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Content Notice: This article is part of the #LoveWITHAccountability forum on The Feminist Wire. The purpose of this forum and the #LoveWITHAccountability project is to prioritize child sexual abuse, healing, and justice in national dialogues and work on racial justice and gender-based violence. Several of the featured articles in this forum give an in-depth and, at times, graphic examination of rape, molestation, and other forms of sexual harm against diasporic Black children through the experiences and work of survivors and advocates. The articles also offer visions and strategies for how we can humanely move towards co-creating a world without violence. Please take care of yourself while reading.
By Thea Matthews
“Field of Lilacs” (please click to listen to audio)
Outro to “Field of Lilacs”
– Thea’s Rendition of Love with Accountability–
Love is an enigmatic expression, an undeniable force that reverberates from within and is experienced from without. Love simultaneously empowers the self and who the self interacts with. I specifically remember during my adolescences, deciding to hate myself, blame myself, deny myself (self-)love because of what I was forced to endure early in my life. I subconsciously said, yes, I am willing to hate myself, blame myself, ruin myself, and kill myself because my grandfather and uncle repeatedly sexually assaulted me, and I was forced to play “house” with one of my cousins. The pain was unbearable at times and the suffering seemed unending. My rite of passage was incest. The bullying at school only poured pounds of salt on open infected wounds.
My existence was a gaping hole without a model of what healthy love is, let along what accountability is. After disclosing that my grandfather molested me, I still found myself at my grandparent’s house, seated next to him at the family Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t know if my grandfather, uncle, and cousin molested anyone else. I do know that I am a third-generation survivor of child abuse. My grandmother was abused, my mother was abused, and I was abused. I don’t know much about my great-grandmother, because she died in her early-mid thirties of cervical cancer when my grandmother was only five-years-old. I assume more of my maternal generations were violated and abused in some way.
My grandfather died when I was in high school, and my uncle and cousin disappeared from my life. Last time I saw my cousin, I refused to hug him and he felt so insulted, it incited an atypical dysfunctional family argument with my grandmother. She is close to 90 and she will die not knowing that the love of her life was a child molester, and that one of her sons and grandsons are also child molesters. Where is accountability in that? Well, as I recovered from a suicide attempt in 2011 and as I continue to recover from active addictions and destructive behaviors, I quickly realized that accountability must first and foremost come from within.
Initially, I began demanding accountability from our nation’s police force when I got involved in student protests with the Black Lives Matter movement. The mass killings of unarmed people, the degree of which systemic violence takes place and no one really held responsible provokes anger and directs me to take action. Yet, I realized: if I am to want others to be accountability around me, I must ensure that I am also being held accountable for my actions. What do I have to do to keep my side of street clean? Yes, I was very much a victim. The abuse started when I was preverbal and ended by the time I was 9; the bullying continued until I was 13. My fundamental years of emotional and brain development were robbed. I was robbed from a childhood.
As an individual who identifies themselves as a freedom fighter, an activist, my foundation must be and can only be reinstated with conscious acts of love with accountability. To heal, I do what is essentially described in my poem “Field of Lilacs.” Ritual is highly important to me. Spirituality is my oxygen. My leader is a divine force to be reckoned with, no gunshots can take this entity away. I continuously do a series of actions releasing trauma from my mind, my body, my soul, my spirit.
I don’t need an “apology” from the harm doers in my life to actually heal. I don’t need a pitiful recognition to liberate myself. Amends are actually for the harm doer and their karma; not for me. I need to love myself. I need to be accountable for my actions. I need to ensure that my behavior and actions are transformed. The absolute truth is: I cannot force anyone’s transformation. The revolution has already occurred within me when I almost jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. In order to fiercely love and radically accept what is in the present moment, I am solely responsible for learning and practicing various forms of nonviolent communication. Thus, continuous acts of love with accountability ultimately ensure personal/social/cultural transformation.
Born and raised in San Francisco, California, Thea Matthews currently attends UC Berkeley, studying sociology. She has been writing creatively for close to 20 years. Poetry is her healing medium. Regarding her attainment of liberation, she lives her life according to a path based on service, purification, and spiritually based principles one day at a time.