When we were writing songs for our album, Feminist Sweepstakes, we talked a lot about ideas for lyrics. One song I was really struggling with was KEEP ON LIVING. I had a bunch of the verses written but there was this big part near the end that I wanted a more spoken word type thing for and I just couldn't write it. Since a lot of the song was about how crappy and weird and impossible I feel when my sexual abuse history comes up, JD and I started talking about how some of the feelings I was writing about were similar to ones she experienced as a kid trying to come out. Luckily this inspired her to write the rest of the song, which was good since I was so stuck, and the lyrics she wrote really MADE it great. (Not to brag, but. . .)

Since we had recently read our friend Ann Cvetkovic's essay, Sexual Trauma / Queer Memory that talks about the intersections between "Incest, Lesbianism and Therapeutic Culture", it became apparent that KEEP ON LIVING could and should be about both forms of "coming out". After all the guilt, the shame, the social stigma, and the fear of reaching out that many abuse survivors suffer through is similar to what some kids who come out as gay, lesbian, bi or trans go through as well.

Of course, when we compare these two forms of "coming out" in the song (and try to address the high incidence of suicide and depression among those who deal with these issues) we are in no way trying to say they are exactly the same thing. Not even. While being able to articulate who we are and to name our own histories and to not hide them is one similarity, it is important to note that sexual abuse is totally unacceptable and fucked up and wrong in every single case and that no one deserves it. In this way coming out as a survivor of abuse is very different from the hopefully exciting, joyous experience that getting to know one's sexual self can be.

In setting up this website we also realized that while the song had become a part of the conversation that Ann inspired in us, we still had way more to say about it. Specifically we wanted to write down somethings that helped us when we felt suicidal, depressed and/or just plain hopeless in terms of our own forms of "coming out".



JD: There are so many things that I wish I could say to each and every one of you. I wish I could give it all, face to face, to everyone who needs someone to talk to about this crazy process. I tried to portray this conversation to you during the part I ended up singing on KEEP ON LIVING. If I could give any advice or words of encouragement they would be much like the lyrics that I sing during the song. I think it is really important to look past your present life and your possibly painful history (without forgetting about it) and realize all of the beautiful places and people that there are waiting for you out in this world.   

Coming out of the closet represents a time and a place in one’s life that holds an unspecific spot I think. It can seem like forever while it is happening, and the memory only a minute.  But the places are many and the people unforgettable.

Coming out is greatly affected by a few super important elements surrounding a person who is traveling on this life-changing journey. And for everyone, we are crawling through different holes, and trudging upon many a mountain. Depending on whether there is a supportive environment or not, the coming out process can be painful, and excruciating.  Yet no matter how it seems at the time, it is always a sincere recognition of oneself, and an extreme declaration of individual pride.

Keeping your head above water is easy when you remember the things about life that keep you smiling. Like water falling over rocks, beautiful people on the street, and the love that you have living inside you.

Coming out to yourself is alone a most incredible journey which is at times filled with frustration, confusion, anger, sadness, and most of all excitement. Oh the places you’ll go.  And then, coming out to others seems like so far away.  And you could never tell. But after one–and the right one–comes another, and faith in yourself for respecting your own feelings comes closer to the skin. 

There must be pain when coming that close to yourself, and confusion and fear to have the possibility of others dismay.  But the idea of your own face with another, happiness, and others dancing with sweat dripping from your hairline, smiles meeting each other in the middle... There is time to be happy.  I’ll tell you there is a place.  There is a you and a me and too many more to mention of places and people and minutes and hours.

When I was coming out in Ohio while in high school, there were a few things that I kept in my mind to get me through every day.  One thing that I constantly thought about was that I knew that there were people out there in the world that understood me and my choices and who would love me for who I was. It was very helpful for me to get involved in the Cleveland Gay and Lesbian Community Center, so that I could be surrounded with older queer people and, also other youth who were dealing with the same issues as myself. In almost every city in the country there are meetings held for glbt youth and adults who want to meet other people, or talk about their issues regarding coming out.  

For information from LYRIC  (Lavender Youth Recreation) you can call toll free 1-800-246-7743.  

The Gay and Lesbian National Hotline number is 1-888-843-4564, which can provide you with counseling, information, and referrals as well as being a completely anonymous service.

Also, to report any kind of hate crime, call the National Hate Crimes Hotline at 1-800-347-4283.

Check your local phone book or call Information for any kind of Gay and Lesbian Hotline or Community Center in your area.

Here are some more web resources also:

www.outproud.org
www.glsen.org
www.pflag.org
www.queeramerica.com
www.xymag.com
http://content.gay.com/people/youth_zone
www.younggayamerica.com
www.hrc.org
 
and remember Keep on Living!!!!!!



KH: When sexual abuse first came to the fore front of North American popular culture (as a result of survivors working tirelessly for a really long time) there was a lot of information that suggested a big part of our problem is/was SILENCE. Of course since most sexual abuse is often unnamed and most perpetrators are never prosecuted or even confronted, this makes a lot of sense and has, in turn, resulted in a lot of emphasis being placed on women and girls being able to "tell our own stories". While I agree that it is really really helpful to be able to talk about our experiences I also think it's important to acknoweldge that many sexual abuse survivors have a hard time establishing healthy boundaries.

As people who have been taught (or maybe "trained" is a better word)
to think of ourselves as powerlesss and undeserving, it is often hard to feel like we have the right to decide who to date or who to be friends with, much less who is the best person to talk with about rape/abuse stuff.  My fear is that, in many cases, women (such as myself) get so hung up on telling "our stories" that we often choose inappropriate people to tell them to. In doing this we refuse to protect ourselves sufficiently which may actually set our healing back. Especially if we end up being betrayed by yet another person who we relied on not to hurt us. What I am trying to say is YES it is important that we are able to talk about the less than pleasant, violent things that have happened to us, but it is equally important that we love ourselves enough to chose people who will be trustworthy and supportive when and if we decide to share with them.

Approaching, lovers, friends or even counselors with a healthy dose of skepticism, and developing trust with them one step at a time, does not mean we are remaining silent or letting abuse win in our lives. Abuse wins when we trust indiscriminantly or not at all, not when we are self-loving enough to be cautious.

The way it's worked in my life (which is slightly weird just cuz I am a
public person etc.) is just to take things very slowly with people. Like I get to know someone a bit before I share personal info with them. I also realize that just cuz someone tells me personal things about themselves doesn't mean I have to react in kind by immediately opening up to them. I can wait if I want.

Also, if I get a creepy feeling from someone, I listen to it. This has helped me re-establish trust in my own judgement and, possibly protected me from more abuse as well. This has been crucial in terms of learning to trust my own intuition, a skill that was all but destroyed by the abuse stuff.

REACHING OUT

While friends can be so amazing in terms of advice and support, I have often not been able to find those special people right when I need them or have wanted to talk to someone who has concrete experience with survivors. One great resource I've used on occasion is rape crisis/sexual abuse hotlines. The women who work at many crisis lines are survivors themselves who want nothing more than to give back the love and support they've gotten from others. Plus it's anonymous so its a pretty safe place to start. A great national toll free one is Rainn (the group Tori Amos made famous !!!) They can be reached at 1-800-656-HOPE.

Or you can just look in your local phone book under "women's issues" or "rape" or "sexual abuse" and find a crisis line near you. Even though they are often called "crisis lines" you don't actually have to be "in crisis" to call – they have a lot of health, legal and counseling services too and can arm you with the information you need in order to decide how you wanna approach your healing. There really is no blueprint or perfect way to go about healing since each person is so different. Some survivors need to take a legal approach, some do therapy, some are more concerned with immediate safety issues or psychological pressures having to do with living with their abuser or seeing him at school, at work, or whatever. The most important thing is getting help and knowing you deserve to feel better (cuz you do).

It really is never too late call. Many sexual abuse survivors take years and years to finally reach out for help and the counselors at rape hotlines know this. . . they won't penalize you for not calling "right after it happened' or trivialize your abuse, they understand that rape isn't just about penetration and they are there to support you irregardless of the nature of your abuse. Of course you may not relate to the first crisis worker you talk to so you can always end the conversation ("oh no my tea kettle is going off!") if you are uncomfortable and call back later to speak to someone else.

MORE STUFF YOU CAN DO

Okay so a lot of people think self help books are cheesey, whatever, this book saved my life more than once, it's called A COURAGE TO HEAL by Laura Davis and Ellen Bass. It mostly concerns being sexually abused as a child but it is totally relevent to many kinds of sexual and physical abuse and its after-effects. There is also ALLIES IN HEALING that is something your friends can read to help stay strong as they help you. Both books are totally invaluable and are available at almost every library and bookstore.

I strongly recommend reading books about healing from rape/sexual abuse as you can take them at your own pace and read them when you are up for it. There are obvioulsy many many more than the two I listed so get your library fines in order and go check some out already.
There is also online counseling available (what a crazy world we live in). You email them and they get back to you within 48 hours with a counselor that can help you. Obviously not a great choice if you need someone right this second, but it might be another great way to safely share your story anonymously and figure out your next move. Their site is at http://www.rapecrisis.com/.

(FYI: I haven't used any of these online services so I can't vouch for them this is just an idea).

Another online resource is The Survivors Page at http://www.stardate.bc.ca/Nonprofit/survivors/.  It is dedicated to all survivors of sexual abuse and may contain sexually graphic or violent material (as others are sharing their stories on it) but if you are up for it, it seems pretty cool in terms of not feeling alone.

TAKE IT FROM ME IT DOES GET BETTER

As a 34 year old "survivor" I am constantly freaked out that I can be doing totally great one minute and start feeling totally devasted the next. I just wanna pull out my hair and scream" I thought I already fucking dealt with this shit!!!!" The thing is dealing with rape and sexual abuse is an ongoing process that sadly is never complete (unless you are magic and can turn back the hands of time!!!!) BUT it does get better. It really does. I am actually enjoying life more wholeheartedly than ever before, and I attribute it to facing the scary stuff and the effects it has had on me honestly and not turning away from it.

Sometimes I thought the pain was too great to bear but reminded myself that if I could live through the abuse I had the power to live thru anything. Also denial, pretending and self-destruction takes way more time and energy than going through the pain, the sadness and the mourning process does. Seriously.

In healing from the violence and abuse we have experienced it's good to remember that we are all a part of a larger community of folks who are working to end all violence. We are the links in the chain that will make the world a better place for everyone. It is not trivial or individualist to end the war against all women by starting with ourselves. We need joy and we need to be strong enough so we can change the fucked up path our "leaders" are currently driving us down .


KEEP ON LIVIN' (lyrics)

You hide inside, so not okay
(keep on, keep on livin')
What if you remember more today?
(keep on, keep on livin')
The phone rings but there's too much to say
(keep on, keep on livin')
You tell them to go when you wish they would stay (keep on, keep on livin')

You gotta keep on (keep on livin!)
You gotta keep on (keep on livin!)
You gotta keep on (keep on livin!)
You gotta keep on (keep on livin!)

Disporportionate reactions just won't fade
(keep on, keep on livin')
Every dude you see puts you in a rage
(keep on, keep on livin')
Or stupid shit keeps making you cry
(keep on, keep on livin')
Your friends are worried you won't tell them why
(keep on, keep on livin')

You gotta keep on (keep on livin!)
You gotta keep on (keep on livin!)
You gotta keep on (keep on livin!)
You gotta keep on (keep on livin!)

Look up to the sky sky sky
Take back your own tonight
You'll find more than you see
It's time now now get ready
So you can taste that sweet sweet cake and
Feel the warm water in a lake (y'know)
What about the nice cool breeze and
Hear the buzzing of the bumble bees
Live past those neighborhood lives and
Go past that yard outside and
Push thru their greatest fears and
live past your memories tears cuz
You don't need to scratch inside just please
Hold onto your pride
So don't let them bring you down and
Don't let them fuck you around cuz
Those are your arms that is your heart and
No no they can't tear you apart cuz

This is your time this is your life and
This is your time this is your life and
This is your time this is your life and
This is your time this is your life and....


You gotta keep on(keep on livin!)
Gotta keep on(keep on livin!)
You gotta keep on(keep on livin!)
Gotta keep on(keep on livin!)
You gotta keep on(keep on livin!)
Gotta keep on(keep on livin!)
You gotta keep on(keep on livin!)
Gotta keep on(keep on livin!)

Click here to Check out the video for Keep On Livin'