I have a friend who, upon writing about the demise of his marriage, posted to facebook, “Writing is easy, you just have to open a vein…” Yes. Yes, take it all. It’s never enough. You greedy fucking bastards. But it’s my fault, too. I have a compulsion to write. I can’t help myself. I’m an addict. I was born this way. I can’t stop. And you enable me. So, we’re locked in a kind of never-ending dance.
Over the past six years as The Sin City Siren, I’ve shared a lot. A lot more of myself than I ever imagined I would, or could. (And then I went and started The Tired Feminist to really let the blood run.) Sometimes I look at the things I’ve written and wonder if there is anything left to lose, or rather, share. How much more of myself could I possibly put in the public domain?
Then on Monday I sat at a microphone and shared a story about my life I have only shared in pieces here at SCS. Sometimes I feel like it’s a common kind of a story. I’m the unplanned, unwanted even, child of a teen mom, divorced parents, poverty, and yes, some very real pain, like surviving sexual abuse. And I am a fucking survivor. The fact that I share that, in the parts and ways I have, is what makes us connect, you and I, writer and audience. It’s what makes you feel like you know me when you stop me in a doctor’s waiting room (a little awkward timing, no?). It’s what fuels your heart-felt emails to me. And I know somewhere out there I have inspired someone to chose hope instead of the end, just as someone did for me, once upon a terrible time. And that makes it worth it. Most days. Most days worth it.
Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I’ve projected a kind of armor that I don’t really have. I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t know all the answers. Nobody gave me a fucking answer-key. I am just muddling through my life — sleepless, wearing yesterday’s t-shirt because all my clothes are dirty, and late picking my kid up from daycare — just like everybody else. The difference is, I have this uncontrollable compulsion to write every damn thought in my head down and shout it into the internet, like I have any idea what I’m doing at all.
I guess I just wanted you to know that I’m a real person typing these words. I bleed. I cry. These stories you read are free, but they have a cost. Do you understand what I’m saying? I feel like somewhere in the smart-phone-instant-connect-to-everything revolution the humanity of the people who are writing all these things is getting lost. I’m a person. I live. I breathe. I get scared. I dream. I hope. I worry.
There’s something about the testimony I heard (and gave) for the comprehensive sex education bill (AB230) that has sort of haunted me. Women standing up and talking about being raped by boyfriends, by fellow elementary school classmates, and more. I think about the teenage girl who sat next to me at the April 1 hearing and talked about surviving sexual abuse. Such courage! I could never have done that at her age. I couldn’t even say the words, “I was molested,” out loud until I was almost 30. But there’s something in all these stories that is making me angry, too. I feel angry that all of us survivors have to get up in the public square, so to speak, and tell our hard, terrifying, broken stories about evil. I am angry for myself and all of us. It’s not fair. What happened to us is not yours. And the reason why we have to tell these stories is because we live in a world of dis-believers. We live in a world that denies us our humanity. You want to look away from us because it scares you or upsets you or is not polite dinner conversation. Like what happened to us ever goes away, even in polite places. We live in a world that would rather silence us and shame us for the things done to us than to see us as the real, full people we are. This rape culture world that hates survivors of sexual violence … you exploit us. You exploit our pain to make your point. And I hate it. Fuck you. Fuck you for making me share my story just so kids can get sex education. Fuck you for being so closed minded that you can’t see that we are all diminished when any one of us experiences sexual violence. Fuck you for making me cry.
These stories I share, and so many others share, they don’t come so easily. At least in my case, it comes very hard. Every time I talk about being molested, I have to think about it. I don’t want to think about it. (Are you crazy?) I have enough everyday troubles in my life, I don’t need to add thinking about that. So, why do I keep doing it? BECAUSE I WILL NOT BE SILENCED BY YOU OR ANYONE ELSE! Just get that straight right now and forever. It’s not mine to be ashamed of. I didn’t do it to myself. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t provoke it. It’s not my fault. And you need to know that. And I will keep talking about it, even if it makes me cry, because if it’s my lot to be the Lorax of the unwanted kids who have sex-abuse stories, then so be it. I speak for the abused. I will keep speaking for them. Because somebody has got to. Because we deserve it. Because in the absence of anyone talking about it, nobody gives a shit. And we deserve to be thought of, cared about, protected. And we deserve your respect.
I’m sorry if this was triggering for anyone. I’ve been triggered a lot this week. I’m not made of steel. I’m flesh and blood. The tears you see are real. But they don’t mean I’m weak. Don’t underestimate me. Don’t underestimate any of us.