I have been making good use of Dani, the character I created to feel safe while writing about abuse. I wrote in depth about her. I will reshare that below after this (new and original) post. What I want to say is I have experienced a lot of power by writing here about the abuse I've been fielding. I have broken with my stalker to the best of my ability, and will continue cutting ties every chance I get. Speaking up, though, has been extremely difficult.
I am still fearful all the time that they will get hold of me. It's tiring. But I remembered last night that I have been here before. This happened when I left my family home. It took me years to locate myself outside of who I was told I had to be. I shed expectation after expectation. Every transformation hurt, but I also grew stronger. Those years are when I first discovered I have a voice and began to stretch. I created a "Dani" for myself then as well; an image of someone who isn't me. Who was more than me--some future me I guess. Stronger, more prepared to accomplish the shift from victim to survivor.
Yesterday, I broke some major ties. Today I woke up to my stalker trying to reestablish them by using the spaces we share online to call out my loyalties publicly. I ignored them. I will continue to ignore them. I am gritting my teeth thinking about it.
This all feels as scary as this looks.
I am re-sharing a piece in full that went under the radar when I first wrote it. I am doing this because it is very important to where I am right now, and it is a look at what personas offer in the process of creating personal safety and recovery. Writing is my anchor to the reality that I will make it through this. Dani is a tool in the survival toolkit. I think this is a great thing, and I appreciate you reading her fictionalized stories as well as the true pieces I've written with her as my filter.
I am especially thankful to those of you who keep showing up in comments here or in my @honeyscribe feed to offer bits of support. I think this shift to safety would have looked a lot different if there weren't a place I could write through the process. I was fully silenced until Steemit. Your support allowed me to exercise my voice. Thank you.
Examining Silence After Abuse: What Would Dani Do?
The most curious aspect of Dani's creation is that she looks real in my mind. As with any fictional character I write, she has her own body, voice, likes and dislikes, but that isn't what interests me; she is not fictional. Not wholly. No, she doesn't look like me, but she is me. Or a costume I wore to write about how I am moving through the often bitter remains of emotional and physical violence.
I have been able to write about my parents as abusers to an extent. What I have not been able to publish safely are the other abusers that came into my life as I began taking the first steps away from home; the individuals who recognized my priming. When you are raised abused, being hurt becomes your normal to the point that when someone is not hurting you, you can no longer tell if they care about you. The twisting of intuition is insidious and inescapable. With it is the development of low self-esteem. For me it was the certainty that I was at fault for the violence I received.
The message did not come from my abusers alone. Society is quick to reinforce that victims are complicit in their victimization. Men are told they weren't manly enough. If only they were harder, tougher or stronger no one would have dared hurt them. Women are told we requested the abuse. We invited it through female weakness, stupidity, sassy attitude, our clothing/makeup, our unavoidable physical development, or otherwise gendered assumptions of fault made based on our anatomy. For men and women (and those otherwise gendered), should we speak up were are instructed to pipe down, get over it, man up etc.
It is inconvenient to hear about pain because it elicits empathy.
No one enjoys feeling bad, especially when it is coupled with helplessness to change a situation. If I begin talking about how much it hurt to be hit or verbally assaulted, it is easier to block me out by silencing me than it is to hold space for me to share my experience. So I am repeatedly silenced, as are the multitudes of others who try to articulate their experience in hopes of moving past it or escaping isolation.
When I was talking about being silenced in relationship to the potential exposure of my offline identity, I meant that if my name is outed here, one of the people who is active in trying to hurt me can find me and use the work I've published on them, my sexuality and abuse in general to further harm me. In the case of sexuality, they know which other abusers to reveal that information to for maximum harm. This goes beyond online harassment and into my daily life. I would be unable to continue sharing my experiences knowing I am giving them direct access to areas of personal vulnerability on topics they already have shown themselves to get violent over. Essentially, I would be feeding the trolls who exist in my physical reality.
And what a double-edged statement to make! Why should I have to mask myself at all to stay safe? Shouldn't there be protections in place for people in my situation? It comes back to the fact that this world rewards violent people by laying fault with their victims instead of with their actions. We don't have to look far for evidence of this truth. Brock Turner and the multiple other white men granted leniency for their crimes against women is at our fingertips.
I look to my childhood: I sought help multiple times asking to be removed from my situation. I was never protected. Instead I was told by teachers and counselors that my attitude was the problem and I was "asking for it." As an adult, there are numerous legal hoops to jump through, and should I choose the acrobat's path, also financial pitfalls and substantial personal risk should rulings not be in my favor. Again and again I've seen victims protected only after extreme, visible harm has been committed with witnesses in the room. It's a massive failure, because most abusers know to isolate and only perform abusive acts publicly well into the abusive relationship.
This doesn't even touch the emotional strain involved in hurdling a lifetime of conditioning and the associated triggers one of which is self-advocacy. It does not matter that I know I am strong, intelligent and beautiful. Inside I am still the weak, stupid and ugly little girl who is wasting everyone's time by being too sensitive.
The other silences I struggle against are sharing what has physically happened to me. In sharing, I relive. I can gain power over history through sharing, certainly, but that does not make me feel less ashamed or strong enough to share without collapsing back into the abuse. Just because no one is physically present to abuse me does not mean the abuse is over.
Back to Dani, though. She gives me a way to step outside of my experience in order to safely share it. What is Superman without his costume? Just another guy. I hope I can still wear my Dani costume from time to time and explore the strengths I built into her. It was simple to speak when I was asking myself what she would share. She is a great barrier between history and present, a curious heroine made out of me, lifting the tape from my mouth, allowing me to be excellent to myself.
images via pixabay.com