Yesterday I posted a blog that seemed to surprise and upset quite a few people. I thought I’d just come here and make sure everyone is okay…and make sure you know that I am also okay.
Here’s the deal…
For many of you, what you read yesterday was new because we are new in each other’s lives over this past 12 months or if we’ve known each other longer, you’ve never read anything else I’ve written or seen me speak publicly on the topic of my assault and family violence. But for the rest of my friends and family, this isn’t news. This is something that they have been watching me move through for about 14 years now.
When I was 28 years old I told my friend Jen what had happened to me. Her exact words were “I am so sorry that happened to you. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t deserve to be hurt that way.”
Those words are the reason I tell my story. Because I believe every single person who is victimized deserves to hear those words. I believe that shame steals days and years from those who have nothing to be ashamed of. I firmly believe that I can take every single moment of my pain and redeem it…rebuild it…reframe it…into something beautiful for others who have been hurt and can not yet name their terror, pain, wound, or even speak the assault into reality.
Before I wrote that blog yesterday, I felt choked. I was wearing my anger into every single interaction both in person and online. I was fighting a system of patriarchy and my own internal demons, both of which were wanting to silence me and steal my voice. Before yesterday, each time I sat down to write a blog, work on my novel, or even scribble in my journal, I felt overwhelming nausea and a need to lie down, because the body remembers. After writing, I felt relief and resoration of my basic spiritual baseline.
Now to answer a few questions I’ve received…
“Why did you have to share so much detail?”
I share details because without the details survivors are not, on the whole, believed. With my details, you can’t avoid your own reaction. You must confront the truth as I share it. And you have to decide for yourself if you believe me or not. And while it does not matter to me if the average person believes me, it does matter to me that women get to tell their stories how they want, when they want, and with whatever details they wish to share. To be clear…I didn’t tell you everything. There are 4+ years of abuse stories that I didn’t share. Some moments are too harmful and too raw, even after all this time.
“Doesn’t it make you nervous to talk about this publicly given your career and position?”
On the contrary, I want Survivors in every station of life to know that it can happen to anyone. I can also tell you that the mingling of my healing from PTSD and the building of my career happened in tandem. As I learned to speak my mind at work, I had the courage to start unpacking my story. And as I found ways to cope with the trauma and to lean into my own self-growth, I became a better, more caring and more understanding mentor and leader. If there is a stigma awaiting me as Survivor AND Vice President, then I’ll get the t-shirt, tote bag, and baseball cap and wear it proudly because I earned both titles with hard work, sweat, and tears.
“What about your family?”
My family consists of my sister and her kids. I also care deeply about the rest of my nieces and nephews and have some lovely cousins and aunts that have been supportive and caring. But the rest of my relatives made their choices…and they chose wrong. This happens in families. And some Survivors choose to stay quiet to keep the family intact. I chose myself, and my people get that and honor it.
“What can I do to help you?”
I have people and am loved. I am okay. Hell…I’m better today than I was yesterday just from getting the words out of my brain. But what you can do that would honor what I’ve been through is be prepared to use the words, “I am so sorry that happened to you. You did nothing to deserve to be mistreated that way. How can I help?”
“Where do we start to heal this?”
Start by realizing that you already know women and men who have been raped, assaulted, molested, or harassed. You may not know it but you do. You can start by learning to be a safe place for the people in your life. Safe people listen more than they talk, don’t politicize personal stories, ask how they can help, offer hugs but don’t demand them, and keep the confidence of the survivor. Be a safe place…for the women, men, and children in your life. Be open, funny, warm, kind, and above all…listen. You’d be amazed what people will tell you if you take a breath and say “Tell me more.”
I’ll probably never be done writing about this because every year that I live, this thing I survived takes on a new edge or gives me some new lesson. It makes me a better sister, aunt, cousin, bestie, lover, friend, boss, and employee. This past of mine drives my writing and fuels my desire to speak. This story isn’t something I get out to play with. It is with me. In my bones. Wired in my neurons. And some days…like yesterday…it comes out of the end of my fingertips.
If you aren’t okay, tell me. Tell someone.
We are all going to make it.