a few tips…

in honor of a particularly awful anniversary which for the first time ever, yesterday came and went without me thinking about it at all, i will repost this most apt list which i just found on facebook. in fact it’s what reminded me in the first place!

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!

1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

and now go over to sheena’s blog for some advice in case the creeps don’t heed the above instructions. and stay safe!

daddy dearest…

i just read a post over at cathjenkin’s blog  which amounts to a love paean to fathers. it’s left me feeling rather wistful. and thinking that she’s really lucky to have known and know amazing father figures.

it leaves me  with a mix of gratitude to know such men exist and jealousy that i personally never knew such fathers. father’s day has never really featured in my life and when friends have spoken about their fathers with affection and love and longing, it’s always left me with a sense of wonder. such men are the equivalent of the unicorn, or the phoenix. magical fantasy creatures.

even when my (half) sister talks of our father and of missing him, i can’t reconcile the person who essentially abandoned me, with the person she remembers. and i’m a little jealous.

i met my dad for the first time when i was 14. i was standing on the stoep of his house in the bo-kaap (one of 3 connecting houses he owned and which were later sold for pittance) when i saw this fair, red-faced, sandy-haired, pot-bellied man come ambling up the road. he looked at me and said, “don’t tell me you’re sandra” and i, expecting a hero, but meeting merely a man, looked him straight in the eye and said, “no, i’m not”. those, literally, are the first words i remember exchanging with my father. from hearsay, i understand that i get my love of crossword puzzles and words from him, but i have no first hand experience. what i do remember is on the few occasions i did see him after that, him saying things like, “why must your hair always stand on end?” and at the time, i guess it did. even now, from time to time, it still does.

and my step-father? i won’t even start on the hell he put me through from the ages of 4 to 16, as well as the damage to my adult psyche i’ve only recently felt mostly healed from.

pen sketch i did as therapy circa 1994

so when i read posts like the one mentioned above, i can’t help but feel a little envy.

one of exmi’s fb updates today  was a quote which read “It is much easier to become a father than to be one.” ~Kent Nerburn

all i can say about my father and my step-father is that they epitomized that statement. from the one i got no attention, from the other, i got the kind of attention no child should ever get from an adult.

i forgive them. may they rest in peace.

sick spam

i am a rape and incest survivor.

if you read my blog, you would know that about me, so…

could somebody – ANYbody, PLEASE – tell me why sickos would leave me spam comments advertising RAPE VIDEOS?! not just once, but numerous times. “oohh, forced sex videos, click here!”

WTF?! 

be warned, if i catch those persons, i will have a sharp knife and i will not be responsible for it slipping. 

repeatedly.

the things we take for granted/just another day in jozi

you walk through the door
and there’s a look on your face
that’s strange.
something’s been
rearranged since the last time i saw you,
since the last cavalier
goodbye.

“didn’t you get my message?” you say.
i explain the mundane inanity
of a phone forgotten at work.
“mine’s been stolen,”
you say, your voice flat and calm
as you regale me with a nightmare of doors kicked in,
and men with zipties and guns.

in my mind flash horrific scenes of
“what might have been”.
but like you, i am numb.

i look at you and see the violence reverberate.
“shhhhh…”, i say,
pulling you close.
“shhhhh…”.

as i hold you
i cannot help but feel imaginary bullet wounds,
i feel the holes rent by that knife.
i see one more hole ripped huge in the fragile silk
of this parachute,
our life.

and yet:
i also feel the things we take for granted.

and i am grateful for another chance.

a dubious anniversary

my phoenix woman image

my phoenix woman image

at 02:45 a.m., on this day in 1992, right here in johannesburg, a man came flying through my door while i was lying sketching  in bed and over the next half hour, proceeded to rape me at knife-point. 

it was the yeoville rapist, at the time, on a spree terrorizing the women in my neighborhood (now in jail due to his fingerprint on the glass of water i handed him). the police had put out a profile saying that he was targeting young white, blonde women. i certainly wasn’t white (the government at the time made sure i was aware of that) and i wasn’t blonde and being a 12 year incest survivor, i certainly didn’t think the universe had this ordeal in mind for me as well. so when the neighbor’s dogs barked all night, i ignored them. when i heard the creaking of the floorboards, i thought that i really should ask my tenants in my duplex next door, to be a little quieter at this time of night. little did i know.

half an hour later when my friend who was staying with me for the week, came home, preventing the threatened encore to my involuntary experience, the guy finally took off over the back wall and any plans for my immediate future came crashing domino-down. the worst violation was not being raped, it was that he stole my sense of immunity, that thing we all need to get through the day, past the horrendous leading news stories, the thing that helps us believe “it won’t happen to me”. once it does, it’s as if you can never let your guard down. every noise you hear is the warning you didn’t heed, every person you see who looks vaguely like the guy, is a threat. the only night i spent alone in the house after that night, was spent walking from the front door to the back, investigating every little rustle. and i was probaby right, because 2 weeks later when i flew to new york to be with the man who would become my husband, he broke into my house again and attacked 2 women who were house-sitting for me.

6 months later i had, even though i didn’t yet know it at the time, moved to the states, gotten married and developed both ovarian cysts and grave’s disease, a hereditary hyper-thyroid condition which i didn’t even know i had, but which can manifest itself after a major trauma. i walked away from my house, my career, my life, my family and friends and i did not come back till i got the role on this soap 3 years ago. i really never envisioned myself coming back to jhb ever again.

it took me years to recover from that night. in fact i don’t know that i will ever be fully “recovered”, but coming back to jhb forced me to stop running and face the demon, acknowledge it and say “namaste”. for many years this day would bite me. i spent at least the first year in bed with the duvet pulled over my head. a measure of my recovery is that i only remembered what day it was as i was driving to work this morning. a far cry from the constricting dread that would overcome me in the weeks leading up to this day in other years.

i drew this around the 1st "anniversary"

i drew this as therapy that first year

 

 

man with a gun (lyrics to a song i wrote)
it was almost 3 a.m.
a quarter to, to be exact
i heard a noise above the music
but i didn't face the facts

then through the door you came
your knifing eyes foretold my pain
and though it wasn't for my life you came
now it will never be the same

it was almost 3 a.m.
a quarter to, to be exact
i heard a noise above the music
but i didn't face the facts

now i never can again
look the same at other men
though they didn't lie me on the floor
to take what they had come there for

even while i hid inside my head
imagining you in pools of red
i remember staring at the carpet
the one i'd chosen from the market

it was almost 3 a.m.
a quarter to, to be exact
i heard a noise above the music
but i didn't face the facts

3.15 you took with you
my feeling of immunity
and in it's stead you left in lieu
hell in perpetuity

it was almost 3 a.m.
a quarter to, to be exact
i heard a noise above the music
but i didn't face the facts

 

 

 

http:phoenixflying.net – my site for survivors 

letter to a survivor

when i first moved back to johannesburg to act in the soap i’m now working on, it felt like there was a much bigger reason for my return.  i decided that i would go public about being a rape and incest survivor. i felt like i’d been running for so long and that i’d finally turned around, faced the demon and gone, “BOO!” i did a number of interviews, set up a website with resources for survivors, called phoenix flying and though i’d really rather not be the poster girl for rape and incest survivors (there’s so much else that defines me), from time to time i am contacted by women who make me realize that there will always be a huge need for someone like me. i got a letter from someone on face book and this was my response to her.

thank you so much for sharing your story with me. you know, i tend to think that the only use for experiences like you and i have gone through, is to be there for the next woman it happens to, to be an example, to say, “you’ll be ok. you can survive this.”

i too fled johannesburg after what happened to me – 10 000 miles away, to be exact and it took me 12 years before i was strong enough to come back here. i’m amazed that it’s taken you so little time to get to this point where you can say that you’re over it. it took me much longer, but the path of healing is one we walk our entire lives and we go through different stages on our journey.

you say you’re trying to make sense of what happened to you. i can tell you, what happened to us makes no sense. it’s not something you or i deserved, it’s not because of something you or i did wrong. we were victims of someone else’s lack of morality and lack of humanity, but the thing that sets us apart is that we can choose to be SURVIVORS and not victims. 

how are you and your family after this? did your husband cope? and your child – does he have any idea what happened and how are they dealing with it? 

you say you want to help other women – the best way is to make sure that you’re ok first. you know, all we can do is be there for the women who come after us in whatever situation we come across each other. 

Sunlight in Knowth's western passage on the Equinoxi went public with my story because i thought it was important for people to know that this can happen to anyone. i thought it was important for other “victims” to see that we can survive anything. that we can transcend the dark night and come out into the light and that’s all i can hope for any of us, to come out of that long dark tunnel and out into nurturing sunlight.

by the way, after 3 years back in johannesburg, i’ve revised my perception of my return. instead of turning round, facing the demon and saying, “BOO!”, i’ve clasped my hands together, bowed and said “namaste”.  

i’m making peace with it.

bite me!

this has been one of THOSE weeks where the actual events blur, but the emotional hang-over remains. days have blurred into each other – working hard, lots of scenes, long days at the studio, little time to write. 

tuesday started with a huge blow-up between the head of the make-up department and i. we are usually friends, but i’ve been experiencing a really snippy tone from her on and off and on tuesday it turned out to be that straw by which this camel’s back refused to be broken. all i’ll say is that it involved knee-highs and hairdryers and time constraints, and took all week to (almost, but not quite) resolve. i suppose when one works with people for such a long time in such proximity, the fit sometimes begins to chafe and needs some adjusting. i also think that when one first meets people, the possibility for friendship exists, and you go on that presumption and you work at creating a friendship. one day down the line you wake up and you suddenly realize, “wait a minute! we’re NOT friends – and it’s okay!”. and you stop trying.

oh man, self-righteous anger… it feels so good, but really who does it serve? reminds me of that other 12 step maxim, “resentment is the poison we take expecting the other person to die”. there’s some sage advice.

i realize that my many years of childhood abuse have shaped me in so many ways i’m not always aware of. that the past from time to time comes back to bite me in the butt.  it took me 12 years to realize that what was happening to me wasn’t my fault, but when i finally did, i got really pissed. for a really long time. and at that time it was what i needed to recover. now that’s no longer necessary, but i still have the same pattern. i’ll take people’s shit for the longest time and then one day it’s like i have an epiphany of outrage and explode. and the reality is that it’s no longer necessary. i’m not that helpless little girl anymore. i am a strong and empowered woman and i need to speak out at the little things which bother me – you know, deal with the mole-hill before it turns into mount everest. because i can.

and the past can bite me!

wow, i didn’t know i was going here when i sat down to write today. so maybe it’s appropriate that i add this here:

it’s always been my intention to do hoop workshops with abused women and children and just over a year ago, i got the chance with a group of school-girls and another group of women, organized by FAMSA. it was a very emotional week-end which started with me racing from the studio where i film to get to a town 2 hours away in time to get to the girls before their school day finished. these girls have so little that their gratitude towards me for showing up, talking to them and hooping with them was overwhelming. they couldn’t believe they could keep their hoops (even though i was somewhat disappointed at the crappy quality that we managed to get donated for them). the average age is about 12 and many of them have been either raped or molested or abused in some way.  

the workshop with the women happened the next day. i gave a 20 minute talk about being a rape and incest survivor and we then had a huge hoop taping session so the women could personalize their hoops, followed by a hoop demo and then a hoop jam/teaching session. it was overwhelming how many women would sidle up to me, whisper their thanks and then proceed to tell me their stories. and all i could do was listen, hug them and tell them it does get better. 
just as i’m reminding myself right now – it does get better.