As someone who has a background with trauma, both as a survivor and as a supporter of survivors, I have been watching the events of the #MeToo movement and of the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh and the resulting treatment of his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, with pain and trepidation. What is happening is a pulling back of the curtain—all the pain we’ve been so pressured to keep hidden and locked away is being laid bare, and we are standing witness.
As I previously discussed, there’s little within the sagas or the lore to really contextualize this experience with trauma we’re witnessing, living, and recounting. Some months ago I asked a group of seidr practitioners about their impressions of trauma. There was an acknowledgment that the lore offers us little to go on, but that perhaps it could be viewed through the context of an individuals wyrd or the way in which their family and personal history (öorlog) shaped the path they’re currently walking. Some mentioned the more general, Neo-Pagan idea of soul fragmentation and loss.
What we are experiencing, from the broader #MeToo movement to specific examples of survivors speaking truth to power such as with Dr. Ford leveling accusations of attempted rape at Kavanaugh, and even #HavamalWitches in our own community, has been in the making for centuries. The bubbling up of all of this trauma, pain, and rage from beneath the cloak of shame under which survivors have been forced to hide for far too long has been shaped by our history. This pivotal moment seems to have been forming in our collective öorlog for quite some time now.
Given how much pain and rage are in the air, it is important to consider where these things are coming from. If we consider the idea of soul fragmentation and loss, often described as being the fallout of trauma, then we can see a tide of people who have suffered a great loss in silence finding their voices again.
A friend of mine, in a discussion about rape and sexual abuse, described it as such: “People don’t understand, just because we haven’t been to war doesn’t mean we haven’t had our own brush with death. Being raped is like dying—like a part of yourself does die. It is a form of death.” This is the fragmentation of the soul, and the loss of fragments. Put more plainly, it is the loss of your sense of security in your own body, the sensation of being robbed of your autonomy and humanity. These are the fractures that run through the soul when an individual is so deeply violated, and this is how a survivor of such a crime can come to feel they’ve lost a piece of themselves.
Our religion places very high regard on courage, strength, and the power of will. It is important to remember that someone who has been so badly wounded may not be able to muster these things in the traditional sense so closely after sustaining those wounds—imagine walking into a minefield with fractured limbs, maybe even a freshly severed limb. With sexual trauma especially, the added internalized shame and self-hatred that so often comes with it can be especially trying to overcome. Whether or not a survivor reports the crime committed against them, know that they are fighting their own internal battles.
For those who do chose to report, this often means crossing that minefield while still badly wounded from the initial trauma. This means navigating law enforcers who don’t believe them or blame them for what was done to them, long and trying interviews with lawyers, and invasive medical procedures to collect evidence which may never even be processed. (1) It means facing the potential reality of having their social life and support networks thrown into chaos, including saying goodbye to people they care about who decide to side with the perpetrator. Too often it means going through all of this only to see the perpetrator walk away with a slap on the wrist, if that. (2) In short, people who choose to report are taking on a second battle to the internal battles they’re already fighting, and they’re doing so with statistically little chance of winning.
The people who are coming forward now with their allegations of rape and sexual assault are demonstrating the courage, strength, and will that we so value in our Heathen community. They are to be honored for their courage in the face of widespread public ridicule and derision, and with any luck the weight of their voices—growing more numerous by the day—will be enough to turn the tide against the forces of misogynistic oppression that are trying so hard to swallow us.
Let’s just remember that even those who maintain their silence are worthy of honor, too. They are still fighting their battles, and many have chosen not to report out of a desire for self preservation. That is enough, and these individuals fighting their own silent and often invisible battles are just as worthy of support, comfort, and honor as those who take on the additional struggle of reporting.
(1) Defining the Rape Kit Backlog. End The Back Log. endthebacklog.org.
(2) Court, Emma. “Small Percentage of Rapes Lead to Trials, Fewer Still to Convictions.” Cornell Law School. 2015.