Small-Town Elitist

October 31, 2009

Trying to write a post I don’t want to write…

Well, for days now, I’ve felt a need and an obligation to share my thoughts here about the recent gang rape of a teenage girl in Richmond, California. Specifically, I feel I should write about what seems to especially upset and confuse people right now, the fact this girl was raped and beaten for two hours with spectators watching who did nothing to help the girl, not even call the police.

If you look around this blog, you will see I have some painful personal experience with this terrible phenomenon. But I don’t want to write about it. I am struggling with my own memories everytime the Richmond rape is discussed on TV or a blog I read posts about it.

But I will, eventually. Hopefully today. Keep your eyes peeled. It’ll show up eventually. God give me strength to write some truth…

May 28, 2009

May 28, 1999

Filed under: About Annaleigh,Gang Rape,Healing from Rape,PTSD,Rape and Sexual Violence — by smalltownelitist @ 11:24 pm

So, it’s here. May 28, 2009 has arrived. Finally. And the day is more than half over. I’m still in one piece, still here with you all to write in with a blog post.

You see, today is my annivesary. Not a wedding anniversary. I’m sure I’ll hopefully have one of those one of these days. But not now. This is the anniversary of an attempted rape. I write often here about survivor issues. If you would like to read a snapshots of my personal survivor history, read In Solidarity With the Shakers.

In that post, I wrote:

My sixth hurt happened on May 28, 1999, when I was 17 years old, and 2 weeks before my high school graduation. I was walking to a bus stop with a friend after school when I was chased, caught, and sexually abused on a busy street (with useless onlookers) by five or six guys. My eyes were closed for much of the assault. I didn’t want to face what was happening, and I was just screaming for help and trying to get away, so I don’t know the exact number of assailants I had that day. The exact number of attackers is irrelevant, however. One attempted rapist is one attempted rapist too many already.

No one likes to write this sort of thing, but yes, 10 years ago, on this day, right around this very time of day, I became a survivor of attempted gang rape.

A lot has changed in ten years. Back then, my psychiatric disability was undiagnosed, and I was having a breakdown. Between this assault, the death of my Grandfather four months after that, and then Y2K three months after his passing, there was too much to handle and soon I would enter an inpatient clinic for help. Today I am a very healthy person despite the disability, and I’ve found the meds that help with my Bipolar and PTSD.

I still don’t like water on my face, and I still don’t like walking past groups of men. But it’s managable now.

Today feels almost like any normal day, or at least what a normal day is like for me now. That’s the goal we would as survivors would all like to have one day, to thrive, to not just survive minute by minute of every day, and to not to continue to be a victim in crisis.

I believe that every anniversary, survivors should celebrate who we are, who we’ve become after unspeakable tragedies. We owe it to ourselves to pick up the pieces and do right by ourselves. I have a done a lot of that this year, and continue to do so.

Any survivors who are listening, I wish for you the same, and that you could be as healthy and happy as I am today.

Love,
Annaleigh

April 17, 2009

In Solidarity With the Shakers: A response to the Survivor Thread.

***Please note that this post may trigger!***

I too have survived multiple sexual assaults, abuse, and disrespect over the years.

I recently discovered the Shakesville blog for myself. Recently a very powerful post and thread was started, the Survivor Thread. Melissa of Shakesville asked the thread’s readers to tell their personal stories of sexual violence, with a gentle attention given to getting survivors of multiple hurts opening up and feeling free to share the magnitiude of what has happened to them.

Here’s some of what Melissa had to say:

And many of us who are survivors of repeat assaults will not speak of it; many of us will pick the “worst” one and talk about that in threads on assault, as if it’s the only one. We do this for many reasons: We might feel embarrassed by being repeatedly victimized, as if it’s indicative of a character flaw within ourselves; we might have trouble discussing multiple assaults without undermining what tenuous feeling of safety we have; we might have faced reactions of incredulity from people with whom we shared this information and thought we could trust; we might have been called liars or hysterics—accusations born of the silence about sexual assault.

I may post there soon to tell my story there personally, but for now, I will try and tell a shorter version (snapshots of my life, if you will) of my story. I tend to be long-winded, but I will try not to write a novel!

My first hurt was as a toddler. For a few months a “friend of the family” had access to me as a 2 and 3 year old. I am reluctant to call that experience rape with certainty. But my mother at that time took to examining me for signs of abuse, and at one point after one such visit she discovered me bleeding in my diaper. So while I was extremely young and can’t completely know what happened to me, the evidence is strong in support of rape. 😦 On my 4th birthday, we moved to another part of the state, and I never saw him again.

My second hurt, while not sexual abuse, was a violent physical assault at the hands of my father when I was 8 years old. He was drunk, and suffocated me to unconsiousness one horrible summer afternoon.

My third hurts lasted a long five years, and began when I was 9. We visited my great-aunt and great-uncle and their side of the family regularly. It was then my great-uncle began forcibly kissing me and touching me when he could get away with it. It stopped when I was 14 and refused to continue going to their home.

My fourth hurt happened when I was 11. I was in my backyard, playing with a black kitten named Leo, when a man in the house across the street whistled for my attention from his window. When I looked up, he was masturbating.

My fifth hurt happened was I was 15. I was in one of those teenage “sort of” relationships that was abusive. It consisted of unwanted touching, and physical cruelties, like being strangled from behing with a rope, or having the point of a safety pin pushed into the soft skin of my hand.

My sixth hurt happened on May 28, 1999, when I was 17 years old, and 2 weeks before my high school graduation. I was walking to a bus stop with a friend after school when I was chased, caught, and sexually abused on a busy street (with useless onlookers) by five or six guys. My eyes were closed for much of the assault. I didn’t want to face what was happening, and I was just screaming for help and trying to get away, so I don’t know the exact number of assailants I had that day. The exact number of attackers is irrelevant, however. One attempted rapist is one attempted rapist too many already.

My seventh hurt occurred when I was 20 years old, and I can’t speak of it.

My eight hurt began when I was 23. I have been stalked off and on since that point in time, by a man I thought I could trust. He sent sexually abusive messages to me, and eventually I learned he’d been accused of sexually abusive acts before, and also during the stalking.

My ninth hurt happened when I was 25. I was in a relationship with a man who I thought was kind and gentle. He had even protected me from previous abusers. But when I could not make love with him, he became coercive and intimidating. What little sense of safety I had was lost. And my inability to trust or feel safe with men began to rear its head again.

Those are the major things that happened to me. There were a lot of other little things, like getting my butt grabbed at junior high when I didn’t want to be touched, or getting my butt grabbed at a flea market at age 12 by a middle aged man who smirked the most disgusting smirk when I looked up to see who in the crowd was molesting me…

But I wanted to end this post in the following way: Yes, a lot of horrible things happened to me, yes I’ve lived a broken and desolate life, yes I have been legally disabled for a while partly due to PTSD. But my life is a happy one now. I’ve been a strong survivor for a long time now, but I am transitioning into the life of a thriver. So anyone at Shakesville, or anyone reading this who has been through these things, if life seems impossible to deal with, I understand. But it can and does get better. That’s my hope for all of you.

April 11, 2009

What it really means when a lady’s priorities don’t match with the ones a Talk Radio dittohead’s chosen for her.

Early this morning, while out and about in town buying supplies for the bathroom and garden, I had one of those little experiences of sexism that arise in the life of a woman from time to time.

The city bus driver, though seemingly a nice man, is a Rush Limbaugh dittohead. And for whatever reason, he has decided to scrutinize and comment on my purchases when I am taking the route he is driving that day.

I had a garden planter among other items, and he asked, “You went into town just to get a bucket? You women and your shopping. No wonder nothing gets done at the house, no dinner, no lunch…”

Blech. How screwed up is it when someone talks to you in such an arrogant manner with some ridiculous preconcieved notion about what you ought to be doing, and what your priorities are supposed to be? Why should I have to stay home to please a bitter old man?

Unfortunately for Rush Limbaugh dittoheads of the male persuasion, my priorities right now and quite rich and full, and do not consist of being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

My most recent relationship was with a man who insisted that we were both young, and that we ought to just enjoy ourselves. For him, that meant partying for the most part. I am not really a party person. Not in the sense that most people my age think of as parties. I quite like the idea of private entertaining for a few friends, having a nice meal and connecting and reconnecting with friends at a time when the bustle of life can make that difficult. It’s because of our diverging priorities that the relationship didn’t last. So I went back to being happily single and working the things that do command my time and concern.

Hmm, let’s see, what are my priorities, in no specific order?

I’m an artist, craftsperson, and business owner. That means I’m in the middle of preparing for a debut with an out of state boutique soon, and am hoping to arrange more consignment deals in other locales, while creating my works and filling orders placed directly with me. I’m also in the process of setting up a tent studio in my backyard.

I’m a college student, which means that I have been hustling for financial aid and preparing for an upcoming full load of courses covering many different areas, such as Spanish, and Shakespeare.

I’m someone’s adult daughter, which means that I am caregiving for my mother right now, and will probably be so for the foreseeable future as she is having health difficulties and has no one else to keep an eye on her and make sure she’s getting to a doctor except for moi.

I’m a member of an extended family, which means loving and supporting dozens of uncles, aunts, cousins, you name it. It means babysitting occasionally. It means going to Sunday dinners, to birthdays, to weddings, to funerals, or sometimes just cuz. It means caring for babies, and reassuring a sleepless child that she’ll be just fine.

I’m a pet parent of four little animals, including two dogs with special needs who also require attentive care and lots of TLC, having come from abusive situations prior to living with me.

I’m an activist, which means that I have been working hard on a library fundraiser for an endangered library, am hoping to resume volunteering at my local library, and am long overdue to resume updating my website for fellow rape and sexual abuse survivors, which has been helping survivors and their loved ones for over 9 years now.

I’m a friend, which means listening to long venting sessions and emphathizing, the need to get away and enjoy myself with others, and trying to crochet summer baby blankets for a pregnant friend.

I’m someone with responsibilies to the environment, which means gardening, making jewelry with recycled materials, and trying to figure out how to reduce my carbon footprint.

I’m a person with a physical body, which means getting up at 6 am to head to the community center to work out, studying the food pyramid, and yes, preparing meals that are good for me and for my loved ones who will be eating my food.

I’m an intellectual seeker, which means I have to have my nose in several books at one time, that I have to have debate and discussion with others, and that I have to have, gasp, a thought life!

I’m a spiritual seeker, which means learning about the earth and the spirit realm through a variety of ways, be it books, prayer, meditation, or just feeling the wind outside.

I managed to accomplish all of these things at different stages of my life despite having debilitating depression and post-traumatic stress disorder for many years, and you can bet I am doing all these things now and more, as I have reached a state of wellness.

And now the Rush Limbaugh dittoheads of the world want to tell me I get nothing done around my house?

January 31, 2009

The Patriarchy Movement: Submission, subordination, danger, and attraction.

Well, I am glad to see that the complementarian and patriarchal movements are starting to get attention from liberal and progressive sources.

I think that it is important that these movements be examined, and that everyone reach their own conclusions about them. I feel they should not go ignored.

I would like to use my personal space to explore where I stand with this movement, which is not exactly knew to me.

Nearly seven years ago, I became a born-again Christian. I still consider myself a follower and daughter of Christ, but I am transitioning to a place where I can’t stand by evangelicism. That is another story for another time, but this post should begin to shed some light on my exit from conservative Christian settings.

Long before I became a born-again Christian, I was a feminist (and have never truly crossed over to anti-feminism, to be honest). When I entered the church, there was shaky and scary new ground for me to personally confront. My attraction to feminism was an outgrowth of how an overtly religious school counselor treated me when I confided physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as a child. Now as a new Christian, I was essentially admitting that I felt my position on gender relations as a feminist were wrong. What was going to take its place?

This was when I began my education into the various stripes of complementarianism and patriarchy in the 21st century church.

Because I knew of the teachings that one must submit to her husband, I intially had determined for myself that I would never marry and never have children because I’d grown up in a home where there was domestic violence. I was terrified by giving a chunk of my autonomy over to a future husband, I was setting myself up for further abuse.

Eventually, I came to the decision that I would read about “biblical femininity,” and, how to put this politely…martial obligations, specifially, I wanted to know what was required of husbands.

Good luck finding that. In the past, internet searches had trouble finding sermons and essays on these obligations, and even now, you will still find more sites yammering on about what women must do and must not do. When you do find a man’s obligations, it does sometimes seem like a good game. For someone who’s lived their life with abuse, protection does sound great. But a certain realism has to set in, and you realize that there’s a huge danger in giving your personal autonomy over to a mere mortal who is just as messed up as you are, if not more.

Everything seemed so daunting, so painful, and as a survivor, it was so triggering.

One thing that is indeed very triggering about complementarianism is that not all of its proponents like women all that much. Many of them are actually misogynists who are content to blame women for society’s problems. Some take vigorous offense to any thought that God might actually be Goddess, or that a woman could be a leader in a male God’s church.

And worst of all in my experience, I found lots of blame for victims and survivors of abuse in a complementarian structure. Once, at women’s Bible study, I was given a little booklet of quotations, some biblical, some not quite, on issues that women face. I was horrified and disgusted to read an admonishment not to wear skimpy clothes under the “rape” section. Years after that, Michelle McKinney Hammonds book The Power of Femininity horrified me with its suggestion that men abuse women when their authority is challenged.

I ask you, is that a view of men you want to have? That they are cowards and bullies?

The EWTN network had a series with Alice von Hildebrand and Father Benedict Groeshel which I actually liked, which stressed a reconciliation between man and woman.

In light of that idea, how does showing complementarian men to be bullies and cowards work towards this reconciliation??

I don’t have any idea of what to replace complementarianism, including egalitarianism, but I do know that as it stands, complementarianism has some flaws and vulnerabilites that make me wary of it.

September 13, 2008

Another linkage catch up post.

I hope to get this post done quickly, I’m making up for the day off I took yesterday, and today I have been kind of glued to the television due to Hurricane Ike. I have plenty of family as well as friends in Southeast Texas, so naturally I’m concerned…

Anyway, yesterday’s intended linkage:

Marcella at abyss2hope talks about the development of her website. When it’s through it will educate people on date rape and other forms of sexual assault. Keep an eye out for it!

Crooks and Liars has a post on how the Bush Administration has cynically used 9/11 and the shadow of Bin Laden to their political advantage.

Feministe has an excellent post on certain feminists’ unwillingness to include considerations of race and class in their discussions of feminism.

I don’t have many words on this post from MOMocrats. Basically it includes a video of John McCain being a jerk to a woman representing a POW/MIA advocacy group… *shakes head*

Racialicious has a post about the theft of intellectual property from Asian-American website owner Myles Valentin by one of his so-called friends. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Here’s a doosy of an article, high heel shoes for toddler girls, hat tip to Megadeth.com forum peeps.

Season of the Bitch has a great write up about the play In Conflict, which deals with the lives of Iraq War veterans.

And White Trash Academic has a really sad post on the mental health of our veterans.

A Christian Liberal Perspective has a post about how remote killing technology is causing depression in those who have to use it.

Today’s linkage:

Hat tip to Christian Liberal: Women Against Sarah Palin

From Crooks and Liars: Sean Hannity goes beserk and yells at a policy person. Simmer down, Sean, seriously!

Feministe has a great post on the politics of Black women’s hair.

MOMocrats link to a comparison of Obama’s and McCain’s positions on taxes.

Natalia Antonova is rightfully worried about Sarah Palin’s eagerness to go to war with Russia.

Racialicious has a post about the situation that some feminists find themselves in following McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin.

Reappropriate writes about disturbing comments made about multiracial children by a Freakonomics author…

Season of the Bitch wants to reclaim lipstick from Sarah Palin’s politicizing…

And Marcella writes about how forced pregnancy is yet another way rapists and abusers control their victims…

Well, that’s it for now, I reckon!

September 10, 2008

I might not be canonized anytime soon, but I survived and I don’t regret it!

Time to open up a little bit up and talk about myself in a post, I guess. I’d rather it not be a heavy topic, but Feministe has a very good post on St. Maria Goretti, and in light of the discussion that is coming up from that post, I’ve decided I would write about how I feel about the canonization of Maria Goretti as well.

(Full disclosure: I come from a Protestant background, and will do everything I can to express myself respectfully in light of the centuries of conflict between Protestants and Catholics; besides, the first person to really show the love of Christ to me in my life was my late Catholic Grandma, if I made this post inherently anti-Catholic in nature, I would be disrespecting her memory and legacy too.)

For those who don’t know anything about Maria Goretti, you can read the Feministe link, or visit Wikipedia to read her story.

I first learned about the attempted rape and eventual murder of Maria Goretti in Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape. I was reading the book because I was starting out to educate myself on feminism as teenager/young college student, and…I was trying to make sense of my experiences. I am a survivor of child sexual abuse, incest, and teenage sexual assault. At about the age of 18, I got involved in anti-rape and anti-abuse activism, locally and online. Brownmiller’s book is an education in itself due to it’s detailed history of sexual violence in human society.

When I read the part about Maria Goretti, I definitely was left with a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak. Survivors often struggle to have a sense of self-worth after losing their sense of dignity to sexual violence. The impression I got of the Maria Goretti canonization as a young survivor was the same impression I’d been getting from many other sources in society, that women and girls who’ve lived through sexual violence are not as valuable, that we are damaged goods, that we are somehow a problem. Why else, I thought, would women who died rather than be raped appear to be more valued spiritually than women who survived rape or abuse, and lived to fight and advocate passionately for the healing and restoration of the women and girls who would follow after them?

I don’t blame Maria Goretti for show she handled the situation that had been forced upon her. She was a child, and she shares no blame in this. I do worry what messages some in the Body of Christ, whether they are Catholic or Protestant, are sending to any and all survivors, whether they profess Christ or not. No one deserves victim blame, and victim blame has no place in the Church. So that any Catholic readers may understand that though this post was inspired by Maria Goretti, I am not singling out Catholicism, I experienced a painful situation with my previous church. I had been given a little booklet at my women’s Bible study, which had verses relating to certain topics that concern women, and I was horrified to discover that under “rape,” this booklet was admonishing me to not dress provocatively if I don’t want to be victimized again. Ummm, hello! Being covered up does not protect women from abuse, tragically. That too, left a bad taste in my mouth.

The “better dead than raped” adage is painful to be reminded of, as someone who, over the years of abuse and its aftermath, has struggled with PTSD, depression, and suicidality. I am still here though. I could have died during the abuse years, but I didn’t, and I am happy about that. I doubt anyone will be rushing to have me canonized once I do pass on, but that is alright with me. After counseling, finding the right medication, and making peace with God, it was worth it surviving the actual abuse, it was worth it to survive the crushing, suicidal depression. It was all worth it because I am here now, and I can find beauty and promise in life, and purpose. My life is more than what happened to me, and I am not damaged goods because of what has happened!

I would not trade places with Maria Goretti. I mean that as no insult. It’s simply how I feel. Sin has still been triumphed against because those who brutalized me failed to destroy me, and because it has helped me to look at my own conduct. And because I am still here, I will be able to help others ensure the sin of sexual abuse and assault will not destroy them either.

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