Burning the Journals

Midnight ember
I just got back from a camping trip with my wife. With her support, I burned several boxes of old journals, dating back from my childhood through the present. It took me three days. Now that I’ve decided not to sue the old hopefully soon to be dead bastard, I don’t need them any more.

I flipped through each of them, tore out some poetry and things I wanted to keep, and then burned the rest. As a Wiccan, releasing ritual is usually done on the waning moon, but the moon was waxing so I needed to interpret what I was doing in that light, as accepting, increasing or making whole rather than discarding something unwanted.

What I came up with is that I am all of it. I am the woman who  wrote 30+ years of journals, writing mostly when I had too much inside that I couldn’t share. I am the teenage girl obsessing about boys and interpersonal crap with girls, even though I’m a lesbian. I am the young woman obsessing about guys, money and finding a job. I am the emerging lesbian obsessing about women, whether to label myself bi or lesbian. Thank goodness queer wasn’t a label in use then, that would have been way more confusing. I am the woman who lived with a man but knew she  preferred women, who fell in love with her best friend and was rejected by her.

I am the woman who saved her friend from committing suicide because I could read the signs and took a long cab ride out to stop her. I am the woman who stood up at a 12 step convention and asked a crowd of 300 people to tell me they believed me about the abuse. I cry even now thinking of how powerful that was, when they all unanimously stood and declared it in unison. I am the woman with a powerful and direct voice when she has enough social support and a hesitant, anxious and ruminating manner when she doesn’t. I am the girl who wrote poetry. I am the girl who counted in her head to keep from having intrusive thoughts and feelings about the abuse.

I am the woman who successfully pulled her mind away from abuse thoughts during sex, who once despaired of ever having an orgasm without some abuse fantasy in it, who took her sexuality back from the abuser. Who now almost never thinks or feels those things in sexual contexts.

I am the woman who chronicled her flashbacks – reading them I remembered when the memories of the abuse were more visceral, and am glad that has faded as they got integrated.

I accept all of my experience, power and knowledge into me. I integrate that girl, that woman I have been and am. Although I have changed and evolved, it is all me and I welcome that stored energy and passion back to me.

What I noticed as well, is that so much paper was spent agonizing over decisions, fretting and obsessing rather than acting. Some of this is my highly sensitive person nature, where I am cautious and slow to act. Some of it is the chronic anxiety I struggled with most of my life. Some of it is just that I had no one else to tell. Some of that has not changed.

If this ritual, this spell of release and transformation, has one goal, it’s to end that. I will write purposefully – envisioning the ideal future or in poetry, music or prose – or not at all. I will put my feelings into music or art instead. I have obsessed and ruminated enough. Now I will act.

My self-help book is underway. The working title is “It gets better: What I learned from 25 years of healing childhood rape”. I could use some ‘test readers’ to give me feedback on the rough draft – not about fine editing things and grammar, those are third or fourth draft, but about what parts seem most helpful, what might be missing, what’s unclear. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to review a copy of it and give me some feedback. A lot of it is from this blog, just organized in a different way with some added material.

semi-multiple identity moments

kids and 50mm 1.2
kids and 50mm 1.2 by limaoscarjuliet, on Flickr

Today I took the day off work (my hours are flexible) to have a ‘creativity day’. I had intended to practice my singing repertoire for my voice lesson tomorrow. I by early afternoon I hadn’t got to it yet, and couldn’t seem to. Finally I resorted to my journal.

It turns out my inner child got triggered by a funeral I went to this weekend for a coworker. His family were sincerely grieving and he was a genuinely good man. I cried a little too at the funeral and before, and supported one of my work-friends who was a lot closer to him and is in serious grief.

I thought emotionally, that was it for me that day, until today, when for some reason I just couldn’t make myself do what I’d planned to do with my day today, rehearse for my singing lesson tomorrow. Could not make myself do it. I was really resistant, like a tired toddler in a mall.

So I went through the usual suspects. Was I feeling shame? It was sort of like that but not exactly. An inner child thing? Bingo. I tried writing to her where I use my dominant hand and have her reply with my non-dominant hand, a technique for getting at unconscious stuff. From her responses, it turns out my inner kid was freaked out that I’d been talking trash about her daddy/abuser and was worried he’d come and attack her. I spent some time reassuring her that we were all right, that he didn’t care enough to come get us, and besides he already knows we told the police a long time ago and hasn’t done anything about it in all that time.

At this point my use of ‘we’ is freaking me out a little. Yes, my inner kid feels kind of like a different person, in that I only know how she is feeling by listening to my body and dialoguing with her. And yes, I am often surprised by what she says. So is she a separate personality? Perhaps, perhaps not. As far as I know, I don’t lose time to her, and my wife hasn’t noticed anything like that either. She’s ‘come out’ in therapy sessions, and I carefully think of her and describe her as my child self when that happens. I think I remember fully what gets said and done, but how would I know if I didn’t? I’ve never had a therapist label her as anything but my inner child.  It’s not out of the question, but I haven’t had any compelling evidence so far. I’m kind of agnostic about the whole thing. I respond to her as a separate child because it works at getting through these emotional roadblocks, and often I get information and access to feelings I wouldn’t have otherwise. So dissociative yes, dissociative identity disorder probably no.  She’s a part of me, stuck in that time, who holds information and feelings that for one reason or another aren’t yet integrated into conscious memory and awareness.

Back to my inner little girl. I decided that singing was not on for today and that she needed to feel safe, and mothered by me. I created sacred space (a Pagan thing, saying prayers that create a circular prayer area) and curled up with a blanket, which feels nurturing and safe, on the floor in my living room on a particularly nice carpet. I asked the Goddess and the God to protect me, and listened to what my inner kid had to say.

She was crying about my coworker and how he was good and dead and my dad/abuser is bad and not dead. I told her that our daddy is old and will die eventually, he must be over 70 now, and the most he could last is another 20 years, which of course  is far too much. I told her that daddy is a heavy smoker and drinker, and that’s got to knock some life off of him, so surely it won’t be that long.  She was worried he’d die and come get her spiritually, that he knows things that she thinks and would punish her, which is something I was afraid of as a child. She is mad and sad about my mother, who lied to us. I explained that even if he could come and haunt us, he wouldn’t because we just aren’t that important to him. He’s broken in the head and can’t love or care about anyone. I explained that she has me now to mother her, and I’ll always be with her, and that she also has the Goddess and God to love her.

The wording she uses is young, I’m not sure what age, but I just go with it and respond as if she is an external girl needing comfort and mothering. This connects me to the feelings, and they flow. I cry so hard and long that my dog comes and licks my face and offers me her belly to rub, then stands over me, looking solemn. Knowing she is there to guard me and watch for danger is comforting as well.

After the crying settles down she let me know that she wanted to go outside and get an ice cream. I decided to go with it, and went out and bought a nice big cone, and listened to an audiobook on my headphones while taking a walk to my favourite park. I framed it in my mind as nurturing her, being a good mommy to a child that had been scared and sad. The ice cream was delicious and the story felt like being read to as a child, something I loved. I spent time looking at the beautiful trees and walked home feeling a lot better.

Afterward, I feel more whole and could probably work on my music. When I was first healing I’d have a day like this where I was iether resisting, bargaining with or, eventually, comforting my inner kid a few times a week. Now it’s just once in a while, when something happens to trigger it. It’s a  familiar process, and it works. So much of my resistance used to be her digging in her heels and forcing me to stop working and look after myself. I wonder how much of it still is?

the great divide

I can’t sleep so I’m writingthis in the middle of the night on my mini-laptop in bed. What a modern gal I am. My wife is sleeping next to me, and I”m hoping the dim light of the screen doesn’t wake her.

I’m thinking about taking a break from my therapist. It just doesn’t feel lik I’m making any real life positive changes as a result of therapy any more. If anything I’ m a bit more ashamed,a bit more depressed than has been typical, and I can’t seem to shake it. \I feel like I need to do some present day life housecleaning to feel better, to get on the physical level and her approach isn’t really that style.

I need to get this feeling of general dissatisfaction, confusion and shame about my job sorted. \I’ve taken on too much and am just not ableto do the stellar job for all my clients that I once was.

I feel overworked, anda bit burnt out. My father is still not dead, stinking Father’s day is looming (I don’t know exactly when it is, but the media is putting on more positive stories about fathers and someone tried to sell me a robot controlled helicopter today at the mall for father’s day.I didn’t tell him my father is an evil bastard and the only way I’d buy him a helicopter is if it could be reliably expected to hasten his death.

My marriage is a bit better than usual lately, and I’ve seen some of my friends more. I’m thinking I could get a nice long aromatherapy massage every two weeks for the same money as seeing my therapist and probably more benefit to my mood.

It’s not that I don’t like her or that she’s doing a bad job or anything like that, it’s just that I don’t feel like I’m getting anything done,or that seeing her right now is improving my mood or life. She’s become like a friend I complain to, and that’s not cutting it.

I need a mom, nurturing or life skills instruction. I need a small business coach or a priestess to bless me. I need to feel that it is all going to work out okay. I need to know it, with help to create a rational plan I can reasonably believe will do the job in a reasonable time span. I need hope. I need someone to tell me what vitamins to take and what exercise to do to make me feel better, who isn’t flaky or expecting me to take their advice on faith with no evidence.

I have no mother or father or big brother to believe in. I have no family but my wife and she seems fragile and overburdened herself half the time. She loves me. Today was her day off and she popped into my office to bring me snacks andvitamins and juice smoothies at intervals,did my filing and looked after the dog so I could concentrate. She’s a good person and gives me practicalsupport that I find nurturing and helpful because she loves me. does she talk abou tfeelings with me? not so much, but she doesn what she can.

The great divide is between the physical and the emotional, or perhaps both of those and the spiritual. It should all be one seamless whole, but it feels unbalanced.I need to be in my body more, I think that will help with the shame. What do I feel shame abuot? Really I’m not sure. The loss of my older brother and mother, realistically, finally, is something I’m still grieving. Their rejection seems like a rejection of some child part of me, like my inner child just can’tfigure out why my adored older brother, the safe one, the hero, treats me like I’m craxy and bad, and my own mother won’t do me the courtesy of responding to a letter I sent more than a year ago.

the great divide is between holding on to my reality, the true reality where there is actually nothing inherently wrong with me and their reactions are their own gunk and nothign to do with me at all, and the fear that somehow they are right, or perhaps just me bargaining with the loss. If I accept their premise that it really is me that is wrong, that I need to just shut up about the abuse and behave as if it never happened, then I don’t have to accept that I’ve lost them both. However, since they really do believe that, I really have lost them both. Perhaps I need somesort of grief ritual for more than my father. Perhaps it is not just him I’m burying.Like most of the survivors I know, I have finally lost my family of origin.

I was talking to an old friend of mine who I ran into yesterday. He was saying how his family had basically disowned him for being gay, but that his mom had told him years ago, that as you get older it’s your friends that matter more than your family, that your friends become your family. Perhaps this is true.

I’m a pretty intense person. Apparently us creative types, and highly sensistive people often are. I like the richness of my inner life, the depth and the interconnection of symbol and spirit that I feel and wouldn’t give it up. It’s what helps me write,what makes me care about my job, and have compassion for other people. It’s what  makes me who I am. But  being true to myself can sure make me lonely too, realising that very few people see the world as I do.

Email to a survivors organization in my home town

I just sent this.

Hi there,

I’m sorry for doing this in an email, but wasn’t certain I could explain all this well over the phone. I hope you can forward this email to whomever in your organization it might concern. I’m originally from [home town] (born and raised) and am an incest survivor. My abuser, who was my father, is still living in [home town] and is likely to die within the next year from cancer. I’ve been in recovery for over 20 years and in general am very well, but since surviving and recovering has been such a big and spiritually significant part of my life, I know I will need to celebrate my abusers death in a way consistent with my culture and spirituality, as part of having closure with him.

Photocredit: "Crossed Swords" by Bott.Richard
Photocredit: "Crossed Swords" by Bott.Richard

I’m planning to dance a traditional Scottish sword dance that is performed on the death of a mortal enemy to celebrate the victory of having outlived him and banish him from my life. Since I’m fairly certain my father will be buried in [my hometown] I’m planning to do this at his gravesite there, with a bagpiper and supportive witnesses. I’m working with a counsellor here on this and will be bringing my partner and one or two friends with me, but wanted to make contact with your organisation, in case it would be possible to receive some support from you while I am up for the ceremony. I have investigated the legalities of performing this ceremony at my father’s gravesite, and it looks like there should be no barriers. Grieving rituals are not only expressly allowed under the provincial funerals act, they are protected and cannot be interrupted by law. The cemetery itself has a no disturbing the peace rule, but a graveside grieving ceremony conducted by a relative could hardly qualify. My family are supportive and will not object.

I plan to bring a friend who is a video artist to record this event in hopes that it might be meaningful to other survivors, and would like to extend an invitation to local survivors and their allies who might want to bear witness to what I believe will be a powerful and empowering ceremony.

Anyhow, if you agree it would be appropriate to talk further about this, I’d like to speak with one of your staff about this, and keep you posted on the plans that will begin once my abuser dies. If this type of support does not fall within your mandate, I understand. I would also be willing to cover the cost of the counsellors time. Knowing that there was a feminist counsellor with childhood sexual assault literacy available in [my hometown] to check in with in some way during my visit would be very helpful.

Photocredit: Zanastardust
Photocredit: Zanastardust

Sincererely,

[My Real Name]

Songs to dance on an abusers grave to

The concept of dancing on your abusers’ grave seems to have some resonance for survivors I’ve talked to. Not all of us are of Scottish heritage, or even interested in learning the sword dance or Ghillie Callum used for this purpose.

For those of you lucky enough to have dead abusers with graves ripe for dancing, I thought I’d provide a list of suggested songs. Perhaps between this and the comments we can come up with a nice long list.

  • Flinty Kind of Woman – Dar Williams – this upbeat country song tells the story of a bunch of upscale New England matrons garrotting an attempted child molester in a bog.
    “Going east of Mississippi got a flinty kind of woman And you don’t act smart and you don’t touch my children If the young man wants to see the sun go down” Here’s another sample (the words are great)
    “And by the “Welcome to New England” sign
    Got him with the fishing line
    In the dark smell of brine
    Betty said “This one is mine.”
    She is ruthless ”
    Here’s a link to the lyrics: http://darwilliams.net/music/tabs/flinty.html
  • Independence Day – Martina McBride – story from a grown child’s perspective of her mom burning down the house to kill herself and her batterer.
    The Chorus:
    “Let freedom ring,
    let the white dove sing
    let the whole world know that
    Today is a day of reckoning
    let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
    roll the stone away, let the guilty pay, its independence day.”
    Click here to watch the video
  • Concrete Angel – Another Martina McBride Song – more a grieving song about an abused child who died.
    “Through the wind and the rain,
    She stands hard as a stone in a world that she can’t rise above;
    But her dreams give her wings and she flies to a place where she’s loved.
    Click here for full lyrics
    View video here
  • Goodbye Earl – Dixie Chicks – the story of two best friends who kill the battering spouse of one of the women after he disregards a restraint order and get away with it.
    Well she finally go the nerve to file for divorce, she let the law take it from there.  But Earl walked right through that restraining order, and put her in intensive care. Right away Mary Anne flew in from Atalnta, on a red eye midnight flight. She held Wanda’s hand as they worked out a plan and it didn’t take long to decide that Earl had to die.”
    Click here to watch the video – worth it to watch the gleeful dancing when he dies Celebrative and upbeat. Good for a grave-dancing.
  • Testimony by Ferron – not super overt, but about strength among women after sexual assault, very pretty.
    ” But by my life be I spirit
    And by my heart be I woman
    And by my eyes be I open
    And by my hands be I whole”
    Click here for full lyrics

I don’ t have any good incest survivor pride songs yet, but maybe you have one.

In a cold and northern town

[A song in progress – celtic/folk story ballad feel. Key of D major]

In a cold and northern town, the days are short and the nights are long
A little girl grew up alone, surrounded by her family

When she was five years old she didn’t know that daddy’s weren’t allowed
She thought a monster’d come to kill her, (I) guess that’s what it was

A father owns his daughter, while not exactly true
was true enough to keep her enslaved and him free to abuse.

And now she dances a sword, atop his grave so fresh
And she dances victory, to drive away his cruel ghost

[Bridge]

She cried at school until they teased her, bad crybaby, should grow up
She never heard she had a right to tell, or even
what to call it
when the monster called

And when in hospital he lay, they tried to save his life,
they got him into treatment, he got nursing from his wife.

And now she dances a sword dance, atop the monsters grave
And she dances victory and she is proud and she is brave

Her grandpa died when she was 12, her mother told her later
if he had known he’d have slayed that monster, he would have saved her

Her grandmamar, the monster’s mother, bravely faced the truth
She listened to her grown grand-daughter
and gave her back her family

Her Scots ancestors danced over
crossed swords  before battle to prove their hearts

Danced over their slain foes, to celebrate,
to keep vengeful spirits in their grave.

So now she dances a sword, atop his grave so fresh
and she dances victory, to seal his cruel ghost

So now she calls her fierce ancestors, to take his soul away
that never may he trouble her, in night or in the day, oh.

And now she dances a sword, atop his grave in victory
And she dances binding
to seal his cruel ghost.

And now she calls her fierce ancestors, to take the monster’s soul away
that he may trouble her no more, in night  or in the day

And may they trouble us no more
the men who try to rape/take our souls
and may we outlive them all!
and dance upon their graves!

[Note about men as abusers – The following are all true: most sexual abusers are men, women abuse children sexually too, boys get abused too, I have many men I love and who are my allies. I refer to abusers as men in my writing because that is my reality. Your mileage may vary, and that’s fine. If you’re against child sexual abuse, that’s all we need to be allies.]

Going on living

Photocredit: mtsofan on flickr
Photocredit: mtsofan on flickr

As part of my ongoing quest to stop I’m starting gradually to getting back into both doing things I’m passionate about and letting others witness me doing them. Tonight, I’ll be meeting to jam for the first time with a friend of a friend who plays the guitar. We’ve been discussing material and will be putting together some jazz and folk numbers, perhaps to perform. This is probably a good thing to do this week, continue to unfurl the sprout and reach for the sun rather than focus on worrying about how my mother will react.

I realized why I have the fear my mother will kill herself ‘accidentally’ in a car accident driving while sleep deprived (she works two full time jobs)  in reaction to my letter. It’s happened before.

A few years ago I decided to send altered father’s day cards to my abuser, reminding him of how his actions had affected me. I’d read this thing that talked about how under partriarchy the consequences of actions all flow downhill – boss yells at worker, worker yells at wife, wife yells at older kid, older kid hits younger kid, younger kid teases dog. I decided to make the ball roll up hill. I bought and doctored up a couple of these fathers day cards and sent them off in intervals. I forget if I sent one or more than one, I know I intended to send them every few months. I have a few left somewhere. It helped me deal with all the mushy  mushy we love our dads stuff around father’s day, by formally acknowledging my remembrance of daddy is quite different.

Anyhow, later that year, on my birthday no less, I get a call telling me that dear old dad had drunk himself into a .4 blood alcohol reading (in the range that causes death) and driven his car into the wall.  The two family dogs were with him and one died. The other was found unharmed. My abuser was in intensive care with a flail lung. (50% mortality rate) Coincidence he did this on my birthday a few months after his wife left him and I started sending him regular reminders? I think not. He almost died before some idiot doctor dropped by, spotted the flail lung and put him in intensive care, saving his life. In ICU, he was diagnosed with liver cancer  and contracted a flesh eating disease  (that almost killed him as well. Then he had to quit drinking, a virtual impossibility, and find a liver donor (also hard for an old drunk) to get a transplant. All of this news was spread out over the next several months. I was a wreck, getting news every couple of weeks or so that he was on his deathbed. My wife wouldn’t let me go visit him – she thought I might be tempted to kill him. I wouldn’t have done it, although I might have yelled at  him a bit hoping it gave him a heart attack or something.  I went to the cancer centre for these relaxation groups for family members. Blessedly, they didn’t make you say anything so I didn’t have to say I wasn’t actually hoping he’d survive. Then my mother, who had left the bastard a few months prior, moves back in with him to nurse him through his transplant and I was afraid she was going back permanently. She didn’t and recruited my abusers’ sisters to take second shift. She noted that they went as a pair, so neither would be alone with him. The family really pulled together to save his life, which felt like a slap in the face.

What seems like divine intervention to me (Goddess only knows why) is the following:

  • Death rate from .4 blood alcohol – unknown but high
  • Death from serious car accident – unknown but high
  • Death from flail lung = 50% mortality
  • Death rate for Liver cancer over 5 years =94% mortality rate
  • Death rate from flesh eating bacteria = 73% mortality rate

Why are the Gods keeping this guy alive these past 5 or so years against all these odds? To give him more time to suffer (I approve) , give him more time to get to remorse (he’ll live forever…) or to give me time to prepare? I’ve been banking on at least the last one.

You can see now why I’m expecting him to die any time now. Particularly as he’s had a recurrence last summer and still smokes and drinks.

So anyways, tonight I’m going to sing. I’ve lost almost 20 lbs of camoflage so far and I’ve mailed a brave letter to my mother. One day soon I’m going to set up a sword dance lesson with the teacher I researched.

I can do this.

This is a song I wrote several years ago:

When the world is full of pain, and there’s no way you can stop it.
The truth’s a bitter shame, and the holy has been stolen.

When there’s no safe place to go and there is no-one safe to love
And you have to hide your face to survive.

Remember, there’s no reason to go on, but you must.
The world makes no damn sense but you go and live there anyway
When you remember, there’s no reason, maybe no hope and no reward, go on living, loving, hoping anyway.

I thought my courage to survive was all I’d ever need,
but the world I re-emerged to I could no longer believe.
When you’ve seen the very worst there is the greatest feat of all is to

Remember, there’s no reason to go on, but you do.
The world makes no damn sense, but you go and live there anyway.
When you remember there’s no reason, maybe no hope and no reward,
but go on living, loving, hoping anyway.

(Copyrighted material (C) 1991 All rights reserved. You can quote it but always credit the source.)

Photocredit: Ecstaticist on flickr
Photocredit: Ecstaticist on flickr

Trying to make it Normal

I spent the weekend with a bunch of friends and acquaintances at a storytelling retreat. At this same retreat last year was the first time I told people publicly that I intend to dance on my father’s grave. It was an incredibly important experience for me then, to speak of my loneliness being a high-functioning and therefore able-to -hide survivor of extreme abuse.  It was a kind of coming out, and like all coming out experiences, helped me connect with allies and support I would not have dreamed possible.

This year, I wanted to tell them how the project was coming along. I wanted to tell these kind, sympathetic women how six months after I told them how I was waiting for my father to die, I got news that he’d been in the hospital for months and had cancer again. I wanted to tell them how I’d been planning, preparing a rite of passage for myself, a brave act of victory and inspiration for others.

I ended up feeling more and more alone.

I am not brave. I am not a sword dance warrior waging glorious psychic battle with the patriarchy as embodied in its one evil representative in my life.

I am horribly exposed.

As I sit here, typing, gasping for breath amid sobs, from long habit permitting and encouraging myself to sob until it is all released, I feel like I have undermined all my efforts to be a success in this world, that people I know, know that I am damaged and not well socialized enough to keep my dirty secrets, fears and spiritual sorrows private in polite company.

Ice Wall II by Etolane
Ice Wall II by Etolane

I am pressed up against the wall of ice that is the silence around incest, trying  so hard not to beg, please, please let me be part of you in my whole self. Let me be a normal person with normal responses to a horrific tragedy. Let me speak  the truth of my life without making you look at me with discomfort.

Please let me be real.

My friend, who is also a brave warrior, suggests I scan and publish the art piece I made on the first night there, when it felt like I was a stream of hot lava running through a landscape meant to be watercolours and comedy, politeness and laughter.I willed myself to be truthful, to claim the right to be me in an intimate environment, knowing that successful art comes from rigorous truth. I avoided graphic details out of concern for virgin ears, and to keep the focus on my Quest. Other women could talk about the painful truths of their life, divorce, loves lost, abortions and miscarriages, loss of beloved parents, but my losses are too bizarrre to share, too evocative and raw.

As an act of courage, I ruthlessly returned to the art I wanted to make and share, the story of my quest to reclaim the right of women who have been raped to openly challenge their abusers and avenge their honour, if only in symbolic terms.  I wanted to see and hear women understand, but I don’t have any evidence they did.

On the last day, one woman, a therapist, self-confessed ‘not-a-survivor-herself’ but a therapist to many survivors over the years took exception to a phrase I used, as feminists often sadly feel the right to do.

I had used it to describe my conviction that I had been exposed, by listening to survivors I’d sat in support meetings with and in other contexts, to women who had experienced the full range of the horror of sexual abuse, from molestation to rape to ritual abuse. She said this had been disrespectful to survivors, since I couldn’t possibly have heard ‘everything’. My point had been that a thing I valued about myself was that when listening to a woman’s story, I listened for what she wanted to tell me, and didn’t get distracted by the drama of the horror. I knew of and accepted the fact of a very large range of abuse so didn’t need to attach energy to them if it wasn’t the main topic the survivor wanted to discuss.

When I tell someone about my experience, I don’t normally want them to get caught up in the dramatic and graphic details, but in the meaning I am trying to make of them, how they affect me now or even just to provide context for an everyday experience affected by my past.  I’d been really trying to say, probably, “Listen to my story, but don’t get caught up in pity or disgust. I have a richer story to tell about this if you don’t get caught up in the horror.”

Frankly, once I got over the hurt, if I have as yet, it seemed to me that this was like a white person telling a black person something they said might be disrespectful to black people. None of the other survivors I spoke to after my story seemed to have any issue with it, and I know for sure I would not have been offended had someone else said what I’d said. Perhaps it would have been offensive or disrespectful coming from someone ‘not-a-survivor-herself’, depending on the attitude that accompanied it. I’d be inclined to say that if you’re not a survivor yourself,  you can’t know.

When I was single and told lovers I was a survivor, it wasn’t because I wanted to get into it and kill the mood (although it unfortunately might have at times), but because, like a hip injury or an STD, they needed to know in order to understand why I might have some limits to the way I could have sex and it was a big deal that they be respected.

The neighbourhood where I live has a lot of lesbians living in it. This has the advantage of being a place where people are blessedly bored with the whole concept of lesbians. I can hold hands or go shopping for household items with my wife with no funny looks or awkwardness and interact with people without the gay thing getting in the way.

While I don’t want people to be bored with incest, which of course still needs to be aggressively stopped whenever and wherever it is noticed, I’d sure like it if my normal, everyday, Pagan rite of passage for the death of a mortal enemy could be viewed as a reasonable and expected thing for a survivor to do. I’d like it if survivors, like the wounded shamans of other cultures, were regarded with respect for their courage, resilience and earned wisdom. Christopher Reeves, the superman who bravely soldiered on after a spinal cord sports injury, is heralded as a hero, which may in fact be so, but where are our incest survivor comeback stories, from women who’ve sustained injuries as deep and debilitating and have triumphed?

As I tell my story, I tell myself that that is what I am creating that space for myself and others, a way of viewing survivors as heroic/heraic figures. May the all that I hold holy – earth, water and fire and air and the truth/life/sacred at the centre of all things –  bless me with the courage and support I need.

Sharpening the Sword to Dance on My Abusers Grave

A woman's sword

So I now have the sword I’m going to use to dance on my fathers grave, when he will do me and the world the favour of finally succumbing to cancer. It’s a tai chi sword, with a kind of feminine, watery feel to it, with a wooden handle and a red cord to hang it by.

It’s meant to represent my inner iron, my strength and will and intellect, all my power that I’ve used throughout my life to fight my smart, brutal, dominant, creative father. The fact I haven’t seen him in over 20 years, doesn’t mean I don’t fight him regularly. Continue reading Sharpening the Sword to Dance on My Abusers Grave

Buying the sword to dance on my abusers grave.

Why am I publishing such personal information on the web? My therapist thinks that my process might be of value to others, and I’m proud of defying the silence that supported my abuser and unfortunately still supports the abusers that are raping children today. If incest and rape is taboo to talk about, it reinforces the shame that survivors don’t deserve and helps no-one but the perpetrators.

I’ve spent about 20 years actively healing from being abused by my father, and now he’s dying. I don’t know how fast he’s dying. He’s got cancer, and this is his second bout of it, and he’s old. All of that says to me that he’s dying.

He’s a lifelong smoker and heavy drinker. It’s surprising to me that he hasn’t died yet. I’ve often wondered why the Gods would keep him alive. Surely he deserves to be dead. Now I think it’s because I hadn’t yet prepared for his death. When your mortal enemy dies, it is a rite of passage. When a pagan person’s ancestor dies, they normally become part of their community of dead, to be venerated and remembered yearly at Samhain. My father needs to have this right formally revoked. I have disowned him in life, and this ceremony will disown him in death. I am asking my grandmothers and maternal grandfather, who are all dead, to assist me in making this happen.

This past weekend I bought a sword to dance over. The sword will represent my strength. It will represent the watery emotional and psychic battle I have waged with him (the sword is a tai chi sword and feels watery, somehow). As a sword, in my Wiccan faith tradition it represents boundaries and intellect, another way I have fought with my father. The iron represents my inner iron, the crisp and sharp strength I have exercised throughout my life.

The sword dance was traditionally performed on the death of an enemy, on the battlefield. The warrior’s sword and that of the enemy are crossed, and a dance that faces the four directions is danced over the crossed swords. I think it was originally a dance of celebration, but also a dance of banishing an enemy spirit from following the warrior off the battlefield. Cancer can kill my father for me, but I will celebrate his death and bind and banish his ghost with this ceremony.

I will cross my sword with a wand representing my father’s strength that was used against me. The stick will be freshly cut, and a thickness slightly larger than my father’s thumb.

The common phrase “rule of thumb” refers to the regulation in British Common Law that controlled the diameter of the stick a man was allowed to beat his wife, his human property, with. If the diameter was larger than his thumb, beating his human chattel was illegal. It refers to what allowed and supported my father in raping me – our culture’s tacit granting of ownership of women’s bodies to the men they designate as their masters.

By this dance I renounce the custom of formal or informal ownership of women and children by men.

Now, people will say, that may have been true a century ago, but no man owns a child or woman. I say, you have not seen what I’ve seen. If a man can rape you and no-one steps in to help, because he has a specific legal relationship to you, because he’s your father or husband, then how is that different from ownership?

Then of course there are all the jokes equating one’s ‘big stick’ with the weapon my father used to torture me. It is an appropriate fit to represent his power.

After the dance, I will break his stick.