Somehow I thought I had earned my right to not be a victim again. It wasn’t a conscious thought. It was an effect of feeling in my power for the first time in my life. Growing up as a childhood sexual abuse survivor + being a woman + rape culture I was always aware of my body.
I didn’t respect it but that was usually on my own terms or at least my pretending it was on my terms. Somewhere along the way, to not be victimized, I became unvictimizable by agreeing with and going along with and being ok, repainting and rewriting any story I didn’t like or anything I was uncomfortable with.
Not intentionally, but as a survival mechanism. As a way to live with and cope with events, experience and people I couldn’t found uncomfortable.
I wish I could explain it in terms people get. My friends who never experienced sexual trauma of any kind often remark “why didn’t you say something?” or “why do you go back?” and they’re not victim blaming, they’re genuinely curious. Like, how did you not know? And I want to know, how did not I know? How was it not clear? How do other women know so clearly what’s acceptable and not? Why are they so clear and I’m so muddy?
Why do I so often brush away things that don’t feel good? Why do I make excuses, say it’s ok, or avoid the truth of the situation at times? Well, because I have no idea what good, healthy boundaries are. Because to survive in my own body I had to make things ok that were not ok.
My body was never my home.
Until the last 3 years.
After I faced my abuse and unpacked my past, after I healed in so many ways I found a home in my own body, a power inside of myself that I had not ever felt in my life. And with that power came the ability to defend myself, to say no to things I didn’t like, to listen to what my body was telling me, to speak up and stand up for myself in ways I had never been able to.
With that power I stopped laughing off shitty remarks. I stopped sitting at tables where I, and other women, were disrespected. I stopped making misogyny ok. One day I had a former hook up message me some shitty remarks, disrespectful typical male behaviour of entitlement that I had laughed off for years.
I let him know in no uncertain terms what I thought and I write about it in this blog ->
Since then I seemed to exude a do not fuck with me vibe. I had no problem calling it out, shutting it down and recognizing it where I saw it.
But something, somewhere shifted. The whole world perhaps, but more than that, we repeat cycles and patterns and behaviours, often allowing us to “go deeper” into an issue so we can retreive lost parts of ourselves or go deeper than we’ve ever been able to on an issue.
I don’t know exactly where it was revived. I don’t remember the first thing I overlooked or what I rewrote or pushed away. Nothing alarming comes to mind but that’s the point isn’t it? It’s not the alarming stuff. Because that’s easy, but it’s the subtle stuff, a comment, a passive aggressive remark, the doubt that comes up and the questioning and rewriting of the story…
I’m sure they didn’t mean that.
I took it wrong.
Or perhaps there were times I said something. And I was told I took it wrong and I didn’t listen to the screaming of my body while it screamed lies. While I listened to the words coming out of someone’s mouth to say I was wrong and rewriting the story to match theirs while my body cried in the lies.
And to make it work, I’d disconnect from my body, because the body keeps score and tells the truths we don’t want to hear.
And so I don’t know think it was one thing. It was 100 hundred things, the conditioning and constant conditioning in a woman’s world, but even worse, an abused woman’s world. Where the brain and the body are at war, for to stay in discomfort you have to disconnect from your truth and shove it far away.
And before you know it you don’t know the truth from lies anymore. Like a frog, placed in boiling water will just jump out, like my friends with no history of abuse. But a frog placed in warm water and the heat consistently turned up, it will adjust itself to the temperature until it boils to death.
And I see myself in that frog.
By the time I know I’m in danger, it’s often too late.
And so goes with truth and boundaries. One pressed against here, “oh it’s nothing” and another there “push it away” and another and another and another until one day you find yourself in a situation where you are vulnerable and trapped in boiling water.
And it had been so long, I thought my voice and my power and living and speaking in truth had bought me a reprieve. I thought I had earned the right to not be victimized, not be sexualized, not be inappropriately objectified. And yet, here I was, heart beating in my chest, deer in lights, cage door closed, alarms bells ringing but my legs nor my voice worked.
And I told myself I was over reacting, it was nothing, there was an explanation, but my mouth wouldn’t open and my legs wouldn’t work. But eyes went blank, like they used to, when I was lost and silent and a shell of a person. In an instant, a trigger to a place in my past that I had forgotten I could go.
And a deep rememberance of the lines we walk as women. That no matter how vocal, no matter how much we have healed, no matter how much we embrace our truth and a power, we are in an instant, prey. And there is in an instant the ability for us to be stripped back down to the deepest vulnerabilities and insecurities we have.
I was reminded that we are always on guard. And that we need to be. And while 3 years was a glorious break in not worrying, in feeling safe in my body, in forgetting for a moment, a brief glorious moment, how good it felt to be home, unguarded, me.
Because I live in a world these days with safe men. With men I don’t have to worry about. With men who understand boundaries and are safe. And it’s easy to forget that there are unsafe ones out there, that there are ones who push boundaries, who abuse their positions, who manipulate and make you think you did something wrong.
One thing is for sure, this time I listened to my body as it screamed for the truth to exist outside of it. It wouldn’t let me rewrite it, it wouldn’t let me suppress it, even though I desperately wanted to.
It wouldn’t let me hide from it.
And so I walked in the darkness with it, I expressed from my body, I expressed it by talking about it and allowing it to be real, to be my truth, even if it wasn’t nor ever will be validated. I knew. My body knew. My soul knew.
And inside of me was a little girl, who had been silenced in her truth for decades, who broke free from the chains that bound her still. And as she ran free, laughing into the wild, I felt free. Truly free. As I realized all I needed all this time was to believe me.
And while I will proceed into the world again, with the reminders of what we women face, hunted worse than wolves, I will never again give up my power to someone who tries to take it from me. When I was a child it was different, I hadn’t yet learned of my own power or why someone else would want it, but as I retrieved my soul, I knew my own power and I know that as I shine, people will want to take it.
And I am done blaming myself for shining instead of blaming them for trying to steal what isn’t theirs.
PS… like the writing? Support the book -> Unchained