Posts in Category: Sexual Violence and 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.
Sarain Carson Fox is one of Canada’s most innovative, up and coming multi-disciplinary Indigenous artists. A proud Anishinaabe woman and Midewiwin Society member, (the traditional Ojibway Medicine Society), this is a kwe who believes that we connect as Anishinaabe people through our traditional medicines. Since 2012 she has made it her personal mandate to include our youth in all the work that she does in one way or another. She splits her time between her professional dance projects and teaching and sharing dance with youth; primarily at-risk Indigenous youth.
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
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!
*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.