Thursday, March 24, 2011

In Response to Kevin Powell's Open Letter to Chris Brown


I'm sure you get this a lot and I don't even know if you'll read this, but after reading your open letter to Chris Brown, I was so incredibly grateful that I really felt I had to reach out. I am a 30-year old Latina 6-time assault survivor and a healer. The first time I was violated, I was 5 years old and the last time I was violated I was 26. I grew up in a home with a wonderful father who treated feelings like they were poison. He did not speak to me for six months after my last assault, and it took quite the journey to place him squarely in my life again. I can truly say that the work was worth it.

His ease with anger and alienation to his pain created my total lack of ease with anger at any level. So much so that when it came time for me to be angry at my attackers, I had an awful self-imploding reaction. It has been many years of therapy and a lot of diving into the ugly before I've been able to really claim my full emotional spectrum. And no matter how I fight it, there is constant learning that being a survivor is a life long process.

In any event, I wanted to thank you for a few reasons. One, I absolutely understand the courage it takes to be truly introspective about a life long battle with the scars of trauma. In that way, I feel like so many of us are in a fox hole together in our are enduring journey to self-healing, we're in a fox hole and so many times in that journey you feel alone. I can only imagine you may know what I'm talking about when I say that its the art of learning that the valleys should be relished instead of avoided or accepted that you find peace. That learning, as painful as it can be, is salvation. Every. Time. When your trauma happens young, your brain is wired in a different way, and you have to fight the perceptions of right and wrong built in your head from the beginning of your cognition.

Many years ago, I was sitting in a group of teenagers, much less healed than I currently am, and I had a young man admit in a session to punching a hole in a wall and pressuring a girl into intercourse after she had refused him. He had listened to my survivors story and admitted this racked with such guilt, he had not understood until that moment, what he had done. He loved and respected me and that connected him to a larger narrative of women and the crosses we carry. Now all the damage in me yelled so loud around the need to scold or chastise, in fact many of the young women in the group were already ready to verbally lacerate him. What came next, I can only see as God's divine hand, as my heart opened up and I allowed my love to say that I saw him as whole and flawed and redeemable. I told him the first step to his own healing was admitting and owning that shame but that the second step to his healing was going to be admitting the pain that causes any being to seek value in external gratification. That self-medication and the denial of that can cause such anger, that anger can then cause such guilt. Guilt is an albatross around the neck of a healing spirit.

It is of this young man I thought of as I read your letter to Chris Brown. Admittedly, in the way you can with celebrities, I felt indignant about him and his anger until reading your letter. And when the GMA interview aired my first thought was "She'll always have to live with having been a victim, it is only right that you live knowing the pain of being seen as a predator". And I never factored in the truly broken spirit and pain of a young man who would react in such ways to someone he loved. He was not a human to me, he was, as you so eloquently pointed out, the face of every attacker in my history.

It occurs to me that a part of being a healer is the empathy you are blessed with and the ability to extend love to every last unhealed soul. While we make choices around whose healing we participate in, I feel like we are bound to a coda that has us at very least see the humanity in our brothers and sisters. Thank you for reminding me that these brothers and sisters exist everywhere and that this love is something we put into the universe. Whether we know them or not.

I have watched so many of my brothers, especially the brown and black men in my life, fight their emotional body. As if this fight could render into submission hearts that strong. I have watched men I loved medicate on drugs, alcohol, sex, and in some cases even medicate with me as their drug of the moment. I have watched them run from themselves at full speeds, hoping they could get away from both their better and worst angels. I say this because my last piece of gratitude in this overly long letter is for being a man that is okay with not running anymore. The more there are of you, the more I know my brothers will understand the peace that happens when you stop running. I am convinced that my ability to truly feel safe in the world as a woman is tied to the end of that running. So thanks.

Warm regards and more appreciation than I can possibly put into words.

Your sister in the fox hole,


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