Yesterday I added an “I believe survivors #stopkavanaugh” frame to my Facebook profile photo. This was not an action I took lightly.
The word “believe” has long carried the highest of meanings within me. It takes me back to a time in my childhood — a time that persisted well into my teen age years — when I carried a tremendous heaviness in my heart because I did not believe.
Coincidentally (or maybe not…) I have now been studying under the direction of yoga teachers — Sharon Gannon and David Life, and now David Garrigues — who place great value on words and their meaning. It’s been a common part of my study to investigate words and work to use them purposely and sparingly. It’s like a vinyasa practice for the mind and mouth.
Merriam Webster offers the following for the definition of “believe”:
to accept something as true, genuine, or real;
to have a firm or wholehearted religious conviction or persuasion — to regard the existence of God as a fact;
to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something; and
to hold an opinion — suppose/think.
I sat down to write this because over the past few days my Facebook page has been lit up with “I believe…” and it occurred to me that this was an opportunity to take stock. What do I believe? Who do I believe and why? Why does this word carry so much baggage for me? Does it for others as well? What does it mean to believe? Why are folks so motivated to post this? And what are they trying to tell us?
As a student of the sciences, I was steeped in the process of proof. You pick a subject, develop a hypothesis, and work to prove it. That part of my life supported some inner need for things to be black and white, good and bad, true and not true. Believe or not believe.
In church I sat berating myself because I couldn’t find the proof. I didn’t believe and I hated myself for it. I so badly wanted to fit in. I so badly wanted to make my family proud. I very much wanted to take communion and not have a doubt in me. Believe or not believe. I didn’t, at least not like they do. Turns out that believing in something is not so black and white….
So, when I opened Facebook these last few days to a barrage of “I believe” there was a part of me that resisted. I couldn’t understand how my friends could be so quick to publicly proclaim belief in something, or in this case someone(s), whom they had never met (most likely) and based solely on the word of the survivor.
I pondered. I asked myself the tough questions and considered what it means to believe. I believe that it’s the very rare case that someone stands up to share their shame, their history of being abused, without there being truth behind their claims. And I believe that we have long lived in a society that panders to misogynists, male ego, and the good-ole-boys club. I believe that women have for so long been condescended to, harassed, assaulted and otherwise demeaned that this current #metoo movement marks the beginning of massive change unlike modern society has ever seen. I believe in the strength and courage of the many incredible women in my own life and community. I believe that God is in all of us as something beautiful, pure and true. And I believe Dr. Blasey Ford is true, genuine, and real.
And I almost didn’t include this part, but I feel in my gut it’s important to do so… you see, I’m a SURVIVOR too — of mental and physical abuse by a former boyfriend that I thought I loved. He beat the shit out of me on numerous occasions. There were witnesses — all of which were his friends — and they’d probably have a different account of things than I do to this day, but it happened and I’m left with the scars to prove it. I buried it so deep that I have rarely ever spoken about it to anyone. It was humiliating and the last thing I wanted was for anyone else to know, let alone get up in front of the nation and talk about it! (But that needs to change too…). It left me feeling so small, ugly, unlovable, tainted, weak, powerless, and trapped and then I would get up and carry on and never bring it up again. But, if he were a nominee for the Supreme Court, I sure hope that I’d have to courage come forward — although I sure wouldn’t want to — and I’m not sure I’d have the courage to do so.
I’m not a proponent of victimhood — it’s not a place I want to reside nor one that I think benefits those who’ve suffered abuse. And I’m not sharing this bit about my own experience with abuse to solicit sympathy. I’m sharing this to emphasize the point that abuse is more common in our society than we realize and it’s time we stand up, be counted, and work to put an end to as much of it as we possibly can. And I’m sharing this in the hope that it will make others with similar experiences feel less isolated and more empowered to share.