In recent weeks I’ve been writing a lot about sexual violence . It’s been in the news a lot lately, from indicted football coaches to professional athletes tweeting rape jokes. For someone who is a survivor, like me and like my friend Kris Hill who contributed today’s post, it can feel like you are being ambushed by such news. It can make you angry. It can make you hungry for justice. But most of all, it can make you seek ways to make peace with the pain.
Like so many of us survivors, Kris is a lot of things. She’s an accomplished writer. She’s a mother. She’s a wife. She’s a volunteer who gives back to her community. But today, for the first time, she wants to tell her story. This is an incredible act of bravery. And as you can see, she wrote this in October, but is only now ready to share it.
I hope this offers hope to other survivors, insight for those who love them, and inspires action to change things for the better.
I am broken
In my life I have been battered, bruised, bullied and abused
But I am not a victim
I’m a survivor and I do not let it define who I am or what I do
KMH Oct. 5, 2011There are a few aspects of my childhood that left me broken. I was sexually abused by a neighbor who I visited because he had a daughter who was close to my age. I was 4. My dad died when I was 7. I grew up with a mother who is an addict — pills, alcohol, sex, food, pot, you name it, she did it and in excess to self-medicate — who made me feel guilty for existing my entire childhood. When I was 8, a man she was sleeping with (because dating is not an accurate term) groped me, but to her credit when I informed her of this she kicked him to the curb immediately.It was following that experience I completely retreated into myself and sought escape by denying my own gender identity because I didn’t feel safe dressing or acting like a girl.And for that I was bullied.For a long time I trusted no one. I let no one in. I lashed out angrily. It took me three years to feel comfortable in my own skin as a girl enough to dress like one again but I did that out of response to bullying more than anything else.In high school I did find a place and some measure of acceptance as I became involved in numerous activities. I also finally found adults I could trust.But, I was still angry.During the past decade I have slowly worked toward forgiving my mom, those men, even my dad for leaving me alone to fend for myself.Last week, though, I discovered I had not done as well I thought. For a number of reasons, I had a total emotional meltdown, though only a few people witnessed it.And during the past week I have been evaluating it.One word kept coming into my head over and over: broken.I. Am. Broken.Over this past weekend I decided to embrace it, to try and let go of whatever remaining anger or resentment I have, and embrace the bad parts of my life while determining I could no longer allow them to have the kind of effect they had on me a week ago.Then I decided to get a tattoo to remind me that I am a survivor, that while I may be broken, I am not dead, not defeated. Instead, I am strong, I am capable, I can handle what’s thrown at me especially if I recognize stress and anxiety early on then deal with it immediately.So, I found a gnarly looking image of a stitched up heart to represent the damage that has been done to it as well as the healing I have achieved thus far while acknowledging I still have some work to do in the future.And then I found a phrase, ‘broken but still breathing, to go with it. This is actually a lyric from a song called “Hairline Fracture” by a band I love, Rise Against, from their album Appeal to Reason. The whole song seemed to fit this theme.Now, as I go through this process of applying to graduate school, I can look in the mirror and be affirmed in the fact that my trauma does not define me. I am a survivor. After I get into the program I will see it and know on the days where I am juggling more than I think I can handle that I am going to get through it because I am strong.I am broken but I am still breathing.