So, I’m going to start this post with a trigger warning: I do mention rape and sexual assault. If these are difficult topics for you, please don’t read the post, or only read it when you feel safe. This is good self care!
Last week, after several phone calls and emails from various women in my life, I wrote this (on my personal FB page):
In the past week, I have had the honor (and I do consider it a deep honor) to listen to six women who needed to talk about their rapes and sexual assaults. And I want to say two things:
1. No matter where your emotional pain comes from (sexual assault or bad day at work) please do not negate your pain by comparing it to someone else’s pain. There are stories in our society that comparing pain helps us feel better. This is generally untrue. What negating our pain does is hobble our emotional self. It leaves our story untold. It diminishes our capacity for self-compassion. And it leaves us feeling guilty for our pain, and feeling our pain is the only way to heal it.
Your pain is your pain and that is all that needs to be said. Do not compare, please. It only hurts your heart further.
2. Although there are legal definitions of what constitutes ‘violation’ (sexual or otherwise), on the human level, ‘violation’ happens the moment you feel violated. Emotional overwhelm (trauma) is the definition of ‘violation’ and it occurs at a different point for each person. Just because your violation does not meet legal standards does not mean violation did not occur.
Rape and sexual assault are not just perpetrated on the body. They hurt the heart and spirit, too.
And I just really want to take a moment and remind you that your pain does not compare to anyone else’s. Yes, others may handle ‘more’ or ‘less’ than us, but each of us hurts, and hurts deeply sometimes.
Menopause and The Sex Surge issues and just basic woman stuff can be so painful. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
One woman can totally handle gigantic cramps, while another woman needs to call in sick once a month because the 1/4 bottle of Aleve is not cutting the pain.
One woman can welcome her divorce, while another agonizes over it (also: both can be true!).
One woman might be able to totally let her children fly free and leave home with no regrets on her part, while another lets them go but weeps for weeks or months at the changed connection.
We all handle pain differently, but that does not mean we should judge it or compare it. Judging our pain as ‘less important’ compared to another just heaps more suffering on top of the pain. Let’s not add to our own suffering, okay? Let’s not get in our own way of healing.
When faced with personal pain, I think we just need to say: “This is painful for me.” “This hurts.” “I feel really awful right now.” (“I don’t like this,” is also totally up for grabs.)
With close friends, we might be able to safely quantify the pain- “this fucking sucks and I’m at a 9.5 with the pain, can I please have a hug and a bottle of wine?” Or “I’m at a 4 with this, kinda hurting but also able to keep going. Can I have a hug and a bottle of wine?” :o)
I guess, I just want to drive home the point that judging our pain doesn’t help anyone. Judging and comparing doesn’t let us tell our true story. And telling our story is where we find solace and make space to learn from our pain.
When we’re in pain, it’s okay. It’s not fun, but it’s okay. And if we can let it be what it is- our pain and not another’s- we can ease our own suffering.
::: ::: ::: :::
If you need or want someone to talk to about your rape or sexual assault, I will listen, for fr-ee. The events of the past few weeks in America (the Turner case) have brought up memories for a lot of women. I’m glad to help if you need a place to talk. Just contact me.