trigger warning for: aftermath of sexual assault and childhood abuse.

9/2/12 journal entry (1st page of this journal, edited for clarity)

“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”

He could be in heaven, but I doubt it. I think I’d have gotten a phone call, maybe a letter. I’d like to think there would be a letter. But that seems unlikely, too, come to think of it. What I want is the money. I want an apology, too, even more–but the money might better make up for the way his bullshi8t derailed my dreams. I mean, “interesting” things happened when I went off the college track, to be sure, but it’s just so hard to get back on.

[I pause in between typing and wonder if I was ever on that track to begin with, or if my mental “illness” would have stopped me then.]

After he got out of the navy, he let all of his hair grow, even his scraggly beard and a clumsy mustache. [my mother used to say: “looks like he’s gonna rob a 7-eleven.”] He was a mass of coffee-stained flannel, tangled dark hair, cigarette smoke residue. I can feel him in my bones sometimes, when I walk purposefully, heel-toe, heel-toe, over a hardwood floor in my boots.

Daddy is a powerful word. I started calling him Papi or Pops when I was a teenager–I was trying to take some of the power back. It only worked sometimes, and even then I was quaking inside when I had it, riding fight or flight and expecting the next thump to be my father’s hand on my shoulder, turning me around. [at night] Turning me over.

It didn’t have to happen in this world for it to happen. As it turns out, if your father leers at you and touches you just this side of inappropriate right around the same time you are raped several times over by one of the neighborhood predators, your brain will have a hard time distinguishing the difference. Especially when you’re dreaming.

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Here’s one perspective on trigger warnings.

And here is my response, not just as a blogger, but as a survivor and a pretty avid reader of potentially triggering web content.

I like trigger warnings. I like having the choice to not read about rape when I’m not in an appropriate place to do so. A trigger warning is about restoring choice, it’s not about creating a safe or even a safe(r) space. I think it’s true that sometimes people get itchy about trigger warnings, and request them in unexpected situations, and that we can’t expect to anticipate peoples’ needs for trigger warnings 100% of the time. But I can prepare and be considerate of the fact that there are are a vast and ever-increasing number of people who become triggered by graphic descriptions of sexual violence and other types of violence, including transphobic violence, police violence, child abuse, etc. Do I have to include a trigger warning? Nope! This is my blog, and I choose to, in part because I want you to do the same for me.

There are days that I wake up shaking from my nightmares, not wanting to leave the house. A lot of those days are in my past, but I can’t guarantee that days of constant anxiety attacks and flashbacks won’t come again, and I know I’m not the only person who has experienced that as my “normal”, my daily reality. A friend recently compared a trigger warning to an NSFW (not safe for work) tag. If I see a trigger warning and I’m already upset for some reason (whether my ongoing PTSD related stuff or because my mom and I just got in a fight), I get to make the choice as to whether or not I can handle that subject matter at that time. Simple as that!

Do I get triggered in other situations? Hell yes! But it’s really nice to be able to pick and choose sometimes, y’know?

Trigger warning for slutshaming and radscum. ’nuff said!

Recently I volunteered to perform at a Take Back the Night rally. A friend had invited me to a feminist book club that also includes an online presence on Facebook, and someone associated with TBTN had put up a call for performers. I’ve been thinking for a few years about wanting to create space specifically for survivors of violence to share our stories and let go of some of the shame that (for me, at least) sometimes accompanies surviving violence, and so I responded to the call with a few pieces. One of the organizers responded enthusiastically and said they’d be glad to have me perform, and gosh, it was really useful to have my pieces ahead of time for the ASL interpreters. ASL interpreters! I have been performing as a hearing person for over 10 years at this point, and I have never performed with an ASL interpreter, so I was excited by the chance.

Take Back the Night has its roots in the mid-1970s second wave feminist movement, as a direct action protest against sexual violence against women. At the same time that these actions were taking place, a woman-led effort to do away with pornography was also taking hold and became closely linked with TBTN. The era of the so-called Feminist Sex Wars is of particular interest to me as a feminist, a pervert*, and a trans person. Several of my favorite writers (Dorothy Allison, Gayle Rubin, and Pat Califia among them) have written fairly extensively about this era and the various witch hunts that ensued, from the exclusion of masculine-identified people from the women’s movement (Leslie Feinburg writes about this in Stone Butch Blues) to the rise of a pro-censorship and anti-pornography faction called Women Against Pornography (WAP), the vilification of the practice of BDSM and beyond.

To be honest with you, I knew all of this history when I volunteered to perform at the rally. But I also thought to myself, “RD, it’s 2012! We’re in [liberal West Coast port city]! We’re known for our sex-positivity! Besides, this rally is supposed to be about survivors, not about political analysis.” Well. I guess I was wrong.

The first speaker to take the mic was the college president, who seemed genuinely glad to be there and said that he “look[s] forward to the day we no longer have to have these rallies, because there is no more violence!” Unrealistic, maybe, but okay. Hopeful. I like hopeful.

Pass the mic, next speaker. My blood ran cold when they said that they were with WAP. It is 2012, right? I found myself frantically checking my wrist and looking around me to see if I was having a nightmare as the tirade was launched. The speech was fairly long and it felt a bit flailing, to be honest, but it certainly riled up the crowd. The first piece of rhetoric that I can recall was “If you can’t imagine pornography without sex, you’re fucked!” My friend W., who was also present, tells me that she noticed people wandering the room beforehand with stickers with the same troubling quotation on it, but I didn’t see or hear it until that moment. What?! As if fucked is the worst thing we could be? I like getting fucked. And I bet I’m not the only one in the audience who does. Next up was the tokenization of queers. The speaker continued, repeatedly checking “LGBT people,” seemingly without actually understanding that hey, we’re right over here, and we can speak for ourselves! It’s hard sometimes when being tokenized to not stand up and start yelling You don’t speak for me! in one’s big voice, but I held my ground. And then they came for the kinky ones, and began deriding “torture porn,” and spoke of being in tears upon seeing the bruises on models’ bodies. As an occasional sex worker and a person who likes bruises, likes bruising others–after all, it is the consent that makes all the difference, this was the last straw. I got up and left in an absolute quaking rage.

I don’t disagree that a significant amount of pornography is exploitive and symptomatic of a violent, misogynist society (not to mention racist, sexist, ableist, etc…class, we remember the terms kyriarchy and kyriarchical, right?) , but it’s just that, a symptom. Trying to do away with a symptom without getting to the root of the illness is simplistic, foolish, and likely to do more harm than good (Comstock Act, anyone?). I felt like the speaker was denying people their agency while making sweeping generalizations about “men” and “women” as somehow homogeneous groups, with men playing the part of the aggressor and women playing the part of the victim. This tactic denies peoples’ agency and erases people who live outside that binarism, and that’s just to start with. W. talks much more about why the arguments used were problematic here.

Overall, I was incredibly frustrated and disgusted. I spent a large portion of the day thinking about and discussing this happening with various friends who frequently act as support to me. I had really hoped to share part of my story as a survivor with others as a part of the healing process of removing shame from those experiences by bringing some of mine out into the open, telling our truths in a safe place, but it turns out the safe place was anything but safe.

Did I deserve to be sexually assaulted if I had had kinky sex with my abuser? Did my father assault me because he could see my perversion before even I knew about it? Are my experiences with violence still important/valid as a masculine-identified person? There are a lot of victim-blaming and slut-shaming narratives that start pounding in my temples when I’m feeling shitty, and I didn’t really need to hear those again. I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy and a lot of time doing personal healing work for myself to put those questions down like an insurrection, so to speak. I know the answers to them now. But this event made them pop up and it’s gonna feel like whack-a-mole for a few days with the bad brain voice, I think. Ugh.

Anyhow. I think I’d like to organize a speak-out about sexual violence. No politicking about banning pornography or slutshaming about sexual preference allowed. It’s the consent makes all the difference.

ps. this was pretty much all I could think all day: 1982 called and it wants its shitty second-wave analysis back. just sayin’!

Strong trigger warning for: emotional and physical abuse, incest, sexual assault. Please take care of yourself! Click away to pictures of adorable kittens here.

editorially: this poem is several years old at this point, but today i submitted it as a performance piece for a Take Back the Night rally. unsure about certain elements of the final stanza but i <feelings>. thinking a lot about how different my personal narrative is from many other folks, and especially thinking of CeCe today. -RD

I came out of the house of rape, abuse, and neglect.

It was not my home, but I lived there for a time.

They kept me under no lock and key, I was bonded by the state to my father’s house.

Threats straddled the doorways, booby-trapped the exits with their sinister and invisible promises.

“You belong to me,” he said.
“I can do anything I want with you.”
“You are my daughter.”
He didn’t say “You will submit to me,” but he should have.
Echoes steal their way back as echoes will, a sensation as simple as a wet kiss and a brush of stubble on my cheek can trigger me to panic.
I give warning to those with whom I will share a bed, “If I cry or fight in my sleep, don’t touch me, just use your voice to call me back from the nightmare. I’ll tell you when it’s safe to touch me again.”
Bruises in the shape of his hands have healed, but the stain of being treated as chattel does not, nor can it wash away.
But I am wearing it down, like sanding a label off of a steel frame.
My self-worth, my integrity, and my boundaries remain intact.
I am borne up, out of the house of rape, abuse, and neglect.
I am lucky.
My mother has lived her whole life in the shadow, fearful.

My early childhood bedtime stories were of bogey-men who would put their hands on me at the slightest provocation, a short skirt or a late night walk or the simple appearance of vulnerability.

Working late one evening, my only other company is a male co-worker who is, in my experience, incredibly kind and friendly. But as I walk to the bathroom, I am terrified he will follow me there and force himself on me, where no one will find me huddled until the morning.
You see, it is not the strangers that I fear the most, it is my acquaintances. It is my lovers, my friends, the people closest to me.
If my consent was so ill-regarded by someone who was supposed to love me best and most of all, then what is my consent to all the others closest me?
I can not remember all of his trespasses, though they come to me in the night.
I am not always sure of truth or fiction, because I have tried to separate myself from the devastating nature of truth.
But I do remember, concretely, words and blows, boundary-crossing, abject fear, threats.

In the light I look like some one, but I know the truth of how tenuous my circumstances are.

If I fall, it will be without a net.

But if I succeed, I have arrived on my own two feet, at the pace and on the path that I have chosen, and that is the greatest achievement of my life, beyond any epic art or activism, that I have arrived here of my own accord.
By my choice, by my words, by my deeds, I am borne up, and out of the house of rape, abuse, and neglect.

-RD

trigger warning for sexual assault, rape “jokes”, nightmares, PTSD stuff, getting triggered.

she thought it was funny. apparently the whole internet thought the video of a puppy trying to rape a chicken was hi-lar-i-ous.

except for me. call it my shitty sense of humor, call it being a rape survivor, call it the nightmares i’ve been having about rape and sexual assault that leave me wondering if someone is sneaking into my bedroom and doing things to me (the physical sensations are so real!). call me suspicious, call me crazy. call it feminist oversharing. call it being bored by talking about rape. whatever the fuck you want to call it.

she turned it off as soon as she saw that i had gone to stone and i said, “can we turn it off now, please?”

i think she really hoped to make me laugh, is the sad thing. she kept apologizing but every time she apologized she would mention the contents of the video (“a puppy trying to sexually assault a chicken”).

the whole thing was violent and graphic and it reminded me too much of places i’ve been. god, it made me feel crazy to be able to anthropomorphize the whole situation, but it’s too close for comfort, too recent even to events now years and years gone.

it’s not my sense of humor, it’s that rape jokes aren’t funny. i’ve got a good sense of humor. i gotta remind myself of that. pull up out of my pocket the time when M. looked at me, blue eyes so blue and said “you’re silly,” as if out of wonderment or joy or both. oh, look at the absurdity we had found in eachother.

ughhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Hello reader, this writing is triggering for me to write, let alone read, so I can only imagine what it would be like for someone else. But I need some place to put this stuff, and this bottle is the only place I got. So read with care, and click away as needed. Trigger warning for: childhood abuse, rape, childhood neglect, I don’t even know what all.

Dear Dad,

I’ve been thinking so much about the tiered tracks of colonialism and patriarchy in our lives. You spent so much of the years I lived with you reading military histories deep into the night, your bedside lamp burning until dawn. Often I would find you in the morning before I left for work, light still on, book collapsed and glasses still astride your face. You and I did not talk about the ethos of those narratives, only the events, the ways that wars are won–we talked about them like they were games of chess, not wages of terror visited upon brown bodies. Bodies not entirely unlike ours, in shade or feature. How funny that you kept your dark hair long and shining, defiantly, even while claiming not to see color. Perhaps you were just too tired of being seen for yours. I remember you in a rare snappish moment with a stranger (usually you reserved your brute force for those closest you). We were near your office and an elderly native man spare changed you, tried to call you cousin. You sucked your teeth haughtily (or I imagine you did) and snapped back, “I am not your cousin.” I remember being shocked a little that my father, usually so over-generous, could be so cold to someone so obviously in need. But then I remember, too, the summer when you got too dark watching us kids poolside at the apartment and you were stopped 3 times in 2 days for the same busted taillight. Was it a speed trap, or were they out to get you? There were other times, I don’t remember them all. You were always being asked if you were Indian, and you were always saying no. And to be fair, we’re the sum of our parts, not just that fraction, and so I don’t call myself native in any sense but that I grew up in this state. People didn’t start to ask me what I was until my hair came in as dark as it is now–each year successively darker, like my body is shirking off colonization.

You believed that my body was a colony unto itself and that you were the sovereign power. You taxed me with forced affection, even after I ceased to welcome your touch. “You act like I abuse you!” you exclaimed after I cowered under your embrace, which at a moment’s notice could have turned to a slap across the face. When you found out that I had been raped, you never asked me if I was okay–instead you yelled for hours about how wrong it was to engage in pre-marital sex while I cried myself thick and swollen shut with mucous, trying to tell you about my rapes. Later, when you found out it wasn’t consensual you apologized offhandedly with no feeling: “Sorry. I didn’t know.” How could you not know, how could it not occur to you? I was fourteen years old. Maybe in some distant place and time sex with a fourteen year old girl who has been abandoned by both parents can be consensual, but not where we lived, not how we lived. And you never thought to ask if I was okay! This broke my heart, and like a bad shoulder mended but never healed it still hurts when the weather turns stormy. The nightmares that used to wake me up screaming were not about my rapist–they were about you, in his place.

The last time I saw you it was as I broke free from your grip, bruises in the shape of your hands already rising on the back of my neck, welts that later bloomed black swelling the cartilage of my ears. I went to job interviews like that, covered my bruises with thrift store finds and a thin veil of hair. Did I leave off my earrings, so as not to draw too much attention to any discolored flesh still exposed? I remember thinking of it, but I can’t remember what I did. No one asked. No one said, you should leave him, girl, for which I was grateful because being forced to the awkward response that I already had and that it was my father who was responsible, not just any man, but that man, would have been almost too much to bear. In between job interviews and panic attacks and struggling to finish school we photographed my injuries and I moved my things into a tent in a friend’s backyard. The cops didn’t call me back for two weeks, and by then I had too much on my plate to even think about pressing charges (which probably would not have stuck, anyways). I wish I had wheatpasted your office, but what would the posters have said? “This man beats children” might have been sufficient. After all, I wasn’t the only one you raised a fist to, and I probably won’t be the last. I was 18 and I was legally an adult but I was still a child, tho I had already dealt with the vagaries of bills, rent, budgets. I was probably more responsible then at 18 than I am now at 26, second adolescence or something. Remember how you used to forget the bills, and the water would get shut off? I started to remind you, and you resented it. But you were the adult, you were the parent, these things were your responsibilities, and if you couldn’t claim that responsibility then you should never have laid claim to it at all.

I am learning Spanish again, this time in a classroom and not the backseat of your dirty beat-up car. I can hardly say it: I am learning Spanish so that I can speak to my father’s family in Mexico. But not to you. I do not want to speak to you, and don’t imagine that will change in this lifetime, tho life is long enough to allow for it. What I come up against more than anything is not what you did (tho I miss rock’n’roll jeopardy and browsing bookshops, I do), it is what you didn’t do, the places you should have stepped in, been present, where you instead stepped off, disappeared altogether. You let them, your wives. Threaten me, starve me, demean me. It’s not the physical starving that gets to me–I went hungry but not emaciated, not eating-out-the-garbage, just dizzy and achy. No, it was the starving for support, for love, for recognition of my individuation. They saw me as part of my mother, the woman you still loved and hated, and they were jealous of me in turn. You let your wife threaten me, “if you don’t come home now you can never come home again!” mere minutes after you assaulted me, as if it were simply a matter of differing opinions and not escaping the brutality of your violence. She would have watched while you killed me, I know this. She would have burned my body for you. I don’t know why she held you in such high regard and me in so little, but she would have allowed you to take my life before her very eyes. How could anyone? She could. You let these women into my life. You put your hands on my throat and tried to wring the life from me. I can not hate them, I can not even hate you–but I can close the door. No more. I will not allow you and your inability to set boundaries or respect boundaries invade my life anymore. I am no longer your child, I am an adult.

With love and respect for myself,

RD

thinking hard about cultural constructions of masculinity and (especially) how they affect parenting.

watched this recently (ed. note: available on netflix). predictably felt there were some wonky racist/classist/sexist elements, but overall it still rendered useful food for thought, questioning cultural mores about masculinity. And I appreciated the “ah ha!” moment the main protagonist has at the end where he’s like oh, my performance of masculinity=violence! tragedy times, WHOOOAAA.

when talking about my dad’s abusive craptitude, my mother is often wont to remind me that he grew up at the intersection of two deeply patriarchal cultures (Mormon and Latin@), in addition to the usual USian immersion-in-the-patriarchy program (ugh).

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Hey reader! This post is about police violence, rape culture, and the international phenomenon of the Slutwalk. I consider this subject matter to be fairly triggering, so please take care of yourself and click away as needed. Consensual Xs and Ohs! -RD

Despite many misgivings, I decided to attend the Slutwalk in my city. Slutwalk started in response to a Toronto cop who in a fit of classic victim-blaming, told a group of students that if women didn’t want to get raped, “[they] should stop dressing like sluts.” It’s exciting that large-scale feminist demonstrations like this one are happening in my city. But I was utterly dismayed as I walked up to the initial rally not only to find a massive faction of cops rambling around, but also to overhear folks affirming the choice of the organizers to have cops present.

There were lots of sharp, insightful signs, but there were also questionable signs that enforced hierarchies of privilege. For the purposes of documentation, I tried to photograph signs moreso than any individual people or faces.  Being able to appear at any public protest (particularly this one) without fear of repercussions from one’s employer, religious community, family, partner(s), etc, is a privilege, and I didn’t want to diminish that for anyone, although there were copious other photographers present, most of whom appeared to be male and photographing people indiscriminately.

After the march we convened for a second rally. While there, I was a party to the following:

A skinny young white woman (let’s call her Pink Flamingo, or PF, okay?) is walking briskly after an older heavyset man in a green sweater (let’s call him Rat Bastard, or RB, okay?), calling out after RB “delete that picture! delete that picture! delete that picture!” PF blocks his path, “delete that picture. Please delete that picture.”

RB responds “No,” and tries to keep walking and to enter a store. One of my comrades and I follow, comrade calmly says something to the effect of “what’s going on here?”. PF tries to block RB’s path again and RB grabs her as PF says “I just want you to delete that picture.”

“Hey! keep your hands OFF OF HER!” I yell. I was upset before, but now I’m absolutely fucking livid.

An employee of the store keeps saying “this is a business, this is a business,” and another employee is getting a cop from just outside the doors. Everything happens so fast, and I am shaking, worried that PF will be arrested, or all of us.

The cops separate everyone out and talk to RB and PF. I can’t here what they’re saying to PF, but I do hear what the pig is saying to RB: “If they’re in public, you can take a picture of whoever you want.”

I wish I could think in words when I’m mad, but I can’t. If I could, I would have yelled this is what rape culture is, pig! This is why we’re here! The appearance of one’s body in public is not consent.

But this is not an isolated instance. Cops enforce rape culture every day. It’s more visible when they enforce rape culture on young, white cis-gendered people, but just as sinister (or even moreso) is the effect of police violence and rape culture on people who are marginalized by mainstream pro-cop, pro-state, pro-PIC organizing.

Some tuff bitches said:

It is not enough to ask for reform from a system that disappears people through the construction of borders and jails, while affirming cultural values about rape, gender, race and straightness. The only people who should be in the business of articulating and setting boundaries for how they experience their bodies are people themselves, NOT the State, NOT the police, and certainly not industries hellbent on manifesting insecurities that keep us tied to mythical protectors. Instead, let us consider other ways of affirming our own agency and dismantling the apparatus of the State and all of its constituents.

As anarchists, we want the extinction of police and prison culture. As survivors, we want to set the boundaries for how and when we fight back against sexual violence.