Trigger Warning: Child Sexual Abuse, Trauma, Healing and related
I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be out of crisis. Breathing space. Sunshine. Waking up after a good night’s refreshing sleep after having nightmares for so long.
I have transitioned into group therapy sessions. Definitely feel sufficiently *graduated* out of the one-on-one therapy sessions. Probably a few reasons. Mainly because trauma doesn’t feel very central in my life anymore, and so there wasn’t as much to …..*talk* about it. Other things were coming in, taking precedence, so it felt like I was stagnating in the one-on-one. Though I’m sure if I wanted to pursue it, she/we would have found a way to go forward. But there’s a few reasons why I think group would be much more beneficial, helpful right now.
Being out of crisis means making a more concentrated effort of making healing/surviving more integrated into more everyday life. It’s harder to do this (I think) when I’m in a one-on-one session. Feels like I’m doing one of the hardest things alone without much recognition. It’s doable of course, it’s possible. But having people around me will feel good. I hope. I think it will also feel terrifying but still. I want someone to look across at me and smile at me to tell me they understand. Genuinely understand. That they are with me there. Wherever there is.
Of course, baring my soul in a room full of virtual strangers/people is a terrifying prospect. And that’s where the second part come in. For me.
I’m tired of holding on to this secret. I talk a lot about gender right in things like Muslim Student Association at my college or in other student spaces. I’m in a lot of feminist classes. So this topic comes up. But I always carefully position myself so that it seems that I’m speaking as though I know someone else’s suffering, and I’m coming from a compassionate place of not-being-the-victim.
Frankly, this dual secret keeping and advocating is getting old. I’m tired of keeping secrets.
It just goes back to the old “What will happen if I speak out” fear. This dual keeping-secret-I’m-not-going-to-claim-ownership. I’m still afraid to speak out. What if I speak out and someone says/does something that throws it all back into my teeth and I crumble all over again. I don’t know. I don’t want to know. This sanity, this place of being feels so precious I don’t want to lose it because of someone else’s stupidity.
So group therapy. Where I speak out. Hesitatingly. Warily. Where I feel out every step of this new being that I take. With people who may understand better than most.
I hope I’m not putting too much expectations and hope into it all.
The first meeting was….mellow. We introduced ourselves. Played a game of bingo as ice breaker. Wrote out rules and goals. Made an envelope in which we can store away our feelings/things during counselling and our therapist would keep the envelope under lock and key. I like the concept.
Two white girls. Another South Asian girl that I know outside of therapy. Another girl who is brown too. A man of color. Six of us. Six fragile beings of us.
When the counselor was asking what we wanted out of the group, the guy said, every time he tells other people about his sexual abuse, his relationships with them change. And he is tired of that. Wants a space in which he can be himself where his abuse doesn’t get in the way.
When he said that, my heart just went out to him.
And me? I just felt like I volunteered too much information about myself. I have this crazy urge to withdraw into myself. But. It might not have just been from the therapy session. Life has been ….. full lately and I haven’t had much…. space. .. .to myself. So it might be a combination of a lot of things. Still. This crazy urge to withdraw into myself until someone coaxes it out of me.
Where I withdraw, it will be perfect weather and green trees and peace. Birds chirping. My favorite kinda nuts. Just peace. It doesn’t seem like a bad idea.
— Haruki Murakami (via observando)
Trigger Warning: Abuse
If the personal is political and the political, personal, then actively healing from trauma is an intensely political journey.
He has recently been watching the BBC show Luther. I’m sure it’s interesting. It’s a psychological crime drama and I like stuff like that. The protagonist is a black man, so it would probably be interesting to see and dissect and discuss how race and gender etc plays within the show.
Except, from the first episode, there are all the red flags of an abuser in him.
His wife wants to leave him. When she tells him that, in a fit he breaks apart a door [insert: violent black man/intensely broken hearted lover tropes]. Later, he barges into her office, shooes out her clients (she’s a lawyer). He comes to her home to plead with her one last time even though she has restraining orders against him.
As I said: insert: violent black man/intensely broken hearted lover tropes. But I think it plays more on the “broken hearted lover who wants to desperately make amends”.
Except, that shit is not cool. We know that statistically, partners like this, partners who have no sense of boundaries, who have very physical ways of showing. .… .their emotions are often times at least emotionally abusive, if not also physically abusive.
Romanticizing personalities like these is not cool. It hurts survivors, not only just by negating their experiences and making it harder for them to speak out, but for those of us who have worked hard to un-internalize a lot of these harmful messages, we become vulnerable to moments of doubt.
I don’t know how the show goes on. Maybe he is shown the “wrong of his ways”. I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t care. I’m in a place where after a lot of hard work, I have un-internalized a lot of self blame from my own abuse. I’m not letting anything, anything, mess that up. I’m going to nurture myself. Protect that part of me which needs validation. Protect and nurture that part of me which needs to know that the abuse wasn’t her fault.
Various kinds of abuse and abusive tropes are inter-related. Actively choosing to heal sometimes is walking away from shows, from anything really, which constantly gives you messages that undermine your humanity in any way. After a while, it starts infiltrating your psyche. And starts eroding it, destroying it, because then you have to actively fight against those messages rather than nurture the parts which has understood it. Two different things. Two very different things.
If the personal is political and the political, personal, then actively healing from trauma is an intensely political journey. It is actively standing up for things which shouldn’t be considered normal in the first place.
Trigger Warning: Rape
My college is doing a “Woman in Islam” week and it’s the first time we’re doing this, and yes, I’m the organizer of it. Incidentally enough, there are a few highlights from the two events that have happened that bear speaking to.
The first event was Rohina Malik’s performance of “Unveiled”. She goes through 5 female characters (it’s a one woman play) and there’s a character that sees the death of her husband before her very eyes, and is almost raped but is rescued at the last moment. The character falls through a severe depression, and then at some point her mother storms into her room and says [and I’m badly paraphrasing] “Silence is sometimes a crime”.
There’s one other line that sticks out to me. “Ask God not ‘why me’, but ask God ‘what for’”.
In a culture where I’m constantly told that it is the “wise” who hold their silence, that silence is wisdom, is golden, and finally, from a a place in which I have constantly questioned myself: “why me”, those lines were powerful.
I wept as I sat in the audience. I wept as I remembered my rape. I wept as I remembered my painful journey out of that terrifying place of having to confront what happened to me as a child. I wept humbled and thankful that so many people supported me as I made my journey.
I’m still weeping.The tears come from a place of gratitude. Thank you Rohina, for those words. They are going to be added into my arsenal of strength.
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The next day was a talk by the founder editor-in-chief of MuslimGirl.net. She talked about Muslim girls, women, of us reclaiming our voices through social media.
We chatted afterwords and somehow I told her about this blog. That for sometime, I have thought writing on a more “public” forum, of what it means to be a Muslim woman, to be a survivor. Her response was very warm. I may just write a guest post for her.
If I do so, it will no longer be under a pseudonym. I’m tired of holding a silence. Not because the silence is burdening to myself, but because I want to unequivocally help those who may have gone through what I went through.
I’m holding a charity event tonight for people who can’t reach orgasm.
If you can’t come let me know.
Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom. But the personality formed in an environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. The survivor is left with fundamental problems in basic trust, autonomy, and initiative. She approaches the tasks of early adulthood—establishing independence and intimacy—burdened by major impairments in self-care, in cognition and memory, in identity, and in the capacity to form stable relationships. She is still a prisoner of her childhood; attempting to create a new life, she re-encounters the trauma, she self-sacrifices, she seeks out affection, empathy, and guidance from her intimate relationships, as she did from her parents, although unbeknownst will seek in others those that will respond likely in the manner that her abusers did: trauma, abandonment, dominance, and high-criticisms.
This is defined as ‘Repetition Compulsion’. It refers to the universal tendency of individuals to repeat in their lives distressing or even painful situations without realising they are doing so, or even understanding they are bringing about the recurrence and repeating in their current situations the worst times from the past. Somehow people manage to create, in adult life, conditions remarkably similar to those that were so destructive in childhood. An example is a woman who took emotional care (self-sacrifice or subjugation) of her father who was emotionally depriving. Later in life the tendency could be to go after a man who in one way was unavailable or emotionally unstable, unaware of the similarity with her father.❞
DISCONNECTION & REJECTION
Schemas in this domain result from early experiences of a detached, explosive, unpredictable, or abusive family environment. People with these schemas expect that their needs for security, safety, stability, nurturance, and empathy in intimate or family relationships will not be met in a consistent or predictable way.
This schema refers to the expectation that one will soon lose anyone with whom an emotional attachment is formed. The person believes that one way or another close relationships will end imminently. This schema usually occurs when the parent has been inconsistent in meeting the child’s needs.
This schema refers to the expectation that others will intentionally take advantage in some way. People with this schema expect others to hurt, cheat, or put them down. Often significant others were abusive emotionally or sexually and betrayed the child’s trust.
This schema refers to the belief that others will never meet ones primary emotional needs. These needs include nurture, empathy, affection, protection, guidance and caring from others. Often significant others were emotionally depriving to the child.
Social Isolation/ Alienation
This schema refers to the belief that one is isolated from the world, different from others, and/or not part of any community. This belief is usually caused by experiences in which children see that either they, or their families, are different from other people.
This schema refers to the belief that one is internally flawed, and that, if others get close, they will realize this and withdraw from the relationship. This feeling of being flawed and inadequate often leads to a strong sense of shame. Generally, parents were very critical of their children and made them feel not worthy of being loved.
This schema refers to the belief that one is outwardly unattractive to others. People with this schema see themselves as physically unattractive, socially inept, or lacking in status. Usually there is a direct link to childhood experiences in which children are made to feel, by family or peers, that they are not attractive.
- Judith Herman
In the 20 years since the abuse happened, all my energy had gone into trying to ignore it. I minimized it and pushed myself to be the strongest person I could be to prove to myself that it didn’t affect me. I studied karate, I put on a tough persona and I learned to preemptively squash any perceived attempt by someone to take even the slightest emotional or physical advantage of me. I thought that’s what I had to do to gain control over my life. However, the truth all along was that the abuse profoundly affected me on levels I didn’t even detect. On a subconscious level, I thought I must have done something to deserve it and therefore must be an inherently horrible person. Without an outlet to release my anger, I turned it in on myself and sometimes those close to me. It impacted my ability to form trusting relationships with others and, most importantly, my ability to love and trust myself. Both of these skills being so vital to the human experience meant that every aspect of my life had been impacted, that far too many decisions I had made in life were directed by this crippling fear and anxiety, that self-hatred had become “normal” to me. Nothing was more infuriating than having to acknowledge all these effects, and yet at the same, finally confronting their root cause was the key to overcoming them.
[…]Sexual abuse is a difficult enough topic for any community to deal with, but compounded with the taboo-phobia of the Muslim community and the extreme shame attached to discussing anything sexual, this task felt unbearable. But what kept me motivated even through the toughest parts was scraping together at least enough self-respect to know that I didn’t deserve to keep suffering for what happened to me. I didn’t want to live in a world where victims have to carry the burdens of crimes they didn’t commit while perpetrators get away with them. For my own sanity I had to do my part to try and change that, however slightly, and without a doubt Hinna’s courage is what gave me the courage.❞
A very moving piece written by a Muslim, South Asian survivor.