#MeToo

I’ve been following the media coverage of Harvey Weinstein and resulting #MeToo campaign with a lot of interest over the past few days. It has clearly revealed that this is a conversation that has long needed to occur. Women already know just how many of us have been harassed, victimized, assaulted, marginalized and raped. Men are the ones who seem surprised by these numbers.

When I was attending John Jay College for my MA in forensic psychology, I once wrote a paper on rape & date rape. I looked at the psychological impact each had on survivors as well as how societal responses differed to both types of assault. In many instances, survivors of date rape expressed feeling more blamed and less support. They often blamed themselves and questioned whether they had “asked for it”. This mindset shows the fundamental misunderstanding we still face about rape – it has nothing to do with sex! Let me repeat that – RAPE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SEX! Harvey Weinstein isn’t a sex addict, he’s a sexual predator. He used sex to impose his will upon unwilling women. If rape is the result of a desire for sex then I would expect there to be no sexual assaults of those society has deemed no longer sexually viable or attractive. That does not appear to be the case.

I have no doubt that physical attractiveness can play a role in why someone has been put on a sexual predator’s radar but I don’t believe it’s because the predator wants sex. It’s because it fulfills some need in them to impose their will upon others, especially those who might be seen as a “catch” by society. I would bet that if one caught some of Hollywood’s male actors in a private moment, we might learn that they are just as harassed and preyed up on by those in power.

I will admit that by the time I completed that paper I was suspicious of all men and looked at them with rage. I’m rather impressed that I didn’t attack any men during that time period.

One of the reasons I had an interest in the topic of rape is because I have been raped, sexually harassed, hooted & hollered at as well as molested many times over the course of my life. I know how it feels to have people look at you as though you brought this upon yourself. I know what it feels like to think you did something wrong and your actions triggered the assault. I know how it feels to tell someone what happened to you and have them either disbelieve your or, worse, believe you and do nothing. I’ve been afraid to sleep in my own home because I wasn’t sure if I’d wake up to find my molester assaulting me again.

I’ve never been silent about these assaults. I might not share the details with everyone I know but I’m open about having been through these experiences. Many times I fought back, either verbally or physically. In my youth I was gifted with the nickname The Nutcracker because if boys touched me in ways I didn’t like (such as trying to cop a feel or snap a bra strap), I kicked them in the nuts. Needless to say I wasn’t very popular with the boys. When I first began working I experienced harassment from some of the men in charge. This ranged from the 60 year old warehouse manager who kissed me against my will when I was 13 to the “dirty old man” comments from a 60+ year old man when I was in my 30s (you know the type – “why don’t you sit on my lap and we’ll talk about what comes up”).

I tolerated the comments for a while because, while I wouldn’t say it was harmless, those types of comments didn’t seem threatening to me. At least not until I saw those same behaviors aimed at younger (in some cases adolescent) females. Then I began commenting. My responses ranged from subtle “jokes” about how apple seeds are poisonous and would be so easy to slip into someone’s food to statements about how “crazy” and violent my hubby could be to more straightforward comments like “you couldn’t get it up if you used a crane” or “if you touch me I’ll push you down the stairs”. These often got brushed off as jokes but they achieved the desired results. I was left alone. Unfortunately there wasn’t much I could do to stop it with other females. Too many laughed and treated it as a joke and the executive director was guilty of similar behaviors. I’d like to think that I made a difference but in truth I’m not sure.

I drew two Tarot cards from the Darkness is Light deck to get an idea what I should write my next blog post about (it has been a while since I’ve updated). I drew the 3 of Blades Rx and The Empress Rx. To me that spoke of sharing times I’ve felt betrayed, heart sore and hurt; times I’ve been left to fend for myself rather than being nurtured, cared for and protected. So here is it – as much as I hate to jump on bandwagons, #MeToo

When abuse transforms into self-abuse

Dance of Life 3 of Health Dance of Life 8 of Relationships

Yesterday my daily cards pulled from the Dance of life Tarot were the 3 of Health Rx and 8 of Relationships. Reading the companion book I was struck by the author’s notes about healthy sexuality (the 3 of Health) and abusive behavior (8 of Relationships). It made me stop and seriously examine my attitudes towards both these areas of my life.

As a child I was subjected to various forms of sexual and physical abuse – sometimes by strangers and sometimes by family members. Some of the sexual abuse took the form of flirtatiousness and sexual interest from adult men when I was a teen – in some cases friends of my parents. At first I found this attention flattering but it quickly became overwhelming. Whether it was strangers on the street commenting on my anatomy, male classmates snapping my bra strap, or older men making inappropriate suggestions, I quickly became unnerved and began to think something was wrong with me. I believed there was something wrong with me that drew this kind of attention to me. I was young and did not know how to handle this attention so I focused on what I thought I could control – me.

This attitude was further impacted by the abusive dynamic in my household. My approach to dealing with it was to internalize. I didn’t realize that until recently. In fact I’m only starting to understand how insidious and demoralizing its influence is. I thought I had emerged with minimal scars. Now I know that I internalized them and continued the abuse on myself. By ignoring my health and well-being I continued reinforcing the message that I deserved to be mistreated. Realizing this shocked me. It was an unexpected and life-altering revelation. My continue resistance to making healthy changes to my life has taken on a whole new meaning. Instead of healing from the abuses I experienced I continued to perpetrate them on myself.

These revelations have helped make me aware of patterns of behavior I’ve ignored until now. My next step will be to take steps to change these patterns. If I don’t want to continue this self-destructive behavior, then I need to make some dramatic changes. It’s time to truly learn to love myself and embrace who I am rather than paying lip service to those attitudes. Not easy, but something I believe I can accomplish.

 

The Wheel of Change Empress shows a heavily pregnant woman sitting on a piece of land in the middle of a river which splits around the island and reunites once passed.  The woman wears a red dress and sits with her legs open, as though giving birth.  Her breasts are exposed above her dress.  She is adorned with a multitude of necklaces, gold earrings and a crown of red roses.  She holds half an apple in each hand.  Her right hand is holding the apple half in the air showing us the pentacle shape at its core.  Between her feet sits a basket full of multi-colored eggs.  Small white star-shaped flowers grow on the ground beneath her.  Over her right should we see green hills and a tree bearing pink flowers.  Over her left shoulder we see yellow hills and fields and a green tree bearing red fruit.  Directly over the Empress’ head we see an arch of stars with the Moon directly above her.  The Moon seems to be bathed in blue and yellow beams emanating from the green & yellow hill directly behind the Empress.  The Greenwoman from the Greenwood Tarot reminds me of a feminine version of the traditional Greenman motif.  Leaves seem to be growing from her face and flowers bloom nearby.  Her body is either made of a golden spiral or it is a breastplate she wears that covers her body.  A golden cauldron decorated with a Sheela-na-Gig rests beneath the spiral.  A dragon stands near the cauldron and a greenman figure made of twigs accompanies it.

Both cards offer a sense of abundance, fertility and wildness.  There is something untamed and unruly about creation and these two females.  They are willing to expose themselves and become vulnerable in order to create.  That is a level of bravery I haven’t not achieved just yet.  In fact I’m not sure if I’m even close.  There is a fearlessness and defiance in these figures along with a sense of calm and sureness.  They know the risks inherent in what they do but they also accept that risk is necessary in order to bring forth life or create something new.  If you are not willing to risk failure or risk your ego being bruised or risk having to start all over again then how can you create?  This has been what has held me back.  I am afraid to fail.  The irony is that my greatest lessons have come from failure and mistakes but that doesn’t mean I’ll willingly court either.

I’ve known for a long time that one of the secondary reasons I have not wanted children is an underlying current of fear – fear that I would hurt them, fear that I wouldn’t be good enough, fear that I would wreak havoc in their lives.  I have nothing but admiration for women who chose to bear and raise children as well as for those who realize they are not called to do that in this lifetime.  I am not and never have been conflicted about my choice.  That is just not how I chose to manifest this energy in my life.  I’ve seen some refer to child-free women (and to a lesser degree men) as selfish, self-centered and narcissistic among other things.  Sometimes those with children make it a noble and holy calling and see those who did not chose that path as less spiritual.  I’ve worked with enough children and parents to realize that there are benefits to having children in your life.  However those benefits never outweighed the costs in my mind.

Enough about my choice, the central message I’m getting from these lovely, productive ladies is that if I wish to create abundance and prosperity in my life; if I wish to embody creativity and fertility, then I need to take risks.  I need to be willing to expose myself and face potential criticisms.  I need to open up and let others see what is in my heart.  That is a scary prospect.  I’d almost rather actually have children than open myself up like that.    However I suppose it’s true what they say – you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.  Even Julia Child made mistakes (and on air too) but instead of letting them defeat her she just kept right on going; moving forward and not letting them hold her back.  I need to allow myself the freedom to fail so that I can learn and move forward too.  Otherwise I’ll be so stuck in place that a tree will sprout from me and even I don’t want to become that fixed.

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