My last post was an imaginary conversation with someone who I didnt particularly want to talk to. Today I'd like to take some of the imagery of that post (the window) and develop them to better tell my own story of how my abuse taught me to abuse others, and how I came to overcome those patterns.
I had to escape.
A million millipedes crawling from my gut. My adrenaline soared. The door was obscured, recessed behind a small corner. I could only see one escape, that six-foot window three stories up. I wasnt sure what she was doing but I was pretty sure it was not ok. She had caught me off guard and was pinning me against a wall between four hooks. She began to reach into my pants, and bears her mouth upon my genitalia. I mentally disassociated, and I fell through the six-foot window in my mind. It took two decades for me to gain the maturity with which to finally look over it’s sill and see the mess I left behind.
What I learned from her was that it was ok to dominate other people, to force them into submission. I was forced into submission; first by the force of will it took to want to dominate me, and second by her physical strength used to enact this dominance. It makes sense on an animalistic level, that might makes right. I’ve learned since then that this argument falls apart when we start to talk in terms of community. Thankfully, my family and my community were there to teach me that consent is good and rape is bad, and thanks to them I feel like was able to steer clear of a much darker path. Unfortunately, my abuser got to me before the rest of my community did. It would still be a couple of years before I would go through my religious congregation’s very liberal nine-month long sexual education course. In the meantime, the trauma had time to develop. This incident in the coatroom, and the 5 month episode of abuse surrounding it, stayed a secret for two decades.
For two decades a part my myself decayed on the ground beneath that window. For two decades I was torn between two realities; that of the way the world was supposed to be (what all of those around me told it could me), and of the way the world really is (or how it was real to me through my trauma). Those who loved me, they guided me over and around many of the obstacles I would face through adolescence. But the trauma underlying the expressions of obstacles always slipped through the cracks. Over those twenty years I found myself repeatedly disassociating from reality to escape and find one in which felt safer, if only in my own head. It alienated me from my peers, and it destroyed those who got too close. I’m sorry.
I am no more a rapist than my 4th grade classmate, a female of color who was only embodying those practices programmed into her by a society rife with violence and abuse. I understand from personal experience that when it happened, as she continued to repeatedly assault me, that she was only doing what she had been taught to do by whoever abused her before we had met. No one had taught her differently, and so she was unable to know right from wrong. I can only imagine the things she might have gone through.
Some speak of a moral compass - of that conscience which speaks to you when all other voices go dark - but her and I were so young at the time that we were both overwhelmed by our traumas. Her trauma had sent her moral compass spinning, and this energy caught me up in with it. Once the whole episode was over, my compass had a new bearing. What began as an acute deviation in my childhood slowly developed into an ever more gaping problem, and just a few years ago I found myself on the edge of an abyss. I stood on the precipice of my ego and experience and saw far off in the distance a lighthouse describing the far edge. This light exposed to me the darkness of my own path. In that singular moment I knew that if I was ever going to be worth loving, and that if I was ever going to stand upon that tower of light and share its radiance with others, that I would have to cross the abyss.
It took someone sharing true love with me for me to realize that what I had thought of as “loving myself” was just a sham. It was in the wake of it’s impact and weight that my mind took hands with my heart and both began down the path of recovery. I slowly began to understand how to love myself and what that really meant; self-reliance, self-care, self-improvement. I realized that love was not something you were given, nor was it something you could take or extract. I found that love was something you grew within yourself, and that you have to tend to it if you wish to share its bounty with others. And in it’s giving, love is not exchanged like a gift or a bounty but shared like the warmth of a campfire. I cannot “give” my light so much as allow others to bask in its glow.