A Day In The Life Of Mom is proud to host author Wendy Brown-Baez. Her work can be found at http://www.wendybrownbaez.com/
How can we reclaim our voice when we have been silenced by trauma?
by Wendy Brown-Baez, author of Catch a Dream
One topic that haunts me is violence against women world-wide. I have experienced violence myself and I have been horrified by stories told by my sisters from around the globe. The current #metoo movement has highlighted how often women are mistreated by men in positions of power but violence against women takes place in every layer of society and in every culture. Until recently domestic violence was seen as private matter in marriage and was not illegal. In some cultures, rape is a way of terrorizing and demoralizing the enemy. And in some places, rape was the right of royalty on the bridal night to insure the couple was held under the thumb of those in power. It is a by-product of war and an initiation into gang membership. Sexual violence is more often perpetrated by friends on a date, by acquaintances from school or work, or by family members than by strangers.
The rape in Catch a Dream and Lily’s attack in the streets of Jerusalem are based on true events. In the novel, I condensed a kidnapping and subsequent trial into memories going through Lily’s mind as she opens up to the man she loves. In reality, I never shared my story until I fell in love with a particular man my character Levi is based on. There was something so devastating in the ways women are judged when she has been victimized that silenced me. My powerlessness when confronted by a gun scarred me. Sharing my story and being held in my lover’s arms afterwards was the beginning of my healing.
Lily’s anger rises to the surface when her belief system as represented by the cross is threatened. That anger smoldered for years until something pushed her over the edge. Standing up for herself was liberating.
I was not in counseling but I should have been. The anger within me that had been smoldering and burst into flames spontaneously gave me the chutzpah to stand up for myself. It was a turning point, the beginning of shedding my fear. I learned I could identify a potential attacker and scream for help.
One way we can reclaim our voices is by telling our stories. We can use the transformative art of story-telling in poems, fiction, memoir and creative non-fiction, and other arts. We can re-define our moment of fear into a moment of strength by focusing on how we survived. Whether we fought back or gave in, we made decisions to stay alive. Intuitive free writing and journaling are also healing but it is when we feel heard that deeper restoration can take place.
Another way we can reclaim our voices is to be of service to others. It may take time before we feel ready to hear others’ stories and it may take counseling to come to grips with any residual feelings of shame, self-blame or inadequacy. By teaching writing workshops for victims of domestic violence and in prisons, I have a new level of understanding of my own victimization
and my healing journey. I am aware that I didn’t put myself in harm’s way because of a fault of my own but because assault is unfortunately a common occurrence.
This is not for everyone; a survivor may not feel strong enough. However, we can teach writing workshops or create open mics or lead story telling sessions for young people in crisis, the homeless, cancer survivors, or any others on the edge of feeling safe. We do not have to directly write about trauma but write about where we feel at home, what we love and what brings us joy.
We can be attentive listeners. Bearing witness without offering advice is healing. I find that sometimes someone who has experienced trauma needs to tell that story over and over, until the energy can shift to “who I am now”, to claim our voice and our resilience and endurance and gratitude to be alive.