Posts Tagged ‘sexual assault awareness month’

Assistance Request from fellow Survivors for Sexual Assault Awareness Month – Trigger Warning

September 26, 2014

Hello, Friends –

One nice thing about my new position is that I have plenty of time to plan for SAAM 2015. We have some great things in the works and I would like to ask for my readers help. It will be totally anonymous – but the world needs your story.

There is a relatively new program called the Survivors Art Installation Project. It is designed to do away with the myth that what a person wears causes them to be raped. After all, most of us have heard that we must have done or said or worn something to ask for it. This project absolutely destroys that myth.

What I need – I need a short statement of what you were wearing when you were raped. I know that this is a lot to ask. I am including another person’s description so you can see what I mean.

What were you wearing?
“Running shorts and a tank top. I swung by his place on the way back from my run. He kept saying how hot I looked and I kept making excuses to leave. He wouldn’t let me go.”
(Outfit inspired by a 20 year old university student)

I don’t need any actual clothing – I will replicate what you send me. The clothing is placed on standing boards and displayed with your statement.

On a personal note – I was going through things this past week – going to have a garage sale – and I was going to throw away the last BDU uniform I ever wore. I kept it, you know, I just took it off and threw it in a tote and put it in the basement. Everything is still in it – on it. My rank, my earplug case, a pen still in the pocket. It still has the T-shirt I was wearing. It has had so much meaning to me over the years. Sometimes I look at the tote and just stare – sometimes I open it up and touch it or talk to it. I had just reached the place where I felt that I could let it go – only to find out about this project. What a terrific way to tell the story! What better way to put that piece of my life to good use!

If you would like to participate – please email me a description of what you were wearing, your age at the time and branch of service, if you were serving in country or overseas. NO NAMES WILL BE INCLUDED! enemyinthewire@hotmail.com

I would really love it if you could help me out. We are trying to go big this year – really big!

The whole project is based on the poem – but the poem is a trigger – so just be aware.

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.

Thank you in advance – I know that what I am asking you for is so hard.

Joan

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Triggering vs. Liberating!

September 24, 2014

Hello friends,

I have been taking advantage of the free time I have in my new job to start work on Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2015 here at my place of employment which we all know is the place that takes care of Veterans but I am not going to say it here.

Things that are driving me crazy is the topic today. Every year I prepare to hear the exact same stupid, freaking statement; “We don’t want to trigger anyone.”
I hate the word “trigger.” Oh – I know that it happens, it has happened to me on many occasions – but I find that people who don’t KNOW squat about MST like to use the word “trigger” to AVOID talking about the issue.

We don’t want to talk about RAPE – it is truly a 4-letter word. No, it is not a comfortable subject, it is not a happy subject – let’s just talk about happy things here and not actually deal with any issues.

“Good morning – welcome to your appointment – would you like to quit smoking? Do you drink too much? Good – here are your pills…have a nice day!”

Thankfully – that is NOT my experience with my Psychiatrist or therapist – but I know that it is the experience for many people.

For anyone who MIGHT be reading this that is not a Survivor – let me define what a “trigger” really is.

Trigger – an unexpected event that hits you upside the head, knocks you on the ground and leaves you with an overwhelming desire to crawl out of your skin and find a very dark room with a locked door that you can hide in. You want a large pillow, or music or television to drown out to voices in your head that are telling you how screwed up you are – how you brought this on yourself and how much you deserved it. The voices call you weak and crazy and stupid and ugly – they tell you that you are worth nothing. No, this isn’t the official definition – but for me…it fits to a T.

Liberation is the opportunity to say, “I SURVIVED!” I have made a life for myself – whatever that life may be – I have continued to exist…to be…to fight! Every now and again, just being alive is a fight. Every now and again getting up in the morning is a fight. Not beating someone senseless can be a struggle. I AM ALIVE! I WIN!
Celebration of Survival is a good thing. Acknowledging the struggle and the pain and saying, “You are so brave!” is a good thing! For those of us who are advocates, this is the most powerful thing we can do. It is important to normalize the experience of Rape, not because it is okay that it happens, but because in the end we all have the same feelings of anger, hatred, sorrow, disgust, shame and self-doubt. It is the only way to help the Survivors! For someone to listen, to understand, to believe is something that is so rare out there in the world.

People die from Rape every day. They die at the hands of the rapist and they die by their own hand because they can’t deal with the damn voices in their head. The voices that tell us that we are dirty, that we deserved it, that we brought it on ourselves. In addition to the voices is the unique experience of MST, where the very people we trusted who were supposed to be on our side are the same voices we hear in our heads. That is what they told us – so it must be true. We hide away and we believe the same lies that they told us then – the same lies that we hear now – and no one is there to call the liars out. So too many Survivors have given in to the depression, believed the lies and taken their own life.

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.

That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

Walt Whitman wrote this poem for us – in many ways – the Survivors of this experience called Rape. He even answered the question.
YOU ARE HERE! LIFE EXISTS! YOU HAVE AN IDENTITY THAT WILL NEVER EXIST IN THE WORLD AGAIN! We have the ability to change the world with our voices. Many of you who read this blog are fellow Survivors and fellow Advocates. Your verse is your courage to speak out when others stay silent. The nice thing about cyberspace is that nothing is ever really gone once it is out there. The young service member may find your words 5 or 10 years from now and decide to LIVE!

I continue to lead the fight in my little corner of the world. To teach that we need to CELEBRATE survival, HONOR courage and provide HOPE for the wounded. To teach that we can talk about these things – we MUST talk about these things – that it may cause someone to FEEL something is not a bad thing.

Feeling something is what we push away – we keep it bottled down inside of us and hide it from the world. Pretty soon, you feel numb to your own pain, to other peoples’ pain, until suddenly it breaks like a weakened dam and spreads everywhere. We have to help Survivors understand that it is okay to feel the feelings, to express the feelings and then to let them go. When they come back we start again, feeling the feelings, express the feelings and then let them go. Anything else is just a tragedy waiting to happen. If I have to feel the anger every 10 minutes – say FUCK THEM – and then move on…that is what I have to do. If I have to tell to voices in my head to shut the fuck up every 5 minutes – then that is what I have to do.

Celebrate your Survival! Celebrate your strength, your courage, your resiliency! Most important – Celebrate that you are living your life with HONOR! They didn’t – they gave away their honor the moment they touched you. However, HONOR is something that they cannot take from you! Your HONOR – the most important thing we have as service members – your HONOR is above reproach!

Blessings and Peace,
Joan

Conundrum

April 5, 2013

Hello, Friends –

What a crazy and confusing time it has been. I have found myself puzzled, perplexed and completely lacking sure direction.

First of all – I received word from the National Guard – who was asked by the Governor’s office to review my records. I have copied the letter below – which is addressed directly to the Governor – they couldn’t even bother writing one to me. Please know that names have been omitted or changed to protect the innocent and the stupid!

Dear Governor X:

This letter is in response to your email message on behalf of Joan. Joan was formerly a member of the XXXXX of the XXXX Army National Guard.

Joan alleges that a hostile work environment and discrimination occurred in the XXXX during the years XXXX through XXXX. Contained in the several pages of documentation she provided to my Staff Judge Advocate, she states that the XXX Army National Guard failed to address her issues; and as a result, she voluntarily resigned from the Active Guard and reserve Program.

Joan requests that the XXXX Army National Guard learn from its past mistakes, the mistreatment she received, and change her status to indicate she is retired. I can state with assurance that the XXX National Guard has a much lower tolerance for the kind of workplace discrimnation and harassment alleged by her. The Amry’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program (SHARP) promtes an environment free from harassment of any kind as a means of providing all Soliders a workplace in with they may excel. It is beyond the ability of the XXX Army National Guard to affect Joan’s status. However, she may seek relief through the Army Board for Correction of Military Records. The Legal Assistance Attorney in the Office of Staff Judge Advocate can assist her in the regard.

I appreciate the opportunity to look into this matter…blah blah blah.

Respectfully
A complete ignorant Major General – who should have probably waited until HE was sober before writing this letter!!

This letter was received at my house on 04/03/2013. I sent the original information to the National Guard at the request of the Governor’s office – that was sent to them on November, 5th of 2012. If it had not been for my repeated phone calls – I would have gotten no response at all.

I supplied the JAG with copies of a counseling statement, written by MY supervisor, stating that I am working in a hostile environment. (Thanks – Ready Man – it has come in very handy 🙂 I also supplied them with a copy of the EEO Claim that I filed that was signed by my supervisor, delivered to the commander and never signed or forwarded beyond his desk drawer. However, I am thrilled to learn that I must be totally friggin nuts because – “I can state with assurance that the XXX National Guard has a much lower tolerance for the kind of workplace discrimnation and harassment alleged by her.”

See – that makes me feel so much better that his “assurance” is worth more than solid, documented fact! I continue the fight!! I now have a call back into the Governor’s office, to the staffer listed, who has not yet received or seen a copy of the letter. HMMMMMM interesting! Next step will be to go through one of the larger action groups and go to my media contacts – after I see what the Governor’s office decides to do. I also have some state political contacts that I can use. However, gotta go one step at a time.

In addition to this craziness I interviewed for a new job. I was completely honest and told the truth – which I don’t believe the individual in charge appreciated very much. I just have this thing that I no longer want to maintain silence. Silence breeds shame. I did nothing wrong!

I’m tired of people forgetting to love one another. Let’s just put aside all of the bullshit and start loving one another, respecting one another. We don’t all have to agree on everything – but we can be civil human beings and still disagree. I’m tired of who is right and who is wrong and what is ‘legal’ and what isn’t.

Because of the nature of the job, old parts of my life are an issue. The individual at the top wanted “plausible deniability.” What the hell is that?! So in order to be of “service” I have to be a liar? Don’t they know that it is “silence” that has got us where we are today!! Don’t talk about the bad things, don’t tell anyone what happened, don’t rat anybody out, don’t ruin HIS career. Keep it silent. I am not blaming this individual and he was not mean – he is really a nice person – I understand that I have left him in a conundrum too. I just no longer want to live a lie because it might make someone “uncomfortable.”

It hit me very hard this morning through – the idea of silence. I stood in the shower crying. I think part of why it has hit me so hard is because this is the second anniversary of a friend’s suicide. So to that end I would like to share the following:

Elle G – Newsboys

Thumbs out on a desert road I am told
Leads to nowhere
Any shade is as good as the next
If your shadow doesn’t go there
Week seven, did you really assume
I’d find some solace from the letter in your room?
Next life, could you kindly refrain
From throwing yourself at the mercy of a train?

Silence all, nobody breathe.
How in the world could you just leave?
You promised you would
Silence that evil with good

Hear me out, I have the floor
I’ll give you my tears, I’ll listen more
You promised you would
Overcome evil with good

Maybe this world is a barren place for a soul
Prone to get lost
But heaven still hounds from the smallest sounds
To the cries of the storm-tossed
Week nine: I am writing in the sand
Any little clue that could help me understand
Every whispered secret, every muffled sigh
Every half-truth that was added to a lie

Silence all, nobody move
I’ve got to know now what you hoped to prove
You promised you would
Silence that evil with good

Shame feeds guilt, guilt needs release
You took it to god
You made your peace
And swore that you would
Overcome evil with good

Every old demon playing back the crime
If they needed blood, I’d have gladly given mine
A child of the kingdom; still an invalid
Forgive her, please father
She don’t know what she did

Silence all, now go to sleep
The water’s free, the well is deep
How can we return
That which we never could earn?

God, I long to see her face
We haven’t a hope
Beyond your grace
I know that you will
Overcome evil
For good

Read more at http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/81235/#68xfO0gb28y7yyMB.99

I miss ya, Wen.

Joan

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April 2, 2013

Here it is, Friends…April again…Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I haven’t had much to say lately – life has been keeping me very, very busy and I am having to make some tough choices right now. The primary one is “do I stay at the VA..or do I take the other position I have been offered?”

Choices…that is what so much of this is about. The choice to be kind or to be cruel. The choice to treat people the way you would want to be treated. The choice to speak out or the choice to stay silent.

I am always kind of “depressed” by this month. It seems that businesses and governement institutions hail other months, Black History Month, Hispanic History Month, Women’s History Month, and any other MONTH they can celebrate. I really like those – I think they are awesome! (Of course – I also love history)

Then we get to Sexual Assault Awareness Month…shhhhhhh! Don’t hang posters, don’t do events, do talk about it. It must be kept quiet…it is embarrassing, it is shameful. Even here we have really dedicated people who keep getting shut down on programming. We don’t want anyone to be “uncomfortable.”

Heaven forbid anyone is uncomfortable! Heaven forbid that they have to look a survivor in the face and acknowledge what happened to them. No – we can’t have that!!!

I would love to march on our local VA’s…but as an employee…that is asking for trouble. I would love to carry signs and shout at the top of my lungs – but the world just doesn’t want to hear it.

Joan