On the heels of World Mental Health Day 2017, long-lived sexual violence continuing to surface through media, and despite other work that feels long overdue, I want to offer my thoughts on the violence of sexual repression, judgment, and punishment, and need for collective responsibility. I join sexual violence and spiritual emergence here since I'm personally experienced in both. I find judgment that yields fear of punishment and social exile to be the ultimate perpetrator in cases of sexual violence, as well as cases of spiritual emergence turned to crises.
Of course, Harvey Weinstein is fresh in my thoughts and the impulse to write this now is brought by news of Harvey's long-standing predator behavior.
I want to begin by noting that of all personally involved Harvey's name is the name I can call up thanks to media coverage, which reflects the culture's greater attention to both males and perpetrators. As well, that my opinion does not matter as it would apply to what may arise among those personally involved in the wake of the public disclosure. What really matters are the primary relationships, foremost relationship among primary perpetrator, victims, and EVERYONE in the know and silent to this date who are responsible perhaps even more so than Harvey, who obviously proved himself helpless to stop himself from perpetrating.
I do not know Harvey's story. I know nothing of his childhood. And, I imagine, as with all perpetrators, Harvey was a victim of abuse at some point, if not chronic. Human children who are raised consciously and compassionately do not become sexual predators. While what Harvey suffered is no excuse for his behavior, trauma does explain the behavior and he deserves understanding as much as any person, including his victims and those who enabled the perpetuation of the behavior by way of their silence.
No doubt, Harvey was silent for the same reasons his victims and enablers were silent. Harvey was silent because he trusted that what's happening in response to his behavior would happen even if he himself brought it to bare.
Everyone was afraid of punishment. For those directly involved in the sexual acts, fear of punishment was complicated by fear of being shamed and feeling ashamed for participating in the sexual acts. The shame, which pervades the perpetrator's experience, becomes also the victim's experience, whether the victim consents in fear of being socially exiled and/or in fear that the situation become more violent, or the victim contests yet is still violated.
At the base of sexual violence is the culture's normalized sexual repression - judgment of and penalty for any sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage, including healthy sexual explorations of young children. Among animals, humans are not alone in a capacity to engage in sexual acts purely for pleasure. And, the history of sexual repression is as long as the repression is damaging. Condemning ourselves and one another for indulging sexual pleasure is denial of the body itself and all sensuality that balances the equal pain of transient existence. Ending sexual violence ultimately requires responsibly liberating sexual pleasure.
Other than for early childhood incest, acquaintance rape my freshman year of college, and forced sexual relation in 2014, all of my sexual promiscuity over the years has been as consensual as can be for someone whose sexual boundaries were violated by her step-grandfather at the age of three, long before she was capable of consent. So, I am unable to speak from experience to specifics of the trauma women endured with Harvey Weinstein. Still, I do know the silence inspired by shame, fear of punishment and social exile. For me, this is where sexual violence and spiritual emergence intersect.
The world recently lost internationally recognized Buddhist Teacher Michael Stone to this silence. Had Michael not been inclined to hide his emotional distress from his community, I believe his suffering would have been less extreme and resolved with right attention. I also firmly believe that had he not been medicated, he would not have been so desperate as to seek relief in the street drug that killed him.
Certainly, this fear-inspired silence had me upon spontaneous spiritual emergence in 2013 when I was told by my mother that others would think I'd gone crazy if I spoke of my experience. That silence may have prevented me from receiving the basics in healthy shelter, food, and social relations with others who recognized and wanted to support my full experience. That silence also possibly helped me avoid being drugged, which remains the common cultural response to spiritual emergence.
As fear-inspired silence has kept me from speaking about the forced sexual relationship fall 2014, which proved traumatic, resulting in deep shame that had me down until summer 2017, yet also clarified the archetype informing my whole experience.
Not unlike Harvey's victims and other women forced to consent by circumstance, I entered that relationship because I saw no other way of surviving at the time. Though sheltered free of rent payment, I was not receiving support enough even to eat for the poetry and prose in creative witness offered at Extinction Witness. This man, who was nearly twice my age and hid his alcoholism as well as my step-grandfather, was praising my work and also willing to support me financially. I was hungry for recognition and affection, having been divorced and separated from my child in 2013 and transient since January 2014. Upon winding up in his home alone with him and fending him off me by mentioning that I was in love with someone else, I wound up giving myself to him for fear he might rape me otherwise.
Was this consensual sex? I've thought so over the years since. Just as, until my late teens, I thought I consented to my step-grandfather's touch at age three because I failed to say NO. Thanks to body and breathwork July 2017, I now see myself in fall 2014 as clearly as I see the three year old child who was afraid and unable to say NO. And, just as the three year old child was not protected from those who would take advantage of her, the vulnerable woman, who had just experienced an extreme shift in consciousness that left for as innocent and vulnerable as the child, was not protected from those who would take advantage of her.
Part of the shame I've harbored is associated with having feigned affection for this man in my desperation to exist on my own terms. And while it's been challenging to recover compassion and understanding for those aware of my circumstances and spiritual devotion, yet fundamentally unsupportive, the greater challenge has been recovering compassion for myself.
As universal compassion is the foundation of mental health, so too compassion is the essence of spiritual emergence, or that which emerges or awakens. Thus, awakened individuals are more, not less, sensitive to others' pain and suffering.
Spiritual emergence is happening at an accelerated rate now on the personal and, so, collective level. And upon emergence, maintaining compassion is the challenge at every turn and in every thought and exchange, for the absence of compassion inspires suffering most acute and severe for those who are 'awake'. Harvey Weinstein's path is calling collective compassion to order. I pray the call is heeded.
Privilege To Heal
Healing requires great courage. And greater in a culture that does not support if it even recognizes the need for healing. I had to drop out of the culture for two years to begin radical healing from early childhood incest and parental neglect. I was able to do so because I was a child of privilege - free of debt and given $10,000 upon graduating from college. That $10K lasted me two years living in forest homestead, where I was free to simply participate as I was able and free from all pressure to perform and produce otherwise.
And though I was financially broke and in debt upon spiritual emergence in 2013 and am to this writing, I have been blessed by friends, old and new, with the mind and means to see that I did not wind up on the street as I've moved through and resolved the shame and shadow of the archetype I'm responsible to. I am a child of privilege who has used that privilege to heal.
Had Harvey Weinstein the rare courage to seek effective care before being revealed by others, he would have had to retreat from his professional responisbilities. Had Michael Stone the courage to speak out about and receive proper care for addressing his distress, he too would have had to retreat from his professional responsibilities. To do so, they would have required the means of full community support. And who knows for how long.
What's suffered by individuals is a reflection of what's suffered in the collective. We are mirrors for one another and of the whole. Compassion for ourselves and others is born of understanding that we are unable to understand ourselves completely, let alone others, who arrive to each moment and relationship with a different set of experiences. Compassion for ourselves and others is most challenged when the shit hits the fan. Or the window.
The ugliest shit happens.
And sometimes at just the right angle to create something really beautiful, like an image of a little girl dancing without a worry in a dress with a butterfly sewn on.
Let all the ugly shit that has happened be like this as it surfaces in the media, in our families and in our communities, to be addressed and resolved collectively: bird shit that transforms upon landing on a windowpane. Something icky and so painfully honest and innocent that it's left in the open to be appreciated for all it's worth.
The ugliest shit happens. Or so it has.
The ugliest shit ends as soon as we see it from the innocent child's perspective. Let it be.
please also see Love Like Wildfire and Project VIRGin
Mark Ruffalow on Weinstein
Sobonfu Somé on 'The Mothering Culture'
Gabor Maté on Addiction at Dharma Seeds
'The Stormy Search for the Self' by Christina Grof and Stanislov Grof, M.D. / 'Guidelines for Family and Friends' pages 169 - 190
David Lynch Foundation - Healing and Empowering Women and Children