I Feel Ashamed of My Chronic Illness

It was the second-to-last assault. Jonathan was my best friend at the time, and when he stepped forward to hug me hours after the assault, with no acknowledgement of or apology for his earlier use of force, I felt the ground sink under my feet. Two giant hands seemed to press down on my skull.Continue reading “I Feel Ashamed of My Chronic Illness”

Reconnection

One morning I woke up, and my teeth were not clenched anymore. My face wasn’t twisted by nightmares. I had grieved for more than a year, and I felt cleansed. I could shelve books beside men in the stacks, and I no longer wanted to punch them. I no longer imagined a knife in myContinue reading “Reconnection”

Mourning

The first thing it makes space for is sorrow. As the rage and terror ebb away, the grief can overwhelm us. For me, I think it was the grief, more than anything else, that I feared. I had lifted my rage against it like a shield. Hadn’t trauma cost me enough? How dare anyone, evenContinue reading “Mourning”

Safety

I knew safety was the first step towards healing after trauma. But I had thought that simply meant pushing my assailants out of my life and locking the door behind them. Done. I hadn’t understood that was only the beginning of the beginning. Safety is not achieved by the absence of the perpetrator. Safety isContinue reading “Safety”

The Stations of the Cross

Nothing, other than chronic illness, has acquainted me more intimately with death than trauma. Through the violence that one body can do to another, trauma demonstrated my fragility, my transience, my mortality. It showed me, too vividly, that my bodily autonomy, and even my life, could end at any moment if a man decided toContinue reading “The Stations of the Cross”

After He Strangled Me

The next morning I went downstairs to breakfast in the dining hall as usual, but it wasn’t usual. I sat beside my brother, poking my spoon into the cereal I’d let go soggy, and I avoided looking up from my bowl. My hands were shaking. My pulse throbbed in my throat. I had done everythingContinue reading “After He Strangled Me”

The Ninth Assault

Webbstock is a tradition at Webb Institute going back to 1979. All about booze and bands, it runs from daybreak until long after sundown the first weekend in June. Students, alumni, their families, and close friends are all welcome to attend. There’s an all-day barbecue along with adult bouncy castles, inflatable slides, and other carnival-flavoredContinue reading “The Ninth Assault”

In the Aftermath

Jonathan’s assault was among the least violent of the assaults I’ve survived. In fact, to some people, it isn’t an assault at all. But its effects have been every bit as long-lasting and devastating as the rest of the abuse. *             *             * It wasn’t what he did. It was who he was. He wasContinue reading “In the Aftermath”

The Eighth Assault

You think you know someone. You let your guard down because you tell yourself they wouldn’t. They couldn’t possibly. They’re practically family. Maybe they’re shitty to other people sometimes, other women. But not to you. Never you. *             *             * I’d known Jonathan since he was in junior high. He had come home with myContinue reading “The Eighth Assault”

Healing Through Dance

Because trauma is of the body, it must be healed through the body. I needed a safe space where I would be supported, where I could practice trust, where I could begin healing in my body. Only one place could offer me that. The dance studio. *             *             * I was 30 years old. IContinue reading “Healing Through Dance”