Too Ugly to Heal

After posting a series of stories about Domestic Violence survivors last year, I was approached by several people to compile them into a book. I was hesitant because my personal experience is that we, as survivors, don’t really matter. That we aren’t important enough to others to read it. But, some of these people were friends who had never admitted to anyone that they, themselves, had been abused and my writing touched them. Others were doctors who felt it would be a tool to reach women who had no voice.

So, I began.

The writing is simple, painful, raw, honest and nearly complete. I am balancing it with information and facts for women who are trying to move forward in their lives highlighting the meager tools available in our local communities to do this. But…I also want these stories to be accompanied by art so that that book doesn’t carry so much weight that one cannot lift and open it; and so that it is filled with as much hope as it is despair.

The first potential collaborator was a photographer. Her work is powerful. She captures what she has lived already which is a life quite similar to the stories I will share. When we met, she was passionate about contributing and the opportunity reduced her to tears. She brought her new husband to that meeting. Since she married him, she seldom travels alone. He wasn’t nearly as inspired by the topic. I wish I could say that I found his behavior odd but, in fact, I recognized it immediately. After that meeting she disappeared and blocked me on all social media but her husband started following me until I shut that down. When I emailed her I received a terse reply that she was no longer available for the project. In context, I understand that completely. And I hope that she remains safe and well.

The second potential collaborator felt much more right to me than the first. A painting studio that hosts transformational workshops for women. The works produced are vibrant, unique and full of life. My idea was that each woman who attended a workshop could paint a small healing piece for a woman in each of the stories to sit on the companion left page in my book. A community of women healing women. After a period of consideration, the studio owner did not feel comfortable taking on this task. I think, in large part, because she doesn’t want the negative energy in her studio. I sat in the parking lot with my head on the steering wheel part angry and part broken; but largely feeling invisible.

She asked why the women in the stories didn’t paint the healing work. I had to explain that we do not have the freedom of movement or creation, or even a safe place to commune with other women like ourselves. We meet in basements of churches with passcodes to the entry door ~ if we are amongst the lucky few. Many of the women about whom I wrote are now in hiding. Some didn’t make it at all. Does this mean we don’t try to heal that wound because they are already dead? I would argue that they have even more of a right to voice that the rest of us.

I am onto my third attempt with a local artist who is gratefully pushing me to keep moving forward. I will approach Domestic Violence Prevention Advocates and a few local Domestic Violence Shelters to see about incorporating art therapy into their programs. This will slow the process of publishing the book substantially and I will not be able to publish and reach these women by October 2015 (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) which was my original goal. But I’m not giving up.

Perhaps an important part of this story is that, in the end, only women who have been abused and have so little themselves will be willing to create the salve to heal other women who share those same grotesque, deep, life-changing, unnecessary, invisible, painful, and ugly wounds. And perhaps, just perhaps, that alone will give people a reason to stop and think.

These wounds are ugly. But there are not too ugly to heal.