Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the numerous recent scandals concerning sexual abuse and harassment in Hollywood, D.C., pretty much everywhere. Women have stayed silent for decades, enduring years of heartache, guilt, and shame. I know how they feel. I’ve been there, and now I want to share a portion of my book Coming Home to the Heart that perfectly describes this time in my life:
“I have seen support groups for survivors of abuse and watched online forums as well to see how participants interact with each other. Decades after the abuse, there is still unprocessed anger and shame. There is still the “me against the abuser” rhetoric. I find that such groups of people gravitate toward one another. We love what is familiar even if it is painful, usually because even those things that cause pain may seem safer than the unknown. The repeated use of the terms “victim” and “survivor” continue to foster feelings of powerlessness, giving one another permission to stay in a perpetual state of opposition and blame. Reading the conversations on online forums and social media pages has actually left me feeling quite depressed, angry, and anxious about my own life.
There was a time when I too defined myself as a victim and then a survivor of sexual abuse. But then one day it hit me that I was not another label or tag. I was neither victim nor survivor; I was just a girl who had a series of experiences that led me on a journey. I am still on that journey and don’t feel I need to give myself any more labels. So I choose not to use the words “victim” or “survivor” anymore although I do not dismiss or underestimate the experiences, repercussions, or imprints of my past. Yes, that happened, and it was terrible, but it was a long time ago. But let us not continue to define ourselves based on what happened in the past and thus put ourselves in a box. Let us shed the identity of the old self. I want for us all to liberate ourselves from labeling ourselves. To someone else we may be our social security number, our race, our gender, our socioeconomic status, our title, our sexual orientation, our political agenda, and so forth. This disintegration of self does not serve us. Let us not divide ourselves up anymore and instead think of ourselves as the embodiment of love—love for ourselves, love for others. I can thrive with that self-label; all others, such as “warrior” or “survivor,” are one-dimensional and therefore false.
My request to all the men and women in the support groups is to try to get what is true for you into your conscious mind. It is comforting to be part of a tribe that “gets” you and understands where you have been and how it must feel to have suffered the way you did. This is an important place to hang out for a while, but it is only one stop on the journey. After a while, I invite you to try to move toward the possibility of forgiveness, love, and compassion. The reason you may not have ventured totally and completely in that direction is that you felt it was safer for you not to. I know the feeling. I felt that way too for a very long time. But I also know that it is possible to move beyond this feeling. If it happened for me, it can happen for you. It can happen for anyone.” -Coming Home to the Heart, pgs. 74-75
If this passage resonated with you, I encourage you to read my whole story. Coming Home to the Heart is not just a story of walking through pain and anger, it’s a story of healing, recovery, and forgiveness. My hope is that by sharing my story, others can begin to leave the past behind and invite healing into their lives. I would love to hear what you think! Please feel free to leave me a message in the comments. Let’s continue the discussion.