For this chapter of Advocacy Arts writings, let’s take the time to acknowledge the platform (or lack thereof) which falls upon many survivors of domestic or sexual assault. Due to the internet, we are now more interconnected than ever, & resources are the most readily available in history. Still, they are sometimes not used to the fullest extent, or even offer narratives that do not give a genuine impression to the unwitting masses. Here, we will explore how that occurs & how to move forward in the face of such adversity.
I’ll begin with a short story for you. Perhaps an intense reference, this illustrates my story as well. When I first began to understand that I had indeed survived sex trafficking, my words were underdeveloped, & even degrading towards the idea. Public thought either lumped it in with misperceptions of sex work (a different subject entirely), or of third world countries. This impacted the held view of my own life story dramatically, as well as how I talked about it, or rather - didn’t talk. It wasn’t until a friend lovingly corrected how I was addressing my experiences, that I realized how much I had internalized external & harmful views on the subject. Then is when I first saw how programmed I was in simply conceiving of events I, myself, lived through. I had to learn to be accountable for how I thought about the trauma.
So wait - what does the victim have to be accountable for, when they were the one who was wronged? Well, we must take wheel of choosing to not beat ourselves up more for this experience we are not at fault for. We become responsible for releasing language & thought processes made & used by the oppressor to define the events, from our vocabulary. We are to then replace these degrading descriptors decided by the abusive party or their enablers, with verbiage which supports our role in recovery. Thus we become accountable for our reconditioning, in radical response to the awful instance we survived. The ultimate result of this undertaking, transmutes into empowerment.
It is not fair that these crimes against us have happened. It is not right, that we take the brunt. But we then step into a place, were we are asked to use this position to assimilate the standards by which this can be rightfully regarded. This does not have to be in a traditional, by-the-program sense in the slightest, either. I will not denounce anyone for choosing to not report an instance, when it can conjure more trauma with no just outcome, or even put the reporter in danger once more.
The judicial system is not doing this recalibration work for us & neither is the media, nor the police. Many operatives set in place to “help” do not (though not all are obsolete). Only a lucky few of us have beneficiaries already in place - be it through family, friends or other representation. When sexual violence as a whole, or any variation of human trafficking strikes us or a close companion, it is instantly interwoven into our life path to prevent this perpetually happening.
Of course, a goal of an abuser is to break our identity, voice & velocity down so violently that we cannot use these assets as is our birthright. The abuser WANTS us to remain herded into a place of believing we should be ashamed of what happened, so we don’t talk about it. It is an act of animalistic self-preservation, on their part, at the very least. They don’t want educated & intelligent descriptions coming from us about who, how, when, or what. They don’t want a REDEFINING of how these things are addressed, as it would be the end of their cyclical evasions of justice.
Here is when I invite you to challenge that pattern. It is here, I suggest that maybe it is even more revolutionary than many preexisting initiatives, that we participate in a refined reprise of our needs as survivors.
Our activism, healing, or support networks will not succeed if we are still under the guise ourselves, of treating the abuse of body, power & money like the abuser or oppressor did. It WILL work, when we review & define it for ourselves. This is true recalibration. Read that again.
Someone who did not experience a party or city event themselves, does not do the write-up in the newspaper of how it went. Likewise, a person who doesn’t know a lick of what it is to live through sexual trauma cannot be authentically calling the shots, identifying the state of affairs, & on the front lines. I’m not saying that only those who have been molested are good at helping someone who has, at all - though we can be exceptional allies after a certain checkpoint. What I am saying, is that uneducated or downright inconsiderate individuals inherently will make more roadblocks in recovery than is appropriate or necessary. Furthermore, there are endless of these types in family assistance positions, shelters, hospitals, law offices, courtrooms, social settings, or even spirituality. I have seen social workers & “spiritual influencers” mistreat as well as misrepresent survivors, just the same.
I will give you an example that coincides with my personal circumstances, for I do not wish to speak over others’ narratives. But before I do, heed the reminder to not lose hope as you read. We are going deep & dark, yes. Though the crux of such, is to excavate just as much solution & liberation.
As a sex trafficking survivor, the term “prostitute” is at times thrown around as a loose descriptor. I have spoken of this repeatedly & have no plan to stop. Not only is it an inaccurate portrayal for the situation, but is also used to shoddily describe sex workers. Thus, the word is of a colonialist agenda, blurring the lines between choice & coercion or force. It does not differentiate between someone who chooses to do sex work for a living (as is their body, their sovereign decision) & someone who is non-consensually forced into sexual acts for money, which is trafficking. The usage of the term is based completely on insensitive assumption, over the importance of the individual. In an air of indifference, this description denotes both survivors & sex workers as obsolete, a double-disrespect. Not to mention, that professional sex workers are some of the top supporting advocates for survivors.
Yet, when I first understood what had happened, that was the word offered to my mental framework due to its use being more socially “normalized” in application to any sexual exchange for money - consensual or not. This was a wildly invalidating aspect to associate with myself or life & made me feel far more depersonalized than considered. Those who had overlaid the survivorship with being “a prostitute,” had absolutely NOTHING to do with changing the state of the abuse & therefore enabled it, not only in the external world but in my mind as well. The initial realization of recovered memory was met with mislabeling, which I then internalized. Inadequate verbiage similar to this is widespread - even throughout some organizations who at times give invalid statistics, or sponsor counterintuitive constructs. It’s no wonder that absorption of ailing thought about trauma occurs across the board with an elusively assisting example set.
Another theme of this pattern emerged when first speaking out about what happened - I was labeled “bipolar” or “schizophrenic” for my memories by blood-related onlookers, despite having absolutely zero diagnosis of either. My story was just barely crawling out from being silenced & manipulated, though had sound points, reason & reference. Regardless, I also internalized these false rationalizations, questioning myself even when I knew the truth. This is again, a result of an abuse tactic called gaslighting, which I will be covering extensively in my upcoming article entitled “Sociopath Grooming.”
Sadly, I am not the only person who this has happened to. Which, is why I use my vocality to advocate for anyone who has survived sexual exploitation or violation. In the above instances, it was up to me to break the chain, in spite of any naysayers - as happens to many feeling lost in legions of misrepresentatives. I am here to tell you that, when someone does not hear or encourage you from an educated place, your story & strength does not stop with their laziness or lack of empathy. Being present with the pain of the event & aftermath is part of the path, perhaps at times inconveniently.
Though, we are ultimately able to utilize this lull period to then motivate our map of:
• What we need & why we need it.
• How this impacted our overall, multilayered health. Then, from any symptoms, their potential treatments or rehabilitations.
• How sociopaths, oppressors & abusers work, so we can identify the red flags may they ever approach again.
• Our boundaries, along with our triggers, & how they may morph over time.
• What our greatest inner tools are to make it through a rough time, & hence the ability to share them with others.
• Where the wounds that apply to the trauma also have affected in our psychology or relationships, & the initiative to seek remedy.
• What support truly looks like to us. Hint: there are some general similarities, though everyone’s support language is uniquely personal.
• How we really feel about the experience, therefore the foundations of communicating & releasing these waves.
• Solidarity in those who resonate, so we may be collectively uplifted.
I encourage you to journal on these subjects, or think about them in whichever way is best suited to you.
This leads me into a peak point of turning misrepresentation into accurate representation. Again, I’ll speak from my background to give honest feedback. Here’s a brief outline of re-orienting traumatic occurrence:
A majority of my experiences happened when I was a child. Thus, I was dependent upon my parents to keep me safe. Essentially, this left me generally helpless to how they interacted with me as well as any dangers of the outside world.
The main wound-themes here are dependency & helplessness. These are supposedly neutral byproducts of being a child, but resulted in this context with massive negative implications. Understanding that they are, however, innocent aspects of being but a growing babe at the time, allows me to remove the fear-based film that had soured the perspective of these themes.
Now I can see that my dependency was actually a result of being interconnected to my family, & my helplessness was in a pure state of trust. These traits may have been tremendously exploited, but in my awareness of this, they are no longer. Now, I am able to speak & function for myself. I consciously choose to see these traits as reflections of my nature, holding immense capacity to connect with others & faithfully be present as a community participant. These characteristics, although have seen sorrow with not having been met in equity, are also monumental strengths to the expression of myself as a person.
Readers, this is the core of coming to terms with what we plant, root, & harvest over what has been inflicted upon us, as the prior will forever be intrinsically far more progressive. The winter always comes, yet there is always a new opportunity for crops to sprout. We do not forget what our eyes have seen, or where our bodies have been. Yet, we look at the lists of skills & qualities we present as what does, in fact, influence our existence most. If you have learned anything from this, I hope that it is to trust your resilience over any wrongful resistance. Live with the tools to assert boundaries on the course, & with reverence for self as we constantly change.
A bit of advice another ally in the realm of integrating spirit & survivorship, June Kaewsith, once passed my way has never since dissipated. She is the creator of Your Story Medicine (do yourself a solid, check out her content) & a powerhouse of creative activist cultivation. During a phone call discussing our missions & resonant timelines, she softly affirmed: “YOU are the expert. The men out there who have never stepped outside of privileged life & only read in a book what it means to do this work are no match. It is you, who has lived it, & knows it like the back of your hand. You show the way.” An academic success turned college dropout, I had never heard any assurance like this before - yet it was true. Now I say this to send along the message to you: it is YOU who has lived to today, YOU who has extracted the bravery, YOU who is the legacy of every season & rainfall. That is your superpower, & it is your purpose to sow. Do not deny your own persistent power.
People will talk, beings who do not respect sovereignty will seek ways to evade it, the cabal will probably continue to fund treacherous covert operations. It’s unfortunate, & we are in a world where it cannot be swept under the rug if any real progress is to be made. Yet, our most valuable response is to recalibrate the story to the truth, from a place with our feet firmly planted. Where, we know Who We Are. We know what we have seen, felt, endured. Now we know what we seek, want to feel & experience - with conviction, we will see it through ourselves. Microcommunities, including tangible assessments of accountability will arise. Numbers of people willing to commit to their evolution & empathetic responsibility are growing - given that you are reading this, you are likely among our expansion.
Once we know where we stand, they cannot touch us.
‘Til Next Time,
Eeden Theta Shale
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