In the past two weeks, I have watched many people step out and speak up against all forms of violence and assault, asserting such acts, especially repeated ones, should not be the norm, nor should they be celebrated.
Some of the women and two spirit voices spoke out at great risk to themselves, their careers, and their lives. I know this risk because I have paid the price of speaking out in multiple ways, like many of them have already, as well.
I, personally, was not connected to the voicing, but elements of a story I found myself in were and, as some of you know, it is a story of domestic violence. I have only shared bits and pieces of my experiences in that story, never in their entirety. The sharing of them fully is for another time and place.
Some information came through my feed, some was sent to me by friends and family; I read many posts and comments by people who both knew and did not know me or my perspective of the story. It was a surreal experience – at times intensely painful – people will say very different things when you are not sitting in front of them. However, the only key elements from my vantage point in the story that I will comment on, at this time, is that of responsibility, remorse, and amends.
Taking responsibility, expressing remorse, and making amends for violent behaviour, entails more than writing down words in whatever format. It requires a mirror to be held up. Inside that mirror is the abuser’s reflection, but also the reflections of the ones who have been hurt. If there are multiple people who have been hurt either through directly experiencing that violence – physically, mentally, financially, emotionally, and spiritually – or indirectly experiencing that violence, the mirror becomes heavier and harder to look at, but the key point is that it is not just the abuser’s reflection. If it is just the abuser’s reflection and not all the people who have been harmed, then it becomes an act of narcissism without the genuine remorsefulness required to make reparations.
While a perpetrator can take responsibility for causing harm or be forced to take responsibility due to evidence and witnesses, the action of making amends is something to be determined by the person who was hurt. As soon as violence is done, the perpetrator gives up the right to define how the person they have hurt will be healed. The only person who can define what healing/amends/reparation might look like is the person who was harmed (and by extension the other people/community members who were also directly/indirectly harmed) but if, and only if, the one who has been hurt chooses to engage with the abuser. And when that violence is a repeated pattern of behaviour over many years, healing/amends/reparation become even more difficult to make and much longer to occur.
It takes more than a letter, more than a publishing press and more than people’s opinions to determine if amends have been made and what healing is in terms of my part in the story. The only person that can do so is me – that power is mine – it comes, sadly, with being harmed, and I can tell you, no amends or movements towards amends have ever been attempted; no reparations have ever been made.
I did not deserve to be hurt.
kinanâskomitinawaw for your time and energy
Post-script: Some of the messages I have received from people close to Neal show how the form of “healing” undertaken is not one that extends to genuine remorse. Through their content, they indicate a level of dysfunction and continued verbal violence that indicates much more work is needed, particularly as they appear to be “speaking” for him or at least within the context of conversations with him. Sadly, these messages affirm my position. (I refuse to publish them here within the scope of my response – perhaps in another context at another time.)
On a more positive note, kinanâskomitinawaw for those of you who reached out with love and support. It was a difficult decision for me to post this publicly; I have held your responses close to my heart in light of the ones mentioned above.