By Lyla June Johnston
It took a lot of strength and courage to admit that what was happening to me was abuse. It was hard for me for two reasons 1) I thought that only weak and dumb girls get abused. I didn’t want to admit I was abused because I thought it made me less of a person. And 2) I didn’t want to hate them. And it was easier to love them if I found a way to rationalize/normalize what they were doing to me.
Well it turns out that the dark actually targets strong and smart girls. It doesn’t want them to succeed in bringing the light they were born to bring. Rape can fool the woman into thinking she is not sacred. And if she thinks she is not sacred she can begin to think that she is not worthy of carrying the medicine of the Creator to the people. And if she thinks that she is not worthy of carrying the medicine of the Creator to the people, then she stops bringing that light to the world. This is what happened to me.
I did bring good things to the people but when I did it felt more like I was “making up” for the bad person I was. It didn’t feel like I was simply being the beloved and beautiful medicine woman that I was. That we all are.
Instead, I felt like an imposter when I would try and help the world. How could a “tainted” woman advocate for purity? When I did advocate for love and healing, soon after I would intentionally do crass things just to show to everyone that I wasn’t trying to “be something I’m not”. I felt more like shameful, outside ally of the pure. Not a true part of the pure. I didn’t think I deserved to be a part of that marching band. The dark won this way for many years. I shut the valve and the medicine could only trickle, if that. Luckily this was only temporary. One day someone came along to remind me who I was.
They taught me that just because I was sexually, emotionally and physically abused it did not mean I was “less than.” I realized I was not a weak and feeble “victim,” but a wounded veteran who had come home from a great battle. The battle of being woman in the 21st century. Indeed, it is hard to be woman within a system that routinely works to destroy their self image. It did not mean I was weak, it meant I was taken advantage of before I was old enough to understand the battle.
Once I realized that being abused doesn’t mean you are a bad person, I could admit that what was happening to me was abuse. It was still hard and took a lot of courage but now I am able to say, “that was really wrong and it happened to me.” This process of realization took several years and is still ongoing. The good news is I no longer feel compelled to be around people who make me feel bad. The reason I felt compelled to be around these kinds of people is a whole ‘nother story…
So number 1 was taken care of. I now understood that I was still respectable and even beautiful despite the fact I had been abused. But number 2 had yet to be resolved: I didn’t want to hate the other person. For this reason I would shy away from admitting that what they did was wrong because it was hard to love them in the face of that truth. Once I could fully see that what happened was wrong, I could feel the urge to hate start to make its way in. Hatred and bitterness are such uncomfortable feelings and I knew I was not designed to house them within me. I also knew I could not help the world when I was in that state.
Number 2 was resolved through an exquisite process some people call “forgiveness.” Forgiveness does not mean that what they did to me was okay. And it does not even mean that I would ever have to go within a 50 mile radius of these people ever again! It was something that happened within me. It was something that happened for ME. Not for them. It returned me to my natural state. And it went like this:
I stood in the middle of a river. The beautiful water was flowing all around me. This is literally what I did, not a metaphor. As I stood there, I thought of all the ways I was manipulated and coerced. I thought of all the ways I was exploited and taken advantage of. I saw in my mind’s eye the face of the very people who picked me up while I was too drunk to see and took me for their own. And I said, “Even though you have tried to mine my body for your own personal gratification, I still hope that you are healed and that you live a happy life and that you are reconnected with Creator in a good way. Creator may you please bless and help and heal this person, your child.”
And with that, I kid you not, an IMMENSE amount of palpable weight was released from my being. It flew out of me and into the river and into the trees and into the soil and out into the sky. Far, far away. I was free. I had released. I was my self again, not my hatred.
There’s much more to the story than that. But it was these two things, realizing it was not my fault/I was not a bad person and choosing to love these people with all my heart (from a safe distance). With those two things I was able to admit that abuse is abuse, not love. It was not easy but it wasn’t impossible at all. It was and is incredibly liberating and helped me get to a safe place.
About Lyla June Johnston, Writing for Peace Young Adviser
Lyla Johnston is a 24 year-old poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world.
After studying Human Ecology at Stanford University, Lyla founded Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration and honoring of children and young adults worldwide. She plans on attending Harvard Business School to obtain the platform she needs to disarm the private sector and repurpose the capitalist infrastructure for healing and social change. Her ancestors are Diné and Cheyenne and it is from this ancestral worldview that she derives her visions for helping to create a culture of peace and generosity. Learn more about her work here.
Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:
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