Cut Through.

I have been asked quite a lot about why I used to cut and what led me to it.  I share with you an excerpt from an email I sent to a close friend.

When we met I was already cutting.  I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t really “dead” and in actuality, I was indeed living in Hell on Earth.  I started out making “points” on my skin of the constellation Orion (The Hunter) with a sharp pencil.  As an astronomy geek, I knew that Orion can be seen from anywhere in the world, and that comforted me, something constant in my fucked up life.  Dotting and tracing wasn’t exactly cutting, so I guess that doesn’t count.  A bobby pin was my first instrument of choice.  I broke it in half and removed the protective coating that makes it dull.  Then I would use a Swiss army knife, cutting characters onto my thighs.  I then progressed to the elusive box cutter.  I would cut “Samurai” in Kanji (Japanese) on my left thigh and on my right, “Warrior” in Chinese characters.  Kanji was easier, 3 cuts, Warrior took time.  It made me feel in control and in some way, having Samurai Warrior inscribed in my skin was more like an act of affirmation rather than self-injury, staring at it in the middle of night, terrified to go back to sleep because of recurring nightmares that would make any modern day scary movie look like a cartoon.  In the morning I would lie on my bed, with my legs propped up so it would be looking back at me.  Sometimes I would recut, bleeding and repeating it to myself until I believed it, and that I could leave my room and face the outside, this war zone, a world I knew from a very young age was not safe and I had lacked the weapons to survive.  I would stand in the shower and look at those two words trying to feel that I was that…and I would watch the blood from “Samurai Warrior” flow down and mix with the water.  The cuts made my whole body burn.  I would feel it underneath my clothes.  I was numb.  I was dead; a walking corpse.  Blade to skin was the only way I could check to see if I was still alive. 

The “missing” letter.

September of last year I had messaged my Uncle on Facebook asking if he knew the whereabouts of the letter.  After telling my parents about my molestation, I decided to write my “Grandfather” a letter, which was to be mailed to my Uncle, who was going to pass it on to him.  Imagine my surprise when my Uncle replied four days later saying that “I don’t think I ever saw this letter and if I did I don’t have a copy of it.”  Bullshit.  He was the appointed messenger.  And I wrote that damn thing twice.  So not only did he lie about ever seeing it, he then downsized my ten year ordeal to an incident.  Isn’t an incident something like accidentally rear ending somebody in the parking lot of a shopping mall?

Okay, I guess then that letter has conveniently gone missing, swept under the proverbial rug of The Cultural Code of Silence.  Surprise, surprise.

It’s a good thing I remembered what I wrote, huh?

I started off the letter with, “Do you remember the summer of 1994? I do. I remember everything. You have murdered my childhood.”

“I am writing this as a living corpse.  I am numb.  The only way I can feel alive is to put a blade to my skin and cut. The blood signifies that I am unfortunately still here.”

Then I made some points very clear to him.

– “I have told my parents.”

– “You will never see me again.”

– “I cannot wait to get married and take on a last name that I could be proud of.”

– “You will never meet my future husband and my future children.”

– “I am in prison for the rest of my life for your crime.”

– “I will never know what it will be like to lead a normal life.”

– “I pray you die alone.  I pray you die slowly, just like how my death was.”

–  “On the day of your death, I will smile and laugh.  I will come to your funeral wearing the brightest colours to celebrate your impending arrival into Hell.”

———-
My “family” can keep the original letter.  It has probably collected a lot of dust anyway.  I wonder what else is under there?

Nothing will stop me.

“Even if you are in the minority of one, the Truth is still the Truth.” – Mahatma Ghandi.

Speech at the Memorial for the Montreal Massacre – December 1, 2012.

This speech is dedicated to [names have been removed].

I am Breaking My Silence.

Our silence is their protection.

“When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”  A quote by Audre Lorde, Activist.

I was a little reluctant to share. I decided for the first support group session, I would take a back seat and observe. Then a beautiful woman said something that changed my life. She said clearly, “I was molested as a child.” I froze. That was the first time in the 13 years I’ve been seeking counseling that a human being has said that, out loud with me in the same room. It wasn’t from a book or from the television. Finally, I knew someone else that was molested, thus already learning the first advantage to group support: You are not alone. I was not alone. This woman in front of me was proof of it. She was real. She had a name, a story, a purpose in life.

I once spent an entire lunch hour in high school in a bathroom stall. I just stood there feeling completely alone. I didn’t want to be around my classmates who were stressing about boys or math equations. I had a real life problem – an unsolved one. A problem I believed at the time was mine alone, that there was not a single person in the entire Universe who had experienced my pain.

I remember this particular instance in math class where I was asked to approach the chalkboard to solve a mathematical equation. What I desperately wanted to write was:

Solve this.
I am 17.
The other day I was sexually assaulted by a stranger on the way to school.
I told zero people.
3 years prior, in the summer of 1994, I was molested by my paternal grandfather, Adriano. I was 14.
The first time he molested me, was, metaphorically, the day I died and became someone else.

On one occasion he said “Please don’t tell anyone about this. Do you want to ruin your family?”

I told zero people.
That’s 5 years of abiding to his Code of Silence.
When I told my parents, I was surprised that they believed me.
Every 24 hours that go by, I remember less and less of what my life was like before that first day he molested me.
Where did my childhood go?
It’s missing. And I have a right to reclaim it.

A monster took my life before I had a chance to decide what I wanted for my life.

Years after that day in math class, I had more to add to my life equation. At 25, I was in a domestically abusive relationship with my then alcoholic boyfriend, Jose, who not only abused me, but the baby that I was pregnant with. A product of a machismo household with Neanderthal attitudes towards alcohol and women, he became a part of the vicious cycle, and dragged me on the disturbing merry go round. It is a miracle that I am even standing here, with my arms and legs in place, with my 5 senses intact. I would end up having to give birth to my child 1 month before my due date, for the abuse had taken a toll on my 4’11 frame. He would go on to walk out on us 12 days before the baby turned 1. His parting words were “Good luck trying to get a penny out of me.”

Peer support breaks the barriers of loneliness and isolation, has made me feel less of a statistic, and has transformed the way I perceived the word “therapy”. In a confidential environment, we felt safe to address our fears and anxieties. Through mutual aid and the sharing of literature and methods of coping and healing, week by week, we unpeeled layers of our broken spirits and tired bodies. We’ve offered support for each other by attending court and giving feedback on a woman’s victim impact statement. Through each other, we have reconnected with our innermost selves, asking questions we have not thought of until someone had asked it of them self. Sharing stories of sorrow, survival and hope has erased the clear demarcation of our skin colour and socioeconomic status, and has clearly showed but we are more alike than we are different.

I felt empowered when I shared stories of how much dance and Hip Hop have been my saving grace all these years, and how the only time I can ever be truly myself, be the closest I am to that 14 year old girl, is when I’m dancing. I felt I had a purpose when I shared stories that were able to give the women understanding and perception. I looked forward to meeting with these women every week, for I finally felt like all my range of emotions was being validated. These women understand how hard it is to wear a smile in the morning, after crying all night. Although this session is over, there is no “graduation date”. In this case, there is no such phrase as “get over it already!” or “you’re still thinking about that?”. I have learned through group support that this is a lifelong process, that any kind of abuse especially from childhood takes a long time to get through.

If that moment when I heard “I was molested as a child.” was all I ever took with me from support group, it was worth it. Fortunately, it wasn’t. These remarkable women that I’ve grown to love as sisters, have changed my life. I am proud of their strength and growth beyond their painful experiences and want to honour them individually for we are a thriving sisterhood forming an unbroken chain of support.  For them, I will be their lamp, lifeboat, or ladder, for these 4 women have become a life-altering plus to my 32 year equation.

I finish off with the last verse and chorus of the song “Babygirl” by the Hip Hop artist Brother Ali. The following lines of poetry are what pushed me to give support group a chance.

She said if I was meant to die he would’ve killed me.
There must be a reason that I still breathe.
I don’t have the tools to rebuild me.
But I still believe that one day I could feel free.
And my body could be mine again.
My eyes can learn how to shine again.
My inner child won’t have to hide and then
When I’m strong then Love can be invited in.
Sweet God that’s all I ask of thee.
I’m willing to give you what you demand of me.
I’m learning to embrace the reality
That life doesn’t always turn out how it’s planned to be.
I didn’t deserve what was handed to me
Only one who can grant happiness is me
What it takes for her to face the day
I can only hope to be half that brave.

Don’t run babygirl, don’t run.
You gotta face what you’re fighting, head on.
Only one thing I could say in truth.
You gotta deal with the demons before they deal with you.

My name is Jodie and I have just Broken My Silence.