February 14, 2013 is my 9th Valentine's Day free of my abuser. I've been wondering for a long time when I would start to really publicly share the story my abusive ex-boyfriend, and I think now is the time. I can't do it all at once. There's too much. And in reality it makes most people feel uncomfortable, and this is so important that I don't want folks to tune out. I get it--its hard to listen to stories of abuse.
So, I'll just start talking about one of my favorite holidays, V-Day. V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women, has been a part of my life for the last eight years. I witnessed my first Vagina Monologues in 2005, and monologued the following year as a student at CSU Monterey Bay. The ability to channel the experience of 6.5 years of abuse through a monologue about women's empowerment and the support of a whole cast of other Vaginas, was one of the most precious gifts I could have received. It was life changing.
I learned how to speak out about my experiences as a woman. I learned to share my story. I learned that I have my own power, my own voice, and my own body. I leaned about safety and trust.
Today, I had another opportunity to express my story and my art with others. In 2011 I created a piece for a photography course, under the assignment of "3 dimensional or sculptural photography". I created a piece using an old photo of my ex and a set of nine specimen containers. The photo was really the only physical object that I had kept. I don't know why I kept it. Maybe I thought it would help keep him away if there was always a photo to remember what he looked like. Sometimes you do superstitious stuff like that.
I started with clean, un-used, urine sample containers and filled each with a dismantled, destroyed image of him. I had been thinking of destroying the original so many times, that it seemed appropriate to do so for as many containers as I had. While, I have sometimes imagined punching his face, kicking him in the balls, and a number of other acts of aggression, I am actually not a violent person. And the things I've done to the images are expressions of my anger towards my loss of freedom as a teenager and my loss of sense of self while I was being abused.
The Museum of Art and History hosted a pop-up museum event at a local bar tonight, with the theme of "F my Ex" and I'm proud to say I brought my piece. It normally stays in a closet, in a crumpled brown paper bag. Because, really, how often do you want to look at images that remind you of a life that was filled with fear and domination? But for two hours it came out and I shared my story with old and new friends and was reminded of how much of a warrior I had to be to remove myself from that situation and how far I've come since then.
What does V-Day mean to me? It is a celebration of my own freedom and the freedom of other warrior women too. It is a celebration of love, self-love, love for women. And love for men as well. V-Day is a day to remember myself and others. It is a day to remember my journey and a day to share my story with the world!
Happy V-Day everyone!
And if you've never seen Vagina Monologues, do it. Do it for yourself, your girlfriend, your mom, you sister, your daughter. It is a powerful play, funny, sad, sweet, but above all, powerful.