sisters of resistance

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The hardest letter I’ve ever written [tw: sexual abuse] — June 3, 2016

The hardest letter I’ve ever written [tw: sexual abuse]

I wrote this letter to my aunt  and sent it by email in January of last year. I think her husband deleted it because she never replied. I may one day try sending it again but right now I am not ready. So, with the aim of continuing my healing process, I am posting it here and sharing it with you, my beloved readers. Thank you for holding space for me. – dia 

My dearest aunt,

I never imagined I would be writing you this letter. It has taken me years to simply acknowledge and accept that what I am going to tell you is true. It scares me to tell you, but in this case I must face my fears because I believe wholeheartedly that this is the right thing to do.

There is no way to put this that will make it easier to take, so I will say it as clearly as I can. Your husband sexually molested me each summer I was in the Philippines since I was 13. When I was 13, when you and he and I would fall asleep on the couch, I would wake up because he was touching my body and putting his tongue in my ear. I would run upstairs to get away from him. When I came back at age 17, he encouraged me to drink alcohol and when I was drunk he took advantage of me. After that, he would try to touch or kiss me every time we were alone, which was a lot because he was expected to look after me while everyone was at work. His behavior continued until I was 21 and I never told anyone. I blocked out these memories for a long time but they have come back to me now and I think it is important to tell you, because you deserve to know.

The thing that scares me most about telling you is that you, he, or other family members might blame me for what happened. But I know what happened to me was not my fault. I did not ask for, invite, or court his attention. I was young and vulnerable; I thought he was my friend. He was in a trusted position as a caretaker and he took advantage of that position. He was the adult in the situation and he violated the trust that all of us placed in him, yours, mine, and our whole family’s.

I told my mom a few years ago and she decided, without asking me, to tell her sisters. Although this was not my choice and I am not responsible for this, I want to apologise on their behalf that they have kept this information from you for so long. I do not think this is right but I know they thought it best not to say anything, in order to keep the peace.

Today, I am not interested in keeping the peace. I would rather tell the truth. And so here it is, for you to do with it what you will. Your husband groomed and molested me when I was a teenage girl, and he has gotten away with it for a long time. But not anymore.

I am willing and open to talking to you more about this if you would like. I would also be open to talking to your daughter – now, if you want her to know, or in the future if you would prefer that I wait till she is older. However, I do not want to talk to anyone else about it as I think it is important to work things out between just us for now.

If you want to talk, I am here. You can write me by email, or I can call you on the phone. If you don’t want to talk, and just take some time to process this hard and sad news, that is ok with me too. Let me know what you prefer.

I want to add – although I personally do not want to talk to anyone else besides you, I hope that you would feel free to talk to, and get support from, whomever you choose. This information is yours now, it is not a secret, and you can do with it what you think and feel it is right to do.

With all my love

Your adoring niece.

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How We Know We’re Grown — June 24, 2014

How We Know We’re Grown

As a single, childless, 30-something woman, I have been thinking hard about ways Western society defines “adulthood”, “being grown”, or “grown-up”. I believe this to be especially relevant for women, who tend to be infantilized, and remain so, as long as they are unmarried and/or not mothers (and sometimes are still treated as children even then).

Recently, I was visited by a younger woman who came to my house for dinner. I cooked some pasta with a red sauce, accompanied by a salad, and we opened a bottle of wine she had chosen – a Chilean cabernet, maybe, or a malbec – I’m not great with wines – and poured it into a couple of regular glasses. “You don’t have any wine glasses?” she asked, surprised. “No,” I replied. I never seemed to have a need for them before. “You have to at least get a couple of wine glasses,” she chided me, as if I was missing out on some adult household essential by not having them. Continue reading

Body Love – Mary Lambert — January 31, 2014
20 Questions That Are Better Than “Why Don’t You Have a Boyfriend?” — June 23, 2013

20 Questions That Are Better Than “Why Don’t You Have a Boyfriend?”

Women under patriarchy are too often defined not by their own personal development and accomplishments, but instead by the stage they have reached in the patriarchal, heteronormative narrative of dating, boyfriend, live-in, engaged, married, children. We find that we and our wider circle of female friends are constantly subjected to questions regarding where we are on this timeline. This is a means of judgment and a primary way that others participate in socially pressuring you to conform, by constantly reminding you what is expected.

If you reject these questions or are not making what is deemed as the right progress, you are punished, othered, and excluded for your non-participation. In patriarchal society, single women are pathologized, especially as they get older. In contrast, being in a long-term relationship with a man is seen as “success.” But just being in a relationship doesn’t mean you are doing well.

In addition to being too personal for most people to be asking you, questions such as the below:

  • Are you dating?
  • Do you have a boyfriend?
  • Do you live together?
  • Are you engaged?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have any children? Do you want to have children?
  • When do you want to/are you going to have children?

are NOT IMPORTANT. They are irrelevant and useless as measures of how well you are doing in your life. The only reason anyone would ask you these questions is so they can assess and judge you against heteronormative, patriarchal criteria. They also use your answers to compare themselves against you and justify their own lives and actions.

Rejecting the intrusive list of questions above, we have created a list of 20 questions we can ask ourselves to assess our well-being. This type of self-evaluation is feminist, non-heteronormative, and has a balanced view of our relationships with ourselves and others, partner or partners, rather than basing all of our worth and well-being on a single intimate partner.

For the sake of coherence and convenience, we have sorted the questions into 4 categories: Relationship with Self, Relationships with Others, Space and Time. If you find yourself answering “no” to any of these questions, we encourage you to focus attention on these areas and take steps towards a healthier and happier you.

RELATIONSHIP WITH SELF

1. Are you happy?

2. Do you feel fulfilled?

3. Are you eating/sleeping well? Do you get enough exercise and fresh air?

4. What are the areas of your life in which you are challenging yourself to grow?

5. Are there any habits or patterns you would like to change?

RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS

6. Do the significant people in your life treat you with respect?

7. Do you feel free to make your own choices?

8. How are your relationships with family and/or friends?

9. Do you know when it is appropriate or necessary to put up boundaries with particular people?

10. Do you have the capability and know-how to put those boundaries up and hold them?

SPACE

11. Are you comfortable and satisfied with your living situation?

12. Do the environments you inhabit make you feel alert and clear-headed/restful and peaceful?

13. Do you have a low-stress strategy for dealing with mess, clutter, and household chores?

14. What can you do to make your environment or surroundings better reflect you/your personality?

15. What can you do to make your environment more refreshing or relaxing?

TIME

16. Do you make some time for yourself every day?

17. Can you be spontaneous with your plans and decisions?

18. Are you spending enough quality time with family and/or friends?

19. When you are feeling highly stressed, pressured and overworked, do you take the time to address your needs?

20. Are you able to say “no” in order to avoid overcommitment?

Are you sick of being defined by your relationship status? What are some better ways you can evaluate your well-being? Any suggestions or additions to this list, please leave them in the comments below.

Self-Care Guide for Survivors — May 16, 2013

Self-Care Guide for Survivors

We wrote this brief self-care guide for people who have experienced trauma, especially rape and sexual assault. It suggests a number of practical ways to cope with the day-to-day stresses of being a survivor. Please take it, share it, and tailor it to your own needs. We hope it is helpful to you on your journey towards healing. 

Reminder: Take Care of Myself

1.    Clear your space of the things that will trigger you. Toss their stuff out, Febreze rooms of their smell, delete pictures and emails and messages in your phone. Your trauma is real, and you don’t need external reminders of it.

2.    Exercise. Walk, run, stretch, swim, move. Do whatever you need to get your body to breathe. Massage tight places to release tension. Energy can get stuck there and you may not notice it for years. Moving your body allows it to talk to you, tell you what it needs. Be sure to listen.

Eat right. Raw fruits and vegetables are your friends. Even if you don’t feel like eating, stay hydrated. Keeping physically healthy helps you hold on. You are precious, like water; the world cannot afford to lose even a single drop.

3.    Get familiar with your coping mechanisms. Make connections between your experiences of stress and drinking, or stress and drugs, or smoking, shopping, eating or not eating. Rate your coping mechanisms from good-for-you! to “bad” and “worst”. Aim to do more of the good, less of the bad, and eliminate those in the “worst” by substituting in better things. Don’t beat yourself up when you fall off, but have a plan in place for how to get back on.

4.    Stop blaming yourself. The story of your transition from victim to survivor is your vehicle to this. It will take some work but remember you are the protagonist, whoever hurt you is a bad person, and now you are writing how the story will end. If this method seems to wear thin, watch Staceyann Chin videos as often as you like to remind yourself that what happened to you was not your fault.

5.    You have already been through the war, but as in battle, it is good to know the difference between a strategy and a tactic. Strategies are long-range plans to reach an intended goal. First comes the goal. Make it a positive one in the present tense, for example, I love myself, so I take care of my body. The strategy might then be to practice loving yourself from one moment to the next.

Tactics are the baby steps you take to make your strategy happen. A variety is needed for the many roads you’ll encounter. For example: when I feel like throwing up, I will leave the bathroom, take 5 deep breaths, sip peppermint tea. Or: when I want to self-harm, I will put on my jacket and go for a walk. Or: when I can’t stop crying, I will write in my journal. I will do yoga. I will call a friend. Use your tactics to support the hard work of day-to-day survival.

6.    Listen to yourself. You know more than you give yourself credit for: when to stop, when to seek help, when to steel yourself and push through the pain. Turn off the TV when the show starts to trigger you; leave the theatre when the film twists your insides into a knot. Speak your truth when a. you feel safe enough to do so, or b. when silence poses the greater danger. Force yourself to unplug from all digital devices when it is 3AM and you need to be up in the morning. Quiet the mind and open yourself to the sound of your inner voice. It is there to protect you, to keep you free, safe and out of harm’s way.

7.    When you meet anyone who doesn’t believe you, won’t listen to you, or reminds you of what happened, walk away. Don’t look back. Boundaries exist for a reason – use them. Don’t feel guilty for deleting their texts, not answering their calls, or responding to their mail. You owe them nothing. The future is a gift you should give to yourself. The occasion is imminent, and the best time is now.

What are some of your top self-care tips, strategies and tactics?

Put them in the comments below.

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