A Life Changing Writing Prompt

This last weekend I went to a writing retreat. Typically, one goes to a writing event to learn about writing, marketing, publishing, and so one. What I didn’t expect to learn about, was myself.

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This last weekend I went to a writing retreat. Typically, one goes to a writing event to learn about writing, marketing, publishing, and so on.

What I didn’t expect to learn about, was myself.

During a panel titled “Writing About Your Life”, which I figured would mostly be about stuff I already knew since I spent the last 4 years writing a memoir about my life, I learned that I truly believe I am where I am supposed to be in life. After finishing the writing prompt, I felt like this would be a good exercise to share on my blog.

So, you start off by picking an event that changed the course of your life. Then you write a summary about what actually happened as you remember it.

The first thing that came to mind was the day that I almost attempted suicide. I was already struggling during my freshman year at high school, and every little mistake I made always felt like the end of the world. Every failure, no matter how small, was just a constant reminder that I was a failure as a person and good for nothing. So on this particular day, I was supposed to give a speech about a sentimental object in my English class. There had been a fight at home the night before and I had forgotten my item and my speech at home. Since it was a scheduled speech that we had to sign up for ahead of time, failure to do the speech on that day would result in a failed grade. No exceptions. So, when my name was called, I told the teacher I didn’t have my speech and walked out of the class.

Now up until this point, I had done a lot of research about the best ways to commit suicide. I had already decided how I wanted to kill myself, but I hadn’t chosen a place or time. Quite often I kept a small pocket knife on me because I would walk to school every day. On this particular day, I decided that my knife would be the perfect way to end my misery. I was sitting in the hallway just outside my classroom. The door to the classroom was at the end of the hallway so there wasn’t much foot traffic.

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My mind was on an endless loop of every failure that I’d had up until that point in my life. A broken record of being told that the childhood sexual abuse that I endured was my fault. That because I was abused as a child I ruined their family. My own voice in my head told me that I would never amount to anything and that I could never escape the cycle of abuse.

I slowly pulled the knife out of my pocket and opened the blade. The glint of the shiny silver blade intrigued me. It was peaceful knowing that something so beautiful would put an end to my miserable life. As I started to pull the knife to my own throat and prepared to tilt my head down so that it would only take one swipe, a classmate that I knew walked by at that exact moment. Startled, I quickly hid the knife before my classmate could see what I had. He only gave me a simple hello and continued to walk by.

It was in this moment that I realized I had hit rock bottom, and the only way I would be able to survive was to get up, feed my stubborn nature, and fight to live the life that I wanted. I told myself that someday I would no longer be a victim, but instead I would be a survivor.

Now the second part of this exercise was to write about what would’ve happened.

For me, there is a very short would have been scenario. If that classmate had not walked by me at that exact moment… It could’ve gone two ways. Either I would’ve slit my own throat and died, or I wouldn’t have made the cut deep enough and been taken to the hospital. If the second scenario had happened, I probably would’ve continued to spiral out of control until I managed to take my own life.

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The third part of this writing exercise is to contemplate what should have happened.

I will admit, that at first, I struggled to come up with an answer for this.

Among the 30 or so people who were attending the panel either typing or writing away, here I sat at a loss for words. What should have happened in that pivotal moment? The only answer that I could come up with was that what actually happened is what should’ve happened. I spent somewhere around 10 minutes trying to come up with another answer. Something witty or creative, but in the end what actually happened felt like it was exactly what should’ve happened.

 

Now I know this is kind of a dark piece of writing. It was a very dark time in my life, but I wanted to take a moment to show that when we reflect on the actions of the past we may find that however dark that moment was, we managed to find the light. It wasn’t right away that I knew I had made the right choice. For several years I considered suicide, but it no longer made sense for me. The idea of struggling to survive no longer sounded daunting. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I had a goal and it felt achievable.

Humans like to ask question, “What if?” What if this thing hadn’t happened or on the flip side what if this thing that didn’t happen did happened? Quite often, we sit and reflect on our decisions or non-decisions of the past. Rarely do we feel confident that we made the right choice. Usually we only reflect on the wrong decisions when we should be reflecting on the right decisions.

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Take a moment to think back about a big decision you made that you know was truly what should have happened. Then use that to have confidence in yourself.

This post was featured on Voice of Literature e-zine.

Saying it Out Loud

Women are taught all the ways to not get assaulted… Let’s ignore the fact that it’s the attackers fault, but we all know the list below is necessary when it really should have to be.

So often I’m with someone I know. Someone I’ve talked to enough to tell them that I was molested as a child. We will already be in the midst of a emotionally charged conversation when I say:

“I was sexually abused as a child.”

There is something about that phrase that will make the nicest people I know verbalize violence against those who hurt me. This last time was a very sweet woman I’ve known for about 3 months and she has never been anything other than kind, but with this reveal, I saw her face and demeanor change in a flash. On one hand you could say it’s because she is a women and we women have to stick together, but I don’t fully agree with that. I’ve known male friends who had the same reaction. Time and time again, I’ve revealed this bit of history about myself and I’ve seen all types of reactions, but I have yet to reveal to someone who didn’t believe me.

Well, aside from when I first spoke out as a child. As an adult, I’ve never be accused of being a lying attention seeking brat or a family destroyer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had negative reactions that leaned towards blaming a 4 year old version of myself for not telling someone sooner. I’ve had to explain to them that these abusers raised me to be complicit in these activities in much the same way that a child will clean their room or eat their vegetables. They don’t want to, they don’t like to, but they do it because an adult they were told to trust by a parent told them they have to do it. As a child, being sexually abused was equivalent to eating my broccoli at dinner. When I explain this to them, I see realization hit their face. Childhood sexual abuse is much more complicated than they expect, and it’s not the same as adult sexual assault.

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Women are taught all the ways to not get assaulted… Let’s ignore the fact that it’s the attackers fault, but we all know the list below is necessary when it really shouldn’t have to be.

  • Don’t drink outside the house
  • Don’t get drunk
  • Don’t do drugs
  • Don’t have sex
  • Don’t let anyone fix you a drink
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended
  • Don’t dress inappropriately
  • Don’t walk inappropriately
  • Don’t tease men
  • Don’t be alone with strangers
  • Don’t walk outside at night
  • Don’t walk alone
  • Don’t wear earbuds or headphones while in public
  • Don’t enter isolated areas
  • Don’t sit in your car in a parking lot
  • Don’t give men the wrong impression
  • Don’t refuse a man’s advances
  • Take self defense classes
  • Stay aware of your surroundings
  • Keep pepper spray on you
  • Hold your keys as a weapon
  • Check inside your car before getting in
  • Stay on the phone when out alone
  • Always walk briskly, confidently, and unencumbered

All of these things are what women are taught so they don’t get sexually assaulted. This shouldn’t even be a thing aside from the fact that most of these only “protect” women from a minuscule percentage of sexual assault situations, not to mention that, and hold on tight here, MEN GET SEXUALLY ASSAULTED TOO! 

The lack of awareness not to mention the lack of appropriate awareness is staggering. Here are some facts that are backed by numbers:

  • You are 3 times more likely to be attacked somewhere you are comfortable instead of walking down the street or sitting in a parking lot. The majority of places where people are assaulted are in their homes, schools, daycare, church, work, and any other place you feel safe.
  • 3 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. Picture that for a moment. In a classroom of first graders, if there are 8 girls, 6 of them will be victims of sexual assault before they are adults.
  • 75-90% of perpetrators accused will never see trial or jail time.
  • Less than 10% of people are falsely accused.

All of this knowledge and fact is based on reports that are estimated only get filed in less than 30% of those who are abused. Let’s thank RAINN for these numbers. Some of the stats I pulled a few years ago before they updated the page and I kept as notes while writing my Memoir.

We are emphasizing the wrong awareness. Instead we should be teaching children how to identify and say no to family members who want to touch them inappropriately. We should be teaching children personal boundaries and it’s okay to say no to an adult if something bad is happening. We should be teaching all young adults responsibility for their actions and the true meaning of consent. We should be teaching people that sexual assault is a horrible crime where victims struggle to survive. Anyone can be sexually assaulted by anyone. No one is automatically immune to sexual assault because of their age, gender, race, orientation, or any other aspect.

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The outrage for victims should be more than something shared between survivors, victims, friends, and family. Outrage for what is happening should be transparent and announced. Telling me that the thought sickens you does no good if you continue to vote, represent, protect, or support a perpetrator. That is just placating me and that is useless. I don’t need people — victims and survivors don’t need to be placated. We need to be heard and we need justice.

D.A.s need to stop dropping charges because it doesn’t seem like a win for them. Bargaining for a plea of guilty shouldn’t be the only way perpetrators end up in jail. Claims of sexual assault are not the victims fault regardless if they did something irresponsible. The person who sexually assaults another person for any reason is to blame and should be punished. When there is almost no threat of punishment, this horrible crime will not stop. Without that, child predators and even adult predators will continue to abuse because even if they are revealed, all they have to do is find a new victim. I’ll say it one more time…

Perpetrators will only stop when they know they will be caught and punished.

Legislation and culture needs to change so that victims are protected instead of perpetrators. Its wrong to sexually assault another human.

If you’ve been sexually assaulted, I believe you. I don’t need to know your story. I don’t need to meet you. I believe and support the various campaigns that have started up to help awareness and survivors.

#startbybelieving