Reclaiming Your Power
It happened when I was little – too young to remember too much. It happened again as a child – too innocent to understand. It happened once more as an adult – too ashamed to stand up for my rights.
My first response was to blame myself. My inner voice said “Come on now Darling! Three times? What are you doing wrong?”
Sadly, the voices outside essentially mimicked the same.
But then it clicked.
No one had taught him how to fall in love with my mind. No one had taught him how to connect to my femininity – to embrace it, to balance it. No one had taught him my value beyond my body parts. They had taught him to conquer me, to display me like a trophy, but not to understand the prized possession I really was.
No one had taught me to present my self to him. No one had taught me how to present the parts of me that weren’t my skin. No one had taught me to value myself as more than a sum of my body parts. So how could anyone else?
In the aftermath of violation I waited, desperately, for an apology from him – or any acknowledgement at all. It never came. He took my power away from me in the moment of the assault, but I gave my power away to him freely for months afterwards, waiting.
Reclaiming my power was fragmented, but it was a process I had to do for myself. I couldn’t retrieve it from anyone – it was almost like it had to be reborn within. It started in the car, listening to the radio. A song came on sung by a man telling me how he wanted me to look (skinny waist, little thighs, nice tush and all the rest). I don’t get angry often, but in that moment I thought ‘who the hell does this jerk think he is? Why should I let him tell me how he wants me to look?’. It seemed so obvious it hurt: I had the power then to turn it off – to make a statement.
Those who I divulged my experiences to looked at me like a china doll, and often in their own bewilderment at the situation made statements like “you must really hate men now.”. They made assumptions that I wouldn’t want to go out with them, and that I might be afraid of being around guys. I could have taken that path and hunkered under the shadows of fear, but instead I took some power back and released the victimisation.
If I allowed fear to infiltrate my decision making, to push away an entire gender population made up of amazing individuals because of the disgraceful actions of merely a few, then I was allowing those few to have the power over me time and time again. Besides, I reasoned that these violators were not representing “men”, they were representing violators. I released my own victimisation and stood proud to meet each new man as I would meet each new woman in my life – with a smile and the expectation that this was a potential new friend.
I began to research the psychology of sexual assault, coming to the decision that whilst the perpetrators had violated my body I wasn’t prepared to accept that my body was the sum of me. They had used my body as a sexual object, making it a separate entity to my mind and soul. As a gift to my beautiful body I integrated it in to my rituals of care.
I allowed myself to indulge in cravings, feeding my body only the best foods that would nourish it- nourish me. I learned how to value my self as more than just my physical self. I showered my body with love, taking time to acknowledge every inch of it when I bathed, appreciating it as more than just something that could be used or measured or weighed.
I gave thanks to my legs each day they carried me through foreign cities.
I swelled with gratitude for my hands each time they channelled the lyrics of my mind onto paper.
I loved on my feet when they burned across a dance-floor.
I began to show my body more love and admiration than it had ever experienced before from anyone ever, including me. It expects it now – it will not settle for any less, from anyone ever, including me.
I gave my body standards. Esteem. Power.
I surrounded myself with people who did the same.
I have come to realise that there are times in life when things happen to us that take away our power to make choices in that moment, but in the wake of this there is one choice that no one can ever take away from you, and that is how you choose to respond. There is so much power in that alone. Bask in it.
Last week we responded to Brazil’s #NãoMereçoSerEstuprada campaign with the post “I Do Not Deserve to Be Raped.” We are so grateful for the solidarity, support, and personal stories BJ! readers—like Courtney Grant—sent our way.