Loud-mouthed liberal feminist. Anarchist knitter. Tequila-drinking artsy-smartsy fat chick. Bluesy folk-rock singer-songwriter. Rebel with too many causes. Quirky eclectic pagan poet. Paradoxical intuitive smartass. Sarcastic brainiac insomniac. You know, for starters.


The Post I Wasn't Sure I Would Ever Post.

I can't remember a time when I wasn't a survivor of sexual assault.

Literally, I can't. I was three when it happened. I'm one of those girls you hear about on the news, and everybody is shocked and grossed out by the whole thing, and talks about how incredibly fucked up some guy must have been to do something so awful. Sometimes, they talk about how incredibly fucked up the girl will inevitably be, too.

There's a chance she won't remember it at such a young age, though. When my parents found out about me, they consulted some child psychologists and learned this, and took the gamble that I wouldn't remember. This means there was no media coverage, no court battle, no horrible testimony from a toddler. There was no counseling, no painfully uncomfortable explanations, nothing that would make the incident bigger or more traumatic, and thus more likely to stick in my memory. This is all very logical, and I can see why the choice was made.

The problem in my case is that I did remember. Everything (or at least a significant enough chunk that I could've recounted gory details at any point in my life). I remembered what happened and where and how; the awful conversation with my mom involving anatomy books, where she put two and two together; the visit to the doctor that was pretty much just as traumatic as the actual abuse. I remembered it all, right from the get go. I remembered it so well that until I talked about it for the first time with my dad a few years ago, I always thought I had to be five or six, the memories were so clear.

So essentially my whole life, I have borne the fact that I am damaged goods. Before I was even really goods, I was damaged goods. (Thanks, Patriarchy, for making sure I learned that my value was mostly as a pristine sex object, which - of course - I could never be!) This has, not unsurprisingly, been the biggest, thorniest, most painful challenge of my life - which, if you know me very well at all, means something; my life hasn't exactly been devoid of complicated and ugly challenges.

I learned later that my dad had talked to the guy's mom (he was a teenager from across the trailer park where we lived at the time who would sometimes babysit me and my sibs) and made her promise to get the kid into some serious counseling. I wonder sometimes if that ever happened, but mostly I just hope he hasn't ever hurt anyone else....and feels the black mark on his soul. I'm not above wishing he bears the weight of his actions for his entire life the way I have to.

And that, right there, is the thing that really rankles for me - that I will bear, for the rest of my life, the wounds from this stupid fuck's choices. My personality, my sexuality, my ability to trust and love and form intimacy - even in non-sexual contexts - have all been shaped by this baggage, and I am, nearly 30 years later, still stumbling into new triggers and new fears and new issues. Despite over a decade of work to shed the shame and fear, I still have trouble talking about it. Despite working very hard to reclaim and engage with my femininity and my sexuality - and feeling generally very good about where I am with both those things - I still have trouble sometimes with wanting to deny parts of them, either because being too "feminine" (or what feels that way to me) makes me feel too vulnerable, or because I spent the greater part of twenty years developing a habit of shoving both femininity and sexuality into a metaphorical closet, tied up and gagged, and that's a hard habit to release.

Part of me gets furious at how unbearably cliche it all is: the fat girl who was sexually abused as a kid. (I mean, it's a fucking Oprah's Book Club book plotline!) I hate nothing in the world so much as being typical.

This, then, is why I was triggered so hard when the Roman Polanski business came up last year. Since my brother went to jail for his own statutory rape conviction a couple years ago, I had slipped back into a place of denial. The anger (among other, darker, emotions) that came up during my brother's hooplah, I just didn't want to deal with - because part of it was genuinely about my brother, and part of it was about a jackass teenager from the early 1980s in Wyoming. So I didn't deal with it, employing the aforementioned metaphorical-closet-shoving technique. It reared its ugly head again during the glut of Polanski stuff, though, so much so that I pretty much couldn't think about anything *but* that denied clusterfuck of conflicting, gut-wrenchingly raw emotion.

I have been sitting with it, consciously and unconsciously, during the chaos of my life in the past few months (this is one of several reasons I've not been posting much). I'm still not sure I've parsed out everything I need or want to parse out, but I at least feel like I'm not denying what's there.

Here's what I know for sure: I have been shaped in undeniable ways by someone else's selfish, cruel actions, and I will spend the rest of my life dealing with the consequences of those selfish, cruel actions. Sometimes I feel like I've made my peace with that fact....and other times it pisses me off beyond belief and I am practically withered by my own bitterness. I imagine that the victims of my brother and Roman Polanski - and any other person dealing with the harsh reality of child rape - may, whether or not they're conscious of it, deal with something similar.

My brother got out of jail this morning. He's going to have a pretty tough time, between the economic climate where he lives and the fairly severe parole restrictions for sex offenders. I don't really feel sorry for him, in some ways, because I believe it is just for him to suffer the consequences of his selfish actions. Still, I'm glad he's out, and I am very hopeful he can get back on his feet and make use of this second chance he's been given.


Kyeli said...

Oh, so many quiet hugs. So much love and support, even from here.

Jeani said...

Tari, I'm struggling with how to say what I feel about this post. You are such an amazing, strong, interesting, fun person, and I don't even know you that well! I'm so sorry that you have this burden. While I know that triggering experiences are always difficult, I hope that each time you revisit your feelings you are able to heal just a bit more.

Tari said...

Thanks to you both. :o/