CAUTION: TRIGGER WARNING. Contains descriptions of sexual and physical abuse. Please read at your own discretion.
I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
-Langston Hughes (1902-1967), The Negro Speaks Of Rivers
My Dear Readers,
In January, we introduced Bobbi’s Saga as a true-life example of the journey towards healing from childhood sexual and physical assault. We did this because it is important to us that the readership have some understanding of what a person who has been victimized like this may endure as she/he works towards recovery. Too often, victims of sexual assault live in the shadows and “suffer in silence.”
Bobbi (not her real name) does not consider herself to be a victim or survivor of sexual assault. Instead, she views herself as being victimized and a striver after sexual assault. The purpose of the wording is directly associated to Bobbi’s recovery. As part of her journey, Bobbi has worked on empowerment of her psychological self and in doing so, she no longer accepts or views herself with the survivor mentality. Instead, Bobbi seeks to reclaim what was stolen. One of the ways she is doing this is to provide excerpts from her daily journal and allow you, our readers, some insight into her recovery.
When we started Bobbi’s Saga, we committed to posting one entry of Bobbi’s journal on the first Monday of each month for a period of six months. Now that we have reached the sixth posting, we have built an audience of over 1500 readers, and have received many positive responses. We understand that this resonates with you, so we will continue sharing Bobbi’s experience and her journey of self-discovery. This month, Bobbi acknowledges the many years of carrying emotional pain along with shame, guilt, and denial of self. Walk with her as she explores forgiveness.
Journal Entry 1/23/14
I was thinking about what Dr. Kane said about the little girl in me. I am mostly not aware of her, but I have felt her recently. It feels like a small child who missed her childhood.
I just watched a movie called Woman, Thou Art Loosed. It was about a woman on death row who looked back over her life. Her stepfather talked to her about becoming mature the first time he met her. He married her mother and raped the little girl who was, at that time, 12 years old. The mother didn’t believe, comfort or support the little girl. The stepfather told the mother the little girl was “fast,” and not telling the truth.
I know that I could not have watched this movie one year ago. There were so many things in this movie that reminded me of my own experiences. The mother in the story who didn’t believe the daughter had been raped as a child herself. The 12 year old is told in so many words, “What does not kill you will make you stronger. Get over it.” The daughter eventually shoots and kills her rapist at the church’s altar. This is how she ends up on death row. The rapist is apologizing as she shoots him.
The emotions shown in this movie are so real: shame, guilt, loss of childhood and separation of the relationship between mother and daughter. This is about a woman and an inner child that just wants to be loved. Forgiveness? Or is it the need to forgive the self? They spoke about how life is never the same once you’ve been raped. It is true; it takes a part of your soul away that can’t be replaced.
The movie brought tears to my eyes. I have felt and worked on all of the emotions with Dr. Kane. I don’t know why I watched the movie all the way to the end. I think I was waiting to see the rapist being killed.
Killed, for all he stole from the little girl. Killed, for all the years he had denied and lied about it. Even in death, his life was better than the little girl he raped. But, he wasn’t killed by me. I will no longer focus on his life. The life I will focus on is my own.
It was a good day.
As we listen to Bobbi’s words, what can we learn from her experience?
It is feasible that Bobbi the adult has had difficulty in connecting with her inner child. In viewing this movie, Bobbi has not only allowed her inner child to be heard, but more importantly, assured her that her experiences of sexual assault and the resulting feelings are validated. The movie mirrors Bobbi’s experience of being not supported and abandoned by her mother. However, this is where the mirror falls away—the character in the movie gets something that Bobbi and her inner child never received: justice.
Instead, Bobbi finds herself contemplating forgiveness as a substitute for that justice. Having been raised within the African-American church, Bobbi has been taught to forgive those who trespass against her, but she has now come to the realization that she can reject the teachings of the church. She is able to determine that it is in her best interest not to focus on forgiving the rapist, but instead focus on seeking atonement for the psychological self for the four decades she carried the burden of this pain and suffering.
In rejecting the values of her church, Bobbi is able to empower the psychological self. She acknowledges that she is no longer a “survivor” of the experience and rather is a “striver” of her recovery and therefore, is able to choose not only to let go of that experience but to decide the direction in which she will travel.
In Bobbi’s journey, the experience has not made her stronger. Instead Bobbi has learned to balance the horrendous experiences she has suffered with the vision of who she wants to be within the psychological self. In doing so, rather than looking for power or strength, she has achieved transformation.
In the movie, the daughter achieves justice by killing her rapist, but Bobbi is able to let go of the desire for his death or the need to forgive him because she has made this about SELF and not about HIM.
As Bobbi closes this saga of her journey of self-discovery, she acknowledges it was a good day. In empowering the self, she is able to balance her experiences with who she wants to be and what she wants her future to be. As she moves forward, she does so with optimism that there will be more good days to come.
Join us here next month for the next installment of Bobbi’s Saga.