This past month, the "Me Too" campaign that went viral on Facebook gave me lots to reflect on. Though not entirely surprising, it was powerful and deeply troubling to see just how many of my female friends and colleagues had experienced sexual violence.
And though my experience as a 16 year old surviving an attempted rape and murder has always been front and center, contributing to the body of work I evolved as a heart-centered body psychotherapist, until the "Me Too" campaign, I did not really focus on all the other experiences of inappropriate advances that I have experienced from my childhood through teenage years, through college and into my professional years. As I started to tally all the experiences, it was truly daunting not only that so many incidents happened, but also that I had put them aside, even dismissed them because none was as life threatening or significant as the incident that happened when I was 16.
It also seemed important to note that male friends and colleagues had experienced inappropriate sexual advances in addition to my female friends and colleagues. And that underlying this whole epidemic is a misuse of power and a lack of understanding of the sacredness of sexuality in our lives.
Sexuality is primal, a creative force and a drive that allows human life to continue. Conception, pregnancy and birth result from this primal sexual drive. Sexuality is also naked, raw and vulnerable. Love, safety and consciousness allow it to be sacred, where the body is the literal temple of the soul. To express our sexuality can be a form of worship in this temple.
And yet, in a culture that is so disconnected from the body, both our own human bodies and the body of the earth we live on, sexuality can be "reduced" or dissociated into just a "force" or "drive" that is powerful and can dominate, control and violate other human beings.
When I look at my own experiences of sexual violence, sometimes the perpetrator was driven by fear (my own father's reaction to the fact that his 16 year old daughter might no longer be "pure.") Sometimes the perpetrator was driven by a desire to conquer or overpower that which was vulnerable (namely me--a child, a student, an up and coming professional...). One time the perpetrator was driven by pain (the man who violently assaulted me when I was 16 was in deep and dire pain). And one time the perpetrator was on drugs and not in his right mind. In my case the perpetrators were all men. But, it could have just as well been possible that I could have been assaulted by another woman.
What I find incredibly sad, even tragic, is that each of the people who harmed or tried to harm me lacked grounding, heart, and consciousness of the impact of his actions. Did these men feel so insecure at a core level that they needed to act out in order to feel better about themselves? Were these men so wounded that they needed to "pass on the wound?" We all know the saying "hurt people hurt people."
I saw first hand that the man who violently assaulted me when I was 16 was in psychic agony and he did not really want to be hurting me. He could not help himself. His pain was too great. And I went from crime statistic to sacred intimate when I somehow tuned in to this truth and connected with him in the midst of the assault.
How can be bring more healing to one another? How can we bring more heart? How can we create safe spaces where people not only can come out of the darkness and say "me too," but also get to the heart of the matter so that we can change a culture where sexual violence is so prevalent, even if it lurks powerfully in the shadows?
When we are wounded, it is only natural to develop a shield or defense mechanism protecting the wound. We don't want to be hurt again. But if our hurts are sublimated and remain unconscious, they come out the sides or the back. The energy of the wound does not go away.
Better to create safe and respectful ways to appropriately work through layers of defenses and reach the heart of the matter where healing can take place. It needs to be safe to feel. We need to feel safe to reveal our deeper and too often darker experiences. And we need the emotional intelligence and compassion to great these deeper and darker experiences with love, compassion and appropriate contact.
Until we bring more consciousness and compassion to ourselves and one another, and until we become more aware of the spirituality in our sexuality, too many of us at all stages of our lives will continue to experience assault, intimidation or violence from other human beings.
Somehow we need to learn that heart power is more fruitful than the power of domination. And because we are all interconnected, when one person is hurt, we all feel the pain one way or the other. When one person heals, it opens the door for the rest of us.
May we be courageous enough to find ways to open our hearts to ourselves and one another and create more safety and healing, and less trauma and pain.