I recently traveled to meet a sister survivor who has become a friend. There was an art studio tour while I was there, and art being her passion, we headed out for a day of culture and beauty. She lives near where the “Camp Fire” happened in Paradise, CA. Having experienced her own house fire three months prior to the Camp Fire, she knew the heartache the survivors were experiencing.
One studio was the home of a talented artist who works with multiple mediums, sculpture, paint, collage, etc. She too had lost everything in the Camp Fire. Imagine, as an artist, losing all of your precious creations, along with everything you use to create them. She was devastated. When she went back to the site of her desolated home, she told a friend she wanted nothing from the heaps of ash. This friend encouraged her to gather some pieces to begin to create new art. Together they found several charred and what to the average eye would seem worthless pieces of unsalvageable trash. Included in this were pieces of melted and twisted glass from her windows, along with the melted aluminum frames. From this “worthless trash” Bellatrix, and several other angels, were born. She named the series, Angels Rising, as they were beautifully created from the ugliness of the broken, melted, and twisted pieces found in the ash. Of course it captured my heart and felt perfect for my blog. Even her hair is very similar to mine.
There is a sticker on the back of the angel I chose that reads, Bellatrix – female warrior. Like the many other leaders and members of the Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), I too am a warrior. I advocate for sexual abuse survivors. I engage in advocacy, activism, interviews, and I lead support groups and guided meditations. My passion is that every abuse survivor receives healing and is heard if they want to be; and that those in authority open their eyes to the evil among us. It is painful and exhausting work…and I cannot imagine doing anything else. Warriors in this field are often wounded in the battle and must retreat for awhile to heal and rest, lest we succumb to our wounds.
Nine years ago I was raped by a stranger. My therapist was in Hawaii and she knows I absolutely adore sea turtles. I sometimes use the image of swimming with them as my safe place. She was hesitant to give me the turtle because the right flipper broke during travel. I explained to her that I was feeling so unsafe even my sea turtles were being destroyed when I tried to image them in my mind. This description encouraged her to give me the broken turtle. The turtle is so small it fits delicately in my hand. The fact the turtle is a baby broke my heart for its wounding and gave me a strong desire to heal it. I very carefully glued the fragile flipper back together, held it until the glue adhered, and re-stained it to hide the brokenness. It is barely perceptible now.
I tell you about this turtle because I had to travel from CA to WA for a training, and then back home. I wrapped Bellatrix very diligently in several inches of bubblewrap, knowing her wings were extremely fragile. I surrounded this bubbled mass in my softest clothing to protect it from careless baggage handlers. I used the utmost caution while unwrapping her when I finally arrived home. Her right wing had broken off, and while saddened, I was also pleasantly surprised it was all that broke off this glass sculpture. Bellatrix had now become a wounded warrior, like me, like so many others who carry the message of hope and encouragement to fellow survivors. It is interesting to me both symbols of my journey were broken on the right side, as the majority of my somatic (body) symptoms are also on the right. My memories remind me the predators most often approached my body from the right side, and my body remembers. And my turtle and my angel bear witness.
I am sure one day I will take the same delicate care to heal the fragile wing of this angel that I took with the fragile flipper of the turtle. Today she is a reminder of the cost of this battle, and the need for self care. Like the turtle and the angel, I will always carry the scars of the abuse, the trauma, the agonizingly long journey toward healing, and the war where I choose to do battle. It tears my heart every time I hear another story about a child, or adult child, who was broken by evil and selfish perpetrators. I am angered and raise my sword every time the story ends with healing and justice denied by those who would choose to cover up for predators, allowing untold numbers of other children to be broken. Our battle scars may not always be visible, but they will always be there, even when healed with great care and attention.
I dedicate this piece to a sister warrior who is learning how wounding and exhausting this work can be, yet she never gives up. Battle after battle she literally sacrifices her voice and her health to support and lift up others, bringing attention to the damage evil men and women can inflict. This warrior writes publicly on Face Book under the pseudonym PK Hill. I encourage you to read her stories, she is very talented, and very committed, despite being very wounded…which makes her very brave!