Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Category Archive: In Real Life

  1. How do you know?

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    You probably know the story: Dylan Farrow’s open letter to Woody AllenWoody Allen’s op-ed response.

    When I read Dylan Farrow’s letter, I was sure that she was telling the truth. I’ve heard enough victims of child sexual abuse write about the pain of their experience and the aftermath on IRL that I am familiar with survivors’ shame, reticence, and knowledge that a shitstorm of judgment is likely coming their way from both people in their inner circles and people they’ve never met.

    I am strongly biased in favor of anyone brave enough to come forward with her or his story.

    And then a friend told me that her husband has been accused of abuse by a young child. I know enough about the logistics of their situation (who is alone with the child and when, how visits are conducted, that sort of thing), that I don’t believe that he could have abused the child.

    Maybe someone actually abused her; maybe someone abused her by coaching her into a story that’s not true. I don’t know. I know that she was never alone with him, especially in the ways that she suggests in her story.

    In this situation, I am not relying on what I believe about the man’s character or the child’s likely truthtelling. I know that people are not always what they seem.

    Now the investigation continues, and I hope that the truth will come out and the child will move on in safety.

    But my automatic bias in favor of the accuser is shaken. I can see at least the possibility of another side. That’s probably a good thing.

  2. Thread


    “Violent trauma shreds the web of meaning. It destroys all the threads of relationship that link the hurt self to the world–to other people and objects, or to nature, or even to the inner world of its own feelings. The real task of a trauma victim–the task that makes life worth living again–is to reconnect the self to the world. To do that, you need to reweave the web, to risk the spinning of new threads until they form a sustaining pattern the self can inhabit.”
    –Gregory Orr, The Blessing

    In the forums at IRLife, survivors of sexual abuse, rape, and domestic violence spin threads of words from feeling and experience, weaving a web of community.  Orr tells the truth when he says that this is a risk.  The bonds we form start as delicate filaments, but over time they are transformed into strong fibers, sustaining patterns, supportive webs.

    I watch and participate in awe as we grow our selves.

    We are all survivors of life.  What do you do to spin the threads that reconnect you to the world?

  3. Own

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    Mr. Z. found some nineteenth-century documents in his late mother’s files.  Most of these documents were about ownership of land.  The document pictured here is from 1837, signed by President Martin Van Buren.

    Ownership is serious business.

    I “own” some “big” things–but really, don’t banks own them, and charge me a monthly fee for the use of them?

    I “own” some other things–for example, the computer I am looking at, the books that surround me, even Max, who rests at the edge of my desk (and probably thinks that he owns me).

    I take good care of these things; they are “mine.”  But all of that ownership is ridiculously impermanent; it can end with an electrical malfunction or with a hurricane or with, as I and we all learn over and over again, death.

    A week or so ago, on a group therapy chat on sex over at IRLife, I said that we all “own” our sexuality–we are responsible for our desires and our actions.  In trying to explain myself, I’ve had to figure out what I meant by a comment typed on the fly.

    What is involved in owning anything about myself?  Honesty? Care? Diligence? Responsibility? Attention? Acceptance?

    I own my body–health, weight, strength.

    I own my moods, mercurial as they are sometimes.

    I own my spiritual life, choosing whether to trust myself or authorities.

    I own my story–things I have done, choices I have made, people I have aligned myself with, situations I willingly involved myself in or did not leave until I was ready.

    I own my ownership of all of these things–it is my responsibility to maintain my rights to own at all, rights which, in their impermanence, are always at stake.

    What do you own? What about yourself do you have difficulty owning? What ownership have you given up, and what might you want to take back?




  4. In Real Life

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    In June 2010, I and about ten other people gathered in a friend’s living room to talk about starting an online community to support survivors of sexual abuse, rape, and domestic violence.  I was meeting many of the people there for the first time, and I told them that I was there because I was a survivor of domestic violence.  That day marked one of the few times I had said those words aloud up until then.

    Over the past sixteen months, the group from the living room has shrunk and expanded again.

    Life events combined with the process of creating this community have tested our commitments to the project and to each other.  But our passion for other survivors has sustained us.  The site that we’ve created from our blood, sweat, and tears is the better for these struggles.

    As Leonard Cohen sings in “Anthem,”

    Ring the bells that still can ring 
    Forget your perfect offering 
    There is a crack, a crack in everything 
    That’s how the light gets in. 

    For me, raw with the loss of Gracie, the past few days have been jagged, cracked.

    But during those same days, we’ve put the finishing touches on, a place where survivors can find peer and professional support and a safe place to grow beyond the abuse we have experienced.  A place to work with the light coming in through the cracks.

    Please check us out, join if it’s a fit for you, and pass the link on to anyone you know who might benefit from it.

    And enjoy a little live “Anthem.”