Finding You Again

It has been a long time since I have written a blog post here. It has been way too long that I have examined a feeling of being lost.

I had a text conversation with my sister last night where I told her I’m feeling emotionally lost. And perhaps a little scared. She said, “You are NOT lost.”

This is no ones fault but my own. Recently, I have allowed myself to be consumed in something exciting and wonderful and makes me feel all sorts of good things, but I have stopped checking in with myself. Stopped regenerating my inner being. It’s a devastating cycle when this happens because I tend to push away the very thing that makes me happy because I have not been proactive enough to balance my needs with the new-thing that makes me happy.

Here is where I step my foot down. Not in a way that pushes the new-thing-that-makes-me-happy but by telling myself it’s ok to also give myself time and space to continue to tap into my being and feel strong, independent. Mostly, though, strong. I can’t allow myself to become weak. And it’s no one’s fault but my own.

This is where I feel lost and scared. But it’s good to explore these emotions, admit to them and let them speak so that we have a conversation and I can let things happen in a healthy way.

I’m scared that by allowing myself to come back to myself and balance my alone time with the time it takes to enjoy my relationship, that the other person involved will leave. Isn’t that silly? And if they did leave, wouldn’t that indicate that they were probably not right, anyway?

I used to be very self-involved. It was a protection mechanism for the most part but also due to my disease that was untreated. I lost a very important relationship because of it. Now, I’m realizing I am overcompensating for that loss by giving 120% to prove something to the other party and myself that I am no longer that person. In all reality, I am no longer that person whether I was engaged in a relationship or not. And I am not who I once was. I am a very receptive, caring, open, honest and most importantly, aware of myself human being. I am medicated, in therapy and doing everything I can to not let this illness swallow me again. This is very important and the world has widened for me in so many ways. I wouldn’t trade this healthy change for anything. It’s all part of the evolving process.

However, that doesn’t mean I am not allowed to feel lost sometimes, even if it’s my own doing.

It’s easy to look at a situation and say, “Well this person is doing or being or feeling A, B, and C and therefore I feel E, F and G.” But in all reality, it’s NEVER about the other person. You only have control of yourself. And it takes guts and strength to look at yourself proactively and see where it is you have let yourself down to feel lost. What have you done to make the situation not work? And, most of all, is it actually working for you?

So, today, I get back to working on myself and making sure that I am being the best version of myself, taking care of myself for me and for others.

I am a pleaser. I am a caretaker. These are not weaknesses. They can become so if you allow it to. But in all reality, if you balance your most precious and wonderful attributes with self reflection and love, the above character traits can help you change the world.

Therefore, I am intent on saying to my emotionally lost feeling: It’s ok to be lost. But you know you are never lost. You are simply on a new level, a new journey, that you have yet to conquer or experience. Let go of wanting to control it and let it happen. Let whatever is hiding in the trees come forward. Let whatever streams run through it. Let it happen. Know that you are strong and you don’t have to bend yourself into a million different shapes to be loved. Just be you and let the good come and don’t feel responsible for feeling lost or confused. Examine it. Talk about it. It will always resolve on its own. You don’t have to do anything but learn to be still and learn to love your unique power. Only you can fill that void. And once that is filled, you can equally love and let go or bring in others

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Open for Discussion: Sexual Assault, Rape & Why We Can’t Drop It

This is the third response to two previous posts.

See the first, HERE

and the second, HERE

It has come to my attention that Chief Price Robinson at Midland Police Department wrote a follow-up editorial piece (I believe it was in this Sunday’s paper) commenting that retired Detective Kay Therwhanger “took the time after the original story ran to write her own article on March 9 to clarify the original intention behind what she said.” Chief Robinson went on to say that “[w]ords do matter” and they are glad she took the time to explain what she meant. It went on to say how dedicated Detective Therwhanger has been over the years serving to help victims cope with these crimes and prosecute the assailants. Additionally, Chief Robinson reiterated the popularity of the Rape Defense Class.

 

What I want to say is how grateful I am that this story even ran. Am I glad it had a negative impact on survivors? No. But the it is a fact that this society is behind on how important it is to handle these situations in a forward-thinking, non-victim-blaming (Rape Defense Class), empathetic (words DO matter) manner. And because of this, we need so desperately to have an open dialogue about it. The article that ran a week ago absolutely opened the door for that dialogue and for THAT I am grateful.

 

We can’t keep these things (and mindsets and rhetoric) in the dark. We can’t just “drop it” and say, Well, this is what they MEANT. If we do that, we are not going to progress to the level of intelligence around these issues that I KNOW we are capable of achieving.

 

In the spirit of this, I am fulfilling my promise to allow this to become a safe space for victims to speak out. These are their words. Most (but not all) want to remain anonymous. This does not make them any less valid. Words DO matter, and for some, this may be the first time they have had the opportunity to share their experience openly and as a writer and survivor myself, I can’t express how empowering and important that is. The first step to dismantling rape culture is not to just “drop it”, but to listen. To really listen is to empathize and once we empathize, we make a difference by understanding how and why we cho0se our words. And how our words can either heal or open those wounds again; how our words can either legitimize a victim’s pain, or empower an abuser. THIS MATTERS. The act of listening says to a victim, YOU MATTER.

 

I believe I’ve already expressed what many people thought and felt last Sunday. And I do believe that helped many people process why and how they felt the way they did, and that they were valid emotions. Do I believe the Midland Police Department does good work? Yes. And I am absolutely grateful to them for striving to serve and protect. I am a bit of an optimist and believe the majority of people who sign up to work in that area truly do so in order to help people (along with the therapists and case workers in Midland County). Do I believe, overall, the editors and writers at the paper want to report the news in a professional way? Yes. A writer myself, I know that I am not perfect and sometimes, without meaning to, my words are ordered in such a way that I may hurt people. It happens.

 

So, in conclusion, I think we can all just step back, objectively, and notice what kind of POWERFUL things happened this past week. They really did bring forth a much needed discussion. I do NOT think it should end here. So, I encourage everyone of you to do something in your power to drive this discussion forward: volunteer, research, speak up, and most importantly, listen.

 

Here are a few stories (will be added to as more people continue to share) that could have happened to anyone of any class, age, gender, education level, etc. ONE IN FOUR women and ONE IN EIGHT men experience some form of sexual assault in their lives, many times before the age of 18.

 

Also, sharing of these stories may help someone speak out, or may help parents or loved-ones recognize warning signs of abuse in someone they love.

 

 

 

 

I made the mistake of being naïve when I was just out of high school. I thought everyone had good intentions and found out they, in fact, do not. I put myself in a situation that most would question, but I had no idea the consequences. I was raped by someone I thought I could trust and he invited his friends to join in. I was drugged and before I lost my ability to communicate, I screamed, “NO”, but that didn’t stop the brutal rape from happening. It started early in the day and ended the next morning just before sunrise. It was pure torture. I would never wish the same on my worst enemy. There are some details that would make even the most vile person question humanity.

I made it home the next night, luckily I wasn’t disposed of to destroy the evidence, because there was plenty of it. I went to the ER and they performed a rape kit test, took pictures of all my contusions, scrapes and graffiti. Yep, not only did I get raped, but the scum of the earth wrote on me with marker to say they had, “snaked twice”. Now if that doesn’t say guilty, I don’t know what does?!

I never filed charges. I felt intimidated by messages and phone calls by the guy I thought I could trust. If I could turn back time, I’d send those fucks to jail.

 

***

 

My molestation occurred many years ago. I am 53. It was a cousin that I didn’t know very well.  I was born in Denison & grew up in the Bonham area of Texas but when I was 4yrs old my dad had taken a job on his uncles farm in Oklahoma. My mom was a new mother, again.  I was 4, my brother was 3, and having toddlers along with the new baby must have been hard on my mom. I was angry with her for a long time but I since forgiven her. She allowed the 2 boy cousins to come over and spent time at our house mostly sitting on the porch as I recall. I had a little girl crush on the blonde cousin, I think, not sure because his influence could have made it seem this way. I feel sure, looking back, that he did things to lead up to the ‘act’ making it premeditated in my opinion. I didn’t know how to right a bicycle and the cousins wanted to take us (my brother & I) for a ride. I was afraid and untrusting. I didn’t like being injured, climbing trees, bleeding, etc, and was hyper careful. I was very girlie. I didn’t want to fall off that bicycle but I finally consented and somehow I ended up riding on the front of his bike down the little dirt road that we lived on.  While I was in this vulnerable position he put his hand in my shorts and molested me.  I don’t really remember my exact reaction but I must have been upset visibly or physically because the next thing I remember was the bike falling over and him laughing at me on the ground. I was violated, injured, confused, and embarassed. I am glad that he laughed at me because I think that it made me see the ‘real’ and ‘calculating’ him and from then on I wanted nothing to do with him. Which confused my mother as I remember.  We only lived on that farm a short time but it shaped my life and relationships. I am twice divorced and have a constant fight against succumbing to the ‘victim’ attitude. It comes up in other areas in my life because it seems that bullys  search out (or maybe I attract them) those who are attempting to be strong under all circumstances. I have been single since 2002 when I moved to Midland for ‘a couple of years’ So needless to say, I am feeling angry when I see such lack of compassion in the news. In turn, I have been reliving my vulnerable 4 yr old self a lot lately and this article hit a HUGE nerve.  I am reliving being the victim, the laughing perps, the pervs, & the shame….

 

***

 

People say that ignorance is bliss. When you’re a child, it truly is bliss. At that age, you’re somewhat sheltered from the realities and potential evils that this world has to offer. That is until one day, that bliss is ripped from your hands and your innocence lost forever. In that single day your world gets flipped upside down and your relationships become damaged, including the one with yourself. The cause of this shift for me personally, was sexual abuse.

My story is similar to that of many others who have fallen victim to this cruel act. I was a just a kid, growing up in a dysfunctional home. My parents divorced when I was only three, and my sister and I went to live with our mother. We did so for a few years until my mother met my step-dad. He eventually moved in with us and became more of a father figure to me than my biological father was. After a few years of this living arrangement we all moved into a house together, in Midland, TX. During that time, my mother’s health was rapidly declining and she wasn’t able to care for us. We relied on our step-dad to care for us every day, and he did provide more than we could’ve ever asked for. I loved him so much.

Over time, he and my mother became very abusive towards one another, and eventually that emotional abuse turned toward my sister and I. There was consistent yelling, name calling, and intimidation. If I didn’t do the dishes correctly, I’d get yelled at after he hovered over my shoulder. If I slept too much, he’d call me lazy. I was 12-14 years old, mind you. It was maddening. I felt as if I was walking on egg shells all day long, and even then I wasn’t careful enough. It wasn’t too long after all this started that he had a heart attack. He was rushed to the ER but he turned out to be just fine. When he returned home, he was more cold than he was before. He stopped telling us that he loved us or showing us any kind of fatherly affection. He seemed somewhat distant and just…different. I could sense that something was not right.

This is when the sexual abuse began. It started not too long after his heart attack, and happened on multiple occasions over the course of approximately a year or so. At first he started saying inappropriate things to me, such as “I could eat you for dinner”. I did my best to not respond and even avoid him more than usual after that. After that, it progressed to inappropriate touching on many different occasions. Some occasions were worse than others. Then, there was suddenly a period of a couple months that things seemed to stop happening (thankfully). One of my friends happened to make a comment to me on the bus ride to school one morning that my step-dad looked like a child molester. I told her what had happened and she had me tell her parents, who then alerted the police. To make a very long story short, it was my word against his and my case was dropped. No one in my family believed what I said to be true for the longest time. The people investigating my case even said I could return home to live with him. I didn’t, of course…but the fact that they said I could go home made me angry for a very long time.

I am writing this because I want to share my story and empower others to do the same. This is a subject not frequently discussed because of how horrible and sickening it is. I get that. I mean, who wants to talk about rape or sexual abuse? Right? Well, I think that’s exactly where we have room for improvement…not only in our community but in our state and country as well. If we can’t even discuss these things, how on earth are we supposed to make them better? It’s simple: we can’t.

Listen, these kinds of stories are happening all of the time whether we talk about it or not, and more often than not it’s by someone we are close to. This most recent discussion, though, was prompted by a recent article published in the MRT, stating that the increase in rape wasn’t a cause for alarm. As a victim of a sexual crime myself, I would NEVER say that an increase in rape was not a cause for alarm. To me, and many other people, all that is saying is that it isn’t a big deal that more people are being raped. Let me tell you right now that you are WRONG. It is a HUGE deal that our statistics around here aren’t remaining the same, they’re actually increasing! By suggesting that this is not a big deal encourages others to keep quiet and possibly even feel stupid for wanting to speak up about it in the first place. To those who feel that it is not a big deal, I have three words for you: HOW DARE YOU.

I have seen many different things regarding rape and sexual assault awareness on TV and the internet over the years, and do you know what many of those things were focused on? What the victim did wrong. Yeah, you heard me correctly! I’ve seen hundreds of posters and websites telling people not to dress provocatively, train in self-defense, etc. to prevent being raped. This is NOT where our focus should be if we’re trying to prevent these occurrences. Let me be perfectly clear when I say that rape and sexual assault is not something the victim asks for, wants, or should be held responsible for. Instead of telling people what NOT to do, let me tell you some things that every community SHOULD DO:

  • Talk about it. This is the MOST important point in my opinion! Talk about rape, sexual assault, and what to do if they become a victim of it or know a friend that has. Talking about it brings light into the situation and light is exactly what people need in such a dark place.
  • Make the warning signs known to people of all ages and encourage people to SPEAK UP. We could possibly incorporate this subject matter into school curriculum so that our future generations KNOW that they have a right to say NO and that they’ll be supported if they stand up for themselves.
  • Never downplay the severity of this kind of crime.
  • If you’re a victim of rape/sexual assault and have never reported it, please do so. Please also seek out counseling…it made a difference in my life and will in yours, too.
  • If you know someone that is a victim, encourage them to get help but also be there to listen and support however you can. Even if you don’t understand what they’re going through, know that it is an extremely hard battle that they’re facing and that they can’t do it without your help.

This is not a subject to be taken lightly and not one to be brushed to the side. It’s serious and should be treated as such, no matter who you are or what you believe.

I will leave you with this thought: instead of us as a community asking victims to take certain steps to PREVENT getting raped/assaulted, we should be asking ourselves what we can do to prevent CRIMINALS from carrying out such horrendous acts on innocent people!!

 

Thanks for allowing me to share this story and my opinions with you. If anyone reading this needs help, guidance, or just someone to lend an understanding ear, please shoot me an email here: LoveConquersAll1990@gmail.com …… there is hope, I promise. You’ll be able to find your bliss again. I found mine.

 

 

***

 

 

I got in a sexually abusive relationship when I was 20 to a man 12 years my senior.

 

He was engaged to another woman but left her for me. I remember feeling guilty for that. And I had met another man that I truly liked and respected, but the abuser started intercepting the nice guy’s texts and deleting them. Once, when he found me texting him, he threw my phone out the window and that was the first time he did his sexual assaults. I was only 20 and thought maybe this was the adult way to do things?

He said he was jealous and that was hot. He said I was “bad” for “teasing him” and he started abusing me during sex after that, choking me until I passed out, he said I “brought it out of him” and it got to the point that he couldn’t climax unless he was actively choking me.

Let me be clear that he was a master. He was sweet and charming and very lovely outside of sex. He was romantic and I was 20 and naiive. He gave up his fiance, surely I could give up that other “nice” guy. To this day, I regret that decision because to this day, that “nice” guy is my barometer for who I want. It would prove later that I would still not choose men like the “nice” guy.

He then began to hit me during sex. It moved from choking to hitting. He never asked. He never asked if I was ok with it. And I didn’t know enough to realize he should have asked. I thought, if I spoke up, if I said I didn’t like it, then I was less attractive or not “old enough” for him. He was very charming. Even my family liked him when they met him. He could make anyone laugh.

The second time he hit me, he cried because I started bleeding out of my ear. We had just come back from a club where I met his friends. Everyone talked about how young I was. I could tell one of his friends was flirting with me, and I liked it. It felt like a breath of fresh air. I realized then that I wanted out of this crazy situation. Then, when I went to the bathroom at the club, “Nice” guy texted me. He wasn’t sure what he did or why I wasn’t responding, but that he really liked me.” I couldn’t catch my breath. I remember thinking at that moment that I had to get out of this guy’s grip. I didn’t want to be with him, but I felt guilty. I remember just always feeling GUILTY.

 

When we got back to his house that night, I said I needed to go back to my place first thing next morning because I had a class. I lied. I didn’t have a class. I wanted out. I wanted to text nice guy back and go back to being a normal 20 year old falling in love with a nice guy.

He didn’t like that. He told me so. He then began crying. When I tried to comfort him, he slammed me down, and proceeded to force himself. I actually fought that time, and he took that as foreplay, when I said “NO” (I think the first time I ever did) he hit me so hard in my ear that it started to bleed. We called the hospital, I think, and we waited until the next day. I stayed because we were supposed to go to the doctor, but he had to go to work. I went next door to a lady who was a nurse, his nextdoor neighbor. She said my hearing would come back soon. But it didn’t, and by the time he got home, I was in tears. We went to the hospital. Driving over there, he said we had to tell them that I fell and hit my head on the stairs after going out for drinks. I remember thinking, Wow, am I in some sort of Lifetime Movie? But I forced that thought away, because I wasn’t STUPID. I wasn’t ONE OF THOSE WOMEN!

He said at the hospital they are very serious about domestic violence and they don’t GET IT that some people have ACTIVE sex lives. He could BE ARRESTED!

That’s the story we went with. That night he cried and told me about how he had been sexually abused when he was a kid by some older boys at school.

We got engaged soon after.

I think I wanted to believe that everything was romantic and we were both tortured souls and we were meant to be together and everything would be ok.

Thankfully, when I had to go back to Texas, the distance gave me the strength to break up with him.

I would have nightmares for months on end that he would come knocking on my door and hurt me.

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Claim Rape Article Wasn’t Meant to Minimize Rape

Update 4:00 PM: 03/13/16: Please click HERE to see the second part update.

This is the first follow-up of two regarding the run of the Midland Reporter-Telegram’s March 6, 2016 Sunday paper headline “Officials: Increase in rape isn’t cause for alarm”.

Please read my response to that article “When Rape is No Cause for Alarm”.

Last night, I was informed by a friend and her mother who are closely following this case that the MRT did an additional follow-up with Kay Therwanger or, rather, Ms. Therwanger wrote a short explanation of her quote from the original article. It was, sadly, a short and unacceptable follow-up, full of conflicting information when you put it side-by-side with the original article. Not to mention, as far as I can tell, MRT chose not to put it online, but kept it in print only, which I find cowardly on MRT’s part. Here’s a photo my friend was kind enough to send to me. I hope it’s somewhat read-able.

Kay Article

Right. Let’s start with comparing the two. Kay says, in the article above,

“The article in the Reporter-Telegram’s Sunday edition concerning the 27 percent rise in forcible rape was intended to convey to the public that rape is usually committed by someone the victim knows. The article was never meant to minimize the victimization of rape regardless if the perpetrator was an acquaintance or a stranger.”

OK. It was not meant to minimize. Really? This is absolutely not how this came across, and, coming from a woman who deals with victims every day, (or used to?) I don’t see how it is possible that they don’t understand the way in which this comes across. Let’s look, below, at a quote from the original article.

“If there was a stranger out there (committing these acts), that would cause horrible alarm,” said Therwhanger, who was a board member of the Midland Rape Crisis and Children’s Advocacy Center for two decades. “That is not the case.”

Let’s play with this rhetoric a bit, shall we?

Hmmm. How about this: It is not the case that there’s a stranger out there committing these acts. No. It is most likely that these increases in rape are happening between two people who know each other. So this doesn’t call for any horrible alarm. Right? And we suggest (see below) that you join some sort of outreach program. We are wonderful at that. I mean, the police can’t protect you. So, what is there to do? You should man up, and protect yourself. (See Midland Police Department article about our self-defense classes). Oh, and by the way, the burden is on YOU, women, children, battered or otherwise emotionally abused wives, daughters and girlfriends, drunk or drugged girlfriends, young boys, etc. to bear this burden, alone. And when you do, inevitably, get raped, as ONE IN FOUR women will in their lifetime, usually before the age of 18, (One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. 12.3% of women were age 10 or younger at the time of their first rape/victimization, and 30% of women were between the ages of 11 and 17) please come see up at the Crisis Center. We can point you toward our AGGRESSIVE outreach program. Sounds pretty bad, eh?

Quote from original article, below:

“Forcible rape is not like some other crimes and infractions where law enforcement can be more proactive in its prevention. She said it is important to get the message out there that sexual assaults generally happen between people who know each other. She also said the Midland Rape Crisis center has been very aggressive with outreach programs.”

“The police department, according to the city of Midland, will continue to educate individuals on ways they can protect themselves from harm. A Rape Aggression Defense class provided by the Midland Police Department, according to the city, “continues to be a popular program and provides realistic self-defense techniques that women can use to protect themselves.” This comprehensive course covers awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance, while progressing on to the basics of hands-on defense training.”

In regards to this self-defense class, something that keeps being brought up in these articles because, I don’t know, in an effort to maybe deflect attention away from poor rhetoric? Poor word-choice? Poor line of thought? Poor judgement in how this presentation affects the thousands of families here in West Texas reading these papers and who are experiencing the aftermath of real trauma (a sharing of their stories will come later this weekend, here, in this blog). Let me quote a good friend of mine, herself a survivor. She’s a survivor herself, a social worker, playwright, poet, mother and retired self-defense coach. Here, we can see a very stark difference in mindset and approach to this subject.

“Yes, while it is fine to encourage women protect themselves (I was a self defense instructor for years) , too much of the emphasis is always put on the victim having to change their behavior. This leads to a blame the victim approach afterwards… “Oh, you were raped? why didn’t you defend yourself, not drink, get someone to walk you home, etc.” Instead of the media constantly addressing what potential victims need to do to stay safe, why are we spending zero time teaching potential rapist not to rape. This is all part of rape culture.

Another example was a few years ago… they made underwear that was impossible for men to get off of women without a pass-code/key. People were touting this as a way to keep young women safe. When I was asked about it, I addressed it this way: Why not spend our money teaching men not to be rapist instead? Do we really have to lock women into underwear to keep them safe? Plus, how would this have helped me when I was raped by being forced to give oral sex? I just think we really need to ask ourselves if we want to live in a world where we have thrown our hands up in the air and said in a sense, rape it a given so here is your rape underwear. How does this stop the violation of being groped? Molested? Should women wear full body armor next? When does it end? And if a women doesn’t wear her rape underwear, is it her fault she is raped? When can we not bear the responsibility of working to NOT being raped?

Rape culture puts all the emphasis on the potential victim to protect themselves. The fact is that rape and abuse of women is more nuanced than simply taking a defense class. (Most abusers are known to the women). It is looking deeply into all the way we as a society perpetuate these abuses, all the ways we keep women silent within their marriages and relationships. All the ways we teach women their only self worth is in pleasing a man. Those concepts can do much more than the (yes, important) band-aid situation of a self defense class. Most of my time as an instructor was spent undoing the dangerous programming women undergo in our society and much less on physical skills (which can be helpful) in order to keep women safe. Why not start with undoing the social programming instead of offering band-aids later?”

I’m so entirely shocked that Ms. Therwanger (or the paper, for that matter) didn’t even attempt to look at how the presentation could have (and DID) affect so many people, ESPECIALLY young kids and teenagers who react so intensely to things like this. There was no attempt at empathy or a broader understanding or scope of how and why this caused such a reaction from me and the general public. No. There was just more justification. And more mention of the MPD Rape Aggression Defense Class.
There is a way, as my friend quoted above said, to fight back that doesn’t involve lifting weights and learning to fight with your body (because let’s face it, as the statistics show, most assaults occur in emotionally and psychologically compromised situations–a child and an authority figure, a date rape drugged woman, a drunk woman (not her fault, still, that her “boyfriend” then rapes her), an abusive marriage, a husband who knows his wife is about to leave him, and forces her to “give it up one last time”, a spiritual leader and a young boy, etc. etc. etc.). So, we must fight back with our WORDS, our TEACHINGS, our MINDSETS, our SOCIETY as a whole, BREAKING SILENCE, teaching RESPONSIBILITY to not ABUSE, instead of responsibility on how to dress, or fight. It’s programming. And that programming is absolutely failing here, in these articles. You are failing your high percentage of already traumatized readers (I know, because they have come to me), you’re failing your young men, your boys, your daughters.
This is one of two responses. The next will be stories of women from West Texas who have experienced all kinds of sexual assaults right here. And yes, there is no doubt many of them have benefited from counseling at the Rape Crisis Center, as they have confided to me. That still doesn’t take away from the responses your words and your presentation of those words, have caused them.
Even I have experienced a backlash on even approaching this subject, especially sharing my own experiences. I have had people who are meant to support me, tear me down for it. But THANK YOU. Thank you for raising the proverbial red flag here in town. Rape culture and the propagation of rape culture, still exists, as you have proven.
Talking about it in a compassionate and safe way is still difficult.
But it needs to happen. And I hope that other women who want to come forward and share this space with me to have this discussion that you, Kay, and MRT, have thankfully engaged, will come email me, message me, as so many have already done.
Silence is as bad as oppression, and those that wish people would “be more private” about it or stop talking about it altogether are as bad as condoning it.
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When Rape is “No Cause for Alarm”

MRT

UPDATE 4:00 PM 03/13/16 Please see the bottom of THIS POST for an additional update.

UPDATE: 10:30 PM 03/10/16: MRT printed Ms. Therwanger’s response and I have responded to that here: “Claim article wasn’t meant to minimize rape.” Read it, HERE

UPDATE: 9:16 PM 03/07/16: MRT wrote an editorial response which I think was executed well. You can read it HERE.

Also, regardless how someone “meant” their quote to come across, we all need to be more aware of the power of our words to heal or hurt a victim. Testament to this is the amount of people who have reached out to me, thanking me for writing the below response (as I’m sure they will be happy to read the above referenced editorial response). And, at the end of the day, I do think this is what the newspaper was trying to accomplish with their first report. We were meant to become angry. We were meant to be alarmed. Mothers, teenagers, pre-teens, etc. have reached out to me. So, readers, officials, etc., know this–your words have power. Use them well.

UPDATE: 6:41 P.M 03/06/16: As someone who is close to someone at the paper pointed out (see Ed’s comments, below): The MRT ran a very difficult headline to HIGHLIGHT the mindset, verbiage used and thought processes of those in power or in former places of power in our community. I would love to do a Q&A session with Stuart Doreen regarding this article. You can read the full context of the article online HERE

Dear Midland Reporter Telegram, Kay Therwhanger and other “Officials”,

Today, I read the headline and article from the Sunday paper: “Officials: Increase in rape not cause for alarm” and became extremely angry. I continued to read the article where it goes on to explain that the increase in reports did not involve strangers, meaning the victim and the offender knew each other. Somehow, this was not cause for alarm.

I sat there for a minute and tried to see what I figured the article was meant to get across. OK. So, what they are saying is that there isn’t some horrible, serial rapist on the loose. I see.

But I shook my head and thought, No! This is exactly what is wrong with this article the mindset of this former police officer and rape crisis center volunteer. I’m sure it wasn’t meant she did mean to minimize rape and trauma and sexual assault, but that’s EXACTLY what it she did in the way she chose her words. And this is exactly what is wrong with this article this mindset and our community, nation, world, as a whole when it comes to the topic of sexual assault.

The word minimize, by the way, means to reduce (something, especially something unwanted or unpleasant) to the smallest possible amount or degree.

Synonyms: belittle, make light of, play down, underestimate, underrate, downplay, undervalue, underappreciate, understate.

Let me throw some actual statistics out there for the readers. And, dear victims, please know there is NOTHING to minimize about the horrible assaults you have experienced.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, National Crime Victimization Study: 2009-2013:

Approximately 4/5 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.
82% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.
47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.
25% are an intimate.
5% are a relative.

So, yes, MRT, Kay, the rise in rape in Midland County is a serious cause for alarm. It is ALWAYS a serious cause for alarm. Saying it is anything else is feeding the mindset that normalizes rape, that passively encourages men (and women) to continue abusing victims.

Maybe the rise in reports is just that: a rise in the amount of victims coming forward and reporting their trauma. I fear, however, that this number may decrease once again. Note: this means the number of reports may decrease, not the actual number of assaults committed.

I fear there may be women stuck in abusive marriages right now, reading this Sunday’s paper. What message are you (Kay) sending to them? There may be teenage daughters reading the paper right now. What example are you setting? Above all, there are abusers reading this right now—abusers who have gone unreported, and abusers who have been reported. The exact women you have counseled in the rape center are reading this. The message you are sending them is that their experience is minimized and that it’s no cause for alarm for the rest of our community.

The biggest weapon we have against abusers is our voice. However, MRT “Officials”, instead of being an educated, well-informed voice, you are using your words to empower the abuser.

So, for any victim out there in Midland County (and beyond) please know that the shame is not on you. The shame is on the “officials” quoted in the Midland Reporter Telegram this morning. The shame is that they are normalizing rape in the context where the victim and the offender know each other, regardless of the clear fact that this is overwhelmingly the norm in this type of assault. Regardless that this actually means that what’s happening is more victims, finally, are coming forward. Or, worse, more assaults are happening. I promise you, no matter what, IT IS A CAUSE FOR ALARM.

I grew up in Midland. I have now returned to this community as an adult. Two out of three cases of sexual assault that I have experienced in my life happened right here in Midland County. First, when I was ten years old. Guess what? I knew the offender, as do most victims, especially in children. I am aware of the statute of limitations. However, there is no statute of limitation on one’s voice. The man that abused me as a child is a prominent person in Midland. Sometimes, I still see him at weddings or walking downtown on my way to work. After I graduated from college, and before I moved back to Midland, I had to attend a wedding of someone I grew up with in Midland. I brought my boyfriend at the time who was from Canada to the wedding. My whole family was there, as well. At the reception, my family ran into him. I had to leave. My boyfriend commented how “messed up” this small town was with its “pleasantries and secrets”.

The second assault happened when I was a senior in high school. I was set up on a blind date by the mother of a boy from Midland. He was a freshman at Texas Tech at the time. We went to a house party where I proceeded to get drunk. Instead of taking me home, he took me to a motel off of Wall Street. Did I ever report it? No. I always assumed it was my fault for getting drunk. And I assumed I “lead him on.” This man recently ran for public office in Midland. I was driving home from work one day and saw his sign off Midkiff road. I had to pull over my car and breathe. Just last year, I saw him at The Bar sitting with a man I had a crush on. I saw the crush, first. But, once I saw that that crush was sitting there having a beer with my old high school abuser, my heart sank. No one knows and no one probably will ever know. Because guess what? When I was 17, I figured it was my fault.

I share these experiences to fight back against the headline today. I share these experiences to help the victims today reading the newspaper and feeling deflated, ashamed, angry, or all of the above.

Dear Teenager living in Midland today. Dear Young Child living in Midland today. You may become the victim of sexual assault. Chances are, you will know your abuser. Please disregard the Midland Reporter Telegram headline today and the officials they are quoting. I promise you, it is, and always will be, a cause for alarm. Please report it to the authorities, even though they have proven today that they believe it is cause for minimization that you know the abuser. Report it anyway.

And Dear Abusers, Get help. Stop the cycle that you were probably victims of, as well.

And Dear MRT and Officials quoted in the above referenced article. Shame on you. Shame on you for sending this message, for minimizing these types of assault. You are in a position of power, with your words, MRT Kay and other officials. Use them with care. Use them with knowledge and education and empathy.

Thank you,

Concerned Midland Resident.

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Something I wrote a while ago that makes me happy

I feel this terrible weight over me. Stepping from the bath I almost fall, keeping myself steady only by two hands and the hope that later, I might write something beautiful for you. It is not accomplished. I read a book instead, listen to Brahms and try to find the algorithm within the piano concerto. It’s useless. Though numbers fall in love with me daily, and I with them. Perhaps there are a buckets of systems missing me.

And in come the knots again. Sly as they are, but kind — hopeful as snails but turning up their noses at the idea that I might transcribe them. And so I go on reading. One more hour of chamomile tea and perhaps your belly will give me a poem. Remember how to sail the skin. Forget it. Go down for more chamomile tea. Learn how the cranium is a continuing system that learns on contact, not a fixed program. Insert a number for the feeling: one hundred and seventy eight.. Though the knots, which sit by my bed, wiggle their circular bodies at this. “Oh, no?” I ask. They silence themselves like tulips. Looking quite innocent, though I know otherwise.

I feel this terrible weight. Having read a whole novel, I nod off and slip into the evening of a dream where we are lying on our backs, counting the breaths between us. And I want all of mine to match yours. You laugh because that’s very naïve of me—don’t I know the best of compliments are two forces running headlong into each other? No, I said, and took note of the weight of your body—the displacement between us. You laugh and explain that the word algebra means “reunion.” Your hand passes over my body like a crop-plane and I awake, imagining myself in rows.

The knots cannot take the thought of rows, hobbling around like unlined messiahs. They spit at the thought where I curl round the image of your body and sway.

The chamomile tea has gone cold. I’ve read a novel, dreamed of you, and not accomplished any writing. The weight over me persists. The knots nod in unison, vibrate against one another, refuse to reveal their coordinates. I reheat the kettle, waiting for the weight to lift, for some snail to crawl out of the kitchen window and onto my arm, for my brain to contain itself, for the knots to uncurl their bodies, for something to let loose it’s numbers for my inspection.

Nine thousand, four hundred and eight six, I repeat, as I climb the stairs to bed: nine thousand, four hundred and eighty six. Perhaps I’ll write something beautiful for you tomorrow. Right now, there’s a jewel in my head: nine thousand, four hundred and eighty six–space between closest bodies, angles lying next to one another, unhinged, pressed into a long surprise.

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Manifest Monday on Wednessday With Lingerie

I forgot to write a blog for my Manifest Monday idea.  Please excuse this post for not being as artistically crafted as ones in the past.

My last post about my basic trust idea keeps following me around like a light bulb on a string over my head.  All I have to do is look, or touch, the light and the warmth just appears.  It is this warmth that shields me from any negative thought.  I do not ignore the negative thoughts, though, because to deny our weaknesses is to only feed them a steak dinner and send them off to karate training–they grow stronger and more capable to fight us the next go ’round.

As anyone who is my friend on instagram or Facebook knows, I am training for a half marathon in Austin in February and I have decided to do a full marathon in either November 2016 in NYC or somewhere else a year from now.  People always ask if I was a runner before–not technically, but running has always been my way of meditation and went hand-in-hand with my work.  Now, running helps me to manifest whatever original Source-Power inside me that has been dampened or held back for various reasons or due to different traumatic of abusive experiences.  It also, obviously, helps me chisel away at the rock until the woman that I envision in my mind appears–the confident, healthy body that I have in my mind, that I had once upon a time before other such things got in the way and tried to steal my power.

I wrote a blog earlier this year–I believe in April–about this chipping away but I probably made it private as it explores my various ways of “exploring” this outlet as a younger 20-someting, pre-New York, but post-undergrad.  Tonight was a similar experience.

Jen Dranttel-Canepa took a protest poem I wrote for the journal: Thank You For Swallowing called “I Ate What You Could Have Done to Me”, and has begun making laser cuts in lace to put together lingerie.  I found this very inspiring and empowering.  Tonight I manifest something that I have been missing for a very long time.

Intimacy is a varied light, shifting and moving. It comes to you if you will it, and in whatever form you want it to come in.  Ha.

This was something that has been missing in my life since, well, pre-marriage, pre-divorce, baby and what all else “pre” you could think of within the span of several years.  So, I walked over to my lingerie drawer that hold many pieces that were meant for other times in my life and were NEVER used.  I was afraid they wouldn’t fit.  Didn’t I just lose close to 50 pounds?  But wasn’t that from my former “fat” self?  When I was in New York, I was so very skinny.  I even had an outfit from those days.

Guess what? I put some Demi Lovato on (don’t judge–she’s my new Spirit Animal while running) and tried them ALL on.  And guess what? They ALL looked damn good.

And guess what? This is enough–more than enough–more than I have had in probably 6 years.  And to admit that is very, very depressing if you look at it one way–but if you look at it another way, it is so very beautiful because I have gone through a whirlwind and come out healthier, stronger, more in-touch with my Higher Self and more confident that absolutely nothing in this world is too hard to climb up atop the mountain for.  I will dedicate my life to that, and in turn, life will respond with YES YES YES and GIFT GIFT GIFT!

I want everyone to know this.  I want everyone to realize that this one life is a lover–a true, honest, fabulous lover. You are enough.

Below is the picture of the lace cutting that inspired both my actions and my post tonight and the two poems I also wrote (while wearing said lingerie).

Also, a link to the original poem.

Additionally, did I mention my FULL-LENGTH manuscript is a semi-finalist for PUBLICATION at SUNDRESS PUBLICATION?  The fact that this manuscript made it this far is just astonishing.  Let me tell you: I wrote / worked on / compiled / edited (with help from Sandi Marchetti) during this arch of my life: ending of one abusive/manipulative relationship and hence going into another one of the same nature all while death / engagement / wedding / pregnancy / birth / cheating / separation / divorce was happening.  SO, if I can write through a MS with that going on in my life, (all packed within a 3 year time period), then YOU CAN DO ALL THE THINGS you want to do!  It just takes prayer/will power/love.

Even if that just needs to be looking in the mirror and loving the body your spirit lives in, finally, and loving that spirit, too.

This Spirit is all you have.  I do promise that.  And you’re worth loving.

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By Jen Dranttel-Canepa inspired by my poem posted on THANK YOU FOR SWALLOWING called “I Ate What You Could Have Done to Me”

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Basic Trust: Right Words, Right Time.

So many minute-by-minute miracles have happened to me lately.  Of course, if we look deep enough and with enough silence, we will see that this is always the case, continually, no matter what.

A friend of mine wrote me out of the blue some words that I needed to hear.  How did this person know to send the words my way? They trusted the movement, trusted the pull.  I relayed that I also often feel this sort of pull, but am afraid if I speak out of nowhere to someone about something on my heart toward them, then they will think I am weird.  However, I am beginning to trust myself more and more.

Especially when it comes to dreams.

I don’t stop myself from telling someone about a dream if they have appeared in it.

Earlier this week, I reached out to someone who asked if I had any words for them.  I had just finished running and my mind was clear, thankfully.  I brought stillness into myself and wrote:

Like you’re on a boat, alone, and there’s nothing to see for miles. Each wave comes one after another. Maybe it’s raining softly. You have a slight shiver and there’s no jacket. But focus on each wave as not just something to endure but something that is Moving you toward something. No, there’s no one around you. You are alone in that boat miles away in the sea. But not because you are not loved. You are alone because you have been given this gift of being the only one strong enough to go on that journey. Everyone else is preoccupied with something trivia or surface level, though necessary in their own life. But you…you are in the boat. And the waves are your gift, too, because they are moving you forward to a place / shore that holds something profound for whoever is on that boat. Keep all this in mind as you shiver alone on the sea. Also this: change is the most tragic and wonderful thing of all.

I don’t know where the words came from or even if they would be appropriate, but they were, and were received well.  Looking back I don’t doubt it because the emotions I felt when writing it were honest, targeted and given to me.

In true Universe style, out of the blue, another friend from a completely different realm (though not that different) of my life wrote to me this evening out of the blue the exact words I needed to hear.

I am sharing because I feel (know) it will help someone else, too.  Here are their words:

I want to tell you that it’s inspiring to see how you’ve taken what may have seemed like a confined or unfortunate situation and have made the most of it by taking the initiative to develop yourself physically and emotionally, for your own sake, and not as a performance to please someone else. I can see that it is much more than just a fitness program for you, that it is really about escape from bondage, and you have escaped. There may be days when life still seems difficult, but I wanted to congratulate you on your dedication and discipline to the channeling of your own energies and let you know that you are already free…

The last bit rings loudest.  And I want whoever is reading this know, even if you’re on that boat in the sea, or if you’re breaking through the constraints put on you each day, busting through your own personal glass ceilings: “know that you are already free.”

All it takes is trust.  Simple, isn’t it?  A. H. Almaas calls this “Basic Trust”.  I can read through his description of Basic Trust and never fully “get it”.  However, he does say that if one has Basic Trust, it’s something that they don’t even consciously have to work toward.  It is just is.  And it is, if we feel it or not.

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