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Living Without Anniversaries

Posted by Carleen , 30 August 2010 · 98 views

Being a survivor of Intimate Partner Sexual Violence it occurs to me that, compared to survivors of one-off sexual assults, I do not have an anniversary. Sure, there are dates that mark some assaults that I remember; special occasions such as my birthday or holidays, particularly severe assaults, assaults that were memorable for other reasons. But I don't have just one day of a year where I can say "This is when it happened." I know I am not unique in this situation. Anyone who has suffered ongoing abuse is in the same boat.

Anniversaries are made important by society. They are how we mark the passing years. They are sanctioned times to celebrate, to remember, to mourn. We celebrate the years of life with birthdays, of marriage with wedding anniversaries. We celebrate the significant events of Christianity with Christmas and Easter. Other religions have their own celebrations. We also celebrate the years past since the ending of wars. Many anniversaries are times to remember and mourn. We remember the days loved ones died, the days of natural and man made catastrophies, the service to our countries of our armed forces, police and firefighters. And we mourn the losses, of people, of national innocence or identity, of perceived safety and security. Those days, thiose anniversaries, are an acknowledgement of the past and its significance. They are a way of seeing how we, as individuals, families, nations, have survived and, in many cases, prospered, not because of what happened but despite it.

It is anniversaries of trauma that are significant to many survivors. It is the day they can look back and see another year has gone. It can be the cause of celebration or mourning, or even both. It is a chance to look back and remember and to see that they have survived. A chance to say "It happened this many years ago and I am still here, still fighting, still surviving." One of the most inspiring thing about Pandy's is the opportunity to see survivors take back their anniversaries and make them a celebration of survival. It doesn't mean that the pain is gone or the trauma is no longer significant, just that the day is now about them instead of what happened to them.

But for me, I have no one day to mourn, to remember, or even to take back for myself. After over a decade in an abusive marriage every day of the year has been sullied by abuse. And as events became normalised in my life it was only the truly significant ones that still stand out. The rest are a blur, an amalgamation of assaults, a compilation of common events. I feel I am left with only the significant ones to remember and mourn. And there is a real grief about that. Each assault was significant, regardless of how normal it was at the time. Each one had an effect on me, an effect that compounded with each occurence. I find I need to grieve each one, to remember and to finally take back some power for myself over the memory and the trauma. Part of recovery from trauma requires rememberance and mourning. But with so many events of such a similar nature over so many years I no longer know how to remember each one.

I do not know the answer to the conundrum of rememberance and mourning for ongoing abuse. What I do know is that, with work, I will one day be able to take back not just individual days of the year but the whole year, and, eventually, my whole life. I am not what happened to me but I am and always will be effected by it.

July 2016

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