I am a survivor of sexual violence–but for much of the time, I didn’t recognize what was happening or realize I could call it violence.
Everything got absorbed into my mind as ‘how the world was’–the bitter, daily arguments between my parents as they struggled in their own lives; the male-focused culture in which I grew to adulthood (Sorry, we don’t hire women; If you’re not married we cant prescribe birth control pills; Boys will be boys; You throw like a girl), the songs we listened to–all that went unnoticed in my sexual coming of age.
Oh, I could perform sex well–physically, flexibly, creatively, orgasmicly. But within me lay a force-field that kept healthy sexual intimacy at bay–a sadomasochistic vision of intimate relationships.
Overt sexual violence–physical rape; being followed for hours by men who wouldn’t leave me alone; the police turning a blind eye to the ongoing peeping Tom at my window; my uncle trying to kiss me on the couch while looking at family pictures–incidents such as these are easy to identify.
But to recognize and unlearn the covert violence we perpetrate upon ourselves and how to develop beyond it–that is a life’s work.