Saturday, December 22, 2012

A picture of a child

As always, this is a regular thought I grapple with - do I forgive the people who have hurt me tremendously, most particularly the young man at the root of much of my trauma? Ian Brown at the Globe and Mail today printed a lengthy piece on forgiveness. He muses that forgiveness is on some level essential to move forward, yet on another level nearly impossible without a range of conditions, generally involving an extent of reconciliation between the parties involved.

Brown's conclusions are ambiguous at best - not the holy grail in this lengthy internal journey. He does raise, however, a critical point near the end of his piece. Why is the onus on the victim (oh, I do hate that word), on the person wronged, to forgive? Should it not be on the perpetrator of violence, or broader wrongdoing, to seek forgiveness? Why must I forgive someone who might be in a position to commit the same violence to another person as he did to me, to hurt others once again? In my mental imagery, this "someone" is a monster who cannot be forgiven in a million years; a person of true evil, who has done unspeakable wrongs.

And so I went to my high school yearbooks, which I dug up the other day. A person who has done unspeakable wrongs? Well, that is unquestionable. I have never given details on this blog as to what happened, and have always been vague, not just because it hurts me to speak graphically and anatomically but also because it is too disturbing for most anyone who might read this. There was more wrong done on that day than there is room in my mind to process it. But a monster, a person of true evil? I found his picture in with the grade eleven students at my school, a few pages ahead of my grade nine photo. I never knew what he looked like, as I had very little vision when I met him, and not much more the day he raped me; I've closed my eyes each time since then that I've seen him, so I could not be triggered. The picture I found was of a child. In my flashbacks, his face has aged along with me, such that he became an adult. But in his picture, taken a few months before that day, he was a grinning boy, trying to grow a mustache, possibly, in a shapeless school uniform. A monster, and yet, a child. Evil, and yet, a child. Perhaps an adolescent would be a better description, but there is something distinctly boyish in his smile that I was never able to see. I have forgiven the children who bullied me years ago, because they were children. But I have always conceptualized him as an adult. Now, a child. Is a child able to commit rape on his own accord, as a budding sadist? Or is he a victim as I was, learning from media that taught him that violence would get him sexual gratification, and that placed this narrative in his hands? Is it his fault? Does he wonder about what he did, and how it hurt me? Does he care? Was it just a blip in his life, that he could forget as easily as what he learned in math class that day?

Is thinking about him and his feelings cannibalizing my own agency as a survivor, or fueling it? If he came to my door tomorrow to ask for forgiveness, as a man instead of a simultaneously terrifying yet somewhat impish boy, would I forgive him? Can I? If I forgive the child he was, must I then forgive the man he has become?

My mind is spinning tonight, and etched behind my eyes is a picture of two children...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Required Reading"

Sometimes this blog serves as my own set of bookmarks - a spot to save links I like and want other people to see.

Please read these two articles on the Huffington Post! Most of my handful of readers are Canadian - if that's you, and if you don't know about the issues facing our Indigenous peoples, it's time for you to learn. If you're not Canadian (I've noticed that in the past month, folks have visited this blog from all around the world! I'm excited!) then this might shatter any myths you hold about Canada. And so it should. We're not the rosy place we sometimes pretend to be on the international stage.

Here are the two aforementioned articles:

Wab Kinew: Idle No More Is Not Just an "Indian Thing"

Obert Madondo: What Chief Spence's Hunger Strike Says About Canada

Friday, December 14, 2012

Little children

 Same old story; what's the use of tears?
What's the use of praying when there's nobody who hears?
Turning, turning, turning turning turning through the years...
Watching the news this evening about the shootings in Connecticut and the stabbings in China, all I could do was think back to similar shootings and all the senseless rhyming in the recent history of school shootings and violence. I wrote a poem about this for Virginia Tech, years ago, and it sadly still rings true.
Sometimes the World Ends

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another link to share

[potentially triggering]

Why can't we get beyond the body-shutting-down trope here? Grumble.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Taking back underwear and video games

I'm taking a break from the monotony of marking undergraduate exam papers to share a couple of feminist projects that I learned about today and found incredibly exciting.

In this video on Upworthy, Anita Sarkeesian tells of the harassment she faced at the hands of a cyber-mob after proposing to fundraise for creating a project exposing misogynistic tropes in video gaming. Her response to her experiences and the success she has had since then is inspiring. It's a long-ish video, but worth every minute.

Here, the Baltimore Fishbowl interviews two women who started a parody on Victoria's Secret underwear which is far, far cooler than any underwear I've seen in a mainstream market.

Plans for when I'm finished marking? Watch all of Anita's videos, and browse the net (Etsy, perhaps?) for underwear with this sort of awesome factor.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Another great TED talk

I blogged about disability the other day, so I was moved and impressed by this TED talk, which a friend shared on her Facebook. Watch it - it's worth the 21 minutes :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Geneviève Bergeron
Hélène Colgan
Natalie Croteau
Barbara Daigneault
Anne-Marie Edward
Maud Haviernick
Barbara Maria Klueznick
Maryse Laganière
Maryse Leclair
Anne-Marie Lemay
Michelle Richard
Sonia Pelletier
Annie Saint-Arnault
Annie Turcotte

In the rising of the sun and its going down, we remember them.
In the bowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
In the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
In the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.
In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
When we are lost and sick of heart, we remember them.
When we have joys and special celebrations we yearn to share, we remember them.
So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are a part of us. We remember them.

Twenty-three years ago, these women were shot in their university classroom by a man who blamed feminism for his personal failures. On one hand, things have changed dramatically for women in education since 1989. On the other hand, reading the comments on nearly any mainstream media article about the Montreal Massacre will show that the gunman's hatred of women and feminism is alive and well in 2012 (see, for example, this national post commentary on the need to keep holding vigils for the Montreal Massacre). This fall, people around the world were outraged by the shooting of 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl in Pakistan shot simply for daring to learn. We have a long ways to go.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Where to Draw the Line, or, Why I Hate Radio Buttons and Like Ticky Boxes

Today is the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The Disabled Students Campaign in the United Kingdom is encouraging students to "come out" as people with disabilities in their Facebook statuses, and a few of my friends have done so. Awesome!

I thought about what to write in my status, and realized it would be a blog post rather than a 140-character snippet. The long and short of it is, I don't know whether to self-identify as a person with a disability, because of all the connotations associated with the word, and the fluidity of my own human experiences. Occasionally, surveys encourage me to self-identify as either having, or not having, a disability. I never know what box to check.

It's easy for me to identify with specific conditions. For example, I'm asthmatic. That's not up for debate. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act lists asthma as a disability. By their definition, I am a person with a disability. But is it that simple? I have asthma, and take three medications to keep it under control and to stay healthy. I can run ten kilometers; asthma doesn't stop me from attending school, having a job, getting around, and enjoying myself. Inconvenience? Certainly. But disability? For me, using that word to describe my chronic health concern trivializes the experiences of people who are marginalized because of differences in ability. I am inconvenienced, rather than marginalized, due to my asthma.

My vision makes this more complicated. Presently, I have a minor visual impairment. With glasses, I legally can drive, but cannot see some signage, writing on chalkboards, and so forth at the same distance that most people can. This level of vision is relatively new for me; for several years, I used magnification or large print or else contended with eye strain and painful headaches; I was unable to see the board in class; double vision made me even clumsier than I would otherwise be. I relied on Accessibility Services at my university to enable me to write tests and exams. There was a period in which I was legally blind, and the vision consultant with my school board worked with me to help me learn to navigate the school building. Large, colourful stickers helped me to find my locker, but I depended on other students to help me find my friends in a large room. Baffled teachers allowed me to listen to books on tape during class, rather than finding a way to make their lessons accessible. Looking back, it is obvious to me that, at that point, I had a disability. I never used that word, however. There was too much stigma attached to blindness, and so I shied away from calling myself blind. "Visually impaired" gave me more leeway to show people what I could do, before words would erroneously tell them what I could not do. Disability was also always something that happened to somebody else; using a word meant acknowledging that I was different from my peers.

Mental health has long been a complicated issue for me. I see my diagnoses of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder as labels that have helped me to get the medications that I need, rather than as an identity. Those labels, to me, describe perhaps a reaction to my past; my mental health is part of a general trajectory of my life. I frame it as troubled mental health, rather than mental illness. Illness implies that something is wrong, whereas I see my frame of mind as normal. I would be more concerned if I didn't react in the ways I do to challenging situations. Post-traumatic stress disorder has been useful to me as a label only to the extent that it has helped mental health professionals to understand my frame of mind with somewhat less talking on my part. Were it not for this pragmatic point, I would steadfastly refuse to let a psychiatric system pathologize my thoughts and feelings.

Doctors seem fixated on labels, with certain labels connoting disabilities, and others not. It is hard to find health professionals who will acknowledge and work within a middle ground. A psychiatrist once suggested that I may have Asperger disorder, putting me on the autism spectrum. I neither meet the diagnostic criteria for this disorder, nor do I find it a useful label for my lived experiences. The way I interact with others may occasionally be challenging, but it is not a disability. It is simply me. The possible labels for my physical/neurological health stymie me even more. This much is clear: I am a clumsy person, and am clumsier on the right side of my body than the left. I struggle with fatigue at times, as well as chronic back pain and odd neuropathic symptoms - burning, itching, tingling, and bizarre aching that comes and goes. Inconveniently, I have a single lesion in my brain that is consistent with demylination. But I don't meet the diagnostic criteria for anything in particular, and most of the time, I feel just fine. Sometimes, I would consider this to be a disability; there have been days when my right foot drags so much when I walk that I avoid stairs so as not to trip over myself, or when my balance is too poor to stand on the bus. But it's transient, and I am usually as "able" as the next person. Self-identifying as a person with a disability would not acknowledge, for me, these fluctuations in my ability. I find it more empowering and true to identify with the very specific health issues that I have written about, rather than with a monolithic label.

I am sure that many people would argue either that for me to identify as a person with a disability would be trivializing the experiences of people who have difficulties far greater than my own. Others would emphasize the need for people with invisible disabilities to recognize them as such, and show how varied the spectrum of ability is. But if ability is a spectrum, where do we place a line for who is, and who is not, disabled? Can it vary, person by person? Can it move? Need there be a line at all, if we acknowledge that disability is socially constructed and thus strive for a society that does not only accommodate, but celebrates, diversity?

Ultimately, there needs to be another ticky-box: "It's Complicated."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

To add to yesterday...

Interesting link here. Implying that it's a luxury that we can't all afford, though, implies that forgiveness is inherently desirable. And I'm not so sure it is.

On another note, I'm processing, processing, processing why I became so triggered tonight after a Facebook comment that sexualized me inappropriately. It's been a long time since I last felt that way.

My brain is trying to process...

A heavy blog night (don't worry, if you know me - I am actually totally ok, curled up with kittens and a lovely cup of tea, but writing about tough stuff)

A post on xojane, (TRIGGER WARNING!!! talks about rape and suicide, PTSD, etc), got me thinking about that whole to-be-or-not-to-be thing. The blogger on xojane has survived several sexual assaults; for her, one more time would be the last straw. And this made me wonder - if it happened to me, again, what would I do? I want to think that it wouldn't happen, that lightning doesn't strike twice. Of course, life doesn't quite work that way; there is no life-long immunity to rape after it happens the first time. One of the commenters echoed what I think I feel about this as well - rather than it being the last straw, it would be another challenge to get through, but one that is perhaps easier than the first time, knowing that survival is possible even though it's hard as fuck.

So many folks in the comments (yes, I read the comments on everything...) say that they've always had suicide as a back-up plan. A friend of mine has often said the same thing for her life, and the possibility of having that last resort taken away from her was terrifying. I'm different (luckily, I guess) and I'm not sure what contributes to that. Not surviving has just never been an option that I'm willing to consider. It's letting him win.

Another thing I've been grappling with these past few weeks is the idea of forgiveness. It'll be 10 years this April, and I still cannot bring myself to look at his picture in my high-school yearbook for fear that I'll then know what he looks like (my eyesight was bad enough 10 years ago that I could not see him clearly enough to recognize him; in my mind, he doesn't have a face) and be able to know if I saw him on the street who he was - and I fear that then I'd kill him, or else explode with rage. So many people say to forgive, even though forgetting is impossible. I have trouble with that. I really do believe that some things cannot be forgiven.

Dying is letting him win; forgiving is letting him win; even as much as I'd like to push things aside, forgetting is letting him win. I can move past the flashbacks and surf on the waves of rage without being pulled under, but dammit if I'm going to venture inland.

[I still have never gotten a comment on this blog. If you read this, say hi?]

Monday, November 26, 2012

I am rarely speechless...

I can't even begin to explain how much this woman has gotten it all wrong.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Two great links about street harassment

(either of these could be triggering for some folks; more so the first one which has very violent language)

I'm just throwing links at the world today, rather than actually writing - sorry.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Made my day

I know this has been online for a long time, but I only saw it today when a friend posted it on Facebook.

If every man in the world thought the way Tony Porter does, the world would be a much better place.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wandering Mind

I'm technically working on a grant proposal tonight, but wandered over to PostSecret for a break.

This anonymous secret is a goal of mine, and something that has been suggested to me by many other people, including friends, my boxing coach, strangers on the internet. I am beginning to consider that they may be right; my anger is not productive.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sexism/The Internet

I've been thinking about this post from Hook and Eye - it rings for me. But I feel like it's not the whole picture - if there is a photograph of sexism, the picture frame is the internet. Or perhaps the camera is the internet. I'm not entirely sure where this metaphor is going, but there's something insidious about how the internet perpetuates sexism that makes all of this more problematic. Sexism, catalyzed by the internet? The internet is still a problem here.

Anyhow, here's the link:

Thoughts? (if I get my first comment - ever - on this blog post, I'll find some way to make you a cookie!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Fight For Feminism As Explained By Dudes Who Totally Get It

 A few months back, I posted my old writings on why we still need feminism. These guys do a way hipper job:

Also,  I LOVE a guy who loves feminism :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

With the media abuzz about Amanda Todd's recent suicide after years of bullying, in person and online, I've been reflecting a fair bit about how things have changed since I was her age - and how the changes have made bullying that much more insidious.

I was bullied persistently through grades 4 through 8, at two different schools and overnight camp. But unlike what today's youth deal with, the bullying could never follow me home.

The worst bullying I experienced happened from 1997 to 2002 - the internet was in its beginnings, and cellphones were an oddity rather than a social expectation. My peers were reluctant to bully me in our regular evening MSN conversations, because they knew that I'd then have a written record of what they said - and besides, many of us at the time shared computers with our parents, and bullying online would be more likely to be caught. In one case, when I told a school guidance counsellor about how the other girls were teasing me, one of the bullies printed off our MSN chat from the evening before in which she'd been perfectly decent to me while talking about a school project, and used it as supposed proof that she and her friends accepted me into their in-crowd.

There was no Facebook, or equivalent social networking site. When I finished middle school, I deleted the girls who tormented me from my MSN contacts list, and had no reason to ever communicate with them again. These days, a teen in the same situation would have these peers on Facebook, and often keeps peers who bully her, as having a large list of "friends" is a marker of social status. I could sever contact, and more or less create a new life for myself. That's not an option anymore.

Of course, that's not to say that bullying never extended to the internet - but for the most part, kids were more civil online than they would ever be in person. There was one situation that stands out to me. When I was in grade 9, and was having a rough time, a former friend whom I'd fallen out with suggested - perhaps jokingly, but I'll never know - that I just go ahead and kill myself. That was the closest I'd ever come to suicide, and if other friends hadn't been there (also online) to support me, I can't say with confidence that I'd be alive today.

If the internet back then had been what it is today, I don't know if I'd have survived those years. When I left school, I was free. I could go home and read, and be in my own world where nobody could hurt me. Now, that world would be interrupted by a mean text message or inappropriate photo posting. It surprises me not that Amanda Todd ended her life, but that so many youth are so alone, a sea of bullies surrounding them even in their own homes, and have somehow managed to cling on to hope and survive.

If anybody who is reading this is in a rough situation with bullies - it can get better, with time. It's hard to keep hoping when you hurt so much, but one day, you'll realize that your perseverance is worth it.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Survival - incredible.            Should be inevitable.
Thankful                               Thankless

Both the dinner, and the diner
A stuffed bird on the table.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

In which I post someone else's poetry, for a change...

A friend linked to this on Facebook a couple of days ago. It's not often one sees this perspective so clearly. Note that it's likely triggering.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Musings on a friend's article...

I'm a bit stuck on this article - have been for a few days really. One the one hand, I agree with Robyn that mandatory women's studies courses are probably not likely to work at York University. On the other hand...her commentary neglects the insidiousness of rape culture, and even furthers it by comparing rape with robbery.

The poor security on York's campus is certainly a problem. But it's not the biggest problem. I would argue that the reason for these rapes is rape culture, and how normalized it has become for women to be raped there. Security would become nearly obsolete if respect towards women was a basic part of campus life.

To some extent of course I'll give York credit for reporting rapes to the media. That's a start. It shows what's happening, and doesn't push it under the rug. But it makes it sound like being raped is almost a normal experience for York students, rather than a trauma. Two months ago, a co-worker joked that the reason for York's athletics facilities being so cheap is because of the risk of getting raped in the showers (the triggering nature of her comments are in queue for another post, once I am done emotionally processing them). These jokes and the idea of York as a campus of rape and rapists is unhelpful. Understatement...I could go so far as to argue that the sensationalist reports of the mainstream media make the situation worse. So in that sense, Robyn's commentary, despite its shortcomings, is extremely useful in changing the character of the dialogue about the York campus.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this post, or whether my argument is even vaguely coherent. But here it is.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Guardian "who is a rapist?" article

Megan Carpentier's work isn't always my thing.  Usually, her use of humour - even though she justifies it as part of her own experience - stings. This article, however, about Reddit's rape threads, is different.

Note that it links to things that might be quite triggering.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Kensington Market assaults

I've been on my guard a bit lately because of several sexual assaults in Kensington Market, an area which I enjoy spending time in. Here's an article by a freelance writer which so well summed up my thoughts about having to stay alert, and how unfair it all seems. (link is not especially likely to be triggering)

In short: I shouldn't have to watch my back when I walk alone at night. He should have to watch his penis.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Memories - Alone

Daemons prowl, whisper, and growl
Surrounding, at night, my childhood home.
At most times, it is my fortress
But the moat dries up when I’m alone.

The perimeter is insecure
Shut windows, doors, all feel agape.
Locked tightly in reality;
Held open by my fear of rape.

I clean, inspect, and barricade
So fearsome sounds can’t penetrate
Each noise linked to a memory
That years of safety can’t obliterate.

At home, no one has hurt me;
Nothing evil ever crept inside
But alone in this large space
I feel naked, unsafe, spread, and tied.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Don't read the comments...some of them are nasty. While this article is a bit rigid in its assumptions about men and women (men do get raped too, and men also certainly are offended and hurt by rape jokes!) it is indeed a pretty good response to the Daniel Tosh incident that seems to be all over the internet lately.

Monday, June 25, 2012

"The R Word," Why now? and various other musings

First, another article I read and need to share. Warning that this is heavy - triggering, for some, and more graphic than most things I've ever posted. It's a discussion of the trivializing use of the word "rape," in this case specifically in video games:

I think I was especially struck by this article because it articulated so many of the arguments that I tried (and sometimes failed) to make in similar discussions, most notably one evening on Facebook last year when I argued about the term "Facebook rape" with some friends of friends who I didn't even know. That night hurt and sent me into a tailspin for a little while. The author of this article describes his own experiences in pretty stark detail, which is disconcerting but probably necessary to drive home his point, especially in the gaming world which is a harsh place where I don't hang out (not just because of things like this in gaming culture - also because I'm not great at video games!).

Some key quotations, for those not keen on clicking on the potentially triggering link:

"Despite all the articles, I have yet to see one that helps people understand, in detail, why this is such a personal topic for people who have had rape in their past. Perhaps it's our fault for not taking you there, for just assuming you'd care about something that for you is an abstract idea, but for us is a painful reality." Yes. So much. And it's so hard to hammer home that point to people...but that's exactly what this brave man did. 

He voices the troubles faced by people with PTSD, rape survivors in particular, and this bit especially rings true: "My whole life I had felt worthless. I always tried harder than anyone because I was afraid of what authority figures, those who had power over me, would do if I failed. That's not uncommon for rape victims, it turns out. Trauma like that changes your brain chemistry, makes you feel helpless and inadequate even in situations you're perfectly capable of handling." My terror of authority is one of the few things that still really hinders me - at work, and in unexpected situations when I become afraid of people I merely perceive to be in positions of authority, such as more experienced drivers or better-dressed people on the street. I still cower in the face of criticism, and it wounds me in a way that is far from constructive. It is cliché to say that being a perfectionist is a weakness at work, but I do think in my case that it is. It means that when something goes wrong, and is noticed, that I dissolve entirely and have difficulty rebuilding, staying in a fearful mental space for far longer than is healthy or normal. Some of this may be due to being emotionally abused by a teacher in elementary school, compounded by years of bullying, but I do often think it was driven home by rape, which instilled in me an even deeper fear of how people in power truly could hurt me. Part of me, even years later, is still ensnared by that fear, which emerges whenever there is a situation that brings up even tangentially related emotions. It's not very productive!

Then the anonymous gamer makes a key point which I've never quite elucidated in my own arguments on this topic: the difference between hurt and offense. It seems obvious, but somehow is something I struggled to make clear to people when I objected to their words and became upset. In this case, again, his words are better than mine: "Often I won't say anything, even when I'm upset, because I don't want to be negative and ruin everyone's fun. Except "ruining fun" is exactly why I dislike it when people use that word. It ruins my fun. It sucks the fun out of a game like oxygen through a blown airlock. Being raped was the worst thing that ever happened to me, and I don't like to be reminded of it when I'm supposed to be enjoying myself. Imagine if someone captured your flag or dominated you in deathmatch, then rubbed in your face how your sister was killed by a drunk driver or your dad abandoned you when you were little. That's how close it cuts. People keep using the word "offended," in this discussion -- I'm not offended, I'm hurt. Hearing this word causes me emotional pain."

I'm hurt, not offended. This is what I wish I'd said, what I need to say, in so many similar situations. A little over a month ago, at a staff training retreat at work, several of us at lunch ended up talking about stalkers. I'm not sure how the topic came up - I certainly didn't introduce it. Someone in a more senior position to me mentioned how she'd been "stalked" by someone who gave her cookies and other baked goods, and how she'd not been fond of his behaviour but wanted to keep him around for the baking. She set up this supposed stalker with a friend of hers and they are close now.

I wanted to scream (but didn't; this is my boss we're talking about - and remember my issues with authority here! - it was also at work in a dining hall also crowded with staff whom I quasi-supervise). This isn't stalking we're talking about - this is an annoyance, petty behaviour. Stalking is a crime. Intimidation. Threats. Harassment. Not repeated purchase of cookies that stops when you ask nicely. I was stalked off and on for years by the man who raped me, and on a different occasion followed from my elementary school, threatened, and intimidated by a stranger as a child. Those are experiences I remember with terror - there is no humour in them and they are certainly not experiences I'd bring up as light lunchtime conversation with my colleagues. In my usual pattern, I retreated and proceeded to stew over it. I've been stewing since mid May, and it's now the end of June. It all brought me back to the inaccurate, trivializing, hurtful use of "rape" as a term to describe various virtual interactions that aren't very nice, but also aren't rape. Hurtful. I wasn't just offended by how this person, and other co-workers who mentioned having "stalkers" at various points, lightly told their stories as though talking about their first dates. I was profoundly hurt. She did not intend it, but something that terrified me for years became with this group of people a simple part of dating and courtship instead of the crime that it is. I felt jealous, confused, and angry - but most of all, hurt. And it's taken me a long time to put a finger on it, and to be able to explain to myself why I feel doubly wounded when somebody accuses me of simply being easily offended when I become upset about how people use these words.

I feel like I'm ranting at this point. I probably am. So I'll change gears. Another thing that's been on my mind these past few nights...why now? I've had enough of the "why me?" musings - they aren't productive and there is little I can do but accept that this happened to me. Happened. In the past. So why is it - "it" in this case being my past, issues of rape and bullying, trauma and the fear I always hid - hurting me more this spring than others?

This spring has been tumultuous for my family. My sister has been very ill, and our life has been turned upside-down. Things wrench inside of me because of the fear of losing her, almost every night. Simultaneously, a good friend is also struggling with mental illness that scares me - again, a feeling of loss with each night in the hospital, being overwhelmed and confused, terrified, and feeling helpless. All of this is a huge understatement. It will probably be a long time before I'll be able to really explain how this is all making me feel. One would think my mind would be wholly occupied with the daemons of its present, but instead in the long nights once I think things have subsided and I am finally about to sleep, the past awakens. I haven't had flashbacks again, thankfully, or hurt myself, but the anger and the fear from years ago has been flooding back. Why now? I've been puzzled by this. The best I can come up with is that there is some sort of a connection created by emotions in my brain.

I've been thinking about times and experiences as though they are islands, linked by bridges of emotion in my mind. Currently there is fear, anger, loss, hopelessness relating to my current situation and the fear of losing people whom I love. In the past, there was fear, anger, hopelessness, and so forth while being raped, and dealing with the aftermath of it, but those feelings were so intense I couldn't name them or recognize them at the time. The best I can surmise is that right now there is a bridge of sorts between those feelings, and that something inside of me is crossing over.

It's not fun. Hell no. But I am not as overpowered by my own feelings as I have been in the past. Somehow I know what they are now. Perhaps it's writing about them; perhaps it's time. In my Memories Series poem (which I posted last night while somewhat working through this post in my head), one line reads "Memories are fluid, and engulf me when it’s right \ To look at all the shattered glass that’s gathered in my knees. \ I pull out every shard of glass, and I keep up my fight: \ A fight that’s set on fire by my memories." Lately I've been wondering whether this is simply the time that my subconscious has chosen for pulling out at least some of the splinters that have been hurting me for years, which have become so engrained that I've become accustomed to them. Perhaps when I've been hurting so intensely because of other things in my life, I have the fuel to work through elements of my past that I usually keep buried so that I don't let those feelings free.

At work I jotted down today some things, just fragments, metaphorically linking this again to pulling out splinters: "healing is like pulling out deeply embedded splinters. Bleeding is inevitable even if the nerve endings have long since been severed. It's like unplugging something. It hurts unimaginably and acutely but is cleaner and less toxic than leaving a fragment to keep stabbing for eternity, fermenting, turning gangrenous inside of me."As a child I was always petrified of getting small slivers in my feet from running barefoot on the back deck, and I remember keenly the fear of my mother attempting to root out some stubborn splinters of wood, reluctantly and as gently as she could, with a sterilized needle. Now I know that slivers have to come out. Perhaps now is a time to release the splinters of wood, the slivers of the past, which have been catalyzed by my present fear. I can only hope that this won't be too dramatic or pull me down for too long.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Memories, and thoughts for something I'm working on

I've been working lately on a piece of some sort about a comment somebody made at work a few weeks ago about stalking...a comment that is still eating at my mind with the unfairness of it all, and how people can live so close to one another, and yet in different words dictated by memory. As a historian, memory is a powerful thing to me. As a survivor, even more so.

On that note, even though I haven't figured out the post I've been meaning to post since the middle of May, here's a poem series. It hurts but it's hopeful; it shows how far I've come in the long lifespan of this blog.

2004: I will always have these memories

Sometimes I try to hide from my memories,
Stuff them in a box in the closet
And crawl down under my bed.
Running a race where I'm going nowhere,
Running away from the thoughts in my head.


Memories come calling to find me every night
Buzzing through my brain like a horde of angry bees.
I try to cover up my heart but they still rip off a bite.
I will always always always have these memories.

Killing me so quietly, drowning me in my own thoughts.
I pack all of my fears away but still they hurt me lots and lots.
Always running, never sleeping, never knowing what to do.
Always doubting, always crying, wondering if my thoughts are true.

(Repeat Chorus)

Simple silence is inviting; conversations scare me more
When I just wish with all my heart to be just like I was before.
You claim that thinking cannot kill; I don't believe a bit of it.
Apologies are powerless; I really couldn't give a shit.

(Repeat Chorus)

And still you say you understand the nightmares that have captured me.
I could describe the horror but I know that still you wouldn't see.
My brain is in a whirlwind with the bottom flying to the top.
There's nothing I wouldn't give just for this awful hell to stop.

(Repeat Chorus)

But the memories follow everywhere as I climb this ladder high.
I stop on every rung, and I always ask the question, "why?"
Thinking feels so poisonous, the snake that bit could never know
All the pain that it can bring to ignore when I say "no."

(Repeat Chorus)

Memories come chasing me, so vivid, so hard to ignore.
Why oh why can't my life be as simple as it was before?
I try to just convince myself, it didn't happen, not to me.
A little part inside myself is crying out, this couldn't be.

(Repeat Chorus)

I'll chase myself in circles 'til I just come to accept this pain.
I wonder: can the flowers grow with little sun and only rain?
I toss and turn and overthink and never do I really sleep
But there's so many questions with the answers buried far to deep.

(Repeat Chorus)

In and out and round about and just to hide what I am hiding.
No safety bar to catch me on the Ferris wheel that I am riding.
It's time to climb a wall that stands all cold and stone and foreboding.
I dance in circles on the ground and always my head is exploding.

(Repeat Chorus)

Sometimes I try to hide from my memories,
Stuff them in a box in the closet
And crawl down under my bed.
Running a race where I'm going nowhere.
Running away from the thoughts in my head.


2005: Forget regret, or suffocate in memories

Last year I tried to dig up my memories
From the dark depths of my closet
And far down under my bed.
In a whole year
I’ve finally gone somewhere
And managed to catch
The thoughts in my head.

Memories came calling to find me every night
Buzzing through my brain like a horde of angry bees.
I tried to cover up my heart but memories aren’t water-tight.
Forget regret, or suffocate in memories.

Simple silence is inviting; some things scare me very much.
I wish it didn’t hurt but still I’ll run from just a friendly touch.
But finally I’m sleeping, having dreams that might make sense to you
But when you ask me what I want I really haven’t got a clue.

The big bad wolf’s stopped chasing me and now I can release this pain.
It’s winter but the sun’s come out to shine a rainbow through the rain.
But sometimes still I wonder how my life has changed because of it:
I try but can’t remember back before the pain had truly hit.

I’m just another paper doll, a carbon copy in a line
And I just wish that moment didn’t have the power to define
The pain that’s in the craters that follow everywhere I go
The craters that he tore and dug when he ignored when I said, “no.”

There’s skin now on my shoulders and I go to school without the fear
That I’ll forget and hurt myself when past and present smudge and smear.
My clock is going clockwise and I know I see the exit sign.
When I look at the past two years, it’s tangled, but it’s still a line.


2007: I built my fight from shattered memories

Memories are fluid, and engulf me when it’s right
To look at all the shattered glass that’s gathered in my knees.
I pull out every shard of glass, and I keep up my fight:
A fight that’s set on fire by my memories.

I build a fort of crystal shards
That puncture everyone I tell
I do not want to hurt them
But my silence always screams of hell.
The world is getting closer
And I’m finally back to live in it
But all these touches hover
‘til the memory hides me under it.

I don’t know where the hurt seeps in
But still I want to patch that hole
A hurt as hard and chilling
As a tongue stuck to a frozen pole
My freckles all are separate now
But still there are too much to count
But even so the memories
Outnumber them by sheer amount.

I keep the fight, take back the night
To puncture all my memories
But shards of glass are silent
And they can’t reveal what no-one sees.
I try and try and try again
To reclaim April every year
But taking back the day is hard
When no-one understands the thing I fear.

Memories are fluid and engulf me when it’s right
To pull out all the shattered glass that’s gathered in my knees.
The world is not a crystal ball
But that cannot stop my fight:
A fight with a sharp sword that’s made of memories.


2008: Memories might travel

Memories come calling: a sharp and savage bite
Acute and unexpected fear that brings me to my knees
I fight it, overcome it, but still on every flight
I go further but I can’t erase these memories.

You tell me snippets of your life
I’m certain we are not alone
But still, I had forgotten
Things can hurt me even far from home
I’ll try not to be frightened
But a part of me is terrified
That I will never sleep
In every hostel, every train I ride…


2011: I can turn around my sordid memories

The memories now are rarer, like a clatter in the night
A mirror reflecting fragments of the terror that it sees
What’s hardest now is that I know, though I have won this fight
For others, fear is realer than my memories.

Sometimes life is strange and silent;
Sometimes memories follow here.
Sometimes everything I see
Morphs into everything I fear.
Memories that snag into
The tapestry I’m knitting up
Come and paralyze my throat
Like pebbles in a sippy cup.

Monsters underneath the bed
Disperse when they see morning light
But monsters dwelling in my head
Are unreliable in their fright.
Day to day I’ll never know
When memories will swallow me.
A captive in a sunless cell
Will never know when she’ll be free

But always still I’ll live my life.
With dreams so big, I’ll voyage through
The gorge that jumps into my path
To strangle everything I do.
The fingers tightening ‘round my neck
Don’t know that they are powerless:
Now I can turn each touch I fear
Into a loving, safe caress.

The memories now are rarer, like a clatter in the night,
And now they quickly disappear like an evasive breeze.
I may never understand them, but I know the future’s bright:
I can win any war armed with my memories.

Friday, June 1, 2012


The hardest thing sometimes about being a twin is when the bond feels like it's been broken.
She keeps trying to end her life. I cannot let her. She doesn't want to speak to me, because I stopped her.
She wrote a note to say goodbye, and never mentioned me. Everyone else thinks this is a cruel oversight, on her part. But I think it's because she knows she didn't need to say anything at all.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Twas brillig
and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe
All mimsy were the borogroves
And the momeraths outgrabe.

Something terrible has happened
and every part of me is exploding with fear and grief.

Beware my thoughts, her absent eyes, the beeping, and the tears.
Every pill I'd pull from her
and take myself instead.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

This is so close to what I could have written. I don't like regret as a sentiment; it's too final.  But the muddled-ness and confusion, the guilt, the attempts to forget...this woman has hit the nail on the head.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What did homophobia have to do with being raped?

This is more pre-work to our TEACH storytelling workshop, which I wrote 5 days prior to the workshop itself. For the record, I still haven't managed to tell aloud any reworkings of my story for the group - more about that later.

Offside - this is my 50th public post!

Bear with me here - this is personal stuff, tough stuff. I don't usually think about connections between my own experiences or try to detangle things, so I would love comments/constructive criticism if anybody does read this.

TW for non-graphic discussion of rape

What did homophobia have to do with being raped?

When it happened, I didn't see any connections. Just pain, shame, fear, and confusion. Now the links are more obvious. Homophobia was a catalyst, not a cause - in my case, rape was not a specifically homophobic crime - and it was one of the biggest hurdles that kept me silent.

In my first year of high school, fitting in was paramount. Boys were a sudden new feature of my perplexing new social landscape. I knew that admitting that I was interested in them only as friends, and that I instead harboured a crush on the girl who sat next to me in science class, would be social suicide. It would mean a return to the bullying that had followed me from school to school for five years and which I hoped desperately to escape.

So when my sister told of a guy who she and a friend had a crush on, I thought it best to play along. I flirted back, awkwardly, and kept mum through fear when he first began to touch me in the halls. Saying no would, I thought, out me right away. And telling a teacher? After years of bullying from students and teachers alike, I was reluctant to trust them. Besides, he was acting the way I believed older high school boys were meant to behave. My response was to act like a typical teen girl; that is, to giggle and play along. I hoped that would let me maintain for my classmates the illusion of being straight. To me, it was a performance. For him, it was real. I didn't know how dangerous that could be.

The situation escalated. He pursued other girls as well, but they stood up for themselves. I was too scared to, and didn't fight him off when he casually but inappropriately touched me at my locker, my heart pounding and my insides shriveling up with shame. I'd sacrifice the private parts of my body to keep my real crushes private and protect my fledgling friendships. At the same time, I felt like a traitor to myself, and to my feminist values. I started to separate my body from my mind.

In early April of that year, I made plans to come out. A good friend was scheduled to visit from out of town over the Easter long weekend, and I planned to come out to her to test the waters. The idea was that if that went well, I'd tell my whole family at our upcoming Passover Seder. None of that ever happened.

The Wednesday before that weekend, the boy I'd feared and flirted with raped me after school.

My friend never visited that weekend; fears or a flu epidemic kept her home. I couldn't come out to her as practice. Besides, I felt guilty and tainted, fearing that I'd let this happen; that I was a phoney lesbian; that other women would shun me. I came to believe that, perhaps, I had deserved it.

After that, I couldn't tell my family. Besides, my mind was reeling and my body was so detached that I would touch my own hands numbly, doubting that they were mine. As the months passed, I began to wonder if I was even real. I hurt myself, to test if I existed and to see if I could feel more pain. Mostly I felt nothing but numbness. When I did feel anything, I felt grief for what I had lost: the sanctity of my body and the queer community which, by flirting with the boy who raped me, I thought I had betrayed.

On the second anniversary of the rape, I wrote a speech about feminism which a friend of mine read for my grade eleven English class. I told of how rape had reinforced my feminist views, and outed myself as a rape survivor. Yet I emphatically denied that I was a lesbian, telling my classmates that it was something I had thought about but that it didn't really describe me. I don't know what they made of that but it was, to an extent, true. At that point, I identified as asexual, thinking any hope I had of sexuality had been destroyed by rape, and denying the attractions that I felt towards women on the grounds that I didn't deserve those feelings. Now, I feel that asexuality wasn't the word or concept that I needed, but at the time it was a way for me to acknowledge for myself that I was certainly not straight. It also justified my own decision to trample my own same-sex attractions.

Overcome by pangs of jealousy when a friend came out as a lesbian, I called a queer youth helpline. They listened to me. They assured me that my past could not dictate my identity. The young woman at the end of the line never doubted me or denied my pain. She just said, "that's rough" and let me talk all I wanted. The guilt and uncertainty that had paralyzed me for two years began to melt away. I could almost feel my body thaw. It was not easy. Over the past few years I have felt and lived through the pain that I had denied by living separately from my own body. Dissociation, I have since learned, compounds physical pain and saves it for later, like a systemic burning regurgitation of an unwanted meal. That's not to say that I don't still sometimes dissociate - but it's a coping strategy I use when it's the safest thing to do at the time, rather than by default. I no longer hurt myself.

Days after calling the helpline, I came out to my immediate family, and in the weeks that followed, to some close friends. I was lucky to be surrounded by accepting and loving people. My fears of rejection and further abuse were unfounded. I only wish that I'd squarely faced homophobia and my fears of its potential impact before it blinded me to the positive forces that were with me, and within me, all along.

Thoughts before storytelling workshop

A few days ago we had a storytelling workshop at TEACH. Here's a piece I wrote a couple of weeks beforehand.


We have a storytelling workshop booked for later this month. I've been telling the same story, with just a handful of adjustments, for six years now. It's become engrained. I talk about positives: a loving family; finding community as a young adult; the freedom of finally finishing high school.

I hardly mention bullying, much less homophobic bullying. The kids excluded me, and I excluded myself, to varying degrees, for as long as I can remember. It's part of being an imaginative, intellectual kid. And the more excluded you are, the more awkward you become. And the circle continues.

I remember a kid calling my t-shirt "gay" when I was nine, at day camp. I told him that people could be gay, but shirts couldn't - was he stupid? - but that just made the other (bigger, cooler, sportier, more confident, prettier, smarter?) kids laugh. It hurt most when girls laughed at me, when I just wanted to impress them and join them.

So when the kids at my new school that fall called my outdated children's clothing "gay," I didn't speak up. I changed my clothes to something tighter and less childish, hated myself for giving in, and compromised that I'd wear only purple for the rest of the school year, just to keep some control.

The kids still teased me.

It was almost two years before someone next called me "gay." I was eleven years old, at camp - an all-girls overnight camp, this time - and one of my richer, prettier, more confident, and better-dressed cabin-mates called me a lesbian. I forget how it came up, other than that it was somehow part of the card game we were playing and "lesbian" basically was intended to be synonymous with "loser." I said that lesbians were cool and that I didn't want to play anymore. And that was it for any hope of friendship, or even peaceful cohabitation, with my cabin-mates. They didn't know what "lesbian" was other than an insult, when to me it was a word that I knew described some of my childhood role models. Unfortunately, I didn't know how to fight back.

That was really just the tip of the bullying iceberg...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What's this? Another post in less than a month?

I think I've revived all my old posts, minus a few that I felt were inappropriate to keep now that I've made my blog visible. Just as an aside, anything that appears on this blog has the potential to be upsetting, minus the few-month period where I made some posts public on the illusion that this was a travel blog.

At any rate, I recently finished reading Alice Sebold's memoir, Lucky, and one quotation really resonated with me and reminded me of a poem I wrote years and years ago that I never posted here (I wrote a lot more poetry than is in the archives of this blog - most of it wasn't worth posting, even based on the somewhat grandiose self-serving criteria of the teenager that I was).

She wrote, "I live in a world where the two truths coexist; where hell and hope lie in the palm of my hand" (p. 243). I think that's the answer I was looking for in 2004.

Fractured Truths

April 7th, 2004

I have two strong hands,
And they’re stronger than you think.
Strong enough to take the truth
And pull it into two pieces,
One to hold in each hand.
It’s still the truth,
And nothing but the truth.
The whole truth? Perhaps not,
But it’s not as if anybody
Really knows the difference.

I’m not a liar. There’s no wrong
In splitting my past into two parcels
And sharing it around how I like.
And if I use my mouth
And take a bite to keep,
Is there anything wrong with that?
I have two hands, one mouth, and one truth.

Why can’t I split it?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Some timetravelling tonight...

I haven't updated here in over three years.Welcome back.

I wrote this essay/speech seven years ago. Seventeen-year-old me is in a sense worlds different from how I am today, but simultaneously exactly the same. Then, I wrote it as a response to a class debate on feminism, not realizing the reaction it would cause from my classmates, teacher, principal, and even the school superintendent. Now, I am less concerned about a reaction than about having a place, years on, to share once again. Several years later, I might phrase things somewhat differently, and it would likely be more academic in tone. The sentiment, however, is exactly the same.

To share with whom? I frankly have no idea. Perhaps the blogosphere, but likely not. If anybody is out there, reading, then say hello.

Here goes...

**trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault**

Let Each Girl Grow To Become a Phenomenal Woman: Why I Am A Feminist
April 16th, 2005

“I should never be able…to hand you after an hour’s discours a nugget of pure truth to wrap up between the pages of your notebooks and keep on the mantle-piece forever” ~ Virginia Woolf.

I will, however, try very hard to convince you of my plight as a feminist, as Virginia Woolf did for me in A Room of One’s Own.


I am a feminist. I was raised and educated as a feminist, but that is certainly not the sole basis for my feminism. I consider becoming a feminist to be a personal decision; it can be influenced by outside factors, but the final piece of the puzzle rests in a person’s heart. I know what I want, and I am working toward it. My feminism is not based on my feminist education, my female role models, or even my realization that I am not entirely safe in the world. It is the convergence of all of my social values, my present reality, the story of my past, and my views of the world that make me a feminist. I am proud to be a feminist.
Some people like to point out that I was raised without a male role model, but that is neither true, nor would it mean that I hate men. I absolutely do not hate men. I did grow up without a father, but there were still enough men in my life for me not to develop the idea that men were violent. I was never suspicious of men; on the contrary, I frequently wondered what would happen if a man I met was my father, and I usually decided that while it would be quite agreeable, I liked my life enough as it was. My male role models were gentle and kind to me and to other girls and women. Men can be feminists too. A feminist can be any person of any race, sex, or sexual orientation.
I have often heard remarks that I do not “dress like a feminist”. What, might I ask, does a feminist dress like? Is a feminist supposed to fade into the woodwork and hide her whole body under clothing so that men cannot mistake her as a sex object? Or is she supposed to dress in clothes that are as revealing as possible to prove that she is proud of her sexuality? Or should she dress as eclectically as possible, so she can let the world know that she is not afraid of being different? I think a feminist can fit any combination of these descriptions; she should dress however she likes, and not try to live up to standards that she does not support. My clothes match if I can be bothered to match them, and are as modest or immodest as I wish, depending on how self-conscious I feel on a particular day. I disagree with any idea that only women who wear certain types of clothing are “real” feminists.
I also do not fit the stereotype of the butch woman who plays hockey. I have never, ever, simultaneously worn skates and held a hockey stick, and I have no intention to. I do not see any reason to play traditionally male sports just to prove that I am as tough as a man. I also do not see any reason to fight, to push people around, or to attempt to claw my way to the top of any sort of a chain. I can be a successful woman and be good at what I do without living on the top of the world and hurting other people to get there. A strong woman should not need to hurt other people to get where she needs; she can get there without sacrificing the dignity of other people. A feminist does not necessarily have to be richer or louder than a man; she just needs to know what she wants and know how to get there, wherever it may be.
I have read the newspaper ever since I could read. Every so often, I would see an article that talked about how a woman was raped or injured by a man. It upset me. I did not want to be a part of the so-called weaker sex, but I wanted to be a woman. At school I learned about the media, and how much it degraded society. I hated the stereotypes presented in the magazines that my classmates read. I hated hearing about women in the sex trade who had to sell their bodies to survive, and were killed because there was no safe place for them. I hated the music that talked about sex, because it was usually shallow and it all sounded the same. I was sick of hearing stories about a beautiful woman lured into bed, told through toneless music designed to appeal to a man’s sexual desires rather than his musical ear. That is not what music is supposed to be about. Most of all, I hated the music, movies, and magazines that glorified violence, especially sexual violence. I did not think it was fair that the music and pop culture industry supported the hell that some people had to live through, every day of their lives.
One story in particular bothered me. A girl who was introduced to my grade seven class as Sally was assaulted because she had supposedly “implied consent” by wearing a low-cut top to a job interview. The court ruled against her, saying that it was her own fault, and that she had chosen for the assault to happen by dressing the way she had. As far as I had learned, assault is an involuntary action, and a survivor could not have simply “implied consent” with her choice of dress. It disgusted me that a woman could be hurt in the way that Sally had, and that the law would not even support her by punishing her assaulter. I have since learned that it is nearly impossible to convict a rapist; the survivor’s “character” is shredded by the defense, the people she is allowed to use as witnesses are screened, and the case is usually dropped due to lack of evidence. Ninety percent of rape trials end without a guilty verdict for the rapist. This does not mean that ninety percent of alleged rapes did not really occur; instead, it shows the gross faults in the justice system’s ability to deal with sex crimes.
My campaign to crush violence against women began two years before this violence became a suffocating part of my own life. I started writing articles for a school zine, On Target. I wrote empowering poetry and drew cartoons. I doubt that my work ever had any impact on my community, but it felt fulfilling and gave me a sense of the reality I would experience when sexual violence shattered my life on April 16th, 2003. I do not like to delve into details, but I will admit that I no longer feel safe at school, where the attack occurred. I think that is where my feminist ideas took hold of my life more and more. I deserve to feel safe at school. As I slowly recovered and accepted that the memories I have from that terrible afternoon will always be a part of my life, I realized more and more how little my peers realized that events like this actually happen. Many people think that rape is something that happens in the movies, to people who they do not know. That is undeniably false. It had never occurred to me that these things could happen to me until I experienced them first-hand.
One person who I commend for her courage in bringing the issue of sexual violence to light is a young woman named Hanne, who posted the following empowering story on her online journal, provoking a large group of women in an online community to acknowledge that they deserve better, and creating a huge response:

After a dear friend of mine was raped a few weeks ago, I've been thinking a lot about sexual violence and how you're not supposed to talk about it.
This friend of mine who was raped recently isn't the only person I know who has endured being raped and lived through the aftermath, just the most recent. She isn't the only person I know who has had to try to figure out how to glue the broken bowl of her life back together after having it shattered by sexual violence, praying that it'll still hold water when she's done.
As I have altogether too many times in the past when other friends have become victims of rape or other sex crimes, I have wondered what I can possibly do to make it better. But I also know I can't take it back or prevent it or even really make it easier. The best thing I can do is come out and let her know that she's not alone, that there are others of us out here, that she can make it through, because I'm a rape survivor, and we do make it through.
I was thinking in the shower this morning about how many people I know -- women, men, transfolks, others -- have some sort of sexual violence somewhere in their pasts, wondering how many more people I know have some sort of sexual violence lurking in their future.
I wondered for a moment what it would look like if just for one day, everyone who had survived sexual violence were visible as a survivor, if we could actually see the extent of it, if we could all know just how very not-alone we are. I wondered how angry and sad it would make me to know. I wondered how much power there might be in the truth.
I'm not sure what to do with this, yet. But I do feel like outing myself, and encouraging other people to out themselves if they feel okay about doing so. This isn't about telling the story of what happened -- just for the record, I don't generally like to talk about it much and I get uncomfortable with other people's voyeuristic curiosity about what happened to me, although other people feel differently about telling their stories or being asked questions, and I think people should be free to place their own limits on how and with whom they want to talk about details.
This is about being public in regard to something that is normally kept a very big, very dark secret, thus ensuring that we can [not] all pretend that This Sort Of Thing Doesn't Happen To People Like You And Me.
It does happen to people like you and me. Trust me, I know.

I'm Hanne. I'm a survivor of sexual violence.
No Pity. No Shame. No Silence.

Like Hanne, I want to raise awareness and bring the issue to light without highlighting my own story, which I still find very painful to tell. However, I am stepping up and giving my point of view after realizing how many of my female classmates think that women have had equal rights to men since the 1970s. These girls are far too wrong; women still pay more money for the same services, such as the identical dry-cleaning job or haircut, than a man would pay. At last, some government officials want to fix this problem, but they are scorned by other officials who feel that the government has better things to do than protect women’s rights.
Women living in Toronto are very fortunate; we get much easier access to abortion, health care, and other social services than women in rural areas, let alone those in less progressive parts of the world. It scares me. I do not feel safe at my own high school, and yet I am considered fortunate compared to many of the world’s women. I am appalled by the political situation in the United States. I dread the day when abortions are again made illegal. Many countries are embarking on a path that will eventually take away the rights that feminists have strived for over many generations. I fear that one day, women will have no rights at all. Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale presents a terrifying depiction of a woman’s life in a future republic in what is now the United States of America. This woman’s life as a handmaid, having no rights, sexually degraded, and forbidden from anything that gives her real pleasure, is eerily close to the future that I fear the world may be approaching.
To me, a feminist has many essential roles. She must protect women’s rights from descending into a dark hole, until they are eventually forgotten and women are dismissed as no longer legally being “persons”. She must advocate for women’s rights in countries where women are still not legally recognized as citizens, and where they do not have the freedom to choose their own path in life. She must demand justice for women who are hurt in sex crimes, and have no fair justice system to turn to. Being a feminist is not about standing up and saying “I am woman, hear me roar!” It is about proving to the world through actions that women can do more than roar. We can also make change.
I am a feminist because I believe that I deserve more rights and freedoms than I currently have. One in four women experience sexual violence that is inflicted by men in their lifetimes, but hardly any men experience the same violence from women. I am one of those one in four women, and I want to change this statistic, as well as many others. I will not stop fighting for my cause until that statistic is evened out, or until violence is removed from our society altogether. I will not stop until women feel safe, and do not have to endure degrading whistles as they walk down the street. I will not stop until women and men are financially equal. I have no wish for women to be better than men, only equal. I am a feminist not to fulfill somebody else’s dream for me, not to get revenge for my past, or to make men feel as degraded and unvalued as many women have felt. I am a feminist to build a better future myself and for the girls and women who I care about.


Print Sources:
Angelou, Maya. Phenomenal Woman.
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. Toronto: McClelland and Steward-Bantam Limited, 1985.
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. Frogmore: Triad/Panther Books, 1977.
Canadian Women Studies Journal/ The Linden School. On Target: Taking Aim At Violence.

Online Sources:
Australian Women’s Intra Network. International Women’s Day: A World to Win. 16 Apr. 2005.
B, Hanne. No Pity. No Shame. No Silence. 8 Mar. 2004. 16 Apr. 2005.
Tiana. Rape: It’s not your fault. 11 Oct. 2001. 16 Apr. 2005.