Some of you may have seen the first release of Cincinasty: A Story of DIY Survival. I released it digitally just before I began involvement in the Cincy DIY Accountability Committee, a group which tries to bring offensive individuals to a point where they can recognize their own actions and more importantly their consequences. I had met with two moderators of the group already - one couldnt find the time to meet and the other laughed in my face when I told them my story. I did not trust in anyone at that point. I had to put my story out before I could have been chewed up and spit out by the community, a threat which is still very real.
Communication through the group has brought me to realize a number of things. First, that I am a victim of rape. Second, the act of my rape taught me things about how the world used to be when animals - without a means of communication or consent - would just take from each other whatever they wanted. They take each others bodies, their sex, their homes. The path to which I had been exposed was a much darker and more primal one than I had been brought up to accept. It felt like a shortcut through a dingy alley, and I knew in the moment that it was not the path my family wanted me to be on so I buried it and its memories inside of myself. That information, a pattern of violence, was already imprinted upon me and it wasnt something I could just leave behind. I still tried to forget about it and move on. That pattern of violence went unaddressed for 18 years.
In this period of time;
I recreated the circumstances of my own attack by not tuning into the non-verbal signals a highschool classmate was sending when not consenting to sexual intercourse, and I triggered her into slitting both her wrists that very night.
I exposed myself herpes in my early 20s because I had hurt people. I wanted to dampen my sexuality and the anger I could feel beneath it.
I, without context or reason other than my “nothing matters anyway” attitude, didn't tell a beautiful and honest partner about the herpes. I may not have transmitted the virus, but I did leave them with an imprint of anger and violence which may arguably be worse.
I lied to multiple people that I loved in attempts to self-sabotage the darkness I could feel inside of me. I lied outright to the woman I love before confessing to her on hallucinogens a month later. I shared with her the depth of my violence, and made her violent in turn.
I stalked a partner because I was -once again - unable to tune into the language of consent.
On countless occasions I lost my temper, ran away, or disassociated from my normal self when reacting out of anger or pain. Of all the steps I've taken to get to where I am today, it feels like more have been missed than have hit their mark.
Over those 18 years I have made conscious decisions which have hurt people. I believed that I was becoming more and more in control of myself with age, but over those years I made find myself having made decisions which have hurt people to greater and greater progressive degrees. I had seen all sorts of of psychiatrists and psychologists, social workers and spirit healers. None of them could detect the unseen actor which I had buried in my subconscious. There, in the place so deep in my memory where words fail and only sights and smells return, this actor constructed a mechanism of cancer and fear. I forgot what safety was like, or that it even existed.
When I finally found someone with whom I could feel safe a couple of years ago it felt like I had reactivated a forgotten muscle. The strength of this safety was unfamiliar and new, and it confronted me with a dilemma. A piece of myself had been trapped in my 4th grade homeroom closet for almost two decades, and I didnt have a clue how I was supposed to transition from that coatroom into the safety of her space. At that point I still had no recollection of the attack. There, standing at the threshold of personal liberation, my dark actor began to activate their mechanisms. I finally determined myself unworthy of liberation, and I fell head over heels back into myself. Only then I knew for sure something was wrong with me, and I became determined to burn that closest to the ground.
This began a period of near total self-destruction. I said a lot of things, to a lot of people, in way too many contexts. I tried to kill myself and then tattooed over the scar. I tried to hospitalize myself but by father talked me into alternative treatment. I knew there was something wrong with me, I knew I had to find it, I thought I had to kill it. I grasped at the company of others, desperately trying to find that thing I now call “safety”. Only now that I can call my demons by their names does it feel like I am finally ready to begin to heal.
I say this as someone who has both inspired, and been inspired by, violence from others. The pattern of call-and-response violence surrounding the issue of sexual trauma in our community has to stop. Academic studies suggest that about two-thirds of convicted sexual offenders report having been sexually abused themselves sometime in their past. Calling a victim by the name of their abuser does nothing but strengthen the chains which are holding our entire community in a state of fear.
If we as a community want to take a stand against rape, calling people “rapist” isnt going to work. Banishing someone to another city through ostracization, stalking them on social media and warning all of their newfound friends about all the rumors you have heard; will do nothing to stop the pattern of trauma and abuse. The community has to find ways for the perpetrator themselves to call their own demons by their own names for their own selves.
In the process of healing I have written letters to a number of people in my life. The whole process has helped me realize that patterns of abuse and domination are things that we teach to one another. My partners - members of this community - learned it from me and became fearful and violent. I learned it from my classmate in 4th grade. It is a cycle of abuse and domination that only feeds upon itself and today we have the power to stop it.
So, back to Cincinasty. That document is going to become a part of a new document, enclosed within it's bindings it will remain untouched from its original form (save a change of font). Encompassing it will be my book of reconciliation; a collection of letters to people in my life both past and present. It is my hope that these letters, written in the wake of my recollection of my attack, will give context and depth to the original v1.0 of the Cincinasty zine.
Each letter follows a similar structure, that of Ho’poponopono. The practice of Ho’poponopono organizes a message to rhyme with a similar structure, namely:
“Please forgive me”
“I love you”
Its not a literal rhyme, but a model for reconciliation. Every letter is a literary attempt at leading up to, and saying to and saying all four of those things to whomever the letter is addressed. No matter who it is - your victim or your perpetrator - you must weave your words in a way so that it passes through the eye of all four needles.The philosophy is based in the thinking that all of society is a single living thing, and that harm to any single part causes harm to all. Every time you apologize to another person with this method, you also apologize to yourself
I dont know how effective the practice of Ho’poponopono is on a clinical level. I dont know if the wild things claimed by the new age founder have any validity. What I do know is that it is a very good practice in forgiving others, and by doing so finding forgiveness in yourself. Not all of the letters are intended to be shared with the addressee, and some of them probably shouldn't be. This will not a “how-to reconcile” book by any means, but rather a series of examples of both personal victory and failure. This is a struggle I am still, and will always be, engaged in.