VERY MIXED FEELINGS TODAY

Five years ago, on Saturday the 24th of September, my life changed in ways I could never have predicted.  And though my life now, 5 years later, is amazing, the road to where I am now has been challenging.  Understatement of the year.  All in all, for the majority of the time, I am happy, healthy, newly married (in May) and ‘completely’ healed from my attack.  I have to put completely in quotation marks because I am not sure I will ever be completely over what happened.  That has been very apparent this last week.  Physically I have been a bit of a wreck.  My body seems to understand what my mind is incapable of grasping:  my attack is still stored in my cells, in the muscle memory of my physical self.  Well, crap.

On Monday I decided I needed to know exactly when DCD was being released from prison.  According to my calculations it should’ve been right around now.  He received a 6 year sentence and has to serve 85% of it, less time served at sentencing, which was 317 days.  When I put his name in the ‘who’s in jail’ web site, I got nothing.  I remembered he had used another name, looked through my files to find it, put that name in, and got the same result…not in the system.  I thought I had signed up to be notified when that happened, but, it turned out, I had not.  Crap, again.  So I called the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to find out his status.  The officer I spoke with asked for his prisoner number, which I did not have.  He asked if I was the victim.  I told him I was.  He gave me the number I was lacking and told me where he is now housed and that he would not be getting out any time soon.  He also suggested I call the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services to find out more information about his release date.  I did this and that’s when I found out I neglected to actually sign up to be notified when he would be released.  It’s not that I am afraid he will come after me once he is released.  I simply want to know when he is out.

Life does go on, and as much as I’d love to never have had this happen, it did.  The following quote pretty much sums up how I feel about it now:

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We all get to choose how we react to what happens to us.  I choose to see it as a blessing, and to share my ongoing, ever-changing story.  My hope is that I am making a “difference by being the difference.”

JOE BIDEN’S OPEN LETTER TO THE VICTIM OF THE STANFORD RAPE CASE

From UPWORTHY.COM:

“The case’s convicted perpetrator, Brock Turner, was given just six months behind bars, despite sentencing guidelines that could have resulted in him facing up to 14 years.
Why? Jail could have a “severe impact” on the 20-year-old criminal, Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky had determined.”  Really?  REALLY???

“I do not know your name — but your words are forever seared on my soul. Words that should be required reading for men and women of all ages.

Words that I wish with all of my heart you never had to write.

I am in awe of your courage for speaking out — for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim to human dignity.

And I am filled with furious anger — both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth.

It must have been wrenching — to relive what he did to you all over again. But you did it anyway, in the hope that your strength might prevent this crime from happening to someone else. Your bravery is breathtaking.

You are a warrior — with a solid steel spine.

I do not know your name — but I know that a lot of people failed you that terrible January night and in the months that followed.

Anyone at that party who saw that you were incapacitated yet looked the other way and did not offer assistance. Anyone who dismissed what happened to you as “just another crazy night.” Anyone who asked “what did you expect would happen when you drank that much?” or thought you must have brought it on yourself.

You were failed by a culture on our college campuses where one in five women is sexually assaulted — year after year after year. A culture that promotes passivity. That encourages young men and women on campuses to simply turn a blind eye.

The statistics on college sexual assault haven’t gone down in the past two decades. It’s obscene, and it’s a failure that lies at all our feet.

And you were failed by anyone who dared to question this one clear and simple truth: Sex without consent is rape. Period. It is a crime.

I do not know your name — but thanks to you, I know that heroes ride bicycles.

Those two men who saw what was happening to you — who took it upon themselves to step in — they did what they instinctually knew to be right.

They did not say, “It’s none of my business.”

They did not worry about the social or safety implications of intervening, or about what their peers might think.

Those two men epitomize what it means to be a responsible bystander.

To do otherwise — to see an assault about to take place and do nothing to intervene — makes you part of the problem.

Like I tell college students all over this country — it’s on us. All of us.

We all have a responsibility to stop the scourge of violence against women once and for all.

I do not know your name — but I see your unconquerable spirit.

I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman — full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest.

I see you.

You will never be defined by what the defendant’s father callously termed “20 minutes of action.”

His son will be.

I join your global chorus of supporters because we can never say enough to survivors: I believe you. It is not your fault.

What you endured is never, never, never, NEVER a woman’s fault.

And while the justice system has spoken in your particular case, the nation is not satisfied.

And that is why we will continue to speak out.

We will speak to change the culture on our college campuses — a culture that continues to ask the wrong questions: What were you wearing?

Why were you there? What did you say? How much did you drink?

Instead of asking: Why did he think he had license to rape?

We will speak out against those who seek to engage in plausible deniability. Those who know that this is happening, but don’t want to get involved. Who believe that this ugly crime is “complicated.”

We will speak of you — you who remain anonymous not only to protect your identity, but because you so eloquently represent “every woman.”

We will make lighthouses of ourselves, as you did — and shine.

Your story has already changed lives.

You have helped change the culture.

You have shaken untold thousands out of the torpor and indifference toward sexual violence that allows this problem to continue.

Your words will help people you have never met and never will.

You have given them the strength they need to fight.

And so, I believe, you will save lives.

I do not know your name — but I will never forget you.

The millions who have been touched by your story will never forget you.”  ~Joe Biden
And if everyone who shared your letter on social media, or who had a private conversation in their own homes with their daughters and sons, draws upon the passion, the outrage, and the commitment they feel right now the next time there is a choice between intervening and walking away — then I believe you will have helped to change the world for the better.

Biden’s words — as well as the survivor’s letter she read aloud to her attacker — are rippling across the internet for one very important reason: Millions of us are disgusted, fed up, and demanding change to a culture that’s allowed this atrocity to happen.

To every warrior with a spine of solid steel: We hear you, we support you, and we stand by your side.

What I know for certain is as violent as my attack was and as hard as it was to recover from it, it was incredibly lucky.  I had a judge who understood that I was not at fault, that what my attacker did to me was not okay by any stretch, that he made a choice to sexually assault me and because of that decision, he would be sentenced to the maximum allowed by California law for the crimes he was charges with.  I am grateful every day that my case went the way it did.  If he had gotten just 6 months or probation, as his attorney asked, my healing process would have been that much more difficult and lengthy.  My heart goes out to the victim of Brock Turner’s rape.  Understand this, though, she is NOT a victim, only the victim of a rape.  In time, with a lot of support and hard work, she will recover.

AN ACCIDENTAL REWIRING

Turns out our brains are a lot more elastic or plastic than was originally thought.  The old thinking was once you reached a certain age, your brain was, for lack of a better way to say it, set in stone.  The neurons were thought to migrate to predetermined locations in the brain.  Once there, they performed only certain functions.  New research has shown that it is possible to change our brains.  This is good news.  No, really, this is great news. We are no longer necessarily stuck with a brain that does not work for us, and by this I mean that when I accidentally rewired my brain to crave sugar and carbs and other things that are not good for my overall health, I have the ability to change it, to rewire it again.

After my attack 4 1/2 years ago, to help me feel better, I started eating cupcakes and macaroni and cheese and soft pretzels and rolls and, well, you get the picture.  In 2010, for the most part, I stopped eating bread and pasta.  And even more importantly, I stopped eating most processes sugars.  No coke, no more of my beloved (sad, but true) slurpees, no sweet tarts or jelly beans.  Or if I did have a treat, it was not very often and I never went overboard.  When I was sexually assaulted in September of 2011, that all changed.  I was doing my best to heal and part of that, unfortunately, involved self-soothing, which took the form of eating comfort foods.  Over time, my brain changed, and through the long process of healing and reclaiming my life, I inadvertently created another problem, though it has taken several years for me to completely understand exactly what I did.

I’ve always been a huge reader and though I enjoy fiction tremendously, I also love inspirational, self-help-type books, too.  Since I am always working on improving myself and my life, I am pretty open to most books that encourage that.  I am also a life-long athlete and, as I’ve written about before, after my attack, I went from walking 60-90 miles a week to zero.  Luckily, I found yoga a couple of weeks before my attack and I was no longer able to walk outside alone.  Still, not having that outlet for stress release and staying in shape was a huge loss.  HUGE.  So, I was on the lookout for books to, perhaps, change my life.  I read (listened to, actually) Grain Brain and Brain Maker by Kristin Loberg and Dr. David Perlmutter, Wheat Belly by William Davis, Use Your Brain to Change Your Age by Dr. Daniel Amen, The Wisdom of Your Cells by Dr. Bruce Lipton, The New Sugar Busters by H. Leighton Steward, Morrison Bethea, Sam Andrews and Luis Balart, and countless others.  While all were good, and some I’ve even listened to more than once, and all had good advise and wisdom to pass along, I still was not ‘getting it.’  I might try out a few of the suggestions, but nothing stuck for long.

A walk with a friend a couple of weeks ago ended up supplying the missing link, so to speak.  Just in passing he mentioned It Starts With Food by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig.  I cannot tell you now what it was he said that made me go home and check if the book was available on audible.com.  It was, and I got it.  From practically the first sentence I realized this was the book that was going to literally change my life.  I finally got it.  I also knew that I needed the actual book to refer to.  At the bookstore, however, I ended up with their followup book, The Whole30, subtitled The 30-Day Guide to TOTAL HEALTH and FOOD FREEDOM, which is the one I really needed.  This book explains the entire program and how to accomplish it.  It contains recipes, tips, hints and, basically, a blueprint for (my words) a new life!  And today starts that 30-day trip.

I will be chronicling my journey here, partly so that I am accountable and partly so that others may, hopefully, be helped, as well.  I keep hearing from people who have done the Whole30 that it is hard, that you always end up ‘falling off the wagon’ at some point.  While this may be true, I am confident that I am truly ready for the changes that eating clean will bring about.  I am so ready to be clean of my sugar habit.  I’ve spoken about it before and the trouble I’ve had with kicking the habit.  Like I just said, I AM READY, and this, I think, will make all the difference.  Will I never eat something that is less than perfectly healthy again?  In all likelihood, I probably will, but once I have rewired my brain to crave healthy, whole foods again, a slip or, rather, a conscious choice to eat something that is less than ‘good’ will not result in disaster.  It took a long time to wire my brain to want a cupcake once a week.  Likewise, once I am where I want to be with regard to food, one soft pretzel or martini will not create a new, unwanted neural pathway in my brain.

We all always have a choice.  My choice is to eat clean to reset my brain and hormones.

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If you would like, please join me on this journey.  We can help each other along the way.

A CLEAR MESSAGE?

I attended an orientation yesterday afternoon for people who think they may be interested in becoming an advocate for victims of sexual assault. This is something I’ve contemplated off and on since my attack, and when I was recently telling my story, it was suggested that, perhaps, the time had come to think more seriously about it. At the time, my first response was “I’m not ready yet.” The more I thought about it though, the more the idea grew on me.

First up, I had to google sexual assault advocacy to find out what, if anything, was even available. I immediately found an organization that sounded really good. The more I read, the better it sounded. Then I realized they were located in New Jersey. As good as they seemed, I figure that’s a bit too far away to do me any good. So it was back to google with San Diego added to my search. I finally got to where I needed to be, which in this area is CCS, Center for Community Solutions.  The mission of CCS is “to end relationship and sexual violence by being a catalyst for caring communities and social justice.”  And its vision is “for all people to live full, free, expressive and empowered loves in a safe, healthy, vibrant and peaceful community.”

“CCS was first established in 1969 as the Center for Women’s Studies and Services(CWSS), a grassroots feminist organization that helped women overcome obstacles preventing them from achieving independence, economic stability and growth, and self-sufficiency.  Over the years, in response to community needs, CWWS narrowed its focus to address three core issues—relationship violence, sexual assault and the prevention of both.  In the mid 1990s, CWSS adopted a new name, Center for Community Solutions, to acknowledge that the elimination of sexual assault and relationship violence will occur only if everyone in the community becomes a part of the solution.”  This all sounded good and once I was able to read about all the volunteer opportunities, I thought, “Yes, now is the right time. It has been a little over four years and I think I’d be able to use my experience to help others in a similar situation.”

The times I had to choose from were 3-4:30p or 5-6:30p at their Escondido office.  From where I live, neither of these was a great option, mainly because of traffic.  I decided on the earlier time (less traffic getting there) and planned on dinner at Fatburger, which would be a huge treat since it is the only one left in this area and I particularly love their milkshakes!  I thought by the time I finished with dinner that traffic would have let up.  Ha!

While there are many volunteer opportunities with CCS, the only one I was/am interested in is SART, Sexual Assault Response Team.  “SART volunteers provide immediate, in-person support for sexual assault victims during the forensic exam process.  All SART volunteers must complete a 60-hour Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Crisis Intervention Training and a Live Scan criminal background.  A twelve-month commitment of 4 six-hour shifts per month is required.”  Again, all this sounded fine with me, so the next step was to attend the orientation, which I did yesterday.

All day yesterday I had a stomach ache.  I attributed it nerves more than anything else.  The actual orientation was no big deal, much to my relief.  After listening to all the available positions for volunteers, I realized a few things:  first of all, they really do not need help in my area of town, and because one must be a 20-minute (ideally, but no more than 30 minutes) commute away, even if I wanted to help out in North or East County, I really cannot; secondly, my experience of being sexually assaulted really isn’t an asset in their minds; and lastly, the way the system currently operates there does not seem to even be a place for me.  What I think is important, what would have been incredibly helpful to me, is an advocate who is there every step of the process…from the forensic exam all the way through the court and sentencing phase, someone who will go with the victim to each and every court date, who can help explain what is going on and what is likely to happen, someone who has actually been through it and knows firsthand, not just in theory.   This type of volunteer position does not exist, at least not at CSS.

When I got home last night after my yummy dinner and one hour of traffic, I still had a stomach ache.  (I thought it might have been the giant milkshake that was so thick I had to eat it with a spoon.)  J and I talked about it for a long time and at the end my questions were, “What am I supposed to be doing to help other women who have been sexually assaulted?  Why did I go through it if not to help others?  How can I make a difference if no one wants my help?”  J wisely said that the answer would come to me, maybe not today or tomorrow or even next week, but it will come.  So I went to sleep, not feeling that great about it, but not as upset as I had been.  This morning, though, I woke up with a knot in the right side of my upper back.  This is a place that I’ve never had an issue with before.  As soon as I felt it, I knew.  You cannot get a much clearer message than that.  I know, with certainty, that CCS, though a wonderful agency, doing important work, is not for me and I am not for them.  I also now understand, clearly, that as ready as I’d like to be, my body has other ideas.  The body really does keep the score and it was/is telling me loud and clear that now is not the time.

To be completely honest here, I feel like I’ve failed.  I thought I was ready.  I told everyone in my (amazing!) women’s group and my Thursday morning beach yoga class (also pretty amazing, I might add) what I was doing and every single woman was so supportive and so encouraging, and now I have to go back and tell them all that it isn’t the right time yet and I was not received with the open arms I kind of thought I would be welcomed with.  So for now I will continue my journey and helping process by writing on this site and will keep my ears open for the kind of opportunity I am seeking.

SPREADING KINDNESS

Several weeks ago I received the following email:

Hi Tamerie!

My name is Aileen and I just came across your story that was featured on the Kindness Blog! This one here: http://kindnessblog.com/2014/10/29/an-act-of-kindness-saved-my-life/

I was e-mailing you because I wanted to ask you if we could feature your story on our website Love Made Known (http://lovemadeknown.com). My husband and I started it a few months ago and we share people’s stories of what God has done in their lives weekly. Please let me know if we can feature you!

If you’re interested, we will need a mini bio, a profile picture and any social media or website links you’d like people to find you at!

Thank you so much, Tamerie! God bless you!

-Aileen

I wrote Aileen back and said, that yes, it was fine for her to feature my story on her web site.  Well, today is the day:

Thank YOU for giving us the opportunity to share your story. Praise God for that 🙂

Here is the final link for you to share with family and friends:

http://lovemadeknown.com/an-act-of-kindness-saved-my-life/

FOUR YEARS AND A DAY

Today is the 4th anniversary of the day my life changed forever.  But, really, every single day is an opportunity for our lives to be changed forever.  It’s not so much the events of our lives that determine what happens next, but, rather, it is what we do with those events, how we respond to them.  And how we ultimately deal with and grow from them.  While it would have been far easier to not actually deal with what happened to me on 24 September 2011, for me at least, this was not even a remote option.

 

I wrote the above paragraph on Wednesday, which was actually the day before the anniversary.  It was as far as I got because I thought I should wait and see how the day unfolded.  Let’s just say it rather sucked.  The following is what I wrote in my journal yesterday afternoon:

I thought, mistakenly as it turned out, that the discomfort and sadness I felt at the end of last week and into this week, up to today, which I attributed to the 4th anniversary of my sexual assault, might be all I had to deal with this 24th of September.  No such luck.  The good news, I suppose, is no nightmares/flashbacks have come up today.  Well, that’s not quite accurate.  Every time I close my eyes I feel DCD’s weight on me.  You better believe I snap them open as soon as I can.  I was okay in savasana this morning, I think because I was mentally chanting I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you.  My neck and back are killing me.  This is all muscle memory.  There is no physical reason that I should be having pain in either place today.  I guess this whole week has been a build up to today.  I am ever hopeful that tomorrow I will awaken feeling back to my normal self.  Right now, though, I have splitting headache.  ///J was so loving and patient with me this morning.  When I got home from beach yoga, I was pretty much covered with sand, which meant I had to shower.  After my shower, I laid down on the bed and just stared into space.  He came and laid behind me and simply held me, not saying anything.  Eventually, I was able to talk about what I was feeling.  The first thing I said was, “I just wish he {he being DCD} knew the effect of what he did to me, and how it continues to impact my life.”  Not that it would make a difference if he did know, but maybe, just maybe, it would in a tiny way.  I cannot imagine that he won’t do it again once he gets out of prison, and because he must register for the rest of his life as a sexual predator/offender, he’s pretty much screwed.

 

At the end of each day, for the last 2+ years, before I go to bed, I write down 5 things I am grateful for.  Yesterday all I managed to write was, ” I am grateful I made it through.”

And by the way, I do feel a lot better today.

 

A CHANGE OF PLANS

For a long time, as a society, we seemed to think that once it was decided what we wanted to do or what we wanted to be when we ‘grew up,’ we could not change, that we had to stay in our chosen fields, to stick it out, even if we were not happy with what we were doing.  These days, though, it is not unusual for people to have several, if not many, different careers.

As many of you know, I have had my own business for 24 years now.  While I enjoy what I do (custom home furnishings,)  I can get burned out and long for something different.  The truth, though,  is I am very good at it.   I love to create beauty for people’s homes and their lives, and I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  That being said, as you may also remember me writing about desiring a chance in my life right about the time I was sexually assaulted.  My attack resulted in me launching this website with the intention of helping other women who had been through a similar experience.  You may also remember that I posted pictures of my dream/vision board, which I had made in July 2012, about a month after the sentencing of my attacker to prison.  What I did not say at the time was how more specifically this vision board came about.  Just the other day, though, I came across what I had written the day we made our boards.

Rather than just making the board on my own, my local Hoffman facilitator held a special gathering, apart from our normal monthly meetings, where we did guided visualizations to help us clarify what we were hoping to manifest into our lives.  What follows is the notes I took from the various exercises we did.   Keep in mind that I was still a good four months away from finishing my EMDR, and, as it turned out, a few years away from being truly through my experience:

 

“Message from Spiritual Guide –  pay attention to ALL that is happening to you; it is ALL happening for your highest good.

What do I believe is preventing me from manifesting my vision?   Fear

Elevator question – What are my self-limiting beliefs that keep me from having what I truly desire in my life?

(What I got from the elevator exercise)  Very fancy elevator opens to a very pattern-rich (floral sky, striped trees, plaid grass, color everywhere) scene that is a cross between Dr. Seuss, H.R. Puff-n-Stuff and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, where everything is make-believe and happy and where nothing bad happens.  It feels like the happiest place on Earth (sorry Disneyland.)  Everyone is smiling, happy and helpful.  The sun is shining.  I don’t really seem to be a part of it though.  I am looking into a place I’d like to be.

(Then the question asked was, What is your vision for the future?)    My vision is to help women who have been victims of sexual assault by giving them a platform where they can tell their stories, anonymously if necessary, so that they are able to heal themselves emotionally, spiritually, physically and intellectually.  I also am affecting change in the ‘system,’ in how victims are treated though the entire process.  I see myself teaching the police. EMTs, DAs, and any and everyone who comes in contact with the victim so that they are more compassionate and understanding.  Just as it takes a village to bring up children, I think it takes a village to help heal those who have been harmed.”

 

 

I find it very interesting that my vision was so clear even though I was still in the middle of my healing process.  What changed for me, however, was/is the fact that most women simply do not want to talk about such a horrific event in their lives.  While I do understand the reluctance, I also feel that it is important they do it anyway.  Unless and until someone is ready to talk about it, though, there is not a lot I can do to ‘make’ them talk.  Nor do I want to.  Because of this, I changed the focus of this site.  Instead of a platform for others, it is simply a place for me to continue to tell my story.  I hope in this that it is clear that healing and recovery are possible if you truly want it and are willing to do the work.  Is it easy?  Absolutely not, but my experience is that it is absolutely vital.