Rude Awakening

In the least provocative way possible (I hope), I very publicly disclosed I was raped when I was 18. I texted a friend to let her know the post had moved from contemplation to completion. And I held my breath. You’d think I’d exhale in relief that I had unburdened in such grand fashion (you know me, I’m nothing if not flashy!). But I sat there holding my breath as I watched the number of page views slowly tick up with each hour. I waited for feedback. If a writer posts about an uncomfortable topic that no one wants to hear, can anyone hear that tree fall in the forest?

I had worked through most of the pain and shame and embarrassment and anger through the years with the support of skilled therapists and amazing loved ones. For that journey I am so grateful. For these Sherpas who have supported me along my trek, I am so grateful. Some moments they held all my baggage, some moments they helped me shift the weight of it, some moments they reminded me to put it down. Other times they just guided me along the way as I learned how to travel holding my own baggage. Through it all, they’ve taught me to pack lighter.

My Sherpas gathered around me once again as my blog post was sent out to the universe through emails, social media, and the blogosphere. The kindness, the support, the love–it warms me and buoys me–thank you. Comments, emails, texts came in. A dialogue began so I started thinking, and you know how dangerous that gets. I knew why I wrote that piece and why I felt compelled to publish it–public solidarity and shining the spotlight under the bed to see what this monster really looks like. It was not only therapeutic for me, but necessary for our sons and daughters.

I felt compelled to write and share. I HAD to put a face to it, to them, to us, because it is easier to hurt or disrespect someone if you have objectified a person. I will not be objectified. My daughter will not be objectified. Your daughter will not be objectified.

When we depersonalize someone, we make him or her an “other,” and this person is then different and less than me/us. As humans, we group people easily into In Groups and Out Groups. People not like us in some fashion fall into the Out Group. They are an Other. We do this every day. We easily separate sports teams with team colors and Mascots. I know who to scream at and hurl “Yo Mommas” at across the stadium. In college, Greek letters are worn and you know where you stood in the social pecking order and who to fight and who to make fun of. We separate and judge mothers by what they wear–are those Stay At Home Mom Jeans or Work Outside of the Home Mom Pants? We do this multiple times every day, but it’s a slippery slope of judging someone, to being unkind, to not respecting boundaries. It is easy to do when we don’t view the person as a human being, but instead as an object or statistic, or an Other.

On this theoretical continuum, when you see a Me Too, someone similar, someone just like you, someone you can relate to, it becomes more difficult to hurt that person. When I feel familiar to you, it’s not as easy to hurt me or make fun of me or disrespect me. I am then a human being like you, not an Other, not less than. You can understand and possibly empathize with me. If I am an equal, it makes it harder to dismiss me or wield power over me.

So in all this thinking of disconnecting and separating from people, and of WHY I felt so compelled to share at this point in my life, I kept coming back to feeling the need to show the world the faces and stories of the victims. To bridge the disconnect of a name in a news story. To humanize the issue. To show who is violated daily, what kinds of people are assaulted every hour. To demonstrate to the world that they are people like you and me. Me. It was me. And I realized making this connection for people was so important to me because I wanted outrage.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and need the support in my life. But I see now that I am greedy and want more than support. I want outrage. I am someone’s mother, someone’s daughter, someone’s aunt, someone’s friend, someone’s room parent, someone’s therapist, someone’s neighbor, someone’s running partner. I want you to feel so uncomfortable you have no choice but to look at these people in your lives, to look at yourself and your children, your parents, your friends, and realize there but for the grace of God go I. And realize also, in fact, many of these people in your lives have been victimized (one in six–go ahead and let that sink in as you think of all the women in your lives). We need to feel outraged enough to change this rape culture we live in.

It is only in this rude awakening that change occurs. So I suppose my disclosure wasn’t entirely about me, and what happened to me. But it’s about what happens to us. Because we are all connected to those we hurt, and those who feel hurt. So we need to take good care of each other, because that “other” is really us. And we all matter. Me Too. And You Too.

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10 Responses to Rude Awakening

  1. Nora Jessome says:

    Susanna, I read your blog, shared it with some of my friends (who you do not know but it would have meaning to them). I did not know how to respond, I breathed in and then out and did it over again. It had a visceral effect, I could feel the hurt. What you write today is also so true. We (at least I do) all keep hoping that the world is changing, but is it? really? I think about the women in India and Brazil who are raped when they are traveling on a bus? really? My daughter had to change jobs because she was sexually harassed – and she is an employment lawyer. really?
    As mothers we do have the responsibility to raise responsible children and hope that they will not experience this kind of hurt. But it is not a women’s problem, it is a men’s problem first and then a society’s problem second. I am sure you are familiar with Jackson Katz’s work. http://www.jacksonkatz.com/wmcd.html
    Take care Susanna, take care of your little ones.

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    • Thank you. For all of that. Funny, a week ago I would have cringed at the possibility that someone we mutually know would read about the rape. But each time I see it posted publicly or reply to a comment, I remind myself this is practice of putting down any vestige of shame that was never my right to pick up in the first place. It says nothing about me as a person, anymore than my detached retina or pinched nerve does. So it is fine. I am glad it can have meaning to others. I thank you for your shared indignation and outrage and empathy. It fills my heart, thank you.
      I understand your questioning if the world is changing. In some ways no, in some ways it’s regressing, in other ways yes. I can only control the latter, so I will focus on that. It will change as much as I put into the world.
      I agree–this is also a men’s problem, as feminism is as well. Thank you for sending Jackson Katz’s work–I had not heard of him but from a cursory view love it–can’t wait to really delve into it. Kim’s post https://bonnevivantelife.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/rude-awakening/ also speaks to the role of boys/men and parents.
      I think also if we keep this a women’s issue. we are at a dead end. We can teach our girls to say no, but that’s sort of the definition of rape–the not respecting the no…It’s a violence issue, a respect issue, a lack of sense of self of the perpetrator issue…
      Thank you. For everything. And please, if you feel these posts would have meaning for anyone, feel free to share.

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      • Nora Jessome says:

        Here is a link to a story that is happening right now in NS. It has been in the news for a few weeks now.
        http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/04/16/nova-scotia-launches-independent-review-of-rehtaeh-parsons-sexual-assault-case-following-public-outcry/
        Rehtaeh’s story is very complicated, yet simple and so sad. Her mom and step-dad are meeting with our Prime Minister today. The story has been politicized, I do not know where it will end, hopefully at a better place than it commenced.

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        • Thank you for the update on this. I’ve been reading about it down here too, though I’m sure the coverage I get is not as comprehensive. Have you heard of the other recent case in California? http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/14/17747411-california-case-another-three-part-tragedy-of-rape-cyber-bullying-and-suicide?lite

          There are so many aspects to each of these cases that makes me literally sick to my stomach. So, so sad that this is the world we live in. That outrage only occurs after a death is incomprehensible to me.

          I am hoping to start a larger project with a fellow blogger to address this publicly.

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          • Nora Jessome says:

            Yes, this is so similar to what is happening in NS. Rehtaeh was bullied in her school for two years due to the assault pictures being posted on line. Her parents moved her to another school, but the bullying followed her, so Rehtaeh lost hope that her life could or would get better. It is my hope that your ‘larger project’ will reach other Rehtaeh’s (sadly we know there will be other Rehtaeh’s) and maybe, just maybe, there will be hope for someone. Take care

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            • I read this with a heavy heart. I hadn’t realized she was moved to another school and the bullying continued, not that it matters. One of the issues that I struggle with is the culture that allows these other children to believe it is acceptable behavior to post these photos and vitriol online and tease and abuse and bully, and perpetuate such hatred. That there are so many people who feel so badly about themselves that they feel they must tear someone else down to feel better about themselves. And these are children, and we both know they are taught these behaviors and world views by their parents.

              We both also know how easy it is for people to lose hope. Be overwhelmed. Consumed by grief. But I also believe firmly in the beauty that is human resilience, and I know you do too, which is why our life calling is what it is. There will always be hope. There will be change. There has been change already, by my mere existence, by not staying quiet. Little by little there has been and will be change. And as I continue to touch each person in life, there is change.,..even if I have to punch them 🙂

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        • Cash says:

          Bolina har så utrolig mye fint!Jeg skal straks igang med å innrede koettrno, så noen detaljer til det rommet hadde vært perfekt!

          Like

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