Healing or Forgiveness? A return.
By Sav Schlauderaff
Sept 2, 2018.
This past year I have been working and thinking through what transformative justice might look like in my own life. Transformative justice being a different way of envisioning and achieving justice beyond punitive justice or restorative justice.
Definitions I am working with here:
Transformative Justice: a liberatory approach to violence which seeks safety and accountability without relying on alienation, punishment, or State or systemic violence, including incarceration or policing. Transformative Justice seeks to provide people who experience violence with immediate safety and long-term healing and reparations while holding people who commit violence accountable within and by their communities. It asks why the harm was committed and what the root causes were
Restorative Justice: Process presented as a choice (limited in reality). Person who created harm needs to “give back/restore.” Alternative to incarceration (at times). Holds individuals (not systems responsible, does not take into account systems of oppression. Give survivors opportunities to participate in process to a limited level. Incorporates survivors without basing approach on their voice/perspective.
Punitive Justice: Intervenes when someone has broken a rule rather than caused harm. Is based in punishments that are pre-determined. The offended party is the state (cops, courts, prisons).
Definitions are from AORTA and Community Accountability & Transformative Justice Collective
To read more about transformative justice, myself and my SafeZones@SDSU interns created a zine/resource guide for LGBTQIA+ victim/survivors of sexual abuse that can be found and downloaded here: https://www.queerfutures.com/futurarchive/
I say I have been struggling with this because we have been taught that the only way to find justice is through punitive and state measures, so this is a constant unlearning process.
And further, because I don’t know if I would want to sit down and talk about any of these abuses with my abusers. I have continuously just removed them from my life.
In some ways this makes me feel guilty.
Because of the constant message that media has told us about the need to report abusers because “they could do it again.” But where is the current victim/survivor’s wellbeing?
However, on some level and on some days I do feel guilty.
And I understand it is not my responsibility to educate them or help them understand their wrongs-- but it also makes me like I am not “correctly” enacting my own politics in my life. That I believe that all my abusers have been taught misinformation about sex, about relationships, about communication, about bodily autonomy etc. but where do the victim/survivors health and the healing of the abuser meet? Where might this process re-traumatize and hurt the victim/survivor more? And am I able to achieve healing and forgiveness for myself if I don’t have a conversation with them? If I don’t ever tell anyone their names?
And perhaps the better question for myself would be: what do justice, healing and forgiveness look like? Are they all the same? Are they contingent on one another?
I don’t believe I have an answer for this, but writing and processing and being vocal and sharing my stories is helping. I don’t feel like I’m forced to keep these big secrets anymore. I don’t know if I ever will desire to open up communication with my abusers again. I have never felt like I needed that to move on. I never had that need to know if they had been reflecting if they had made changes if they had been thinking about me. I suppose I just always hope for them to forget me.
To leave me alone.
To let me heal in peace.
To heal themselves in peace.
I also wanted to discuss the topic of transformative justice this week because I have received pushback from others for not being “angrier” at my abusers-- that this lack of assumed emotions has been used to invalidate me as a victim/survivor. But. In reading back through journal entries and class discussions from this past year or so, I can see myself internally struggling with this.
Much like last week, I would like to time travel back through my #thoughtfeelings on healing, forgiveness, and transformative justice.
Cw: the following journal entries and spoken word poem contain descriptions and discussions of sexual and physical abuse.
February 26, 2017
Sometimes things hit you when you thought you had gotten over them. And It feel like this is just so defeating to think about, because I truly have thought I had been “getting better” this past year.
Because after being in an abusive relationship my freshman year of college, as well as being a victim/survivor of several sexual assaults and dealing with stalking from multiple partners--there is a lot that I still need to unpack within myself. As well as continually learning healthy ways to deal with these issues.
But this class has really helped me get back in touch with the healing nature of writing. I used to journal and write short stories and plays all the time when I was younger, but once I was in high school this all stopped. And maybe this has been because I have been too scared to write a lot of this down, because it is easier to not deal with it than it is to consciously relive it. And the fact that I feel this is a safer group of people to talk about these issues with, because no one knows any of my abusers.
But going back to thinking you are over something, simply after talking about triggers I went home and cried --but crying is very therapeutic and I think it was helpful for me to realize and think through more recent events that I haven’t wanted to deal with.
And this also relates back to discussing these topics in class but also needing to be able to handle the emotional consequences of these discussions. Because I obviously want to be able to discuss rape and domestic violence and mental health and suicide and self harm and eating disorders in the classroom-- but again how can I talk about these issues without seeing myself in all of them? How can I do this without breaking down?
March 16, 2017
Cw: abuse, sexual assault, mental health
I just wanted to preface this post by letting you know these were my honest reactions after our last class, but it has been about a week so I want to revisit these as well:
I think what is hard for me about the topic of loving others and loving ourselves, is that I have not figured this out yet. I try every day to love myself holistically, but at best I end up feeling just alright with my bodymindspirit. And this is why I hate when radical self love and self care are put down, because it is hard fucking work. I also hate all the “you need to love yourself before you can love someone else”, because I don’t love myself but I know that I have unconditional love for other people.
And I know this may not be the direction that the readings or class were meant to go in, but I want to reiterate my sentiment of needing to be kind to ourselves. As well as my emotions entering class of anger. Because I have worked hard for my anger, and I am still trying to be able to feel angry without guilt. And to try not to keep coddling my abusers. And some days I try to be the bigger person and understand the systems they were raised and shaped by, but others I am just fucking hurt. I am hurt and I am angry. Because like [classmate name] brought up, they are not thinking about this. They are not being self-reflexive. And maybe this is petty, and I should try to love them but also how is this rhetoric harmful to victims. Like how am I supposed to love my rapist who drugged me at a party? How am I supposed to love someone who beat me and stalked me? How am I supposed to love someone who beat me and raped me after I came out as queer? How am I supposed to love myself, and my whole self, after it has been instilled in me that I am not loveable? That my mental disabilities and queerness and trauma are not desirable.
And I don’t know if all of this is oversharing or if it’s uncomfortable for others to read. I just find it so hard to implement these readings into my own lived reality, at least at this point in my life. Because I have been the person who has provided unconditional love for so many people, and it is exhausting and has left no space for myself. I have spent too much time making myself small to make room for others to grow.
And maybe it’s just my depression talking, but I just feel so lonely and this program is lonely. And I am trying to work through so many of these things for my own thesis that I am not sure I am ready to think about or talk about.
And maybe it is because I feel that they are correct.
**In reading back over what I wrote, I am still struggling with self love, and self care and dealing with my emotions in a non-destructive manner.
I also just think the class readings and content were very close to things I have been trying to deal with in myself lately that I felt upset or angry by conversations of needing to love those who have hurt us.
Because I think this can be tricky in walking between transformative justice/forgiveness/healing and repressing the real pain and trauma from these events. Thoughts?
April 2, 2018
Forgiveness and Healing
I'm not angry, I'm sad, I'm numb, I'm confused, I care, I want you to heal. If I'm angry at anything it's the system and the historical and familial traumas. The systemic racism, colonialism, toxic masculinity, classism, the prison industrial complex.
I know my lack of anger has made people in my life upset at me, for not being angry at my abusers.
Is it easier to blame a system or blame the abuser? Am I taking the easier way out by not confronting them? By never uttering their names to people that know them. That I don't want to cause harm to those who have harmed me. I'm not sure who or what I am protecting. Perhaps it's because I disagree with the reactions of blaming the individual solely for their actions, that I don't agree with labeling people as "bad," that I know many people who are posting and speaking out against domestic and sexual violence yet still are harm doers. Yet still don't see their actions as hurtful.
I wish healing for you all, I wish for patriarchy and toxic masculinity to cease to exist, I wish for people of all genders to be able to reach out and ask for help, I wish that emotional labor didn't always fall on women, people socialized as women, femmes, AFAB folks. I wish for open conversations about rape and abuse and toxic behaviors without fear.
I wish I wasn't afraid.
I wish I could tell the people who hurt me about its effects without feeling bad. Without feeling guilty for making them feel bad. I wish I could help them, but I know I can't.
To the partners, and friends, and acquaintances who have hurt me: I still second guess all my actions, find myself walking on egg shells, keeping my voice soft and my arms open. I still am afraid of when the next fight/assault/rape will happen in all my relationships. I don't feel safe during sex. I don't feel safe sharing information about my life. I still always have a voice telling me I'm lying or that I made everything up. I still am quicker to say I'm sorry for others actions than to stand up for myself. I still get scared everytime I'm in a car. I still get scared when people are under the influence. I still get scared every time someone's voice is raised. I still don't trust anyone and I'm always waiting for something bad to happen. I don't know if this will ever change.
I'm working on investing my love and care into my friendships. Learning that people can care about me and want to spend time with me. Learning that not everyone will use my past traumas against me. Learning that it's okay to be upset. Learning about boundaries.
I hope one day you can all understand how you hurt me, and I hope one day you find healing. Please don't feel guilt. Please just do better.
May 10, 2018
I often say I've had a rough couple of five years.
But that would be a lie.
That i really thought all this was over. I thought I could prepare. I thought I would be able to say something this time. I was sexually assaulted by three more people this last year. And I don't know how to stop it.
That since I turned 18 I haven't gone a year without being sexually, physically or emotionally abused. I'm 24 now.
I feel numb.
This is another rape poem.
Before we start what kind would you like me to lay out for you?
The one where I was drugged, the time when I was crying? The ones where it was on video? Where I threw up after? Or how about the times when I said no? And when I couldn't? The ones where the harm-doers were my friends? The one in a bar bathroom? The hallway? In a mall parking lot?
That I shouldn't need to remind you that you will most likely know your rapist. That we all already know someone who is a rapist.That most rapists will never know that they are rapists.
Let me tell you about the way in which the word Dyke was spat at me before he raped me in his car. Where I cried stop and he said "no, let me finish. It's not fair."
Let me tell you about how he said it's better to date girls who have been raped because they do whatever you say.
Let me tell about about when he said I couldn't have been raped because I'm too much of a slut.
Let me tell you about how she asked if I was trans because of my abuse.
This is another rape poem. But.
Maybe it's a trauma poem.
Trauma from the barrage of men who have assaulted me. Pushed me down the stairs, thrown my head into windows, stalked me for weeks after we broke up, made me change my number, screamed at me in a room full of people and not one person asked me if I was okay.
The men who have threatened my family. Threatened to kill me, with hands around my neck or knife in hand.
How can I talk about my gender without talking about trauma?
This is another rape poem. But.
Maybe it's an angry poem.
Angry because of going through a 9 hour sexual assault training and having trans people talked about for less than 5 minutes.
Angry because I was sexually assaulted by three more people this past year. and because none of them were cis men my feminist friends said nothing.
Remember #feminism you can't talk about how women are rapists. #thefutureisfemale.
Let me tell you about how when I told her I didn't want to have sex she said I was the toxic person in her life, and our friends took her side. Let me tell you about when they said consent is so easy to ask for, and yet magically forgot to ask me.
Let me tell you about the time she said she just wasn't sure if she liked eating pussy before taking off my clothes. And I froze.
About how silence is not consent.
And perhaps it isn't another rape poem.
And maybe it is a trauma poem or an angry poem or a trans poem.
Or a sad poem.
A sad poem.
I'm just really. fucking. sad.
And maybe my stories and my life contain multiplicities and contradictions and pain.
Maybe it's all of this.
Maybe I can't find my way out of this pain.
That I am still unsure, that I still end too many of my statements with question marks, with trepidation.
That I need to remind myself that being unsure is okay.
Being angry is okay.
Being sad is okay.
My trauma is not your novelty.
I am not asking for your pity. I am just asking you to listen.
Actually, demanding you to listen.
Listen to my silence, listen to my hurt, listen to me when I say no.
When I say no.
June 1, 2018
Small town rape story
what is something that irrevocably changed you?
do you remember it?
what does it mean if your memory is only fractured moments, if the clarity only comes in when remembering the events the conspired after?
I've been thinking a lot about the first time I was raped.
and that whole summer after I finished high school. how I binge drank until I couldn't remember. how much I hated myself. how out of place I felt. how many self-destructive choices were made. how it was the first time I felt likeable or desired. and isn't that strange. to be liked only when you can't remember. only when you're blackout drunk.
that I'm still grasping at fractured memories to make sense of that night.
that I didn't even have a full drink before I lost consciousness.
that perhaps I preferred not being present. that when I regained consciousness my clothes were gone and I was in pain. that when I regained consciousness I was vomiting into a bedside trashcan.
but I clearly remember the events that came after. the shame and embarrassment. now just a small town slut. I took this moniker rather than rape victim. I saw what happened to those that spoke out before.
the self-destructive sex I had, turn a loss of my newfound "friends".
how sad I was, how I kept trying to find not me in binge-drinking.
how this in many ways led me into my abusive relationship freshman year of college and into many more years of abuse and self hatred and sadness and self harm.
have I broken out of this yet?
how do you measure healing?
June 5, 2018
What does it mean if I believe in transformative justice but am too scared and hurt to enact it in my own life?
What does it mean if I am quicker to cut off people who are harm-doers in my life than give them a chance to understand and heal themselves?
Is this self-preservation or am I perpetuating hurtful call-out culture and devaluation of human and community connections?
Or am I protecting them from seeing their own actions as harmful, from potentially seeing themselves as rapists and abusers?
Is it better to leave these broken relationships alone?
Where do we draw the lines for ourselves?
Can we be contradictory if it is for the sake of protecting my spirit health?
The truth is I have yet to find ways to deal with all this pain besides running. Besides extraction. Besides a clean slate.
At what point does addressing my abusers head on help construct healthier futures, and when does it lead to my own self-destruction?
When do you put yourself first, and what does that look like?
Let us end on the note we started this journey with: what do justice, healing and forgiveness look like? Are they all the same? Are they contingent on one another?
How do the individual and the community interact and relate?
I think I have needed timespace to forgive myself, the heal myself, to love myself before I can give this energy to those who have hurt me. This is continuous. Not linear. Not easy.
That I needed to build my community before I could do community work. That I needed to have support.
This process is not solely on our shoulders. I am always stronger than I think. I have people who love me, I have people who care for me, I have people who want me to thrive and succeed. I am loved. I forgive myself of feeling guilty, I forgive myself for the pain and hurt I have caused myself, I forgive myself for pushing those away who have wanted to help me, I forgive myself for not leaving, I forgive myself for not confronting my abusers, I forgive myself for taking time for me, I forgive myself and I allow myself the space and time for the process of healing.
For working towards healing my bodymindspirit, my relationship to my holistic self, healing my heart. For working on loving myself. For working on celebrating myself. For understanding that this story is not complete. For desiring to continue this work because I am worth it.
You are too.