Earlier this week I went to the final performance of ‘A Memory, a monologue, a rant and a prayer’. It was sold out and the place was packed. The performances were amazing and the audience was moved and clapped and clapped. You can read some great reviews and descriptions, here, here and here.

I was moved during the performance. These stories were new to me, but the content they cover was not. I found myself swallowing hard during almost all of the performances.

The story of the young girls in the Congo hiding in barrels of fermenting banana beer, while rebels raped their mother was particularly haunting. But the one that struck a particular chord was the woman who made the wish; ‘May all your daughters’ first kiss be anticipated and wanted.’ Afterwards, I chatted polite chit-chat and then said my good-byes.

It was only once I left, that the tears came. Hot and salty and fierce.

My face twisted into that I’m-not-crying face as I walked down the street and I was pretty snotty by the time I got to my car.

All I could think about was my daughters.

I can’t protect them, I thought, completely overwhelmed.

My stories were suddenly irrelevant and all I could feel was rage. The rage I feel at the injustice of the assault, abuse and violence my daughters are going to be touched by.

My daughters, with their soft bodies, reaching for me, eyes and face wide open, love spilling out of them like over-ripe fruit. So quick to laugh and cry and love and live.

Life will be so cruel to them. It will hurt them. Forcing them to close their hearts and guard their souls. I’m sure most parents fear the day that their children experience true hurt and disappointment for the first time. But this fear, the fear of violation, abuse, violence and molestation is particularly awful.

My heart breaks for all the people who have had this experience thrust upon them.

I think that as a parent and having birthed these children, that I am unequivocally physically engaged in their wellbeing. I most certainly would take a bullet for them, without thinking even, I suspect.

But I rage when I think of how helpless I am to protect them from this reality. There are no words or actions which would adequately illustrate this feeling of frustration and helplessness, except perhaps pulling my hair completely out of my scalp.

Their innocence and trust and willingness to be kind and giving. It will shrivel away.

Maybe… that says more about me. About how I see the world, how I feel the world, how I move in the world and how I survive the world.

This left me feeling raw and I crawled into bed and distracted myself with old episodes of Mighty Boosh. Because most days and nights I have the strength to deal and to cope and to fight and support others. And other nights, I don’t.

That night, was just was one those nights.

But I realised this was not a good way to be, nor a good way to leave readers, so while I blogged this blog relatively soon, I waited to publish until I could add some resources.

So here is a link to Rainn for a brief overview and this one is from Child, Youth and Family warning, it’s a pdf. Please share any other resources you have found helpful.

a gendered war

September 24, 2011

Today I co-presented to a small group of young(er) woman who are the administrators of the Wellington Young Feminist Collective. (Check them out on tumblr and facebook). My co-presented was Natalie the Manager of Wellington Rape Crisis where I sit on the Governance Group. We had been asked to talk about how to support a survivor of rape and sexual violence and discuss ways of dealing with disclosures.

Because apparently, they’ve had to deal with this a lot. I mean a lot.

There is this thing that happens when women start creating spaces where we can talk about the hard stuff. We start talking about it. We start listening, sharing, listening and we cry together, get angry together and sometimes, like this group and many others, we get political together.

I love the good men in my life, I really do. But I feel a kinship and solidarity with women that men may never understand. That feeling of kinship comes from a deep unspoken knowing that on some level, many of us have been injured, many of us are angry and many of us feel like we are in some kind of war. A gendered war*. One where the fact that we are women means we start out with a target on our backs and empty ammo cartridges. It’s not a fair fight.

This next paragraph was supposed to be positive and optimistic about how much progress we’ve made but I keep thinking about the fights we are still fighting on so many different fronts. We are still battling for full and undisturbed rights over our reproductive health, body image related problems are getting worse, rates of violence are still terrible and not a week goes by where I’m not outraged by some disrespectful and degrading headline in the news.

Yes, great strides have been made, I just hope in ten, twenty years time we can claim even more successes.

 

*Just want to point out that men are abused too, in shockingly high rates. I mean that overall, on top of sexual violence there are many additional problems faced by women, which men don’t face, or face much less.