I daydreamed of outing them: Uncle Bob Nelson; the nameless teenage boy; Paul Palmer, the family doctor.
I dreamed of my father beating them, of me taking a baseball bat to them, of doors with metal bars locking them away forever, the key lost. I dreamed of running away at 11 and 12 and starting a new life all by myself in a big city. I dreamed of hitch hiking to Canada, living with wolves and bears in the wild. I dreamed of jumping off Victoria Falls, or purposely steering my 10 speed into oncoming traffic, or placing a revolver to my temple.
In my day dreams I saw judges slam their gavels, stand up and point at my abusers: inflicting shame and guilt and humiliation into their bones, into every cell of their body. Maybe then I could stop shuddering with self loathing and shame.
Yesterday on facebook a writer friend posted:
“Best Judge ever”: ‘Leave Your Pain Here. Go Out and Do Your Magnificent Things.’ Judge Rosemarie Aquilina to the victims at Larry Nassar’s sentencing.
I responded by saying that a blessing like that would have changed my life. She replied: Let this heal you vicariously. It is me.
And I realized she was right. Listening to the litany of testimonies of so many brave women broke and opened my heart. Hearing Judge Aquilina denounce and sentence Nasser was both empowering and freeing. Something about the repeated statements of the survivors kept gnawing away at me. Reminding me of something similar that I couldn’t at the time recall.
Not until about an hour ago.
Then I remembered I led a workshop at a women’s agency where I worked in the 90s for adult female survivors of child sexual abuse. I had facilitated on going writing groups for these women, but I offered a specific workshop on writing Impact Statements because I was trying to encourage women to share their experiences with two State Representatives who were coming to hear a proposal on creating a space for survivors of childhood abuse. We planned to explain the desperate need for a Drop In Center and ask for state funds to procure an office. I knew that Impact Statements could be very powerful. And they were: for both the survivors and the representatives.
Of course asking a group of women to make themselves vulnerable meant I had to join them. I wish I still had the statement I wrote; I’d gladly share it here. But it was a long list of ways I had been negatively impacted by the molestation of “trusted” adult men. We were 11 women in a room speaking our truths, one by one around the circle. We wrote about not feeling safe enough to leave the house even in daylight; we wrote about the inability to create intimate relationships; the fear of male bosses; the fear of getting out of bed in the morning; the fear of answering the phone. We moved beyond the difficulties of negotiating “normal” daily tasks, to the larger dreams we sacrificed because we’d been terrorized into paralysis and silence. Women spoke of the children they never bore, the books they never wrote, the trips they would never take. We explained how our self esteem had been stolen, our innocence and trust; how we hated our bodies, how we blamed ourselves, how we lived in isolation because we believed we were unlovable.
Speaking out about abuse takes great courage. It also requires an audience. We need to be heard. For so long the girls and women under Nassar’s “care” spoke and were hushed; spoke and were called liars and whores. A Sports Illustrated article this week discusses this issue and the need to hold accountable all of the administrators who “heard” and took no action. Back in the 90s, back in my little town, we got lucky. Our stories moved the State Representatives to allot our agency enough funds to actually purchase a house in our town that became a meeting place for survivors.
In addition to stories on the Gymnastic survivors, other represented themes this week include the 2018 Women’s March and the work we need to continue to make the movement inclusive; toxic masculinity and gun violence in the wake of more school shootings; fertility and disability rights; how the courts may save the planet; and how the #metoo movement must continue to grow a strong and un-accommodating voice.
So, for these stories and more, please Read On!
If the day had an overarching message, it was that white women needed to get their shit together. “Don’t come to this rally today and sit here with your pink hat on saying that you’re with us, and you’re nowhere to be found when black people ask you to show up in the streets to defend our lives,” Tamika Mallory, one of the co-chairs of the Women’s March, hollered into the crowd, which was speckled with pink hats. “Stand up for me, white women!” she went on. “You say you want to be my friend? I don’t want to hear it from your mouth. I want to see it when you go to the polls at the midterm elections.”
“Fault Lines at the National Women’s March, in Las Vegas”/ by Amanda Fortini/ The New Yorker/ January 23, 2018
2. Since Trump’s inauguration, protests have occurred every day somewhere in the country. California and New York had the highest number of events, with 952 and 562 respectively. But Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida had the next highest number of events, with 401, 387, and 379 events respectively. This is notable because Trump won pluralities in these states during the 2016 election. Moreover, there were some surprises among red states with noticeably higher ranks in protest events compared with total state population. For instance, Alaska had 96 events, making it 28th in number of protests despite being 48th in population size.
“One Year After the Women’s March on Washington, People are Still Protesting en Masse. A lot. We’ve Counted.”/ by Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman/ Washington Post/ January 21, 2018
3. Some of the women’s marches, though, did some things right this year, prioritizing intersectionality and welcoming to the event a rematriation of the space—an acknowledgement of the first women, recognizing the indigenous women of that particular land. This is an important start to deepening and revolutionizing the women’s movement.
“No Indigenous Women, No Women’s Movement”/ by Sarah Sunshine Manning/ truthdig/ January 23, 2018
4. “Imagine feeling like you have no power and no voice,” Ms. Raisman said in court last Friday. “Well, you know what, Larry? I have both power and voice, and I am only just beginning to use them. All these brave women have power, and we will use our voices to make sure you get what you deserve: a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors.”
“Larry Nassar Sentencing: ‘I Just Signed Your Death Warrant’”/ by Scott Cacciola and Victor Mather/ New York Times/ January 24, 2018
5. “Why have I and the others here probably not heard anything from the leadership of the U.S.O.C.? Why has the U.S. Olympic Committee been silent? Why isn’t the U.S.O.C. here right now?,” Raisman asked. “Larry was the Olympic doctor and he molested me at the 2012 London Olympic Games. They say now they applaud those who have spoken out, but it’s easy to say that now. When the brave women started speaking out back then, more than a year after the U.S.O.C. says they knew about Nassar, they were dismissed.
“Burn It All Down: It’s Time For Every Last Coward Who Enabled Larry Nassar To Pay For Their Sins”/ by Charles P. Pierce/ Sports Illustrated/ January 24, 2018
6. The Olympics were just one year away. And I just couldn’t take any more of the abuse. I was broken. Larry, my coaches and U.S.A. Gymnastics turned the sport I fell in love with as a kid into my personal living hell.
“More Than 160 Women Say That Larry Nassar Sexually Abused Them. Here are His Accusers in Their Own Words”/ by Carla Correa and Meghan Louttit/ New York Times/ January 24, 2018
7. If time really is up, then reporters and editors must get better at identifying violence against women for what it is: misogyny, and transmisogyny, driven by a toxic masculinity borne of patriarchy. This is not about “lovelorn,” or “distraught.” It’s about power and rage and what men believe it is to be a man
“Gun Violence is not an Act of Passion”/ by Andrea Grimes/ DAME/ January 24, 2018
8. When I think “reproductive rights,” I think of bodies of disabled children mutilated on order from their parents, who claim that sterilizing their children “protects them from abuse.” I think of children seized from loving homes because the state believes disabled people are unfit parents. I think of disabled people struggling to conceive and fighting to access assisted reproduction and fertility care. I think of disabled people being turned away from adoption agencies. I think of disabled people denied birth control “because you people don’t have sex.” I think of these things because I know these people, because they are my people.
“Bad Genes: On Fertility and Disability Rights”/ by S. E. Smith/ Catapult/ January 24, 2018
9. It’s important that people realize that they haven’t been given the dialogue [to talk about race.] It has been deliberately kept from them, so they don’t have a full understanding of what we’re talking about and how to approach it. I really wanted to update this conversation and take it out of the realm of Good Person vs. Bad Person. Nothing will teach you more about good people and bad people not really existing than taking a hard look at how race functions in society. When you look at it as a system, you realize that your intentions mean very little when it comes to whether or not you uphold racism. Getting people to set that aside and come to [those conversations] knowing that you’re talking about a system that’s harming people, and figuring out how you interact with that system, can help temper some of the emotions that arise. Whether or not someone is “good” or “bad” is beside the point.
“WRITING FOR BLACK WOMEN: IJEOMA OLUO IS STILL SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER”/ by Evette Dionne/ bitchmedia /January 18, 2018
10. Two recent developments have spurred these suits: scientific advancements that enable researchers to attribute climate change impacts to particular polluters, and the case brought against Exxon Mobil by the attorney generals of New York and Massachusetts. The former enables lawyers to make convincing liability claims against the world’s top polluters, while the latter opened up a treasure trove of documents showing exactly how Exxon and the fossil fuel industry in general has spent the last two decades deliberately hiding information and sowing doubt about climate science, which enables plaintiffs to claim that fossil fuel companies knowingly caused harm.
“The Courts Might Just Save Us On Climate”/ by Amy Westervelt/ DAME/ January 24, 2018
11. Let’s be clear: no woman asks to live in a rape culture: we all want it over, yesterday. Mixed signals about female autonomy won’t help bring it down, and neither will asking nicely. Nothing changes until truly powerful offenders start to fall. Feminine instincts for sweetness and apology have no skin in this game. It’s really not possible to overreact to uncountable, consecutive days of being humiliated by men who say our experience isn’t real, or that we like it actually, or are cute when we’re mad. Anger has to go somewhere – if not out then inward, in a psychic thermodynamics that can turn a nation of women into pressure cookers. Watching the election of a predator-in-chief seems to have popped the lid off the can. We’ve found a voice, and now is a good time to use it, in a tone that will not be mistaken for flirtation.
“#MeToo Isn’t Enough. Now Women Need to Get Ugly”/ by Barbara Kingsolver/ The Guardian/ January 16, 2018
Joyce Hayden left her university teaching job two years ago in order to pursue her own artistic work. An assemblage artist, painter, and writer, Joyce is currently in the process of acquiring an agent to represent her memoir, The Out of Body Girl, which describes her 8 year relationship with a charismatic gambler and the dangerous road that eventually led to her freedom. Her chapbook of poems, Lost Handprint, is forthcoming from Dandelion Review. A freelance editor and writing coach, Joyce’s writing services and a selection of her artwork can be found at her website joycehayden.com. Joyce is available for commission art work, including celebration shrines for loved ones and pets.