Take Back The Night.
Tw: SA. ED
I remember sitting at a table in April of 2010, & my soon to be new therapist telling us about an event she went to in Toledo that weekend for her internship called Take Back The Night. She kept on chanting quietly the clever puns & words they yelled through the streets reclaiming the “night” from assailants and rapists alike. I remember later on she told me I should go to one the following year. I remember also thinking she was crazy for ever believing I’d show up to something like that. Well, the next year I did. I didn’t make it through the event, I left as soon as they asked me what type of ribbon I wanted to wear. A pit in my stomach so hard I felt like I couldn’t move. How could I ever visibly allow anyone to see me wear a ribbon that shares to strangers a victim part of me I am unable to connect to.
In fact I refused to connect to. The next year and another trauma later, I went, and wore a ribbon, but spent almost the whole event hiding in the hallway & bathroom. I missed a year, went another year bringing someone I trusted with me and that’s the year it began to shift. I listened to the people speak- but also heard them.
I listened when the crowd would yell out encouragements when others struggled to speak. I heard people own their traumas, call out their rapists and even detail what was done to them without their consent. Though I heard them; I refused to allow myself to feel as though I belonged among them.
COVID impacts trauma. It impacted my court cases, it impacted the way my trauma was handled. I will never forgive a pandemic or a system for allowing my violent rapist to walk free for as long as he isn’t caught again. After this attack, along with a lingering process of a waiting game on another investigation: I shut down. I refused to allow myself to digest the hurt, the events, the gravity of the weight I was carrying silently every moment of every day.
See, I am known for recovering. My resilience. My advocacy. My voice being used to make known the disrespect, disregard, & shortcomings of basic human nature. But how could I in any good conscience allow myself to be seen or heard when in so many ways I’ve been deafeningly silenced. I stopped writing so the defense couldn’t use my own words against me. I stopping doing anything i loved. I lost the best parts of me. So I died slowly each day wasting away into a grave I didn’t realize I was digging.
It took almost actually dying for me to see I do belong here among the living. For me to feel anything again, until I didn’t. I became numb, confused as to how we can walk this earth with the injustices we see each day, but now officially carrying my own; that white noise will keep you up at night. That is- until you learn to scream back at it. The demons and the faces follow you to bed keeping you engaged when you thought you really hadn’t faced them to recognize them in such darkness. But you do. Trauma has a way of identifying itself & also delicately hiding within the daily living. It’s complex, it’s complicated, & it takes far more time than the attacks that took place in order to heal from.
A lot of people get angry. I never did. Frustrated at most, but I never wanted to even somewhat replicate the anger I had witnessed from my rapists. I’ve learned that recently. But I also was showing up to every single battle I was invited to. I understood our girl Brene’s speech in which she discusses that teddy r quote about how our power lies in showing up, so for a long time I did it in ALL situations regardless of knowing how the outcome would impact me. At least i could say I tried, right? I showed up. & then I realized something life changing I’ve never heard Brene follow up with. There is also power in choosing not to. Choosing NOT to show up. That’s the closest to anger I’ve felt and maybe it was because it was a safe anger, I don’t actually know her. But she has never at least in all my reading, podcasting, TED talking of Brene I’ve seen discuss our power in refusing to even be a part of something. To me if felt like an incredible disservice of her not to explore that. Anyway, I took that and ran with it, & my life has never been better.
In choosing to not show up you do exactly that- you make a choice. Choosing to disengage. Choosing to not attend that part because the anxiety you feel before you left the house is paralyzing. Adapting the idea of that there is power in both showing up and in not showing up but that both serve us a purpose. Once I stopped being bitter about all the times I’ve showed up, fought, lost, repeat. & started to reapply it situationally, I saw progress.
That takes me to this. take back the night was last night. I even told my therapist just hours before I probably wouldn’t get the courage to show up. But I did, & As i walked around & I heard people begin to speak, say words I REFUSE to out loud, that weight lifted for the first time in since I can remember. I still felt that feeling of belonging and felt myself fighting it. But I showed up. And I showed up because my soul needed me to. My trauma protector needed me to. My entire being needed me to. & I heard some words that sat with me & I realized that this was the first public forum I’ve been in since a brutal attack and investigation & that piece of me needed to take it all in. Know that I was seen, heard, felt. And that that piece of me was okay exactly how she showed up.
& for the first time in a very very long time. I was inspired. I was motivated. I was moved. & then the next thing I knew I was walking up to the microphone to speak out in front of everyone with absolutely nothing prepared. I was compelled, I felt called, guided by my soul to say- own this moment for yourself, own it for us. Declare it. Show your face, the face that has been victimized, put through hell, survived, thrived, fallen again, repeat. Show them YOU for once, instead of hiding from this platform. So I did. Because i needed to more than i even knew. I didn’t say much, but for me to be vocal, give anything with my audible voice in this platform is unheard of in regard to my self. But I did it to always remember that I showed up. I showed up for myself and I showed up for all the pieces of me that just couldn’t yet, that tried to for years, for all of it. That moment, of lack of grace in my words, lack of practice; a raw and real moment of ME, that part of me had been mustering up the courage for 11 years. She didn’t know she’d go through more trauma in a lifetime in between, but she did it. & maybe next year it’ll be a bit more put together, or I won’t speak at all, but for now it doesn’t matter. Because for now I am living on this moment. I deserve to.
Because in showing up there was my power. & in saying that out loud proclaimed it to everyone who has ever impacted my life in a traumatic way. & it began a different avenue of my journey in healing. I found my that my audible voice, shaky, lacking confidence and poise- is there. & This was a moment you never forget. This moment here.
& I thank each person who held that space for me to do so. That held that space for me to show up in whatever form and welcome me without judgment, fear, or disregard. These are the light workers. These people help create the change.
Happy National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I see you. I hear you. I am you.
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