Greetings from the Childhood Sexual Violence Survivor: “I Report That I Am Alive”
10 Years After the Publication of the Book I Want to Throw Flowers
Ten years. Just as dust piles up day by day without my noticing, 10 years have passed by just like that.
Initially I didn’t put too much meaning into this project of recording my story, but I still had hopes. I began writing about my experience of getting raped seven times from childhood until I became an adult, and all the other memories that ran through my life. This recording of my story was published in a series called “I Want to Throw Flowers” on Ilda and as a book.
The writings that were published on Ilda were about how the horrible violence I experienced penetrated my life. It was a process to find an answer to the question, ‘How does a raped woman live in a society that makes it taboo to speak about sexual violence?’ (related [Korean-language] article: To Live as a Victim of Sexual Violence https://ildaro.com/6252) Through publishing those articles, I was able to name the incidents that happened to me, and I experienced the fading away of the pain of my trauma from sexual violence as well.
Looking back, my writings were greatly lacking, but I received so much support from the readers. More than anything, I shared the journey towards healing with many other women who were victims of sexual violence. I felt happy when they reached out to me and thanked me for the comfort and encouragement that my stories brought them.
At one point after those 10 years passed, I started to want to record all the positive changes that happened to me and share my experiences. I thought to myself that at least I was able to record my story and walked a path of recovery. I thought maybe I could even publish another book like I Want to Throw Flowers, recording how I was able to carry on with my days even if my life wasn’t all rose-colored. I began to feel a desire to write at least one sentence that would really stick with people, along with the wish to repay my student loan.
I wanted people to know that their support wasn’t in vain, because I—a victim of sexual violence—was able to recover, and am continuing to live a meaningful life.
While that wish didn’t go the way I wanted it to, I still wanted to let the readers who supported me, those who were curious about me, and those who still remember me, know that I am still alive, but several months just passed by.
What can I share? What sentences are remaining in me? What is it right to share? And what can be helpful to those who are still going through different types of harm? If I experienced sexual violence before them and recorded my experience before them, what can I share with the women who are victims now? What can I say to those who are struggling from the violence that happened to them? There were many difficult question marks remaining. These questions that I couldn’t find clear answers to felt like an even more difficult piece of homework than when I first started writing 10 years ago.
When I was writing 10 years ago, I wished that the victims of sexual violence 10 years later would be living in a more peaceful world than mine. But in this world that doesn’t seem to have changed much, this is a time in which it still is not easy either to write something or to reach out to let people know you are alive, and so this period of worrying about how my sentences would come across was difficult. Above all, I feared that saying things such as “I’m okay now” or “back in my day…” would come off as arrogant. I also feared sharing the fact that [my past experiences] still hurt me time to time, because it might convey a message that the pain of rape is like a never-ending sentence. I wasn’t sure that what I wrote, no matter what it was, would be delivered properly. Even in this very moment of writing, I find this all difficult.
However, despite all that, I will let you know, concisely and honestly, that I am alive.
For the first few years after publishing the columns and book, I focused on speaking, writing, and meeting people as a survivor. I met hundreds of people and lectured about a hundred times. I spoke about how living as a survivor is not easy and that of course, while not all survivors live in pain, it is inevitable that some do - and that the trauma of those survivors is [also] created by the violent societal culture and relationships.
While I spent a lot of my time talking about how trauma from sexual violence comes from not having support and from the experiences of being unable to get support, all the [memories and moments] that got mixed up started to find their place and make sense. As I started to experience my memories and pain fading away like old friends’ faces and names do eventually, like memories that felt so precious at the moment start to become unclear, and like the test scores that made me cry as a student have stopped mattering anymore, I stopped the work of speaking.
I began to think that it’d be nice to leave my seat to other survivors who are enduring the past. And I began to feel familiar and comfortable living my present life, doing ordinary things, and greeting each new day. I thought, ‘Is it really that important and meaningful to me to make a record of the 10 years since then?’ Naturally, I began to stop having questions like what I should write down and share. Talking about sexual violence now felt like something I had to make an effort to do, and not something that I wanted to do or that it was necessary for me to do.
Just like that, I was left as myself and no longer as a victim of a sexual violence. I began to realize that all the suffering and despair that I had experienced did not only come from my experience of sexual violence, and also that I too had sparkling moments as well. Even if I experience sexual violence again now, I feel that it won’t take over my life and put me in complete pain like before. During the past 10 years, I continued to experience countless incidents of sexual harassment living in this Korean society, but I know that I have the strength to just swear at them, “Crazy bastards,” and move on.
Someone will ask, “So are you happy now?” Well don’t they say that life is 108 kinds of suffering [baekpal beonnoe]? The nights filled with tears from feeling victimized are now gone and my current state of poverty makes me feel defeated more than past memories do, but I no longer hurt my own body to feel alive or expose myself to dangerous situations to be the main character of a tragedy.
I still struggle every day and life is still not easy for me, but as a wildflower blooms on the side of the street no matter who notices or not, so I’m living my life. Whether a flower is blooming or wilting, none of those moments are insignificant. Neither the moments that I tried to overcome the pain of sexual violence nor the moments that I’m living as my ordinary self are insignificant. After experiencing the process of recovery, my life didn’t become magnificent, but this life that is just like everyone else’s - sleeping at night, eating at mealtimes, waking up to go work - is certainly not trivial or unimportant.
I decided to make my own universe by growing old like that and responding to today’s pain more than the harm of the past. The sentence I wanted to own and write is gone, but I want to let you know this with a full heart. I am delivering my last sentence:
After trying so hard, ‘my ordinary self that loves flowers, soju and coffee, myself that I’ve been denying and rejecting all this time’ (as written in the introduction about myself in the book) is all I have left.
I was always me - before the sexual violence, afterwards, and during the process of recovery. So, you, let’s not forget that your universe is everything. Let’s endure sparklingly like that. We are enough just by being alive. No matter where you are, you’re not wrong.
*Moreover, I want to give a special thanks to my friends Dawi and Jaju, who have always supported me during the times when I was hesitant to write, when I was writing, and when I declared that sexual violence is no longer important to me. Also to Ilda for publishing my deficient writing, and to you who are reading this right now. Thank you.
Published: April 27th, 2021
Translated by Seung-a Han
*Original article: https://ildaro.com/9025
◆ To see more English-language articles from Ilda, visit our English blog(https://ildaro.blogspot.com).
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