A few years ago in a workshop of 500 females, the leaders asked every women who had been a victim of assault to stand up from their seats. Physical, sexual, verbal and mental assault or abuse. One by one women started to rise.
I was sitting closer to the front and thus was not able to see what was taking place behind me, all I could hear was the scuffling of chairs and women standing up.
When they were through reading through the list we were asked to look around and take stock of what was present in the room. When I turned my head almost every single woman in that room was standing I think in total I counted 5 people staying seated. Some of those women I had known for years and never knew they endured or experienced such situations.
Seeing 500 women stand that had all experienced some form of assault or abuse shook me to the core. Being one of the women who stood as well, I assumed that I would have been more aware of what was happening out there for other women, that somehow I should have known that this affects so many women’s lives. But in that room I saw clear as day, that I had no clue just how prevalent this was among us.
It is not something we as women usually speak about. Even among our friends or close family members it is not usually something we share, express or put words to. It’s as if there is a unspoken code of silence that many of them, me included, have bought into that keeps this pandemic safe and further enabled with the silence and numbness of it all.
As I left the workshop I started looking at women differently, both from my past, present and even new women I encountered on the streets and I saw them newly. I could see clearly that every curt response, every nasty glare, every catty comment or bitchiness directed at me or other people was just a disguised howl of some past hurt or pain that was bottled up and kept inside.
That anytime another woman is not clapping for me or for life itself, it is really only highlighting where she is not able to clap for herself. In that moment I had such compassion for all women. I started thinking of all the women who had been less then great with me growing up, the ones I expect more of currently and even the future women that will metaphorically ‘cut me off’. I could see that those actions were/are the wounds of their past that have yet to be loved, acknowledged and healed.
To some degree I saw how we are all struggling to wear our scars in plain sight and dance out our devastation.
Having experienced the power of that image in my mind that day, I realized that I was not okay with the silence of abuse that we/I have cocooned myself in. I arrived back home determined to break that. I saw that if I don’t start giving my past pain words, movement and stage time it will always be a silent shadow in my heart and mind.
I came home and told my fiancée of what I witnessed and how surprised I was to find out that so many women had been affected by abuse and how big the silence around it is. I told him that I did not want to raise our future kids in an environment where silence was ok, and suppression was the norm. I asked if we could do our part to stop the cycle now. I asked if he was willing to sit through and hold space while I spoke about my childhood pains and if he would allow me to do the same for him.
He told me he was uncomfortable but he agreed. He knew that this would provide expansion not only in our relationship but for our own selves.
I told him everything regarding my own molestation at an early age. I took my time telling him what happened and what it was like for me. He had known it had happened but he never knew the details, the fear I felt before, during and after, and the anxiety I carry with me about it to this day. Even now I can see how my personality and identity has been impacted, molded and created from those events.
We both cried, held space for one another and started the journey of healing side by side. We both are clear that this is the first step to creating a platform where people in our lives know it’s not okay to stay quiet, and our dream is that this is the first step to making sure our future kids and the future generations know that as well.
The miraculous part was as I started to speak about this with other women in my life I was able to see that almost every one I know has had some sort of experience in these arena. Whether they’ve been assaulted or not, almost every female I’ve come across has some level of experience with being minimized, marginalized, dismissed, ignored, neglected or ridiculed. And still we tend to lock it away and keep it a secret. We tell ourselves it is “is no big deal” to justify the silence, as if the silence itself will somehow make it less real.
For me I have seen that If I am brave enough and ready to share my pain with another, it might just give them permission to do the same with me.
This is not easy nor is it common, but for me it is and was worth it.
I can’t tell you that this is something you should do. Nor can I tell you that you will have the same experience or results I did.
The truth is we are all dancing to our own rhythms at our own pace, and whatever feels right for you is the perfect next step.
Yet, I share this with you for two reasons, the first being my commitment to end the silence and start speaking with the people in my life about the aspects of my past that have impacted me and hopefully encourage others to do the same in their own way. The second reason is to highlight that solitude in any situation has its own fair share of pain, and that sometimes community, partnership, sisterhood, friendship or family can hold the key to our biggest healing.
I know for me this is true, and I hope that however your heart, soul or body has been hurt or mistreated, that you find your key and pathway to knowing you are not standing alone.
That wherever you are and whatever you are dealing with, you know there are a couple hundred other women at your side, shoulder to shoulder with you.