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C11P35 – New Year

C11P35 – New Year published on 25 Comments on C11P35 – New YearPurchase

This was a year of survival.

On the side of the positive, I survived a year and then some without my engineering job. When I took the path less traveled, it was not as perilous as I first believed. Although it has been a challenging year, there have been many highlights. Together, with many amazing backers, we made it possible to print volume three of LeyLines. Cory and I met many of you at conventions both near and far. I pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone creatively and professionally, giving presentations and running creative writing classes. It has been a year of hard-won growth, and many of you have been a part of that journey. The path that my new, creative career will take is still unclear, and I have my doubts and fears that the fog will ever lift, but step by step I am moving forward. Even when it seems impossible to do so.

And this year, things have often felt impossible. It has been a very frightening year, in that respect.

The worst of what I have survived, I have kept secret, because I was not ready to be public with it. At best, I have made vague references to something in March. The event was too traumatic and too triggering. I didn’t feel I could talk about it. With the year coming to an end, I want to bring it out of secrecy and let it become part of my history instead. I want to own it, without fear of what might be said or who is watching. It is not a pleasant thing, but it is an important thing. And you and I and every LeyLian here have tackled unpleasant and important things on this site in the past, and we’ve survived. We will again.

That said, having experienced first-hand the importance of trigger warnings, I will let you know right now that this may be a difficult post for many of you to read. It was very difficult for me to experience. And if you do not wish for something so heavy on your New Years, stop reading now with my blessing. Perhaps return to this post later, when it is a better time. Some parents may want to preview this too, although I think the problems that contributed to my experience start happening at a very young age. It is worth discussing.

So let’s discuss.

In late March, I was sexually assaulted by a person I would have once considered a close friend.

The experience was…shattering.

It forever changed my view on the world, on myself, on what I thought was true.

I learned that there is no truly safe place in the world. I learned that I had internalized misogyny and victim blaming. I learned that I was weaker than I had believed myself to be.

With it, I also learned that if there is no safe place, then fear of the world almost becomes pointless. If you are equally unsafe on the street as you are in a trusted home, you may as well live your life as fully as you can, because there will not be opportunity elsewhere where that becomes an easier option.

I learned that I was not above other women, not somehow stronger or smarter or less careless than “one of those girls,” but that I am, and always have been, in the same boat as all women. All girls. Living in a culture that does not understand consent, or respect, especially for the female half of its population. I became part of a community that previously I had thought myself somehow apart from, because I had been taught that only the stupid and the weak “put themselves” in a position to get hurt. I learned differently, this year.

1 in 8 women will get breast cancer. That’s something we talk about all the time, and beyond avoiding certain carcinogens, there’s very little we as a species can do about it.

1 in 4 women in the USA will be raped. 1 in 3 will be sexually abused. That’s something we rarely talk about, something that’s under-reported, and it is entirely caused by human action. Human decision. Human choice, to give someone else no choice.

When I was growing up, my sex education classes taught us 12 year old girls that if we were ever raped, “Not to fight it, because then at least you’d be less likely to be murdered too.” I even had a teacher suggest that maybe we should, “try to enjoy it.”

I try to imagine saying that to some of the amazing little girls I work with every day, and I am appalled.

When I was young, I was equally disgusted with the idea, and I swore I would never be a person that gave up on themselves. I swore I would fight, tooth and nail, against the looming stranger my imagination created.

I learned that it is much different when you are facing not a looming stranger, but a trusted friend.

I was not attacked. It was not a violent assault. The legal definition, I have since learned, is “sexual battery.”

It is an easier thing, in the imagination, to oppose a stranger. In my mind, when I faced down crisis moments, I was loud and fierce and capable. In reality, I was exhausted, having been on my feet and working for over ten hours that day. I was sick, on several medications. And, most importantly, I thought I was safe. And suddenly, when I abruptly wasn’t, I froze. I didn’t know what to do. I was confused and afraid. I didn’t know how to express my boundary, to say “No,” and my brain began to rationalize. It told me if I spoke up, I’d ruin the other person’s marriage. That the other person deserved to do whatever they wanted, because they’d given me a shoulder rub. That my body didn’t matter, because it was just a body, not really important in the grand scheme of things.

My mind shut down, and in the end the most I could do was crawl, hands and knees, away. I crawled to the bathroom, curled up in a ball in the shower, and was already so deeply into my denial and rationalizations that I did not know why I was crying. I did not come out of that shock for days, going about my business as usual and unable to identify what was wrong.

When I finally did realize what had happened, I felt I’d let myself down. It was my fault, because I didn’t say “No.”

Consent, I learned this year, doesn’t work that way. It is not the absence of a no. It is not the burden of the recipient to lay down a boundary after it has been breached. It is the burden of each human being to observe and inquire after the boundaries of others. Mistakes will happen, but we can help avoid those mistakes by practicing consent everywhere and every day. Ask before doing anything that involves the other person’s body and boundaries, and make it clear in asking that refusing is completely fine and safe to do. Teach children to ask permission for things like giving a hug, taking a toy, or holding a hand. Ask them in return. Teach them that they are worth respecting, worth asking, that their choices regarding their body and possessions matter.

Our culture, as a whole, does not understand consent. Perhaps does not even value consent. So much of our world operates by the credo of, “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.”

What they don’t mention is that, when you are asking for forgiveness, it means someone else has already suffered. Suffering that you could have avoided, had you thought to ask. Is getting or having or doing what you wanted really so grand, if others came to great, and needless, harm? The individual may gain, but the community as a whole loses.

I lost. I lost a friend, I lost my sense of self, I lost my view of the world.

And I survived. I gained a better understanding of what a true friend is, of what my my actual strengths were, of the wider world I live in and its problems. It was not a pretty set of lessons. I wish I could have learned them without the pain I have endured this past year. I wish I lived in a world where nobody ever had to learn these things.

I hope that each of us, in 2015, can work to make this a world where nobody has to learn these things again.

It has been my constant fear that I have been too depressing, too dour, on this site in 2014. Yet, that has been my experience this year. I have always felt that dark things breed in silence. I have tried to be open with my depression, in the hopes that it may help someone else see they are not alone. Now, I am hopeful that by being open with being a survivor of sexual assault, it will also help someone else understand that the trauma they have endured was not their fault, and they can and will survive. They can thrive. And they deserve to do so. We are, together, one of three. And we are all “one of those girls.”

I have found that people often feel they need to say something when they learn this, but they do not know what to say. It is okay. I don’t have any expectations for anybody to know the right thing to say in response to such news. I’m not even sure there SHOULD be a “right thing to say” in such a situation. For my own part, I wish only to express my thanks to all of you. Thank you for sticking with me this difficult year. For your patience, your kindness, your understanding, and your support. Let us all endeavor to do more in 2015 than survive. Let us embrace the lessons of our past and thrive.

25 Comments

Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

Understand that you aren’t alone. These things… happen…. for all the reasons you’ve stated. I’ve had my turn at this, and I know that feeling of betrayal, self-loathing, and rationalization you described. How we choose to take the blame upon ourselves, even when we are not to blame.

I’m very sorry someone took advantage of your friendship like that. It was wrong of the person to objectify you in such a manner and then put the burden of blame on you.

I think that you’re a very brave person to share these tribulations with your audience. You’re not “too depressing, dour, etc.” You’re an honest, real person.

I send you virtual hugs, stay strong, keep fighting and winning.

Robin, I’m so sorry that shitty thing (and I know “shitty thing” can’t begin to encompass the experience, but words fail me at the moment) happened to you. Since words in a comment can’t really handle all this, all I can say is: you have my sympathy and respect. I’m sorry that other person lacked the decency to act rightly. I’m glad you survived and I hope 2015 is, as you said, about more than surviving. Reach out if there’s ever anything I can help with.

Thank you for the support, Andy. You’re right that there’s no way to encompass it, but at the same time I have no better way to describe it. It’s horrible, and a shame, but it happened anyway. And somehow, the world keeps turning, and I’m figuring out how to keep moving with it. It helps to know that I have support of people like you. Especially that I still have your respect. I’ve spent so much of this year regaining respect for myself. Knowing that it doesn’t change things for the people I consider friends means a lot.

You don’t know me, but I am JCE’s mom. I just read what happened and wanted to let you know that you are in my prayers for strength in the coming year to deal with this horrendous event that happened to you.

As a man I certainly can’t say “I feel your pain”. I … don’t really know what to say. But the statistics you posted seem to accord with my own experience with women who I know for certain, or suspect, of having been abused in the past. The problems the one gf I had who was upfront about having been raped were many layers deep. I did what I could to help with the surface ones. Whether or not I helped, or even made things worse, I don’t know.

Right now I am dealing with watching another (different) trauma unfold with someone I know. And having gained a bit of space from it I now can only say “I don’t know” when asked what I’ve learned. There are hundreds of ways to look at it but I think one thing to recommend is to give yourself permission to “don’t know.” I trust less in the idea of “closure” than “we go on living. We’re human beings. We just do that.”

(I still miss my mom. She left us in 1993. I am not “over it”. I have merely made my peace with it.)

So I’m not even sure I accept the rhetorical idea of “survival”. But I sure as hell believe, as I came to as a small child, that I won’t let the bastards win; that living well is the best revenge.

That’s what I wish for you — that you don’t let this “define” you one way or another. That’s giving the bastard more than is his due. His due is to be punished to look at himself in the mirror every day for the rest of his life. That’s the chief curse I give to people I see that perpetuate intentional cruelty.

I wish you well. Go easy on yourself. “Don’t forget to breathe”.

I think being okay with not knowing is both one of the most difficult things, and also one of the most powerful things. I’ve been working a lot with my therapist this year just learning to be with a feeling. To be okay not knowing exactly where it comes from, or when it will stop, or how I can “fix” it. Just to give permission to myself not to know, and to be in that space, in that moment. Not knowing. Not acting. Not pushing away or fighting the feelings. It’s so hard, but it seems to help. In many ways, it is letting myself breathe.

I wish you strength and breathing space of your own as you and those you care about tackle their own traumas. I wish we lived in a world with less of them. But, as you said, at the very least we can all strive not to let the bastards win.

Dang, Robin, I wish I had words but I really don’t. Hope you’re doing ok, that was so much courage to share that with us. <3

I admire the courage it took you to write about this and I hope that you continue to get better and work through this. I’ve never been assaulted but I did have a very close family member of mine get assaulted as a child by another close family member so while I can only imagine what you’re going through, I know first-hand that assaulters aren’t always strangers. That sometimes the people we trust the most aren’t always worthy of that trust.

That close family member did overcome her fears and shame with therapy and has put the incident mostly behind her so there is light at the end of the tunnel. So know that you’re not alone.

I also wish this would stop happening to people.

Best wishes and go easy on yourself.

I, too, wish this would stop happening to people. It’s part of why I felt so strongly about sharing it. It’s a problem that I don’t think we talk about, openly, honestly, nearly enough. It is so appallingly common, and yet our culture still shies away from addressing it. If sharing my experience can help even one person feel less alone, or understand that what happened to them was not their fault, then it was worth facing the fear to share it.

Robin. You are so brave and so strong. What he did to you is not your fault. You must have heard that already, but I’ll add my voice. I am so sorry that he hurt you like that. I am angry on your behalf. All these words are insufficient. But I have more respect for you now than I already did, knowing what you were fighting this year. You are a warrior. You didn’t deserve this. Please take care of yourself. You can heal.

They’re really are no words I can say that will do any justice or truly add anything to your experience but I feel as a casual fan/friend that I have to say something so I will say this.

You have my deepest regrets that you had to go through this. No human deserves it and no rational excuses it. Just know that from the moment you or anyone else opens up about sexual assault you no longer have to suffer alone. Your community loves you and will do what they can for you. May 2015 be a time of healing for you.

What you experiences also happened to me when I was in my twenties. Back then, the word assault never occurred to me, I only shared your frustration and shame at allowing myself to be psychologically overwhelmed. Forty years later, I am still working on developing my own inner strength and relying on it as the energy that ultimately matters. I also volunteer at our local safe house for victims of domestic violence, where I see great personal suffering that helps put mine into perspective. A very helpful book: Healing Through the Dark Emotions: the wisdom of grief, fear and despair by Miriam Greenspan.

oh god, Robin. There are really no words, are there? There’s nothing I could possibly say to make any of this better, or even ease the pain a little.

I know that I’ve been mostly quiet, but please know that I am here. If you need something, you have my email, my skype is khyansaria. I doubt there’s anything I could do for you that the wonderful people in your life couldn’t, but sometimes all you need is to know someone is there.

I am so proud of you, Robin. You have such strength and courage, and god, I hope 2015 treats you better.

Like so many others, I don’t know what to say…except that I can only hope that if I am ever in a similar position I can share your courage. If I’m horrified by what happened, I am glad you felt you could share it with us, and I hope that doing so has helped you.

Unfortunately, I have some experience with this as well. It was a little bit different in that I did say no, multiple times, and my “friend” pulled a knife on me. Turns out he was a sociopath.

I tell myself I could have escaped, it was only a pocket knife after all. I tell myself next time, I will know what to do. But that’s not how it works, is it? There’s just fear and shock and you don’t know what to do, and your mind is racing, and trying to find a way out, and there isn’t one. Because the bastards make sure of that. They make sure their targets can’t or won’t fight back. They pick their victims, and they scheme.

I was vulnerable because I had clinical depression and ADD/ADHD, hypothyroid, some sort of bipolar disorder, and Autism, all untreated. I am getting treatment now, and life is better (it was many years ago, I’ve decided not to count how many, less than 10.)

I still find it hard to trust people, or feel even remotely safe. I think I’ve actually developed a bit of Agoraphobia because of it. It’s hard for me to leave my room, because outside is a big, complicated world I don’t understand, and what I don’t understand can hurt me.

You seem to have handled it well, under the circumstances. I feel like for me it boiled me hard and cynical. But I’ve also learned I’m stronger than I thought, because I came back harder and wiser, and since then life has improved considerably.

I learned that underneath all the doubt and confusion and layers of emotion, there is something inside stronger than steel, a core of strength.

Remember – you aren’t weak at all. You were vulnerable, yes, but you SURVIVED. You got through it, and that means there is a part of you, deep down, that is very strong indeed.

Though, that part of you is dark, old, and vicious, so don’t let it out too often. Leave the Beast on its leash until you really need it.

This is what I have found out about myself. Maybe it will help.

My therapist and I have spoken a lot about the importance of transitioning from thinking about the experience as a victim, and into the role of a survivor. As you said, we were vulnerable. We were victims. We survived. And it is the survival that matters the most, because once you have achieved survival, you can move beyond it, into thriving. That’s something I hope for both of our futures.

I know this was posted last month, but… I wanted tos hare something.

I’ve talked a lot before about how I had a “friend” who emotionally abused me, but, I’ve also been a survivor of sexual abuse.

It wasn’t rape. It wasn’t that kind of thing. Honestly, for a long time, I didn’t know what to call it, didn’t think it really counted, even thought I’d made it up.

I was very young, a child, actually. My grandfather is a pedophile, and my older cousing got it worse than me. I’m only just starting to really open up and be able to talk about it more.

Even though I was just a child, even though I was never raped, even though he never got me naked, even though it never proressed too far, it’s had awful effects on my future, even now.

But as you said.

We are survivors.

I am still alive, still functioning, still healing but also still a functional human being even though it was many many years ago, so many I can barely remember it.

I wanted to say that it’s not your fault. That you might feel that way sometimes, because even I feel that way, even thouhg I was just a little girl who didn’t even know any of it was wrong, just trusted someone I had been taught to trust because he was in my own family, I still sometimes feel it is my fault. But it’s not. That’s what they want us to feel.

I also wanted to say thank you for having the courage to share. We can sit here, together, the one in the three, because we are survivors, and we have the strength to carry on. Your sharing has helped me feel more courageous about accepting what happened, about moving on. It always helps to know that we aren’t alone.

And I’m honored that you could share your experience with me. It’s sad and messed up and horrible that this happens ever, let alone so frequently to so many people. But you’re right that we can be courageous, we can accept and move beyond it. It will never be gone. Never erased. But it doesn’t have to define what our future can become.

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