Throughout April, Rest for Resistance is proud to feature writing by LGBTQ+ people of color for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The following content is related to sexual violence and processing trauma.
It took me a long time to adjust. To re-adjust. To redefine.
The process of slowly eliminating all the items that had been placed inside of me happened like one long shit that lasted for 15 years. The rapes had all stacked up inside of me and cemented their locations inside my belly. That was the eerie part, that moreso than the faces, I could remember the locations and textures of the surfaces where they happened – a testament to the ravaging impact of the feel of an itchy red carpet or the cool of a drink that doesn’t taste quite right. Some of the “reportable” details might be fuzzy, but best believe I can summon the breeze of that particular night when I was 22, and I can clearly recollect the voice of the thoughts in my head when I was around 10ish and petrified.
That right there is part of the shitting – the naming of what, when, who, were. Learning to throw away the why. I spent much of 15 years not naming the who. And I don’t really mean not naming the people who did it because some of them I don’t know their names and the rest have names that are too familiar to name (or did I mean familial?). Anyway, I spent a lot of time not naming the person who was violated – me. Even now, I still have an aversion and unattachment to my own name because of all the shit that comes with those consonants and vowels. It took about 8 years to figure that out.
The next part of the naming was dedicated to the details that I could still feel – the where. I would touch a doorknob and have a flashback. And then aggressively attempt to hold in all that was trying to come spilling out. I compacted myself. Over and over again. Clamping down, shutting people out, and disengaging with my body to the point of numbness. On top of the 8 years I spent forgetting my own name, it took me another 5 to come to terms with the massive amount of sounds, textures, and voices that came to me at whim, in daylight or in dreamscape. That’s 13 years right there.
The last 2 years of the 15 were the ones that helped me begin the freedom phase, which I hope lasts a lifetime. This part involved learning the names of nouns, verbs, and adjectives that I wanted this person that I had become to experience one day. I looked up words that I wanted to give new definitions to. Names like orgasm, guiltless, gentleness, foreplay, sweet, bitchy, rude, unbothered, sexy, dancer, artist, writer. These were names that felt unfamiliar and obtuse, but had definitions and situational expertise that I wanted to get to know and learn for myself.
Since then I’ve become a sort of dictionary for myself. Exploring words like lust. I began to see that lust wasn’t synonymous with care or kindness. What my body often settled for was lust, but one day my body could demand care and kindness, even veneration. I highlighted that word veneration because it was completely new and I liked the way it sounded in the mirror.
Verbs like dance. All this time, I could perform for other people, pleasure other people twerking and grinding, but dancing for myself too often involved feeling my body slipping out of rhythm. In some instances, I would not being able to feel the rhythms at all. But the dictionary of djembes and lapas redefined dance as something that happens in my center first, to heal and to transform, and out for the ancestors next.
Words that cause reactions like danger. After associating danger with something I was continuously in for so long, I’m relearning that danger is something that I can also be. A danger to patriarchy, to sexism, to misogyny, to misogynoir. I could actually be dangerous, an entity that was likely to cause harm or injury to the very same systems that tried to break me. Straight comin’ for that ass.
Experiences like childhood. For a long time, I considered childhood to be a time in a person’s life when all the bad shit that could possibly happen, starts. Even now, I am still a little shocked when I learn that someone’s childhood is not a minefield of memories waiting to explode. But slowly, I am relearning that childhood does not happen once in a person’s life, it is a place and environment in your soul and in your psyche that stays with you, probably even past death. I’m relearning that even in adulthood, my childhood is still happening, and I give all the warmth and gentleness I can muster up to the child within me that was neglected for so long.
And finally, my favorite recent word to relearn is sex. My old definition for sex included escape, darkness, and the only form of validation that feels real. Lately, I’ve seen sex as synonymous with dance. Its definition includes some of those other new words like orgasm, guiltless, and fulfilling.
Although this is about renaming, it is also about time. 15 years, give or take, to begin to return to my body. To re-adjust. To set parameters and to redefine. My name still feels strange in my mouth, but I have begun to learn and internalize the definitions of these new words. I am about to be 30 this year and my capacity for new language began at 26. Language and time revolve around each other, and until I had new definitions for old words that were so tightly associated with pain, time stood still. But the moment I started to speak in a language for myself, that was crafted around the way I want to understand myself, the clock began moving at a pace that felt eternally sacred.
Oh yeah, that’s another new word –
defined as me.
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The background is a black-and-white astrological star chart. Two drawings appear over that. On the left, a person's face in olive green and dusty blue is drawn with cat ears. On the right is half a face with one big eye, big lips, and long maroon-dyed hair.
From the artist, "a concept that I revisit often is how we become our own superheroes and have the ability to travel back in time to moments where we were abused and when we dissociated. Here the child me wears a suit because it was necessary to be someone else, hide and the present me accepts that when the younger self was abused, a different person emerged. That different person would be our present selves."
About Vetta From Down The Street:
Vetta From Down The Street is a storyteller by speech pattern, and a historian by way of gossiping. Her work is centered on race, gender, and African-American myth making. Her greatest accomplishment is writing the obituary for her grandmother’s funeral. Through an authentic truth, she works to creatively connect with her community and engages writing and photography as healing mediums to do that work.
About Noemi Martinez: