I’ve now lived completely clean and drug free for 15 months. 1 and 1/4 years.
It was just about a year ago I started my first “fearless moral inventory” of myself. I started with a simple last of my values, what I hold dear as moral principles. I inventoried my morals. Then I inventoried myself and compared the list. One of the most startling things I uncovered in that process was how often I would be silent in the face of terrible injustices and then get high to deal with my own cowardice. Not to be too hard on myself there were times where in spite of varying states of inebriation and drug-influence I did still manage to do the right thing. But over and over and over I turned away. I did nothing. I made excuses to be silent and be “safe.”
I can’t live a sober life and be silent and safe, I have discovered. I can’t eat my rage at a filthy world full of evil and suffering and have any hope of staying clean. I have to learn to channel that anger and pain into something that isn’t about me. So I have been learning to speak up and stand up.
This, more than anything else, has shifted everything else in my world.
One of those conundrums is reconciling Jesus’ words about not being angry with the times He was clearly outraged. I’ve struggled with this. Because I am often angry or outraged or both. Bit by bit I am finding little glimpses of clarity here. There are two types of anger. There’s the “my feelings are hurt” shadow-self anger which is evil. There’s the “this is gross injustice against many people” higher-self anger which is not about me but about living in a world where people inflict evil on other people.
And so, I keep practicing speaking up and standing up. I quit worrying about my own impulse to seek personal security and please people with my silence.
I posted a link to this lovely article on rape and consent to my Facebook feed a few days ago. Because rape and violence against women are huge, world-wide justice issues. Because I know what it is to say “STOP!” and have him not stop. Because there are about a billion other women suffering from these horrendous evils. Because it’s about me and it’s much, much bigger than only me. Because we all need to learn everyday a bit more about consent and healthy relationships and respect.
It didn’t take long before I started getting the sort of slippery-slope comments that are intended to shift the focus to the poor men wrongly accused of rape. News flash: men are more likely to be raped than to be falsely accused of rape. The comments got ugly. They devolved into personal attacks demanding I concede a point in his favor. I blocked him.
They turned into the usual shit about being too sensitive, about seeing rapists/abusers everywhere, about wanting to “have my cake and eat it too,” about women being somehow responsible for being raped and how unfair it is that men don’t get a fair chance in court.
This is flat bullshit.
Actually, women who have been in abusive relationships tend to be not sensitive enough. We make little excuses for our abusers. We let it go when they demand we reschedule appointments. We forgive them for screaming at us. Our pain tolerance is too high, or willingness to tolerate the intolerable goes too far. We have something thrown at us and we second-guess ourselves. It’s our insensitivity that makes it possible for the slow escalation from subtle coercion to black-eyes to broken bones to caskets.
We give too many people too many chances. We don’t see abuse where we should. We’ve become so accustomed to it we think it is normal.
We don’t feel we deserve any cake at all, neither having it nor eating it is a possibility in our minds. We’ve internalized all the times we’ve heard how worthless we are, all the names we’ve been called, all the manipulation.
And we take responsibility for the nasty shit handed us. We are hyper-responsible and always aware and have been told so many times that we deserve to be tortured that we believe it. Victims are the best victim-blamers. We don’t need to be told it was our fault of that we had it coming, we told ourselves.
Here’s the thing: despite all of this We Are Not Damaged Goods and our perceptions are valid.
It is perhaps the ultimate in crazy-making gas-lighting to use the fact that a woman has been raped or abused as away of discrediting her. And it is so very, very common.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told that I should take being screamed at because I am too sensitive after having left an abusive relationship. Being strong enough to survive and to leave and to keep trying makes me so damaged I am no longer allowed to stand up for myself?! Am I the only one who can see how f-ed up that logic is?
If this was only me it would be just me. I’d be selfishly angry on only my own behalf. But it is not just me.
I hope you read the article on rape and consent and caught that bit about how “in a survey of college students it was discovered that a disturbingly high number of students actually admitted to committing rape, when the word “rape” wasn’t actually used in the question.”
All violent acts against women fall into that category. We don’t want to call them “honor killings” in the “west” because that would draw attention to the reality and enormity of intimate partner violence. (I don’t want to exclude non-heterosexual couples or ignore that men are sometimes raped and abused but the numbers are clear that when it comes to this violence it is far-and-away true that the majority of it is committed by men and harms women.)
If we polled not on domestic violence, but by breaking it down into specific abuse acts, with careful words the numbers would go way, way up.
Under-reporting of rape, violence, and abuse of all forms is widely acknowledged. Partly because it is very hard to admit that abuse is abuse. It can seem so normal. Who hasn’t been screamed at? Who hasn’t had a partner call names or been cursed at? Doesn’t everyone fight and get angry sometimes? Probably. But does that make coercive or violent expressions of disagreement or anger OK? NO. No, it does not.
This is a massive, world-wide problem. And I am outraged. And I won’t be silent. I will keep posting, both here and on Facebook, my thoughts and others’. This might be a small way of speaking up, a tiny act of courage, but at least it is not being silent and shamed. At least it is not eating my rage and ending up puking by brains out on a cold bathroom floor.