In an effort to relieve the misplaced shame many sexual assault survivors carry, Betty’s Battleground is dedicating the month of November 2017 to sexual assault and rape awareness. I began the series with a post about the psychological impact of being raped and how you can help a loved one who has been raped. For the second post of the series, I bring a guest post by one of my grad school cohorts, Zoe Azrael. Part of the Healing Words series, it discusses her experiences with sexual assault as a youth, the shame she experienced as a result, and how she has intentionally reclaimed ownership of her mind and body since.
Once you’re done reading Zoe’s story–and please do read Zoe’s story, it will be your loss if you don’t–I hope you’ll come back and check out my latest on Vice. This one is also about the way women’s bodies are hijacked and controlled, but this time it takes place in prison and it’s government officials who are doing a legally sanctioned version of bodily hijacking. Read “Another Way Prisons Treat Pregnant Women Like Shit” on Tonic/VICE.
Zoe Azrael holds an MA in Poetry from Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville and an MFA in Creative Writing from Naropa University. Mountains make her feel alive.
I have not been very happy this past year. Just over a year ago, on an innocuous evening in June, someone knocked on my door while I was in the bathroom. My husband answered, and accepted a packet that an unfamiliar layman was delivering for me. My world changed while I was taking a piss.
The packet was a lawsuit; a motion for genetic testing to establish paternity. Had I answered the door, I would have been able to identify the layman who’d delivered it to my home address as the father of the man who physically and sexually abused me for four years when I was a teenager. The paternity suit in the packet was legitimate; my abuser fathered my eldest child, though he had been uninvolved in my son’s life for almost as long as my son had been alive.
The parentage suit, which was quickly followed by a custody suit, threw my world into a darkness almost as deep and suffocating as the four years of our relationship. I had to recount, and then defend, the worst instances of my abuse. My abuser submitted intimate letters and photographs, which he had apparently kept in his possession for ten years, with the seeming sole purpose of humiliating me. I was obsessively fearful for my son’s safety, especially because he is a non-verbal autistic. My PTSD was aggressively aggravated, and my lowest shames were paraded before my abuser for his amusement and use. On top of that, my beloved Abuelita (grandmother) had died just a month earlier, and I was struggling to recover from my PTSD related suicide attempt. The past year has been a hell.
But this isn’t a post about hell. This isn’t a post about the custody case. This post is about the little pricks of light that shone through the darkness of the past year, sometimes impossibly so; those fervent, stubborn moments of happiness and joy that kept me dragging onward through the fight. This is a post about happiness that chose to exist beyond all odds. Dissident happiness.