the other side of darkness

months ago i went home.  or i went to one of my many homes.  i re-entered a circle of goddesses dear to me, who i’ve held close even across the miles.  it was just three of us that day but we were so relieved to see each other.

we got through the what-the-hell-have-you-been-up-to chit chat and dove deep into the heavy things we were carrying in our hearts that day. one goddess began by telling us her parents were getting divorced and that her father had been living with her for awhile.  she didn’t tell us why they were separating, just that they were and that it was an unhealable separation.  then another of us revealed that she was just starting to recover memories of childhood sexual assault by her father and that she didn’t know what to do with her new history.  she looked at me then and asked me how i’d started healing from my own assault.  i gave her what i could, but it didn’t seem like much.  it didn’t seem appropriate to her experience.

emboldened, our friend whose parents were separating shared their reason.  it turns out that a few months before her brother confronted their father about his own experiences of sexual assault as a child and it was destroying their family.  we sat there in awe, in pain, and in shock.  what had recently been this light and enthusiastic reunion was grounded in the seriousness of ourimage realities and we sat there, rooted to our chairs and connected to each other.  in the course of an hour i experienced grief, rage, exhaustion and hopelessness.  but what had been weighing down my two friends, i now got to help carry.

when i got home that night, i was devastated.  i spiraled into darkness.  overwhelmed by these new stories and others i’d heard and supported in the recent past.  it had already been so much and now i was incorporating two separate experiences of childhood sexual assault by family members into the kaleidoscope of violence i’ve been collecting.  i gave myself a few days of frequent crying until it felt like i was dry.  still grieving, certainly, but moving beyond the repressive part of my grief and into action.  then i started emailing people i knew who’d had experiences of childhood sexual abuse: asking for resources, advice, literature.  the response was overwhelming and after digging through the leads i got and calling different hot lines, i amassed a resource guide.  i needed to feel useful, i needed to understand what i could do to be supportive, i needed some insight into what my friends were struggling with.  i needed to regain control, somehow.  i sent off my list of resources and ordered some of the books i’d had recommended to me.  and then i went on vacation for a little bit.

when i got home the books i’d ordered were waiting for me.  almost mocking me.  i had run away and it was time to decide whether to travel back into the dark places i’d been.  i waited a few days.  then i dove.  i read “the courage to heal: a guide for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse” obsessively.  i threw myself into it completely.  until i’d read it all.  until i’d cried so much with grief and reopened the wounds of my friends’ pain.  and when i finished i knew i had to pass it along.  i sent the book and a letter to the friend who’d been abused.  i wasnt sure how it would be received, but i knew it was time to send it.

since then i’ve been writing letters with both friends, at my initiation.  i didnt do anything more than express my own anger and pain, my own horror and love for them.  i said things that opened them to their own feelings.  and every letter i’ve gotten since we’ve started writing has opened by thanking me for waking them up to their pain, their grief, their fury.  i especially liked hearing about the fury.  both friends told me they’d been avoiding talking to anyone else about these things but that they were compelled to write it all down to me.  knowing i would listen and not run away.

and again i’ve been stunned by the simplicity of supporting others through horror.  through violence.  it isnt that hard.  we’ve all experienced some form of violence and horror, it’s the culture we’re raised in these days.  and we can all find common ground in our experiences, places that intersect in our hearts and hurts, places where we can grieve together, where we can scream and shout and cry together.  taking on supporting someone else through their healing process is not scary, it is self healing too.

and i am sitting with this new violence that i havent faced yet.  how pervasive childhood sexual abuse is and how little we talk about it.  how the silence kids are threatened to keep as their fathers, mothers, cousins, neighbors, grandfathers or others violate their bodies and their trust, how it perpetuates into adulthood.  how so many people deny survivor’s experiences.  i want every school to have assemblies about childhood sexual assault, so we are recognizing that it happens and that it is absolutely devastating to the children who are abused.  i want us to break taboos to save lives.  i want us to break taboos to help lives heal.  because we all need healing and this work is integral to our mutual success and happiness.  it is the work of living and creating something different for ourselves.  so let go of your fears and dive in.  and please, feel free to use this blog as a forum to share and discuss and rant.  stepping into this role as support has connected me more deeply to different people in my life and i think we’ll all be surprised by the community that stands up to support us when we break the silence.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. raven0us
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 02:53:27

    You are my loves.

    Reading this feels like such a conundrum. I hear and relate to these states of healing and I want to be with each of you as fully as I can be, face to face. I am simultaneously detoxing the horrific effects of this essentially and intimately rapist culture and attempting to exist in a broad system of support for you(who are discussed here :P). I feel as though simplifying in the sense of breaking down relationships into direct experience is important… which means… I really have to travel out to the east coast. So… I’m coming. I will be out there for ANYTHING you all need because you all are what I believe in.


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