Tag Archives: rape

STAND YOUR GROUND

 

 

21 October 2917

The pomegranate tree is ablaze in a dazzle of gold; its last hurrah before baring its branches. The tree has lived here for two and half years now and, in spite of the fact that it has yet to provide us with a single pomegranate, it has grown sturdy and full. Rooted on one side of our little terrace it provides us cover in the summer months when we take the sun naked. Not that the farmers are likely to want to see us in our threadbare bathing suits! In the spring it protects us form the early morning chill as we eat breakfast in its embrace.

I admit that the tree is somewhat of a disappointment. I had envisioned its golden boughs adorned with exotic red fruit at this time of year, not to mention having looked forward to eating and juicing them. But plants and trees are like children in that you never know what you’re getting. However, unlike with children, one is freer to uproot a tree and discard it if it displeases. And I did, early on, think about returning this one to the nursery for a refund or replacement. But I decided to keep it and in spite of its inability to bear fruit, nurture it and love it for what it does provide. As a result it has blossomed, not only in the spring when it decorates itself with little red trumpets, but also in girth, and what I experience as a sort of pride in itself; a willingness to grow in spite of its defects.

The garden and I are having a long goodbye this autumn, partly because of global warming. Although this is disturbing, I am grateful to be able to sit outside, even now, at five o’clock on a late October day and witness the miracle of it. Here on this arid, rocky ground – made even more inhospitable by a year of drought and high heat – everything I planted over the last three years has not only survived but grown to the extent that visitors remark on how it looks as though it has been here for decades. There is something about tending a garden that rewards me more than any other endeavor.

Like many of you, I expect, I have been watching the revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s decades of abuse of women. I’m not sure why the backlash to his behavior is gaining so much traction as opposed to the behavior of say, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby (to name a few) all of whom disappeared from view after a relatively short outing. Don’t get me wrong…I’m thrilled that there seems to be some momentum now. But at the same time I can’t help feeling angry that it takes a lot of celebrities coming forward in order for this endemic behavior to be more roundly condemned. Do we only give credence to this systemic abuse when it is validated by “stars?” Why isn’t it enough to be an ordinary woman to have one’s story believed?

I was as a dinner a couple of weeks ago with a dozen people and the subject of Weinstein came up. I was horrified when one of the women expressed disbelief about these women’s stories. Why, she wanted to know, if it was true, had they kept silent for so long? It was all I could do not to scream. Bad enough when a man asks that question, but a woman? I asked her if she had ever experienced such abuse and when she demurred I told her of a couple of the many such experiences I had encountered during my life. I told her of the fear that accompanies violation. How men retaliate when they are accused. How women are trashed in court if it even gets that far. And I asked her why, if a woman has a less than pristine past is it deemed her fault she was raped, or otherwise abused. What is it about the word “consent” that people don’t understand? I don’t care if a woman robbed a bank, it doesn’t make it okay for her to be raped. One person’s crime doesn’t justify another’s.

I’m glad to report that by the time I finished my defense of women as victims and men as predators the woman thanked me for helping her take another view. And this is what we all must do now; we must educate each other. Women have to find the courage not only to come forward as these brave women have who were abused and terrified by Weinstein, but we have to stand firm in all the small ways. And we have to accept that our response, as women, is as ingrained as is that of the male’s erroneous sense of entitlement and superiority. And ingrained it is.

I recently overheard a male friend of mine talking with someone on the phone. This man is a good man and one who agrees with the need for equality. And yet, he too, totally unconsciously, objectified 2 women by asking the host of an upcoming event if he could invite them along, adding, “They’re beautiful.” As if beauty is the guaranteed requisite for women to gain entry…into anything! And yes, I did point out to him that what he had said is an example of how ingrained all this shit is.

It’s an interesting moment in time, isn’t it? Sure, it’s scary sometimes; all the hatred and discrimination that’s coming to a head. So what are our choices? To become overwhelmed and do nothing? Or to just do whatever little bit we’re capable of whenever we can? I personally believe that like the pomegranate tree, we have to stand our ground. Like it, we are less than perfect and yet we have the right to be treated with respect. Like it, when we are forgiven for not living up to expectations, we flourish in ways we might never have imagined.

Evening has arrived and with it, a chill breeze. I watch as the pomegranate sheds its leaves. Like tears of gold, they fall.

THE LIGHT IS CALLING

NB. I have held off publishing this post for a week because I felt torn as to whether this was an appropriate time to share some of the content. Today I decided to go with it. Why? Because I trust that my readers are capable of accepting that the nature of reality is complex; that we have no control over any of it; and that while it is important to acknowledge the negative, it is imperative that we return to the positive.

30th October 2016

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Good news! I got out of the wheelchair 10 days ago after another round of X-rays showed excellent healing of the fractures. And I was determined to get out the damn brace, in spite of the doctor telling me I needed to wear it for another month. Another month? Are you kidding me? I was out of that wheelchair so fast and moving across the room, waving the “broken” hand at her. “Look,” I said, “Don’t treat me like a 70 year old biddy.” “Look,” I said, showing the 6 inch scar from my once broken neck. “Look,” I said, doing a stiff-legged pirouette . “I was a dancer, I know my body.” I won.

What joy, to return the wheelchair and crutches, to throw out the plastic bedpan, to walk through the garden gate and down the steps, to be able to navigate the whole house again. Sure, there’s work to be done, probably another couple of months of physiotherapy before the shockingly wasted muscles return to normal. Sure there’s pain. I’ll take it, with gratitude on top.

Two days later we took ourselves off to a local spa for 5 days of thermal waters and massage. Situated on its own hilltop in the Val d’Ocia, Castello di Velona is not only gob-smackingly beautiful but has a staff that is as kind and spirited as they are professional. My wonderful physiotherapist visited 3 times to give me treatments and work me out in the water and it was amazing how quickly the knee and hand achieved the next level of recovery.

spa-pool

panorama

I’m always slightly embarrassed to share these kinds of privileges. Perhaps its because, just as I don’t want to be viewed as “old,” neither do I want to be seen as privileged, when in fact I am both. It has to do with judgment, of course, and judgment always separates us from each other. I’m proud of my working class roots and am grateful to have experienced poverty as an adult. The range of experiences I’ve had in my life have, I hope, made me a more compassionate woman. Still, I’m always quick to let people know that my life wasn’t always so blessed. Truth is I’m not that comfortable around lifelong “haves.” I like when the dirt shows.

Talking about dirt, I’d like to comment on the response women receive when they finally talk about sexual harassment years after the fact, the response usually being one of disbelief, as in, “If that really happened, how come she waited so long to report it?” The same response is also leveled at men who were raped as boys by priests or teachers. I’ll tell you why we keep it to ourselves: because we know nobody wants to believe such horrors. Sure, there are, and always will be, false accusations and there will be men who unjustly suffer as a result. However, it’s time we listened to each other. All these women coming forward with regard to Bill Cosby and Donald Trump, they need to be heard. How easy it is for people to say, “Oh, these women are just trying to cash in on some fame and fortune now.” Maybe some are…but ALL of them? Come on. The reason we don’t come forward at the time is exactly because these are powerful men and who wants to be “raped” all over again in the press or in court.

There are a lot of ways to suppress the voice of women…as Hillary Clinton well knows. But I say, watch out. People are rising up against injustice now because as Michelle Obama says, “Enough is enough.” Whether you are a black citizen fearful of being shot by the police or a woman afraid of being raped and then accused of making it up, the time has come to get it all out in the open. So, here’s my rape story.

I was 21. Living in Vancouver. I’d just lost my job and desperate for money, took a gig as a cocktail waitress. My shift was from 5pm to midnight. My ‘uniform,’ supplied by management, was a green satin mini-dress that barely covered my breasts or my bum. At the end of my shift I would go to the staffroom to get my bag so I could smoke a cigarette while adding up the tabs and tips, then I’d return to the staffroom to change into my street clothes and catch a cab home.

On the 5th night, I finished up and went to change only to find the staffroom locked. Deiter, the maître d’, said the manager must have thought I’d already left and had locked up and left, taking the key with him. Deiter, who was very tall and slim but athletically built, had struck me as very professional; courteous, but distant. He retrieved a man’s raincoat that had been left in the cloak room, gave it to me and offered to drive me home I gratefully accepted. I lived about 20 minutes away.

About 10 minutes into the ride he asked if he could make a quick stop at his apartment to get something. I said ok. He parked the car in front of his building and said why didn’t I come up for a minute. I said no thanks. He came around to the passenger side, pulled me out of the car, put his hand over my mouth and dragged me up two flights to his apartment. Terrified, but trying to play it cool, I asked if I could call home to let my mother know I’d be late (my mother lived in England). His response was to rip the phone out of the wall.

It was now about 1:30 a.m. For the next four and half hours he raped me. While he raped me he told me his parents had been Nazis. While he raped me he told me how he’d take care of me for the rest of my life. While he raped me he told me I could never speak to my family and friends again. While he raped me he told me he’d buy me new clothes. While he raped me I pretended to be happy.

At around 6 a.m., he finally fell asleep with his arm across my chest. It took me nearly an hour to inch out from under him, freezing every time he stirred. When my feet finally hit the floor I ran, grabbing my bag and the raincoat, I ran naked down the stairs and out into the middle of the street where I waved down a VW. The driver said, “Get in the back.” I started to explain. “I don’t want to know,” he said, and drove me to a taxi stand.

When I got home I called the police station. After I finished telling the cop what happened he asked, “Did he come in you?” “No,” I said. “Nothing we can do then,” he said and hung up. I ran a hot bath and sat in it for a long time.

rape

When we got home from the Spa, Silvia and Vincenzo were harvesting our olives. What goodness, to see these farmers, who are also our landlords and neighbors, up in the branches of our trees, doing what has been done here for centuries.

vands

Goodness is what we must turn to every day now. It’s time to turn from the drip-line of the “news.” It’s not new. Like goodness, the dark side has been with us forever. The details may change but the story is the same. Those who are fearful of owning their fear will continue to be the bullies, terrorists and dictators.

silvia-1

Yesterday was a turn around day for me. The night before I had shared with Joel that I was afraid of becoming more negative with age. That there was something about the accrual of events during the last couple of years that had wormed its way into me: the robbery, my months long illness, then my daughter nearly dying, then Joel being incapacitated for months and then these recent injuries. That steady drip had me unconsciously beginning to brace for the worst . It’s a thin line between bracing for the worst and starting to seek it out. I realized yesterday, that I had been indulging in tapping into the continuous cycle of negativity we call the news. I decided to stop. I’ve cast my vote, I’ve donated money, and beyond that it’s out of my control. No matter who wins this election, that which we fear will continue to exist. Better to rejoice in the perseverance of beauty and kindness.

Two days after the olives were harvested they were taken to the local frantoia to be pressed. We would have gone but we’d invited new friends we’d met at the spa to come here for tea. I made a pot of verbena ginger, the verbena picked fresh from the garden. We nibbled on pecorino cheese and pan co’ santi, the annual harvest bread studded with raisins and walnuts. We talked of creativity and openness and the beauty and light of Tuscany.

This is the good news we must spread: that light is everywhere and when we turn to it and absorb it we become it and reflect it back into the world like the sunflowers and the grapes and the fresh-pressed olive oil, glowing with goodness in the new day.

oil