Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Grab the shovel

"Much of the rape that goes on in the privacy of dorm rooms is initially mutual and playful and leads into something confusing and painful - a direct result of our lack of practice communicating about and understanding the complexities of sex. *
"*This is not to say, of course, that violent, straightforward rapes do not go on, or that the victim is at fault. It is simply to point out that rape can be as confusing for the rapist as it is for the victim, and further, that the confusion often stems from a lack of education, preparation and sobriety." Page 112 from Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters by Courtney E. Martin.

I'm in the middle of reading Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters. Tonight, while soaking in the tub, I read the passage above and stopped.

Take out dorm room, put in parents' den...
Take out initially mutual and playful...

Could the rest be true about what my brother did to me? He probably was as confused as I was - it's not as if his education about these things was any more detailed than mine was, after all.

But then, how does it help me to think about him?

It doesn't.

But how can I not?

When John (my therapist) and I first discussed the abuse, I mentioned this fact that my brother's education was sketchy at best.
John replied that teenage boys steal magazines, they don't molest their little sisters.

So why am I insisting on letting him off the hook for molesting me?

Because I want to resolve this quickly in my mind. And the easiest thing to do would be to accept some of the blame so I can forgive Tom.

But I'm innocent. I didn't do anything wrong. None of the blame is mine.

It was suggested to me that perhaps I should try hypnosis or guided imagery or something...

I think about ae and the process that she has found with her therapist. From ae's descriptions (and my understanding, which can be completely off, ae - forgive me if I get this wrong and please correct me,) her therapist guides her as she goes back to the events of her abuse in order to reconnect with the feelings.

With each post that she publishes, I envy her bravery.

I'm afraid to go back. I'm afraid to remember. I'm ashamed of what happened. I don't want to remember.

But I can't live in ignorant bliss anymore. I'm not ignorant to being molested. I do remember - bits and pieces. And the bits and pieces haunt me sometimes. Coming out at odd moments and in strange ways - like the interrupted meditation last week, the crying wave in the fitness center, the illusive dreams that rob me of energy, the cyclical depression,...

John once told me that your body will protect you from anything it doesn't think it can handle. He explained that the memories popped up last year because I was strong enough - I had taken charge of my life.

At that point, I was strong enough to handle the knowledge that it was real. I was molested; it wasn't a dream. And I was strong enough to tell my husband. And to confront my brother and ask for an apology. I was strong enough to deal with the grief and the sadness that ensued.

But not the anger. Although I acknowledged that it was there, for the first time. I don't think acknowledging that there is anger inside me, holding the anger at arm's length, is enough. As faith realized, I have never owned this anger. I haven't yet experienced it fully.

So, maybe this wave of depression is my body's signal that I'm strong enough to handle more?

Maybe I am ready to dig deeper...

Now I just have to figure out how.


Pavlovna said...

hi there.

i don't know the answers to your questions, but wow, this post contains so much insight and self-awareness. i think you have the tools for digging deeper right here - the things you need to acknowledge, the feelings you need to own and experience. and it takes a LOT of bravery to acknowledge those things.

be well. - pav

carrie said...


I don't have many answers either. I know in some of the messed up dealings I've had with my brother (not as bad as with yours, but nonetheless), I do want to let him off the hook. Despite how incredibly shitty he's treated me.

It's the anger that haunts me.

When I talked to my therapist (that emotional barfing), she said, "You can explain something without excusing it." And that's where I'm trying to get to. Yes, my brother was under stress, he was pissed off, but you don't tell your sister the world would be better off if she had completed her suicide attempt. Out of pure spite.

So yeah, maybe your brother was confused. It's possible. It's possible even he doesn't quite know. That might explain it. But it doesn't excuse it.


Faith said...

A-mazing Jeanne. You are doing so much work here. John is right, you are innocent here and letting your brother off the hook is not the best way to resolve this. It is not even the quickest. It is the short term little circle band aid for a huge gory bleeder of a wound.

The anger hurts. A lot. I H-A-T-E it with such a passion I can only sometimes sit with it. I am so angry. It makes sense to be angry but that anger is an unfamiliar pain while the pushing-down is so familiar and we are habitually sitting with it.

I think you are amazing Jeanne. I think your writing is wonderful and the thought you put into what you are doing is incredible. I've got my shovel too. I'm ready to dig.


Carla said...

I can only speak from my experiences, so if this is totally off based, ignore it and move on.

I think you want to know a why where there is no simple answer. You don't want to blame him, because blame causes (or means) hurt. And it makes us think about it all over again. You want to read into it because you want it to make sense, but the problem is that rape, molestation, etc never does. There is no clear cut answer. There is no clear cut way to resolve the feelings either.

I think you want everything to be okay with him now, for the sake of not just yourself, but your family. And his. But if it was anyone else who had hurt you, would you insist so much on the why factor?

Personally, I think the anger factor is something that you are avoiding by asking why. And when I say you, I mean both of us, actually!

Anywho, I'd love to chat with you more. Email me!

em said...

Hi Jeanne: I have just found your blog (via ae). I am not a survivor of CSA but I do know what it is to feel intense anger towards someone that you love (namely, my mother). I know how guilty I feel being enraged by the things that she did to me. She is not an evil woman, she raised me to the best of her ability but it left me with emotional scars that have lasted a life time.

I wish you courage on your journey.


disordered girl said...

You are doing some amazing work on figuring out your feelings and what you need to move forward. You definitely have no blame to take on though, so don't go there!

Jeanne said...

WOW - thank you so much for replying everyone! It really means a lot to me to take a break at work and see all these wonderful, supportive, thought-provoking comments.

Thank you. I hope you’re right about the tools that I have already.

Thank you. I never thought about trying to explain something without excusing it – I do it often, just never thought about it in this context.
Abuse comes in all kinds – none is worse or better than another. That was a horrific thing for your brother to say to you.

Thank you. Awesome image – “huge gory bleeder of a wound.” You are so right about the tiny band-aid. For me, I’m finding that I rarely sit with my feelings. I sit on them. I stuff them into boxes and put them on shelves – picture Olivander’s wand shop in Harry Potter. When the box starts to move on its own, I sit on it to make it stop. It’s uncomfortable. Extremely. Which is why I then turn to restricting – to numb the discomfort so I can remain sitting on the boxes of feelings… Wow. That really explains my process…
Thanks for digging with me!

Thank you. Yes, I do want to make sense out of a senseless situation and I am avoiding my anger by asking why. You are so right. And yeah, I do want to be okay for the sake of my family – my son and husband, and myself.
I’d like to chat as well… I don’t think I have your email. Email me at diggingmeup at gmail dot com…

Abuse is abuse is abuse, whether it’s SA or verbal or physical.
I wish you courage as well – emotional scars are the hardest to heal.

Thank you. I will try not to go there. ;-)

roark said...

hi jeanne.

i really admire YOUR bravery and strength for talking about this here, with us. for trusting this space to hold that for you, to care for you and support you.

i, for one, am grateful for that trust.

it sounds so difficult. so so difficult, to reconcile rapist and molestor with family member, brother.

that seems like one of the most difficult things the human mind can do. and look at you! making progress, working at it. you are fair and compassionate and strong and wise. i believe you will make it through this, i believe you have all the tools and some good support on your side and that ti just needs time and perseverence.

i wish it oculd be a quick, easy, painless process for you. i truly do. but i know you'll make it, even when it is long and difficult and painful.

and i admire that you consider both sides, that you do have a heart big enough to consider if he was confused about it, too. of course that doesn't absolve him of his crimes, and it doesn't shift any blame from him onto anyone else, but it's a sign of your compassion that you are considering all of the factors here.

i wish i could go back and remove this from your life. but i have faith you are doing that, all by yourself, before our eyes.

hang in there, okay jeanne? we're all here for you.

with love,

lauren said...

Jeanne, Please keep remembering that you are not at fault in ANYWAY!!! I understand you just wanting to be past it but I personally think that when that heppens that is when we need to look at it the most! WHat your brother di was effing WRONG WRONG WRONG, and in no way should it be looked at he was confused, I think that is bull shit! Excuses ugh you did not deserve that NO ONE DOES!
I think you are just as brave and sweet ae and that you can do it sweetie!
love lauren

Sarah said...

Please let us know if you need a hand with the shovel.

You're very brave, Jeanne. I'm really glad that we found each other.


Jeanne said...

Thank you all for being here with me! I feel so much less alone.

Thank you. I’m glad you are holding this with me. I will hang in there.

Sometimes I wish that I didn’t consider both sides – sometimes I think it would be easier to work through my feelings about this if I just see one side (mine.)

Thank you. You are right - I didn’t do anything to deserve what my brother did.

Thank you. Right now, just being here with me is helping me. I’m glad we found each other as well.

æ said...

What a kind, gentle, respectful, inclusive way that you referred to me and what I'm working on Jeanne.

Thank you for that.

You're right that I basically go toward and into it. And I am flattered you see me as brave. Really flattered. I guess I feel so strongly that even as it stirs things up and makes things feel temporarily *worse*, that this really is the way for me to get better. And I can't stand to NOT get better any longer, though I think a big part of that comes from along the lines of what John was saying about it being time, your body knowing it's time.

It's my time now, so I'm going to do it.

You know, the leading quote up top, I don't think it's very sensitive actually. Okay, I think it's insensitive, and kinda fuels the side-with-the-perp fire. "Mutual" and "playful" sound like blame-the-victim in a subtle way. And since you are already sometimes struggling with that, I wanted to point it out. I want to say that there is just a KNOWING that it is wrong. Your brother did know it was wrong. You don't need to excuse him.

You might feel like you want to excuse him, but you don't need to. He really did you wrong, in many inexcusable ways (I hope I'm not overstepping things here, and that you know I don't mean to if I am).

Here is what I can tell you about going into the memories with the assistance of someone who knows how to help you with that: it is transformative. You acquire power. They lose their hold on you. Your helper has a chance to answer the questions and reassure the child who is in the memory. Your helper can see you and know how scary and hard it is, instead of leaving you alone with it like you were all those years. And for me, it feels so wonderful to be seen and helped, after all this time, even though going in feels so, so bad.

Bad, but good.

I hope you and I will always have an open dialogue about this. It means so much to me.


Jeanne said...

Hello ae,

I'm so glad that I got it right. (I was worried – I didn’t want to get it wrong because our open dialogue means so much to me as well.)

You’re right – the quote is incredibly insensitive towards the victim. That was my first thought, then as you noted, my tendency to excuse my brother and blame me (even if only partially) instead kicked in. (You aren’t overstepping in any way!)

For me, when I have blips of memories, I shut them down - fast. I’m so frightened to remember. Of course, I also tend to remember when I’m alone. Hmmm… maybe this is the reason that I’m rarely able to relax? I’m frightened that if I let my guard down, I’ll remember more vividly. You are incredibly brave. (and I've found that often times, we are the most brave when we don't really feel brave.)

But maybe if I had a trained helper, someone I trusted, maybe I could work through the fear? Maybe this is what my body is signalling – that it’s ready to move through the fear so that I can finally let it go? Maybe it's time for me to really trust myself to take care of me - more than just my physical needs (which I am doing fairly well these days?)

My son often says, "I wish my body spoke English." Wouldn't that be nice? lol

Thank you so much, ae! Let's definitely keep this dialogue open. Feel free to email me at diggingmeup at gmail dot com - anytime.


t said...

If you're going to start digging, you won't be alone. Lots of love, Tara

Jeanne said...

Thank you, Tara. We can all dig together.