well,

i think that maybe
it’d be a good idea if i took a break,
a vacation even from my friends,
just me and max somewhere random
in a place where we don’t know anyone,
maybe for a week or two.

i’m tired.

when i try too hard to help too many people,
i do it at my own expense.
i function best in survival mode.
i don’t know how to snap out of survival mode.

i know, intellectually, that i don’t have to live this way.

it is so easy for me to see someone experiencing homelessness
and to immediately think of fifteen-year-old me, on the street
with nowhere to go, and no one to help.

the only people who will take you in when you’re young and homeless are men who want to have sex with you.

i keep on keeping on,
and i’m tired.

is this why i’m single?

okay, i’m back to online dating, because i guess you’re not supposed to just meet one person and focus on all the things you like about them even though their views are sometimes accidentally racist and harmful to people who have had experiences like yours.

but like, i’m never going to find love if i keep maintaining conversations like this:

 

things i brushed off

i hate to go on and on about something that happened years ago, but you know, sometimes  it still hurts and i can’t help that.

when i watched beyonce’s visual album, i couldn’t help but be triggered. i couldn’t help but think about my experiences with infidelity, which were part of my experiences with domestic abuse.

and when i think about my experience with abuse, i can’t help but also think about my work, about street harassment and how it’s connected to other forms of gender-based violence, how people tell us to brush it off.

the first time my ex raised his voice to me, i brushed it off. i thought it wasn’t that serious. i thought we all get drunk and mad sometimes, and it wasn’t like he hit me.

my boundary was pushed further.

when he spat on me and told me i was worthless, i brushed it off. i thought it wasn’t that bad, and anyway he was drunk, and it never would have happened if he hadn’t been drunk. at least he didn’t hit me.

my boundary was pushed further.

when he hit me in the face, i brushed it off. i mean, he was really just trying to take my phone away, and his hand accidentally hit my face; it was an accident, and it never would have happened if he hadn’t been drunk. he didn’t hit me on purpose.

my boundary was pushed further.

when he choked me and threw me into a table, i brushed it off. i mean, i never should have laughed that way when i walked in on him masturbating. it wasn’t very nice of me, and so i sort of provoked him, and in a way it was my fault.

my boundary was pushed further.

a few weeks later, i walked away. i had to stop brushing things off. i had to ask myself: how much more can i tolerate before i firmly draw the line? how much further could i let him push me past my boundaries, and why couldn’t i say that even a little bit of aggression that makes me feel unsafe and uncomfortable is enough to make it wrong?

recognizing the abuser

abusive partners won’t beat you up on the first date;
they’ll wait until you trust them,
wait until you think you know them,
so that when it happens, it’s hard to leave,
because you think it’s out of character.
you think it must be an isolated incident
because you know this person.
you’ve known this person to do so many wonderful things,
to support you, to love you, to be there for you,
to sometimes slip and say something mean,
but then to double down on the kindness that you know,
so it’s easy to let it go because the good times way outnumber the slip ups,
and the more slip ups you accept, the more severe it gets,
until slipping up is the norm and you’re grasping at straws to find the person you knew,
you’re in love with the memory of who they were when they listened to you,
when they listened and learned all of your doubts and fears;
they couldn’t possibly be the same person now using all of those doubts and fears against you.
you separate them in your head – dr. jekyll and mr. hyde;
you’re in love with one, but you’ve come to accept the other as well;
that’s what love is, isn’t it?
you don’t just walk away because someone has flaws,
you have flaws, too, and they’re accepting you;
your flaws seem like they must be hard to bear.
you’re making your partner so angry all the time,
and you know this person, you wonder what you must’ve done to them
to make them turn from the kind, loving, supportive person you once knew
into this monster.
it must be your fault, because you knew what they were like before,
before you came along.
still, despite the way you’ve ruined them, they accept you, they forgive you,
so you have to accept them, too, right?
and you don’t want to tell anyone what’s happening because,
well, it’s embarrassing – you should be embarrassed for the way you’ve behaved,
for the things that you’ve done that have made them so angry,
even though sometimes it seems like they started the fight,
or they did something to really hurt you that made you upset,
well, maybe you’re just remembering it wrong,
because that version doesn’t make sense,
it doesn’t make sense with what you know about them,
about how wonderful they are,
and it’s more likely that what they’re telling you is true:
that you started the fight, you were provoking them again,
why do you always do that? and they always forgive you.

one of the reasons it’s so hard to walk away from abusive relationships is because sometimes your abuser is so good at convincing you that you’re the abuser and that you’re the one that’s being forgiven every time, so it makes you think that leaving won’t make a difference since you’re the one starting the fights, and if only you could stop starting the fights then the abuse will stop, and everything will be fine, but you’re the one who has to stop it because you can’t escape yourself.

what saved me was his admission that it had happened with his previous girlfriends. then suddenly it wasn’t my fault anymore, and i could leave.

I think it’s when I start to feel vulnerable, when I start to feel something for someone, that my head goes to these dark places about how terrible a relationship can be. I have experienced the worst kind of relationship, and when I was hopeful after Max was born, I almost ended up in another abusive relationship, and now it’s so hard to see myself in a relationship that can make me happy.

in the jail cell next to you

I told a man the story about the night we got arrested. It helps to talk about it. I never get to talk about it. I didn’t get to talk about it then; you told me I should be embarrassed. I was.

I heard that you were arrested again, this time in Vegas. I heard you got off with a fine and community service. I heard you had to go to impulse control counseling that won’t make you better at controlling your impulses; it will only make you better at knowing what others expect from you, so you can push the boundaries of those expectations and manipulate others into believing that you’re doing your best.

I still keep tabs on you; I can’t help it, the way I know that you can’t help it, the way I know that you’re reading this now.

We don’t love each other, but we’re curious. Curious because it’s the only time our tricks didn’t work. Curious because we never loved each other; we only ever fought for control.

There were times that we even stopped and asked ourselves, Why are we together? We had nothing in common except the fact that we had both always relied so heavily on the love of others to survive.

Every now and then, I choose a single moment from that relationship to focus on. To over-analyze. To try to understand. The only things I’ve come to understand are patriarchy and racism, power and control.

I should have never been arrested for trying to scare you off. I was trying to protect myself. You were not afraid of me. You grabbed the knife out of my hand, cutting your palm, and you ran outside to tell the police that I cut you. I didn’t even know you had cut yourself; you didn’t react. I wonder if you felt it at all, or if you were too angry to feel a thing. You seemed so strong, so powerful.

And when you blamed me, I felt so responsible. And when I heard you snoring from the jail cell next to mine, I was so upset. And when you asked me if I was okay in the van that transferred us from one jail to another, I was so confused. I said yes. I had made a friend by then; she was in for drunk driving. She thought you were cute, and I said, “He’s all yours.”

It took years before I shared that story publicly. It took until last night for me to share it with someone I’m dating. There’s still this part of me that wonders, what will he think of me?

He listened. He didn’t make me feel strange for going on about this thing that happened four years ago that still traumatizes me. He didn’t make me feel like a burden. It felt good to get it off my chest, and then he said, “I have so much respect for you.” It was the last thing I expected him to say. I expected him to question me. I expected him to blame me. There’s still a part of me that blames myself, and maybe I need to talk about it with people who will support me, because maybe I need those reminders that it wasn’t me. I need those reminders regularly, because sometimes when I make a mistake like I did with Griffin, I think back to that night and to other nights, and I think maybe it was me. Maybe I’m the abusive one. What if I was the abusive one all along?

I still have those fears. That’s why I wanted to apologize, because I thought, I’m so manipulative, why am I so awful? And I wanted to apologize for everything I’d ever done that may have been manipulative, because I so desperately did not want to be the person that I sometimes fear I am.

Anyway, I know that I should forget, but I can’t.

#survivedandpunished: criminalizing survivors of color

As I continue to better understand systemic racism, I’m able to better understand the things that have happened in my life – things that I’ve witnessed and experienced firsthand.

When I was 14, in the foster care of a distant relative, I was sexually assaulted by one of my caregiver’s employees. I told friends and cried about it to them, but I didn’t tell any of the adults in my life. When you grow up in an abusive household and you’ve been moved around from home to home, you quickly lose trust in caregivers and authority figures. I thought I could avoid this person and prevent it from happening to me again. I put the onus on myself to avoid sexual assault.

It happened three times before I admitted I needed help. So I asked for help.

But I wasn’t offered any support or even the promise that he’d be kept away from me. Instead, I was accused of selling my body.

This is why the conversation about sexual violence is inextricable from the conversation about racism. When a white woman is sexually assaulted, we have to fight the premise that she was asking for it. When a woman of color is sexually assaulted, we have to fight the premise that she was selling it. And even when a woman does engage in sex work, like some of the women that Daniel Holtzclaw targeted specifically because he knew that they were less likely to be believed, it doesn’t mean she can’t also be a victim of sexual assault.

In fact, those who are part of marginalized groups are most vulnerable to sexual violence.

But in the public eye, people of color are criminals – guilty before proven innocent. Even when we’re victims ourselves.

I’m so bothered by this WUSA9 story on the incident at Shaw Library – an incident that I witnessed with my own eyes. This officer abused his power to discriminate against an innocent Muslim woman of color who was reading in a public library, and then he had the nerve to tell everyone that she deserved it, that she brought it upon herself in some way.

He says she was sleeping. I could complain that the library’s rule against people sleeping in the library is just another way to criminalize people experiencing homelessness, people who are overwhelming black and brown, but that’s not really the point here. She wasn’t sleeping; she was reading quietly. She wasn’t wearing a hoodie; she was wearing a hijab. And even if she had been sleeping, even if she had been wearing a hoodie, no one has any excuse to harass her, to intimidate her with handcuffs, and to force her out of a public library.

It’s still not okay.

I know I shouldn’t waste my time reading the comments, but I did. “Well the investigation must have found it to be utter BS or else they would have obviously fired him.” I know I shouldn’t engage in these pointless conversations, but I did. “When are we going to hear from the victim in this alleged tragedy? Why are you the only one speaking about this?”

Too many of us don’t want to believe that this is the world we live in, but it is. It’s easier to pretend it isn’t when you’re not a person of color. And if you wonder why I’m fighting, why I’m speaking up, it’s because I’m a woman of color, and my life is on the line, too.

We’re more likely to be targeted, and when we survive, we’re punished for it.

I just wanna be safe, y’all, I’m not asking for a lot here.

handcuffs

kerry

it’s a hard thing losing someone you love.
kerry, i know you know i still think of you,
even if i don’t always write it,
even if i don’t always say it,
even if i don’t always let myself cry.

you were the most important person in my life,
and i will never forget you.