Monday, April 15, 2013


I invest meaning in things that ought not be meaningful. Like in tomorrow. Abstract, socially constructed regimentation of the solar calendar. I am trying not to be scared, triggered. Trying to use my emotions as productive energy. I cannot be eaten by a date, an arbitrary thread, imaginary line linking the present to the past. I will not be smothered by an abstraction.


That's how many days I've had this blog for (for the mathematically challenged, that's 10 years, less a day).

I'm doing a PhD in history. Studying change is something that I do. Studying stagnation, too. In 10 years I've seen change in the world, and I've seen it stagnate and go flat. Nothing changes, yet nothing stays the same. Same old story, what's the use of tears? What's the use of praying if there's nobody who hears? Turning, turning, turning turning turning through the years.

When I started this blog, it was all about me; my healing, my pain, my challenges. It was a private place; my mother knew where I kept my diary, but didn't know where to find me on the internet. Now, it's about bigger things, although the political is still very personal for me. Ten years ago, rape culture certainly existed, but wasn't labelled as such in popular discourse. The internet has given us a place for dialogue and social growth, but it is also a minefield, a sinkhole, a crevasse. Ten years ago, a teen was raped, but cell phones had no cameras, teens did not have Facebook, and text messaging was rare. Today, one click of a camera changes and ends lives. Perhaps it can bring justice, but not before bullying, stigma, and constant torment. The aftermath has changed immensely over the past ten years, and I cannot fathom how my horrors could have manifested themselves differently had they occurred in 2013, not 2003. Turning, turning, turning through the years; minutes into hours and the hours into years. Nothing changes, nothing ever can. Round and round the roundabout and back where you began.

Violence today has taken over the media; bombs went off in Boston at the finish line of the marathon, exploding bodies and changing and ending lives. Got me thinking about violence, and how we react to it as a society. Sudden violence brings sudden attention; everyone is asking whether the people they know in Boston are OK, clarifying the situation on the news. But not all violence is as explosive. People talk about rape how they talk about faraway violence in faraway wars - distant, abstract, a crime against bodies that are not our own. Civilian war casualties and rape survivors are unknown, anonymous, people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time; implicitly, people who did something wrong. Ten years ago, I hid my pain, my shame, my fear. I pushed it away from my mind for as long as I can. I talked about SARS, the illness that was terrifying Toronto, and not about the social ills that had hurt me. I talked about the war in Iraq, and not about the war and violence that is wrought daily on people closer to home. I had no words to talk about how I was hurting, and could only talk allegorically, abstractly.

Shootings, bombings, even natural disasters bring dialogue. It strikes at people that it could have been them, somebody they knew. And people talk about that. Rape is different. We hear about teens who have had their lives torn apart, but if people are thinking, "that could have been me," we don't say so. People talk about an abstract girl, usually one who did something wrong, a girl who should have, could have, done something differently. That girl is also me, could also be you. We are surrounded every day by people who have experienced horrible violence, and we are silent. Around the world, people die in wars with nary a mention in the media. But there is a war on our own soil, in every country in the world, and it's not the "war on terror." We are at war, in terror, changing our lives to avoid rape, averting our gaze while talking about rape in the assumption that it always happens to someone else, never to me, never to you. Invisible, silent, anonymous, insidious violence. It is probably eating somebody near you, consuming from within.

We see the blood, the physical manifestations of violence in Boston. But the explosions in the heart of a survivor, the daily amputations of parts of the soul - those are invisible. The marathon runners who witnessed and experienced trauma in Boston today will have a venue to talk about their fears, their pain. All violence is horrible, yet some violence is privileged in its social reception.

I do not mean here to silence the violence experienced by civilians targeted in war or terrorism, but there are parallels. We are abstract and silent on the massacres of people of colour in places far away. We are abstract and silent on the sexual violence faced primarily by women in places close to home. The emotional rawness that we see in discourses of non-sexual violence affecting people of privilege is absent when violence affects us at our most marginalized. Rape culture is silencing survivors, enabling and perpetuating violence. I have not lived in a war-torn nation. I fear that it may be appropriative to suggest that rape culture is a war, so this parallel is certainly problematic. Yet, with the barrage of abuses it entails, rape culture situates women's bodies, and other bodies that don't conform to hegemonic masculinity, in an abstract nation, far away. Like war, rape culture normalizes violence that happens in a far-away, abstract place. Like war, rape culture gives a louder voice to the perpetrators of violence than to its victims.

I've survived the past ten years. Personally, I've moved a long ways. I've won a battle. I am, and we are, still at war.

Must we always be at war?

Round and round and back where you began.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Adventures in mindfulness, part 4, or so.

The mindfulness group I've been attending all term ended tonight. I'll miss it. It was the hardest thing I've done in a long time, but really rewarding.

Dissociating has been my go-to coping strategy when things are really bad, for a good 10 years now. A few years ago, I learned to at least control it, and use it as an intentional coping strategy rather than a cop-out from my subconscious. I could get away from pain by taking a brief vacation from my mind and body, somehow. It's hard to explain if you've never dissociated. Five years ago, I managed to control flashbacks, so that I would dissociated into nothingness, rather than terror. This term, I've been working on being present, and riding with things that are painful. There were nights when that was crazily hard, but I got through. 

This term has been a bit like trying to fix a hole in a knitting pattern. In order to go back, you have to rip some stitches, and that can be tricky, as there is a risk that everything might unravel. Even once you do succeed, sometimes there is still a kink in the thread where the problem was. It takes surrounding the messy part with clean parts to make the messy part blend in and not look so significant. I unravelled some of my emotions a bit this term, and have been re-knitting them. It still looks bumpy, but I'm hoping to have a well-formed sock in the end.