My voice for a new world

“If she did not honor herself, who would?”

Vanessa Hylande performing artist author

I am tired of waiting around. I want to make a change the only way I know how. I don’t know what the right way is, but I do know what my way is. Thank you for being here to listen.

I was raped twice when I was sixteen. It took me years to realize it wasn’t my fault – just like all of the other sexual assault victims out there. I spent years ashamed, worried I was damaged, and even told so occasionally by angry men who knew that had happened to me. Some men enjoy punishing.

Once, I cowered on the floor crouching over my newborn son as his father beat me in the face. I couldn’t put my hands up to protect myself because I wouldn’t let go of my child. I was so terrified that I didn’t have the practical sense to ask someone to take photos of my face. Imagine that. Years later nobody would believe me.

I spent seven years in the New York City court system desperately trying to protect my children from abuse and neglect. But you see, one particular therapist Dr. G told me snarkily “Psychological abuse is very difficult to prove. Good luck.” So, I had to wait until my children came home with bruises. But the father was smart, so it took quite a while, but eventually, a neighbor reported it. Then they believed it – it couldn’t come from me.

Why? Oh, because women are not believed, they are blamed. When I was raped, it was my fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When I pleaded with a forensic investigator, a Dr. A, that the father was a borderline personality with traits of malignant narcissism (I had been filling his medications for years) he assumed I was hysterical, lying or out for blood. I kept one of his prescription bottles as evidence, but would you know it, the pharmacy records had been scrubbed. I wonder how much that cost. I still have that bottle with his name on it, not that it matters.

I often fantasize about sending that forensic investigator the photos of my son’s bruises – but we were done with the investigation by the time he got them, so what would he care? It didn’t happen on his watch. Now I prefer to leave that memory back where it belongs – on the list of battles that made me strong enough to stand up today and say “No more.”

The system won’t protect you. It is broken. But what’s worse, it is biased against women. The patriarchal rage extends beyond the hand that pounds the face of the mother holding the child. It extends into the upper echelons of the courts and our government. Did you know that even in the field of International Relations, the feminine perspective is curiously absent? Because women don’t have a valid perspective on wars, societies, and economies, you see.

We just swore in the 116th Congress with a record number of women. I cried watching each and every one of you. Stay strong, bring the love into this broken world, and heal these ancient wounds. For our sisters that burned at the stake, to the baby girls we hold in our arms today, and yes, for the scores of broken-hearted men that don’t know how to live in this new paradigm of true equality, I raise my voice for a new world.

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