Clicky

Safe Space: The Language of Love - The Feminist Wire

Safe Space: The Language of Love

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.


By Kimberly Gaubault

There is a practice of erasure that happens in traditional Christian church communities.  The systemic erasure of those who carry the weight of having such truths as sexual assault and domestic violence/gender violence forced upon them…those whose understanding of God, love, community and self is often structured around violations against body and spirit…this erasure makes the church a safe space for those who want to avoid the ugly reality that these behaviors and conscious decisions are made (often) by those we trust, in community and spaces we have designated as sacred. We are programmed to embrace spiritual rhetoric that shames and silences those who have been victims of sexual assault (regardless of gender identification).  This same rhetoric is often used to fill the uncomfortable space that exists in communities where sexual assault (primarily during childhood) has occurred.  The use of clichés such as:

 God is good all the time and all the time God is good,

God won’t put more on you than you can bear,

All things work together for the good of them who love the Lord…,

Just pray about it,

and other biblically based phrases and sayings rather than engaging violations and violators head on often discourage victims from speaking out about their abuse/abuser.  It is important that we provide space for these conversations to happen and truths to be shared proactively, with full understanding that there will be discomfort but, through honesty and full disclosure there can also be hope for healing.  To espouse a system of avoidance and silence is to espouse the alienation, physically, and spiritually of those who have been relegated to the margins of the intricate tapestries woven together to form the beloved community. The margins are the spaces that give value to the common space that is shared in the middle ground.  The margins have importance and relevance to the big picture. Childhood sexual assault is too common to be treated as anomaly.  By addressing it, in community, we can open up a space for healing for those living with the shame of being violated as well as those living with the shame of having violated another.  Love calls us to accountability in the ways we form community and responsibility in the ways we maintain it.

On First Times (*Trigger Warning: This is a rape story)

The first time I was raped

the act was not as painful

as the accusation

the implication that

somehow

I must be at fault

almost 29 years later

I remember what I was wearing

as if it were yesterday

I never wore it again

never washed it again

never trusted my mother again

and he was light-skinned

and this was the 80’s so

light-skinned was in

I was nervous

hadn’t seen him before

he thought I was cute

I didn’t believe it

I was dark-skinned

and skinny

and dark

and too Christian

and dark

and big forehead

and dark

and big lips

and dark

too dark to be the right shade

for light-skinned to holla at

I avoided eye contact

straightened my shirt

I remember what I was wearing

my favorite outfit

until that day

I never wore it again

I think I told you that already

I still don’t trust my mother

and she don’t like me

I don’t think she ever has

what was we talking about…oh yeah

he was light-skinned

and I just kept walking

because I’m not supposed to attract boys

this is what causes problems at home

why they calling here?

you don’t need no boyfriends

they calling because you just want to be fast

they only want one thing

don’t bring home no babies

Maybe

I just want to be liked

at home and at school

don’t feel comforted, at 17,

about being a ‘peculiar people’

don’t want to have sex or be sexualized

don’t want to always be so different

all the time

don’t care so much for being the ugly girl at school

all the time

the one who can’t go to no parties cause she in church

all the time

can’t go to no friend’s houses and can’t have them come to mine

all the time

can’t be in marching band because THOSE kids…

feeling left out

all the time

my friend and I

he and I liked to talk

we couldn’t do it in school much because I’m smart

and I don’t go to school to make friends

I go to school to learn

he had to get up the nerve just to call the house

because he knows the chill of ice

even when it’s over a phone line

and even though it’s all related

I digress again…

the first time I was raped

I remember what I was wearing

remember walking home from school

remember walking up the stairs to our apartment

remember being grabbed

I remember being groped

I remember being raped

I remember being raped

I remember trying to convince my mind

that this was not so bad

that if I stayed still long enough

maybe he would get bored and stop

that at least he thought I was cute

that he was light-skinned

and light-skinned was a compliment for dark-skinned

right?

I didn’t scream

didn’t call for help

I remember my body refusing to cooperate

refusing to allow easy penetration

I remember not fighting

not knowing how

and hating all 85 pounds of my lethargic flesh

I remember the silence of the house

how his voice reverberated off the walls of my ears

I remember what I was wearing

my favorite outfit

and believe it or not

it was not the act

but the after

that made it mourning clothes

the “you shouldn’t have been wearing THAT outfit”

that turned it into shroud

and this story was never told

because I was never asked what happened when that guy followed me home

not when I vomited up light-skinned’s touch for 2 days after

not when I was balled over in pain in the wake of light-skinned’s embrace

not when I was being treated for the gift that light-skinned left me

not when I missed a month of school because light-skinned’s visit

required hospitalization

medication

and recovery time

I was never asked why I never wore my favorite outfit again

I was never asked

so I didn’t tell

and 29 years later

I still remember

how we celebrated the healing

but never talked about the hurting

and how the hurting

never fully goes away

© 2016 Kimberly Gaubault (Redefining Freedom)


kimberly-gaubaultKimberly Gaubault is a mother, grandmother, preacher, poet, singer, musician, Social Justice activist, advocate, lecturer and educator. As a survivor of Domestic Violence/Gender Violence and sexual assault, Kim seeks to empower those who have been affected by such horrible acts of violation.  Kim served the Duke University Community as the Program Coordinator for the Women’s Center for 3 years and continues to work towards solutions in regards to matters of social justice.  She uses her art, knowledge and experience as a vehicle of intervention and healing in the church, the academy and the community, nationally and internationally.  Kim holds a dual BA in English and African and African American Studies with a certificate in Women’s Studies, from Duke University, and an M.Div from Union Theological Seminary, in the City of New York, with a concentration in Theology and the Arts, Interreligious Studies and Interfaith Dialogue. Kim’s philosophy of personal interaction is “If I’ve not positively influenced someone everywhere I go, I’ve not walked in my purpose.”