So, I had started writing this post, in my head, yesterday. I wanted to get out my thoughts on heka and the resulting backlash from having used a word that was, to others, out of context. I’ll be honest, here. The entry in question would have been very meek and very mild. It would have probably been the only time anyone could clearly say that I was doing the “bad dog” thing: tail between my legs, head down with occasional glances up, shoulders hunched up. You know, pretty much the things that I’m not. However, yesterday, I ended up working on the entry where, in effect, my gods said “fuck you” when I asked for a break from of all of this. After the fact, and some thought and being unable to sleep while I wrote and re-wrote this entry in my head last night, I realized that the OTHERS™ had wanted me to work on that other entry first. Maybe they sensed that everything wasn’t over and done with. Maybe they didn’t like where I was heading with the lessons I had learned (and I’ve learned them). I’m not sure, but they bid me to wait and put it off. So, I did. And the lesson I had thought that I learned, that meek and mild lesson, exploded when I saw quite a few choice words that were inappropriate in regards to the overall situation.
Then, I got mad.
And I realized that it didn’t matter what I may have chosen to say in my original posting of this. It didn’t matter how meek or mild or how abjectly I apologized. The genie was floating around, out of its home and unlikely to go back in. I had learned that things are not as I had once thought, but I also began to see and learn that people like me are a minority, and vilified by the very people who should hold our hands and understand us the best: fellow rape survivors.
I was told that I have only made excuses for my behavior, which is amazing. I spent an entire day crying hysterically or self-flagellating myself for the incident in question. (If you don’t believe me, I have two witnesses I could produce in a court of Internet-based law who would swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help them.) I think the only “excuse” I came up with was something about having an offensive mouth/fingers. And it wasn’t really an “excuse” but the truth. Both seemed to be very offensive. I read an entry by someone I thought was my friend, talking about how I must think I’m a “cool” rape survivor because I can make jokes about it. (Actually, I can’t. I can’t abide rape jokes or jokes about what happened to me.) I must be a “cool” rape survivor because I can use the word in its original definition (original as in, prior to today’s apparent definition that all other definitions no longer exist – side note here: how weird would it be to say that a mechanic was going to violate me when I bring my car in? I was just thinking about that and it didn’t make sense) and not be bothered by it.
I don’t think I’m a “cool” rape survivor because I can say things without being affected negatively by it. I think I’m healing because of that. But, you know, I guess healing and cool are synonymous now. It’s weird how words change suddenly and no one bothers to tell me these things. (I didn’t get the memo! Can someone please re-send?)
But, I’ll tell you something. From all of this, I’ve learned a few lessons. I think I’ve reached about five at this point. There may be more in the offing, but in the mean time. I’m going to list those five that I’ve learned. I’m going to tell you what I fucking learned. And some of it, you may clap and say, “Right on.” And others, because I am a “bad rape survivor” you might not like so much. If that’s the case, you have my complete consent to unfriend, unfollow, remove me in any way you see fit. Our view of events will never be the same because this is the path that I walk and you cannot see what I do.
The Lesson of Speech
I learned that my words are more important than I had ever realized before. I learned that there are just some words that people cannot abide. I’m thinking here of that childhood rhyme that I was taught. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. I’ve talked about this before. This rhyme is an intrinsic untruth. We are taught these words as children to hold back the tears and anger and pain that others may cause by calling us names, but the rhyme holds true to other words, as well. A word cannot break your bone so in that, the rhyme is true. However, when it comes to words, they can cut you to the bone more surely than a knife. They can get to the heart of the matter and make you suck in a breath, faster than any stick. And as I said in an earlier post, some time back, while bones might heal, the pain of words may not ever reach that point.
I had never had my eyes opened to this prior to now. (After nearly thirty years of living this comes on me now? Really?) I know that seems hard to believe, but it’s true. Any lessons that may have been taught to me prior to this were swallowed up and spat out, whole. I was more interested in being miserable and making others feel that way as well. It wasn’t that entirely, but I can say that any lessons I may have learned about hurting others with words thoughtfully or thoughtlessly chosen has never happened prior to this moment. This means that I am probably woefully inadequate to teach anybody anything or that I am woefully inadequate as a human being. But, the lesson was bound to happen sooner or later and I’m glad it finally did.
Am I sorry I hurt someone by using a word that they felt was out of context? Yes. Am I hurt that other women have stepped forward and said that it triggered them as well? Absolutely. My intention was never to hurt anybody with anything I said. I used a word that I felt appropriate at the time to describe what may or may not have happened if and when I bring my car to a mechanic. To have the backlash that this has is… eye-opening. Gut-wrenching. Horrifying in the amount of people who have suffered this way.
In all honesty, I had never thought about how certain words would negatively or positively affect other people. Sure, I know the power of inflection. I know the power of how to say something without really saying it. I know all of these things, but in all gods’ honest truth, I had never once considered how my words would change someone else’s perceptions or how they might hurt someone just by their honesty and truth. And that’s the lesson. My speech is as powerful as any sword that might be used in a war, but nothing really made me understand or realize that until this moment.
The Lesson of Heka
I had always assumed that it was a Foot-in-Mouth Disease that I suffered and this is what I thought heka‘s place in my life was: it was to stop me from this idiocy. And during the day when I was crying hysterically, I had two or three people tell me that it didn’t matter how I said things or what I said. People would be offended by the words or not. It didn’t matter if I side-stepped or if I prettied them up or if I covered them in a black sheet to hide them from the world. No matter how honest I was or how back-tracking I was or how much I bent over backwards, my words would still give offense. And what I was practicing wasn’t heka, per se, but a sick and twisted form of censorship. I was trying to please everyone and obviously, I failed at that. The lesson therein was that I was doing it wrong or that I wasn’t applying it properly.
Veggiewolf said something in my post about this that really resonated with me. She said, “Words have power that is both intrinsic and extrinsic. The extrinsic power comes from communication of said words, through writing or speaking. As we communicate (heka, with “he” being the sound of an exhale) we breathe life into our words and so shape their power. Since we know that such power exists, it becomes our responsibility to ensure that we strive to communicate effectively… with the understanding that sometimes we get it wrong.” The reason this resonated with me, at first, was that she was acknowledging that it’s possible to get things wrong. Then, I read and re-read this statement over and over to myself. And I realized that the whole thing about heka… I had it wrong.
As I said, I always thought it was about shutting the fuck up about things I had no business saying, keeping certain choice bits of speech to myself, and-or respecting others’ viewpoints on others. This may be part of it, but it’s not it really. The whole point is knowing and acknowledging the power of what we say, both the power that we give it but also the power that society may give as well. Prior to this, I had no idea that society had thrown out the other definitions associated with the word “rape.” (Seriously. Honestly. I just thought it was a word like foot or television, but apparently, it’s not.) The word has taken on its own monstrous meaning, beyond even the dictionary definitions that accompany it. It has been vilified and hated, it has been feared and worried. This word has become a monster in its own right, on par with the very act of sexual assault itself. I was unaware, but I’m aware now.
I’m also more aware of just how much power I’m willing to give what I say (in future) as well as what others may give to it, as well. Again, anyone can become offended at something we say and that is their prerogative, but it is our jobs to know the power that certain words may have and use them accordingly.
The Lesson of Conformity
What pissed me off was when a woman who is older than myself pretty much chalked me up to not being a sexual assault victim because I could use the word(s) associated with what happened to me in other definitions. I learned that there seems to be a stigma attached to the social cues that each rape
victimsurvivor follows. I always thought that I was part of the norm. I thought that because I could say what happened to me out loud and via the Internet that I was the same as everyone else. I’ve lurked at rape survivor forums for a while and I remember the Twitter hashtag about surviving rape. I remember seeing all of those people able to openly acknowledge what happened to them and so, therefore, I thought that I was part of the standard.
I wasn’t, apparently.
I didn’t know that rape survivors all have the same triggers, I thought they each had different triggers. Honestly, I always thought that the trigger in question is deeply linked to what happened to them and not the word that described what happened to them. As I said in my DON’T PANIC post, the triggers for me had always been the very names of the men who had hurt me. (Aside from the ex-husband, he has no triggers because he is less than me. And he will never have that power over me again. But that’s a story for a different time.) I’ll tell you some of my other triggers in regards to them, which are all tied into the people who hurt me and not the act that hurt me. A blue Toyota pick up truck. Hunting knives. (My molester threatened to kill me if I told people what happened after my ex-boyfriend and his best friend backed his story over mine.) Social awkwardness. The name “Tim.” The name “Stephen.” Black men with a certain look/feel to them. (My rapist was a black boy.) Football Letterman jackets. The word “cream.” (There was never any physical evidence of his rape because he pulled out because he didn’t want to “cream” in me.) These are my triggers and I mistakenly assumed that others had deeply personal and painful triggers.
Not a single word.
So, I learned that I am not the norm here. I learned that by being able to say that I was raped with head held high and able to catalog what happened to me, so many years afterward, that I do not conform to the social cues. I also learned that being able to say the word and understand that there are multiple meanings is, also, not the social norm for a rape survivor. And lastly, I learned that I do not nor will not conform to that social conditioning. And I’ll tell you why: I never once conformed to a fucking thing in my life and I’m not about to now. Again yes, I am sorry I hurt others, but I’m not going to stop my forward progress for the social cues and conformity.
The Lesson of Healing
All of this has brought up a lot of shit for me. It’s not just the fact that I am, obviously, losing people who I thought were my friends again. I can’t tell you how hard it was to stand up and say that football player raped me (after I was told what date rape was, anyway, because let’s not forget that I had no idea). I can’t tell you how scared I was that I would lose my friends. And I did lose a lot of people who I had considered my friends. They weren’t, obviously, but it still hurts to think about how many people I was friendly with, accepted, spoke with, and would joke with… who never once believed what I said. The kicker there? Someone else claimed that he raped them after I stepped forward. I didn’t know about that until after the fact but I remember the girl in question and I remember the haunted look in her eyes when I saw her looking at me. I don’t doubt that he did it to her anymore than he did it to me. But that’s not the point in this.
The point in this is that it almost feels like I’m going through high school again, standing up and saying what happened to me, and watching people stare at me as though I had a filthy disease. I remember the fear and the anxiety there. I have it now. But, I’m older and wiser, maybe anyway. I went through it once and I can go through it again. The point here is that I’ve healed enough to not only be okay with losing people I once thought friends, but welcome those who oppose my viewpoint. Again, I will say honestly and truly that I am sorry for hurting others, but I look at myself (deep within) and I see a burning, healing light.
I’m flaming bright here, brighter than ever, and that flame, at its heart, is healing.
To me, part of healing is being able to not quite accept what happened to you, but be willing to share you experiences with others. That does mean that you have to say the word “rape” or “molested.” You might even have to go into more detail than that, as I did when I went to trial. (They made me stand in a mirror for a while and say all body parts, including penis and vagina and breast because I couldn’t just say “rape” when I testified.) Being scared of a word to me is pointless. Being scared of the action that word describes is not. But, the word itself is only as strong as we make it. And I refuse to make it any stronger than it already is. So, yes. I say that I might get “raped” at the mechanic. Or that taxes “raped” me this quarter. I say these things because I know and understand the word is as multifaceted as myself or my OTHERS™. And I refuse to take any steps back in my healing. I’m backwards enough, as it is.
The Lesson of Me
I learned many valuable lessons from this. I learned who my friends are and who my friends aren’t. I learned that I would offend people, no matter what I said or how it was meant in the context provided. I learned that how heka was in my life was not how it was meant to be. I learned that society has made words grow larger and more powerful than they ever should. I have learned that there is a ring within the ring of rape survivors that cannot and will not abide the use of their pain in any other context than in that pain. I learned that I can open my mouth and hurt others without meaning to. I learned that a place I thought was home was not. I learned that TH (though I kind of knew this already) is a great listener and doesn’t mind it if I get snots on his shirt. I learned that the Sister knows and understands where I lie with this and accepts it, agrees. I learned that BFTX, a woman who has been through worse and worse than either the Sister or myself, also understands, accepts, and agrees. So, I learned that we three may be the minority. And I also learned that people I respected can hurt me just as easily as people I don’t.
I chose the name “Satsekhem” because it meant “daughter of power.” In all honestly, I chose it to honor my mother-goddess, Sekhmet. I chose it to link me with her via the Internet and for all to see. But, the truth lesson is that the name was chosen because, whilst her daughter I may be, I hold as much power as she does. And I’m not going to let this break me or eat at me.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. And while this isn’t entirely true, it is today. I’m done being angry and upset or guilty. I am my mother’s daughter, both the one who is my goddess and the one who birthed me. And it will take more than a word, taken out of context, to destroy me.
- Heka Doesn’t Work Anymore, Apparently…
- I Used To Be a “Cool” Rape Victim… by Morag Spinner.
- Those Who Know The Letters, See Double. by Arienwen.
- Rape Victims Have Social Conventions Too? at Don’t Panic.