I have carried the weight of my own existence for a long time. Some days it’s light and life is easy. I laugh and love, I take the risks I’ve dreamed of, I pursue my best self relentlessly. I am my own best comforter.
On these days, my mind is sharp. I engage with my peers, my friends, my colleagues. I am brash and loud and bold. I am the woman fourth-grade me would be so excited about. And on those days, very little can touch me—I’m up in the clouds, soaring to my heart’s content. On these days, I am free of my past. (This feels good.)
I have carried the shame of my own existence for a long time. Some days it’s so overpowering I can’t breathe very well. I fall silent. I pull away. I can’t bring myself to confide in the people I love; they don’t need to watch me suffer. I shrink into myself, asking what I was wearing or why I was alone or why I didn’t report or whatever other vitriol someone in power chose to sling at a survivor today. (This does not feel good.) I reduce myself to a casualty of this war to normalize violent behavior. I find a thousand things to write but none to say aloud, lest I find myself the target of that powerful person’s vitriol someday. I let my music speak for me because there are still so many things I can’t bring myself to say. And I bleed. (This does not feel good.)
I’ve never talked at length to anyone about these days or how frequently they surface. I don’t tell people how hard it is to get out of bed because I know I’ll scroll through the news and find another argument for why a man who has assaulted a woman or a man or a child or a nonbinary person should not be punished for his transgressions. (This does not feel good.) I don’t mention that I spend days at a time reliving my trauma and watching others with experiences like mine get doxxed and threatened and dismissed. I don’t dare whisper that I worry for the day when the writing about assault that I take so seriously reaches ears that respond with rape threats and abuse. (This does not feel good.) I don’t say these things because I know that even within the community I do reach there are people who would not believe me. And I bleed. (This does not feel good.)
I have carried the hate of my own existence for a long time. Some days it’s in the world around me; sometimes it’s within myself, pointing inward still. I grow teeth and a thick skin. I find the invasions of my space and my time and my personhood that I can tolerate. (This does not feel good.) I lead with a smile so I am not seen as less-than, as broken, as deficient in some way. (This does not feel good.) I refrain from asserting myself because to speak is to be noticed, and to be noticed is to be targeted. (This does not feel good.) I hide the force of nature fourth-grade me would have been proud of because if I were who I wanted to be I probably would have been attacked again by now. (This does not feel good.)
I lose myself in stories of fictional women who are the snarky, snappy people I’ve always admired, and I pull myself out of those same books to a world where I’m not comfortable joining their ranks. (This does not feel good.) I brace myself mentally every time I talk about my assault, knowing that this could be the time when someone decides to attack me because of it. (This does not feel good.)
I long for a day when I can just talk about music and not have to talk about what it feels like to be intimately attacked in a space you thought was safe. (This does not feel good.)
I smile and nod when someone says or does something that invades my space further than I want to allow. (This does not feel good.)
I consider what to say when someone asks me why I didn’t report. (This does not feel good.)
I wonder if I can ever extract a profession in music from the danger of a room full of men. (This does not feel good.)
And I bleed. (This does not feel good.) ♦
If you’re interested in learning about my musical work involving sexual assault and rape culture, check out Letters from the Aftermath. If you or a loved one has experienced a sexual assault and needs support, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800)656-4673.