Back to Basics: The Hidden War of Sexual Violence
I self-published my first ebook last year titled, A Cloud of Witnesses: Poems for Survivors on Amazon, and the honest truth is that I didn’t really expect most loved ones to purchase the book. You see, no one really likes talking about trauma, and perhaps, that is why these types of books continue to be written.
Let me paint you a picture of what it means to live with trauma.
It’s like a warrior who survived a bloody battle runs past a calm and serene village after escaping the devastating scenes of war. This village that the warrior encounters has no recollection or understanding of what war is, and sees this soldier drenched in blood and cut and bleeding. This warrior has been so traumatized by what they have lived through and what they have witnessed in war, but has no way of expressing and verbalizing their pain and terror. Their explanation comes out in fragments. The turmoils of war consumed them, and this calm and peaceful village has no way of understanding the incomprehensible language of the surviving warrior.
After many attempts, or perhaps none at all, they leave the soldier alone. Tired of trying to understand her language, and tired of compromising their own...they abandon this traumatized human being and leave them alone, tormented, and wounded.
The warrior spends the rest of her life searching for meaning and trying to verbalize her lived experiences with trauma, but she has few companions to help piece things together--see most of her companions are dead. They were killed in combat.
People don’t understand the warrior. After years pass, this village expects her to move past this trauma that they don’t understand, but which they are quick to define and act as if they are experts in a thing that they have never experienced.
The village labels her as the “mad woman”; they don’t know what to do with her. She has become a problem.
This is the story of women who have been sexually and physically traumatized and are unable to cope with daily life after they are abused. Andrea Dworkin writes it so beautifully. She argues,
“A woman sits in her living room reading. A woman makes her way to her bed. A woman works, eats, sleeps. She walks along the street. She does the work of the house even if she is not a housewife. Then somewhere, somehow, in the landscape of the ordinary, she is battered or assaulted or raped or molested; she is hit or punched or touched without her desire or consent…Some crimes happen once—for instance, the rapist who is a stranger rips apart a woman’s life, shreds it with his bare hands, a penis, a knife, the poison of an amnesiac drug, and after that every shadow has the possibility of a rapist folded into it. Nothing about being raped by a stranger guarantees that she will not be raped again: by a stranger or an acquaintance or a friend or a husband or a lover” (From “Landscape of the Ordinary: Violence Against Women, p.58).
It’s the “suddenly” moment that people don’t seem to understand. Nothing is normal about being molested or sexually assaulted or raped or beaten. So why do people expect those who have experienced these things to act normally?
In the author’s note of my book, I wrote:
"Within the age of #metoo, the world has begun to acknowledge that histories of rape and child molestation have been embedded within a “silent epidemic.” Within this silence, “A Cloud of Witnesses” as the faith tradition puts it, is actively present with every survivor, both young and old. In other words, there is an army, a holy congregation of women who have gone before us, and that are ever-present. Watching from the sidelines, I believe that survivors of old walk with us and are demanding that change manifest, and justice prevail for every woman wounded and broken over the tragedy of rape, molestation, and sexual assault within our world today. Despite this Cloud of Witnesses, many are unaware that there is a hidden world of women who have been molested, sexually assaulted, and raped, who live with incomprehensible suffering on the daily.
Who fights for these women?
Who follows up with them when the rape kit is over, and the court case is closed or never even investigated?
Who checks up on these women?
They live in a limbo where they are misunderstood, or dependent on drugs—anything to forget each violation wrought against their bodies—the manifestation of living memorials.
What if there was a movement to establish their lived experiences, and to fight for them at the legal, social, educational, and workplace level to establish a societal acknowledgement of the immense psychological trauma of post sexual-assault daily coping?
What if there was someone who stood in the gap to advocate on their behalf?
What if they didn’t have to carry their “shame no more”?
This is my story.
This is my movement.
This is my cause" (From A Cloud of Witnesses: Poems for Survivors, Author's Note)
The truth is that most of these women will never seek out therapy to work through this trauma because of the shame over what was done to them. Many live in denial-who can blame them? Others can’t afford therapy, so they live their entire lives with these battle wounds.
How can a wounded warrior be successful in life? Their wounds bleed into many things that they touch. Although they live in denial; their past stains so many of their encounters in life and affects their character, their aspirations, and the way that they interact with people--even if they are unaware of this.
In the end, I once was that warrior in the story, but now I am a veteran of this hidden war. The blood is no longer showing, and the wounds have healed by Divine intervention and restoration. But I see my dying comrades on the field, and I am trying to shake and wake up the world around me to help keep their life-support going. People just don’t seem to understand. My heart’s desire is to help civilians to understand.
To the Wounded Warriors:
I see you
I once was you
I am sorry that your trauma has made you a life-long prisoner of war
But you have an extremely important decision to make:
Will you let the trauma rule and consume you?
Will you allow the shell shock to torment you?
Or will you fight! & open up your dear heart to believe that you can truly heal from this pain and be rebuilt again into the woman that you were destined to become?
Tap into the power of faith that can move mountains and dare to believe that you will come out of this trauma, depression, and anxiety stronger that you were before this happened to you
Have faith that one day soon, you too, will become a seasoned veteran
And know this too
There is an army of veterans cheering you on
We are here for you like a Cloud of Witnesses
& We will push you on
We love you
You do not have to live in a war zone forever
You are strong, not weak
You are resilient, not fragile
You have a future
Your life is not over
Have faith to believe that your story has not ended, it has simply shifted
Greater days are ahead dear warrior
If only you would just believe