I’m writing on a notepad on my plastic worktable here during my last week in Tucson. Rust Cohle printouts in front of me, a vase with flowers, glue stick, 2 big blue Crayola markers, my trusty scissors, a Queen of Clubs. My right knee still hurts. My feet are cold. I’m kinda broke. Etc.
A few months ago, I’d thought I’d run a program during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Called it the SAA Spa & imagined online activities to support anti-sexual violence activists during this season of high + public activism.
Then I decided I’d feel bad tired & dropped the idea. & a promising mini book about how to debunk common SV myths. & my roles in some SV prevention communities.
I want to make sure you know
if your job is sexual violence prevention
if you’re a public survivor-activist
I have a hard time disentangling myself from the activism.
I struggle against yelling a lot online.
Maybe you relate to this?
If yeah, I want you to know that being sexually harassed, assaulted, raped, stalked, tormented – traumatized – isn’t step one on a 3-step path.
Your ‘healing journey’ — whatever that is or isn’t — doesn’t have to be victim –> survivor –> public survivor-activist.
You didn’t sign a contract.
You’re not obliged to get out your poster or lobby your whoever.
You don’t need to start a project.
You don’t need to turn your pain into good deeds for others.
You don’t have to see yourself as broken + in need of repair (Jen Cross).
You don’t have to forgive whoever made it suck for you (Renee Garcia).
You can be a bad citizen of capitalism + a victim & cope in ‘bad’ ways (Emi Koyama).
Be fucked up as long & as deep as your wound needs you to be.
You don’t have to post a play-by-play confession online describing what happened to you.
You don’t have to turn surviving & survivor support into your post-university or post-trauma (unpaid/underpaid/side) job.
You can do whatever you want.
Okay, post-Holocaust AKA post-trauma, lotsa Jews were like, fucked up. Anti-theist, half here + half there. Despairing.
In Judaism, in the Torah, g_d (“g_d”) lays out these 613 commandments on how to live Jewish. There’s too many rules + some contradict each other, & I mean I don’t know what 90% of them are. W/e.
After the Holocaust, Emil Fackenheim put on his philosophy hat & was like, “Okay, y’all. How bout 1 more commandment, the 614th commandment: Thou Shalt Survive.”
My younger-than-me-adult Modern Orthodox cousin led a seder I was at, & she described the 614th as an imperative to be observant.
Myself, in college, I heard Fackenheim say do what you gotta do to keep going but don’t build a life that churches the horrors in your past.
I wonder if some/many of us drawn to public or semi public or online survivor-activism are kinda churching it… defining ourselves & living primarily in relationship to sexual violence as an Experience & an Identity. Not because we want to or because that’s how we adapt, but because that’s The Way It’s Done.
My gross experiences don’t matter much to me now.
Trauma’s long half-life
— that bugs me.
If you’re post sexual trauma, you’ll never not be.
But you don’t have to breathe it in your primary all the time. Or even some of the time.
You don’t have to center your life around being out about surviving your past.