Last night my partner decided to watch the Color Purple, a screen adaptation of a book by Alice Walker. This is the 1985 epic movie that made the acting careers of Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg. The main character is an incest survivor, having borne two children sired by her own father by the age of 13. Both of these children are sold by her abuser and taken from her arms shortly after their birth. Don’t watch this movie if you don’t want to be triggered. It’s full of lots of events that might seem extreme to civilians, but which survivors know happen all the time, and happened to us. I don’t know how people can watch these movies – they seem so numb to me to be able to enjoy watching people get tortured.
My strategy for ‘watching’ movies like this is to drop in and out. To watch a little and then go off and fold laundry or something when it gets intense. At home on television, this means reading the summary on wikipedia so I know what the general plot is and most importantly, how it will turn out. So for Color Purple, I knew that the story ends with her father being dead and turning out to not be her genetic father, and basically her abusive husband redeeming himself after she leaves him by arranging to reunite her with her sister and children. So that’s good.
However, I still managed to see a very triggering scene. In this scene, the father is ‘teasing’ the lead character, Celie’s younger sister, with a gleam in his eye and fear in hers that says she will be his next sexual assault victim. I remember seeing that kind of ‘teasing’ from my own father, and from an in-law of my wife’s family whom I reported to child protective services as a result.
I also realized that I first watched this movie while I was still living at home with my mother and abuser. That I would have seen this intensely triggering movie for the first time when I was living the life so similar to Celie, the main character, trapped and alone and small and quiet. I was a lot like her.
This morning I found myself still triggered. I’ve been trying to heal my vulva and charting the steps I take daily, morning and night, in an attempt to heal it. The posterior fourchette, which is narrow area of the vaginal opening toward the anus, is quite sore, red and torn still. I don’t know if I’ll ever fix it. Even the really strong anti-inflammatory ointment doesn’t work on it so far, although I’m probably going to try another intense month-long treatment with it, as I think last year I may have been too general in application.The rest of my vagina is no longer sore or itchy and looks in great shape from the regular maintenance I’ve been giving it by taking anti-inflammatory turmeric and applying vaseline at least twice daily. However this area is still red and sore and the torn flesh tag makes me at least a little sad and angry every time I see it.
So I picked a fight with my wife about her not wanting to talk about my ongoing efforts to heal my vulva. It’s not that she’s unwilling to listen, she’s just not keen, and I need to talk about it a lot more than she wants to listen to it. There aren’t a lot of people in my life I can talk frankly and repeately about my injured vulva to, and most people get freaked out or try and shut me down, whether they are lovers, doctors or friends. Thank Goddess I have this blog.
Anyhow, I ended up crying and going back to bed and connecting with the child part of myself who wanted to tell her mother how much it hurt, when I was torn apart, when it refused to heal, when it got torn and torn again. I’m grieving a new layer of that injury, I recognize, and it’s good to do so. It’s good to cry about it, it’s worth crying about it, and my hope is that grieving releases more and more of the energy held there in my body, which will bring me closer to clearing it.
Earlier today I was riding the bus and the Bob Dylan song “make you feel my love” was running through my head as it has been the last several days since my voice lesson. I thought it was running throuhg my head because I’ve felt shame since that lesson, which has more to do with the body-centred voice exercise we did, opening various energy centres in the body, than it does to actual facts. The issue for me is that I have a hard time practising music. It brings up stuff for me and I have a hard time sticking with it, no matter how much I want to.
But today on the bus, I suddenly got in communication with Goddess, and the words suddenly became about Her reaching out to me, to make me feel Her love. I started crying, first on the bus and then walking down the street. It was good crying, you know, like where you are running to safety with a skinned knee and you get there and cry in relief and safety, that feeling of being loved.
I was talking to Her a little later, praying, and asking what to do about my poor torn vagina. I had a notebook, writing as if She and I were talking in a letter. And She said
“Love yourself. Love your posterior fourchette, love you body. Love yourself so full of love that you spill over. Love yourself. Meditate daily on how you love yourself. On love. On how you can feel My love. On how every inch of your body can be open to love. Every square inch of your skin, every heartbeat. Every breath in, that fills your body with the love around you from Me. Love your body. Love your vagina. Don’t bargain with it. Love it as it is, hurting and swollen. Love that little girl inside who wanted to tell her Mommy that it hurts, hurts. Love her. Love you. Every breath you take, every drop of water fills you with My love. “
So, I think I’ll do that.
7 thoughts on “The colour purple”
I read your blog and cry silently. I was an expert witness for child sexual abuse cases for 13 years. The youngest was a 6 month old, torn from stem to stern by her psychopath father. And so on….
I was violently raped at age 16, which wouldn’t have been physically as bad as it was, but I had only a pin-hole for a hymen, menstrual blood just barely got out. So he tore through me. When it healed I had this huge tag that was the part of my vulva that contained my actual hymen. The rest is just kind of, well, what remains when a big chunk is torn off.
When I was in my late 30’s I gave myself a birthday present: I found a sympathetic female reconstructive gynecologist and had that hideous piece of flesh taken off. It left me with a new set of problems, since note there is even less tissue there, but it’s better than having that constant reminder of the monster who did it.
I find that coconut oil helps immensely. You can also soak some tampons in melted coconut and insert one for long lasting moisturizing and the wonderful healing properties of coconut oil. Keep a few in the fridge, then you won’t have to make them new all the time. For even better effect and to save your underwear, wear a pad.
Sending you good juju for healing.
Sending good vibes your way.
That’s one movie I still can’t watch…nor do I want to. I saw it in theaters with some friends when it first came out, also when I was still living with my abuser. I’d had no warning what it was about & it obviously it was a huge trigger & very scary for me because I was terrified of letting anyone know what was going on in my life. I still don’t know how I got through it that day…just thinking about it now puts me in tears so how I hid my reaction then, I’ll never know.
One of the really cool parts of that movie is when she tells her abusive husband “The jail you plan for me is the one you are going to rot in.” You have been gravely injured by a man who was supposed to protect you. What happened to you was wrong, and you are grieving that wrong, and you are right to grieve that wrong. With each step you take, you continually free yourself from the very jail he planned for you. I honor your courage and grief through all of this.
Maybe some people are ghouls but I think many people want to understand what happens for a big percentage of women and men, and may suspect they have been through it. Many of us had to repress our abuse and it came up when we could deal with it. I love your honesty thanx for sharing caring thoughts
When I read this,” I ended up crying …connecting with the child part of myself who wanted to tell her mother how much it hurt, when I was torn apart, when it refused to heal, when it got torn and torn again. I’m grieving a new layer of that injury, I recognize, and it’s good to do so….it’s worth crying about it, and my hope is that grieving releases more and more of the energy held there in my body, which will bring me closer to clearing it”.
I wanted to hug you and yell Bravo so loudly that my street would have heard me.
I have found I had to do similar stuff to heal. It can be frustrating and sometimes I have felt like will I ever have an adult life. Each integration or healing of abuse gives me more of me healthier. I loved Color Purple and I love Law and Order SVU and other films/shows prepared to look at my/our experience of abuse.
Good and healing thoughts to you.