A Woman of Wonder

I miss something that doesn’t exist. A whisper, a feeling, a brush of a hand. It used to be so solid, so clear. Now it’s fuzzy and distant, this thing I miss. It’s like trying to embrace a cloud.

I took my first plane trip when I was 11. My brothers and I flew over to Australia to see my dad. As we flew I looked out the airplane window and imagined I was flying through the clouds, bouncing off each one like they were cotton balls. My mother had parachuted through a cloud back in her Navy days. She described it as passing through damp gossamer. Clouds have no substance, she told me. They’re like dreams.

On long road trips past oceans, I’d imagine the sea had frozen and I was ice skating over the waves. It gave me a feeling of freedom and power to believe that on some plane of existence I could conquer the impossible. 10 year old me could command the weather, use my ridiculously long hair as lightning, stop an oncoming train with a look. In my mind, I was unstoppable.

It should be no surprise that Wonder Woman was my first crush as a kid. I became obsessed with her at the age of 5. She encapsulates everything I want to be: strong, fast, awesome boobs, a lasso of truth, the ability to run in heels and an innate capacity to take no shit. She’s a saviour with good and honest morals and values. She’ll cut a bitch, but only if that bitch is violating the liberty of someone else. Also, she likes girls and boys, but that’s besides the point.

Being my own version of Wonder Woman is intoxicating, particularly when someone else is prepared to be Steve (or Stephanie) Trevor. Being the one who saves the day is empowering and satisfying and ego stroking and extremely dangerous. It lulls one into a false sense of invulnerability, which then makes the inevitable fall from the messiah pedestal that much more painful.

The thing about superheroes is, they don’t exist. I mean, yes, there are extraordinary people who do amazing, miraculous things, but they’re just people. No capes, no superpowers. No one can leap tall buildings in a single bound. If only. There are plenty of damsels and dudes in distress, though, that fuel the need for superheroes. But it’s false. No one can save anyone else. We can only rescue ourselves, truth be told, and I used all the skills I learned in my journey through life for the one I loved, all the while forgetting that even Batman was not always everybody’s favourite guy in Gotham City. Bruce Wayne had to eventually acknowledge that saving the day was not going to take away his trauma.

Growing up has a tendency to curb those thoughts of indestructibility, to transform them into things more attainable. There’s always been a part of my mind, however, that has believed that the improbable is still possible. The Universe has a way of making things happen along a path we least expect. Goals can be achieved, dreams can come true.

Ah, yes. Those dreams again. Paper thin and fragile. Unsubstantial and deceptive, like a cloud. Like you turned out to be. My cumulonimbus. I believed in those dreams, in those clouds of my youth. I allowed myself to be swept up in the fantasy, in the idea that me and my love could overcome anything, that the Wonder Woman inside me would stay vigilant and true. It could have, but it didn’t exist. I miss a thing that didn’t exist. I miss my Paradise Island. I miss you – not the victim you, not the damsel you, certainly not the abusive you, but the version of you that was loving and strong and generous and kind and honest. Sadly, that version you gave to me was as false as it was true. What I felt was truth. Who I felt it for wasn’t.

So, my heart breaks one last time as I reach for those flimsy, filmy illusions, wishing so hard that they were real. Wishing I could grasp them to my heart because they were so beautiful. My belief in making the impossible probable hasn’t died. I’m sure you didn’t intend for your abuse of my love to do that, any more than my saviour complex was intended to deny you your autonomy. I like to think you’re not aware of what you do to people. I guess I’ll never know.

But, it’s no one else’s concern, my awakening. It is mine. My renewal is my responsibility. For probably the first time in my life, I’m being my own superhero. I’m saving myself and although I have wise, wonderful, pull-no-punches honest friends and family to guide me, I’m doing it alone.

And it feels so good.

 

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The Child Who Knew Too Much

So, another Catholic priest has been arrested after police investigated an online child pornography ring in Sydney. The FBI has just freed 105 children from a child prostitution ring in the US. There is an increase in sexual abuse of indigenous kids in rural and outback Australia. Every day there seems to be more and more reports of children being sexually molested by people in positions of power, by priests, by neighbours, teachers, uncles, fathers – you name it.

Studies say children who have been sexually abused can experience depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, sexual dysfunction, withdrawal, and acting out. They can suffer from sleep disturbances, eating problems, and non-participation in school and social activities. Some kids stop trying at life. Other kids try too hard.

Adult victims of child abuse can suffer from high levels of anxiety which can result in alcoholism, drug abuse, anxiety attacks, borderline personality disorders, insomnia and depression. Victims can go on to engage in high risk sexual behaviour, including prostitution.

Let me tell you what happened to me. I became extremely depressed as a child, but was unable to articulate what had happened until I was 12. The disclosure was not met with a great deal of acceptance by my family. As a teenager, I began to display borderline tendencies and started to cut myself. I developed bulimia. Simultaneously, I became an over-achiever at school, committing myself to several extra-curricular activities at once in an effort to occupy my mind until I burned out at 17 and almost failed Seventh Form.

Outside of working in the sex industry, which you all know about, I would occasionally have indiscriminate and sometimes unsafe sex with random men and women. It’s actually quite amazing that I didn’t catch a sexually transmitted infection. That behaviour, together with the borderline traits and obsessive compulsive tendencies continued well into my adulthood, and still exist in much less severity to this day.

My parents live with an undisclosed sense of guilt that they couldn’t prevent the abuse from happening to me. We can’t really talk about it, simply because I don’t want them to feel that I’m making them responsible, and they don’t really know what to say. My brothers are the same.

My self worth and value is rooted firmly in my sexual attractiveness. I tend to use sex as a bargaining tool; as a weapon; as my armour. I have been working to offset this for a number of years. It’s hard, but I’m much, much better than I was.

Today at rehearsal, there were some child rape jokes thrown around. I am not angry at those who perpetrated these jokes because it occurred in a context that is difficult to explain. Needless to say, I had to walk out of rehearsal because it broke my head. And finally cemented home a realisation:

I will never get over being sexually molested as a child.

I have healed immensely and have worked very, very hard to not let that trauma impede on my everyday life. I am a very functional member of society, and my experiences have provided me with a very thick skin most of the time. I do not dwell on it, or cast myself as a victim in life’s drama. But it’s there. All the time, whether I acknowledge it or not. Today it’s very much at the forefront of my mind. And it hurts.

Child abuse destroys lives. It’s a topic that is drowning in shame and outrage and guilt and pain and it has to stop. Of course, it never will, because humans can be cruel and sadistic and nasty and apathetic of what impact their actions can have on others, so we have to be prepared to nurture and comfort and support and help heal those who have suffered this horrible, horrible experience.

My love and my heart goes out to all survivors of child sexual abuse. I’m feeling your pain right now because it is also my own.