They say a picture is worth 1000 words, but the one I’m looking at always leaves me speechless. Crooked teeth, a bad haircut, and a smile as big as it gets. I can’t remember the six year old child looking back at me. No matter how far back into my memory I go, I just can’t recall the moment. None of it is familiar. Not the table or the doll or even the girl. It’s an odd feeling, looking into your own eyes and seeing nothing but a stranger staring back.
I’ve never complained about my path. “It is what it is,” I’m fond of reminding people. Various foster homes segued to failed adoption placements; I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s who I am. With each passing year, though, who I was slips just a little farther out of reach. I don’t have baby pictures. I don’t know what I looked like then. I don’t know if I had a kindergarten graduation. I don’t know if I had birthday parties or sleepovers. It’s as if my life began at 12.
Several years ago, I was able to gain access to pictures from my past. Snapshots. Of me. Tiny and innocent. I stared hard at each picture, willing myself to remember, to go back to those places. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t. I don’t remember the poor, dirty, neglected me. Vague snippets of events still come back to me. But real, true day to day life…it eluded me. I was thankful.
There are moments, though, that I will never forget. I’ve never been fond of the word “victim”. But, it’s what I am. There was a time I swore I’d never use that word; “victim”. It implies weakness and loss of control. “Childhood victim of sexual violence” is even worse. It evokes pity, horror, and that always ridiculous response; “You’re so strong.”
I wrote this once for a friend’s blog: “I wish my strength came from a beautiful place. I wish my scars weren’t my badge of courage. I know I’m strong. But it’s not a choice. Not when the choices are to either live or to crumple up into a ball.” Who would opt to live a half-life? A weepy, shattered, and constantly scarred existence? Strong? You’re damn right I am.
Strong. And angry. I’m angry that people like Lena Dunham do a disservice to rape victims everywhere. I am angry that in order to sell books, she threw down the victim card, snatching it back only when the public dared to question her version of events. And only after “evil Republican Barry from Oberlin College” became real and hired a lawyer.
Of the claims in her book, she writes:
Speaking out was never about exposing the man who assaulted me. Rather, it was about exposing my shame, letting it dry out in the sun. I did not wish to be contacted by him or to open a criminal investigation. I am in a loving and peaceful place in my life and I am not willing to sacrifice any more of it for this person I do not know, aside from one night I will never forget. That is my choice.
If she was raped, I do not blame her. If she was raped, I feel badly that she has more shame than anger. If she was raped, I feel badly that the “loving and peaceful place” she exists doesn’t allow her to protect other women. Because if she was raped, she should never want another human being to feel the way she feels. She should never want another woman to become a victim.
If she was raped.