I Dare You to Read This Without Taking Offence

I Dare You to Read This Without Taking Offence

Large change doesn’t come from clever, quick fixes; from smart, tense people; but from long conversations and silences among people who know different things and need to learn different things.
Anne Herbert

My son is over six foot. He wears a size 12 shoe. For all intents and purposes, he is a man. And that is not an easy identity these days. I have fought all my life for the rights of women in the face of what we used to call ‘the patriarchy’ and now goes by the name of ‘toxic masculinity’. And while it does a great job of identifying the impervious pollution of unconscious sexism and misogyny, I wonder what the impact on young men is, being thought of as part of a poisonous environment.

A while back, I was chatting with my son about one of his friends whose father left his wife after an affair.

‘It’s common,’ I said. ‘Lots of men cheat on their wives.’

‘Yeah, not real men,’ he said.

I like that about him – his clarity about what it means to be a man.

It’s an identity he’s been slowly forming through his teen years which has included him speaking up against racist comments (and taking a hit to the head for it) and becoming a vegetarian because he doesn’t want to cause suffering to animals. He’s been teased for his choices by his basketball team-mates, and still orders the falafel when everyone else is eating hamburgers. I find this ridiculously endearing because I know how much he used to love a good hamburger, and no-one would choose the falafel over the burger unless they are driven by something larger than appetite, more meaningful than instant gratification and sturdier than peer approval.

When my son shows signs of not being an asshole, I am proud. I don’t know if telling him this is patronizing, but it probably is. My feminist daughter thinks men get way too much praise for just being decent human beings, which is why the average guy generally thinks much more of himself than the average woman does. Of course, she’s right. She sees the world horizontally right now, but as a mother, I also see it vertically, and at times, even aerially. It’s a function of midlife – we get fly-vision.

I see the ‘and’ rather than the ‘or,’ and it’s with this perspective that I want to build a conversation around what it’s like for young men these days in the #metoo era. I’m talking about those who are outraged by violence, who would never, ever think about hitting or assaulting anyone (let alone a woman) and yet who are loaded with testosterone. I want to hear how it feels to be huge and hairy and sweaty and yet suffused with mindfulness and kindness (words that would make the average guy grimace given how enfeebling they sound).

I’m not making this a competition about who’s got it harder (we know women do), but I do want to speak for our sons, because no self-aware young man these days feels he has a right to have an opinion about anything anymore. I want to speak up for good men because there are many, and women need to remember our fight for safety and equality is not a fight against men.

.

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

I know half the folk who’re reading this will get pissed off, because everyone’s ready with their particular form of ‘offence-taking’ and opinion, and because these days social media lets us. And here’s the problem – offence-taking is a binary notion, where you’re right, so I must be wrong. But I’m a bit over all that, and I’d much rather we both just listen without anyone having to claim a victory. Rumi reminded us of the field beyond notions of wrongdoing and right doing, and that’s the venue for this dialogue.

Raising a son has given me a passport to a world I would never have had access to otherwise. I grew up with sisters, with an artist for a father. Until my son, I’d never watched a boy-sprout grow into a teen-wolf and then into man-form. I’ve been so committed to working for women’s voices that I have, at times, tuned out from understanding the harmonies that are necessary for us all to sing together.

No matter the righteousness of our intentions in one direction, we will always create collateral failures. This is the nature of all human endeavour, which ought to be the antidote to our hubris, and give us permission to change our minds. Our opinions, enthusiasms and devotions should shift as we grow in consciousness. This is what it means to become a true adult, something Toni Morrison calls a ‘difficult beauty.’

With my eye fixed on the longing to end all violence and to create a world where no one has a #metoo story, I also want to open up the dialogue, so we stop generalizing about ‘men’ and ‘women.’ We’re smarter than that and life is more complex than these blunt stereotypes. I want my understanding of suffering to include the quiet agony of young men who have committed suicide before anyone ever knew that macho-heart was breaking.

As a radical feminist in my youth, I want to say that I can’t imagine I was an easy mother for a boy to have. I was vehemently anti-violence which meant ‘no toy guns’ and ‘no violent video games.’ I had strict rules about how boys should behave, and my son stress-tested all of them. I read every book on parenting and then threw them all away. I regularly accepted my abject failure as a parent and resorted to praying when my strategies crumbled. It was only when I saw a therapist who told me to ‘untangle my story from my son’s story,’ that I began to understand that my form of parenting was a form of bullying itself, a way of castrating potential (anticipated) violence. This is a form of toxic expectation, just as bad as expecting our children to be gifted, heterosexual, religious or some other projection of our own unlived life or congested consciousness.

I want to take responsibility for my role in the world we have, to stop blaming others, and to unhook from my own tendency to slip into the victim-role when things are not going my way. I hope I can model this for my children so that they can both move forward in their lives looking for the ‘and’ rather than waving slogans.

I want the chance to speak to people who want to listen to what I know. And I want long conversations with people who know things I need to learn.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

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Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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Three Voices, Three Stories, Three Survivors

Three Voices, Three Stories, Three Survivors

“My husband hit me.”

I saw the darkened bruises on the chestnut brown skin of her face, just under her right eye and asked, “Aayana, what happened?” anticipating the worst before she answered. It was the first time I had heard those words. I had watched my father verbally abuse my mother for eighteen years and had myself been pushed down onto the pavement, my elbow crashing against the cement. Berated. Humiliated. Shamed. But the spoken words – the admission – were surprisingly new to me.

I sat and listened to her story. It was 1988, in northwest Bangladesh. Aayana was our laundry woman. Twice a week she gathered our dirty laundry and hand-washed all our clothes and ironed everything. She liked to chat while she waited for the sun to do its magic. Her favorite topics were knitting and her daughter, Rehana, and granddaughter, an uncommon affection usually reserved for sons and grandsons. Aayana’s family lived in close quarters in a compound of one-room bamboo households that shared pour-flush latrines, a tube well-water supply, a smoky kitchen with two clay burners rising from the floor, and a bathing area in a corner by the well, protected from view by hanging jute sheets.

Her husband had come home late from a night of drinking tea with friends. Perhaps his dinner had grown cold by the time he arrived or he was irritated by something he had heard at the tea stall. Maybe the sales at his tiny market shop were poor. He was unhappy with himself, his life.

The neighbors heard and saw. Still, he hit her. But she found her resolve. She gathered her battered self and made him leave. From that day on, he slept in his cramped stuffy market stall; he would not touch her again, in intimacy of body or soul or physical violence.

Nearly thirty years later I was in the office of an organization in Myanmar that empowers women’s lives through community organizing and savings groups. We had just concluded a two-day trauma awareness training for a group of twenty-two women of diverse ethnic groups from villages in the violence-infested Rakhine state and informal housing settlements in Rangoon. We had shared stories of trauma: domestic violence, disaster events, sons arrested and jailed.  The director and training translator, Van Lizar, approached me. Listening to her story I recalled Aayana, and my own reveal from eight years earlier. The patterns were matching, like the cards of a child’s memory game. Across thousands of miles and three decades, three voices and three stories – the pain, emotional scars and wounds could be interchanged.

 

.About Sandra

Sandra hails from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Drawn to international living and the non-profit sector by faith, others’ stories and curiosity, she has been a management professional in the sector for twenty years, most recently in Myanmar. She is the proud mother of two: a 5’2” Amazon daughter who is fierce, courageous, and has a wildly open and accepting heart and a son who is a young man of great strength who cultivates a deeply open, gentle and kind spirit. Having raised these two while living abundantly around the world, it is now time to write her first book.

There too was the shame that we had let this happen. The anxiety. The fear and self-doubt. An identical fallout was imprinted on Van Lizar, the Director of an organization leading thousands of village women towards self-empowerment; a woman trained in Law in Ireland. Myself, a holder of a Master’s degree and undergraduate cum laude. And Aayana, semi-literate, semi-fluent in three languages and poor by any standard.

But I also saw fire in the eyes and heard the laughter when we felt our own power, when we finished each other’s sentences. Our love for our sons and daughters was fierce. I witnessed the recognition of how far we had come since the day we said, “No more,” when we claimed for ourselves what we had facilitated in others.

Months later we talk about survival. We speak with a voice of courage, not fear. We have forgiven ourselves and him. We have not forgotten. We confess to having good memories of intimacy, of sex, of secret late-night talks and shared meals. We have supportive friends. We are less judgmental. We are becoming more disciplined in our lives. We fearlessly bear witness to nameless victims’ stories. Our spirituality, our faith and our understanding of our connection to a suffering world grows deeper.

I imagine seeing Aayana again and hearing that her story and journey has been the same. I want to tell her that my daughter’s name is Rehana, a chosen reminder of Ayana’s love for her own daughter and to teach mine to be self-empowered.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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She who always knew that she was destined – destined, mind you – for more than domesticity never suspected that perhaps her knowing might be nothing more than the soul’s delusion holding imprints of hopeful mystery. This knowing comes now to bother her in the...

After Angie’s Example

After Angie’s Example

Angie was one of those girls who seemed to have it all. People enjoyed being around her. It wasn’t just because she was kind, it was that she exuded strength. But Angie got her strength the hard way.

On a warm summer evening, after all our exams were over and life seemed like it couldn’t be more perfect, Angie turned to me and started talking. “At these quiet times, I like to remind myself that life can change in a moment,” she said. Angie’s demeanour was calm, but I could tell by the way she fiddled with her hair that she was about to break the serenity I was feeling. Intently, I listened to her soft voice.

“One Saturday, I joined some friends on an evening out, and when an old friend invited me out for a night cap I agreed. I’d known him most of my life. He was a stand-up guy. You know the kind. The one even the teachers immediately warm to.” Angie sat very still for a moment and then she carried on. I think I knew it before she said it, but I waited and hoped I was wrong.

That night, Angie came home with something to hide.

“As he drove me home after everything happened that night my ‘friend’ didn’t even noticed me cringe as he bent forward and gave me a kiss on the cheek.” I watched the anguish on Angie’s face as her words painted a picture of her home-coming. She told me how she no longer felt safe as she closed the door to her apartment.

“I pulled off my red dress and flung it onto the floor right there in the hallway. I kicked off my crimson shoes, one by one. I had loved those shoes, but I knew I wouldn’t wear them again. I pulled of the scarlet scarf that I had thought was so trendy, woven into my hair at the beginning of the night.  My red, beaded necklace felt like it was choking me. I grabbed at it, and as it broke I felt satisfied as I heard the beads bounce on the floor. But when they lay still, they looked like droplets of blood.” While Angie stood in the scalding hot shower – scouring at her skin and double cleaning herself, berating herself, and wondering if she had been impregnated – she imagined that he slept contently.

 

.About Xanti

Xanti Bootcov was born in South Africa in the late ’60s. She enjoys travelling around the world, which is why she has lived in seven different countries. She believes in equality for all people. Xanti gave up on a single career path when it became necessary to choose between travel and career. After seeing the shadows and the light of abandonment and abuse, she adopted her two children. She has always been interested in understanding why people do what they do. This helped her when her experiences as an adoptive mother shaped her view on parenting. She’s been through earthquakes, a volcano erupting and a couple of fires. Currently, Xanti lives in Mauritius but continues to travel the world whenever possible. Visit her website www.xantibootcov.com or her Facebook page.

Angie and I sat in silence while I worked through what she had told me. She felt that she had become a cliché, a joke… a regret. She had gone out with a friend. She had no fear as the evening progressed. She had not worried that she would be unsafe.

But after that night, Angie had a secret she didn’t feel able to disclose. She didn’t think anyone would believe that she had said the word “no”. At quiet times, she would sometimes practice the word. No. NO. NO!

Angie couldn’t stop her own mind from blaming herself. She had willingly gone out, looking pretty. She’d put on some perfume and painted her lips. She smiled and laughed and enjoyed herself. She felt she was the accused, not him. As the months went by, Angie attempted to scrub her dirty shame away, and she played the night out again and again.

The entertaining evening out with friends had ended her innocence and left her with a cold reality she didn’t know how to process. She couldn’t understand why she had neither struggled nor screamed. In fact, she had played dead, her stiff body not moving at all. How could she believe she was not at fault? Her lack of compliance went unnoticed as he pulled himself on top of her. As he covered her mouth with his and held her down and as she shook her head – open eyed and tears flowing – he had ignored her small voice pleading to go home.

Until she told me her story, Angie had not fit the description that I held of someone who had “been through something”. Until then, I’d always loved horror movies, but after Angie I knew that no horror movie will ever be as scary to me as life can be.

She was still in one piece, but inside Angie had broken.

With the passing of time though, she was able to reframe her experience. Angie did what she could to cope, and when she was no longer able to look at herself in the mirror she went out looking for help. She was one of the lucky ones. She found a way to mend her shattered psyche and began to help others. That brought her strength back.

As a woman I often feel vulnerable. I am a small person and, while I can be strong of mind, I know that my size puts me at a physical disadvantage. But Angie’s courage stays with me every day. Like bones that mend, Angie became stronger. She was proof to me that when something unexpected takes us down a dark path, we don’t have to let it define who we are.

I am stronger for having known a woman like Angie. Her example stays with me, and when I am feeling torn down, it lifts me back up into my own resilience.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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Unlikely Saviour

Unlikely Saviour

It started
in an unlikely encounter
on the Durban beachfront
after he came back early
from one of his easy lays,
and suggested a walk
on the promenade.

The night sky
leaned in as
we spoke in that fraught
deeply subtexted way
of two people
igniting a fuse
between them.

Then – like in the movies –
the rain came

we ran for cover

under shelter
he hauled me
by his strong arms
like a net full of fish
into the boat of his chest
and he kissed me
his lips warm
our faces wet,
my heart thundering
like a stampede of wildebeest,
rupturing the line
between me and men forever,
marking me with
unsugared, unspiced
Desire.

.

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

He steered me out
to where it was dark and deep
and I could no longer see
where I’d come from,
and on that ocean,
I threw off
the anchor
that stretched all the way
to the gas chambers
or the destruction of the First Temple,
or whenever it is Jews decide
our special genocide
make us Slaves to Our Suffering.
No longer
bitch to my birthright;
I broke the sacred covenant of
to only touch circumcised cock.

The sex led to love
or something close to it.
Enough for him to tell me
to take a message back
like a dove with an olive branch
but not so olivey
‘If he ever hits you again
or so much as lays a finger on you,
I’ll beat the shit out of him.’

I rowed my way
out of my childhood,
on a foreskinned boat,
with my first love –
who betrayed me –
but who also saved me
in that unlikely
way of a rough tough
gentle soul
who stood like Moses
with the Egyptians
bearing down
and parted that sea
so I could walk clean through it
and into a woman
no-one would
ever hit again.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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'I'm terrible at spelling and my grammar is horrible,' Xanti said to me. 'I think I am even dyslexic. But I have a story I need to write, and I need your help.' It has taken two and a half years of dedicated commitment, but finally, today, Joanne Fedler Media is...

Memoir Is a Moving Target

I thought I knew what my memoir was about. I was there after all. I thought it was a matter of working out where to start and where to end so I could settle my story down somewhere in between. How difficult could it be? So I started writing, in earnest, in the place...

After I Blow the Whistle, I’m in Your Hands

Several years ago, one of my books published by one of the top five publishing houses in the world did so dismally I contemplated giving up writing. It had taken two precious years of my life to research and write it, and all my publisher could say was, ‘I’m...

Artist-in-Reticence

A month ago, I found out that I was going to be a literary artist-in-residence. I was shocked and delighted, but also uncomfortably pleased with myself for managing to secure such an opportunity. I felt honoured. And excited. Yet an underlying sense of hubris...

Writing Is Not for Wusses

Writing Is Not for Wusses... so Zip Up Your Warrior Suit (You're Braver Than You Think) Being a writer is not like any other profession. Our work is literally who we are. Not to laud it over book keepers or bakers who do an honest day’s work, every time a writer...

Patience in Writing

I recently hauled out a box in which I’ve been stowing thoughts, ideas, inspiration and research for a book I have been wanting to write. It was packed with journals, scrapbooks, scribbles and diagrams in several folders which I will need to make sense of to turn...

This Is Not the Story I Wanted to Write

This Is Not the Story I Wanted to Write

This is not the story I was planning to write.

But sometimes the stories we don’t intend to tell are the ones that most need to be shared.

It begins with a typical night out: drinking and dancing at a club. Except the drink a guy handed me was spiked. I have no recollection of the rape but it happened. He knows it, and I know it and now so do you.

The following evening, after invasive tests and the collection of evidence at the hospital, I went to the police station to report the incident. The police woman berated me for having drunk an unsecured drink. She listened to my story and wrote it down in her words. This was my first, of many, misunderstood statements.

Anna, the friend who was with me that evening, claimed in her statement that I looked “fine” and was “acting normal” when I left the club with him. What she neglected to include in her account was that she was drunk when I had left the club. The police felt that our statements clashed, but Anna was reluctant to change hers or to give another. So I went down to the station with the hopes of bettering my first statement, only to be met with yet another illiterate police officer who wrote “shower” instead of “bath” and refused to change it.

During the weeks that followed, I tried to gather as much evidence as I could to build a case. Anna had photographed us at the club – but I was later told that the images would not hold up as an identifier of the rapist. There was also video footage which had been kept at the club. Only the police were allowed to collect it. But they never did.

Despite this, I remained hopeful, especially when the police said there was enough evidence to make an arrest. I knew where the perpetrator lived. He had used my cellular to call Uber so his address was on my phone. Right from the start, I urged the police to follow up with the Uber driver. Two months after the incident, they phoned me and asked if I could get in touch with the driver. Surely the police would have a direct number? Furthermore, so much time had passed it was unlikely he would even remember that night.

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About SC

SC has been dabbling in creative writing since she was an awkward 16-year-old waxing lyrical about love. After years of teaching creative writing skills to teenagers, she decided to hone in on her own and completed an honours degree. She hopes to write a memoir in the not-too-distant future.

Then came the evening of the arrest. I was to drive, with an ex-police officer, and identify the suspect so they could arrest him. It felt like one of the police investigation shows I so enjoy watching, except on this episode I was the “victim”. We sat in the car and waited… and waited for the rape investigation unit to arrive. I tried to breathe into my fear… the fear of seeing the perpetrator, the fear of him seeing me.

Four police vehicles and eight officers descended on his residence. When the gate opened, my lungs closed and my right leg started shaking uncontrollably. I dug my hand into the passenger seat until it cramped. The investigating officer assigned to my case came over. He wanted me to get out of the car and face the suspect for an accurate identification. Impossible.

Then I saw him standing on the porch, with his distinctive blonde mop of hair, wearing green track pants. Before he got into the unmarked police vehicle in front of us, he casually lit a cigarette.

It was surreal. I was only a few feet away from the perpetrator and a few more feet away from where he had raped me.

The next day, I gave another statement, detailing his appearance. The investigating officer said, “You’re making this very difficult for us. You were supposed to get out of the car last night.”

At the advice of my therapist, I wrote my story from beginning to tenuous end. Was it detailed enough? I wondered. Accurate? Would I be able to defend it in court?

The perpetrator was kept in a holding cell overnight, and after he was released I met with the magistrate who advised that the “first report” needed to be taken. This report had to be given by a friend at work, Tumi, who was the first person to whom I had relayed the events. I urged her to return the call and go to the police station. I even offered to go with her. She did neither.

Anna was asked to see the magistrate too so that she could corroborate all versions of the story. She later told me she was waiting for the police to call her back. And they never did.

All of this needed to happen before the magistrate could decide whether to proceed with the case. A few weeks later, I got the call from the magistrate to say that the case had been dropped. There was not enough evidence. It felt like a double betrayal: the police and the legal system, and the two friends I had trusted the most.

This is not the story I wanted to write, but it is MY story. Mine.

The process of seeking justice, though harrowing, was also strangely healing. And while my case never got to court, I fought with all of my might. In the midst of deep-seated fear, I found my resilience. And of that, I am proud.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

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Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

The Art of Reframing

I come from a family of Oh My Godders. In my family, everything was a potential calamity: a sore throat. An impending storm. A parking ticket. Being late. Being early. Now if you grow up in OMG-hood, you learn to panic. Without much provocation. Everything in life is...

What One Special Mother Did to Bring the World Alive for Her Blind Daughter

What sort of people do we want to be? What sort of people do we want to raise? The answer to both these questions came to me when Tanya Savva approached me with her children’s book, The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo. I created Little Wings Books, the children’s book...

Patience in Writing

I recently hauled out a box in which I’ve been stowing thoughts, ideas, inspiration and research for a book I have been wanting to write. It was packed with journals, scrapbooks, scribbles and diagrams in several folders which I will need to make sense of to turn...

6 Mistakes Authors Make When They Start Writing

How to Avoid These Mistakes When You Start Writing I consider the longing to write a noble calling to the voice hidden inside us. Helping others get their stories out is part of what gets me out of bed each day. I know our stories can change the lives of others,...

How to Make Readers Part of Your Success When You Launch Your Book

How to Get Your Readers to Become Part of Your Success as You Launch Your Book   The purpose of launching you book is to get people to buy your book after all your hard work. To do this properly, you need to understand why people buy books. People buy books...

On Backstory, Flashbacks and Character Memories

Writing question: When and how do I use backstory, flashbacks and character memories? To bring a character to life, to make them complex, sympathetic and richly conceived, they need context and history. We want to know where they’ve been, what they’ve experienced...

Warning Signs

Warning Signs

For a supposedly smart girl, I accepted behaviour from men that I shouldn’t have. There has never been a single horrific incident, but rather countless events I’ve dismissed as ‘nothing much.’ They go back as far as my earliest memories. Even as a toddler, I used to think… men look at me funny. The toilets at preschool had glass walls. Whenever I needed to pee I would cross my legs until the male teacher was out of sight.

Just a few years later, I overheard a conversation at a tennis barbecue.

‘I’d like to look under there,’ I’d heard the man with a moustache say as he angled his head towards my seven-year old self. I’d seen him play tennis with Dad. My face turned warm. I tilted my head forward, pulling down on the gathered side of my frilly blue and purple skirt. He sniggered with his mate then sucked the froth off his can of Fosters beer.

During my commuting days I had an encounter with the serial train sleaze. He thigh wrestled me, pressing everything from his shoulder to his knee against my body. Adrenaline morphed my flesh into concrete, and my voice mustn’t have been working that day.

Things escalated when the father of one of my ex-boyfriends roared with laughter as he dropped his pants to his ankles and exposed his genitals to me. He’d cornered me in the office of his framing gallery. I’d broken up with his son. Did that make me fair game? All I heard was the muffled tick… tick… tick… of the wall clock. Everything slowed down and became blurry. I grabbed the knot on my scarf and tugged it free of my clammy neck.

‘Ah… er…’

He fumbled with his words as well as his zipper. I seized the opportunity and slithered through the gap between him and the door.

I’m confessing what I’ve never said out loud. People would have looked at me differently, wouldn’t they? All I wanted to do was move on and forget. If I ignored these things, they never happened, right?

.

About Lisa

Lisa Benson is a self-diagnosed recovering perfectionist who skipped motherhood but became a grandmother in her early forties. She currently leads a ‘double life,’ living part-time at her home in Newcastle and the rest of the time on a boat on Sydney Harbour. Her writing travels with her whether she is on land or water. Lisa is currently working on her memoir which reveals how her ritualistic past is worlds away from the spontaneous life she now lives. Lisa’s dream is to help as many people as possible, to discover their soul’s purpose and live the life they were destined to.

I had no control over what other people did, but the stakes became much higher when I buried the blaring warning signs in my relationships. By staying, I was accepting the domineering behaviour that was chipping away at my essence. Our homes don’t instantly become filthy. Dust falls one tiny piece at a time until you can drag your finger through the film. Unhappiness crept up on me like those individual specks of dust.

Before I knew it I was a frustrated version of myself. Living a lie. Playing small and bowing to the needs of yet another insecure man. I wanted to make it better. Make them better. I cared too much and for too long for those who didn’t care enough back. I was their rock, but where was mine?

It’s been hard to admit the extent of my mistreatment. I’ve been yelled at, threatened, put down, ignored, and verbally abused over and over, but it all seems frivolous when I try to put it into words. I’m sure it’s a common side effect after years of conditioning. Even now as I write this, I recognise my tendency to downplay the torturous behaviour, but I can’t deny the myriad of physical symptoms or the emotional trauma I experienced.

I was on the receiving end of rage that I’d only ever seen in the movies, but all the threats and punishments were a secret… just between us. The doors and windows were sealed tight, just like my mouth. I had become a prisoner in my own home. Not literally, but it was easier to stay inside than to justify every human interaction. I cried most days, which should have been another warning sign. By ‘settling,’ was I protecting myself from admitting another failure? Back then, I would have never called it abuse though. Neither would they. There was no proof and there were no visible bruises.

No matter how much we think we know about relationships by observing others, reading articles, or watching movies, we cannot judge or comprehend what we would or would not put up with. It’s different when you’re inside it.

As we grow and learn, we are building up our resilience. It’s the times we think are going to break us, our greatest moments of weakness, where we become strong. Strong enough to leave.

I’m finally free and I’ll never be manipulated into submission again. Not after seeing the view from the other side. So when does behaviour cross the unacceptable line? If I’ve learnt one thing from personal experience, it’s that we need to stop identifying abuse by the visibility of bruises.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

In Search of Words about Writing

What is it like to write? When I first discovered Dylan Thomas in my early teens, it unbolted a mayhem of yearning inside me. I knew only that I wanted to do that with language, to cause a rousing inside another, simply by the laying down of words in a particular...

Meeting Dylan

To begin at the beginning. No – let’s go back, back to before then. It is an apricot day in the big whirly world, spring-sprung and parchment-pink. Dylan fills the doorway of his china-tiny writing room, buffalo-tired, refusing to budge to the write or the left,...

Unlikely Saviour

It startedin an unlikely encounteron the Durban beachfrontafter he came back earlyfrom one of his easy lays,and suggested a walkon the promenade.The night skyleaned in aswe spoke in that fraughtdeeply subtexted wayof two peopleigniting a fusebetween them.Then –...

9 Spiritual Principles to Boost Your Creativity

So many people tell me, 'I'd love to write, but I'm just not creative.' They speak as if creativity is an innate IQ or EQ or an extra nipple some people are born with which precludes the possibility of acquiring it. I think of creativity as a way of seeing, a...

Books That Made a Difference in My Life

When I was in my early teens, my father introduced me to Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, a play for voices. I became enchanted with language.

Wednesday

My heart unsteady in my throat I wake my son, curls and squinty eyes shield his face Five more minutes becomes 10 or 15 Mornings sting for the strong-willed night owl His shoulders stiff with ire Wednesdays are heavy He packs for his dad’s I tread carefully I hold...