Guest mistral

Shame and Telling-My Thoughts

51 posts in this topic

Please be careful.  These are my thoughts on Our Collective Shame, why we feel it, and why we must not.  The posts to the Telling and Shame thread I started made me think.  These thoughts may be triggering.  Please be safe.


Rape. Molested. Incest. Abuse. Sexual Assualt.

These have words have such power.  From us, they have taken control, safety and power.  In replacement, we have been given hurt, anger and shame and we are silenced by it.

They have power over our families, our friends, our peers and co-workers, too.  These words have the power to them say things like "Are you sure?" or "Why didn't you do this, that or the other thing?"  They make them call us liars.  They make people we know and trust physically recoil from us, look away or just blush.  It's all hurtful, so hurtful that it silences us.

Why do we feel shame?  Before we even tell, we are ashamed.  This is a society in which sex crimes are Unspeakable Crimes.

When we tell, our feelings about the rape, molestation or incest are influenced by the way the person we trusted enough to tell reacts to us.  To those of you who told and recieved no support, I applaud you. Your search to heal is just heroic, and shows unwavering bravery. To tell takes untold courage.  Again, I applaud you in your search to heal despite the shame given you. Rape is not the unspeakable crime; What your friends and families did by silencing you with shame is.  

So why DO these people we trust so much look away?

Fear.  Thinking that, "Well, rape happens to other people.  Not to people I know.  If it happened to someone I know, then it can happen to me, and it can't.  Therefore, my friend, my daughter, my sister, wasn't raped."  

Ignorant.  Just fucking ignorant.

Control.  Blame is a way to control.  We blame our own selves, too don't we?  By saying, "Why didn't you, run, scream, fight harder...etc...." our friends, families and peers put the control into our hands.  They think..."If she had fought harder she would have gotten away.  If she had yelled, someone would have heard her.  I Would Have Yelled.  I Would Have Gotten Away.  I Would Have Been Heard.  This Can't Happen To Me."  It's a way for non-survivors to think they actually control their own environments.  The survivor, she didn't. But This Can't Happen To Me.

When we blame ourselves, we give control back to ourselves.  I Should Have Fought Harder.  I Should Have Yelled.  It's a way to protect our own mistaken belief that We Control Our Own Lives.  We don't. Shit just happens. Us survivors, we learned that, in one heartbreaking minute.  

We don't want that control, do we?  Not when the shame comes with it.  But people give that control to us, unasked for.  And it makes us really ashamed.  And silent.

Discomfort-People are generally uncomfortable with discussions about genitals, and when we tell them that our genitals were so horribly abused, they become uncomfortable.

I was mugged, two years ago.  Total control was taken from me, by a man with a gun to my face, and I reached into the back pocket of my jeans and gave him money.  He walked away.  Was I ashamed? NO.  Did people treat me differently? NO.  Sympathy, and What can I do for you? Are you Ok?  That must have been scary. This is how people reacted. 

Rape is the Unspeakable Crime because it involves the control of our genitals.  Our genitals to be treasured.  They are to be worshiped.  We do not speak of them.  

Seven weeks ago, penis was put into my vagina without my consent.

The reluctance to speak about a crime involving genitals makes what is essentially a horrible mugging more awful for me.  I Am Horrified that this happened and people don't want to hear about it, even though I desperately need to talk about it with those who can help me make sense out of this world.  However,  People Don't Talk About These Things. I AM SILENCED.  Quickly and effectively.

I am silent, because their words hurt, because I am afraid of more abuse, because I am afraid of their pain and their reactions.

For those of you, especially those of you who have been more effectively silenced than I have; I am in Awe of You.  To heal must be incredibly difficult.

Too many women are raped, molested, abused and assaulted because of the silence.

Too many women feel this Collective Shame, because of the silence.

I am going to ask people a favor.  Don't Be Silenced.  

Stepping out can be so frightening, but so much can be gained.  Sometimes statistics jump into my head and I can't help but think about what would happen if every victim of sexual assault were to simultaneously scream.  People would begin, and those who had hadn't been able to acknowledge what has been done to them, would hear, look around, realize that they were not alone and join in.  It would be the scream heard across the world and it would be the scream to change the world.  No place would be silent, no person on this earth would not hear that scream and the effects of sexual assault would be frighteningly audible and thus undeniable.

That is an unrealistic vision right now, but it is not unrealistic to break the silence on a smaller scale.

End the silence at your own pace.  Any step is a good step, no matter what it is.  These steps are acts of bravery.

Stay safe when you take steps.

If just reading this was the biggest step you can take, Good for You.  You have something to be proud of.

If you can, write it.

If you can say your word to yourself, say it.

If you can say rape, incest molestation to a friend, try it on for size.

If you can yell it, like I did last night, yell it.

If you can speak out, then do so.

Any step you take, is a step in ending this Collective Shame and Silence, that we all feel. Now that is empowering, to us, the survivors, and to all women.

I want to acknowledge my mother, a woman with her Ph.D. in Womens Studies, for raising an empowered daughter.  Also, I'd like to acknowledge my partner, for calling it Rape, when he called the police.  I wouldn't have.  I want to thank my father, for saying, "This is the first night I slept well since you were raped," at the dinner table.  My partner gave me a word for it, and my father made it alright for me to talk about my rape at the dinner table.

These people are the reason I will not be silenced.

Thanks for reading.  The courage I have seen on this board gives me courage.

Mistral


(Edited by mistral at 3:00 pm on Oct. 23, 2001)

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Mistral,
    I'm printing your post right now...I hope you don't mind.  I want to be able to read it though, anytime I need to.  I can't tell you how much this means to me...this whole revelation sort of to me.  I used to think that when I told and she reacted like she did...that I was wrong.  I would tell myself all the time that I shouldn't have brought this into her life- that word into her vocabulary.  I used to think that it didn't matter how I was feeling- I had to figure things out for myself.  I thought that I shouldn't ask anyone for any help, because they didn't want to know about this.  

Everything you said about why "these people we trust so much" looking away, it made me feel less wrong and flawed and defective...  All those reasons you gave for people looking away- Fear, Ignorance, Control...  It made me feel sooo much better, I can't put it into words.  It gave some logic to the senseless.  Even though it shouldn't happen, it helped me understand a little why people react they way they do.

So thanks, thanks so much.

-Anna-

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Mistral,
That was empowering! Naming things gives us control over them and legitimizes them...and that's what we all need to do.
I don't have a printer, so I might download it and keep it in my PalmPilot.
Anna

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WhoooooWhoooo!!!!

I LOVE IT, I LOVE IT, I LOVE IT, I LOVE IT!!  Boy, do I ever feel our power growing these days!  This is sooooooo #### cool!  We are finally shouting out and silencing our abusers!!

I hope you don't mind..I've saved your speech to help me with a support group I'm forming!  I'm so proud of you...didn't that feel wonderful getting it out!

Stay empowered always!!!
Love to all!

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Mistral ~

Woooh ... I cried.  I think you pretty much said it all for all of us ... These posts are the posts that change us ... that make us believe in ourselves and our power to heal ourselves simply by naming the cause of our hurt ... The fact that we are here, alive and talking to each other ... sharing our deepest, most intimate thoughts about what happened to us gives us all the opportunity to speak at last and be accepted and empowered as survivors ...
Kudos to everyone who shared their thoughts and feelings and for Mistral putting it colletively together ...

Stacey

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Thanks guys for your reactions.  I was a little scared about posting that, but the reactions to my previous post just got me thinking and I had to get the thoughts out.  I'm glad they have helped.

Of course I don't mind, if you print it out.

Amie, if you are going to use it for your support group, could you please email me at mistralmistral@hotmail.com, so I can give you my name.  I would put it here, but I am going to court, which complicates things a bit.

Thanks to all who responded.

Mistral

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I second Amie!!

This is amazing...I was having a really crap day and it's made me feel empowered all over again.

I've made a personal decision. I have a couple of friends who I've been talking to a bit more about my abuse/rape issues and the next time we discuss it I'm going to call it by its name. I know they're not embarrassed and ashamed, they've told me so, so in that safe place I'm going to stretch my wings a bit.

Thanks guys for writing such encouraging words.

It does feel like we're moving forward.

Take special care
Crying Angel

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Mistral,
You have hit the nail on the head with this post.  Recently, on my message board, I mentioned a woman I knew who (previously) did not believe that rape could happen to a grown adult.  What she meant was that if rape could happen to a full grown woman, then it could happen to me.  If it isn't your fault that it happened, then it could happen to ME.  So it has to be your fault, because it can't happen to me.
Unfortunately for her, she learned better.  Very soon after I wrote that post, she was raped.  I wish it had never happened because it is terrible -- but now she knows that it can and does happen.  It is real.  Not calling it rape doesn't help.  Pretending that it doesn't exist doesn't help.
Thanks Mistral for posting what you did -- your strength astounds me.
Blessings,
Shaina

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Hi Mistal!

I will let you know what part(s) of post I would like to use before doing so.  I would, of course, never tell where the information came from.  I will ALWAYS honor everyone's privacy and would never abuse the priveldge of our interactions.  I truly cherish this board and everyone on it!  

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Just an update...

I am breaking the silence...

I will be having my photograph taken for the "Faces of Sexual Assault" project this weekend.  (Of course my adolescent acne is kicking in!)

Also, I am speaking with my counselor about ways to speak out, including speaking to HS seniors, both males and females.

Love to you all

Mistral

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Good for you!  I'm so proud.  Your strength gives me strength.

Mel

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Update

*T for those words*

Everything is my life connected to the abuse is changing, which is scary, and exposing, but liberating beyond belief.

I told a friend by saying 'I was repeatedly raped when I was a child', rather than squirming and making them guess what was wrong.

A couple of nights ago I had a long conversation with two friends about cutting, food, telling my family, and other related survivor issues. One of them had to go home but I had a conversation with the remaining friend about my triggers which involved me telling him about some of the circumstances of my abuse: like being tied up and being forced to swallow after performing oral sex.

I would never have thought I could do it. I feel less ashamed now. I still feel that I'm wasting my friends' time and making them listen to things they don't want to hear, although they've assured me that isn't true.

I also feel like there's light at the end of the tunnel, that although I have been affected in so many ways, that every day I am more free.

I just wanted to encourage anyone who is thinking of starting to use *those words* rather than euphemisms, that the experience may be one of the most freeing of your lives.

Take good care guys
*warm and safe hugs*
Crying Angel

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I am really just to emotinally overwhelmed right now to write much but I have to tell you that applaud your bravery and your openness.  I have always been told to be tactful and not say things that might upset/offend/bother someone. Don't make people fell uncomfortable.  And NEVER to bring up the rape.  That was told to me less than 24 hours after I was brough home from the hospital by my father.  I know he loves me very much and that it just hurt him and angered him that it had happened.  But it hurt me too!  Just posting this makes me feel like I am imposing on people and that I really just shouldn't talk about it because who am I tell people my problems?  Everyone has there own sh*t ti deal with, why give them mine too?!?

But you are right mistral, we have to break the silence and maybe if, we are loud enough, there is a woman out there who wont have to go throught this.  You are a woman who will change the world!  Thank you for your strength.

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***t*** SWEARING
Mistral, my darling, you couldn't believe how much your sentiments echo my own. Yes, we do live in an an alternately genital obsessed/genital fearful society. The way some people respond when the word "rape" is used is roughly the same way they would react if you showed them what you found up your nose. They back off as if it will get on them somehow. Is it any f*cking wonder we internalize the shame--it is everywhere.
When I think about the ridiculous euphemisms I used to use to describe the sexual abuse I have experienced, I could laugh. My poor therapist had a devil of a time working out what I was on about and often called me on "prettifying" the horros of my life. But I just couldn't use, or wear, that word. I had to be extremely drunk before I could.
Now, I just go with Louise Armstrong, Author of "Kiss Daddy goodnight"--she states that rape is easier to say and spell than diarrhoea--#### right. I just use the word and if other people have a problem with it, stiff shit.
It's really empowering.

That was an excellent piece of writing.

Love you

Rachel xxx

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Rachel, I think I'm going to use your therapist's phrase "prettifying the experience" on my own therapist. He has never used the word, calling it 'the trauma' or 'the incident' or 'unwanted sex.'  He makes me afraid to use the word because he won't say it, and he's supposed to be a professional. I'm hoping to start speaking out after everyone's inspiration.

nica

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Good luck Nica. Unfortunately, yes, there are therapists who are as guilty of avoidance as survivors. Your therapist owes it to you to be able to meet you where you're at.

Love,

rACHEL XXX

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Good for you Nica!  I agree with Rachel.  What a strong person you are to make your therapist confront the word.

Thanks Rachel.  Sometimes I even get a small perverse kick out of making people face the fact that I was raped.  *evil grin*

I just hate the fact that since my genitals were abused, I can't talk about it in polite society.  So I do anyway, cause I'm nice like that.  I just tell people, "If the word rape makes you uncomfortable, then think about how uncomfortable it's made me."

With love,
Mistral

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I am awed by you, Mistral. Awed.
My mind keeps going back to an earlier post of yours in which you state yopu attended a family function and were totally honest about your rape. You gobsmack me.
I may have a tough stance around the "r" word now, but it took me a very long time. The way I used to talk about it, you would have thought it was a "minor inconvenience" carrying no greater impact than having the peas boil over. In some setings, I still have to grind the word out.
And Mistral, I am so glad you can tell people to imagine your discomfort. Did you, or anyone else here, ever have a time of feeling as if you, the person who had been raped, had to be responsible for administering assurance, comfort and support to those you told?
I used to tell, then offer them tea and sympathy for being horrible enough to have told them about something they obviously just couldn't handle. But part of me, if it could have, would have chosen to scream your words at them, Mistral--"If you feel this way, how the #### do you think I feel?"
It's wonderful not to own that anymore. It's also terrific not to need to be believed. I was raped, I was hurt by it, I don't give a flying f*ck whether anyone likes it or not; I didn't like it either. And if people think it's not "nice" ,well, neither is being raped.
Feminist writer Susan Brownmiller says that rape is a blunt, ugly act worthy of a blunt, ugly name.
Couldn't agree more. But I not only feared using the word because I was too ashamed of other's opinions, but I was also scared that it "dirtied" ME more, if that makes sense.

This fear of using the word is something I have encountered again and again.
***NICA*** The role of a therapist is particularly important in "modelling" certain things to a client. I'm feeling quite cranky that yours is modelling shame and mawkishness to you around naming your rapist's crime for what it is. Guy needs a wake-up call.

Love to all, and to you, Mistral my courageous and thought-provoking friend.

Rachel xxx

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WOW.....total shock amazement. Man Mistral..you rock...thats all i can say....that was total awesomeness......You are going to be sooooo wonderful in your field!!!!

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Wow, Mistral...thank you for cutting through all the BS.  Thank you for validating us all.  Every survivor and supporter should read your post!  You rock, girl!

Natasha

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Thank you so much Mistral.  I can't even express how I feel after reading that.  It is so touching and I have to say this, Thank you, Thank You, Thank you,  (((HUGS)))

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You are so right!!  Your words are always so powerful.  You are truly an inspiration.  Thank you for that...

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Wow.

This is the first time I was actually able to read this post...due to my own shame and confusion. Interestingly, I have recently embarked on this journey or perhaps crusade of sorts myself. You see, I never labelled it appropriately. I never called it what it was. I hinted at it, I threw out what I thought were good hints and I thought people (the very very few I told) got it. We never called it rape. Until May 14th 2001. That was the day it happened again. That was the day I got the rape kit done. My friend called it Sexual Assault first. The hospital and crisis center kept calling it rape. For the whole day those words echoed around me. I was in shock for the most part. But that was also the day that I started labelling it appropriately, too. I told a good friend that I was raped. She had said, "I never thought of it that way." I think my NOT labelling it was my way of protecting myself from the ugly, life-altering truth. If I didn't say the words I didn't have to face their impact. If I hinted around at it and other people couldn't figure it out, it must not be all that important. Not labelling it was a way of keeping my feelings at bay. It was a way of not dealing with it. It was a way of keeping myself, in some ways, emotionally safe. Funny...but when I used the word rape my friend's reaction changed and became more validating. My life also turned somewhat upside down. Plagued by sleepless nights, intrusive thoughts and occasional flashbacks, I am not the same. But I also feel like I am being true to myself. I still have a long way to go, my husband doesn't know. I don't want to "burden" him. I am afraid of being blamed. I am afraid of something I can't even identify, really. This post reminded me of somethings I'd thought in writing an activist sort of paper a while back. Yes, we get blamed by others so that others can feel safe and in control. You are right, Mistral, as long as it's our fault they don't have to worry about it happening to them. But we all know that that isn't true. We know it is a way for them to deny their fear, to keep feelings of vulnerability at bay. In many ways by using the word raped, or saying that I was repeatedly raped, I have somehow begun reclaiming...or perhaps claiming for the first time...the life that is rightfully mine.
Thank you for this wonderful thread!
(((safe hugs))) and gentle thoughts to all~ Rain

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I don't know what to say, that was beautiful.  It gave me the strength I was looking for.  Thank you so much.

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