ABOUT THE WORKSHOP
Those of us who have experienced sexual trauma have endured events that cannot be characterized or described; there is only “before” and “after.” These events have shaped our worlds in such a way that we may not remember a “before.” Collectively, we grieve this nameless loss, yet labels attributed to our plight, such as “victim” or “survivor,” can mislead and create a false narrative used by those we trust with our stories, and ourselves, to understand what has happened. At some point, it becomes easier to accept the narrative others create for us because it protects them and us. However, these narratives often lack honesty and tend to follow an arc that diminishes rather than empowers. In “Why I Stopped,” Zoe Medeiros reflects on her decision to stop telling the story of her own sexual trauma: “People you tell will make comparisons. They will compare you to everyone else they have ever heard of who has experienced something similar, and they will rate how you’re doing according to that metric” (246). Medeiros goes on to note, “Other people do not get to tell me what my experience means, or where they would like to place me in their pantheons of suffering” (248). For Medeiros the decision to “keep my story for myself” becomes a way of protecting it, most days, from the added hardship that comes with having it sliced, examined, weighed, measured.
Nevertheless the details we do not share remain within us and can be toxic. These are the details that others do not want to hear about because it makes them uncomfortable and, as Medieros notes, a lack of receptivity can undermine and diminish what is often a fragile grasp of what happened, how it happened, and an acknowledgment of damage. We keep the details secret. These are the details that make us feel shame; we hide them even from ourselves. Yet, rendering these truths and the difficult feelings they create can be healing.
This workshop will provide the opportunity for those who have experienced sexual trauma to use writing as a vehicle for deeper exploration and to create a healing text. Viewing the text as a living body, as the place that we hide, participants will be given the opportunity to anonymously work in text with an honest engagement of their experiences, however those experiences manifest for them. In this way, the text frees us from labels--perhaps there is no simple narrative arc, perhaps there are gaps in memory--in the creation of a new genre that challenges specific roles and instead allows us to safely gain power over the telling of our experiences.