July 26, 2016

Silencing the Past by Speaking in the Present - Part 4

Today, we conclude our series with Jodie Ortega. In this post, she explores some of the key factors that perpetuate a culture of silence when it comes to abuse and rape and the distinct experiences people from different cultures may have when it comes to learning about sex and abuse.

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I was 30 years old.

I was a young mother having vivid flashbacks of my younger self.

Our body has its own “browser history", keeping a record of all our life experiences, good or bad. In my 30’s, my body was beginning to download all this information that I had suppressed for years. Our bodies remember trauma.

My brother's wedding was one of the loneliest days of my life. Relatives (read: my rapist's children) flew into town to celebrate. I had a grave disconnection to the festivities around me, keeping conversations short and superficial. That extremely stressful day was my first conscious experience with dissociation. The detachment I felt towards family members especially those who attended the "family meeting" was completely severed.

But who handed me the scissors?

They did.

I am my family’s inconvenience; their glitch in their perfectly run cog wheel assembly line of perfection.

In Mayan culture, "In Lak’ech Ala K’in" is a sacred greeting that translates to, “I am another you, you are another me.” It is a statement of unity echoing the same sentiment of greetings around the world such as "Namaste" in East India.

Learning about the following survivor's story was like looking into a mirror.

"114", a 32 year old female entrepreneur of Punjabi ethnicity, persevered through cultural obstacles and family pressure when, in her late twenties, took steps to prosecute her abuser, her first cousin. When 114 disclosed the abuse to her mother, 114 was told to "Forget it like a dream."

I was curious to know if the upbringings of Asian survivors were similar and how different they would be from the childhoods of Caucasian women.

Here are snippet’s from 114’s interview.

Q: As a child, did your parents teach you the anatomically correct names for private parts?
A: I was taught about our private parts however I don't believe it was the correct names.


Q: Did your parents use nicknames for private parts?
A: To some degree, the name for vagina was "PeePee".


Q: Do you feel the love you receive from your parents and family is conditional?
A: Yes, if I do x,y,z I will be loved. Conformity is the key.


Q: Did you grow up in a patriarchal home?
A: Yes.
Q: Have any family members, immediate or extended a) minimized your abuse b) doubted your abuse c) called you a liar d) ceased contact with you e) blamed the abuse on you f) told you to “get over it”?
A: All of the above.


Q: Were you forced to greet people you didn't know by giving them a hug or kiss?
A: Yes.


Q: Were you able to have healthy discussions on sex, dating and relationships with your parents?
A: No.


Do Asian cultural practices perpetuate sexual abuse and rape culture?

As discussed in part 3, Asian children often live in households where typically, emotional issues aren’t brought up casually. As a child, I did not know I was being sexually abused because my parents never taught me about body confidence, consent and boundaries. And because abuse prevention was not taught in my elementary and high school, no one provided me the language so I could process for myself what had happened to me.

Folks, I urge you to talk to your children about sexual abuse before the wrong person teaches them what it is. Your children can handle learning about sexual abuse and its prevention; it's you – the parent – that can't handle it. That's okay, I get that, but consider this: 95% of sexual abuse cases – the rapist and child know each other.

So you know what this means?

Sexual abuse is 95% preventable.

Now let’s match this up with a different personal narrative.

Morgane, a non-survivor, is a 23 year old Italian-French woman, born and raised in France. Her upbringing was strikingly different from mine, 114 and DR.

Q: As a child, did your parents teach you the anatomically correct names for private parts?
A: Yes.


Q: Did your parents use nicknames for private parts?
A: No, they always used the exact anatomical names.


Q: Do you feel the love you receive from your parents and family is conditional?
A: No.


Q: Did you grow up in a patriarchal home?
A: No.


Q: Were you forced to greet people you didn't know by giving them a hug or kiss?
A: No.


Q: Were you able to have healthy discussions on sex, dating and relationships with your parents?
A: Yes, always. Since a young age my parents always valued dialogue and being clear on what sex is, how it works etc.


It’s important to add that Morgane has close relationship with her parents.

Members of Asian communities are in fact aware of child sexual abuse, they are just frequently brainwashed and pressured by the impact of cultural imperatives arising from family honour, loyalty, and shame, which will have an influence on how many will treat survivors. Rape culture thrives in community passivity, legal system inadequacies and in households where parents do not initiate conversations regarding body confidence, sex and abuse prevention.


Honesty has a power very few can handle.

The potential shame of losing face, embarrassing the family name, and disregarding family loyalty should not override the duty of supporting the survivor.

Although my family believed that staying silent about these crimes was more important in the familial and cultural context than prosecuting the rapist, I know better. At 30, I was was fed up being a marginalized marionette. I realized that I was not "broken" but in fact I was an oppressed young woman of colour desperate to break free.

For me, “surviving” was not good enough. I deserve to live a life beyond surviving. So you do.

In Lak’ech Ala K’in.
In solidarity,
Jodie




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As a product of childhood trauma and intergenerational cultural shame, Jodie Ortega has flipped her narrative of victim hood through her unique brand of storytelling; rap and spoken word. With a

vocation that is rooted in intersectional feminism, Jodie now devotes time championing for survivors of sexual trauma having presented at Victor Walk, TEDx Talks, BIL Talks and PechaKucha as well as various educational and community settings.

Jodie has shared her story of resistance in San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver and has contributed her poetry to Trigger Points Anthology, a collection of writing by parents who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse.


Jodie is one of the survivors behind the ongoing social media campaign, "Faces of PTSD", a movement that is committed to altering the landscapes of search engines to include women as well as men.


As a SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) volunteer and a 2016 Courage To Come Back Award Nominee, Jodie is dedicated to her continuous Acts of Resistance against oppression. Take that, PTSD! *karate chop*


Instagram + Twitter - @dontrunbabygirl

Link to Jodie's story in Spanish and French: http://teamguerreras.com/jodieortega/

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