Thursday, December 16, 2010


They spend a day or three in rape crisis training teaching you about long term recovery. Group therapy is the norm for sexual assault survivors, because often there are certain things a rape victim won't believe from anyone except other rape victims. "It's not your fault," for instance.

CWCIC (which also provides services for men, despite the name) runs a sixteen week closed group for sexual assault survivors. The group covers a fixed curriculum; some people will go through it more than once, but there's a specific progression that takes place. One of the counselors I didn't get along with well was telling about something they do a few weeks into group, and laughing. "We do a spa day," she said with a chuckle. "Before the funding got cut, we used to take these women out to get their nails done," she said, "and they resist the idea so hard. They refuse. They start crying. It's almost impossible for them to do anything for themselves, to take care of anything beyond their basic needs. They feel like the should give it all to everyone else." The therapist found this infantile incompetence hilarious.

In retrospect I can see a certain morbid humor, but I was staring at her completely raw, serious, wounded, incredulous, and fully experiencing the thing she was making fun of--and she looked away, reproved. I felt there was a flashing neon sign above my head screaming BROKEN! and I couldn't turn it off. After all, normal people don't fight violently back when you make them a free, legitimate offer of professional pampering. Even now the, the concept strikes me as excessive, even offensive or obscene. I can't explain why, really.

The first seven months or so of therapy succeeded in convincing me that, though perhaps no one deserves to live, at least I don't deserve it particularly less than anyone else. Probably. And there's irony. When you don't believe you deserve anything for yourself except bare bones survival, you self-maintain so poorly that your ability to contribute is greatly less.


Logan said...

No human deserves to live, or no life-form whatsoever?

Day said...

The whole concept of deserving is wonky as hell, unless you care to defend the whole natural rights concept, which I don't.

However, my preference is that in order to "deserve" life, any person or creature would a) have to live in a non-habitat-destroying way and b) not habitually live in some way (negligent hypocrisy being the most popular option) that deeply hurts others on a near constant basis. This rules out virtually all humans.

misssrobin said...

I find myself pitying anyone who sees that woman professionally. There is no way that attitude doesn't affect her ability to help her clients. I am amazed that your face was the only thing screaming at her. I don't know how I would have handled it. It angers me to read it.

I don't understand the idea of being pampered. It doesn't appeal at all to me. I have never connected it with sexual assault. I wonder if it really is because of that.

Snow said...

I'm confused. Who are you, or I, deeply hurting on a near constant basis?

I also don't think that people who fail to live as humanely as they intend are hypocrites. There are many people in the world who have a sincere desire to do great things, and to be good people, and to be a help to their fellow beings rather than a hindrance. Hypocrisy is not when you fail to be who you want to be, or you fail to practice what you preach as well as you wished you could. Trying to be better, hoping to be better, is not hypocrisy. Being blind, and not seeing how you could be better is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is when you intentionally pretend to be someone you are not in order to achieve some end, or get away with something. I have met too many sincere people who make mistakes and then get up and do better next time to believe that most of humanity is living in hypocrisy.

It's hard for anyone to appreciate themselves, and those who have the hardest time with it are not to be scoffed at. Or pampered... toenail polish is not the answer for people who are suffering. I hope that woman thought deeply about your reaction.

Day said...

Respectfully, I disagree. I think toenail polish is, sometimes, the answer for people who are suffering. "Pampering," here, is not about the salon so much as it's about accepting that one is deserving of beauty for one's own sake. It could just as well be keeping a Christmas tree or playing the violin, or any of the things you enjoy that make up the difference difference between living and surviving.

For me it's been many things, but especially learning to paint. They chose toenail polish because culturally, it's what they could expect the greatest resistance to; your Christmas tree and your music lessons could be for other people, but if you paint your nails, you're more or less doing it for yourself.

Day said...

btw, Snow. . . still thinking about your question. Sometimes it takes me a long time to write.