Independence: The Rape of Maleficent’s Autonomy

MaleficentHolding my breath…

I watched my 12yr old daughter scurry ahead to find our theater. Finally, Maleficent. Please, please, please Disney… do this justice. Within the first 10mn I could feel myself smiling and slowly exhaling. Hope. A friend of mine had linked me to Haley Krischer’s “The Maleficent Rape Scene We All Need To Talk About”. This was the Huffington Post, surely we will get to the heart of the matter. However, as I read, I felt like I was skimming the surface of the water in Maleficent’s world. The real treasures remained deep below the reflective exterior, unexposed.

Maleficent-1There is a metaphor beyond the metaphor that needs to be pulled from it’s liquid depths. What if there is a deeper implication to the “rape scene” than has been obviously touched on by rape culture? What about rape in the context of abusive relationships?

The dictionary defines rape as: “an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation;violation” and autonomy as: “independence or freedom, as of the will or one’s actions: the autonomy of the individual.”

td_abusiverelationship_1What if I told you that victims of Domestic Abuse were being emotionally and psychologically raped every day, sometimes several times a day? Does that change your perspective on the dynamic behind the abuse? Consider, this form of rape plays a large role in keeping victims in abusive and violent relationships. Would it help to understand loss of autonomy is the entire reason they stay?

This is the concept that so many critics neglected to expose. The scene eloquently lay out the mechanics of sexual rape and assault. The same mechanics are behind Domestic Abuse. Consider how much time Stefan took to get to know the naive and vulnerable Maleficent. He learned of her dreams, her hopes, her wants, and her desires. He learned how she both perceived and accepted love. He observed her beliefs and her values.

maleficent-4Armed with this knowledge, Stefan had the ingredients needed to concoct a custom cocktail for Maleficent. She willingly drank her intoxicant until she fell into an unprotected comatose. While susceptible and defenseless, she was raped of her autonomy, rendering her dependent on her environment. Maleficent was at the mercy of Stephan’s concept of love.

So holds true for victim’s of abuse. Victims are no different than anyone else having needs, wants, hopes, and dreams. An abuser quickly seduces his victim by professing to meet her needs. He builds on the victim’s hopes and dreams until she is drunk on his promises. To render her helpless he twists her values and beliefs against her. They are now her bindings. This is why it is vital that an abuser move quickly when initiating a relationship. Then the abuser exploits the victim’s every value and belief for personal gain.  The unaware target drinks of this inebriating cycle willingly and with trust. Once the abuser is certain that his victim is sufficiently photos.demandstudios.com-220-39-fotolia_2330424_XSsedated, he sets to work to separate her from her autonomy. This essentially grounds her. Instead of one great movement, he removes her wings piece by piece. Any time the victim looks as if she may “come to”, the abuser cunningly subdues her with more of the designer intoxicant until she falls into lethargic vulnerability again. In this way he may continue his work until he considers her useless or inconsequential.

This is how it is for a victim. Day after day. Often times it escalates to several times a day. This cycle repeats over and over. There comes a point when it is no longer particularly necessary to feed her much drink. Her wings have become so emaciated they couldn’t grant her freedom with all of her will behind them. A victim simply cries and flounders at her own inability to escape emotional, psychological, and financial rape. Over and over the abuser plunders her most valuable assets; her freedom, her sense of self, and her independence. In short, he rapes his exhausted victim of her autonomy so that he may feed off of her as a predator.

broken_wings_by_mattthesamurai-d4l6pvxA victim stays because she has been effectively grounded. Her greatest strength for escape has been stolen. Autonomy is kept out of sight and far from reach. Some victims underdeveloped wings are easy to remove. Other victims have never known wings. So many well meaning citizens shake their heads in dismay at what a flightless victim will endure. However, before you judge a victim for not flying, look first to see if they have the means.

I challenge society to be incensed about this truth. We should be just as angry about the rape of autonomy as we are sexual rape. Society should be indignant about an abuser violently holding his victim in place as he psychologically and emotionally desecrates her self-worth. Be as acrimonious as you would by a woman tied and drugged so her body can be fiercely violated. Be irate when anyone’s form of freedom, identity, or sense of self is being taken by force. Then rally for change.

5325fcce5209ba3172b115ab_angelina-jolie-maleficent-fabulous

If you are against rape, then be against it completely, in all manifestations. Yes Ms. Krischer, it is the rape scene we need to talk about. Much thanks for launching the dialogue.

***Revised for content and clarity. The orginal contained the misspelling of Stephan changed to Stefan.

Independence: In A Relationship

woman_mirrorHere it is folks, the absolute truth of the matter…I am in a relationship…with myself.

Before you start rolling your eyes I would like to take a moment to consider what that means. For me, it means that until I lose my memory or die, I am stuck in the longest term relationship EVER. No matter how many trust issues I have with myself, I’m in this for the long run. Commitment issues? Don’t get me started. That said, this is the longest commitment I will be in for better or for worse. This takes arranged marriage to a whole new level. Since this relationship doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon, I suppose I had better figure out where I stand with myself. For that matter, maybe I should take some time to court myself, perhaps pay better attention to myself so that me doesn’t feel neglected. Can you imagine if I walked out on myself? There is a distinct possibility I could wake up one morning and find a note on my mirror in dry erase marker:

Dear Shannon,

I’ve tried. I don’t know what else to do. I have tried to get you to hear me but, you never listen. My feelings are hurt and I feel abandoned. You always seem to be too busy for me but you find time for your friends…and don’t get me started on work. What happened to us?

We used to be so great together. We used to do things and go places. I miss laughing with you, talking with you, and enjoying life with you. I feel like we are thousands of miles apart when we are in the same room. You know where to find me if you want to try again.

Love you always,

Yourself

This is the reality of being in relationship with yourself. Sometimes we can have an abrupt break-up. Other times, it is a slow departure until we wake up one day and think, Now where did I get off too? It is just as easy to take ourselves for granted as it is to take friends, family, and significant others for granted. Believe me, the last person you want to have pack their crap up and take off in a cab, is yourself. Everything else after you check out on you, is moot. I have been in an on again off again relationship with myself most of my life. We separated about a year after I entered my abusive relationship.  That was apparently the last straw for me.

teach-me-balanceGood news! Since I got back together with myself, we have been stronger than ever. I won’t lie, it has taken a lot of effort on my part. When I have something to say to myself I try to listen before I have to start yelling at myself to be heard. So not easy. I have subtleties and often times it takes a 2×4 to get my attention. I try not to neglect myself. Spending time with me has never been a priority because I have a tendency to put everyone else first. This was obviously a typical relationship don’t. In fact, if I am honest with myself, I probably committed every long term relationship taboo there is. No wonder I don’t trust myself. No wonder I have trust issues. How can I trust someone else if I can’t trust the most important person in my life…me?

valentine-dessertIn fact, how can I expect anybody else to do for me what I won’t do for myself?  I mean really? I have wanted flowers. Why didn’t I oblige myself and bring  home flowers? I wanted to dance. I told myself…I am too busy for that. I wanted to go for walks…I told myself…tomorrow. Tomorrow came and went. I could feel this little part of me just pouting and sulking from being put on the back burner. The worst part was when pouting turned to resentment. We all know nothing good can come of resentment.

My challenge for the next sixty days is to nurture myself the way I would nurture anyone I love. Each day I will do something thoughtful for myself to show myself I care. I will find a way to acknowledge the love I have for myself even if it is just remembering to say…I love you. We remember to do that for our friends, family, and significant others. Why wouldn’t we do that for ourselves? We are all survivors of something. There is no greater train wreck to observe than someone breaking up with themselves.

Independence: You’re A Single Parent?

Mom and babyThere is a rumor going around that children that come from single parent homes are at such a great disadvantage that it is almost imperative they remarry…or re-something.

I haven’t decided if single parenting is more of a distasteful dirty word or just this unfortunate disadvantage like being born without a head. More often than not I am confronted with disdain or social pity. It is this lopsided response to single parents that adds society at large to the list of barriers to victims leaving unhealthy relationships.

single-parenting_child_with_autismIt would be one thing if this were a social pity born of compassion for a parent that would rather brave the realities of survival alone in an effort to have a healthier life for themselves and their children. It is quite another when it turns out to be pity born of condescension. I thought I was alone in this perception until I started talking to other single parents about it. We agreed that shortly after it is discovered that we are single parents there seems to be an undertone of “you must not be doing something right to be a single parent”.

While yes, I do speak often about abusive relationship in the context of my humanitarian cause, I do not feel it necessary to tell everyone who questions my being a single parent. I shouldn’t have to. No one should. Being a single parent shouldn’t bring on the automatic judgement that somehow we were a poor partner, or a lacking citizen, or somehow just can’t hack life so no one would want to be with us.

Worse still, are those that know that a parent has come from an abusive relationship and says, “Good for you! Stay strong! You did the right thing by leaving.” but does nothing to support that action.

I have had potential employers bias themselves against the fact that I don’t have someone at home to share the burden of childcare with. I have had an employer dissolve my position because I couldn’t have open availability after I left my rehabilitation program even though my availability had been supported for over a year.

children-of-single-mothersIf society truly wants to see victims emerge from abusive relationships there has to be an attitude change to single parenting in general. Single parents shouldn’t be penalized because we are single. It shouldn’t be any more difficult to schedule around us than it is someone with a second job. We shouldn’t be made to feel like we should take any relationship, good or bad, just to have someone to share the burden of childcare or a dual income. We shouldn’t be made to feel “less than” because we have lost our partner, or chose to lose our partner. I have discovered that it really does take a village to raise a family.

 

 

Support: Ahhhh…Romance

“…Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”

Constance Mayer The Dream of Happiness

Constance Mayer
The Dream of Happiness

One of my favorite classes as an IAD major has been Art History. I can’t say the earliest art spoke to my soul because of its primitive nature (though I have a much better appreciation for it now). I loved it when we got to the Renaissance. All of these amazing thinkers that were combining science and architecture with fine arts. The jump in detail and realistic qualities was astounding. We progressed through a few more periods and I was getting very excited about coming up on the Romantic era.

My vision was that of beautiful gowns on the women with porcelain skin. The luminous qualities I was coming to enjoy during the late Renaissance would surely find a way to express itself in a new way. Gorgeous figures and concepts entwined with each other in various expressions of love is what I expected.

Francisco de Goya Saturn Devouring one of His Sons

Francisco de Goya
Saturn Devouring one of His Sons

What I got was almost macabre. I felt like I was on a Sunday drive and the passenger randomly reached over and pulled the E brake. What was all of this dark shadows, blood, grief, and demons? Then there were images done in such loose strokes I thought perhaps we were revisiting Impressionism again. What was going on?

The reality of Romanticism was nothing like I had imagined, not the bulk of it anyway. It had its moments. A great deal of it was about internal struggle and the somber side of humanity. Images were often distorted, shadowed, and dealt with heavy subject matter.

Although Romanticism wasn’t anything like what I expected it to be, it was a very real part of the human condition. It was an unapologetic and unveiled look at very real fears, insecurities, and circumstances that we grapple with as humans. With no disguise much of the subject matter is a slap in the face. For those of us who are unwilling to accept the uglier side of truth…we often return to what we find to be…beautiful, saccharine if necessary.

What victims think they can achieve living in violence and abuse.

What victims think they can achieve living in violence and abuse.

Living in Domestic Abuse and Violence is much the same way. So many victims romanticize what they are living in, trying desperately to make the appalling palatable, beautiful even. We tend to try to adopt this Hollywood version of “stand by your man” attitude. If we just try harder, dig our heals in deep, this monstrous reality will someday be the resplendent life of the American Dream. If we throw enough of our illusions at the facts of our existence we won’t notice; the holes in the wall, the shut off notices from the utilities, lack of furniture, emulsification of self-esteem, violent threats, worn and limited clothing, or the children cowering in the corner. Perseverance through the filth and destruction of what is, so that we may gain the promise of what could be, is our drive. Victims cling to this deception like it was the last plank keeping them from drowning in the ocean of failure.

The reality of living in violence and abuse.

The reality of living in violence and abuse.

There is nothing romantic about it. Stop. Stop thinking it will ever be anything other than what it is. There is nothing “Do or Die” about this particular cause. It is just die, emotionally or physically. This hopeless daydream that we try to manifest into reality is an act of futility. All that truly occurs is we grow into a distorted and crippled version of what we could be. If there are children involved we nurture them to follow in our footsteps.

I say this with deep compassion and understanding to victims, stop feeding your illusions. Try not to romanticize the abuse and violence you live in. Clean your canvas. Paint a new life as beautiful, peaceful, and inspiring as you have dreamed it to be one brush stroke at a time.

Real love...

Real love…

 

Now that… is Romance.

Independence: Happy 4th Of July!!!

fireworks_us_flagIndependence Day! I find a way to celebrate, or at the very least, acknowledge it everyday.

For all of the complaining I do about social injustice, our political system, and media I love this country. I am grateful for having been born here. I am grateful for the opportunities.

So often we hear that freedom isn’t free. In fact, it is so cliche that we can fall def to the obvious meaning, let alone the deeper meaning. But, let’s take a moment to recognize the truth in it. To my knowledge, there has not been a time in history that freedom of any kind hasn’t come with a cost.

redcoatsWhen our country gained its independence and the freedom to develop in the direction of its choosing, it came at great cost. Families were torn apart. Homes were occupied by more than the family of origin. The land was destroyed in the wake of moving armies. Land marks, markers of our history, were also lost to the cause.

Once our victory was achieved the dust settled a bit. But, inevitably, with growth and freedom there is internal war that can occur. We looked to our developing political and social system. We saw fit to clean house. Again, we went to war in the name of freedom. We repeated the cycle. We won but, with similar cost.

fsms1As the story goes with any sense of freedom, we discover there are many levels of freedom that need to be obtained in order to be truly free. Civil freedom was next on the ‘To Do’ list. Women gained rights. Our African American communities fought for freedom at great cost…and so it goes on with Gay Rights, Human Rights, and as many rights that need to be acknowledged. All at a great cost in one form or another. All worth it.

Then there are personal rights. After all of the outside freedoms have been satisfied we have the opportunity to look inward. We can take a moment out of our busy and often times chaotic lives to notice if we are living a life of personal freedom. The answers we come to are not always the answers we want to deal with.

personal_freedom1How many of us are living a life of personal freedom? How many of us have made choices that have shackled us to a life of “less than”? Are we willing to go to war with ourselves, sometimes at great personal loss, to free ourselves? If ever there was a country that gives us the freedom to explore that possibility, it is this one.

Most of my life I have lived restricting my personal freedom. I wasn’t aware that I was doing it other than this gnawing unrest that perhaps I wasn’t living in line with my soul. Nothing brought it to the forefront for me like living in almost six years of Domestic Violence. As with any oppressive situation, there comes a point when domination and exploitation can no longer be ignored. So I went to war.

3480482_f496I fought for personal freedom. Just like our country has experienced grave loss, so did I. It tore my family apart. I lost my home for a while. Everything I had worked for was destroyed…but I survived. I gained freedom. And just like our country is full of opportunity if we are willing to see it…so is my life as it stands now.

I am rebuilding in the wake of the war but, I have the good fortune to live a life in line with my soul. It isn’t easy…freedom rarely is. I cherish the freedom to choose my friends, to take my children to new places, to wear what I want, to express myself uniquely, and to explore all the different facets of me. Not too many countries would give that advantage to someone who is willing to fight for it, to want it.

Enjoy your Independence! Never be afraid to fight for yourself, your beliefs, and your values…it is the philosophy this country was founded on.

 

 

Connections: Farewell: Part II

httpwww.interhomeopathy.orgneodymium-sulphuricum-in-10-casesThere is a basic assumption that grieving and loss is only problematic when it comes to loosing people…

The truth is, loss is loss. When we lose something we value, we grieve. The root of the problem is most of us don’t know how to grieve. As a result, often times we find unhealthy ways of coping. Unhealthy ways of coping ranging from drugs and alcohol to self destructive behaviors cause us to “stuff” our grief instead of process it. This can leave us stuck.

At this point in my personal revelation I had pulled over to the side of the road…really hard to drive without windshield wipers for my eyes. I started thinking about what it really meant to me that the last time I saw my grandfather I was with my abuser. I was so exhausted by the 10hr drive to see him that all I could do was sleep on his sofa, while grandpa slept in his chair.

Making up for lost time with family and friends...

Making up for lost time with family and friends…

My abuser and I had been on a 3 day marathon of California to see my family. From my perspective I saw this as a time of connection. In my previous relationships there had been little to no interest in meeting my family let alone interacting with them. This time, I was with someone who was taking a pro-active interest in them. I had finally picked a winner. In retrospect, I understand that yes, he was interested, but not for the reasons I believed him to be interested. It was not to be connected at all. Quite the opposite actually. He was sizing up the people in my life that I cared about the most. His goal was to “learn” them and figure out how to factor them out of my life. Motivation is everything.

As a consequence, I lost all of the potential memories between the time I saw my grandfather last until the time that he died. Giving my children the opportunity to get to know this wonderful man, who had a lifetime of stories to impart, was no longer an option. So it wasn’t just his death I was mourning…it was the death of an opportunity, of time I will never get back, and memories that won’t be made. It hit me over the head like an anvil.

20130414_150901_edit020130414_150826_edit0When the ringing in my ears stopped my brain was off and running recalling everything I had missed out on during the time I was with my abuser. I had missed out on both of my sisters giving birth to my only nephews. In fact, one was 5 by the time I saw him for the first time. I missed out on my 17yr old daughters life marker moments. She is still so devastated by it that she can’t talk to me yet…so there will be more missed. I missed out on my 19yr old son’s entire high school experience. That includes graduation. My youngest three have missed out on 6yrs of bonding with their siblings. It is a struggle for them to reconnect.

My point in all of this is, I thought I had grieved all of this while I was in my rehabilitation program. For the most part I did. I went through all of those fun stages of anger, bargaining, anger, more grief, and finally acceptance. However, an event like my grandfather passing, a more tangible form of death, really brought it home for me, how far I have come, and how far I have to go…

Cheers to the weekend! Go have fun and enjoy living.

Connections: Farewell: Part I

No cool thoughts here!

No cool thoughts here!

To say last week was challenging is like trying to think cool thoughts when it is 118 degrees outside and the air conditioning is on vacation.

At the same time I was having a personal victory in court, my grandfather was passing away of aggressive brain cancer. An irony to be sure. Perhaps it was just life finding balance. Where I was gaining forward momentum, I was also about to have to deal with personal loss. After riding high on victory most of the morning, I received a call from my father in the early afternoon to let me know that grandfather went quickly and there was little to no suffering.

I hadn’t seen my grandfather in years, at least six. In fact, the last time I saw him I was with my abuser. Upon this realization, my brain was a flurry of snapshots, flipping faster than my awareness could keep up with. Before I could process what happened, I was sitting on my sofa in tears. What just happened?

Cost. Grieving. Grieving loss. It can be such an arduous process. The more traumatic thegrief loss, the more formidable the circumstances pertaining to that loss, the longer it takes to heal. As I sat there on the sofa, not really caring that the tears were making their way down to my jawline to dangle a moment, I tried desperately to comprehend why I was having such a strong reaction. I know the obvious answer would be that someone I care about just died. But the truth is, his quality of life was terrible.

My grandfather, this noble and genteel man, could little more than sleep and shuffle to bathroom with help. The cancer had caused his speech to slur, hearing loss, loss of appetite, and lack of energy. He could no longer tend to his beautiful garden let alone any guests. So, for him to pass, was certainly more of a release than anything else. I completely understood this and with all of my heart wished him well on his next journey. Yet, there I sat, a wreck.

grief1By the next day I was sure I had slept off the unreasonable effects of my grandfather’s death and was on my way to an important interview. I was only a few blocks away when I could feel the tears forcing their way to the surface. Are you kidding?! Could this possibly come at a worse time?! I was vocally yelling unkindly at myself, trying to get a grip on my emotions as I drove up to the interview.

I held myself together for the duration of the interview giving no thought to my personal life other than what was being directly asked by the potential employer. After an hour and two managers, I got the heck out of the area and went straight to my car. I was supposed to meet a friend in thirty minutes for lunch. All the while I felt like I was slowly breaking up with myself. Just when I thought perhaps I had to be the most ridiculous person I knew, I realized what was at heart of the matter. It was what I expected the least, yet made the most sense.

To be continued…..

Independence: Life After Death

imagejpeg_0_edit0_edit0As fear and survival start to ebb away, Anna takes the time to explore life again. This time…it’s on her terms.

After twelve years of abuse and one year of struggling to crawl out from under its affects, Anna is starting to breath again. She is exploring a side of her I haven’t seen since she was in junior high. The last act of rebellion against all that is, that I can remember, was when she shaved her head into a Mohawk. To the skin!!!

IMG_3829_edit0One of the sad realities about living in abuse, violent or otherwise, is that victims often lose the ability to explore themselves as people. There is great loss of the human experience. There isn’t any personal evolution. The term “coppertop” as appropriately used in the Matrix is all that comes to mind.

Part of the psychological and emotional abuse is making as many moments as possible about the abuser. It doesn’t matter what the topic; dinner, travel, entertainment, housing, survival, living, anything really. Victims find that if they have a want or a need it is better to just file that under “I hope to get to that someday”. It’s easier to cope with the personal loss of autonomy than when we aren’t allowed to be mothers to our children because we are too busy catering to our abuser in the hopes that we can detour an episode.

IMG_3834_edit0There is a choice in this mess. Victims can choose to leave. It is one of the most terrifying choices to make, next to staying. It is one of the greatest unknown variables. One of the biggest questions is, “What if isn’t any better than staying and I fail?” Not only is that a huge question, it can be a debilitating one.

But wow! Look at Anna! Not a month ago, a year after she left, she was still ready to curl up fetal in a corner at how overwhelming survival is. The reality is, at some point, we all find that we are no longer victims of our previously poor choices…we are survivors. When we transition over from victim to survivor we get to live again. Our old way of thinking dies. Our old life of being controlled gains distance. We learn how to live again and find joy in it.

I love the smile on Anna’s face as she snaps pics of her new illustration in progress. This one is in honor of her son for whom she truly gets to mother for the first time. She is shopping! My sister HATES shopping. She shies from color. But look at the cool turquoise blouse popping against those vibrant colors on her chest. Awesome.

IMG_0691She is finally able to buy shoes again. I see jewelry. She is embracing her love for all things sparkly. She is truly a Pisces to lure. There were moments, very recently in fact, when she didn’t know how she was going to afford to put gas in her tank to get to work. But she is discovering, as many of us do, that there is life after death.

Be fearless. Survive. Then live.

Independence: Think For Yourself

Question Everything? Why?

I love this piece. Although it is directly addressing the topic of education it has an undeniable universal logic and philosophy. What happens when we replace the topic of “education” with “life”? Or is that the same thing?

I find it ironic that growing up I often heard the words “think for yourself” yet, I was taught to “do what I was told”. I was taught that if I did what I was told and followed the rules life would be rewarding. Life would be smooth and I would wind up with the things that make life fulfilling like; a car at 16, college, get married, buy a house, raise a family, etc. That was the order of things. Only it didn’t quite work out that way. It left me very confused.

Not only was I confused by the contradiction, in order to “follow the rules”, in order to follow the established social design, I would often make choices that were in direct conflict to what I felt I wanted. I essentially let society dictate my path in life instead of exploring the one that was right for me. This way of thinking became a liability in relationships. I have discovered that it is far more important to know myself and make the best choices based on that knowledge.girl-mechanics-500-tumblr_lg947w74pu1qdp9u9o1_500wtmk

I was impressed with the opening few minutes of this video where the mother is scolding her son and admonishing him to conform only for him to question the motivation. How often do we regurgitate directives without truly understanding if they are necessary to our personal evolution? Is there an alternative that will work better? Are we telling our children, friends, and significant others to do things just because it is the way it has always been done?

One of the most noticeable examples of this creative evolution is in the break down of gender specific roles in a relationship. Traditionally women cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, tend to, and went shopping. Men, on the other hand were gringoVacuumexpected to take out the trash, mow the lawn, watch football, and work on the car. As society evolves the “correct” gender isn’t always available, or even desires, to do the task assigned to them by tradition. Out of necessity or sheer autonomy, it’s anyone’s guess who is going to be doing what chore or activity.

How awesome is that? As individuals with our own unique stories, how much freedom can we find in that? We have the ability now, more than ever, to wipe the slate clean and not only write our life story the way we perceive it should be, but tailor it to our personal beliefs and values.

skydiving-faq-san-francisco

With that thought, go out and have a great weekend everyone! Don’t do something just because it “has always been that way” or because someone you have given authority to “says so”. Explore. Question. Discover. Make sure you are taking on beliefs and values because they are your own…not an outdated version of someone else’s. Have fun with your life…

It’s the only one you’ve got!