Women who’ve been down a path with abusive men may have shied away from the #YesAllWomen phenomenon that ignited the social web in the past few weeks. I know I did. The sheer magnitude and weight of the response was too much. Trigger? Yes. It forced me to recall the numerous, numerous times I’ve been confronted with emotional abuse, sexual harassment, rape, and violence over the course of my life. Those are subjects I just don’t talk about. I’ve hidden the blog posts where I’ve written about these things before. It wasn’t the memories that came flooding back. It was the overwhelming outcry. “Hearing” the voices of all those women is what got under my skin. So. Many. Women. In other words, not just me at all. Damaged women, hidden in plain sight.
— ELLE Magazine (US) (@ELLEmagazine) May 31, 2014
Several months ago, I began writing to a woman I knew thirty years ago, now a Women’s Studies professor. We connected a few years ago on Facebook, and I was happy I refound her. She tutored me academically and was sort of a life coach to me while I was a freshman in college. The #YesAllWomen groundswell inspired me to finish what I was writing to her. I wanted to tell her what happened to me after I transferred my sophomore year. I wrote the post and shared it with her privately.
Her response to my story left me wondering if there is any legitimacy to being a survivor. She said,
“Sometimes I think we need a ‘Survivors’ Club for Strong Women’ — there is a poem by Marge Piercy that ends ‘until we are all strong together, a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.’ On the upside–and too often this gets forgotten–you’ve survived. Wonderfully. Wish it hadn’t been through worlds of pain, but what an achievement! Neither you nor I were ever meant to be where we are today. You’ve found the courage to make some amazing leaps, you’ve raised great kids, and you are doing work that matters.”
But here it is, thirty years later. I have not survived any of this. I escaped the tyranny of abusive and violent men in my life, but a survivor? No. I’m not sure anyone survives. Is the fact that I’m still alive a victory? Maybe. But think about that for a moment. Alive, not dead. A +1 for our team.
Update: Have begun writing more openly about Domestic Violence. See posts on Medium.