The Pink Gang – Warrior Women

This is a video I found made by an Indian woman about the Gulabi Gang – women who are fighting government corruption and male violence and promoting women’s empowerment in an empoverished area of India. The woman who leads the group was sold into ‘marriage’ as a child, bearing her first child a few years later. That makes her a child sexual abuse survivor. Good for her fighting back! You go warrior women!

“A rambunctious and fearless posse recognizable by their pink-colored saris, the Pink Gang is the nemesis of violent husbands and inept government officials. Having personally suffered abuse, members of the vigilante club thrash abusive men, wife beaters and rapists, confront and shame wrongdoers and storm local police stations to accost lackadaisical cops.

Formed in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi, 45, who was sold into marriage at nine and became a mother at 13, the gang challenges everything that is unfair and unjust, like some gang of desperados for justice on India’s wilder fringe. “Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law into our own hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers. But we’re not a gang in the usual sense of the term. We’re a gang for justice,” Devi told a TV news channel recently.

Fed up with a corrupt system and social discrimination, what finally drove Devi to launch the Pink Gang was the tale of her sister, who was dragged by her hair around a courtyard by her alcoholic husband. This last straw led Devi to “teach erring men a lesson.” She rounded up other women in her neighborhood and confronted the abusive brother-in-law with whatever “weapons” they could muster — walking sticks, iron rods, a child’s cricket bat. He was then chased into a sugarcane field and thrashed by the women.” Full story here

Magic and Meditation

I attended my friend’s celebration of life this week. It seems she was a remarkable woman. I also found out at this ceremony that she was probably a survivor as well. There were about a hundred people at the ceremony, all of whom had been profoundly affected by her support and positive encouragement.  The attendees included the  mayor of the town she lived in, along with someone high up in the RCMP who attended in full dress uniform in honour of her.  I did not know her in this way, or really well at all.  I think she saw me as a powerful priestess rather than someone she needed to support and encourage, which I guess is a compliment.

She and I attended a fairly intense week-long spiritual retreat almost ten years ago, the retreat where she also met the woman, M–, who was to become her wife. M– is also my friend and we’ve stayed in touch. I attended their wedding a few years ago. I went to the funeral primarily for my friend her wife and was able to offer her something I don’t think anyone else could, some spritual witchy support. In a room full of friends of her wife, she was not necessarily among people who knew and cared for her. At least I am someone who knows M– in her own right. The problem with having an intensely social, popular wife is that when she is gone there is no-one.  I’m going to try and stay connected with M–.

I’m still trying to calm my mind and get my life in order. I’d like to feel more centred, have more energy (I’m fatigued a lot of the time) and get the things I’m passionate about done. I’m still meditating once a day, which seems to be helping.

Photocredit: Swamibu
Photocredit: Swamibu

I was telling Butterfly today that many of the people I’ve told about my sword dance ceremony have offered to fly up there with me to attend. This is an incredible thing. Aside from my ACoA days, I’ve never had this kind of support from nonsurvivors, people seem to actually get it.

Once, years ago, perhaps 20 or so now, I was at an ACoA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) conference. 12 step groups were good for me, especially the ones with no cross talk, where I could share about what I was struggling with with the abuse without having to deal with people’s reactions, which seemed to be mostly a kind of horrified pity. I was sitting in a chair in an auditorium, listening to a speaker, and I guess feeling a then-rare moment of safety I seemed to feel only in 12 step groups at the time.  I had a very strong feeling of being touched by a huge, benevolent hand that loved me, a tactile vision of God, which is what I called my higher power at the time.  Later in the conference, I was speaking in front of a large group of two or three hundred people and I asked for something I wanted. I wanted, if they felt it,  to hear people say they believed me about the abuse.  All of them rose and said in unision, “We Believe You [my first name]”. I believe they meant it. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking of it.

Being visible as a survivor can bring a lot of awkwardness and stupid comments from people, but at times it can bring great gifts.

Photocredit: NFlorence2012
Photocredit: NFlorence2012 - "Dance of Shakti"

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.

Book Review and Divine Intervention

The other day I was picking up a book I’d requested at the library and absent mindedly browsing the books nearby, which happened to be about religion. I picked up about 8 books in all, including one called “Leaving the Saints: How I  Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith” by Martha Beck.

Here’s the divine intervention part. I really think the Goddess sent me this book.

Martha is the daughter of a Mormon scholar and apologist, and an incest survivor. She describes what began as a spiritual search for union with God and progresses toward experiencing repressed memories and leaving the church. At the time of writing she was a straight mother of three (actually according to her site about the book she’s now in a relationship with a woman) with a doctorate in sociology from Harvard, and she was raised within a patriarchal religious community  but other than that her experience reflected mine so much that it took my breath away. It also made me laugh or snort out loud several times, as she’s got a wicked and irreverent sense of humour.

She was raised with the regular Mormonism, not the trafficking-children-in-‘marriage’ -for statutory-rape-by-old-geezers polygamist type  that spring to mind when discussing Mormon child sexual abuse, so her cultural references are relatively familiar. She had a supportive husband who didn’t care that she doesn’t cook, similarly to my spouse.

She was also first raped by her father at the age of five. Her father was also a highly intelligent, high status guy who was highly dissociative, liked to speak in codes (my father once  inserted himself into a college phone conversation with my mother and told me quite seriously not to let any man make me his teddy bear, a comment I still don’t understand), and believed he’d been cured of serious illnesses (in my father’s case, complete blindness) by God. However, given my fathers near miraculous survival from multiple health hazards and accidents, he may have something there.

Unlike me, her extended family were mostly unsupportive, because her dad is so famous in the Mormon world and also because the Mormon’s are all about propping up male authority no matter what. Some of the press in particular has made the usual accusations of false memories, something Beck refutes in a particularly clear statement online.

At this point I’d like to pause for a nice clarifying rant.  Here’s the backup references for what I’m about to say: [click here] So called ‘false memory syndrome’ is NOT recognized as a syndrome by any reputable scientific source, like the DSM or the American Psychological Association. The folks who made this completely false syndrome up and promote it are themselves accused child molesters or their spouses. One of their ‘expert witnesses’ was quoted endorsing sex with children in a paedophilia magazine.  People don’t want to believe bad stuff happens to children because it freaks them out. I get it. But lying and hurting people who’ve already been through so much is unethical, and supporting the propaganda interests of pedophiles and their apologists is heinous. Journalists, stop being manipulated by child abusers!  End of  rant.

Beck says some very useful things about abusers and their behaviour and what causes them, and has also learned the same passionate devotion to truth and hatred of lies, silence and complicity that I have.  She also has had mystical experiences of the divine (although hers seem more striking to me, somehow) and has found them an important part of her healing.  Her mother also initially said she believed her, in a conversation chillingly similar to the one I had with my mother where she said “yes, that’s something he’d do” but also wanted her to forgive and support her father anyway, like it didn’t matter what he’d done at all.

She also has something I’m a bit embarassed to envy – scar tissue inside her vagina  that proves she was raped as a child. I don’t know if I have scar tissue, and I’m kind of scared to find out. I told a doctor I was a child sexual abuse survivor (just in case I had a flashback with my legs in the stirrups, not (gasp!) to get all emotional or needy on her. She was horrified. She told me everything looked normal, like in those words she could erase ten years of experience. What would I gain in making that up? gees!  I’d really like to know if there is scar tissue,  but doctors are generally robots – how could I find one that would seriously investigate for physical evidence rather than trying to invalidate me from their own discomfort? I have some ‘female issues’  that could be related like vaginal infections so constant that a doctor once tested me for both AIDS and diabetes (I have neither) to try and figure out what might be causing it, but honestly, although I enjoy the TV program House MD, and like my Gray’s Anatomy, I don’t have any faith in medical doctors’ ability to figure out more subtle stuff like mine and have simply managed symptoms on my own and do all the recommended things to avoid infections.

Martha (Dr. Beck, actually, but really she feels more Martha to me) has a definition  of forgiveness,  taken from another source, that I can endorse. “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a different past”. If that’s the case, I’ve definitely forgiven my father, years ago,  and probably also my mother. I’ve always just called it ‘Acceptance’ the last stage of grieving, where things actually begin to feel better, even though the tragedy hasn’t changed at all.  I’ve long embraced grief, knowing that when it’s time to cry, it is a profound gift. Grief is my friend, as it it the only thing that actually heals tragedy.

In short, I may need to buy a copy of this book to have around for validation, since the library will only let me have it for two weeks.

On the hiding front, I’ve come down with a sore throat, a few days after my music jamming with my friend and future performing partner. My body has come to the defense of my psychic camoflage, and is trying to shut this scary passion business down. This is good, it’s like learning not to dissociate: I’ve begun to recognize when I”m doing it. I still want to sing, and I’m going to sing sore throat or no sore throat. My fingertips are tender from practicing my guitar and I’m not stopping.

I’m so grateful for this blog and the support I’ve gotten from survivors posting comments. For the first time in a long while, I have a place to be, to tell the truth to the Goddess and people who understand.

The last few weeks, I’ve been gradually eating a small supply of chocolate Eostre/Easter eggs. In my faith tradition, spring equinox eggs are sacred to the Goddess Eostre and represent rebirth, as do the red balls on the evergreen tree at Yule. I’ve decided that every time I eat an egg I’m going to dedicate it using a prayer for rebirth. Rebirth of hope. Rebirth of presence in my body and today, with this book, rebirth of Validation.