I’m forty now. I haven’t had any children and I’ve decided not to try. It’s a good thing, really, that my spouse doesn’t want kids iether, since I’ve been thinking a lot about kids since I turned forty and if I didn’t have such an awesome birth control method, I might ambivalently allow myself to get pregnant. A lot of births happen that way, I think.
Would I have had kids if I wasn’t an incest survivor? Maybe. When I was younger, I thought the pain of childbirth might trigger too much the pain of being raped as a child. I didn’t think I could handle it, and knew I didn’t have the support in my life if it turned out I couldn’t. There is really almost no systemic or societal support for incest survivors. If I had cancer or diabetes or a head injury, I could go to a support group in a hospital for free, talk about my life-challenging injury or illness freely, and even get my friends to walk in walkathons or shave their head or register to donate bone marrow in support.
But I’m an incest survivor. When I was very young I faced the threat of death, injury and loss of control over my own body on a daily basis. For a decade. Continually. While being forced on implicit threat of more violence to stay quiet about it and hide any effects on my person or behaviour. With no resources, money, status or external support of my own. With not even the knowledge that sustained people interred in concentration camps that the abusers were morally wrong and that others were going through the same thing. With only the hope of growing up and getting out to sustain me.
I hoped as a child that I would grow up and get married and get away. This was the reason to live. I looked forward to having sex, since everyone said it was such a good thing. Doing it made you an adult. Like many girls I made up names for my future children, and figured out whether I was going to be a teacher or a nurse when I grew up, those being the only choices presented.
I apparently tested at the top of the charts in the intelligence tests all kids were administered in elementary school, 98 percentile, meaning only 2 percent of all children my age tested higher. I read at a grade 12 level when I was in grade six. I was told, along with the other three girls who tested as high and were sent off to ‘enrichment’ class, that we were the hope of the future, Canada’s future leaders and we would solve the big world issues of nuclear proliferation, world peace and the environment. Even at the time I thought this was unfair. Why should the adults wait till I grew up to solve these problems? They created them, didn’t they? They were so much more powerful than I, so how could I fix things if they couldn’t?
A three dollar lock for my bedroom door would have made all the difference, had I known I had a right to one. I’m told by women who were social workers in those days that no-one was on the lookout for child sexual abuse, that telling might not have done much good. Perhaps I can let go of hating the teachers that didn’t identify that I needed help. Surely things are different now. I don’t think I can let go of hating the systemic sexism that made it possible. I know things aren’t different now.
I live in a neighbourhood where women who sell sexual services to survive work nearby. Many of them show signs of being meth users – the awkward floppy legged walk from nerve damage, visible wounds and bruises at times. All are bone-rack skinny and wear clothing insufficient to the elements. I know many feminists argue that prostitution is a legitimate profession, and I’ll allow it could be, in settings where the working conditions weren’t so appalling. I called an ambulance for a woman with so much skin ripped away from her chest that I could see raw meat underneath. Her ‘boyfriend’ really didn’t want her to go to a hospital, and tried to talk me out of calling, then dissapeared by the time the ambulance arrived. The fact that women in these straights still exist mean to me that men like my father still exist.
I was laying awake this morning thinking about what I could do today to make me feel better. I’d love to go for a walk in the large semi-natural city park we have, if I wasn’t sure I’d be afraid all the time, walking through the beautiful, sacred forest, praying and connecting energetically with the earth as is my right as a religious Pagan, that some asshole would steal my body and perhaps my life away from me again. Christians don’t have to worry about being raped during church services and I envy them. I have periodic fantasies of buying some land out in the country somewhere, where I can be in nature and feel safe at the same time. Sometimes it’s hard not to hate men for all the freedoms they enjoy. They might be afraid of being mugged in an isolated place, but not usually raped. On the tv shows where the police officer trying to get the suspect to confess or take a deal threatens them with the likelihood that they’ll be raped in jail, pretty boy that they are, I can tell this thought horrifies men. It’s like it’s this horrific, rare, exceptional thing to be in regular danger of being raped. For women it’s this horrific, common, usual thing to be in regular danger of being raped.
To point this sort of thing out is to be labelled a man hater. Bullshit! Facts are facts, and not facing them doesn’t make them not true. Men rape women more than women rape men. A lot more. Men kill women more than women kill men. A lot more. Does this mean men are bad? No. It means that we encourage men (and boys) to behave violently toward women (and girls), and mostly let them get away with it when they do. According to Raine Eisler, the military necessity of being able force a lower status man to objectify and kill a total stranger or be killed depends on this training, and it seems so does a lot of economic conquest and battle. I know lots of honourable men, but even they are uncomfortable with these facts. It’s like being a white person trying not to cooperate with racism in apparteid-era South Africa. If you’re not a full time activist, there are lots of daily ways to be complicit in thought or deed with the injustice the society around you is hell bent on perpetuating.
So what would genius-level IQ, creative, musically talented me have been if I hadn’t been a woman in a household with a rapist in a culture that lets fathers rape their children? Is is too late to be a portion of what I might have been? I don’t even know how to find out.