20 Years Ago

November 7, 2016

Today would have been mine and Brigid’s 20th Anniversary as “besties.”

We were both new employees to a buffet/full service style restaurant. We had never worked together; but we were both assigned to work this massive party. The thing about these kinds of restaurants is the service staff is always short. Instead of carrying three or four tables, like in a traditional full-service restaurant, it was not uncommon to have 10 to 20 tables. This was a full party – the entire back room – if memory serves me we probably had 100+ guests. It was just the two of us.

These weren’t “nice” people either. They were nasty and treated their two servers like dirt; intentionally making things difficult. They demanded that once a plate was dirty it be removed from their table. Never mind the fact that they would go up to the buffet and put one or two things on their plate. You would go to a table and get drink refills, “More tea, ma’am?” “No, I’m good…thanks.” You would return to the table moments later only to have this same woman hand you her empty glass and say, “I would like a refill.” BITCH!! The next time you refilled the drinks you were prepared and brought her a tea anyway. “I don’t want that, take it away!”

It was a long and rough night. To make matter worse this waitress I was working with for the first time was a WACKO. She would be in the kitchen throwing stuff, cussing, and then stomp out with a smile plastered on her face. I wasn’t sure what to think of her but it seemed that she was in the mood swings from hell. I didn’t really care, she was keeping up and we were getting it done. Still – I kept my distance.

Finally the party from the 7th level of HELL went away. She stormed outside for a cigarette and I asked if I could bum one. We got outside and she slid down the wall like Jello and started to cry. She told me that her Grandfather had died that day, but our boss said she had to come in and work the party, then she could go home. I suddenly understood. I told her she needed to leave and be with her family. “Go, get out of here, I will clean the dining room.” She wouldn’t, she would stay and clean up. She said she appreciated it but she wouldn’t leave me to do that alone. We cleaned as fast as we could and she left.

We didn’t know it that day, but the death of her Grandfather and the party from Hell would create an amazing friendship. A friendship that even death can’t destroy.

The years went by. Our children grew. We both divorced horrible husbands. I found a great guy and remarried, she was my Matron of Honor. Our Granddaughters were born and have grown. I hate the fact that they will never know their Grandmother. How amazing and special she was. It will be up to me alone to keep those memories for them.

Tonight would have been special!! We would have gone to dinner, argued over who paid the bill, tipped too much because we hassled the server. Not in a cruel way, just telling old stories the way long time friends do. We would have both purchased gifts that cost way too much, but that meant a lot. Like the antique friendship quilt she bought me for Christmas last year. The one that is now hanging on a ladder by my bed. At the same time her birthday present is still in my closet, still in the Amazon box, unopened, unwrapped. I keep meaning to give it away…but I just can’t. It was the Highlander season 1 box set. She would have gone nuts…she adored Adrian Paul.

How do you lose one of the great loves of your life and move forward. I don’t know? I still don’t know where to go and what to do. I feel like part of me is missing and I know that I cannot join her…not until my time runs out. I remember our 20th – celebrate it in fact – knowing that I may celebrate 40 more November 7th’s without her. (I am only 47) But I also know that I will pass this date as many times as will be required because that is what she wants and my last November 7th is only up to God. I also know that I will never have that kind of love again. It is irreplaceable. I also know that I am blessed to have had it in the first place. People live their entire lives and never love another person the way we loved one another. It was truly a once in a lifetime kind of love.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Brigid. I love you to the moon and back…

Peace,

Joan

The work of mourning

September 19, 2016

Hello Friends –

I want to thank you all for the thoughts and prayers. I thought I would check in and rant for a while. This blog was started as part of my therapy – so I might as well keep going on that.

Those who know me outside of the blog, know that I am a student of history. In particular, the Civil War, in all of it’s craziness. I also grew up in the cemetery industry, my family was 4 generation sextons of a small, country cemetery. Death was something that I grew up around so I am comfortable with the rite and ritual – so to speak.

I bring this up because I believe that we have lost something. There was a time when most of the funerals in America were performed at home. We were not separated from death, it surrounded us, engulfed us, and we walked side by side. Mourning and grief were accepted as normal. Sadness didn’t need to be hidden away.

In Victorian times (the period correlating with the reign of Queen Victoria – which follows through the Civil War and ends in around 1901) there were certain expectations of both those who mourn and the public. Most are familiar with the wearing of all black, but it was much more than that. Those who were in mourning were distinguished by their dark clothing or by the black armband that they wore. The amount of “social expectation” placed on these individuals was minimal. Many of you may think of the scene in Gone With The Wind where Scarlett shows up to a ball and is asked to dance by Rhett. She “scandalizes” the community by dancing with him while in mourning. True mourning of the period was much different, although attending a ball/dance would have been prohibited (except for the young…allowances were made for young people.)

Primarily – people were given the space and the time to mourn. If a person was invited to a dinner or a quiet event; they were allowed to decline without being told, “You really should get out.” Callers could be received or declined without judgments. Social pressure was removed. If you didn’t feel like getting out of your night dress and wrapper – that was allowed. If you felt like going out – that was also allowed. The simple statement of “mourning” was accepted and understood by everyone.

So why do I bring this up? I bring it up because this is where my greatest struggle lies. Last week at work, a co-worker came up to me with a movie called, “This Is Where I Leave You.” She asked me if I had seen it, and I have not, and told me it is really funny and to watch it. The movie is about a death and a family coming to terms with it – it is a comedy. She was somewhat upset that I didn’t want to watch a funny movie about death. I have also had to push off many of Brigid’s friends who want to “get together and talk about her.” Most of them want more details of her death; which we are keeping private. I also find that they want more details of the moment of her death, morbidly fascinated about “how it feels to do CPR” and “why didn’t you know” questions. Well, I didn’t know because she didn’t tell me and doing CPR isn’t that bad; so long as it is a stranger in the ER. Doing CPR on your best friend is more awful than I can put into words. Having the medical knowledge to know that no matter how hard you try she is already gone and that only a miracle will bring her back. Screaming inside for that miracle to happen, emergency vehicle sirens and people speaking but there is no sound. There is no sound – just silence. But the silence isn’t quiet – it is so loud that it roars. So many people who want to connect to her through me – “help me with MY grief.” At the same time I cannot help them. One thing I know is that I cannot be their anchor because I am already drowning. The endless communication and work with the attorneys, the thank you cards, the remnants of her life that I have to count, store, donate. The endless loads of laundry at the Laundromat – each opened box holds her smell and I know that once I wash those things – I will lose that connection forever. At the same time; each load of laundry completed and donated is one more step to completing these tasks. These are the trappings of life that she has no use for – no need to save them.

Too much of our world has lost the etiquette that surrounds mourning. This isn’t to say that I feel like I should be allowed a spot in a corner and to be left alone. On the contrary; certain people that I am close to have been my rock and my refuge. They have been the voice of reason – special thanks to Jay and Myst. At the same time; intrusion is at times overwhelming. I also find that too many people are wanting to play the game of, “I knew her longer” and “I loved her more.” I care not to argue with those people. At the same time I also choose not to repeat what Brigid actually thought about some of them. She was a kind soul who would not always push away a broken person – no matter how crazy they drove her!

So I spend my mornings in the shower in tears. I cry alone in the car. I whine to my therapist! All other times I slap a smile on my face and push forward. It is unhealthy, it isn’t honest, and it isn’t what I should be doing. Even with my husband I do this – though I long to tell him so badly exactly how much I hurt. I know that he wants to understand, but more important he wants to FIX it. He can’t fix it. He can’t stop the pain, but since he can’t fix it he can’t deal with it. So I smile and I make jokes – and I privately maintain my rituals.

Mourning doesn’t end when the casket closes. In fact, it only begins. I know that once the estate is closed and the work is done – I will have to find new ways to mourn and cope. In Victorian times – mourning was a minimum of one year – for those in deep mourning it was for two years. How I long for the permission to do that; publicly without judgment. To dress in black and be excused from the requirements of society…no; to be excused from cruel words and harsh statements. To be allowed to take care of myself. To heal with some manner of peace – even if that healing comes in an ocean of tears.

Peace,

Joan

WARNING – EXTREMELY GRAPHIC – CONTAINS PHOTOS THAT ARE TRIGGERING!!!!!!!!!!

August 28, 2016

Dear Friends,

The guy in the photo is Eric Jason Horner. He lives in Linn County, Iowa. He has lived in Benton County, Iowa. He has a Criminal Record with Iowa Courts Online. A simple Google search will bring this up.

“DISCLAIMER – THIS IS NOT A CALL TO VIOLENCE AGAINST THIS MAN – THIS POST IS TO PROTECT OTHER WOMEN!! DO NOT HARM THIS INDIVIDUAL!!”

This is the man that Brigid fell in love with, this is the man that beat her for 3 straight days. We are not able to prove that he murdered her. Although she died of massive blood clots in her lungs and had blood clots in ALL OF THE BRUISES ON HER BODY – she had a history of clots and had recently traveled with a change in altitude.

Please – never become involved with someone without doing a simple GOOGLE search. He has a long record of domestic violence.

The photographs are of Brigid’s body. The bruises on her arm are clearly from his hand – you can see the finger marks. I have debated whether or not to do this – but her mother asked me to – and I agree with her. If I can protect one women…then it is worth it.

Again – this man is currently facing drug charges, he will not change, you cannot make him NOT beat women…so if you have been asked out…RUN!!

eric horner

brigid1

brigid2

brigid3

The first month on my own

June 20, 2016

Tomorrow is one month.  A whole month has come and gone and yet I still feel as though this isn’t really real.  I keep waiting for the phone to ring, the Facebook to light up, or a sudden chat window at work.  I keep waiting for her to swing into the office while at another appointment – and yet the phone doesn’t ring, chat windows don’t open, and neither does the office door.

What is grief?  I don’t know anymore.  One minute I am relaxed and having a pretty good day and the next I am awash in whatever this emptiness is.  By emptiness I mean a whole section of “black hole” that doesn’t seem to have anything but deep black.  I see the things she left behind, the work left undone, the granddaughter that will never really know her grandma…and I feel so void that I am nearly motionless with it all.

At the same time, I move forward.  I get up, make coffee, shower, put makeup on and go to work.  I do those activities of daily living that are required…  I push forward when I don’t want to.  I see my therapist, we talk.  I think sometimes that therapy would be better with a six pack of Grape Seagram’s and a pack of cigarettes.

On the one hand I am reminded that I am alive…I did not die that day.  To quote a favorite Rich Mullins song…”the life goes on and so must the song.”  I know that death is not an option for me.  First of all, she would kick my ass at the pearly gates and though she is gone – I’m still a little afraid of her :-)  Don’t worry – she gets that joke.  Second, I believe that we are all appointed to this life.  It will last as long as it is supposed to last and there just isn’t any logical way out of it…not for me anyway.  Third, someone has to bear the torch.

Speaking of torches – I’m not a big believer in horoscopes – just sometimes glance at them out of interest but not really taking anything to heart.  However, her horoscope last week dropped me where I stood.  “When you pass the torch and it’s still burning, it’s the responsibility of the next person to keep it burning still.  You’ll be a torch passer, so pick your person well.”

On top of all of this, a job has opened up working in Peer Support.  Great timing…right!?  However, it has always been my hope and my dream…so I submitted my application.  Not trying to get my hopes up but also can’t seem to help but feel a little bit of spark.  Maybe now.

I’m still not making sense of this new normal…because there is nothing that feels “normal” right now.  Tomorrow will come and go – and the second month will begin.  Hanging on to faith because there isn’t much else to hold on to right now – faith and a couple of very good friends.

To those of you who read our blog – thank you for keeping me in your thoughts and your prayers.  It has been a blessing.

Peace,

Joan

Passing the torch

June 13, 2016

I’m not a big believer in horoscopes – primarily…I read them for fun.  However, Brigid’s horoscope for today was quite compelling.

“When you pass the torch and it’s still burning, it’s the responsibility of the next person to keep it burning still.  You’ll be a torch passer, so pick your person well.”

Since we began this blog back in 2010 – our goal was always to be “light-bearers” – people who can shine a light in the dark tunnel that is trauma…and help guide others.  We often talked about how dark and lonely it can be…when you are out there on your own.  How lucky we were to have one another so that we didn’t have to walk alone.

Brigid is continually sending me little signs…and I guess this is one of them.  It isn’t often that I read her horoscope…so today’s kind of blew me away.

Sometimes I wonder why my heart is even still beating…it just hurts so bad.  I guess this is her way of reminding me that, even without her, I still have OUR mission to complete.  One of the things that I placed in the casket with her was one of my SGT shoulder boards…I kept the other.  You see, one of them was hers…and one was mine.  It was that way from the day that I earned them.  She was scheduled to have a radiation treatment on a non-malignant brain tumor.  It was my fourth time being scheduled for Primary Leadership Development Course, they kept cancelling me, although once was because I got pregnant…so I can’t blame the Guard for that one :-)  I was going to cancel – not go and stay home to be there for her.  She said, “Absolutely not!  You have to go, they will never give you another chance.  You have to earn the stripes that I never got the chance at.”

The mission continues.  I guess the torch passes from Brigid to all who are willing to pick it up.  I will carry mine.  Maybe Rich Mullins put it best in his song “I’ll Carry On.”

“I’ll carry the songs, I learned when we were kids.  I’ll carry the scars of generations gone by.  I’ll pray for you always, and I promise you this; I’ll carry on, I’ll carry on.”

I do covet your prayers and I thank you for all of you who have sent messages of support and have been praying.  You are a blessing.

Peace,

Joan

Missing you!!

June 9, 2016

I thought I would take a moment and share a few pictures.  For those who want to know – I am on the left and Brigid is on the right.  These were actually done by a local newspaper for the showing of The Invisible War in our state.  We desperately wanted to remain anonymous…so we were able to use some great lighting effects to hide who were are.  I think that they are some great shots!!

We were really terrified that people might recognize us.  You should have heard Brigid’s voice on the phone when she said, “What do you mean…Page 1 above the fold?!”  It was quite a moment for us.  However, the opportunity to have a voice – even an anonymous one – was amazing.  Truthfully, we didn’t want the story to be about US…we wanted it to be about ALL OF US.

I would ask you for your kind prayers and thoughts.  I spoke with the Medical Examiner’s office this morning and they are going through the autopsy with a fine tooth comb…they have even brought in a couple of other people to review the findings.  This is good news.  The gentleman that I spoke with could tell me very little – while also telling me a lot.  I am grateful to them that they are trying to find the answers.  ALL of the answers.  My prayer is that we can get the monster that did this to her!

Using the Stanford student as an example – it is the reality of that “20 minutes of action” he got that becomes a lifetime of hell for the Survivor.  People lecture, I have lectured, about the health risk behaviors of being a Survivor – but this isn’t what people think about.  We talk about smoking, drinking, ect… and yet the conversation about “prey for the predator” doesn’t really happen.

No matter what happened in her last months – this is how I want you all to remember Brigid.  “Page 1 above the fold” fearless and bold!  This is who we are…this is who we will continue to be.

Peace

Joan

Good night, Brigid 1970 to 2016

June 6, 2016

It is with overwhelming sadness that I write this post.  In fact, I am sitting at my desk at work so I am hoping that I can finish this without completely losing it.

On May 21, 2016, Brigid passed away.

I am going to share the details here because they are incredibly important.  For those of you who know who Brigid really is – please do not share this information with anyone at this time.  There is a pending police investigation.

Back in February Brigid made contact with a man she went to high school with.  She was so excited!  In March she let me know that he had sexually assaulted her.  I begged her to go to the Police, let me come get her and take her to the Emergency Room.  Preserve the evidence.  Let’s get this son of a bitch!  She refused.

She continued to date him.  I couldn’t push her…because the more you pushed Brigid…the more resolved she became.  I checked on her often.  How is he treating you?  Is he hurting you?  No, No…everything is fine.  He is being wonderful.

Brigid had never lied to me…but I suspected she was lying now.  Her granddaughter had left the state to live with her father and it was crushing her.  I sent her away to go to friends in another state.  She came back with excuses that her friend was babysitting and it was too much.  I didn’t know it at the time, but HE was demanding that she come home.

On May 15 there was a physical altercation in a bar.  She left before the police came.  Apparently, she was using medical marijuana but she was terrified because he was threatening her (it is illegal in our state.)  Myst…keep fighting girl!!  Please share her story!!  From what I have since learned he continued to beat on her at her home.  She didn’t want him living there – but he kept moving his stuff in.

On May 19th she began having difficulty breathing.  She told no one.

On the 21st of May she sent pictures of what he had done to her to her friend in another state.  Her friend contacted me and we met one another at the ER at 4:30.  We begged, we pleaded her not to go home.  The doctor brought in psychiatry, the VA Police, and any one they could think of.  She was covered from collarbone to ankles in healing bruises.

All of the tests were normal.  Small elevations that indicated healing bruises…but nothing worrisome except that she was being abused.  The plan was to eat and hopefully get her to the local police station.  The doctor wrote her a prescription that was good for a trip out of state to her other friends.  She LOVED IT!  She felt good, loved, confident, happy, and scared all at the same time.  They had offered her a CT scan to ensure there were no blood clots in her lungs…but she refused.

A few moments away she began having a panic attack.  She asked me to pull over, she was going to be sick.  I helped her through the breathing…years in Emergency Medicine and I saw only the panic attack.  I had walked her through so many I know hers as well as my own.  Within moments I was on the phone with 911 – things were changing for the worse very fast.  Suddenly, I began CPR.  They worked on her for 3 hours and found that she had thrown a very large blood clot in her lungs.  It was immediate and awful and so fast.  I am expecting the autopsy to show more than that…whatever happened, it was catastrophic and I believe it hit her brain as well.

I am sharing too much because it is something that we survivors are at a great risk for…re-traumatization leaving us paralyzed.  Paralyzed physically, emotionally, spiritually.  This asshole knew her secret and he used it against her.  It was one of the last things we said to one another…”Do you think that when he raped you he paralyzed you?” and she said, “Yes.”

Brigid leaves behind two daughters and a 5 year old granddaughter that was the light of her life.  She leaves behind so many people who loved her and cared for her.

We were besties, sisters, hetero-life partners for nearly 20 years.  There was nothing about me she didn’t know and she told me everything…until she was too afraid to tell me anything.  Please, if you are a Survivor…take a hard lesson from this.  Reach out!  I told her over and over that she had done nothing wrong, she had nothing to be ashamed of, I would help her.  I don’t blame her…please don’t believe that I blame her…not one inch!  Reaching out is hard!!!

But I can tell you what is even harder…and this will sound horribly selfish.  Living without her is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done.  No one in this world is like her.  No one can ever replace her.  Some people have said, “You have other friends.” and “I will be here for you, you aren’t alone.”  Well meaning people, but you don’t replace a Brigid.  Not today, not next week, not in a lifetime.  It is a once in a lifetime love…and I am so very grateful that I had her.

Many times over the years things came up that might have been her death…she was a cancer survivor and had some other physical issues.  More than once she and I faced her “death” together.  I could have coped with that.  Death in surgery, death in cancer…I could have dealt with that.  However, I can’t deal with the fact that she was beaten and abused to the point of death.  I don’t know how to live with that.  How do I live with that?  But I have to live.  I have no choice in the matter.  Now I have her daughters, her mother, and her granddaughter to see to.  I have to carry her legacy and her story.

I beg your prayers.  Prayers for justice for Brigid; prayers for me to carry on.

Peace,

Joan

 

Leave the Pieces When You Go

May 22, 2015

It has been a while since I was able to sit down and write.  Thank you to everyone who sent well wishes for Sexual Assault Awareness Month – it was awesome!  Thank you to all of you for your courage, you willingness to be brave!  I can’t thank everyone enough and we had the best SAAM Month in this facility EVER!!  Our new coordinator is absolutely brave and dipped in awesome sauce and there are no words to describe how grateful I am that she let me be a part of this!!

Okay – so no one gets confused…new topic, new situation, totally different people:

I screwed up.  I have screwed up bad and I feel that everything that I have tried to do has now been shattered like an old window.  There is a limit to what I can say, but I don’t want to limit what I can say because I feel the need to just say what needs to be said!  At the same time I can only feel that there is more to blame than just myself!

Let me begin this by saying – “People will notice the change in your attitude towards them – but they will not notice their behavior that made your attitude change.”

Fuck it – I’m just going to lay it out there!  No names – no titles.  I have worked with someone for a long time and slowly it has felt like this person has been having some sort of problem with me.  I have been “uninvited” to things that I used to do for this person.  I have been told that my help was not needed.  I have been made fun of (in a sarcastic way) by this person in the presence of others.

Information came to light that she may have taken something that belonged to me (intellectually) and passed it off as her own.  I tried to talk to her about it – but she wouldn’t talk to me.  I followed a very small chain of command trying to fix the situation and find out WTF is the problem!  I also discovered that I was “uninvited” to something I had been doing for a long time.  I was able to get a meeting with someone important and I found out that I was incorrect – and all I wanted to do was apologize to her.  We were all supposed to get together and it was scheduled – but it didn’t happen.

Due to a circumstance I won’t discuss I need to contact her.  We started emailing and I thought we were building a bridge.  Then suddenly I got an email saying that if I contacted her again she was filing harassment charges.  Then the Union got involved and EO got involved.

I have trust issues – I admit.  All I wanted was her to be honest.  Hell – she could have yelled at me and it would have been better than what she has been doing for months.  I opened the door wide open and too many people helped her slam it back in my face.  She used my “trust” in her against me – by getting me to cancel the little meeting we were supposed to have – and then EO told me that I need to stay away from her.  However, if I need something I should feel free to trust her.

TRUST!  There is a word that too many people do not understand.  People want to chalk the experience up to some kind of “ego” thing.  It isn’t about ego – it is about trust.  When we share something with another person we give them a piece of who we are.  I don’t do this to be rewarded or to get some kind of award!  Hell – how many of you want to be known for being a “Rape Survivor.”  It is a small world and you can’t stand firm FOR something and not have everyone know your business.  Still I can’t sit quietly and say nothing when I see something that needs fixed.  I don’t mean that I fix it…but I am willing to share how I feel and why there might be something better.  “If that were me as the patient – I would want…”  I say these things because I am the patient many times!  I have had nightmare experiences not because the person didn’t care – but because they were ignorant as to the needs of trauma survivors.  You can educate ignorance!!

Now I am the “bad person.”  It has left every other avenue suspect for me.  This person and I crossed paths today and she left while I was speaking to someone else.  At the kind of event that it was I would have expected her to stay and I would quietly do my business and leave.  I would not have bothered her.

In my discussion with individuals about dispute resolution someone made a comment about SOMETHING meaning NOTHING.  Really – thank you for reinforcing the fact that I am nothing.  Thank you for saying – “She matters – You don’t!”

This is a person that I have to tell other people that they can trust.  How do I ever do that again without resolution of the situation?  What do I say?  I am told that I have to be professional – but what about the other person?  If I know that a “disagreement due to a lack of communication” can cause her to treat someone like she has treated me…how do I send her a desperate friend who has given me their most private and heartbreaking stories in a brave effort to reach out for help!?

Integrity – that is what this comes down to.  What matters more – my integrity or her role?  I believe my integrity to others who reach out is more important!  They matter, you matter…she is just a spoke in the wheel.

I have always had an overdeveloped sense of justice.  Yes – when I see wrong and I want to fix it!  Isn’t that why many of us survivors go into advocacy – to change what we can change.

I have reached the point when I can no longer ignore the “wrong”…it isn’t about what happens to me – I can deal…it is about what happens to those of us like me!  It angers me when people don’t believe that!  I am not some dog pissing on a fence to keep you out of my territory.  When I give you that piece of myself it is because I want to be YOUR advocate…because those of us who work with Survivors sometimes need someone to look at us and say, “You were awesome!”  Survivor or Civilian – this work is hard and it burns and some days it can cut you to the soul.

I’ve some to a decision to take active steps to leave the VA.  I am going to go back to school and I am going to teach History.  I want to find some peace and some justice.  I just want to be somewhere were I can make a difference for someone.  I love to teach!  I want to work with middle school and high school – but I prefer middle school.  I was horribly bullied as a child and the few friends that I had were teachers.  (2 – to be exact)  They probably helped to save my life because they let me know that there is a big world beyond the four school walls and that I mattered.  I want to share that with other children.

As for working here – it won’t end tomorrow – it will take time…but my “season” here is coming to an end.  It reminds me of February – when you start to feel the warmth in the sun for the first time.  I need some warmth.

It is either this or this place will leave me so broken that there won’t be any pieces left of me when I leave.  I just hope that the pieces I have left behind will matter to someone.

Praying for peace and healing.

Joan

What I was Wearing Part 2

March 4, 2015

Hello, Friends,

Sorry I have been out of commission for a while. The winter weather, job changes, and some crazy stress have me living in the ruts right now. Of course – it is now March which means that I am starting to panic about the work I have to get done for Sexual Assault Awareness Month – but that is just the normal for me…I wouldn’t call it panic as much as I would call it worried excitement.

As you know – I am helping with an Art Installation project called, “What I was Wearing When I was Raped.” I have been thinking about what I would say – because I will be submitting a piece as well. This year’s theme is all about OUR voices – the voices of survivors – and I am really excited about that. Just to refresh you…here is the poem by Mary Simmerling and the purpose of the project is to do away with these ideas that what someone wears makes them “ask for it.”

What I was Wearing
by Mary Simmerling

was this:
from the top
a white t-shirt
cotton
short-sleeved
and round at the neck

this was tucked into
a jean skirt
(also cotton)
ending just above the knees
and belted at the top

underneath all this
was a white cotton bra
and white underpants
(though probably not a set)

on my feet
white tennis shoes
the kind one plays tennis in
and then finally
silver earrings, and lip gloss.

this is what i was wearing
that day
that night
that fourth of july
in 1987.

you may be wondering
why this matters
or even how i remember
every item
in such detail

you see
i have been asked this question
many times
it has been called to my mind
many times
this question
this answer
these details.

but my answer
much awaited
much anticipated
seems flat somehow
given the rest of the details
of that night
during which
at some point
i was raped.

and i wonder
what answer
what details
would give comfort
could give comfort
to you
my questioners

seeking comfort where
there is
alas
no comfort
to be found.

if only it were so simple
if only we could
end rape
by simply changing clothes.

i remember also
what he was wearing
that night
even though
it’s true
that no one
has ever asked.

What I was Wearing by Joan

What was I wearing when I was sexually assaulted?
Maybe I should ask you, which time?
However, that really doesn’t matter,
Because what I was wearing everytime,
Was a US Army Uniform.

There was supposed to be no gender in a US Army uniform and there was no such thing as race, color or religion. That is what I was told, I was a soldier, the person next to me was a soldier, and so was the person next to that person. We are all soldiers. One of the questions people would ask when I joined is; “What if you go to war and get captured and the enemy rapes you?” I always thought it was a funny question, no different than getting shot…right? However, it is a lot different than getting shot, because most of the time you are shot – it is by an enemy combatant. Everytime I was raped it was by someone who was wearing the same uniform I was.

That is my contribution to the project – that and the last uniform I ever wore. I had put it in a plastic container – rank still on it, sleeves still rolled, pen in the pocket, and the ear plug case still attached. The only thing I stripped was the belt. Now the uniform will have a home and maybe even a purpose.

Thank you to those who have sent me posts – they are more powerful than you may know. The stories are already ripping at the hearts of the people who are part of the system here. They show that we could be their sister, brother, husband, wife, child, or parent. They show that we are normal, average, every day people. We don’t wear little beacons that say, “rape me!” We are them.

I still wonder how long this is going to take to change. The 21 May 2013 issue of Marine Corps Times has a headline “Busted for ‘SAMMICH’ Jokes.” Although it states that Marine Corps leadership won’t tolerate this anymore, a short internet search shows that the Facebook pages F’N Wook and Just the Tip, Of the Spear are still active and posting. In 2015 it is perfectly acceptable to make inappropriate remarks about female servicemembers – including barracks mattresses and sandwich jokes.

“Oh, but Joan, it’s a joke – just a joke.” Really? Okay, let me rephrase a couple of these….(Trigger Warning – uncomfortable statements below – even more…horrible and disgusting racial remarks and I beg your forgiveness but I use them to make a point!)

There is a meme with Darth Vader pointing at Princess Leia and it says, “Sammiches, they don’t make themselves.”

Let’s replace Darth Vader with a white man and let’s replace Princess Leia with a black man. Is it still okay? A white man directing a black man to go make him a Sammich. Better yet – let’s go really overboard and have Former President George W. Bush saying that to President Barack Obama. Is it still okay?

There are memes of women with bruised faces that are captioned, “She burned the bacon” and “I told you no mayo, bitch” and these are okay? Why is this okay?

Would it be okay if we posted these types of things with a white man beating a Native American woman and calling her a “Squaw”?

What about a White Man telling a Latino Man to “lay on your wetback – barracks mattress.” Is that okay?

NO – I say none of it is okay. If you are reading this and you are still in the military and you think it is okay – I dare you to walk up to a high ranking female NCO (such as a 1SGT or CSM or Gunnery SGT) and look at her and say “Go get me a Sammich.” If you are even braver – I suggest you choose a female of color and include a racial remark. Perhaps something like, “Oh, thank goodness, the head house n**** is here to bring me my sammich.” I had an amazing Female 1SGT back in the early 90’s and if you had said this to her…you would STILL be looking for your parts!!

These are not JOKES – a joke is two Jews walk into a bar…WAIT A MINUTE – that isn’t a joke either!! None of it is funny!!

A joke is something funny that when shared makes people happy – all the people – and it is something you can tell in front of your granny – that is a joke. “A toilet was stolen from a police station today…it is a pretty serious crime. The police have nothing to go on.” See – funny!

Women have become the new group to make jokes about and it is disgusting. In a world where one in three women in their lifetime will experience some form of sexual violence – it is unacceptable!

Peace,

Joan

What cannot be raped

December 5, 2014

RAPE: an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: “the rape of the countryside”

I wanted to use this definition of “rape” for this post – because we all know that rape is so much more than “sexual intercourse through force.” Rape comes in many forms. Taking something that isn’t offered, violation of a person’s right to safety and privacy and the simple right to say NO, emotional and physical abuse. DESPOLIATION!

Despoliation – means to take something valuable by force. To spoil something.

I can tell you that my military career – something valuable – was taken by force. It was spoiled. “Professionals” want to run around and talk about trauma and talk about rape – but I think that this definition is so incredibly accurate! In fact, I believe that we need to replace all of the other definitions of “rape” with THIS definition. The definition above does away with several issues – 1) rape is about sex (NO – rape is about taking something by plunder, violent seizure or abuse) 2) Only women are raped (NO – anyone can have something plundered, seized, abused, spoiled or have their body violated) 3) Well – that is what happens when you put boys and girls together (NO – most of the world can be in a room together without anyone being violated!) I could go on and on with this – but this isn’t really the point of today’s post.

Most people know that I love my music! I have been having a couple of tough weeks. Severe nightmares, stuggling to get off the couch, being generally tearful, unhappy, agitated…ect. It also means that I really, really struggle to do anything at work! Happily, I can take a little time to get things ready for SAAM 2015 – so I can listen to some music – watch a few videos – just kind of think about what we might be able to use. I found something amazing today.

I am a grandmother who likes some of what Katy Perry sings. Yes, I admit it…I am a closet Katy Perry fan. Not all of her stuff – but who can’t love ROAR and FIREWORK. Those are two of my “go to” songs.

So I see this Katy Perry video on You Tube (just on the side where you can see just a picture – not the actual video) and I see a picture of Katy Perry in a Kevlar helmet and freakin camo face paint on and I am like – WTH! So I decide to take a risk and I click on it and the song is entitled Part of Me.

Basically – it is a video about a women who catches the boyfriend cheating on her, sees and Marine Corp bumper sticker and joins the Marines. However, the video struck me in a way that Katy Perry never planned. Hopefully the link works for you and you take the time to watch it.

I want to post the words to the chorus as well:

“This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
Throw your sticks and your stones,
Throw your bombs and your blows
But you’re not gonna break my soul
This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me”

In the video – you see her doing all of those “military training” things that all of us did. (in some form or another) Then she is dancing in a uniform under the blue field of one of the huge stadium American flags singing the words in that chorus and I realized – she’s right!

Yes – they took my career through RAPE. Yes – they violated me, abused me, plundered my life, my career and they spoiled the life that I was proud of. But you know what…they CAN’T TAKE AWAY WHAT I DID! THEY CAN’T RAPE THAT!

They can’t “rape” what I accomplished. Basic training, AIT, my job, the awards and citations I earned – they can’t rape those. They can’t rape the memory of busting ass on the Confidence Course, or throwing grendades or firing expert on the M16 range. I did those thing – they can’t rape that. They can’t rape the values I tried to instill in my soldiers, they can’t rape the fact that there are a fair number of people who remember me as a good NCO. They can’t rape that.

No matter what was done to me – I always got back up. No matter how hard they hit – I got back up. Yes – my career went down in flames but I was fighting – I went down swinging – and you can’t rape that! That goes for every single one of you that are reading this – the very fact that you are reading this…that you are alive…that you get up in the morning and brush your teeth and live – they can’t rape that – YOU WIN!! Doesn’t mean we aren’t bloody from the battle (body, mind, soul and spirit) – but WE WON!! THEY LOST – YOU WON! It doesn’t always feel like that – but it is something we have to begin to believe about ourselves because one thing I can tell you is that every single time I look a fellow survivor in the eyes I don’t see a victim – I see a WINNER. If that is what others see in us – then we need to see that in ourselves. Maybe it is a one day at a time thing – cause I know I sure don’t feel like I have won much this week – but I made it!

Being a good soldier is a part of me they can’t rape – they can’t rape that – they can’t take that.
They can say all of the shit they want to say – but they can’t break my soul. They can’t break your soul. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t do some serious damage – but my soul is still my own.

I was a good soldier and they will never take that away from me and I will learn to be proud of that again – and you just can’t rape that!

Peace,

Joan