Silence is no longer the only option. I find myself in the last month, unpacking and releasing internalized shame that I didn’t realize existed and am certainly not going to hold onto. This is a painful process but I have found if I have my tools of yoga, breathing, finding neutrality first, then on the other side of the process…liberation. I have grown to trust and lean into this process and it is my life’s work to teach and share it with survivors and victims who don’t yet know they too, are survivors.
I have spent years unpacking childhood sexual assault and acts of rape as a young adult through therapy and trauma work including the yoga practice that set me on the path to healing. However, I found with all of the revelations coming to light on sexual harassment, I have normalized too many experiences to count. Mostly because our whole culture normalizes how girl’s and women’s bodies are to be displayed, objectified and dehumanized. And while this largely impacts girls and women, this is also the experience of some boys, men, individuals in the LBGTQ community and worth noting that trans people are at great risk here.
I remember a man other than my Dad trying to hold my hand in a dark movie theater as a young girl. This was confusing and a bit scary but the man seemed so nice and kind.
I remember walking to the store as a 6th grader and for the first time but definitely not the last, having older men yell out the window about my breasts. This was horrifying, confusing and I felt shame about my body and how it appeared and my body now felt dirty and repulsive to me.
I remember wearing a bra in 6th grade and having a table full of boys in the cafeteria making comments and one of them snapped my bra strap. I punched him in the face, he cried and I got sent to the principals office.
I remember the creepy guy in school in 9th grade that would wait and jump out of the stairway to grope and grab me.
There are countless more stories of being groped in lines in concerts, on subways, at clubs. All the years of performing and having the occasional drunk guy think it’s cool to follow me to the parking lot (with a lurching, drunken gait) as I load my instruments and equipment into my car. When such advances were not welcomed, responding, “Whatever, you fucking bitch.”
Even now, as a grown ass woman, comfortable in my own skin, I teach and travel often solo and this experience alone, flying Red eye flights, getting late cabs in unfamiliar areas, there is always this awareness of vulnerability.
I want to believe in my lifetime that this will shift. That what is happening now is part of that shift. That anyone, man or woman, in a position of power, will NOT abuse that power in any way shape or form.
I want to believe that we will not elect to office in any political party, or appoint to any position of authority and decision making any person with a history of sexual assault, domestic violence and/or any type of bullying behavior.
I have cried this past month for so many of us. For the shame, the hyper vigilance, the removal of our agency as we are showing up living our lives.
I cried again for Anita Hill. I remember watching the hearings, seeing her ALONE speaking truth to Power and seeing her discredited at every turn….one of those who discredited her being Joe Biden.
I also know this, as wisdom comes with age, that we don’t have to remain in this space of despair. I have sadly witnessed, mostly from men and some women that this is all too much, that all these reports can’t possibly be true, etc…This is bypass. We have to face the uncomfortable truths here people about a whole lot more than misogyny but we have the chance to do this here. We have the chance to raise our sons differently. To reject porn culture and all it does to objectify and debase humanity and to respect the inherent worth and dignity of all beings and allow people to have their own agency, freely and safely navigating in their environments.
We have the chance to empower and believe Survivors.
And those of you who are Survivors. Know this. You. Are. Not. Alone. You with your equal measures of grace and grit are resilient in your courage to be who you are. I love the experience of being who I am now. I love being sensual and extraordinary and I don’t need the male gaze or any gaze on me at all. All I need is my own agency.
So, for many of us, that agency taken away left in it’s fierce wake; despair, shame, guilt, fear that never quite seems to leave. But, we have the ability to not let these set up camp. They visit and sometimes reappear but don’t need to stay.
We can learn to work with these. Face fear one breath at a time. Fear can keep us alive and can also swallow us whole. Naming and facing our fears with the help of a skilled therapist is a game changer. And Anger!! Anger can turn into motivation which is what is being played out currently. Women are speaking up and saying ENOUGH!!!
And Hope. Hope rises from despair. It cannot exist without it. Hope and faith are the beliefs that love is both this emergent strategy for transformation and the essence of who we are. Healing is a remembering who we are. Yoga is the path of remembering who we are, returning to that awareness and living more and more from that space.
Hope is this seed that contains the whole of the plant. The roots. The stem. The trunk. The branches. The blossom. The fruit.
I saw an old friend today that is a survivor. He was molested as a child by the priest in his church. He has literally turned his life into a living testimony for resilience, courage and Grace. He dedicates countless hours of his time to ensuring that those responsible be held accountable for their most heinous abuse of power and the resulting loss of innocence of those victimized. He has persevered in the face of many obstacles, the powerful Roman Catholic Church being one, to advocate for the change in the statute of limitations so survivors can seek well deserved justice. I saw this friend today with joy etched into his smile! With renewed energy, clarity, focus and passion for this path of healing and empowerment. I saw my friend who selflessly strives for justice so that he and many others may find justice and also to prevent this from happening to innocents showing up with grounded purpose.
This is Hope that emerges from despair, from the dark nights of the soul. Hope that shapes direction and purpose. So Dear Ones, Know this. The ugliness of the abuse of Power has always been here, it is now being revealed in epic proportions. The veil has been lifted and the silence that preserved the old order. Let it crumble. Speak truth to Power.
And Dear Ones, Know this. Love, the primary force of bonding and attraction in the universe, that which drives all Creation has always been here and will never, ever leave. This is the strongest of all and this is what wins if we can move through the pain.
Victim Services Inc.1-800-755-1983 (Cambria/Somerset County)
Women’s Help Center 1-800-999-7406 (Pa)
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233