alt lit rape crisis, Cosby rape allegations, Delirious Hem, domestic violence, leaving work at work, rape apologism, rape culture, rapes at UVA, working from home, writing about abuse, writing about rape
I spent the better part of two or three solid mornings last week writing to and about and engaging with women who have been raped and abused. They are single women, writer women, mother women, and I’m sure some of them are all of the above, like me, as well. They are intelligent and angry, invulnerable, it seems, about their vulnerability, as they discuss, in very public places, what has happened to them.
Then I read articles about Cosby, and about the rapes at UVA. The former journalist in me wants to say “alleged rapes,” but I do not represent a media organization anymore, I’m not reporting, and I want to always err on the side of believing people when they say someone has done something horrible to them.
It is more compassionate than believing the person accused of the horrible thing.
What’s hard for me, besides constant triggers that recall, against my will, some bad things that I’ve experienced in my life, is spending a morning reading about the details of gang rape and forced oral sex and then going into my living room and picking up my little boy. Handing him a fresh cup of juice, kissing his cheeks with the taste of human cruelty still in my mouth. Resuming play with him that he’d happily begun all by himself, corralled in the living room with blocks and books and Baby Einstein while mama worked for a bit.
This isn’t about sheltering him or teaching him how to be A Real Man—yet. He’s still very young. Those lessons about how the most important thing about being a person is to always be nice to other people, and the definition of “nice” changing and deepening as he grows older, will come. My problem of late seems to be a diminished ability to be fully present with this sweet, tiny soul when so much of the work I’m doing lately is rooted in my anger, and absorbing the anger of others who feel the way I do: that we are fed up with rape and abuse apologism, victim-blaming/shaming/silencing, and unspeakable, primarily gender-specific cruelty.
This work I’m referencing is not a freelance gig. Unlike my online teaching and social media job, I am not being paid to talk to these women, to interview them, to write about them, to write about my own experiences, to raise awareness of rape culture, to support victims and survivors of domestic violence, or to promote the likeminded work of others. And yet, besides being a mom, I consider it one of the most important jobs I have.
Still, it would be nice to play Legos with my boy without thoughts of teenaged girls being drugged and assaulted swimming in my head. It would be nice to point out the different ocean animals in a board book without my hands shaking after yet another mainstream article about Cosby’s refusal to address the allegations of 16 women that he raped them. It would be nice if my iPhone chimes weren’t 90% comprised of notifications that someone commented on a Facebook thread after me, and that comment wasn’t full of vitriol and doubt of these women, and I didn’t feel the pull away from a rousing game of “I’m gonna get your toes” to spew back that false rape accusations account for only 2-4% of all reported sex assaults while my punkin tries to shove his cute little piggies back into my line of sight.
How do social workers and DV violence shelter counselors do this? I think about the show “Law & Order: SVU,” of a particular episode where Olivia Benson is asked by a love interest how she can be intimate with anyone without thinking about rape and the terrible things she sees and fights as a sex crimes cop.
Is this work you can leave at work, really?
And what if your home is where you work?
And what if your son is counting on you to be happy and patient and playful because you’re the only one there?