in long
distance trips away from this place
and I imagine the lightness
That is how “we” the Native population in Toronto, are referred to. There are 80,000 of us yet we go unnoticed.
It is for this reason, that I do what I do as a filmmaker and storyteller. I believe in platforms. I believe in the power of storytelling wherever possible. When we share stories we find our common ground.
The documentary Moccasins And Concrete is a collection of stories of a few of us who would fall into that “invisible minority” category. I didn’t make this film, but I participated in the creation of it. The filmmaker, Bobby Brown, did a wonderful job in a very limited time. The first time I watched it, I bawled my eyes out. I related so deeply to the piece my sister Tamara wrote for the intro; it hit home.
I was also hit by the story that Gabrielle Skrimshaw tells. So many of the details from the personal stories highlighted just hit so close to home. I suppose I still have a lot of grieving to do. Grieving for the injustices still being committed against Indigenous people right here in Canada and grieving for those who came before me.
I suppose I believe that harnessing platforms to tell these stories will somehow bring people closer to the truth. I believe that and that is why I continue to produce and participate in telling my story whenever possible. You never know. It MIGHT just change someones mind.
Below is the promo video for the doc…now you can watch the whole film on CBC’s website!
Click for the full feature length below. I look forward to your comments!
Anyone else find the metallic grind of hard, fresh coffee beans hitting blades … to be a soothing sound? Here I tap-tap-tap, amongst the hum of big, shiny, beautiful, bliss-creating-machines; emitting the most splendid scent, oozing and dripping the promises of warmth and awakening. Anywhere else and the background chatter would be counter-productive to my concentration, but somehow … within the glorious confines of good ‘ole Starbucks, I am at peace. Perhaps it has something to do with the absence of one’s own children (mine) screaming peals of joyous rapture and/or discontent, the yanking of my clothes and elbows in my nose. It is that ruckus alone that perhaps some can work in, but not I.
It is in my little bubble of horribly corporate loving, self-fraught, Americano glazed paradise that I am subject to loud talkers. The sort that I wish I could ignore, but spewing ideologies that inevitably crack me wide open.
You can always presume if anything gets me boiling, it’s some misogynist prick spouting bullshit ad nauseam, accompanied by a smiling and giggling female constantly nodding in agreement to said asshat’s nuggets of wisdom. (Adding a few of her own to the mix.)
You over there, sitting next to me with your coffee date. I don’t want to hear you prattle on about your job as a security guard at the local community college campus, loud as fuck — like everyone in here needs to know what a big man you are as you puff up your chest. I don’t want to hear your thoughts about drunk girls on campus and how often they, ‘complain about sexual assault.’ I definitely don’t want to hear you chuckle through how you helped a most recent ‘victim’ of one particular ‘drunk girl’s’ complaint, ‘get away with it.’ A most unassuming guy of, ‘like 40.’ (Because apparently only young, attractive men sexually assault, young, equally attractive women who AREN’T drunk.) He went on to detail how often girls make sexual assault ‘complaints’ on campus, and how in this most recent particular case the dude was totally unassuming. He didn’t look like a predator. If he was going to put his hand up a girl’s skirt it would have been someone way more hot than that girl. Apparently, this is what Mister Innocent said to the security guard after they joked about escaping the complaint. Yea, how unassuming. How respectful. I couldn’t escape their words, as this young man’s date nodded her head in agreement and talked about what goes on in her own circle and that, ‘drunk girls who dress like sluts just ask for it.’ That’s what she said. Flippantly. No shame. There was much laughter and flirtatious smiles exchanged as they found their common ground. A real couple of kindred spirits.
IIf only I had enough time to reproach the couple sitting next to me. But then, I would be been the awkward, inappropriate one. As if I could change anyone’s opposing mind on such topics anyways. It doesn’t matter what she was wearing or if she was intoxicated or not. Saying she was drunk and therefore assuming her memory incorrect or that she was asking for it is complete BS. Yet this opinion is the disturbing norm. We have to teach our sons better than this, world. PLEASE. Young women can experiment with their sexuality and *GASP* partying and booze just as young boys/men can. We all did/do it. (Well, most of us anyways – to some varying degree or another. I’m not talking about addiction. I’m talking about experimentation. There is and can be a difference. It’s (part of) what we growing humans do on the cusp of teen-hood into adulthood. Hopefully, we have some sort of solid support system that is privy to what we’re up to. A voice in our ear, a positive influence in our brains and hearts.
Some staggering stats on sexual violence, as reported via York University:
- 4 out of 5 female undergraduates recently surveyed at Canadian universities said that they had been victims of violence in dating relationship. Of that number 29% reported incidents of sexual assault.
- A recent survey on date rape showed that 60% of Canadian college-aged males indicated that they would commit sexual assault if there were certain that they would not get caught.
- According to Statistics Canada, only 6% of all sexual assaults are reported to the police.
- 31% of sexual assaults occur in dating and acquaintance relationships.
- The majority of date and acquaintance rape victims are young women aged 16 to 24.
- A 1993 survey found that one-half of all Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of sexual assault or physical violence. Almost 60% of these women were the targets of more than one of these incidents.
- Statistics show 1 in 4 Canadian women will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime.
- The effects of sexual assault on a woman’s mental health and well-being can be just as serious as physical injuries. 9 out of 10 incidents of violence against women have an emotional effect on the victim.
- False accusations of rape happen no more often than false reports of other types of crime: about 2 to 4%, which means that 96 to 98% of reports are true.
- The majority of date and acquaintance rape victims are young women aged 16 to 24.
And yet people in society love to debate the “1in 5″ and whether or not we are germinating rape culture through denial, flippancy, minimization and misplaced call to action regarding responsibility and accountability. (On women.) Much is the same through the lack of media reporting; the conservative government and societal denial of the disturbing number (1100 and growing) of missing and murdered Indigenous women (#MMIW ) in Canada. (I’d bet any body-part that the numbers in the States are just as staggering.) Indigenous women right in Canada are being trafficked, as reported by Martha Troian of Muskrat Magazine.
Regardless of all of this, is it naive of me to suggest that a young woman should be able to wear whatever she wants without giving one single fuck of a thought to how it might be perceived? It is not a woman’s responsibility to manage a man’s perception of these things. It’s tough enough to learn how to value ourselves and not attach all of our self-worth to our appearance or how we dress. It is a man’s OWN RESPONSIBILITY to manage his own thoughts, attractions, etc. We women are not the martyrs for the men; a billboard for effective seduction management. Preposterous. Yet that is the expectation.
As I tap-tap-tap — I think of my own daughter and the fact that many young men aren’t taught to take responsibility for themselves in this way. College sex crimes alone have increased 52% in the last 10 years, as reported by the U.S.Department of Education. The answer? Focus on girls, at a young age, this issue is our responsibility didntcha-know. We have a long list of rules for survival on the streets, in the schools and in the workplace; and thus, this is the world in where the asshat of my morning, unfortunately, harbours the same type of thought processes and varying types of these conversations are happening all over the world. In many communities, amongst many families. So how do I want to arm her for this type of whack reality? To somehow keep her safe; while teaching her about feminism, equality and her right to express and experiment with all of these things? Is there a way to do it safely? I surely don’t know — because it certainly didn’t happen for me.
One of the most influential quotients to my inevitable un-doing as a young woman was the absence of that voice. Or those voices. That consistent support and honesty and unconditional love that only a parent or parent(s) can offer. Abby (and Wyndham) will always have that and I’m hoping that our relationship with our kids as they grow and mature, is a big part of how they manage their own experimentation and self-love. I want to empower and encourage my daughter to be fierce, loud and experimental while keeping her safe at the same time. Just as I do my son.
My arms will always be here. A home my kids will always have.
As much as I worry about this shit, I still have some time to influence their innocence as much as I can. To continue to acknowledge the crisis we are in, as uncomfortable of a topic as it may be for some.
Have you been sexually assaulted at school or in the workplace? You are not alone my friend and as trite as it may sound — it is not your fault. Please don’t let anyone minimize what happened to you and find someone you trust to talk about it with and support you in reporting your assault. Are you a survivor from a long-time ago (or recently) who was treated to a hefty round of shame and shushing? Voice your experience here. This is a place where you will never be silenced.
Also, if you are a parent who worries and thinks about these issues, please share in the comments how you hope to create change, starting right at home with your own families and how you raise your kids. I’m thirsty for this type of discussion. We all need to be talking about this stuff way more openly, way more often because we are failing to protect and empower our young women and men at the same time. We are.
Community Resource Guided For Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women
Native Women’s Association of Canada
Act To End: Violence Against Women
RAINN: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network
Canadian Women’s Foundation
Futures Without Violence
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE
Assaulted Women’s Helplines:
|Toll Free TTY
National Child Sexual Abuse Helpline:
Do stories really tell a picture? Of course they do. The ones we want them to at least. With photographs we get to filter – and not just with phone apps. Take for instance, one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, #tbt.
Hello friends. Its been more than a while and all the things that I thought I wanted to do with this blog have changed.
So many changes.
Much to do with personal happenings and relationships in my life that I shouldn’t write about becasue, well, they are not only my stories to tell.
I’ve been thinking about starting an anonymous blog. For reals. My journal (for actual pen to paper writing), has been my cathartic weapon of choice , but it’s starting to feel as though I’m not holding it right. It’s not filling the gap, I’m yearning for something more.
It has been a few years now that a couple of close friends, who know all the stories… (and even then some they don’t, as I myself am just starting to figure them out) …and they keep telling me. Write them Selena. Use your gift, in the ways in which a traditional story-teller would. (Not a blogger.)
That last part I say to myself.
What am I looking for you may ask? Community. I have always found solace in community. There are others out there with me who struggle with the same sorts of things that I struggle with, there are those who have stories much like mine.
There are those out in the world who are ‘misfits’ just like me. I think I want to find them. Because whether some people may believe so or not, there is power, there is healing, there is regeneration to be had by using the power of you voice, of your pen – your keyboard…to share the stories that don’t shine. The ones that crumble and heave.
Because at the same time those stories are hope. They are strength. They are survival. They are me. While I may not be ashamed of who I am anymore, the whole of me – all of my stories don’t belong in public sphere with my face next to them. It definitely doesn’t feel right to talk or hint at them in this place anymore.
This is where I share the happy stories. The shiny ones of my children. Of my hobbies. Of my loves. All of the good and vastly wonderful parts of my life. Perhaps even the not-so-good and the undeniably hard parts of mothering. Those sorts of topics belong here.
Perhaps this explains why things have been silent here since before the New Year, and if vague blogging is what these first few paragraphs could be defined as – so be it. This is after all, my small corner in the universe. I’m struggling to define a new space here and define a space that is real, that is me.
So. I’m not going to talk about this anonymous blog thing again and if it happens – it happens. It will be my way of delving into chapters and who knows – perhaps one day it will become a book, when times are different and more stories will be okay to share. Memoirs take decades to write. Having a private blog, for me – seems like a good way to start the process.
As for here…gosh. I’m thinking of a white slate. Starting fresh. Stories and pictures that my children can look back on and know how much they were loved. The recipes and DIY projects that come easily to me. An editor of mine recently told me, just share what you’re good at. Screw what anyone else thinks or comparing yourself to others.
This must be my new mantra. I am all-too familiar with the soul sucking, dark-art of comparison. I’m a mom who on most days…most days, it’s all I can do but to love-on my kids. Make sure they’re clean, well-fed and nurtured. That my house isn’t in complete and manic disarray. To keep on top of the myriad of things it takes to run a house-hold and keep a family happy. For whatever reason, I feel like a failure if ‘that’s all’, I am able to muster.
It’s as though I need to be great multiple things in order to consider myself a worthwhile, intelligent, contributing human being. A person who makes things happen. That used to be me. What I’m starting to realize is that I’m making a whole new wave of things happen that aren’t defined by the amount of career goals I meet or ideas founded; they are defined by the greatness in which I mother.
Love my partner. Love myself.
Perhaps that sounds cheesy – but right now? My biggest task at hand is finding peace within and exuding that grace to bestow upon my loved ones. To mire through our recent struggles and my own – and to come out on top. That is all. This is most important.
In the wake of the constant doing, that I used to attribute to being a natural part of who I am – there has been a break in the noise.
To present new truths amidst the old ones; that I can’t ignore anymore and which require my full attention.
Until the next. Thank-you as always – for reading.
*Disclaimer: This post is about abuse, including links to websites and articles that may be disturbing to some readers.*
I Would Write You a Letter…
If I knew where to send it.
How often have I walked into this lonesome place, how often have I dreamt that once I had a family of my own — my heart wouldn’t keep wavering about like a fly.
I’ve been trying to keep you off of my mind and keep everything all in line. I suppose it’s not all about the knowledge of you and who you are, or the type of blood that runs through your veins.
In being honest it’s much to do with events that wrap around those times when the darkest truths were spoken, flippantly or with anger…until it broke my heart. Acceptance and forgiveness like a maze of impossible, when it comes time. Sometimes I do okay at it, and other times it wraps around me…
Like a storm.
The one that’s always been raging inside of me.
I wonder when I’ll finally persuade myself to be at peace with it all.
All of the ugly.
All of the beauty.
All of the triggers.
Every single twist and turn in my memory.
When will it all become a sweet melody? (The answer is never, and that’s what I have to be okay with.)
I recently read a study which found that adults who have survived abuse in various forms tend to lose big chunks of their autobiographical memory.
How did I miss remembering that little tidbit I learned in school? As soon as I read it, I was immediately taken back to that prof, that lecture hall, his lips moving and my brain disconnecting. Much in the same way I did as a child. As a teen. As an adult.
Disconnect. Float away.
That’s a lot of layers to mire through even as an adult.
I remember almost losing my mind. I’m still learning and least now — my arms and heart are open.
Even though I have an anger that is soft and frayed and comes up to boil now and then. Forgiveness is a grace I can’t seem to muster. Sadness that I can’t be better at. It’s all overwhelming at times, especially in knowing it’s not just about me anymore.
It’s like you’re glowing in the distance, a light I can’t turn out.
It can’t be all about the enigma of you.
And it’s definitely not about hurting anyone else. These words, this trail.
It’s about speaking truths that in some ways I am painfully shy about; although as each tiny bit unfurls…a great release washes over me.
I’m coming on a new dawn of healing. Yet another path of self-awareness and self-work.
This is for other survivors who are afraid or ashamed. Or concerned about hurting their enablers or aggressors.
This written truth is for me. There may be more where this came from.
For once that needs to be acceptable.
I won’t be doing it here. (Digging in deep anyways.) I’ve found this place that gives abuse survivors a voice, anonymously if they so choose. I’ve thought long and hard about integrating something like a ‘Flashback Friday’ here — and every time, I balk.
Because in doing so, I would hurt others. I somehow have to find a way to stay true to the amazing support and community, the healing that I have found in sharing my experiences with the others like me.
Why on the internets?
Why not just in a personal journal?
Because in doing so, I am contributing to breaking the silence. Because reading other people’s stories, perspectives, success, and failures in continuing in life; REALLY DOES HELP. It is powerful people.
If we as a society know that gathering as a community is good; to support one another for various causes – then why is this such a hard concept for people to grasp when it comes to allowing survivors of abuse to do the same?
I understand it makes some people uncomfortable. Move along then. Our voices are not speaking for you. (Yet, in fact, they are, in a round about way — scraping at society’s disillusioned ideals of what weakness really is. Of what strength really is).
Survivors of abuse have every right to engage in public forms of community building too.