*Please note: This post addresses rape and violence to women.
Buddhists use the word interdependence, and it’s one I resonate strongly with. I see the softness of my own edges and those of others. I notice that we are all intrinsically linked and connected on so many subtle levels. I observe that when I hurt someone or help someone, the ripple effects of my actions travel on. They circle back to me, they reverberate, they rock the world. Coming from this viewpoint, I can’t help but be a pacifist. Violence seems like sheer insanity, in almost every situation. Rape is certainly no exception.
This week, my heart sunk into my stomach when I saw Lara Logan’s face attached to the following news clip:
“Lara Logan suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault while covering the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. On Friday February 11, the day Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a 60 MINUTES story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy. In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.”
Yogis believe that just as we have a physical body, we have an energetic body through which our life force (prana) flows. When someone forcibly enters another in the form of rape or sodomy (in addition to the violent force they use), they are quite literally entering and violating another’s life force, the energetic home of the first and second chakras. The Muladhara chakra sits at the base of the spine, radiating through the pelvic floor. This base chakra is connected to many things, and is used to describe the importance and beginning of healthy human development. Here lives our sense of security, of knowing intrinsically that all is one, that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Muladhara chakra is the energy center of Tribe, and group dynamics. The second chakra, swadhisthana chakra, sits at the navel. This important energy center is all about the one-on-one relationship and covers the important issues of sex, power, control, and money. It is the birth place of all creative endeavors, and of the creation of life itself. Without the life force moving in a healthy and vital way through these energy centers, one is fundamentally debilitated. Even with subtle disruptions in these chakras, people tend to suffer. When these areas of the physical and energetic body are entered by force and violated, the reverberation of that action within the victim is brutal. Healing from that type of trauma, energetically as well as physically, is a monumental task. The very foundation needed to thrive is fractured.
My friend Vrushali grew up in India. While my mother in California would chide me and say, “Eat your dinner, there are starving kids on the other side of the world who would love to have that food,” her mother was busy saying, “Eat your dinner! There are starving kids right outside your window who would love to have your supper.” I hid my peas in my napkin, but I’m willing to bet that Vrushali cleaned her plate. When we are able to open our eyes and see suffering directly in front of us without looking away, it changes us. And there was something about this particular headline that grabbed my attention, and brought the violence directly outside my front window.
As I read the news about Lara, I noticed myself thinking, “Thank God I don’t have to face that kind of danger on a daily basis.” I don’t worry about violence against women consciously as I go about my day. I just live my relatively safe and pampered life as a fairly liberated American woman. Yet, I do face it – every day. I don’t walk to my car at dusk or dark unless I’m completely aware of my surroundings. I carry my keys in my hands, just like I was taught, in case I am attacked and need them as a weapon to balance out my genetic lack of strength and size. I watch my children like a hawk, knowing everyone they play with and where they are, because I know the nature of sexual predators and I want to protect my kids the best I can. I lock my house, I keep my eyes open all day for behavior that is out of the ordinary. I don’t consciously notice that I’m doing all of this, I don’t worry about my safety, and I don’t feel suspicious of men. Yet I do it. I do all of this without thinking about it. It’s part of my female training and psyche. I’m a woman.
Violence is perpetrated in so many different ways, traveling through the mode of thoughts, words and actions, each one testifying of the misconception that we are separate from one another. Rape has a distinctly haunting flavor to it. Violence towards women has been going on so long that it’s embedded in the air we breathe, and it pulses through the blood in our veins. I’m thankful to have never lived through an attack or rape, yet there’s something familiar about it to me, as if I have experienced it. If I believed in reincarnation, I would describe my response as being a past-life memory. Instead, I call it the collective feminine rising up within me. I feel and hear the generations of oppressed women who came before me rising up to be heard. They say, “ENOUGH already!”
As I’ve talked with other people this week about Lara’s story, there seems to be a consensus of thought: “If you do this kind of work, in dangerous places long enough, this type of thing is bound to happen.” Maybe things like this are said to justify the unjustifiable, or to accept reality as it is. I swing the other way though, and relate so strongly to what Gloria Steinem says: “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” The truth? No woman is ever completely safe, not in my neighborhood, and not half way around the globe where women’s rights aren’t recognized. And just because I feel relative security in my daily life doesn’t mean that the violence on the other side of the world doesn’t affect me. And, it’s shameful that in 2011 humanity hasn’t evolved further than it has. Yea, Gloria’s right as she often is. It pisses me off.
Was it brave of Lara to take these types of jobs overseas, or was she pushing her luck? Ideally, it shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t have to be a courageous thing for a beautiful woman to travel anywhere in this world alone. It shouldn’t be a matter of good judgment for a person to show up anywhere on this planet and do an honest job. We shouldn’t be questioning Lara’s judgment, we should be questioning the judgment of the men who attacked her and the sociological dynamics which led to her attack. We should be questioning our own assumptions of what we view as normal, both in our country and overseas. We should be questioning what we turn a blind eye to. We should be questioning why any woman, anywhere, can’t walk down the street safely, no matter where she lives. We should be questioning why the world of 2011 is still dealing with this kind of violence. We should take a deep hard look at violence we carry within ourselves.
I can’t help but wonder what the details of Lara’s story, and feel a kinship with the women in the group who saved her. What did they do to help? What was at risk? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that they didn’t look away. They understood what I have grown to know – when one person is attacked we are all attacked. There is no separation.
As for as my sisters in Egypt as well as those in my backyard are concerned, I’ve decided it’s time to return the favor. Looking away is a luxury I can’t afford to indulge anymore.