Survivor Narratives

Mari

Lies were a deep seed in a wild, over grown field, plowed daily by my family. If you know me, you will be surprised to hear I was a quiet kid who would write poems, climb trees and would love to play with her older brother. Times were carefree for me then.

One casual morning everything changed. I felt a sudden stillness. A coldness despite the sun shining through the kitchen windows. I have a memory of my morning cereal, colorful wheels of the rainbow, rolling around the floor as I stood there, following orders, lost in my fear and misunderstandings.

As a kid I was a ferocious reader and through the help of science fiction novels I learned to adapt from my experience. Reading at home was a challenge. My Stepfather insisted that I only read the bible and all other reading material at home was not allowed. So when a neighbor gave me a hand full of dusty sci-fi novels to read I quickly hid them in my closet and devised a plan to read them when no one was around. My favorite hiding spot was just under the dining room table. I would scoot the chairs in under the table to form a bedding of sorts. When the moments allowed, I would perch there unseen.

After some time I discovered the character of Mr. Spock. He became my hero! It was through this character that I knew what I had to do in order to survive. I needed to adopt the Vulcan philosophy of logic!! The objective of a traditional Vulcan life is to control or suppress all emotion. I needed this! You see in order to get my emotions in control; essentially I had to compartmentalize what I was feeling. I had at that moment, what I believed to be an awakening. I understood behavior to be a methodical reaction to life’s regurgitation of suffering; an abuser, abuses because he too was abused and within that cycle lies an ancestral cycle that if allowed (and it often does) gets repeated. I was an unfortunate bystander to such a process… a natural process which by default becomes an abusive cycle that gets repeated again and again.






(I was not to blame. I did not cause this)

This thought process, which held me together, lasted for a few years. I am certain there was much loss of translation when it came to my personality. I deftly adapted the Volcan Philosophy of logic. My protective shell was so hardened. I took every step to protect myself. Inside I felt fragile. Outside I was hardened. Protected. A warrior to my self-preservation.

It took me time to identify. I felt a deep-rooted, neglected sense of shame that was grounded into my sense of self.

Until I didn’t.

With time, I knew it was time to step out of that bounded space. I was drinking A LOT and found myself compelled to talk about “the something” I could never bare myself to be a witness of. I cried A LOT. I held myself and I dared greatly to share my truth. To shed the burden that did not belong to me. Which took a long time. And A LOT of work.

There is so much that happened in between this written piece. In between the multitude of spaces I took to heal.

I had a mentor who has since passed, who gave me an exercise, he said to me “at some point take some time with your self. Kiss yourself from head-to-toe and love yourself the only way you can”. I went home that first night and took on what seemed like an easy, yet impossible task. With a lot of love and patience I am now able to understand that not-so-simple lesson and I embrace it.

Marlene

Self-love is a daily struggle. Self-love and self-worth are things I'm still navigating. I have an unconventional relationship with my body, it's the site of many traumas. For many years my body didn't feel like a home. I'm in the process of unraveling and unlearning. 

I remember

Their names are not important
Their face become faceless
in a sea of people that look just like them
I remember, I will always remember
Even when I try to forget
the events in my life that I had no control over
It had everything to do with power
and making sure I had none
As a women,
my existence was designed to never stand a change
Wishing the world could see into these eyes
what I do not have the strength to verbalize
and they made me believe
that I could hold on to my beliefs better if I was just silent
So no wonder
I can’t see my reflection in their mistakes
I like they-are broken
Shards of mirror hurting everybody around me
And they left me with the impression that my kin was harmless
But I will never Photoshop the truth
As a means to appease the discomfort of the truth
My truth
That the physical pain is always secondary
to how much my mind hurts
So I’ll take back the night or nights
That shattered my being
and turned me into the fractured patchwork entity
of the person that I use to be.
So I heal, As they heal, as we heal,
I will remember
so that my never again,
will simply be someone else never.

Kate

As a feminist, lesbian, and women studies major, I lived in an echo chamber in college. I had heard about sexual assault cases including situations in which people didn’t believe the victims, but deep down I never thought something like that could happen to me.

Victim shaming, non-believers...my community was too supportive for that to occur-tome.

But then one evening after getting drunk at a party, a beloved student in my dorm raped me. I reported it, and the word inevitably spread. Much to my surprise my fellow RA’s didn’t believe me. The folks who I thought were my friends began having their students threaten me on their behalf. They posted up signs when they knew I was going on rounds of the dorm with drawings of me, labeling me as a snitch and a liar. It tore me up inside to lose the community of my staff more than the event itself did at the time. I lost trust in people and lost a core part of my inner self. My sense of positivity just disappeared. It took years for me to accept the rape itself. I always just pushed it out, and thought to myself, "it happened, it's not a big deal." 

Years after graduation, when I became a full time dorm director, one of the RAs I supervised reported that she had been raped, in a very similar scenario as me. It broke me, all over again. Only worse this time because when it happens to someone you care about, somehow it's worse than enduring it yourself.

Now here I am, still a professional in the collegiate setting, and when I think back to those times, I reflect on how I’ve gotten here, to where I am. And how my dream of working with college students, while now slightly colored by trauma, is very much alive and in action today. My experience, no matter how terrible, became the point at which I evolved into a fierce advocate for others, and pushed to be a source of support and light for others whose “safety bubble” might become shattered, too. And I’m proud to continue the fight every day.

Lorca

Collage image created by Lorca
A Love Story
Thought I was done // Wanted to run
And bathe in antiseptic
But who'd have guessed // I'd be so blessed
You took my heart and kept it

Talking about things I rarely can:

• Childhood and domestic psychological abuse has wired me to perceive and function emotionally and physiologically in highly non-normative ways. ⁣

• My gender and sexuality is inextricable from my neuroatypical-ness.⁣

• The expectation to be "A Good Survivor" in spaces where sociability, happiness, warmth, gentleness, and pleasure are acclaimed and attractive is often excruciatingly, discouragingly lonely. ⁣

• Medication changed things, but not how I expected. ⁣



Lindsey

I  have all of these rushing emotions: anger, fear, sadness, guilt, shame. They  pour over me like water; they engulf me like flames. In moments of clarity, I  see the pain, the hatred, and the evil of this world. I see people trying to  survive in a world that is fighting against them. The world had devoured mysoul.

I  am hungry for love in a world of hatred. I seek out other souls, and cling tothem, because if I let go, I have one less ally. 

Robert

I  have known that the movie Rocky, along with the other posters are  reminders for me to keep going, go the distance, and make it through the day. Without thinking, I said to myself, then when you do get trough this-you're  somebody, you're not nothing. You're not a mistake. I was flooded with emotion, and I cried a bit.

When  I first saw the portrait you took of me I felt uncomfortable. I always thought  I was better at hiding it. I showed the image to my wife, her reply: "yeah, that’s right. That’s you alright". 

I don't feel the need to forgive my parents for what they did to me. The term forgiveness doesn't make sense to me. It's no longer about them but rather about my choices now. I want to be happy and healthy. 

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