This Is Survival. Sometimes It Isn’t Pretty.

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This is survival. Sometimes it isn’t pretty.

I wrote these words to my friend, Antanika, in response to the courageous and honest words she shared on her Facebook page last night.

They haven’t left my mind since.

Antanika is a survivor, and one of the bravest warriors I know. I can’t tell you how in awe of her I am. She takes her pain, her trauma, the things she has suffered, and she looks them square in the eye, unabashed. She says them out loud. She fights them head on. Me? I dance around words like sexual abuse, molestation, rape, violation, assault. The words are too stark, there is nothing to hide behind when I say these words out loud. Instead I find ways to make them sound poetic, romantic even, as if that somehow softens them or lessens the pain and destruction they have caused in my life. When really, I’m just too scared and ashamed to admit how unhealed I actually am.

I don’t know how healed those who have suffered these traumas ever become. Some days I feel more held together than others. Most days I won’t admit how close to unhinged I truly am. I do know the word survivor has been glorified into an image I feel I cannot do justice to. Because unless survival is found in a bottle of wine, then I’m not doing it very well.

Most people drink to forget.

I don’t drink to forget.

I drink to feel.

Because I’m desperate to feel.

Something. Anything.

Because the harsh truth is, I don’t know how to feel anymore. In the stark, sober light of day, there is only numbness. Disassociation. Detachment. I have drifted oceans away from my soul and can no longer recognise the sound of my own heartbeat. I want to feel, and I can’t. I want to submerge in the depth of my emotions, and I don’t know how. My heart is in lockdown, protected by strongholds I once needed but now do not know how to tear down. All I know is only when I drink, do I feel. Only on those nights do I find reprieve from the soul-destroying numbness that falls upon me like a blanket of fog I cannot get out from underneath of. Here, in the night, with alcohol in my veins, I am raw emotion, I am honest truth, I am the uncontained force of grief and loss and love and beauty and desire and hope and anger and hatred that rages through my anaesthetised soul and wakes it from its godforsaken sleep.

There are better ways to make it through. Right now, I am not capable of them. I drink because I cannot survive in the numbness. But I cannot survive in the fullness of my pain either. This is a paradox most cannot understand, except those who walk the path of the survivor.

I like to think that sometimes survival looks beautiful on me, that sometimes it is strength and courage and battle scars etched upon my skin for every war I have fought and won; battle scars that glisten in the sun as I stand upon mountaintops and look back at how far I have climbed along trails I never should have survived with the odds so damn against me.

But I know too, sometimes survival is anything but pretty.

It’s too much alcohol and words haemorrhaged on a page. It’s 3am bloodshed and battle and demons slayed. It’s torrents of rage unleashed upon the things we remember even though we chose to forget. It’s war fought in silence and tears, in fury and defeat. It’s weeping and howling and desiring and longing and seething and wanting and healing and feeling. For God’s sake, feeling.

It’s rebellion against the deadness that blankets our soul.

It’s anarchy against the numbness our hearts cannot escape.

It’s not pretty.

But it’s how we survive, today, until we can survive better tomorrow.

The point is, we’re surviving.

And sometimes that’s all that really matters.

Image courtesy Martin Driver  

Rape Culture Exists Because Men Rape. Not Because Women Drink.

Caidoz

Let me tell you about this time I crossed the road. I didn’t have to cross the road, but I wanted to. I was warned against it, told it was dangerous, told I could get hit by a car. But I didn’t heed the warnings. I wanted to live, unafraid. I wanted to trust in the goodness of the drivers, the goodness of humanity. I wanted to believe that just because I walked across the road didn’t mean I would get hit by a car.

Except, I did get hit by a car.

I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I wasn’t standing in the middle of the road. But even if I was, it didn’t have to hit me. But the driver hit me anyway. He chose to hurt me. He saw me there, and he didn’t wait while I crossed. He didn’t help me, or make sure I was safe. He hit me.

And then he told me it was my fault, because I crossed the road even though I knew it was dangerous. If I hadn’t crossed the road, then he never would have hit me.

Sounds ridiculous, right?

Yet, this was the argument put across this week by a renowned Christian blogger in response to Brock Turner and the Stanford rape case.

As I sat and read the gut-wrenching letter the victim wrote to her attacker, my heart cracked open in my chest. Grief flooded my body, puddles of tears gathered on the table in front of me for the way this woman suffered.

And then I read this tweet, written by this blogger, whose claims to write only Absolute Truths:

 “Drunken hook up culture is the problem, not “rape culture”. Women can protect themselves by not participating in hook up culture.”

And no longer was I filled with grief, but instead, rage. Rage that a white, privileged, Christian, male blogger would dare insinuate that this woman, or any woman, is responsible for being raped simply because she went to a party, drank too much and mingled amongst a drunken hook up culture, to quote his words.

At what point did it ever become okay to place the responsibility of rape upon a woman? To point the finger at how much she chose to drink, the length of skirt she chose to wear, the party she chose to attend, the time of night she chose to walk home? To make her somehow feel it was her fault because of the choices she made?

Alcohol doesn’t equal rape. A short skirt doesn’t equal rape. Nor does a party, an empty street or a consensual hook up. What equals rape is lack of consent. And when a woman is unconscious behind a dumpster, nearly naked, being raped by some pretty boy swimmer, there is no consent. In fact, when a woman is fully conscious and being raped, there is no consent. When a child is raped by a trusted family member, there is no consent. When a wife is raped by her abusive husband, there is no consent. Rape is not something that only happens in hook up cultures, when there is alcohol and loss of inhibition.

And this is exactly what enables a rape culture. Men who hold women accountable. Men who condemn women for their lack of modesty, who claim this is the reason they sin. Men like Turner, who said he rationalized that “since we had been making out where each of us fell to the ground, that it would be a good idea to take things a step further.” Yes, she fell to the ground. Unconscious. And then he took it a step further, without her consent, or even her awareness. And then claimed he was the victim.

To insinuate a rape victim responsible for her victimization because of a choice she made or didn’t make is perhaps the most shameful words ever written by a male.

Because here’s the thing. I don’t deny hook up culture is a problem. But rather than condemn women who choose to drink too much and hook up, I choose to look beyond the action and see the cause. To realise what we are seeing is the result of a broken generation, a generation of women desperate to be noticed, to be seen, to be loved. Because regardless of the façade of hook ups and casual sex and friends with benefits, nothing has changed. Girls are still just looking to be loved. Not raped.

The problem doesn’t lie with hook up culture, it never has. The problem lies with the foundations of our society being built upon male privilege, boys not being taught to respect and value women, men being taught through porn industries and the like that women are nothing more than objects of no value to be used for their gratification.

And yes, even through biblical teaching that places men in the position of authority, which women must submit unto. Cue said blogger, who also quoted, “We can’t end rape culture if we don’t end hook up culture.”

No, we can’t end rape culture if men continue to rape.

But this is how we can end rape culture.

Teach our sons what it means to be real men. That real men respect women. Remind them they are here because they were carried by a woman, birthed by a woman, nurtured at the breast of a woman. They were rocked to sleep in the arms of a woman, cared for by the hands of a woman, taught of life by the wisdom of a woman.

Teach our sons to value women, cherish them, love them. To uphold them. Never to hurt them. To honour the strength of their manhood through the protection of women, not through the dominance of them. 

But mostly, teach our sons that real men don’t rape a girl who has blacked out a party. They pick her up and carry her home to safety.

Because drunken hook up culture is not the problem. Women not protecting themselves is not the problem.

Men who believe they are entitled to rape is the problem.

And that, right there, is the Absolute Truth.