Tuesday, March 20, 2012

There are no words (except four letter ones).

Rats- kinder and more accepting than most people.
Today has been a perfect example of my struggles with writing. I've had a burning desire, no, need, to write almost all day, but I also kept trying to talk myself out of blogging when I got home. I had class from 6 to 9 pm, and now it's after 10 and  I'm tired, no, wiped out physically and emotionally (mostly emotionally) and just don't have the energy or time to write the manifesto this topic deserves. But f- it, my job is why I'm emotionally wiped out and dammit it won't keep me from writing. Actually, I need to write this to reiterate how important this blog is to me and how no one can keep me from expressing myself without shame.

I work on a floor that is all finance and accounting people. There are probably more finance and accounting groups on other floors than just mine, but there are lots of directors and a couple vice presidents on the floor. There is also a raging social hierarchy that would rival any high school. I don't say that lightly because there was certainly a brutal clique system in my small hometown high school. I had lunch today with someone who escaped the floor to another department. I told this person (don't want to give details for reasons that will become clear) about my job troubles, and they decided to be honest with me and tell me that they were told not to be friends with me and stay clear because I had been raped and I was "bad mojo". That wasn't all that was said about me. Seems someone found this blog and I and my experiences have been a topic of conversation on the floor. Seems that I was not imagining that some people were treating me differently than before, and were really avoiding me, and others were being friendly to my face and gossiping about me behind my back.

On the one hand, I'm not surprised. I attributed a lot of the whispers behind my back and people avoiding me in high school to it being a small town. It's not unusual that people in a small town are all up in your business. I guess more shocking, both to myself and many people I've described this to, is that adults, teachers and police and neighbors, would treat me like a leper rather than showing compassion to a child who is being put through hell. I've had plenty of experience with people who act like the bad things that have happened to me are somehow contagious, but it's still especially galling that a presumably mature adult would act like that. It was a little less inexplicable to be treated that way by other teenagers. I was in my 20's when my brother died, but maybe because that treatment was still fresh in my mind I was not completely taken by surprise when I was shunned after Jeff's suicide. I distinctly remember feeling like people didn't see me anymore, they saw suicide, and I myself was consumed by loss. Since then, I've earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, my CPA license, worked in accounting and audit for 13 years, turned 40 years old, and I'm still damaged goods, just as much as I was at 17.

After all I've been through, what the hell is wrong with people? Fuck this social contract that I will be allowed to live a "normal" life only if I'm a good little victim who keeps the secrets I know they don't want to hear. Fuck these people who think it's appropriate for me and the billions of people who share these experiences with me to live with guilt over things that other people did to us, to hide our emotions in the shadows, to live a double life, directing our pain in on ourselves to spare them the discomfort of feigning sympathy or even tolerance for someone with different experiences than them. I am 100% sure that there are other people on that floor who have been raped and/or sexually abused. At least I've learned to push the poison of humiliation and blame away for me. I've struggled, and I still struggle, but I won't let it destroy me or turn me into someone I'm not. At least I feel comfortable writing about it. Being able to express what this is like for me keeps me from drowning in it. This kind of pain can eat you alive until you don't know who you are or why you should keep living. I don't have to imagine what it's like to live with a secret that makes you hate yourself so much that you have to wall it up and everything you feel, everything you feel about everything in your life because you can't live with what happened to you and still function in the world. IT IS THE SHAME THAT DESTROYS YOU. It's not what happened to you. It's when you have to incorporate those hateful things into your precious soul because someone who didn't see you or care about you took their toxic crap out on you and these ignorant, selfish people try to force you to keep it inside you. How dare they sacrifice you like that, how dare they treat you like you don't matter.

Imagine if I was gay, or a recovering alcoholic, or sick with a disease, and the people I worked with were telling my co-workers to avoid me? Imagine if the Jewish people I work with not only couldn't talk about their religion at work, but couldn't practice their religion openly outside of work for fear someone they worked with would find out and they would be shunned. That's clearly discrimination. It's not like these kinds of games don't have consequences. One of the people who used to be friendly to me and now won't look me in the eyes is a director of a group that I was going to work on a project with that is very important to me and the company, and now she won't work with me. She won't return my calls, she won't tell me what's going on with the project or anything else, and she is complaining to my boss when I ask her for assistance or even cooperation on other projects. I know she gossips with my boss because he's told me about performance issues she had with someone who works for her. I don't think she should have shared that with him, but he certainly shouldn't have told me about it. I can just imagine that my boss, an ambitious people-pleaser, was so thrilled to be included in cool kid gossip that he thought nothing of turning on a loyal and hard-working employee if it got him brownie points. It's not enough that I'm good, no, great at my job, extremely qualified, committed, friendly, smart- no.  I don't deserve to acknowledge my life experiences, even outside of work, because people will know I've got "bad mojo". I shouldn't be myself, try to reach out to other survivors, share my story, try to do my part to reduce the stigma and burden we carry, and feel like I belong in the world because I've been raped.

Give me a fucking break.


Morgan M. said...

What you describe is pretty much what goes on in most every job in America. People love to gossip and get into other people's business, no matter the harm it might cause. My advice, stop sharing your life with people at work. change the security settings on FB for Friends Only and see if you can hide this journal somehow to where it's only visible to a select few. I mention this because some might say that by talking about your life so openly you're playing the victim and expecting special treatment at work.

Obviously I don't think this is the case, most definitely it's quite the opposite. In spite of being raped and your Brother's suicide, you have remained strong and made a good life for yourself against all odds.
The world is changing. No longer do people admire an underdog who overcomes great adversity to better themselves. Now people want a team player who will kiss ass and do what they
re told. The squeaky wheel (instead of getting the oil) gets replaced.

I would button up my personal life on FB and here just to be on the safe side. You never know what people may try to do with your personal writings.

Tealrat said...

I'm glad you brought this up. I think it's time to stand up to this sort of thing. Employers don't own us. I realize that many, many people feel trapped in their job because of the economy, their financial situation, etc. It is totally up to each person to decide what they are willing to sacrifice for a job. I will not give up my life or my identity. I didn't bring my personal life into work. I follow the dress code (cover up my tattoos, wear heels, conform with the fashion at work). I work hard. I keep my head down. I don't talk about myself. I focus on my job. I'm not the one spending work time gossiping and playing games. I don't see my job as an opportunity to play puppet master with other people's lives. I treat my co-workers with respect and try, no matter how hard it is, to give them the benefit of the doubt. I am proud of who I am, and speaking and advocating for abuse survivors is more important than a paycheck. People all over the world read my blog. It's important for it to be available to anyone who wants to read it, and anyone who doesn't like what I have to say can move on. I've had lots of people thank me for talking about these things- both people who can relate to what I've been through and people who have learned something from my perspective. Anyone who thinks I'm looking for special treatment is, I'm sorry, an idiot. I've worked hard for everything in my life. No one has the right, or the ability, to take away my voice and force me to live in shame and secrecy. I'm not ashamed of my blog or my FB page, and most importantly, I'm not ashamed of myself. This is a free society and I won't voluntarily censor myself for a job. It's about time to stop associating free speech with corporations and money and give it back to individuals.

~~A said...

Dear Kristina,
How utterly stunned I am by the depraved and immature behaviour of the co-workers. Actually took my breath away reading this blog!
There has been a long period of darkness through this past winter. It is rampant across the globe. Seems fear dominates the conversation. This is the work of the ego. People don’t know themselves nor do they listen to their soul IE: intuitive Self.
You say to hell with them I will not censor myself. However, Facebook is a place to edit oneself, not censor oneself.
Betrayal is also what you are experiencing and have experienced. Loyalty and loving is in short supply in this office setting that appears to be similar to a high school clique. This seems to have gone far beyond office politics.
Corruption comes in many guises. It is always immoral.
Personally I have no experience with the violent childhood you lived, nor do I have siblings.
I volunteered to work with women who were in violent relationships [YWCA] and sought to leave with their children. I took 40 hours of training and learned how misinformed I was about abuse. During that time the local police force was also in training to better understand the dynamics of an abusive household. This was in the late 90’s and early 2000. Recent, as education goes.
VAWA’s [1994] effectiveness is evident in the progress that has been made since implementation. We know that local, state, and national laws are changing; programs, businesses, and communities are responding to victims’ needs; and studies show that rates of violence and reporting of crime are changing.
Consider these highlights from 10 years of VAWA:
States have passed more than 660 laws to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. All states have passed laws making stalking a crime and changed laws that treated date or spousal rape as a lesser crime than stranger rape.
0. Since 1996, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has answered over 2 million calls. The Hotline receives over 21,000 calls a month and provides access to translators in 170 languages.
0. Businesses also have joined the national fight against violence. Hundreds of companies, led by the model programs established by Altria, Polaroid, Liz Claiborne, The Body Shop, Aetna and DuPont, have created Employee Assistance Programs that help victims of domestic violence.
More victims are reporting violence: among victims of violence by an intimate partner, the percentage of women who reported the crime was greater in 1998 (59%) than in 1993 (48%).
Once again this bill is before Congress to be expanded for immigrants.
The point is ignorance is in the forefront of your workplace dilemma. This is not the time to respond with “fuck you” which is a hostile, angry position. And I understand you are at the end of your rope with the high school clique mentality. Perhaps your company would like to participate in one of the model programs established by Altria, Polaroid, Liz Claiborne, The Body Shop, Aetna and DuPont. Educate them Kristina. Enlighten them. Then the denial will end.
Ann Light