My sexual assault healing journey began a bag full of dirty laundry.
To whoever needs to hear this–
This is for you just as much as writing this was for me.
Above I posted a video of the tribute speech I gave last week (4/9/19) as well as the unabridged written version in PDF. If you took the time to watch, read, or listen, I hope it was worth your time.
Below, I’m just talking about my writing process for this speech. You don’t have to read it. Only if you want to. The important parts are above (vid and pdf).
When my EMDR and Group Yoga counselor, Charity (the lovely lady who introduced me) sent me an email back in March asking me to speak, I was so excited and terrified that I ended up procrastinating. BIG TIME. I had no clue what to say or write, let alone convey it in a way that would uplift (and maybe entertain?) my audience, not depress them or put them to sleep. I didn’t want anything that came out of my mouth coming from a place of anger or frustration that I hadn’t already processed and put into perspective. That’s not to say I avoided those topics, but I did refrain from specifically name dropping asshat individuals and flipping them the bird. Lol.
I spent a long time thinking about what I would tell my younger self. I spent a lot of time reflecting on what my younger self clung to during her recovery from rape and and sexual assault trauma.
Eventually, I realized that while dragging a bag full of dirty laundry led to me snapping and falling apart, it was my love for theatre that gave me something to cling to. There is so much I’ve learned as a theatre artist and human being since my trauma, but the most profound is that I have a voice. And I can use it. I have something to say. Here, it’s in a speech, but over there it could support character choices.
It’s insane to learn that I now thrive in an environment where it is safe to speak. It wasn’t something I understood how to do during and after my trauma. The night of, after my pleas and reasoning were discarded by a date I only knew for a few hours, it felt safer to be silent. Still. To not anger him by what I had to say. It would just make it worse.
After moving back home with my father, it felt safer to be silent. Still. To not anger him by what I had to say. It would just make it worse.
It was a lesson I learned–to shut the fuck up.
Title IX and West Chester University taught it to me. The investigator they brought in, then kicked out taught it to me. All the months I foolishly held onto hope that at least I’d get a hearing and a chance for closure went flying out the window when my case was dropped.
I read a lot of character letters from the defendant’s family about how he’s such a good guy, and how I’m a cruel liar. It didn’t matter to anyone that because of him, I felt like a big blow up sex doll that was left discarded–sticky and used and insanely confused as to what happened.
It didn’t matter to anyone that because of him, the physiological symptoms of PTSD started to manifest in an instant. A stutter that was nonexistent before. A neck twitch that had me looking like I just loved shrugging into my shoulder. Without noticing, I stopped holding my tension in my lower back, and began holding it in jaw and facial muscles, leading to severe lock jaw and TMJ.
Not speaking looked a lot like survival. Then, as months went by, it looked a lot like giving up. It was a time plagued with ups and downs, post-traumatic stress disorder, sobriety slip-ups, self-harming, self-hating, self-sabotaging, stuttering, twitching, dissociating, and skirting around the truth in job interviews and cover letters as to why I never completed college.
It took me two years to learn I could, in fact, speak. But the words I can speak now won’t change what happened to me. But perhaps they can help others. Those who don’t feel safe. Those who need to hear wonderful words just get through. Like the younger version of myself who needed to hear the words Charlie spoke to me in his office just as Melinda needed Mr. Freeman to encourage her to keep drawing trees in Speak.
However, as I mentioned in my speech, hearing words are wonderful, but those words will never have the chance to become powerful enough to change your life if you don’t couple them with action.
So, what honest action steps can you take today based on your interpretation of Charlie’s advice (pg. 11)? Comment down below!
For me, I have a tendency to isolate myself big time (@fearofabandonment), so I guess writing and sharing this with family, friends, and my School of Soul Wealth Tribe is my action step today.
Please share this with anyone you wish. Someone out there might find it helpful. Also, major shout out to Network of Victim Assistance and Matt Weintraub for being amazing pillars of support for Bucks County.