When I was born I had a powerful NO! When I learned to walk it was more so. My poor mother tried to hold me back with tying me into my crib, hooking me onto a leash when we went places and putting me in screened in porches so I couldn’t get outside. But I learned how to untie knots, explored our house at night and even walked right through that screened in porch. Nothing held me back. I did as I pleased.
My mother’s NO was trying to keep me safe, but my NO was larger than hers at two years old and had an over abundance of energy and I was out to set my world ablaze with amazement. I was a powerful being.
At six, I learned that Mom’s NO got me into trouble a lot because it conflicted with my NO. I didn’t like the punishment of having to stay in my room so I ran away one day by climbing out my bedroom window to live in a tree next to our house. I waited for what seemed like hours for her to come running out and find me… but she never came.
My bum grew sore from sitting up on that branch so I climbed down and ran around to the front door and walked right into the living room where my surprised mother was startled to see me there instead of safely in my room… and I said, “I’ve decided to stay after all…” and marched myself right back into my room and slammed the door to play quietly the rest of the day on my own terms in my room.
At 10 I said YES for many confusing reasons… I said yes to playing “grown up games” to one boy in the neighborhood, but he had brothers. He and his 3 siblings were all being molested and stuff by their adopted father and I became their target to “try out” things on their own. Some of these games I didn’t want to play, but I had said yes so my brain though a deal was a deal I guess… I didn’t know what their father was doing… I didn’t know what it all meant… I couldn’t say NO because I had said yes… Right?
This went on for awhile and I withdrew … I got chubby, grew my hair long to cover my face and was bullied through middle school. I wanted to die. My NO was non-existent and shoved way down… trapped with little meaning, NO festered in my belly… mixed with shame and fear, it lived there for years.
I wasn’t awake to say NO in high school but even if I was, it wouldn’t have helped me from being raped in the beach parking lot in the backseat of a car after my senior prom as I lay unconscious, drugged from something that was given to me. I came to with my ex-boyfriends fat older brother inside me… he wasn’t even high school aged so what was he even doing there? Which makes me think they had planed the whole thing with my date to get me there from the beginning… but back then, I didn’t know I could say NO, so why would I report this??? There was no understanding this or what it was in my fuzzy brained state. I didn’t know I was allowed a NO at the time a boy kissed me or made moves…
My NO was gone for years… but I did learn to say NO to certain things because of the fear. Life things like marriage, motherhood, a steady career, being in show biz and I found myself slowly dying as bits of myself fled my body… my soul was shattered, broken into bits.
I moved to Boston and when I moved to Boston, once more I was drugged at a bar in Downtown crossing on St. Patrick’s Day while I was with my cousin and a bunch of his best friends. I was the only girl with them and I thought I was safe. But after a few sips of a beer, I was slumped over unable to talk… with some man’s arm around me… I heard him tell my cousin that he would give me a lift home. It was snowing as I was put into a jeep, driven to Southie…where the snow shoveled space was saved by a chair… there was another girl talking to me in the jeep too who slept on the couch… I was dumped on a bed but my arms wouldn’t work… I remember saying… “condom…” because he was about to take me without and my brain couldn’t handle more than that…and I couldn’t move… The next morning I was in the jeep again… had the wherefore all not to give him my address but mumbled something that got me dropped off in Government Center where I could walk to my tiny studio in the North End…I remember he wore a long camel-haired expensive looking coat and talked about hockey… like “maybe we’ll go to a Bruins game sometime…” I noticed a Bruin’s sticker on the Jeep. This was in 1993, so technically he could have been part of the mob at that time… but I’ll never know.
But in Boston I met a girl named Ana who had discovered a healing modality called, “Re-evaluation Co-Counseling”. She recognized something in me that desperately needed help and she kept at me, swinging our conversation around until I finally said ” I need help.” She got me into my first class and led me to my first step of coming back to myself and getting healed.
I sought out “healing” anywhere I could. I asked everywhere, the WHY, and tried to tell stories looking for answers…
I found my NO in counseling. I practiced saying NO over and over and over again with positive re-reinforcements in the peer group cheering me on. NO NO NO NO!
…but it was challenged once again when on a road trip I came across my ex fiance in Vermont. We drank a few because he worked at a bar and he was letting me stay at his place on my way to upstate NY. I used my NO but he raped me anyway. I left my pillow at his apartment… for some reason that bothered me more than the rape. In perspective I was beyond numb. And when I think back … I focus on the pillow because it’s easier that way.
I was shoved back into hiding so hard… that I fell into hell…NO and I shared a cell there this time. His name began with a D. He was a survivor too. He said he’d fix me… that he had answers.. that he had even met Jewel the singer when they lived together on the street… only his answers came with fists and pain as he tied me to a chair and whipped me without consent. I fought back and got help.
I got educated… and got back into school…at the same time I was in the abusive relationship, a professor at UMASS asked to sleep with me after giving me an A in his class my first year there. I roared my NO at him and told other professors about him but some seemed shocked at me for saying what he did. My guidance counselor in the English department who I was assigned to had a hard time believing me so I switched to one that supported me. My NO worked on him but others didn’t believe my NO and that made me very angry.
NO became my battle cry.
I found a body worker, named Christian who also taught Reki. One day while he worked on me, I had a soul retrieval so powerful that all the parts of my missing self came rushing back and slammed back into my body. THUNK! Suddenly, I was a whole person again. Between that and finding my first therapist at UMASS Boston, I was well on my way to healing body, mind and soul.
NO and I have been on a journey. The world is teeming with #METOO stories and #Ibelieveher , #believewomen and all this and STILL it seems like it isn’t enough. When NO isn’t enough in our society there is a problem. A BIG PROBLEM.
When we have a President who doesn’t believe NO is a viable word and says he “grabs them by the pussy… and kisses them…” then we have a problem. Every day that he is in office, we are sending more messages to young women everywhere that their NO is NOT going to work and that even the man who is supposed to be of highest moral character, is showing them they have no say when it comes to boundaries about their bodies.
And now we have three women who came forward to say NO… this guy Kavanaugh is of worst character, and should NOT be approved for the highest court in our country… because he stands accused of rape. The politicians say it doesn’t matter… and use one excuse after another saying they will just appoint him anyway. Now more women have come forward and they still say…. YES.
Can you see why women like me who have had our NO’s stolen away from us might take a little while to report or tell our stories? That our deepest darkest SHAME hid us away from our families and our friends… But when I took Dr. Brene’ Brown’s class based on her book, The Gifts of Imperfection and learned that Shame wants us to keep it hidden and not talk about it, I realized I needed to change. That the more we don’t talk about it, the more SHAME festers in our bodies making us ill and disconnected from the rest of the world. We NEED to talk about our NO Stories more. We need to share our stories because a story can change the world… and perhaps these stories can CHANGE this horrific Rape Culture that we have here in America where Shame wins and NO isn’t listened to. We’ve started with #METOO… now let’s tell these stories…
I see you. I believe you. YOU are not alone. I stand with you. Always!
Please be brave and share your NO stories with the world. We need to have people understand the difference between a NO and a YES, so we can say YES and trust it again. So we, as survivors, can trust ourselves. So we can own our NO’s and not be scared.
So women don’t have to live in fear of NO not being enough!