Reaching Back: Human Connection in the Always Connected

Reaching Back: Human Connection in the Always Connected

 

Social media, the perpetual shiny.

Social media, the perpetual shiny.

One vast criticism I hear about our culture is that we are always on. We’ve got our phones, our tablets, our pads and laptops and screens, screens, screens, screens. Connection is in wires and out in the air around us. You can walk down a street in Nowhere, Iowa with an iPhone in front of your face, looking into the eyes of someone in Delhi if you want to. Waiting tables, it wasn’t uncommon to see an entire family with some sort of screen in front of them — to the point that I’d usually crow with delight when I saw a kid with a book. (Never saw kids reading on the Almighty Pad — just games or video.) And a restaurant in New York literally went through almost a decade of video footage to get the data on how much longer people spend staring at their phones than they do at the menu — and then blaming service. Excessive Facebooking has been blamed for higher divorce rates.

All of that paints an icky picture.

I’ve had a couple long conversations lately about this thing, this buzzing, elusive, jumpy, sparky thing called connection.

I can’t help thinking that a lot of what I’m about to say is based in an article I read about the happiness of married couples and the correlation made to whether or not each partner responds to the other’s bids for attention.

Social media is, at its core, just that. We put bits of ourselves and our lives out there in a bid for attention and connection. From frightening health concerns to “hahaha, this cat farted,” we’re ultimately reaching out for something and calling out into a can, hoping to encounter someone at the other end of the string who has their cylinder of metal to their ear.

If you ask me about Twitter, you’ll probably get a lengthy soliloquy about how much I love it. I love Twitter. I really do. Twitter is the social media I can use and write at the same time. It’s the thing I can do on the go and then do something else. And Twitter? It’s been the source of some of the most incredible friendships I have, a chance to interact with people I’d never have access to otherwise, and a source of information and laughter. Granted, my countdown to a Twitter shitstorm is still ticking away, being a feminist who writes SFF and likes video games, but up till now? Overwhelmingly positive.

Facebook is my biggest time suck, and I cannot Facebook and do anything productive.

Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp

But, pragmatically, Facebook has the highest level of engagement in shares, even if Twitter has faster response times and the potential for more observable exponential growth. (Look at me and my ROI bullshit, whee.)

For me, Twitter isn’t about ROI — it’s about relationships. I like hopping on and knowing I can hit the home button and probably see something interesting within ten tweets. I like that I can tweet a silly story and people will make ME laugh with their responses. And I like that the people who have opted to beam me into their tweet stream are from tons of different circles. Supernatural people. Scottish independence people. Writery people. Readery people.

love that I’ve met heaps of Twitter people face to face now and each time it’s been a sense of, “Yesssssss, it’s you! *high five*”

While this is a sort of detached dissection of social media and connection, for me its roots are deeply human. My community, most of whom I’ve never met face to face or hug to hug, saved me this month. My GISHWHES team has been a lifeline throughout this year’s myriad trials. Through heart attacks and family trauma, illness and financial woes, there’ve been many times when someone in our group has reached out and found digital hands to hold. For me, a person who has difficulty finding time and energy to pursue in person friendships, having a circle of friends all over the world who I can chat to at 2 AM or noon on any day is this introvert’s dream.

Ah, the Michael Bay-ification.

Ah, the Michael Bay-ification.

Thinking back to BurCon, I am reminded of how I wouldn’t have been sharing a room with Kelly without Twitter. There were other connections made at BurCon that were layered, social media threading through or sparking an interaction that would later become face to face, or vice versa.

I want to segue that into the title of this blog post — to this concept of reaching out and reaching back.

 

Two weeks ago, I reached out. Over a hundred people reached back in some way. One of those people gave me a copy of Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Askingand in it, she talks about the difference between being looked at and being seen. Many of us dislike being simply looked at. For me that sensation is tied to being the girl who blushed too easily in junior high, who the boys would then laugh at and point to because it made my blushing worse. And then there’s the counterpoint to being made an object, where someone’s eyes meet yours and you feel something shift in the air, that inaudible hum that tells you they get it, they get you — even if it’s just for a moment.

HiccupToothlessSmile

So much of our lives are built around searching for those moments, whether it’s with new acquaintances, old friends, family, significant others, or people we admire. Working in an industry where I’m at least partially a public figure and having friends and acquaintances at all levels and stages of their careers, I find it fascinating how those bids for attention happen — and how much the acknowledgement and response to those bids can be incredibly impactful. If you reach out to an author or celebrity you like and they reach back? It can be a hugely validating moment for both sides. Even though there is (and understandably so) a certain recognition of that strange limbo of I-know-who-you-are-but-you-don’t-know-me, that doesn’t preclude genuine connection.

At conventions this year, I met a few people who I’d heard of all over the place but had had no interaction with. Far from being a simple wave and handshake, some of those meetings have blossomed into mutual respect and friendship.

On a more “traditional” level, a bid for attention or acknowledgement can be as simple as making eye contact with someone over the canapes at the awkward holiday party at your new job. If someone connects and responds, it can be that same sort of validation. I see you. You’re worth my attention. Let’s find out about each other, shall we?

So often, the breakdown in relationships happens because someone makes a bid for attention and the other person either doesn’t respond — or responds with frustration, annoyance, or indifference.

What’s so interesting to me is that these things can happen in person, but they can happen just as easily (maybe even more easily) over social media and the internet. In person you might high five someone in a Doctor Who shirt or notice someone’s excitement at a song you love. On Twitter, someone might retweet something that resonates with you, you might follow, and boom. You’ve connected with someone you might never have otherwise seen.

The point is this: meaningful human connection isn’t constrained to your ability to smell someone’s garlic breath. While there is definitely a time to switch off the phone (or put it away) and look your server in the eye at a restaurant to order before turning back to the people you’re there with, the virtual connections we make can both create and reinforce the day-to-day.

It’s been three years now since Kristin and I started a friendship over shared grief and blogs. I realized Monday night in our little hangout with our gaming troupe that aside from my roommates, if something were to happen to me, she’d be the first to notice. We’ve spoken every day for all this time. That’s a relationship connection I never would have made in person were it not for the magic of technology pulling love out of the ether.

And I will never, ever forget the immense, ferocious kindness of my online community when I needed it the most.

Whatever holidays you celebrate, watch for those bids this season, both in person and from afar. The beauty of human connection is that even when you’re alone, you can feel the web you’re navigating. If you’re feeling alone and reach out, someone might just reach back.

 

What’s Funny? I’ll Tell You What’s NOT.

What’s Funny? I’ll Tell You What’s NOT.

 

Pepe Le Pew.

 

Trigger warning. This post will involve frank discussion of violence and rape.

When I was growing up, I used to laugh so hard at Pepe Le Pew. Stinky things are funny. They’re even funnier when they chase you. Farts are funny. Skunks are funny. I honestly don’t remember ever thinking, “JEEBUS PEPE LEAVE THE DAMN CAT ALONE.”

Pepe’s antics are “odor-able,” according to Looney Tunes. It’s a kids’ show. Cartoon. But when I was considering what to use for a lead-in, twenty-eight-year-old me got a shock. Because watching the first YouTube video of Pepe to pop up made me uncomfortable. Kitty says no. Pepe says “Le yes!” (Also, let’s just say that Looney Tunes were unabashedly racist and leave at that for the sake of staying on topic. *shakes head*)

There are all too many weird parallels between the average Pepe Le Pew episode and the actual, real, terrifying rape culture that exists in our world. He goes after her because of what she’s wearing — a white stripe that the cat usually acquires by accident, even. It’s actually pretty arbitrary. It’s Pepe’s interpretation of that stripe that makes him think it’s okay to go after the kitty and grab her. And the damn cat is terrified! Remember? She fights like the dickens. That’s not cute kid stuff. That’s…horrifying.

But you know what’s more horrifying? That it took about twenty-five years or so for me to get how not funny that really is. Because it’s a cartoon. It’s supposed to be funny. It’s supposed to be a joke, not blatant endorsement of “Who cares if she says no?”

These days, memes are the new cartoons for adults. We crack up at George Takei and all his funny shit. We ogle the omniscient Cheezburger for hours. We revel in FailBook and Grumpy Cat and all the other myriad captioned photos that pop up in our lives every day. And somehow, Pepe Le Pew became a real boy. Erm…skunk.

It’s been around for ages. On Facebook. There’s a whole heap of Facebook pages categorized as “humor” with names like “Raping a pregnant bitch and telling your friends you had a threesome.”

Photos of women with black eyes that are captioned, “Next time don’t get pregnant.” Photos of women tied up, bleeding, dangling from a car trunk. Photos that say, “Don’t wrap it and tap it. Tape her and rape her.”

This. Fucking. EXISTS. It exists. And Facebook says it’s “just humor.” They’ve told countless people who report these images that it’s not hate speech. They cite free speech. And even worse? Facebook has been deleting the report histories of people who’ve flagged these groups and images. I’m not kidding.

So Everyday Sexism has spearheaded a campaign to hit Facebook in the only thing they seem to care about: the moneybags. They’re screenshotting every image they report — with the sidebar ads. And they’re calling on advertisers to pull their money from Facebook until the company changes their policy.

Because Facebook is vigilant about racist posts. Religious intolerance. Hell, put up a photo of a woman breastfeeding her child, and you’ll get slapped on the wrist with your photo removed faster than you can say, “Parenting.”

But violent, graphic depictions of women that encourage rape, beating, and even murder? Facebook says that’s just dandy.

Already there are over 50,000 tweets with the hashtag #FBRape. Heaps of small (and increasing numbers of larger) businesses are yanking their money out of Facebook. But Facebook refuses to respond, refuses to listen, and refuses to change their policy that clearly puts women behind the rest of the world when it comes to being worthy of respect. A policy that believes men have more a right to joke about violating women than women have to feel safe on their website. Because if someone you know “likes” one of those photos, it could pop up in your news feed. I hope you don’t know anyone who thinks that stuff’s funny.

What can you do? If you’re a company or small business that pays for Facebook advertising, pull your money. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want your ad to show up on those pages — their algorithm targets users, not pages. It can show up next to something abhorrent without your consent. Pull your money. You can tweet with the hashtag. Maybe at 100,000 tweets. 500,000 tweets. 1,000,000 tweets. Maybe Facebook will listen. Tweet directly to Facebook. If you’re really serious and can handle seeing the images, wade in and start reporting. But make sure you take screenshots of the images. Document if and when your report histories get deleted. This proves a couple things — it proves that you reported it and that Facebook wants to erase the record of you doing so.

I can’t believe that’s even happening — blatant cover-ups and stonewalling in the name of “humor.”

I won’t post any of the pictures here. You can find them for yourself.

But I’m done sitting by quietly. I’m sincerely considering removing my Facebook pages until they change their policy.

What are you going to do?

 

 

 

Waking Up

Waking Up

It’s 7 November!

That means the election is over. The absurd attack ads, the ping-pong vitriol, the campaigning — all of it. Except on Facebook, where people are awfully depressed in my news feed. Which isn’t overly representative of what most of my friends actually think — on my author Facebook, there is a disproportionate number of conservative religious folk who are writers I know.

You know what else is over? Seeing Mitt’s beatific, oddly non-expressive cardboard smile everywhere. I’m grateful for that. There are many things I’m grateful for today.

Here are some of my rather general thoughts on yesterday.

Hearts and Candy

This was the biggest winner. Hearts and Candy (Photo credit: Rdoke)

1. Love won some serious victories.

My post yesterday was the story of my second mum and her partner, with whom she has been in love for over twenty years. Today, I woke up in a world where not only can NeeNee marry Carrie in their home state of Washington, but my friends and loved ones here in Maryland are free to marry whomever they choose in mine. And in Maine. And Minnesota voters condemned a ban on same-sex marriage, voting NOT to instate it in theirs.

Wisconsin elected America’s first openly gay senator.

I can’t express what it means to me that these huge steps were taken. When I grew up, it was before even Will and Grace. Before homosexuality really started to gain acceptance. And in my short lifetime, I’ve lived to vote for equality. And after the disappointment in California and other states in the last four years, waking up today and telling myself again what happened yesterday only reaffirmed the belief that it gets better.

It gets better.

Beautiful Latina Woman Smiling

Beautiful Latina Woman Smiling (Photo credit: epSos.de)

2. Women rocked the vote yesterday.

A whopping 54% of the electorate yesterday was female. Yesterday’s results can be credited in large part to the women of America for making a choice to vote for a man who respects us, doesn’t talk down to us, doesn’t make outrageous comments about rape (or binders), respects our rights to our own bodies, acknowledges our potential and contributions to society, believes we should be compensated fairly for our work, and above all, is a man who believes his two daughters are going to change the world.

I see that every time I watch Barack Obama look at the two first daughters. And in what he said about them last night, putting their strength and intelligence before their beauty. That language is telling more than anything else.

Yesterday is what happens when women vote in force, and I could not be more proud. Romney lost over 12% of the women who had voted for McCain. More on that in a minute.

We women are real winners today.

Youthful Obama Supporters

Youthful Obama Supporters (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

3. America is a melting pot today more than ever.

Alongside the massive turnout of women was the massive turnout of African-American and Latino voters. I have no doubt that this decided the election. More and more, our country is a diverse nation filled with people from all over the planet. We are all guests and immigrants, and the demographics of our country are not a static thing. They are changing.

I personally love it. It means people still want to come here. And it will force us to work together. Which brings me to my next thought.

The red "GOP" logo used by the party...

The red “GOP” logo used by the party for its website (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. The GOP needs to adapt, and fast.

In this election, Mitt Romney alienated huge demographics of America by taking hardlined stances about immigration, electing a running mate who co-authored a bill with blackballed GOP Senator Todd Akin that included the term “forcible rape,” threatened to cut Medicaid, and got caught calling 47% of the country freeloading jerks.

From here on out, no election will be won without the support of women, African-Americans, the GLBTQ community, and (not or) Latinos.

Let me repeat that in a different way: America is no longer a nation that can be controlled by straight white Christian men.

The face of America has changed while the GOP was busy stewing for the last 6 or so years.

And you won’t convince me that’s a bad thing. This country will move forward, and if the GOP can’t adapt, can’t make themselves relevant to minorities and less repulsive to women, a new party will take their place. More and more Americans identify as independents. What that says to me is that the Republican party’s uber-conservative social policies have made it abhorrent to a large chunk of the country that would otherwise be considered fiscally conservative or moderate.

More and more people believe that civil marriage is a civil right. More and more people believe that immigrants to this country should get to stay here. More and more people believe that women should have the rights to choose when and if they have children. More and more people believe that women should be compensated the same as men for performing the same jobs.

Those are not currently values of the Republican party. The rest of America is shifting away from an extremely conservative base, and that extremely conservative base does not like it.

I’ve said multiple times this election that if Mitt Romney was running on the same principles that made him governor of Massachusetts, he would have a chance at my vote. But I can’t take a politician seriously when he says one thing to one person, then turns around and says something diametrically opposed to the first statement to someone else and repeats that cycle indefinitely.

The GOP needs to remake their party, because guess what? Latino voters, African-American voters, LBGTQ voters,  and women are not going anywhere in this country. I think we saw last night that the minorities formed a coalition to get a majority.

Also lost to the GOP was the youth vote. One of the pundits last night said that historically speaking, if youth vote for one party three times, they won’t switch later. And the youth went overwhelmingly to Obama again. The next generation is moving leftward organically, especially on social issues.

The Republicans would be wise to consider that starting now.

Or, you know, don’t. Whatever. I’m just saying that if they want to win elections, they need to stop alienating over half of the country. That’s not crazy libbie speak. That’s simple arithmetic.

English: An aerial view of Mount Everest.

English: An aerial view of Mount Everest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5. Finally, this is what we’ve got in front of us.

It’s gonna be a long, hard climb. Onto a saner time, so I invite you, friend. Come take my hand.*

I woke up today to a nation deeply divided.

Deeply, painfully divided.

I only have to look at my news feed on Facebook to see that some people (so far all white, mostly middle-aged, all Christian in the case of my Facebook people) are hugely distressed by last night’s outcome.

I don’t have any words of comfort. The world is changing, and they feel frustrated and probably disenfranchised. I can only guess that many people, either consciously or subconsciously, believe that their values are getting sidelined.

One thing I would say, which is admittedly a bit of a devil’s advocate-y thing to say to them, is this: if the wide perception of your party is that it is a party of hatred and exclusion, you need to be asking yourself honestly why. Not getting upset with people, because we all know how much that changes minds. Not pointing to the Bible, because all of us are wondering why you point to the Old Testament and Paul’s writings instead of the red letters. Not trying to convince us that gay people are evil, because that’s just silly.

Ask yourselves why so many people think your party is exclusive and hateful. Don’t start in with Rush Limbaugh apologetics, actually think about it. And better yet, talk to people and hear why they think that. I guarantee you they have reasons.  If you want to maintain or not lose more political power, you have to compromise with the changing face of your nation.

Don’t get left behind. We have a long road ahead to recovering this nation. Come with us instead of digging in your heels.

I’ll wrap up with this, The New Colossus, which people always seem to forget is emblazoned on our Statue of Liberty:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

That is what our nation was founded upon.

What do you think about the election? Are you satisfied with the outcome? How are you going to take up the responsibility to move our country forward?

*These are sort of paraphrased lyrics to a Libby Roderick song.

Blood, Bones, and Lollipops

Blood, Bones, and Lollipops

Good afternoon, gentle viewers!

There is a LOT going on in Emmie-land this week. Rain’s falling from the sky with little misty pitter-pats against my windows, the dog has her head stuffed into a chair cover with the cat pouncing it from the other side, and I have a great deal of  remarkable things I want to share with you on this somewhat unremarkable Monday.

I feel appreciated! :D

First of all, I was the happy recipient of the Reader Appreciation Award from the wonderful Nila E. White. You should all definitely check out her blog. Her posts are full of great tips for writers and bloggers all peppered with a healthy amount of snark that I always find refreshing. Plus, she comes off with these gems of dry little one liners that make me laugh out loud. She said I could do whatever I want with this award, so I thought I would use it to build a castle.

Linlithgow Castle engraving by William Miller ...

Linlithgow Castle engraving by William Miller after G F Sargent (Miller paid £10-10-0 in xii 1831 for engraving), published in The Castles, Palaces and Prisons of Mary of Scotland. Charles Mackie. London. C Cox, 12, King William St, Strand, Oliver & Boyd Edinburgh, David Robertson, Bookseller to the Queen Glasgow, James Chalmers Dundee, & J Robertson Dublin. 1849 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But then I realised I lack the requisite skills to make a castle out of an award, so that project will have to go on hold.

Secondly, my lovely friend Kristin McFarland has just gotten married (YAY, KRISTIN!) and I am lucky enough to have gotten to write a little guest blog for her about wedding politics, which you can find here. While you’re there, shoot her a giant congrats!

The third bit of news is that my husband and I had a very long and intense discussion the other day in which he suggested I take a break from blogging to give myself time to finish my current WIP. I proceeded to balk and get rather surly in the vein of a toddler with a lollipop that’s been dropped in the cat box when the toddler doesn’t understand why she can’t lick off the sprinkles.

To clarify, this blog has nothing to do with a cat box.

I balked and surlied all the way up until yesterday at work when I discovered they had posted the new schedule. Turns out I’m the only one not going out of town for half of June, so I got scheduled eight shifts over six days next week. And my head promptly spun around and exploded.

Poof

This is all that’s left. Poof (Photo credit: cobalt123)

I started to come to the conclusion that Spouse’s advice may have been a Reluctant Good Idea, which is one of those types of ideas that parade about disguised as a bad or stinky idea until they’ve matured for a few days. Sort of like a nice brie, or a juicy cabernet.

I wish I had a cabernet about now.

In light of that, I wanted to share with you that I will be taking a twelve day hiatus from blogging. But!

There’s a but!

A really big but!

Elephant Butts

Elephant Butts (Photo credit: jmcgrath)

A few, even. :)

But #1

I am far enough into this WIP that I finally feel I can safely share a couple things about it. So I hope you will forgive me for my impending absence because I’m about to throw you some Real Emmie Writing News for the first time in a while. Still love me?

Here’s the working logline, etc.

A mid-level accountant accidentally drinks an experimental serum created to cure her boss’s daughter of terminal cancer.

Gwenllian Maule wants to go one day without incurring the wrath of Annamaria de Fournay, who rules their office like the Queen of Hearts, reeking of rosewater and threatening people’s heads. But when Gwen accidentally drinks a serum intended to cure de Fournay’s terminally ill daughter, Gwen becomes the Queen’s primary target for a new reason — the serum meant to battle cancer has given Gwen superpowers.

With Scotland in turmoil and a referendum for independence creeping closer by the day, Gwen needs answers. And when one of de Fournay’s associates kidnaps the head of the Scottish National Party, Gwen is drawn into the political fray with the help of a nationalist neighbour, a unionist boyfriend, a flighty flatmate, and a wee birdie. She has to choose which side of the fence to land on.

Superpowers don’t make a superhero. Can Gwen figure out what does?

See some of the inspiration behind the novel here — and the working title.

Pardon me while I prance about in apprehension. This is the first time this premise has seen the light of day, so I hope you all feel special. Muah!

But #2 

I’ve decided I want to go back to my former posting schedule, which if you’re newer around here means back to posting every day. I managed to post every day for six months, in spite of crazed work schedules and NaNoWriMo, and I feel that posting three times a week has given me too much slack to make excuses and not be consistent.

I am already generating some new content ideas, and I intend to return to some of the previous themed days. If you’ve been missing Monday Man and Wednesday Woman and my other awesome alliterations (see what I did there?), you can sit back on your haunches and anticipate, because July is a new month.

But #3

Last but not least, I will still be on Twitter, Facebook, Triberr, and Pinterest for the next couple weeks. I’m not going to vanish from social media, and though I won’t be posting new blogs, I will be working on a snazzy, action-packed month of July for you. This blog is by me, for you, so in the next couple weeks feel free to drop by one of my other haunts and tell me what you want to hear about and what matters to you.

That said, here’s a poll. :)

There you have it, gentle viewers. I am signing off. I encourage you to join me on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest if you haven’t already.

I love to hear from you! What do you think about my writing news? What do you want to hear about when I return? What is  your name? What is your favourite colour? What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Until the Violence Stops, I Shall Raise My Voice

Until the Violence Stops, I Shall Raise My Voice

Hope like dew.

Today I’m going to tell a story, gentle viewers. It’s a story with a lot of feelings behind it, wrapped up in it, entwined in it. Some of those feelings are harsh like needles on very cold skin. Some of those feelings are like knowing you’re alone and unsafe in the dark. Some are relief like water. Others are hot like pain.

I promise you two things if you stay with me.

I promise you honesty. I will be candid. I will be open. I will paint a blurry watercolor and not a pen and ink to spare you details. But you will be among the first to hear this story.

I promise you hope. While this story starts on the outskirts of darkness and wades in, it also wades back out into the light.

I promise you honesty, and I promise you hope. If you take my hand, I will tell you a story.

My story.

This story doesn’t begin with a once upon a time, nor does it end with a happily ever after. It’s in no way a fairy tale, and that is okay. It shouldn’t be a fairy tale. It simply is. A tale.

They say it’s almost always someone you know. We humans fear strangers like we fear the night, but for me it happened in the broad light of day under a hot southern sun, and it was someone I knew.

The asphalt caught my shirt and jeans as I sat on the ground to end things with him. He lay next to me, puppy dog eyes full of knowing. Knowing that his words affected me. Knowing that I flinched from him already. He told me his earlier words were my fault. He accused me of lying with a smile on his face and  the whisper of a wagging finger behind his gaze. I had never lied to him. I told him it was over, and I meant it.

For a long time I thought what he did was my fault because I thought I owed him the courtesy of telling him face-to-face when he had already brutally destroyed my trust in him.

I told him it was over, and he tried to kiss me. I said no. Over and over I said no. I pushed him away. I repeated that tiny syllable. I said it louder. And finally I froze. I went somewhere else. And when I came back, it was over. In a tiny voice I told him I hadn’t wanted that.

And he told me I should have stopped him.

You know what I’m talking about, gentle viewers. You know what happened. You know what it was he blamed me for. I’m sorry if it causes you distress. But I promised you honesty, and I promised you hope. You have the first, and the second is coming.

Months went by before I could say the word. Three months passed before I had the strength to cut him from my life. Still he followed. He called. He asked to see me. He pried into my friendships and asked me about any dates. Seven months went by before he tracked me down at work and called me there. Seven hours went by after that before I called him and told him never to contact me again. Six months later, he tried to message me on Facebook.

Somewhere in that span of time, I admitted to myself what he had done to me. I said the word in my head, a tiny tendril of thought, a wisp of smoke in a darkened room. I said the word rape, and it sounded raw in my mind. I spoke to a few trusted friends. And when I did, some dam burst.

I wasn’t alone.

By everything sacred and warm, I wasn’t alone. Women I loved. Women I knew  and knew well. I hadn’t known that we shared that word. I hadn’t known. With one story we were suddenly bound tighter. Bound in silence and grief. I had always judged women who didn’t report their rape. I had thought insidious damning thoughts, wondering how things would get better if women didn’t tell. Until it happened to me. And now I know why they don’t break their silence.

Here are reasons, and some of them are mine.

He was a friend. He was well-known. Everyone loved him. He was charming. He was kind. No one would believe me. I had no proof. He was my husband. He was a cop. He was a marine. He was a fellow soldier. He was drunk. I was drunk. I’d slept with him before. I’m a man. It wouldn’t even go to trial. He didn’t leave a mark. He used a condom. He used his hand. He didn’t hear me say no. He’d say I was lying. No one would believe me. She was a woman. He was a politician. He was married. He had a gun. He told me he’d kill me if I told anyone. He said I had it coming. He said it was my fault. I believed it was my fault. 

Most rapists are never convicted. I think the number stands around 2%.

Something happened that day. It dropped a thick dark sludge into a pure place of my soul. It cut a ragged swatch from my confidence, from my self-respect. It made me feel weak and lesser and small. Those words, “You should have stopped me” ran on repeat in my mind. Could I have fought harder? Could I have kicked and screamed? Yes. I could have.

But no one would have heard me, and he could have hurt me worse. He was 6’3″ and over 250. I weighed half as much.

When I met my husband, the first few days of our acquaintance showed me something vital, something that began to slowly patch the rift in my honor and dignity. It was a simple, simple thing.

I set a boundary. He honored it.

That is hope. That is light and warmth and hope. That is what makes love happen, for it is the foundation of trust. It took the words of friends and family and the fledgling hope built by the man who would become my husband to show me that my boundaries are valid. That when I say no, that means more than “no further,” it means “back off.”

I shared my story with you today because in the three and a half years since I was raped, I have heard over a score of stories from women I love. I’ve heard even more from women I don’t know — but with whom I share that raw and frightening word.

I thank you humbly and from my heart for listening to my story.

There is a woman named Eve Ensler. Years ago, before I joined this community of survivors, I knew of her. She wrote The Vagina Monologues. She is a survivor of abuse and of virulent cancer. And she started a movement called V-Day that has raised over $85 million to stop violence against women and girls.

For the next week, I have dedicated my voice and my blog to sharing her vision. I promised you hope, gentle viewers, and I shall deliver. I will take you on a journey of hope and inspiration. A journey of renewal and vitality. I will tell you the stories of the women who have shaped our world and who have shaped my life. I truly hope you will join me.

Women are beautiful inside and out. Women are kind. Women are strong. Women are fighters. Women survive. Women overcome. Women have the power to defeat their pasts.

I hope you agree.

I hope you’ll share this week with me.

As always, I invite discussion. How have you seen women overcome tragedy (not necessarily sexual violence)? How have the women in your life shown you their strength? Their hope? Their ability to survive? 

If you tell me about one of your heroes, I will include her in Thursday’s blog about the women who have inspired me. 

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