11 July, 2016
Waiting for a major magazine to set a release date is like waiting for a baby to come — except you never really get a due date. These days my eyes linger of the work in front of me, occasionally glancing at the horizon, wondering when the story will come into view. I know only what I have spoken and the general map of the piece. The rest hinges on trust in another person’s ability to convey events and emotions in a manner that, if all goes will, will ring true.
In the meantime, I’m fairly obsessed with my research in critical victimology. Of course, my own experience shapes my reading of the material — it nuances my intellectual understanding as much as it sculpts the insights I might produce. Both theory and data offer a kind of relief to me: someone else has put words around an experience which, at the time I lived through it, was difficult to grasp and nearly impossible to name. I speak here not of the rape, but of the secondary vicitmization, the overwhelmingly inappropriate responses received from too many people in my community when I became public about my experience of victimization and my identity as a victim.
Immersing myself in critical victimological theory, feminist theory, and peace and conflict studies continues to help me cultivate the seedbed of my understanding of what I lived through. I understand that by speaking out in the manner that I did, I disrupted the presumed role of the victim in society, aggregating a slew of reactions aimed to silence me and return me to my place as the kind victim others could recognize. I can see how, even among those who loved me and desired to help, their desire to live in a Just World — where people get what they deserve, for better or for worse — hit a wall in trying to make sense of my senseless and undeserved suffering.
There were some who believed that women were a worthy sacrifice in the name of normalizing Ayahuasca use. It isn’t as surprising to me now as it once was. The word victim, after all, derives from the Latin victima, meaning sacrificial animal, and was only applied to humans in the 16th century, referring to Christ. Our modern concept of the victim grew from the soil of the Christian tradition, and continues to carry connotations of purity, innocence, and a willingness to suffer on behalf of others.
But women are not sacrificial lambs.
I could never play pretend at that farce. Not a single one of the strong, extraordinary women I know who have endured sexual violence could play pretend at that farce. Anyone asking us to live that lie ought to have known: we had already won a thousand days in a row at surviving what was done to us, what continues to be done to us even after the raping has stopped. And any woman who dares to speak out about her rape might also dare to speak about the ones who tried to make her shut up about it. In many ways, that is the more interesting story.
I am grateful for the support I have received from mentors, teachers, allies and friends. The kindness of the few has, for me, triumphed over the ignorance of the many. In this instance, it was the luxury of ignorance on display that seemed to aggravate the wounds of rape. But it was the care and wisdom of those who have not had that luxury, those who have had to think this suffering through, who helped me to clean out and suture the wound. I could not have done it alone. I hope you each know who you are, even if you don’t quite know the power of what you’ve done. Thank you.
I still don’t know what will become of this moment. I know that for the last four years, I needed and wanted for this story to meet the public because it seemed like the way to make my suffering mean something. I hope that that something is helpful. I hope maybe it keeps someone safe. And for those who are navigating the treacherous landscape of the aftermath of rape, especially rape involving mind-altering substances, I hope this story offers some kind of medicine. You are not alone. None of us are.
Among my hopes is that communities and individuals will reflect upon their responses to sexual victimization, and engage research, narratives and educators who can help them to form robust and informed methods for holding those who have been victimized dear. Victimization sucks. It isn’t something to glorify for its transformative value or romanticize as a catalyst for growth. It’s not intrinsically redeemable. But it can been composted and crafted into someone useful, inflected with the wisdom of the human who undertakes that work. Those fruits can only be harvested when people turn toward the suffering of victims and engage the process with kindness and care. Poison can be made into medicine. It just takes a village.
And so for now I return to my research. Curiosity drives me deeper into my studies. And curiosity nurtures my openness for what is about to unfold on the media stage. In all likelihood, you and I will meet on the other side. May the time and space between us be gentle and sweet as a pear tree in summer, fragrant and rooted, strong and deep.