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.

 

TRUST AND FAITH AND TIMING

How many times have we heard that we need to trust the process?  That we need to have faith that everything happens in perfect and Divine timing?  While I think both of those things are important, the truth is it all comes down to timing.  You can meet the right person at the wrong time.  Or who turns out to be a wrong person at the right time.  But until the planets align and everything else conspires in your favor, for lack of a better way to put it, you are probably barking up the wrong tree.  I know I was.

After my breakup with B, I so wanted to be ready for another relationship, and to that end, I tried March.com.  Twice.  Nothing happened, and I do mean nothing.  No response from anyone, let alone anyone I might have fancied.  Clearly, I was not ready.  I seemed to have a negative force field surrounding my photos and my profile, that, basically said, STAY AWAY!  Seriously, this was not a healthy thing to put myself through.  I finally realized that I still needed time to heal and grieve; heal from my attack and grieve for my lost relationship.  And while I missed B horribly at times, I also realized it was not so much him that I missed but being in a relationship.  Because in spite of what we went through with my sexual assault, we did have a very good, even great, relationship.  Unfortunately, as I’ve said before, however good the relationship was between us, it did not survive my attack.

Finally, this past January, 2 years after my breakup, I joined a Coronado singles group.  It was, as all these groups seem to be, mostly women.  I did meet a guy who I thought was a potential partner.  In the end, though, it was not a good match.  And speaking of Match, I would periodically look to see if there were any (new) interesting men on the site.  What I discovered to my dismay was that it was all the same men who always seem to be on there.  Not very promising at all.  I truly was on the point of giving up completely, of deciding that, perhaps, I was not meant to be in a loving relationship, after all.  This did not make me happy, but I simply was not willing to compromise on what I want and know I deserve.  So, one more time I was checking out Match.com and, on the spur of the moment, I joined.  The difference was I was actually ready.  I knew it, and I knew I’d meet someone this time.

It happened very quickly.  I joined on a Wednesday, was contacted by J on Thursday, talked on the phone with him on Friday, met on Monday, had a second date on Thursday before leaving town for a family reunion, texted with him while gone, and have had several more dates with him since.  I think you can kind of get the picture.  What was so cool, what is so cool is that we both knew right from the start that it was exactly what/who we had both been looking/hoping/praying would show up for, well, ever.  I knew as soon as I read his profile, but was hesitant to say it out loud , even to myself.  But I KNEW.  I just knew.  And he knew, too.

So what it really does come down to is timing, trite as it may seem.  I was ready, he was ready, and we connected.  And I can honestly say, he was worth the incredibly long wait!

Just a few quotes that seem particularly on point:

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WORK, WORK, WORK

After my sexual assault, though I did my best, I really did not work for over a year.  Because I had a traumatic brain injury and was unable to think properly, work was very difficult.  If someone wanted a square (read ‘normal’ here) pillow, I could do it because I’ve made about a million and don’t have to use my brain or think how to make it.  If there was any variation, though, I simply was unable to do it.  Or if I did, it took me forever.  Over time I healed and so did my brain.  Looking back it seems like the Universe was right there for me as far as the amount of work I had.  While dealing with my attack and getting my mind and body through the trauma, I still had work, but not a lot of it.  Enough to somewhat get by.  Now, that has changed drastically, which is actually a good thing.  No, it’s a very good thing.  To me, it means that I am truly healed.  Oh sure, I have my moments when I wonder if my brain really is working, but that could just be how I am, with or without a TBI. I literally have so much work these days that if I think about it too much, I feel like going to bed.  It’s hard to get much done while sleeping, though I’ve tried.

So, today, because I have a deadline for the job I am currently working on, and it is necessary to stick to these due dates as much as possible, and because I am a member, I am going to the San Diego Zoo to see the new giraffe baby.  Sometimes a mental health hour or two, if an entire day in not really feasible, is necessary.  Then I can come home and get back to work.

UPDATE – I did go to the zoo and even got to see the baby giraffe!  The picture isn’t so good because I was far away and it is thru a fence, but I still got to see him/her.  Because the baby was born yesterday afternoon around 1:30p, they are not yet sure of the gender. Even from a distance, it was still pretty cool to see.  At birth, the baby was 6’1″ tall and weighed 150 pounds!

Newborn giraffe at the San Diego Zoo, 20 May 2015

Newborn giraffe at the San Diego Zoo, 20 May 2015

THE HUNTING GROUND

Today is the first day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2015.  As unpleasant and difficult a subject that sexual assault is it is still vitally important that we, all of us, do what we can to change it.  I saw THE HUNTING GROUND on Sunday, and though I cried through most of it, I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.  I only wish it was required for all high school students.  Sexual assault  is an epidemic that we have the power to stop, and we must stop it.

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“THE HUNTING GROUND

From the Academy Award-nominated filmmaking team behind “The Invisible War” comes a startling exposé of sexual assault on U.S. campuses, institutional cover-ups and the brutal social toll on victims and their families. “THE HUNTING GROUND” debuted in January at the Sundance Film Festival and is being released by RADiUS and CNN Films. The film has captured attention across the country, and it has even made it to The Daily Show where Oscar-nominated filmmakers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick talk about the film’s impact and the scope of this problem.

This film is powerful. Through stories and statistics this film highlights the far-reaching scope of campus sexual assault. It adds names and faces to the many reports, trends and articles on this timely issue. Most importantly, it looks to engage audiences to take action to end sexual assault on college campuses.

NSVRC is partnering with The Hunting Ground this April to help spread the word. We know this film is going to be a conversation starter, and we want to play a role in building this conversation toward action. Stay tuned to hear more from us about how you can be involved.”

For more about the film and a list of screening locations, go to www.thehuntinggroundfilm.com.