Open Letter to the Women of the #MeToo Movement
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
October 2, 2018
As I write this open letter, inspired by the women of the #MeToo Movement, I am sitting near a river in the mountains of northern New Mexico. The sun has set and the rushing sound of the Vallecitos river fills the air, occasionally pierced by a wild cry deep among the tall Ponderosa pines and the gentle aspens.
I’ve come here for a personal retreat to gather my strength and courage before returning once again to Santa Fe. These past two weeks have been daunting for me both personally and at school where I work as a public school teacher.
The allegations and testimony of Dr. Blasey-Ford and their surrounding issues, legal, ethical and political, and the angry, belligerent response of Brett Kavanaugh have reached into a core of my feelings that at times has been overwhelming. It has been hard to focus on teaching my young students or the writing I love, and I have found myself at times lost in sorrow and rage.
Dr. Blasey-Ford’s experience parallels my own in many ways though my assailant was older, and he was not drunk but purposeful. I did not know him though he claimed to be a friend of my roommate and I believed him. As she had stated that she feared for her life, there was no mistaking my assailant was threatening my life as he laid on top of me and began to strangle me in a locked room with a television set turned to its highest volume. I was 21 years old. Two years earlier a former boyfriend had also assaulted me as he knelt with beads threaded through his fingers in front of a Japanese shrine and scroll, and I stood beside him. He had returned from fighting in the Vietnam war a few years before and in an attempt to recover himself from that traumatic experience, had adopted a sect of Japanese Buddhism when he came back to America. Standing beside him, I told him I did not want to continue with him nor join his religion. He then knocked me flat on my back and raped me. I blacked out, and retreated into amnesia and shock.
Both of these experiences changed my life in hard and deep ways. Even after so many years, the waves of images and the emotions they elicit are immediate and powerful. I also see now that they were a cause of my seeking safety years later in a spiritual path headed by a woman of my generation who seemed to hold all that I wanted in repairing my shattered sense of self and my fragile self esteem. I saw her as the ideal I could aspire to, an empowered woman. Her name was Gurumayi Chidvilasananda.
However, with time questions I’d had about her behavior, which was often inexplicable and abusive, began to surface and to slowly be answered as I learned about her past and that of her teacher. I came across documented evidence and actual testimony, corroborated directly to me by others, of her teacher’s sexual abuse of innumberable women, both in India and America, some of whom suffered their abuse at ages as young as nine years old. All through those many years and until this day, she vehemently and defensively has denied the truth of it, including to me when I worked privately with her and asked her directly. My world painfully shattered once again because I had trusted her and I could not reconcile my experience with her deception.
I am telling you these things to underscore the importance for me personally, with my experience of sexual assault and spiritual dysfunction, of being acknowledged for that history and experience. The loss of voice, of the experience that my body is not my own, when something that essential retreats so deep within that it seems irretrievable, it is a kind of invisible prison. That is what I felt I was living in for many years as I worked, traveled, found and lost relationships, and as I suffered for long stretches from severe anxiety. I’d thought very few people understood how devastating and isolating sexual assault and its denial can be. With your courage and your voices you’ve shown me that that isolation is no longer true. You have reconfirmed for me that these experiences do not define me nor do they destroy my life, as some tried to tell me. By your giving voice, you helped me recover mine.