Tag: assault

Dear Readers

triggerwarningThis month at The Patchwork Diaries we’re discussing some very intense subjects. Please be aware that any and all posts during the month of April could be triggering to survivors and those recovering from sexual abuse.

Also, due to the highly emotional nature of our survivor stories comments have been disabled on certain posts. If you would like to reach out to us please feel free to contact us via our Facebook page: The Patchwork Diaries.

We will return to our regular posting shenanigans on May 1st.

Thank you,

The Patchwork Diaries

For You the Survivor

“My darling,
Be gentle with yourself.
Your hurts are already bruising,
You do not need to draw blood.

Offer yourself the kindness
You have been saving for others;
Know that you are built
For tenderness;
You are not a stone-walled fort
To withstand a siege of swords;
You are not a deep ravine
With no way out.

My darling, love yourself.
Offer yourself unto yourself
In the temple of your spirit;
You are your own redeemer.
Do not forget the depths of the soul
And that all the answers
Are a garden growing in yours.
Know you are a warm being
And that sooner or later we,
Like moths to a flame, will all
Be drawn into your orbit;

My darling,
Know that you are loved
And that even the universe has
Spent fourteen billion years
Waiting to meet you;
Do not grieve over goodbyes
Because it is a blessing
Simply to have known you –
You, who like a small candle
Have given meaning,
However brief, to the lives
Of others;

Darling,
Know that though you are strong
You were not made invulnerable;
You are not a fortress, so
Hold fast against the storms and
Dig your heels into the ground.
When it is over gather yourself
And clean out the cuts;
Know your first-aid and administer it.
Know that you have done it before
And that you can do it again, my darling;
Know that you cry because you are alive
And that it tastes so damn sweet
When you can finally face yourself
And say the words: ‘I love you, I love you,
I love you.’

SAAM Links and Resources Pt. 4

National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1.800.656.HOPE

At any given moment, more than 1,100 trained volunteers are on duty and available to help victims at RAINN-affiliated crisis centers across the country.

How does the National Sexual Assault Hotline work?

The concept behind the hotline is simple. When a caller dials 1.800.656.HOPE, a computer notes the area code and first three digits of the caller’s phone number. The call is then instantaneously connected to the nearest RAINN member center. If all counselors at that center are busy, the call is sent to the next closest center. The caller’s phone number is not retained, so the call is anonymous and confidential unless the caller chooses to share personally-identifying information.

Read More Here: https://www.rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-hotline

Survivor Stories Pt 4

It took me over three years before I shared my story online.
I was sexually assaulted in November 2011 by my roommate, who was also one of my best friends.  The trust issues it left me with bled into nearly every aspect of my life, but the strength I gained from dealing with the pain and guilt and confusion helped to build me into the person I am today.  It was a pivotal event in my life, and a large part of the reason I became a feminist blogger and activist.  I knew it was important to share with my readers in the way a superhero’s origin story is important to share.  Not that I considered myself anything like a superhero.  But anyone with a passion has more influence if they share one of the major sources of that passion.
But I hesitated to share my story on my blog, not because I was ashamed or because I didn’t think I was ready–I’d already shared it with most of the people I knew in person–but because I knew I’d be treated like dirt.  I’m a feminist blogger, after all.  We get crap for pretty much everything we say.  MRAs troll #feminism on Twitter constantly, and they are shameless.  I’d been called a “feminist cunt” for far less.  I didn’t think I could take the slut-shaming, victim-blaming attitude that I knew would be unleashed on me as soon as I released my story.
As a blogger who discusses difficult topics such as feminism, politics, and social issues, I was no stranger to being vulnerable online.  But as frank as I could be about sex, religion, race, and even my period, dealing with the hateful backlash and powering through it, talking about this horrible thing that happened to me was on its own level entirely.  And it wasn’t a level I was at yet, despite having no trouble talking about it in person.  The topic itself was my subconscious line separating “internet people” from “real people.”  If you’d have asked me outright, I’d have said I didn’t think there was a difference.  But deep down, I really did.
So I wrote drafts of it over and over for years, never hitting publish, chickening out every time at various points in the process.  I just kept putting it off, telling myself I wasn’t ready for one reason or another.
One day, out of nowhere, a little voice in my head said “it’s time.”  I hadn’t even been thinking about it, it came into my head while I was running errands on a completely normal day.  Still I knew it was true.  And I listened to that voice.  I found an old draft, edited it, formatted it, and set it up for SEO.  It told the story like a narrative, bluntly and honestly, but not shying away from the emotions I was feeling during it.  I read it through, hesitated, and then went back through and changed his name to a fake one, telling myself as I did it that he was lucky because he didn’t deserve to have his identity protected.  I read it through again, breathed deeply, and hit publish.
Then I waited.  And an hour later, the storm fell.
I was right about Twitter.  I was attacked mercilessly.  I spent a whole day trying to explain to men’s rights trolls why it really was assault, why it wasn’t my fault, why people too weak to defend themselves didn’t deserve to be assaulted.  I explained why my story wasn’t invalid because some women experienced far worse.  I got accused of “cheating” and “having an affair” (Derek was married, I was not).  I was called all kinds of names, especially coward, because part of my assault story was saying no over and over again but being too afraid of being harmed to scream or fight.  I felt like I was going to crumble into little tiny bits.  I felt alone.  I began to wish I had never posted it, thinking it didn’t help anyone, and all I’d gotten out of it was harassed.  I began to suspect that I was right all along to be afraid of that soulless, evil place called the internet.
Sinking deep into all this hurt and depression, wondering if I’d miscommunicated something in my story somehow that made all these people attack me, I added a long afterword to the post.  I clarified that Derek had been physically terrifying and that I had reason not to fight him, I explained why I hadn’t gone to the police, and I shared some of the things people had said to me that made me feel obliged to share all these defenses.  I reached into an already vulnerable heart and dug up all that was left–laying out every bit of the fear I’d felt and what I’d gone through on the table.  “Here,” I’d said, “have it all.  Maybe then you’ll understand.”
Looking back, I probably didn’t need to clarify any of it.  The story told itself, and anyone with a heart and/or brain would realize upon reading it why I would’ve been afraid to fight back or go to the police.  Those people on Twitter were just assholes, really and truly.  But I was feeling beaten down and I was desperate for people to understand me.  It was my last, flailing attempt to reach for humanity in this strange virtual space.
Shortly after I posted the update to the post, about ready to give up entirely, my blog filled with comments from my readers and blog friends.  Every single one of them was supportive.  They told me that what happened to me was awful, that it wasn’t my fault, and that I should ignore the Twitter cretin.  They told me they loved me–people I’d never met in person.  They told me I was okay, and they lifted me up.  The clouds began to clear in my heart.  I felt loved again.  I felt like there were actual human beings out there on the internet.  And I started to feel less alone.
One or two women messaged me privately to tell me how much I had helped them through their own issues with sexual assault–how just reading another woman’s story, just knowing someone else understood what they’d gone through, was huge for them.  The clouds parted some more.  Another woman told me she was inspired to share her own story on her blog after reading mine, and shared the link with me.  I cried reading her story, but I felt encouraged afterward.  It was all being paid forward.  My vulnerability and my pain weren’t for nothing, and neither were hers.
I discovered something beautiful about the internet through this experience.  It isn’t simply a hotbed of evil, nor is it a place of pure goodness.  It is a reflection of the best and the worst of humanity, made up of millions of very real people, and at the end of the day, the good means far more than the bad.  I now have faith in the internet the same way I have faith in people–some parts are horrible, and lots are mediocre, but its capacity for beauty far outweighs all of it.
And maybe it took a terrible experience to realize this, but isn’t that how we arrive at most beautiful epiphanies?  I wouldn’t take it back for the world, because the love that picked me up after being broken down not only brought me closer to my digital friends and encouraged me to continue to be brave and open online, it also taught me a valuable lesson: people are just people, whether in person or on this weird virtual reality called the internet.
Samantha Clarke has a humorous feminist blog called Jill of all Trades, where she recently shared her sexual assault story if you’d like to read it.  She can also be found spending way too much time on Twitter.

The Forgiveness

Wrapping up our series here for SAAM, and I have a confession. I’ve been parading around here in my proverbial picket line with banners raised denouncing the atrocities experienced by many, and yet I have no feelings of ill will toward my attacker, which I discussed briefly in my post last week. Really the last piece of my recovery puzzle was one of the most important, I’ve forgiven him. 

 And let me tell you out of everything I’ve been able to convey and share here, this post has been the most difficult to write. Not because I don’t know how I feel, I do, but how do I express that? It’s some weird place that defies most emotionally descriptive words. It’s not hate, it’s not love, it’s not sadness, it’s not pity, it’s not anger, it’s not joy, it’s… I don’t know. It’s like if you took the poles of each hatred/love, sadness/joy etc and dumped them into a blender whatever comes out of that. That’s how I feel. The closest thing I can come up with as far as descriptive emotional word I can think of is peaceful.

The memories are still there filtering around through my head on their eternal loop, but I’ve finally been able to experience the emotions associated with them. Maybe that’s more of the word I’m looking for… maybe it’s peaceful because I’ve finally been able to reach complete acceptance. Not dissociation, because I am aware of what happened, but true acceptance. I’m no longer hiding behind denial or dissolution. I’m no longer making excuses for him, or desperately wracking my brain holding on to little pieces of hope or goodness that came from our time together. I’ve finally accepted what even my attacker himself had been trying to convey to me over the years. Reaching this place of acceptance has been a long arduous journey, but finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel? After years of struggling it is an absolutely blissful place to be.

I wish I had some sage wisdom to offer as far as getting to this point in your journey fellow survivors, but I really don’t. Everyone’s journey is filled with a million different intricacies each as unique to the individual and situation as there are stars in the universe. What worked for me, may not work for the next person. The important thing is that we are all in this together.

In closing, I’d like to leave a note on the off chance that some day he stumbles across this:

To My Attacker:

I’m here. I made it out the other side, and I remember all those things that I had forgotten. Even so, I forgive you. My forgiveness is the same even if you don’t understand what it means. Whether or not you feel genuine remorse for what happened between us. Whether you ever truly cared, or simply took advantage. Whatever the reason our paths crossed, I don’t regret it. I’ve always known what you are. I didn’t always understand it, but I’ve always seen it. I really did love you, but I didn’t love myself. You’re right. I deserve better. Even still, I don’t hate you. I’m not out to get you, or ruin your life. Hopefully someday, you’ll accept that.

Until then,

K.

And because we’ve always communicated better though song than paper or discussion… This:

 

SAAM Links and Resources Pt 3

How I Forgave Myself After My Rape

After the rape, I kept what had happened close to my heart like a special secret for a long time, and doing so kept it a part of me. It was only when I started speaking the truth of what had happened to me that I was able to see it as something separate from myself — as something that happened to me, rather than something that I was. For those survivors who feel as though you are defined by the violence, none of us, including you, are defined by what has been done to us. We define ourselves. Let that secret go: hold it out apart from you so that it can be seen for what it really is.

 

Read More Here: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a18885/rape-dear-sister-excerpt/

Survivor Stories Pt 3

 I wish I hadn’t seen his struggle.

I wish I could look back and only remember the ugly times.

The times he abused me.

The times he neglected me.

The times he abandon me.

I wish I didn’t have to see the times he cried.

The times he was vulnerable.

The times he was scared.

The times he was human.

I wish I could only remember the monster.

I wouldn’t be left with the crippling doubt.

Was it the humanity protecting me in my weakest moments?

Or was it the predator, merely defending his prey?

I wish I didn’t see the difference between them.

Two souls, trapped in one body.

I wish I could hate him.

I wish I could blame him.

I wish… I wish… I wish.

-Survivor

The Anger

We’ve reached part three of my Sexual Assault Awareness Month series. In the previous two posts (The Attack, The Aftermath) I discussed the details of the attack, and the physical and emotional aftermath I endured, leading up to this.

When I started my journey to recovery two years ago, the absolute last thing on my mind was a long past relationship and sexual assault. I was more concerned with selfish motives of saving my marriage, and getting my emotions under control as I began the new chapter in my life of motherhood. My daughter had just turned seven months old, my husband and I had just purchased our first home, and there was a huge well of transition both in adapting to having a child, and moving into our new environment.

As those with children of their own can attest, the stress and sleep deprivation that comes with an infant is quite near the threshold of human tolerance. I was an emotional basket case, snapping at my husband more often than not, and demanding things be done per my very specific instructions in an attempt to regain some control over my surroundings and situation. We fought frequently, and there was a distinguishable distance growing between us, which triggered my yet to be diagnosed abandonment issues and turned up the stress dial several more notches. It was then that the self doubt started.

I began to question everything I had done/felt/endured during the course of my life as an independent adult. I had been so consumed with hatred toward myself for all of the mistakes I had made, I was quite literally insane, lost in dissociation trying to keep myself together. So many choices I had made were the product of an unhealthy mind. I was scared, both filled with regret and guilt. What if I had only married my husband out of spite? What if my haste to have a child was inspired by the same reason? What if everything I had tried to do to be successful and remain happy despite my emotional turmoil was only a ruse? Had I damaged myself more trying to forget the events of the past as opposed to embracing them?

So I began the arduous task of writing everything down from moving out into my first apartment, up until the current events in my life as I remembered it. Once I started recording everything the intrusive thoughts began to subside, everything seemed to fall into place, but the self doubt went into complete over drive. So much so that I began to look into mental health diagnoses finally coming to the realization that I couldn’t be a healthy neurotypical person and enduring such a constantly changing wave of thoughts and emotions. That is when I stumbled on the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was like reading about the inside of my mind for the first time in my life.

I was both intensely relieved, and petrified at the same time. I fit all of the symptoms, and children from abusive pasts were in the risk category, but what else in my life had been traumatic? Because I had survived each and every event, they did not occur to me as trauma. I felt that maybe I was wrong, and that maybe what I had wasn’t exactly PTSD but mimicked the symptoms. The only way I was going to be able to find out was to make an appointment with a therapist and get a professional opinion, and complete diagnosis. That is precisely what I did. I sent out several apprehensive emails to several different local practices over the course of the next few weeks. I was beginning to get discouraged as again and again I was turned away or ignored all together, until finally I got a positive reply and scheduled an appointment. I remember those nerve wrecking few weeks between the initial reply, taking the time to fill out my assessments, and personal history forms.

The humility and associated anxiety it took to open up to some one completely face to face without the safety of my blog and computer screen almost did me in. I think if I had to wait any longer before arriving at the office I would have suffered a stress related aneurism. The first appointment was encouraging. I was finally able to give a name to what had plagued me for most of my life. If I could give it a name, I could find a treatment. I didn’t have to be a slave to my flashbacks and intrusive thoughts any longer. I continued my course of therapy, putting to bed most of the issues from my past. I kept blogging my progress at first excited to share my growth with the world, but soon it turned into a chore and mentally taxing more than helpful. I deactivated my blog for close to a year at the height of my emotional recovery.

Then, as I reached a turning point, and began to regain my strength and finally achieve a sense of stability the most recent turmoil in my life finally satisfied, other things began to rise to the surface. Things that I had long forgotten. With the help of my therapist I was able to navigate these “new” memories and emotions successfully. It was in this time that the memory of my assault rose to the surface. I was doing really well, my PTSD in clinical remission when suddenly I began to have nightmares.

Violent flash backs of this occurrence between me and a man whom had been so influential and important in my life. None of it made sense. The panic attacks associated with it were some of the worst I had ever endured/experienced. I was so confused, so conflicted, and so blindsided especially in the midst of my recovery. I felt like I had failed somewhere, that I was somehow doomed to live in a constant loop of recurrence, and that these memories couldn’t possibly be real. Surely I had to be exaggerating somehow. Somewhere.

After discussing it with my therapist and undergoing some regression, it was determined that my memories were in fact genuine. I had been violently raped and only now was I in a healthy enough emotional state to address it. Working through it with my therapist, decoding things that had been buried, popping up only in fleeting moments of my subconscious was exhausting. My emotions covered every end of the spectrum from elation that I was finally able to break free of the shackles of dissociation, to deep rooted anger at this man for taking advantage of me in such a vulnerable part of my life. That anger is the emotion that originally spurred me forward in the decision to relaunch my blog and reclaim my voice. No longer was I going to be silenced by the mask of dissociation, no longer was I going to give my respect and loyalty to some one who deserved less from me. I was out for blood.

But as I began to write, even in anger, I realized that I couldn’t do that to him. I couldn’t sit here and publicly humiliate him, or share my experience out of malicious intent. I hesitated, I wavered, I reigned myself back in. The likely hood that he will ever see these words is minimal at best. We haven’t had any recent contact, nor do I plan to have any contact with him ever again, and yet… it was there. Something that kept me from letting all of my explosive rage out onto the page. I realized that while my anger was justified, I couldn’t dehumanize him, expose him, or capitalize on our unfortunate encounter. If I was going to share the details of what happened between us it was going to be for a different reason. It couldn’t be out of anger or hatred. So I put everything away. Closed the draft file on my hard drive, and removed it from my desktop. My story was important, but I wasn’t going to use it as a weapon.

Raw. Real.

Another song I stumbled upon while putting together the series which I thought would be worth a share. I think it beautifully illustrates the mental back and forth that often comes after surviving any trauma really, but especially a sexual assault. So often victims are blamed or silenced, and when they do finally work up the courage to share their stories they are immediately accused of attention seeking or making things up. People may not believe you, but that doesn’t take away the validity of your feelings or experience. The more people who speak up, the more apt society becomes to change.

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embed]https://youtu.be/4mplS8SiAK4[/embed]

SAAM Links and Resources Pt 2

What Is Rape Culture?

Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. A look at the cultural factors behind the statistic.

“Rape culture” is a culture in which sexual violence is considered the norm — in which people aren’t taught not to rape, but are taught not to be raped. The term was first used by feminists in the 1970s but has become popular in recent years as more survivors share their stories.

Here, a beginner’s guide to the major elements of rape culture.

Read More Here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/what-is-rape-culture

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