I am rising because as V-Day turns 15 I will mark 10 years since the day of my rape.
I am rising because 10 years later I am still trying desperately to fight off rapists, and many times I lose, over and over again in my nightmares.
There are endless reasons to rise, everyday a reminder, a reason to release and a reason to rise.
I rise because animals show up in my dreams, a cobra, a white horse, a ferocious dog, an owl perching on my extended arm, an orca, a whale, all communicating messages of how to escape and be free again. I rise because I have begun to understand their language of survival, the strength of scar tissue and the beauty of resilience.
I rise because while I have learned how to struggle myself to wakefulness, the only way out of these subconscious attacks—to be my own protector and recognize the nightmare within my sleep. Still there are too times my partner has to shake me awake, holding each other tight until we both eventually fall back asleep, while the memory of rape lingers on our minds and unsettles our rest.
I rise because 10 years later I wake up in tears that grow out of my gut, tears that only my brilliantly sensitive and heroically strong partner can transform into hope—keeping his own fears, outrage and heartbreak humbly inside himself until the relief or the exhaustion of total and utter loss finally washes over me.
I rise because I am often caught off guard all over again, just like my rape, moments before which I felt my soul sync with the universe around me. I am caught off guard again when I remember in the middle of a meeting, standing in line at the coffee shop, during a yoga class, walking down the street, while laying in my partners arms, mid-thought interrupted by the flashback to what it was the night before—the total and absolute terror—that intruded on dreams.
I rise because I am pissed that I am told to keep these horrific images to myself, because those images make others feel sick, feel sad, feel unsafe, feel helpless—feel more like me, just simply feel. And sometimes the weight of those undocumented scenes feels like it will crush my bones.
I rise because I have seen survivors create art, say out loud, put onto paper, write out in words and mark their bodies with truth, capturing the depth of what rape really looks/feels/smells/tastes/sounds like. And I know I too, can channel these feelings that transcend language into art that makes people feel.
I rise because I remember deep and vivid dreaming before I was raped—colors, open sky, flying, swimming, leaping, running, angels and endless possibility. I remember wondering with excitement each night about what magical place my subconscious might reveal, who would I visit and how I would travel.
Now I wonder when and if these nightmares will ever cease. I rise because once I am off the edge of my nightmare I remember the action that I must take day in and day out to tear down the daily, lived nightmare that people of all ages and all genders and all abilities and all countries experience when they are raped.
I rise because in having my spirit smashed to pieces I feel like my energy for this movement can now stretch around the globe. I rise because I grieve for every person who has ever known this kind of loss, and I rise because I believe in their capacity to heal.
I rise because as V-Day turns 15, I have met thousands of rape victims, rape survivors, broken-hearted spirits and wounded souls who still feel alone.
I rise because in my field self-disclosure to a client must be carefully considered, and yet all I want to do is tell the truth, wrap my arms around them, cry with them and tell them that we will survive. I rise because I am tired of pretending to speak on behalf other survivors, and instead, I seek to claim the space, this platform I have fought for, and this voice against rape as my own. I rise because people need to know that survivors are everywhere. We are everywhere.
I rise because 10 years after rape, I still crave the solid arms, the having-been-there tone, the feeling of unspoken “knowing” that comes through the eyes and the depth of another survivor entwining their story of survival with mine.
I rise because despite knowing the statistics, hearing the stories, reading their words—still sometimes I feel so frighteningly alone.
I rise because as V-Day turns 15 I remember every single detail of my rape like it was just 10 minutes ago. The weight of his arm across my chest, the taste of blood in my mouth, the vastness of the forest and sky, the silence of the wind, the feeling of lead in my legs as each coerced step lead me further off the path, the knife on my lip—on my back—pushing into the flesh of my left hip, the hip that to this day remains locked, gripping, holding on tight, trying desperately to protect, to prevent, to keep it together until it is safe to run.
I rise because I will never forget the smell of his skin, the color of his eyes, the emptiness of his soul as I begged, plead, cried and collapsed. I rise because of the threats on my life, the fantasies in my head, the way time stood still and the chilling sense that each breath could be my last. I rise because rape pushes your spirit out of your body and I rise because learning to feel again brings it back.
I rise because that memory, just beneath the surface of my skin, moves my blood, stretches my heart and drives my passion to end rape and embody resilience in every aspect of my life. I rise because in my total devastation I found healers who gently infused the many pieces of my physical, emotional and spiritual body with gold—and their belief, their power, their wisdom, was the light in the midst of the absolute and total darkness that is having been raped.
I rise for the loss of a continent I had loved, a love affair with a lush world that held its beauty wide open for me to absorb. I rise for the loss of a romance language, the language of my rapist—the language of the first of many disclosures, the forever-changed relationship to a way of expressing myself through soft intonations and mountainous landscapes. I rise because prior to my rape, that language and land had revealed a part of my soul that I grew to cherish. I rise because I want all of me back.
I rise because in my recovery I have discovered brilliant parts of my soul that I never knew existed until I had no choice but to turn deep within.
I rise because I remember the victim blaming, the excruciating pelvic exams, the botched rape kit, the ignorance of doctors and detectives and colleagues and friends. I rise for the degrading detailing of every lick, touch, rip, sound, word, move and motion, to the authorities, time and time again, and wondering and waiting for someone to reflect the horror I felt inside with their tears instead of interrogations.
I rise for every person that had the courage to listen when I described all of our most intimate fears. I rise for my deceased angel dog who absorbed my salty tears into the soft cream fur of her coat. I rise for the way she let me hold on tight to her warm and strong body when I felt scared and alone and I rise for her taking me outside and making nature safe to explore with her at my side.
I rise because I quietly wonder if our perception of healing is all wrong, if perhaps in trying to soften the wounds of survivors or comfort our own grief, we let them down when we lecture on elusive phases, when we talk about arbitrary timelines and stages and then we call it a non-linear healing process in the same breath we’ve given them a flow chart for healing. I wonder if it’s just me, but this process feels like it will require the rest of my life. And healing cannot be quantified, not in this lifetime. I rise because resilience is tangible in each cell of my body and visible in the survivor who wakes up to face another day.
I rise because of the gratitude I experienced, for the animal (spirit) that snapped a stick in the woods to send my perpetrator running and for the new life that I was born into that moment. A second chance, an opportunity to come out of the woods and to write the ending of this story on my terms, not his.
I rise because when I screamed “Ayuda” and all I could hear was my echo reverberating into acres of green and blue space, I realize now that my request rippled around the globe and moved forward into time.
I rise because despite all the odds, I discovered an unconditional unstoppable love when I told my story to a friend. I rise because the people who love us must know our story in order to fully know us. I rise because we survivors want and need to be known. I rise because we survivors want and need to give love. I rise because I believe that men and people of all genders are not only my allies, but my fellow survivors, and I want the world to fully acknowledge all of our pain.
I rise because I am still here. I am alive. I am healing. I am struggling. I am trying my best and I want to change the world.
I rise because the time is right, I am ready, the world is ready—we have been ready for this since the first rape. I rise because the vicious and vacuous rape culture cannot be stronger than even one survivor who has found the tools to embody themselves again after nearly losing their life, and it certainly won’t stand a chance against one billion of us.
I rise because as V-Day celebrates 15 years of working to end violence and empower survivors I celebrate 10 years of staying with this unpredictable, indescribable healing journey and on February 14th, 2013 we take back our culture and step into light.
It is time to celebrate the first anniversary of this global, transformational, survivor revolution. I cannot wait to embrace you on the other side.
Learn about One Billion Rising and find an event in your community: www.onebillionrising.org.
Molly Boeder Harris is the Founder & Executive Director of The Breathe Network, which serves to connect survivors of sexual violence to holistic healing arts practitioners who provide trauma-informed, sliding scale support to survivors. Molly believes that the sense of empowerment and life purpose that may be discovered through the transformational process of holistic healing will develop creative, engaged and compassionate leaders around our globe – leaders that will expand our understanding of resilience and bring an end to sexual violence. Contact her at [email protected], or visit her site thebreathenetwork.org.
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Assistant Editor: Sara McKeown
Ed: Kate Bartolotta