Monday, January 19, 2009

Power Perceived Is Power Achieved

I feel the need to talk about something in my life that not many people know about. I don't tell people about it for a few different reasons. One is that it's very personal. Second is that I don't want to get the "poor courageous you!" treatment (I hate being lauded for surviving something I had no control over in the first place). Third is that I don't wish waste my time and energy focusing on the negative. However, because it's an experience that I've learned from and grown from, I want to let others know how I've managed to dig my way out of this particular bog. Lately I've talked to a few different folks who don't seem understand that they have everything needed to take back what's theirs.

Thing is, I was raped when I was 15 years old. At the time my head was such a mess that I didn't recognize the act for what it was. I was so messed up emotionally (from a childhood that left me feeling unlovable and unworthy) that I thought the guy must really love me to want me badly enough that he felt he needed to force me. It took me ten years and a soul-rattling epiphany (don't ever expect me to talk about that dark, nearly suicidal day) to come to an understanding of what had happened to me. Ironically, I didn't hate the guy who did it - I hated myself for it. It took me another ten years to forgive myself for being so weak and allowing myself to be victimized. It wasn't until I met John that I found some perspective.

One night when a rogue wave of emotion all but swept me overboard, I told John what was going in my head and why. Anyone who knew John would agree that the man was an excellent verbal archer. His aim was true and his arrows could pierce the thickest skin and slam straight into the heart of the matter. Instead of coddling me or just hugging me and saying "it'll be ok," he said, almost angrily, "Why are you continuing to give that fucker any power over you? Stop letting him hold sway in your life. You might have been a victim that night, but that was then and this is now. Take back that power."

I was so struck by the acuity of his words that I immediately stopped crying. And started thinking. He was right. So right. I went for a long walk, and in time to the beat of my footsteps I uttered a litany of, "Fuck you. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. Rot in pieces. You have no power over me." It changed my perspective. It changed everything about me, about how I perceived myself. It changed my life. (John always proclaimed that he wasn't my knight in shining armor, but it was interesting just how often he'd hack through the briars to rescue me - often without even being aware of it. It was definitely he who woke the sleeping gypsy from her stupor.)

Rape is not at all about sex; rape is about power. Rape happens when one person takes what is not freely given or consented to by the other in a way that attempts to crush the other person's spirit. My own definition. Thus, I maintain that at some point we've all been raped in some form or another. We've all had an experience that leaves us feeling victimized, wounded, and lost.

That feeling doesn't have to stay. Don't let it. Don't give the experience any more power than it deserves, and don't give the perpetrator any power at all. They had their moment; all the moments following are your own. So, take back what is rightfully yours. Do whatever it takes to make that happen within yourself. I'm not talking about revenge, I'm talking about fighting back by not continuing to be a victim, by standing tall in your very own shoes.

I promise you... you do that and the world will take on new light. People will ask what's different about you. You will feel taller, stronger, and able to meet anything head on.

"He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still."
~Lao Tzu

Coldplay, Lost


  1. Wow, this is intense, Barb. i'm so sorry that happened to you, but very happy to hear that you've reclaimed your power from that traumatizing event. Someone very, very close to me also suffered a traumatic event, rather an entire childhood of hell, and it was mostly at the hands of family members. This person does not speak of this anymore, but i think just by living life, striving to do good and breaking the cycle, they're reclaiming their own power.
    You're awful brave to talk about this, but then again, yer Barb. i always think of you as strong and unmovable, in a very good way. Yer awesome!

  2. Thanks Jess! It did take a fair amount of courage to post that, but I guess if I'm going to try tossing people life preservers I want them to know that the boat is sea-worthy.

    "but then again, yer Barb..." That's gotta be one of the finest compliments I've ever received!!!

    I say again... I'm so glad you're back on my radar!

  3. WoW barb, you managed to hit so hard with this my armor has dents all over it, it's going to take a while to get them out..
    Your right a few people that I can call friends have had similar events happen to them, they like you found someone like John who's got them through it.
    What get's me is "WHY" not the victim why the attacker why, why do it, it's stupid, really stupid and it can ruin your life or the victims life. I say can as well the exact verbal nuance I want to use escapes me just now.

  4. Hugs for the courage of your post.
    I sit here and read it, envision John speaking his words. And his words were always direct. When I was younger, I always thought his words were controlling...that is not the case. My brother gave words of wisdom, compassion, love, and the list goes on...

    I had a similiar incident when I was in high school from a friends father. I have pushed that so far back in my mind...I have called him every dirty little name in the book...cussed him out! I know of one who keeps it all bottled up inside her that she won't go out with men. She does not trust them.

    You are a brave warrior are strong inside and out. ILY

  5. Something I have not done in years, and that is shed tears over something so poignant and close to home.... You are a strong woman, Barb.


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