How History Shapes Us

I was dismissed from jury duty. It wasn’t for the reasons i outlined before. I did not have an ethical discussion with the judge. In fact, i didn’t even talk to the judge. I asked to be dismissed because it was a rape case. I was unable to concentrate during the reading of the charges against the accused. I was battling flashbacks. It was painful to me to be in the courtroom and to listen to the carelessness of the judge asking the 18 potential jurors. “How long ago was that?” As if time did anything. I can describe the scene as if it was yesterday. It is burned into my memory – even though the calendar says it was 24 years ago.

When i wrote about my experience before, i speculated about the impact of the rape on the rest of my life. I want to pick up that theme now because i have greater clarity. It has impacted me on a very deep level. The voices that had been there before – the ones that tell me that it’s my fault and that i am unlovable – were magnified through this experience. Especially, it’s my fault. And that happens even in twisted ways: Because i don’t love myself, i must be attracting men who don’t love me. It’s my fault. I am beginning to see the tragedy of holding onto this thought – and also mourn how we all are so deeply wounded that most of us, at least in Western society, loathe ourselves. Self-love is a rarity.

The other impact was less clear to me until today. I’ve been longing for acknowledgement of what i’ve been through, of what i have survived. I want some social care for all of our wounds. I was aghast that the court did not have a list of resources to give to people so that they could seek help if they become retraumatized. Apparently, they hadn’t even considered the possibility that it might be difficult for people who have experienced rape to sit in a court room that was about to tackle a rape case. I had known about the lack of care and compassion toward the victim, how she is exposed in court, if she decides to testify, in an attempt to blame her. What i had not understood was how this carelessness extends to the potential jurors. It’s a personal problem, not a social problem, seems to be the suggestion. Because it’s a personal problem, the court has no obligation to care for the jurors – not even by the minimal gesture of providing resources for help.

I long for a society that acknowledges our interdependence. That cares for the victims of violence – whether they are traditionally labeled victim or perpetrator, for a person who rapes is, too, a person in pain who has not learned what love and care is. And this longing is shaping my reactions to other groups. When i experience lack of care, lack of acknowledgement of interdependence, i leave – even when i am assured that things are otherwise. It’s instinctual and i have trouble articulating what precisely was an observation, what happened. I am also beginning to understand why i am in this disillusioned mess right now: The group where i last experienced this was supposedly studying nonviolence. Even there, i wasn’t safe, my wounded heart got rewounded.

The last lesson i learned reflecting on all this: I need to talk about it. I need to talk about my wounded heart. Yes, i have healed a lot. Most of the time, i am actually quite happy! And then i see how much my personal history has influenced me. The longing to be seen for what i’ve gone through doesn’t stop with the rape. It’s also the almost 20 year long divorce, being in and out of court – and the court not telling my ex “enough already!” There was no protection for me, no safety. Again and again it happened. I probably spent $250,000 on this. And that’s just on court costs. It does not include the many times i had to put myself back together again. Even as i write this, i am battling the idea that “time heals all wounds.” No, it doesn’t. Trauma cannot be healed if the underlying non-caring doesn’t change. The wounds open less often. They remain there, scarred – reopened without warning when charges are read in a court room, when i read about an ethics of care.

I am realizing that this is a fairly emotional & heavy post. I am still pretty raw – and i want to post this in its rawness. Because that, too, i learned: My reluctance to show my vulnerability, my rawness, my pain. That, too, is the mask: Hiding behind my put-together-self, not showing my scars.

Please also see Ian’s post on caring inspired by this post. He expands on my ideas in ways that are important for us to consider as we try to move toward a more caring world while being caring as we do so! We cannot create a caring world via means that are uncaring.

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