From the Darkest Night

zk1hzimz2em-john-sillimanToday we enter the return of the light with the first new moon following Winter Solstice.

The darkness that begins in the fall and reaches its peak at the Solstice, the longest night of the year, pulls us inward, beckons us toward silence and from the depths of the stillness we are offered sparks of brilliant reflection.

I have been feeling how the earth’s cycles reflect my own natural rhythms of dark and light, inward containment and outward expression, contraction and expansion, death and rebirth. I have felt the push and pull of the ocean with tumultuous waves on the surface and the dark and stillness of the deepest depths.

My inward gaze over the last weeks of Solstice followed by the dark moon offered the opportunity to be with the huge personal death and rebirth that unfolded within me in 2016.  Within the rebirth of the light, I am moved to share the radiant gems that have emerged from my own personal darkest night.

I have recently made a commitment to begin publishing parts of the memoir I’ve been writing on my blog and this is the first of these offerings. It feels like an incredibly vulnerable and risky endeavor to expose more of myself to the world and yet I am called to stand in my dedication to speaking the things that have been shamed and silenced in all of us. 

This particular story comes with a Trigger Warning (meaning this might be something that triggers things in you—you may choose not to read it or to read it when you are well resourced). I’m going to speak about sexual assault and my primary intentions are to reframe a very old cultural inheritance and to inspire new possibilities.

In early 2016 I had one of those experiences that changes you forever.  There was the day before it happened, the event that rearranged everything and the person that I slowly emerged as from that point on.

This is a very condensed version of a series of chaotic and layered events.

In late January 2016 I met a very handsome, charming, younger man at a yoga class. We had a breakfast date the following Sunday morning. It was the first date I had had after an intentional period of rest from dating. I was interested in moving slowly. He had a different agenda.

The sexual intimacy started to move so fast that I was knocked off of my center and, in hindsight, I see that my rational brain was searching for a way to make sense of what was unfolding. I told him clearly that I didn’t want to have sex with him. He was manipulative, forceful and pushed passed every boundary I established until I entered a state of freeze—I moved outside of my body and was unable to access my voice.

This was the most disorienting experience for me and it took me days to fully settle into what had happened and to realize that I had been date raped.

I have done years of work in developing empowerment around my sexuality. I’ve healed many previous sexual violations. I have the communication skills to negotiate consensual sexuality and safer sex.  I know how to speak what I want and need and what I don’t. I’ve had lots of what most people would consider wild, out of the box sexual experiences.  In the last couple of years I have had practice with numerous “casual” sexual relationships that were honoring and clear. I am a teacher of empowerment, sexuality, relationship and communication. And yet, I, well equipped with all of this wisdom and experience, was sexually violated on a date. My mind couldn’t make sense of it, however it was undeniable to my body.

As my mental and emotional bodies caught up to my physical body and I fully felt the weight of this violation I found myself spiraling into the darkest night. I couldn’t complete basic tasks. It was nearly impossible to make decisions. I was afraid to leave my house. My body shook and trembled. My mind was confused.

It was humbling to understand that none of us are beyond these twisted power dynamics that are running rampant in the world. Yet, I know fully that we don’t have to live this way, that power over and sexual deviancy are products of a few thousand years of a dualistic consciousness that has divorced spirit from sex, soul from body and become entrenched in the black and white thinking of good and evil, and power has been deduced to power over; victim and perpetrator.

I know fully and without a doubt that there is another way. I have been in the process of finding my way out of separation and this rape was a huge initiation into my own evolution of consciousness and the dissolution of these old ways of participating.

I share this story because I found my way through this dark night and have emerged more whole and empowered than ever before. I learned so much through my own process and I want to share some of the gifts that arose out of the chaos.

The first thing that I learned is that the systems that we have in place to resolve acts of sexual violence are utterly ineffective and perpetuate the very power dynamics that create the environment where they run rampant. Rape is a felony. In instances of date rape where there are no witnesses and it comes down to he said/she said,  rape victims are put on the stand and the defense’s primary strategy is to attack the character and integrity of the victim.

I found out that this perpetrator had a history of sexual aggression toward other women in my community. I chose to report the incident to the police because it was important to me to do my part so that he couldn’t continue to violate other women. Because of the high stakes of a felony and the fact that I was not physically injured, it was highly unlikely that this case would have ever entered court.  I also know through witnessing other women go through this process that the aftermath of the legal system can be even more traumatizing than the violation itself.

I didn’t feel that exiling this guy to jail for a bunch of years was the solution. He was not a healthy man, he needed mental health rehabilitation. I asked the police if there were any other options. Can you mandate some kind of therapy?, I asked. The best the police could offer me was to go over and talk to him and let him know that what he did was wrong.

I also explored the other free services available to me. I spoke to a hotline and I had already had more information from the bit of research that I had done than they could offer me. The city of Santa Monica has a Rape Crisis Center where they offer free therapy.  This service is in many ways a blessing and most places don’t have any free services for assault victims.

When I made it to therapy I had been doing quite well, was supported by friends and knew how to take care of myself. Because I was well resourced and not displaying any signs of diagnosable conditions—like severe depression or self destructive behaviors—there was nothing that they could offer me. I was still in trauma and processing a lot but because I had a basic level of functioning and a lot of self awareness, I was too sophisticated for their system.  The therapist said that I was a person they considered highly adaptive and she offered that she could call the detective for me to try to speed up completing my police report. While this was helpful, it did nothing to support my emotional well being and integration of this experience.

This showed me that we expect people who are sexually assaulted to be completely helpless victims and the system can perpetuate this victimhood by assuming victims will remain in a state of despair and helplessness.

We need an entirely different conversation around sexual assault.

First, we need to talk about it and we need to create an atmosphere where those that have been violated are supported to speak up and receive resources that promote their thriving; rather than reflect a perpetual state of brokenness. Sex offenders need therapy and rehabilitation and without a doubt need to be held accountable for their actions. Both victims and perpetrators need to be supported by and integrated into the community—they need to be seen and heard. 

As a community we need to explore the true complexity of sexual violence and the many ways in which it is an inherent part of the power dynamics in contemporary western culture.

The most significant thing that was revealed to me in this journey was just how incredibly intelligent our bodies are. All of my studies over the years became pillars of profound self healing and growth through this process—self awareness, embodiment, communication, emotional intelligence, sexual empowerment and trauma resolution.  I understood how trauma moved through the body, I knew how to listen to and care for myself. I recognized that I needed help and how to ask for it. I felt violated but I didn’t get swallowed by a state of victimhood.

I started out not knowing how I would function in the world. I couldn’t imagine how I would teach again. I had to lean on my support systems and receive in a greater way than I ever had before. Day by day, breath by breath with the support of a community of people and many years of self cultivation I came back into my full embodiment. I immediately, yet tenderly, began to reclaim myself as a sexual being and inhabited a new understanding of personal power and confidence.

As I followed my body’s lead more closely than ever and allowed her to slowly unfold again, I discovered an entirely new level of intimacy in sexuality. I have had the most deep, expansive and heart opening sex of my life this year. I am more present in my body and sexual experiences than ever before.

I want to change the conversation around sexual victimhood and survivorship. These violations cannot be dismissed and we can weave through a much deeper exploration of what is possible for the human psyche and body to integrate. The resources to heal and become whole are out there, available, tried and true—just not yet on a wide enough level. We can build our capacity to surrender into the darkest hour and to trust that mystery is at work for us and through us. It is your birthright to receive the full expression of all that life has to offer.

We must be witnessed in our stories and know that we are co-authoring the narrative. We can write a story where our greatest challenges are initiations that ignite the unfolding of our greatest gifts. 

Each year at this time I take time to envision the next year and to be in ceremony with my intentions.  My phrase for 2016 was epic love. After my unraveling, and along the winding road back home, I have come to know epic love. I first found epic love within and for myself. I enter 2017 learning that there’s far more possible within the expansion and expression of my heart than I have previously known.

Within the next day is a very powerful time to call in your intentions for 2017. The energy of this new moon supports your clear vision and the seeding of your dreams.

New year blessings!  Dream big dear one.

Related:  Victim, Tyrant, Savior:  Free Yourself from the Drama Triangle

5 thoughts on “From the Darkest Night

  1. Amber P

    Thank you for writing this. I hate that it happened to you and its reassuring to hear at the same time. I had a similar event a couple of years ago that I have just begun to process. I’m stuck on how I could possibly let it happen, why I didn’t do more, etc. It just doesn’t make any sense, considering how strong, smart, educated, etc. I seem to be. Knowing that I’m not the only one who might have a freeze response in that situation is helpful. Maybe it will start to make sense at some point. Again, thank you for sharing, to reduce shame and improve the situation overall. You are much appreciate.

  2. Natalie Riggs

    Lara, sister, I just want to both hold/comfort you and sit at your feet for guidance. Your clarity & vulnerability are unmatched from anything I have seen. Your gift as a writer is profound..and such a blessing for all that have the luck to read your words and experience your wisdom. The rape you experienced this year is the same story of way, way to many women (myself included). This story is over. I am done with this story and the power it has at times claimed in my life. I see SO clearly the other side of this rainbow and yet I make so many detours due to what I feel is the somatic effects of the trauma. The disconnect, shutting down, anger…enough already. You have the baton, Love, to lead the charge on helping us create a story–run with it. Shakti love, Natalie

  3. Nance

    I am ready to contribute and commit .. I will need constant reminding, for I have developed a blocking strength… I would like to transfer my defense mechanism into a healing mechanism into a powerful mechanism.. I have a voice and I no longer choose to be silent… wow

  4. Nitai

    I am in tears, inspired tears, sad tears, empathic tears. You are such a powerful woman and a powerful voice. This conversation is benefitting from your insight. I look forward to joining you in action to shift the societal placements, roles, and limited ways of assisting those who have experienced this trauma. Love you!

  5. Anne-Marie

    Wow, Laura, thank you so much for sharing so vulnerably and truly. I thought I was alone in my experience and see that I am not. This is the power of sharing our stories. I have been dealing with the VA (veterans affairs) system in relation to sexual trauma, but because I am also high functioning, not broken, healing with awareness, and have no one instance of trauma (just built up experiences with one person), their resources can’t help me, either. I am deciding not to go through the legal system where I’d have to focus on my victim status in order to claim benefits. I’d rather work on healing and transforming. All this to say, I see you, sister, and I thank you for sharing and for recognizing and speaking that the systems in place seem designed to serve those dedicated to remaining victims, which does not truly serve our growth. I am so glad you found epic love this year, and I wish you a brilliant 2017. Thank you for being.

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