What do you want? #rapeculture #vaw

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative, Sexual Violence

NaBloPoMo March 2013People who have witnessed the recent steps on my journey have sent me good wishes and hopes for the outcome I want. Truth be told, the healing, the outcome I wanted for myself, happened long ago. But I’ve started to talk publicly about it. And I recently told my ex my thoughts about our past. This has inspired the following question from many corners:

What do you want?

I want to agitate.
I want to make people feel uncomfortable.
I want to counter rape culture.
I want people to stop blaming victims.
I want to add my voice to the chorus of survivors.
I want partners to question their entitlement over another’s body.
I want people to talk. Especially men to their friends and brothers. To their sons and lovers.

Rape culture is allowed to fester, in part, because of our silence. So I am speaking up, speaking back. I want to speak more often and with more eloquence. I want to help survivors speak, too.

I want to make a difference.

Just asking. #rapeculture #vaw

30 Day Blog Challenge, Sexual Violence

Is it possible he really forgot?

It’s been twenty years. I’m the one who was traumatized. I’m the one who said nothing. Did nothing.

Well, that’s not really accurate.

I buried it. Allegedly got over it and got on with it. Honestly, I tucked it away from sight, but it was never very far. I carried it with me into each new year. Into every new relationship. It colored every subsequent encounter. Every single one.

So it leads me to wonder: is it possible for someone to inflict such harm upon another and not recognize it as such?

Apparently it is.

Yes, yes, yes. | #vaw #fem2

30 Day Blog Challenge, Sexual Violence

In rape culture, “no” is not always honored as “no.” No was an important aspect of my experience of sexual violence, because I had initially given consent. I said yes. The problem came when I changed my mind, and my “yes” became a “no.” I was alert, angry, and unambiguously vocal in my “no.” Sometimes the situation isn’t as clear.

In Steubenville, OH, two high school football stars were convicted of raping a teenage girl too drunk to give consent. She was too drunk to say yes or no. By taking advantage of her inability to respond, the perpetrators broke the law. This case and the discussion around it, has broadened the national discourse on sexual violence and rape culture. One idea getting more expansive coverage is the importance of “yes,” in sexual encounters rather than simply the absence or presence of “no.” Jessica Valenti asks,

If a woman doesn’t say “no” to sex—is that the same thing as saying “yes”?

She elaborates with more pointed questions:

Are all women really to be considered willing sexual participants unless otherwise stated? If we flirt with someone, or even kiss them, does that give them permission to do whatever else they want to our bodies until we strenuously object? 

With this framing, it’s clear that women are not in a perpetual state of consent. Therefore, assuming “yes” in absence of “no” is inadequate. Coercion is a very real part of rape culture. Sometimes partners acquiesce:

But acquiescence is not the same as active consent:

Writes Jessica,

The only way to know that sex is consensual is if there’s a freely and clearly given “yes.” This may sound radical to the uninitiated, but don’t we all want to make sure we’re only having sex with people who are actually interested? Ensuring enthusiastic consent requires only the most basic respect we all owe our partners in the first place: paying attention to how they’re doing, and asking them if we can’t tell.

In other words, only yes means yes.

NaBloPoMo March 2013

Midpoint check in! #NaBloPoMo #amwriting

30 Day Blog Challenge
all white salsa
Jorge and me getting our salsa on!

Cue the salsa music! Let’s dance!

I’ve made it to the halfway point. I committed to writing 30 blogs in 30 days, and so far so good. I’m amazed and inspired this time around. I’ve wondered why it feels so much easier than August. I think it’s because:

There’s no angst. It’s something I’ve accomplished before, so I began with the foreknowledge I can definitely be successful. Whether stream of consciousness, quick check-ins, or other short entries, I can blog every day.

I’m wiser. I discovered a lot about my writing process, so I realize my morning brilliance may or may not be written (much less published) by afternoon. Sometimes thoughts need time to germinate. Related to that…

I’m more flexible. I thought I would work through some heady topics in August, and I found it too much pressure to write on them publicly every.single.day. Now I write whatever I feel moved to write, which is why I have a blog in the first place!

I was ready. In August it was someone else’s idea to write 30 in 30, and I took up the challenge. This time I was chomping at the bit to do another. In fact, I was planning to start April 1st, when my schedule slowed a bit, but I couldn’t bear waiting another month. I missed the structure and thinking space daily writing creates. I’m glad to have it back.

I’m proud of myself because I’ve taken more chances this time around, and I’ve been consistent, without stress. Regardless of what happens over the next 15-16 days, I love myself for the effort.

Here’s to the second half!

NaBloPoMo March 2013

A word on hope. #NaBloPoMo #Buddhism.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Spirituality, Temple Building

NaBloPoMo March 2013What is your philosophy of life? Does it involve action, momentum, value creation and good cheer? Is it passive, reactive, somber? Quality of life is more about how we decide to live, rather than what happens to us in the living of it. There’s risk in choosing to live optimistically. We can’t predict or control the hurricanes or floods, the disappointing diagnoses, the betrayals. Sometimes we don’t see that knock out punch coming, and there we are dazed, contemplating the wisdom of standing. The decisions we make in difficult moments are grounded in our approach to life.

I advocate a philosophy of hope. It’s funny, because I’ve often said, “hope is not a strategy.” But that’s incomplete. What I mean is hope is not going to write your paper, deliver your presentation, or mend strained relationships. Hope doesn’t take the action steps required for living day-to-day.

But having hope can keep you facing forward, looking on the bright side of a dark moment. It can feed your courage so you can regroup and try again tomorrow. Hope ensures you don’t give up at the crucial moment, when time is still left on the clock.

Hope is for the living.

We must face each issue that crops up, without flinching, solve it, overcome it and move on to the next. That is what human life is really about. That is what it is to be alive. When you triumph over your sufferings, they will all be transformed into joy. And you yourself will grow and expand.

“Despair is the refuge of fools,” goes the saying. As long as you hold on tightly to hope, as long as you take earnest actions to fight, you can be sure that spring will come again. A Russian proverb says, “There is no winter in the kingdom of hope.”

~Daisaku Ikeda in Goya

On looking and leaping. #NaBloPoMo #amwriting.

30 Day Blog Challenge

NaBloPoMo March 2013

Do you always look before you leap?

Of course. Gravity is real and objects are solid. Not looking where you leap can lead to injury. Or worse.

That said, looking first doesn’t negate the leaping. It simply means assessing the situation beforehand. I weigh pros and cons. I mull things over and consider multiple angles. I do a gut check: How does it feel when I think about leaping? I can’t say if I put more stock in feelings over facts. It depends on the leap in question. I don’t do all of this to talk myself out of leaping, but rather so I can leap mindfully.

I think a related question is Have you ever taken a leap you’ve regretted? The answer to that is a solid no. Regret is a strong word and one I’ve always scorned. I love myself and I love my life. Everything is not exactly as I’d like it to be, and that’s part of the drama of life. Sure, I’ve made decisions I wouldn’t make again. But I don’t regret them; I learned from them.

There’s no need for us to be held back by the past or how things have been so far. The important thing is what seeds we are sowing now for the future. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Keeping past decisions and future goals in focus encourages me to be mindful of my present actions.

So yes, I leap. But first, I look.

No means no* #NaBloPoMo #vaw #fem2

30 Day Blog Challenge, Sexual Violence

NaBloPoMo March 2013At times boundaries are rendered ambiguous, when in actuality, they’re sharply drawn. In rape culture, this means no is sometimes given an asterisk: No means no* when your partner says it three times. Or no means no* when your partner hits you in protest. No means no* when (fill in the blank).

No means no. It means no when it’s a stranger. It means no when it’s an acquaintance. It means no when it’s a family member. If it’s your spouse, significant other or otherwise longterm partner, it still means no.

Rape culture perpetuates the myth that perpetrators of sexual assault are always scary men with ski-masks and guns, hiding in the bushes for the easiest target. Or maybe they’re burglars who break in to steal your electronics and get the woman of the house as well. And on it goes. People who commit sexual assault come in all shapes, sizes, ages and circumstances. Statistics show that 73% of sexual assaults are committed by non-strangers.

Today I’m sharing an episode of The Cosby Show spinoff, A Different World. In it, Freddie falls for the handsome star athlete, Garth. Dwayne, who has reason to question Garth’s intentions, seeks guidance from a trusted mentor and tries to protect Freddie from Garth’s attempt at sexual assault. Media portrayals like this show that men can counter narratives of masculinity that imply potential partners must be coerced or forced into changing their no into a yes.*

Stories of Sexual Violence #NaBloPoMo #vaw #fem2

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative, Sexual Violence

NaBloPoMo March 2013I am a survivor of sexual violence.

I’ve never stated it publicly, but I’ve hinted about it here and there. I’m tired of hinting.

It’s risky, claiming survivor status out loud. It’s old wounds ripped open and sprinkled with salt. Once-dried tears, bubbling up, spilling over. Heart racing. Doubts. Anger. It’s triggering. Digging into that history, thinking about it, remembering it, and sharing it is triggering.

One could reasonably wonder why do it?

I’ll tell you why: to counter rape culture.

Telling my story gives other survivors permission to tell theirs. It opens a channel for dialogue, healing and transformation. It creates a space for would-be perpetrators to see the effect of sexual violence and potentially make more loving choices. It adds to the public discourse about sexual violence, masculinity and shame. It gives survivors a face and a voice, when so often we are silent. And invisible…

Sexual assault happens over there, to other people. To someone. In reality, it’s probably happened to someone you know. It happened to me.

The person who violated me was someone I trusted. More than that, really. I loved him. He was a long-time intimate partner who did not respect my decision to say no.

I never expressed to him how broken that experience left me. And for a very long time – years – I didn’t realize the extent of the trauma. But over the past two years, I’ve been getting clear on why my story of sexual violence needs to be told. Through telling, I’ve learned about love and intimacy, most importantly, I’ve learned about myself.

I want to help other women and teenagers learn about love and intimacy and self through their stories as well. I’ll share more when the time is right.

Present moments and future pleasures. #NaBloPoMo

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative, Spirituality, Temple Building

Love in the past is a memory. Love in the future is a fantasy.
To be really alive, love — or any other experience —
must take place in the present.
~Jack Kornfield

I don’t want to get too caught up in what’s next. I want to enjoy what’s now. (While still excited about what’s next.)

I’ll admit that’s been hard the past few months. After a period of dormancy, my life is in the full bloom of spring. It’s glorious. I have big plans and I’m working toward them day by day. Still, I find myself saying things like, I can’t wait until

Now, I want to be clear: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being excited about the future, no matter whether future means five years or five minutes. But being too caught up in future happiness – or past, for that matter – makes you miss opportunities for joy and growth in the current moment.

Happiness is not something far away. It is to be found neither in
fame nor in popularity. When you live with integrity,
your hearts begin to fill with a happiness as vast as the universe.
It’s about being true to yourself and starting from where you are.
~Daisaku Ikeda

Where are you?
There’s risk living fully in the present moment. You have to be open. Vulnerable. You have to face life as it is, not as you would have it be, or as it used to be. It requires acknowledgment. Discernment. And it’s a balancing act, really. Reflecting on past moments, looking forward to future moments, all while living in the now, is more than a notion.

NaBloPoMo March 2013

That’s really a challenge if you feel your life is a smidgen too far from perfect. Why focus energy here and now, when you really want to just hurry up and get to happily ever after? And if life is good now, but better is just around the corner, it’s easy to want to rush time along.  Funny thing, time.  You can’t get to future moments without experiencing this one. And because the chain of cause and effect is never broken, the way you experience the future is predicated, in large part, on the way you frame your present adventures.

Mindful moments.
One way I’ve remained mindful of (and grateful for) present moments, is by adding to my joy jar. I could do this more often, and I’m writing about it now as a gentle reminder to myself.  Another strategy I implement is listing. I jot down small, specific tasks I want to accomplish in a short period (one day or two), and check them off as I go.  It’s simple, but it allows me to see and appreciate constant progress, and consequently build momentum.

I also enjoy simple things like outdoor exercise, sitting in the sun, stretching, or salt baths. These all help me slow down and notice what’s going on right now. They also help me listen to my body, which whispers its need of rest or better nutrition before turning to drastic measures like illness or injury.

vorfreudeCultivate your life.
My aunt is a Master Gardener. And no matter how excited she is about her future blossoms, there’s no escaping today’s work of tilling the soil, planting and pruning as the case may be. She enjoys the work of gardening (even the setbacks), the anticipation, and the fruits of her labor.

And so it can be with us.

Speak to me. #NaBloPoMo.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Feminist Thought, Personal Narrative, Sexual Violence

NaBloPoMo March 2013

Yesterday I touched on the risk of remaining silent. I have more thoughts on the topic, but I wanted to broach the other end of the continuum – speaking up. In this case, I don’t mean speaking out, per se, but rather truth-telling to yourself.

And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence
into language and action is an act of self-revelation,
and that always seems fraught with danger.
~Audre Lorde

Silence into Language
As a narrative inquirer, I investigate stories. I wonder what we can uncover when we treat stories as data; when we mine them and make sense of them. I encourage women to tell and delve into their own stories, to engage in deep reflection about the gems they unearth during this work. This is a liberating, yet potentially painful process.

I made brief mention of triggering. Studying your life reveals truths you had forgotten, weren’t expecting, or had even rejected. Suddenly, there they are, in bold relief, and you’re faced with a choice.

Language into Action
When I hit that moment of great revelation in my own investigation, I cried. These were the wrenching tears of a deeply wounded soul. My tears surprised me. I honestly didn’t know I harbored such profound hurt. But the crying and the subsequent feelings of relief did not mark the end of my work. They became the bridge to further learning and new steps.

I asked myself, now that I see this truth and better understand this part of my life, what will I do with this? What actions can I take to create a better outcome for me, or for others who may face similar circumstances? It wasn’t enough to give voice to my experience, I need/ed to use it.

If it’s true that past is prologue, studying my story gave me tools to construct a plot more to my liking. Rather than aimlessly bouncing to the next experience, I consciously authored next steps: learning vulnerability and inviting love.

And it was freeing. Scary. Difficult. Illuminating. Empowering. Risky. Painful. But freeing.

Speak.

My silences had not protected me.
Your silence will not protect you.

~Audre Lorde