CW: assault, trauma, victim-blaming.
I’ll just say this up front: this might not be a terribly popular opinion, but it’s something I feel called to share regarding my own process. I’m speaking only for myself, and if this information isn’t for you, that’s totally okay.
There’s a lot of tense dialogue in the spiritual community about the relationship between the law of attraction and assault. Some people believe that as humans we are in control of everything that happens to us. Some people believe that this philosophy, applied to things like rape and assault, is victim-blaming. For a long time, I was uncomfortable with both sides of that argument, and I resorted, as most chaos magicians do, to the spiritually neutral, results-based strategy of “choose the belief that best empowers you.”
There is enough victim-blaming in the mundane world (see cops who will ask a woman what she was wearing or whether she was drinking when she was raped). We don’t need more of it in the spiritual world, which is supposed to feel safe, especially to we practitioners who are often treated like freaks or weirdos by polite society.
This week I continued in my reading of The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, and I came across a statistic that reframed some of my understandings. A test called the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study scaled respondents from 0-7 based on their answers to questions about whether they had experienced or witnessed physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse as children. What they found was that those with a score of 4 or higher were SEVEN TIMES as likely to be alcoholics or rape survivors as adults than those who scored 0. Those with a score of 6 or higher were FIFTY times more likely to attempt suicide and 46 times as likely to use IV drugs. While alcoholism, drug use, and suicide attempts carry a strong degree of personal accountability in accepted society, rape doesn’t. And it shouldn’t – no survivor should be held accountable for the actions of the person who assaulted them. That person should be 100% legally responsible for using their free will to hurt the victim.
But I’m starting to think there is also a greater story at play, because while it’s arguable that rapists target those who seem vulnerable, there’s no way that they go around specifically selecting victims with high ACE scores.
Here’s what I know from my own experience with trauma and from my continued studying of how it’s stored in the body: When I experienced abuse as a child, I was advised to block it out, because I was in a situation I couldn’t escape. So I learned to dissociate. I turned off my body and I went somewhere else. This is often referred to as depersonalization – leaving the bodily experience of trauma, and sinking into the feeling that nothing that’s happening is real. Van Der Kolk describes it as the outward manifestation of the biological freeze reaction, the third option after fight or flight.
While such a coping mechanism can help a person survive a traumatic experience, it becomes a problem when that dissociation becomes their default setting. After a deep depressive episode at the end of 2011, I stopped being able to feel fear or pain. I started my band, seduced my heroes, and took up parkour because I wasn’t afraid of failure, but I also split off and repressed systematic sexual assaults that were happening to me, and I literally couldn’t feel anything when I broke my hand. Without the ability to feel pain, I couldn’t tell when something was hurting me, and I prioritized other people’s feelings over my internal experience.
Let me repeat that: without the ability to feel pain, I couldn’t tell when something was hurting me, and I prioritized other people’s feelings over my internal experience.
Let me add to that: when nothing that was happening to me felt real, the repeated assaults on me felt imaginary, or at best unimportant. When my experience FROM CHILDHOOD was that my personal boundaries were not going to be honored, it was difficult if not impossible to prioritize even knowing what they were let alone enforcing them. So I froze while a popular nightlife photographer put his finger inside me at The Skinny, and I let him make me feel bad for confronting about it later, because I had “gone and made things awkward.” I made nice when a large male coworker pulled me into a room at work, shoved his tongue in my mouth, and put my hand on his dick. I smiled and made small talk with men who violated me, because it felt easier to let them assault me than to defend myself. I can’t tell who raped me and who didn’t, because there were so many times that it seemed hopeless to even say no.
If you put a dog in a cage and electroshock it, after a while it won’t move even when you open the cage door. It’ll just sit there and take the shocks. Consent is a really complicated concept for me.
Last week, Danielle Ayoka (@MysticxLipstick) tweeted some controversial statements:
“When you constantly attract people who piss you off, offend you, hurt you or betray u… you’re not living in alignment w your authenticity.
“You can take that truth or be so focused on the other person you continue to play the victim. No one can make you a victim but yourself.
“Whether it’s on a soul level, unconscious level or behavioral level every single thing you experience will always point back to you.
“Accountability doesn’t always feel good. Self pity is easier to wallow in than owning every aspect of yourself.
“I’ve seen a lot of ‘spiritual’ people say ‘law of attraction doesn’t count when-‘ YES THE FUCK IT DOES. OWN YOURSELF.”
The fear I have in putting this information out there is that it will be used to victim-blame survivors in a way that disempowers them rather than gives them support for healing. I was assaulted this week and I had some interactions online where I admonished people not to encourage my victimhood, and they reacted with concern about whether I was victim-blaming myself.
In the realm of the mundane, which includes law enforcement, court justice, jail, and rehabilitation – yes, the perpetrator is 100% responsible for his/her actions, and the survivor is 0% responsible. It doesn’t matter what the victim was wearing. It doesn’t matter how much the victim had to drink. None of these things are invitations to assault. We should be able to walk around half naked and drunk at nighttime in parking garages alone and still not be asking for it. That a rape happens is solely on the shoulders of a rapist, and legal justice should absolutely be enforced.
But in the realm of the spiritual, for me, I have chosen to examine the traumas and beliefs that are keeping these things happening to me. It’s not about blaming myself, because the abuse I experienced as a child that makes me seven times more likely to be raped wasn’t my fault either, but ultimately if someone vandalizes your house it’s on you to make the repairs. It’s MY HOUSE, it’s my body, and I am responsible for its integrity. Nobody is going to protect me except myself. Nobody is going to rescue me if I don’t do it myself. Believe me, that last sentence is so painful to type I don’t even want to post it, because for so long, the idea that I could be rescued was the proverbial teddy bear I held onto as a child, the fairytale I believed in that saved my life. But if I am forever seeking rescue to heal my wounds, I will continue to unconsciously manifest situations from which I need to be rescued. And here I am. I was assaulted again on Wednesday night. So I’m taking responsibility.
As Jesus once said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
And as Pamela Madsen says, “I hope there is something for you here.”