Feminism

Step 9-Making Direct Amends: My Letter to the Good Guys

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So, when step 9 came around, my sponsor suggested that I write an amends letter to men, which upon my dismay she edited it to be an amends letter to the good men out there. Conveniently enough, I never got around to it. I never made that amends. Well, as those in recovery and anyone who believes in a loving higher power can attest to, sometimes God makes you do the steps that you didn’t want to do. With the #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen trend going around, I thought this would be a perfect time to write my amends letter to the good guys out there, so I can finally release my bitterness. So, here goes.

 

Dear Good Guys,

Hey, I guess I haven’t talked to most of you before, but I’m Noelle. I’m working the twelve steps and a part of those steps is making amends to all people we have harmed (except when to do so would injure them or others). I’m 30 years old at this point, so I guess I should make a point of apologizing to you. I apologize for generalizing you, for lumping you in with all the men that have hurt me. I was wondering the whole time where the f&%$ you were, but according to my sponsor, I can’t hold you accountable for something you did not know was happening to me, so I apologize for blaming you. I’m apologize for grimacing at you every time I walked by you. That probably wasn’t very nice of me. I apologize for assuming all men are sociopaths, when the percentage is actually significantly smaller and you were out there being a decent human being with genuine feelings and a heart for your fellow humans. To those of you I’ve gotten to know on an intimate level, I’m sorry for treating you like dirt, just because that is what had been done to me. I realize now that you, too, are human beings and I was being just as low as the men I’ve held so much resentment towards all this time. I’m especially sorry to the ones who fell into love/like with me and I ignored because I was annoyed by your “neediness.” I could’ve found a more compassionate way to handle that. Overall, I just want to say I’m sorry for being exactly like the a holes that have inspired me to build this gigantic wall around my icy, lifeless heart. From now on, I will do things differently.

Sincerely,

Noelle

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God has recently made it very clear to me that I’ve been holding on to this bitterness for dear life, and it is time to let it go. I honestly do not know how to function without it. All I have left protecting me now is Jesus Christ, and I know that will be more than sufficient, but I feel naked nonetheless. So, this is me, making amends to the good guys, and giving my dear, lovely, comforting hatred of the male species over to God. He’ll know what to do with it. Because honestly, it never has actually served me well.

Photo on 2010-07-09 at 06.35

 

 

Beyond My Power

As adamant as I am about the issue of sexual violence, I feel that maybe my take on it can come off misleading.  See, because of my own history with sexual violence, it is hard for me to actually be a part of the fight.

In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to “stop watching the news.”  So, I did.  Around the time, I had become fixated on the Shanyia Davis story.  A mom sold her 5 year old daughter into sexual slavery.  The daughter was later found raped and murdered, then tossed on the side of the road, like trash.  I was dumbfounded and destroyed by this story.  It pretty much shattered my world, and I couldn’t stop following it.  How could someone do that to a child?  How could a mother do that to her own child?  I couldn’t understand it, and it made a frightening reality come to light for me: there is evil in this world, beyond my comprehension, and even with what I’ve been through, I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.

I wish I could tell you that when I stopped watching the news, everything got a little lighter for me.  And maybe it did, a wee bit.  Even to this day, I go online, and pick and choose headlines based on their triviality.  “Reality TV is going down the toilet–literally”  The more serious stories, I avoid.  I know enough just by the headlines.  “Police: Florida man linked to up to 1 million child porn videos, images”  The headline says enough.  I don’t need to read about this pig, and start to mull over the fact that those 1 million videos and images, mean that tens of thousands of children were forced to participate in sexual acts to make that stuff.  I know that already.  Although, maybe some people don’t.  Maybe a lot of people are completely desensitized to that stuff, and don’t even consider those children when they read a headline like that.   For them, I say: READ THE ARTICLE, and think about it.

For those of us who have survived similar experiences, I say: Don’t torture yourself.

No, I understand enough without subjecting myself to it.  I heard tidbits about the Steubenville rape case.  Enough to get a gist.  I cannot read an article about it.  I simply can’t.  Maybe this makes me a hypocrite, or maybe it makes me self-preserving, I don’t know.  All I know is, I just can’t stomach it and hold my world together.

Similarly, I write about the fight to end this stuff, because I cannot actually participate in the fight.  I’ve been on the front lines of the battle, and I know how hopeless it is there.  For those of you who can stay there and fight this battle, I thank you.  I know what it feels like to notice that the army is lacking in numbers, and that all the people at your side are survivors.  A lot of times, it is survivors like me, who cannot manage to stay and fight and hold their own lives in tact, but they fight anyway, their very livelihood falling by the wayside.  I understand that.

It feels like screaming endlessly in a sea of people, who know you’re there, but choose not to acknowledge you.

I cannot actively delve into the numerous cases of sexual violence and survive.  This is what I learned in recovery.  If I want to survive, I have to take a step back.  Sometimes, this makes me feel helpless and useless.  Most of the time, I know it is what keeps me breathing.

I learned that in recovery, but I also learned something from my relationship with God:  This battle isn’t just a physical one, or an emotional or mental one.  This is a spiritual battle too.

Now this is where my two worlds collide.  I know a lot of feminists working without God, and a lot of God-loving people, working without feminism.  For me, these two worlds are not mutually exclusive.

I cannot be out there fighting emotionally, mentally, physically, or judiciously, but I can fight like hell spiritually.

I’ve started praying feverishly on the subject of sexual violence.  I learned from my relationship with God, that the fight to end sexual violence isn’t hopeless, it just can’t be fought alone.  Human beings simply don’t have the power to end it based on the sure will of the fight.  We aren’t that powerful.  But I fully believe, that with God at our backs, this battle can be won.

I pray for the victims, that they find healing and wholeness despite their experiences.  And I pray for those who are on the front lines fighting, that they have the strength and ferocity to not back down, no matter what.  I pray for the un-listening, uncaring world, that their eyes and hearts are opened to this battle, and that they join in the fight.  I declare miracles over this battle, that it be won by the side that is good.  And I rebuke evil’s grasp on so many of us through such violence.  I declare victory against evil, and an end to sexual violence.

For those non-believers, you probably think this is useless.  But that’s ok, we all have our opinions.  Maybe prayer isn’t for you, but luckily, there are plenty of ways to join in the movement.

For those believers, I hope you’ll join me in prayer.

We have the power to end this battle.  We just have to claim it.

 

Farewell California, Hello Home

I’ve always wanted to live in California, and swore I’d never live in the midwest.   As I get older, however, I find my priorities are changing.  Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of being in a year-long season of summer, here in San Diego, California.  I couldn’t be more grateful for my time here.  I do believe I have been pretty spoiled.  The twelve step community here is vast and supportive, probably the best in the country.  The weather is almost always sunny and mild.  There are constantly resources galore at my fingertips.

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Coronado in all its SoCal Goodness

And now… I’m saying goodbye to it all.

For the midwest.

I came to California straight from residential treatment in Chicago.  I had 5 and a half months of treatment, and California was the place and I made a home.  I got connected right away with meetings, and built a safety net of support around me.  I have an amazing dietitian and an incredible sponsor.

As I have processed this move, I am starting to really take in all I will be saying goodbye to, and it has me asking, “is this the right choice?”

The YMCA here is incredible.  With one membership, I have access to 4 different Y’s.  They have classes like NIA and Meditative Yoga.

I can order Thai delivery.

Seriously, it is almost always sunny.  And I have a tendency toward seasonal depression.

Who would leave this?

When it comes down to it, California just isn’t a reasonable place to live, especially for those of us who are not gainfully employed.  Becoming a resident of California isn’t cheap, gas isn’t cheap, taxes aren’t cheap.

But that isn’t really why I’m leaving.

See, two years ago today, my sister gave birth to the most adorable little guy ever.  (Not that I’m biased)  She and I had been marching forward arm-in-arm in the firm resolve that neither one of us would have children, and then, as if in a single day, she changed her mind.  It wasn’t just a day actually, she gave more thought to it than I have ever seen a person reasonably consider such an option.  She did not make the choice lightly, and I respect her for that.

meeting sven

meeting Sven for the first time

When he came along, my life changed.  As I faced this baby, I faced the realization that this may be the closest I ever come to having a child.  And I wanted to be a influential part of this child’s life.

As my moods and my troubles ebbed and flowed, I was almost always tangled in my own darkness.  The October before I went into treatment, I missed a chance to visit my nephew due to being hospitalized.  I insisted that I come see him before going to treatment and my sister told me that she’d rather I not be around him at the time.  As much as it broke my heart, it was my sister’s wishes, and I respect her more than anyone.

When I was in treatment and I needed motivation, my sister and my nephew were the ones I was working to get better for.

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my sister and my nephew

Now that I am doing well, I have the opportunity to move close to my nephew and be a full time aunt.  For him, and for the new baby, who is due in August.  🙂  I get to help raise mini-feminists! Haha…  Hey, they might not have listened if it came from a parent, but from a crazy cool aunt, maybe they’ll take in what I have to offer.  You never know.  I may never have kids of my own, but I will have a hand in raising some little beings into some incredible people.  That is invaluable.

So, I’m leaving all of the conveniences that are California, for small town life.  Part of it is a sacrifice, but mostly it is a privilege.  I’d rather be the full time aunt, than the twice-a-year aunt.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the twice-a-year aunt.  But if this is the closest I’ll come to children of my own, it is best I be vigilant.

To be honest, SoCal wasn’t a great fit for me anyway.  I’ve always been a country girl, so with the almost 4 million people in this county it is a bit crowded.  Everyone here is skinny, and hell-bent on staying that way.  Not a good place for eating disorder recovery.  And really, the weather is too warm for my taste.  I miss seasons.  And after all, who needs a YMCA membership, when you’re chasing around two little kids?  Or doing baby lifts?

I’m closing a chapter of my life and starting an incredible new one.  I’m moving somewhere I plan on staying for a while.  I’ve got a good 13 or so years before I’ll start considering a new home.  (Teenagers are a whole different ballgame!)

I may not be employed yet, but I already have a full time job: Loving Aunt.  And I plan on doing my job most diligently, and with the greatest of care.

aunt

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Do You Care?

Sexual Assault.  Do you have to go through it to care about it?

This question always arises for me every April.  I have a lot of friends who know someone with autism, and thus, support Autism Awareness month, which also happens to be April.  This year, I see that friends who know someone who’ve benefited from an organ transplant supporting organ donation.  April is also Organ Donation Awareness month.  What simultaneously inspires and disheartens me is the fact that these people know someone who have been through these things, so they support these causes.  Every one of these people, and the other 400 people on my Facebook page, know at least one person who has been sexually assaulted: me.  And yet, the only people I see supporting this cause are the people who have themselves lived through such violence.

Sexual_assault_awareness

I think this is a huge problem in our culture.  “As long as I haven’t been raped, then who cares?”  Right?  Why do I continuously find that the only people driven to stop sexual violence are those who have personally lived through it?  Is it really that hard to imagine how awful it is if you haven’t experienced it?  Do you really not care that much about the women and men in your life who have been victimized by sexual predators?

I think a lot of it has to do with the silence surrounding the issue, because it sure as hell isn’t the lack of prevalence.   1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18.   (Finkelhor, David, et al. “Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors.”)  Are you really going to tell me that you don’t know at least 4 women or 6 men?

No, a lot of it has to do with our silence around the issue.  Anything sexual is taboo.  You know, as long as it isn’t sexual imagery in time square, music videos, magazines, television, movies, or books.  From Fifty Shades of Grey to Abercrombie ads, sexuality is everywhere.  However, when it comes to sexual violence, we best not talk about it.  Virgin ears, and all.

abercrombie

Or maybe it is the violence part of it.  Although, I recently saw Olympus has Fallen, and it suggests Americans have an endless thirst for blood.  What’s a movie without a good knife through the head, eh?

Nah, it is just the careful combination of sexual and violence that sends people fleeing in a frenzy.

Let me be frank, you know someone, nay, you know A LOT of someones who have been sexually assaulted in their lives.  Not convinced?  Start asking around.  Your eyes might just open.  It is likely that your between your daughter, sister, best friend, mother, aunt, or cousin, at least one has been sexually assaulted.

What then is our problem with talking about it?

I venture to guess that this culture of victim-baming has a lot to do with it.  As most recently displayed in the Steubenville rape case, which has brought out the Ugly and the Brave around the issue of victim-blaming.  Keep her full of shame = Keep her silent = Let’s just pretend this stuff never happens = No one cares about Sexual Assault Awareness month, except for survivors of sexual assault.

Maybe I am being blunt, but I am personally insulted by the lack of interest around the issue.  And I expect a few more people to be displaying their teal ribbons after today.

Let me tell you, from personal experience, about the residual effects of trauma.  After it happened, I could barely sleep.  I stayed awake, alarmed by any small sound in the night.  I never felt safe.  I have yet to be able to trust men.  I have flashbacks, that feel as though I am reliving the trauma over again.  Therefore, I relive it over and over again.  My startle reflex is incredibly sensitive.  When I went to see Olympus has Fallen, I was jerking repeatedly, startled by the loud sounds.  Even a shadow on my computer screen makes me jump.  Whenever I am put into a vulnerable situation, I get disoriented and overwhelmed.  My pupils dilate, and I become sensitive to sounds.  Walking to my car in a parking lot at night, for example.  I avoid situations which might trigger these effects, such as: being around men, being by myself outside, being intimate with someone, or alone at night.  It has been years, and I am still working to undo the harm done.

I’m not saying I am not living a fulfilling life.  What I am saying is that it has taken years of hard work to get to where I can.  And what I want to impress upon you is that my case is lucky.  I’ve had a lot of resources that most people never have.  Such violence haunts a lot of people till the day they die.  It breaks their souls.  And mending a soul isn’t easy.  And even when mended, there will always be scars.

That is all I’m trying to say.  Sexual violence is an issue worth caring about.

controls our lives

Feminism in Film

Very little gives me hope for the world.  Beyond my faith, nothing much keeps me going.  I keep an eye open at all times, for something, ANYTHING, that will give me hope for our world.  Luckily for me, I am friends with a lot of people who are on the look out for the same.  My friend, Alicia, wrote this blog post reviewing the new film “Snow White and The Huntsman.”  Until now, I had not considered seeing the film.  Movies lately seem to be a load a duds.  It remains hard to find a good one.  There are sadly, far too few female protagonists that are brilliant and strong.  This movie happens to feature one!  Yay!!!  Enjoy reading her post, and then go see the film.  I feel like every purchase I make is a vote that I am putting in towards promoting the things I believe in.  I will probably see this movie several times for that reason.  I’m hoping to see “Brave” soon also.  Hopefully, it will be just as satisfying.  Have a swell day!

You Intended to Harm Me

April is sexual assault awareness month.  I have a group of friends, who are all survivors, who live all across North America.  We keep in touch and share our struggles with and fight against the issue of sexual violence.  This month, we’ve decided to share each other’s blogs as we post about S.A.A.M. and what it means for us.  One of those friends/survivors is Sheena.  Here is her Facebook page.  Here is her blog.  She sent me interview questions, which I answered, and decided to share on my own blog.

Before I get to the questions, I want to share the shirt that I made last night, as a part of a survivors group.  It is for the clothesline project.  You can find out more about The Clothesline Project here.  It was started as a grassroots effort to give survivors the forum to speak about their experiences as an aid in the prevention of and awareness around violence against women.  Survivors are encouraged to make t-shirts conveying their “testimony to the problem of violence against women.”  As I watched women all around me, I tried to think of what I wanted to say in regards to the issue.  I wanted to express my pain and anger, but I also wanted to share my hope that we have the power to turn things around.  I drew an image of a bird coming out of a heart, but the words continued to evade me.  Then a bible verse popped into my head.  It is Genesis 50:20 and it says: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  I think it adequately expresses the fact that we have the power to turn around what has been done to us and stop the cycle, a theme that was common as I answered the interview questions from Sheena.  Here is a picture of my shirt:

Ok, and now for the interview!!! Enjoy:

1.   Who are you?

Noelle: Freelance Writer, Future Banjo Prodigy, Recovering Addict, Self-Proclaimed Rock Star, Christian Feminist Slam Poet, Survivor

2.   Does Sexual Assault Awareness month and Childhood Sexual Abuse Prevention Month hold any significant meaning to you? If so, why?

Yes, because I’ve experienced both and I think they are both completely unacceptable and unacceptably quiet experiences in the lives of far too many people.

3.   What is your story?

TBA  😀

4.   According to some statistics, very few people report abuse & assault crimes. Why do you think that is?

Because our legal and medical systems, as well as our entire society as a larger whole pressures those who experience such violence to stay silent.  Often times this pressure is carried out in the form of shaming and further abuse of victims.

5.   Do you think abusers, rapist, molesters, pedophiles and the likes can be reformed, healed or changed?

I think anything is possible.  Ask me if it is likely, and I will say no.

6.   What do you want others to understand about those who have been victimized?

That such violence is completely unacceptable.  That victims receive little to no support after such acts are committed.  That our culture allows and even endorses sexually violent behavior, and that it is EVERYONE’s responsibility to start examining the way we live and making a genuine and vigorous effort to change.  And that such violence is devastating in the lives of victims, but with support and dedication, such violence can be overcome.

7.   What’s been the most difficult thing to deal with as it relates to what you’ve experienced?

The most difficult part of my experience to deal with is how I was treated after I was victimized.  Again and again, I was either completely ignored or simply not believed.  I was belittled, accused, ignored, and silenced, not only by the legal system, but by my loved ones.

8.  How have you dealt with your own personal rage at the traumatic things that have happened to you?

Honestly… I haven’t.  I’m still working on simply allowing myself to feel the rage, because I spent my entire life trying not to feel any of it.  Whenever I do feel rage, I want to sit with it, embrace it, and express it.  I feel like I deserve that.

9.   What was an unexpected thing that aided in your growth and healing?

God.  It was very hard for me to get past the idea of God as a man, or that God had allowed these things to happen.  I was angry and full of blame.  What I realized was that I was misunderstanding God.  I had always listened to what others believed God was, and I didn’t like what they had to say, but I lived with that God for a long time.  Now, I realize that God is more personal than that.  God isn’t some giant angry white dude in the sky with a long beard.  I see God in a way that comforts me.  I also had to make the distinction that God and people are two different things.  People have free will.  People f*ck up, in major ways.  God doesn’t hurt us, God is there to comfort us when people have.

10.   What encouraging words do you have to offer for anyone who has ever been abused or assault?

Keep going.  Don’t give up.  We have the power to change things.  What happened was unacceptable and inexcusable.  Allow yourself to feel, and remember that everything you feel is valid.  Trust yourself.  This doesn’t have to break you.

11.   What have you learned considering your experiences?

Too much to write here.  So much.

12.   What do you think is the most important thing the world needs to hear?

We hold the power to turn things around.

13.   What brings you ultimate joy?

My future.  My nephew.  God.  My dog.  😀

14.   What’s your favorite quote?

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”  -Dorothy Bernard

15.   Who inspires you? Why?

My sister, because she taught me to question authority, and that you can make your own family without recreating the mistakes of your parents.

16.   Is there anything else you’d like to share? This is your space to say whatever you want to say unedited, unscripted and without any filters.

To Be Continued… 🙂

Cheering On Your Rapist?!

Three Cheer For Rape???
(I don’t know how to link on wordpress from my phone, so copy and paste the link below to understand this blogpost)

http://ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com/2011/05/three-cheers-for-rape.html

This breaks my heart, because it is exactly what I’ve been struggling with… What do you do when society constantly reinforces your worthlessness? It is so hard to single-handedly fight the majority of people, and the main attitudes of apathy or indifference on the subject. How can we even address self esteem and body image in girls, when we simply say “you’re beautiful”… That’s not enough. It starts with how cases like this are handled!!! It starts with the messages we receive that boys are more powerful, then goes to saying boys are more valuable (misdemeanor charge for rape?!), then as a girl marches past that obstacle, she’s told to suck it up and do what she’s told… Her opinion doesn’t matter, her PAIN doesn’t matter, SHE doesn’t matter… So how about we start there, rather than taking girls who’ve been through trauma, and putting a bandaid over the wound by patting them on the back and believing that saying they’re pretty will be enough, when everything else in the world (our actions) tells them they are WORTHLESS!!!