Posts in Category: Sexual Assault
What does that mean? 7th generation is a term used to describe today’s Native youth, who are the 8th fire rising. I firmly believe that it is the Indigenous youth of today, led on a path so brightly burned by our elders…who will be the ones to induce the change in our communities and how we survive, succeed and are perceived/treated nation-wide. Outside of our communities. The road is long and the work is never-ending. I myself tire of it. Tire of the endless ‘innocent’ and ‘well-meaning’ questions. Of always having to hold grace in the face of ignorance. Definitely tired of the outright hate and racism.
Our children; the youth of today —they are what give me hope.
This winter, the Quinte Mohawk School in Tyendinaga partnered with arts-education organization Darkspark to conceptualize, record and release an EP of songs written entirely by Grade 8 students. Thus far, in what they’ve rolled out to promote their official release; has moved me and surged new hope into my veins. This class decided to write about the issues they face as young Aboriginal teenagers hoping to inspire awareness and create change within their community and country. They’ve decided to call themselves Four Direction and their EP ‘The Problem’ will be released on March 10th.
If DarkSpark is a name that sounds familiar to you, you may remember me mentioning it a while back when sharing a music video featuring the incomparable music prowess of DARKLARK. DarkSpark and DARKLARK, two hugely separate feats that straddle all that the team (D’Ari Lisle and Melissa Larkin) behind both — wish to do in this world. In making a difference to inspire change and as music/arts professionals. They’ve been releasing teaser videos with clockwork precision this week, showcasing some behind-the-scenes footage, candid shots and a lyric video (The Problem) for one of the songs from the album!
Check them all out below and do them (me, yourself) a solid and check out the blog/website and Facebook page below. Make sure to leave comments…encouragement is everything to these bright and brilliant young stars singing for change. You can pre-order the album as of noon yesterday and all proceeds of the EP will go directly to The Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women’s Fund. Not only should you buy the album because it’s for a worthy, underrepresented cause…you should buy it because you love good music and lyrics. The kind that gives you goosebumps and makes you think. Makes you proud. More aware, more humble and inspired.
*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
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||1.866.863.7868|
National Child Sexual Abuse Helpline:
*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.