Me Too

How the fuck does one write a Me Too story? Or maybe more so, relive the memory in order to share it with others? I say relive because is there really any way to recount what’s possibly the worst thing that has ever happened to you without reliving it? I’ve been watching the Me Too Movement grow in momentum over the last few weeks and it’s truly astonishing to see how many women and men have shared their very personal stories of abuse and sexual assault in all it’s varied, horrifying forms. I’m well aware of the statistics; and of the large number of women who never report, and therefore never become a part of the statistical bigger picture. Facts are: the statistics are much lower than the actual number.

I’m one of those numbers, both the reported and the unreported. How do I tell that story? No one wants the gory details and I don’t have the stomach to put them all on the Internet. But it deserves to be said, doesn’t it? Everyone who’s truly close to me, and even some who aren’t, know my story. I just happen to be one of those people who endured more than their fair share of shit. I fall into a couple different “statistical categories”:

•Child abuse under the age of 12

•Child abuse over the age of 12

•Molestation

•Rape

•Intimate partner sexual assault/rape

•Sexual assault perpetrated by a stranger

•Child Victim of Physical Abuse

• Victim of Stalking

Grotesque, isn’t it? It seems crazy to me that one person, that I, have endured all of those things. I’m a walking statistic. And part of me, probably the damaged part, wonders how I attracted all of these sick individuals; but really, I didn’t attract most of them. My biological mother did…

I guess this “Me Too Story” starts with when I survived a year of sexual abuse at the hands of my mother’s boyfriend, who is also my little sister’s father. I successfully testified and was cross examined at the tender age of 8, and had that man rightfully convicted of Sexual Battery of a Child Under 12 and Lewd, Lascivious Acts on a Child Under 16. He received two life sentences, without the possibility of parole, and two 30 year sentences, to be served consecutively. That was the only one I reported; but only the first of many. I was 5-6 years old when the crimes were actually being committed, but by the time I testified against him I was already getting the shit kicked out of me by my mother’s new husband. That occurred periodically from the time I was 7-8 until I was 12. I have the scars to prove it. Then on to the next boyfriend, Chris. He was a father type figure on and off for a couple of years until one night, when I was 16, he decided to stick his hands down my pajama pants when he thought I was sleeping. I wasn’t. I blacked out for 30 minutes or so until I came back. I pretended to wake up, asked him for a cigarette to act normal while pretending I didn’t know what had just happened, then walked downstairs and puked my brains out. I remember staring in the bathroom mirror after throwing up and feeling like nothing was real. I had no way out. He had the only phone and it was after 3am. So I just shut down. I was stuck at his house until the next morning when my mom was supposed to be picking myself and my little sister up from “visiting him” after he got home from jail. It was just a bad set up from square one. But I didn’t see it coming. I had no choice but to go back upstairs and crawl back into the bed that myself, him, and my sister were sharing. I couldn’t sleep though, so he asked why. I fed him some bullshit about my “back hurting”. So of course, the sick fuck starts to rub it, but mostly my ass cheeks, while I shut down and completely disassociated from my own body…just like I learned to, at 5 years old. I don’t remember anything else between then and the next day once I was home again. I told my mom what had happened after getting really high and she called him and cussed him out. He proceeded to send me flowers, cards, money, and opiate painkillers “for my back” for the next year. Who sends a 16 year old girl money and flowers and drugs to say sorry? I wasn’t his girlfriend? And the drugs? Yeah, totally normal. A year and a half later my mother started fucking and dating him again. She hid it from me (like that made it any better) until I finally just told her I knew; at which point she said “Is it okay? If it’s not I’ll stop.” That ship sailed when she crawled into bed with him again knowing what he had done. So I plastered on a fake smile and said I didn’t care as long as I was never alone in a room with him again. He was the last one of her boyfriend’s I ever let near me.

But now we have to go a year or two back in time. I was walking to a friend’s house one night when I noticed a guy following me. I thought maybe I was being paranoid, he was just walking the same way as me, right? But I felt it. That gut feeling that tells you something horrible is about to happen. I tried every trick those worthless self defense coaches teach you: “Pretend to be on the phone. Hold your keys in your hand. Make multiple turns to shake them off.” None of it helped. At one point he disappeared. I almost took a breath but I could still feel that something was very wrong. Just then, he popped out of a small alleyway between stores and grabbed me. He was significantly bigger than me. We struggled until he got me on my knees with my hair wrapped up in one of his hands while I tried to wiggle away. As he was undoing his pants and saying some things I’d rather not repeat, I remembered the butterfly knife I always kept in my back pocket. Before I could think about it I grabbed it, opened in, jammed it into the inner thigh of his left leg, twisted, and pulled. He screamed and dropped. I ran. I showed up some unknown amount of time later on a since deceased friend’s doorstep covered in blood and shaking with the knife still in my hand. I don’t know what happened to that man. And I don’t fucking care. I never told a soul other than that dear friend of mine.

That one almost made what happened with Chris worse. With him, I reacted. I defended myself. “Fight or Flight” right? Wrong. There’s a third one: “Freeze”. With that man in the alleyway, I fought. But a bit later, with Chris, I froze. I separated from my body and I just survived. Just like when I was a kid. It took years to not hate myself for freezing. I couldn’t stop the thoughts that said “Why didn’t you fight back? Why didn’t you hit him? Why did you go back upstairs? Why didn’t you get yourself and your sister and run? Why? Why? Why?”

See, I knew it wasn’t my fault. People spent my entire life saying that one sentence: “It isn’t your fault.” But, as it turned out, I wasn’t blaming myself for any of these things happening. I blamed myself for not stopping them.

But this story doesn’t end there. At 18 I met a tattoo artist and we started to date. He told me he was 28. I later found out he was 32. I stupidly stayed anyway. He lied to me, manipulated me, isolated me from every single person I knew and loved, even the ones I lived with. He was a new kind of monster, one I wasn’t as familiar with; and so his games worked better because I didn’t recognize them until it was way too late. It all started innocently enough. He had trust problems. He was insecure about me being around men. He wanted to be involved in everything I did. But it ended in him stalking me relentlessly. I remember trying to break up with him over the phone one night. I did it, hung up, and got in the shower. When I got out and went back to my room every hair on my body was standing on end. I knew he was somewhere near. And then he called me. I answered the phone and he said “Boo”. But I heard it through the phone and… my closet? I crept to the door and opened it. He was standing in my bedroom closet. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed like that in my life. Not before then, and not since. There were two locked doors and a deadbolt between the street he came in off of and my bedroom door. He said how he got in was “his little secret”. He said he wouldn’t leave until I told him I loved him and took him back. I already hadn’t slept in weeks because he would show up and call me and make me talk to him constantly. He was embedded in and in control of every aspect of my life. Thus why I was trying to leave him. That night ended with him on top of me, having sex with me, while I cried. He didn’t care, and all I can remember him saying is “You’re going to tell them I’m your man, right? You’re going to tell them you love me, right? That I’m the only one?” The “them” he spoke of was a group of teenage girls whose belly buttons I was driving to the next town over to pierce the next day. He was absolutely convinced there was going to be guys there and that I was lying to him. So all of this, because I needed to make some money and agreed to pierce a couple of 18 year old girl’s belly buttons. That was one of 4-5 times that he had sex with me after I said no, while I cried the entire time, while I physically shook because my body was so against everything that was happening to it, yet couldn’t make it stop. It took me finally losing my sanity and packing two bags of clothes and a $439 paycheck into my Acura Integra at 4 in the morning, and driving 100mph to Wichita, KS., 1,365 miles from home at 19 years old to get away from him. I eventually came back for the holidays but got stuck when my car started having problems. I had gotten a 3 month break, but he started stalking me again. One morning I found him sleeping in his car out front of my then boyfriend’s house. I lost it. I grabbed a baseball bat, beat the shit out of his car while screaming that he was a rapist at the top of my lungs. Stupid son of a bitch got out of the car. That bat and his body became very close friends. He didn’t stalk me anymore after that.

After him I was pretty fucking damaged. It took me two years to stop having panic attacks every time I heard a car like his or saw someone parked outside of my house. It took even longer to stop sleeping with bats and knives and guns stashed under my pillow and throughout my house. It took me a long time to be able to feel like I could thank the male cashier for ringing me up, or to feel like I was allowed to have any friends, especially male ones. It took me months to speak when in a group of people because I was so used to spending hours fighting after an outing because I told someone I liked their shirt or stood with my hip cocked out to one side. And somehow, in that time after him, I still ended up dating two different people who treated me like property. Men who took “No” and “Not right now” to mean “Try harder” or “Guilt trip me until I give in”. Men who felt it was my duty and responsibility to stop everything I was doing to send them pictures of my body or to talk to them or sleep with them. Men who spoke to me like shit and treated me worse.

I always knew they were wrong.

Yet I kept finding them and making excuses for them because they “just need to see that I’m actually a good woman” or they “have trust issues” or “have potential”. Eventually I learned that it is not my job to pay for the misdeeds of other women and that you can not have a relationship with potential. There were some good people I met, ran away from, or fucked up because I was so fucked up at that time. But it didn’t matter. I was convinced that all men were like that once you really got to know them. That they all wanted something from me and it was up to me to decide whether or not the cost met the benefit. Saying I had trust issues is a gross understatement. I still do. But today I do trust people and some of them are men. One of them in particular is my man and he is a good man. I don’t have to make excuses for him or hide his behavior from the people who love me. There are good people out there.

So, as I read these Me Too stories, I think about all of my own stories, I think about trying to write them down, and I get overwhelmed. I started this piece with no idea of what it was going to turn into and as I type this sentence I wonder if I’m going to post it. There’s things in here that people who love me, people who read this blog, don’t know about. And there’s more than I’ve put in here and more than I will probably ever say out loud. Some things have scarred over, I can talk about them almost like they happened to someone else; but others….well, they still live in my nightmares and crawl up the back of my throat in the form of bile some days. Everything falls into the past eventually, but I’m not sure it all heals. I don’t think I can truly say I’ve “healed” from any of these wounds yet, but I’ve learned to live with them; and on most days they don’t control my thoughts and actions or reactions. I’ll take that. I talk to other people who’ve been there. They tell me how they cope and I tell them what I’ve learned. There’s something powerful about telling someone what is possibly the worst thing that has ever happened to you, and them looking at you and saying “Me too.”

by Ashley King

© All Rights Reserved 2017

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Rape Culture Internalized

If we ask for trigger warnings, we’re too sensitive. If we don’t laugh at rape jokes, we’re too serious. If we get raped we’re either “asking for it”,  lying about it, or “lucky to get the attention”. And if we, as women, rape someone then it’s invalidated because we’re just too weak to ever rape anyone. Right?

Welcome to rape culture. The world of sick one liners and serial predators doing 6 months for violating a woman in a way that she’ll remember forever. We live in a day in age where a man can rape you behind a dumpster while you’re unconscious and instead of being described as a rapist, the media will call him “a promising athlete with a bright future”; and of course they’ll mention how that future “is ruined now”. You know whose future they didn’t mention? The fucking victim’s!

American facts are this: If you’re rich, you aren’t a rapist. If you’re a celebrity, you aren’t a rapist. If you’re a promising athlete, you aren’t a rapist. If you’re a woman, you aren’t a rapist. If you’re a husband or wife, you “can’t” be a rapist. If you’re a politician, a television star, a police officer, a judge, there’s no way you’re a rapist. If her skirt was short it wasn’t rape, if she was drunk it wasn’t rape, if she cried the whole time but didn’t say no, it wasn’t rape. If she said no halfway through, it wasn’t rape. If she comes forward after other victims have, she wasn’t raped. If she sleeps around, she can’t be raped. If he’s a boy, he can’t be raped. If you go to a prestigious school, you can’t be raped and you definitely aren’t a rapist. And as mentioned above, if she was unconscious but you’re white and privileged, it wasn’t rape. But if you’re black? Definitely rape. And no, I’m not being satirical or funny. I can show you case after case where judges, the media, and juries of our peers, treated the aforementioned statements as truth. Disgusting isn’t it?

We see it everyday and the sick part is that most of us are either numb to it or have heard it so much that we believe it. Have you ever wondered what a rape victim was wearing or how much she’d had to drink? Have you ever seen a survivor and thought she looked like “the type who would lie about it“? Do you agree that female students should be banned from wearing spaghetti straps while the quarterback is allowed to go shirtless? Do you believe that if women act in a certain way they can stop themselves from being raped? Do you think “it’s pointless” to make affirmative consent a part of our sexual education courses? Have you ever taken part in “slut shaming”?  If so then you are a part of rape culture. They fed you bullshit and you swallowed it, hook, line, and sinker. If that offends you then maybe you should ask yourself why, instead of getting offended about what a stranger said on the internet.

Why am I writing this? Let’s be honest, I’m all over the place, this isn’t my most polished piece, and the words aren’t intertwined in a powerful way that has the maximum amount of impact. But it’s important anyway. And it’s close to my heart. It is my heart because it is my story. I’ve been slut shamed and victim blamed. I’ve been cross examined in court by a man who didn’t believe me, despite the fact that I was 8 with damn near perfect recall. I’ve given depositions and I’ve had a rapist blame it on me. I’ve been objectified, sexualized, and silenced my whole fucking life. I’ve sat next to my male friends as they told rape jokes and made fun of women who require trigger warnings. I’ve had terrible things happen to me and thought “But what if no one believes me?” I’ve had my birth mother look at me and say “Well you know he only did it because of what you did”. “What I did” was nothing more than an excuse my mom’s boyfriend fed her for why he put his hands down my pants while I was sleeping. And for the record, I didn’t do “it”; a fact which I’d told her a year earlier when he’d said I had blown him and that’s what made him think it was okay. But I guess it was easier to continue to date and fuck the man if she chose not to believe me.

I’ve sat at a table of 10 women and contrary to popular statistics, listened as each one told their own sexual assault stories. Truth be told, I don’t know if I know one woman who hasn’t been sexually mistreated in one way or another; and that’s not even mentioning the countless men. And out of all of the ones I can think of, not one reported their rapist/abuser. Why is that? Mostly, they didn’t believe anyone would do anything about it and it was easier to live with without someone invalidating their trauma. Also, they didn’t want to be blamed or shamed for it. They didn’t want to be put through the judicial process all to have a judge put a 6 month sentence on their lifelong trauma. The world is a twisted place and I could go on for days but I truly don’t think that anything will change it until the people start to. And that can’t happen until we start recognizing all the ways our thinking has been slowly distorted over the years. Say these things to yourself over and over again if you have to: only rapists cause rape, men can and do get raped, a man or woman’s sexual history has nothing to do with their assaults, a rapist can be from any socioeconomic class, race, background, gender, or area; and the act of rape should offend you far more than the word itself. Do some research, educate yourself, and stop perpetuating rape culture. If you aren’t fighting against it or educating yourself about it then you just might be a part of the fucking problem.

Rape_Culture

by Ashley King

© All Rights Reserved 2017

Ask Me Anything Monday

This is a little fun exercise I used to do last year that fell into obscurity between working and being pregnant. Soooo, I’m giving it a shot again. If you’re interested, ask away 🙂 

Submit any questions, queries, or random wonderings you may have! 🙂 As always, it can be a personal question about me or my life or it can be completely random. And I promise to answer it as completely and honestly as I can! There are no rules or limitations. Let’s go! 
Much love,

Ashley King

© All Rights Reserved 2017

The Pregnant Woman’s Burden

Men and women experience pregnancy completely differently. This may seem like an obvious statement but ask any woman who has ever tried to explain “being tired” whilst pregnant to their partner and you’ll see what I mean… They don’t get it. I’m not sure they can get it. To them “tired” means a bad nights sleep; to the mama it means a profound form of exhaustion that’s equivalent to the 59th gate of hell. When they hear “hungry” they think of the hunger that comes with skipping lunch; meanwhile their wife just went from completely content to “need a 5 course meal or I will die” in 6.4 seconds. When they hear “I’m afraid something will go wrong” they think, “Everything is fine” and say as much. But I don’t think a person who has never carried a child could understand the fear, the obsession, the outright terror, and the painstaking attention spent on every minute bodily change that a pregnant woman goes through. What I’m about to write is just MY experience. But I know many women who’ve thought and felt the same as me. Maybe not all, but for those of you that can relate, you’ll get it. I need to write this here, because if I don’t put it somewhere, I may not make it to tomorrow without losing my mind.

I’ve wanted children for as long as I can remember. When I was 11 years old I told my mom that I was “put here to be a mom”. You can’t imagine the devastation I felt when at 17 I was told that I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), the leading cause of infertility in America. I spent the next 7-8 years getting a period every 9-18 months. I cringed when other women acted as if the absence of a period was a luxury to be had. My ex and I spent 2 years trying to conceive with no luck. I started to resent my body, hate it in fact. I wanted to will it to work. I wanted to curse it for failing to do “what all women should be able to do”. I felt like a failure; as a partner, as a woman, as a human being. I felt it to the core of my being with absolutely no compassion for myself. I openly admitted that if I was ever told I could not conceive that I would eat a bullet, because that would be a lesser pain than living in that reality. I also felt like a selfish bitch for being so disheartened when other women had spent their entire lives trying to get pregnant, had been told they were sterile, or had lost multiple babies. I knew if I ever did become pregnant that I would be at a much higher risk of miscarriage because of the PCOS and I knew I would obsess about it neurotically. I envied women who had kids without trying, I resented women who took their children for granted, and I wouldn’t walk anywhere near the baby section of any store for five fucking years. I cried, I prayed, I cursed the Gods. I thought it was impossible, tried to tell myself I could adopt, tried to make it something I could live with. All of this by 24 fucking years old. God forbid I had cut myself a break, right?

Then something crazy happened. My cycle went back to normal. I know that’s a lot of information, but this post isn’t for the faint of heart. For 10 months it was completely normal and the hope that I could be a mother someday, the same hope that had refused to die but instead remained hidden in the very bottom corner of my heart, started to blossom again. Every month I was the slightest bit late became a game of “You’re pregnant”, “No I’m not” between my partner and I. I just wasn’t willing to believe it was possible; at least not out loud. If it happened that was fine, a miracle really; but getting my hopes up all to have them dashed on the rocks of a negative pregnancy test? That was a pain I was unwilling to walk face first into. So I just assumed that month would come whenever it felt like, and it did. Then May 17th of 2016 happened. I was late and had all the usual symptoms of Aunt Flo being on her way; meaning my boobs hurt, I was bloated, I was eating way more, and was moody. My love was convinced I was pregnant, but he always was. Then all of the sudden my friends were too. Eventually I started to wonder myself. One day I noticed my ankles were swollen, on top of the rest of my symptoms, and I chose to buy the tests. Spending that money was immediately followed by constantly refusing to take them because “I didn’t have to pee” or “It wasn’t first thing in the morning”. Needless to say, my partner cracked and begged me to take one and said he would buy more if it was negative and my period still didn’t come. So I do the usual routine of peeing on the stick, saw that it said it had a “negative” symbol, and set it on the toilet bowl behind me. I got myself situated and turned around to grab it so I could show him and it wasn’t fucking negative anymore!

I always thought I would cry, or maybe scream, or possibly just pass out where I stood. I did none of the above. I just stared at it, squinting at the little plus sign like it would disappear if I blinked. And my jaw dropped. I walked into the living room with my hand over my mouth. My love is a decent sized man, more bulk muscle than lean. I have never seen a big man jump up and run over to me as fast as he did. The light in his eyes when he saw my face and said “WELL?!?!” was a sight I’ll never forget. I showed him the test, he smiled this enormous smile, and proceeded to just hold me for a few minutes. The first thing I remember saying was “Is that thing real?! That says pregnant!” And that’s how it started. 1,047 words later and I am finally at what I really want to write about. Are you one of those people who ignores a post that says it will take more than 4-5 minutes to read? Because I am some days. So if you’ve made it this far, I want to thank you. Thank you for reading this. You’ll be one of the few to know what it’s really like to be pregnant, in my head. This is my life today…

Being pregnant is feeling like I can’t do one more thing in the day, like I will absolutely crumble if I have to go on… this generally occurs around 11am. That’s slowly getting better but I seriously doubt I will ever go back to “normal” again. Being pregnant is despising the fact that I work at an onsite office with only 1 porta potty, that I share with 10 other men, when I have to pee 15 times a day. I drive to Wawa Monday through Wednesday. Being pregnant is being gut level terrified that something will go wrong. It’s being worried that I don’t eat enough dark green vegetables, that I ate too much cheesecake last month, or don’t consume enough protein. I’ve never obsessed about every single thing I put in my mouth so much. “Is shellfish okay? Can I survive without caffeine? Is two cups of coffee too much? Will it really hurt if I eat Ramen just this once because I’m too tired to function?” This is my life now. If I forget my prenantals for two days in a row (which has happened all of once) then I feel like I’ve irreparably damaged my baby. I have found myself absolutely hysterical while driving down the road, in the middle of my workday, because I am so afraid that when I go to this doctor’s appointment tomorrow this baby won’t have a heartbeat. I cycle between having faith and believing everything is okay, and being convinced that something is wrong. I then have to talk myself out of believing that because I’m worried that the stress of believing that will hurt the baby. I’m a fucking lunatic. I am terrified of losing this child. It is my greatest fear every single day.

I have these nightmarish daydreams of waking up covered in blood because I’ve lost my baby. Every single time I pee I check it for that same blood and then think about what a mess I would be if I was a woman who spotted throughout my pregnancy. I fall asleep every night praying to every God there is and to every dead relative I have to keep this baby safe. I lie there and try to will the Gods to make this baby move. I swear I felt “him” at 13 weeks; which is possible, but also unlikely. I wish I could just feel that again though. It gave me peace. My friend Lauren says I’ll feel better once I can feel him move but I’m afraid I’ll never make it there. I’m 16 weeks and 7 days pregnant. Women without PCOS are at a 15-25% risk of miscarriage; with PCOS, it’s closer to 45-50%. At 17 weeks, without PCOS, a woman is at a 3% risk of miscarriage. Since I have Type 2 PCOS, meaning no insulin resistance and no obesity, I shouldn’t have quite as high of a risk of miscarriage as some women, especially since I’ve gotten past the first trimester. But you know what? My mind doesn’t give a single flying fuck. I am still plagued with this gut wrenching, hysteria inducing, uncontrollable fear that the world’s greatest gift to be given will be taken from me. I pray to reach the day where my baby is in my arms, where he is “real” and tangible, where these fears transform into a world of other fears about actually raising and protecting him. I constantly struggle with feeling like this pregnancy “isn’t real yet”, despite my ever growing belly and boobs. I’ve only had one ultrasound and that was 8 weeks ago to confirm the pregnancy. Now I have another appointment tomorrow. I have been counting down the days for the last month, becoming more insane by the day. I want nothing more than to hear his heartbeat, to see him move, to know he is real; to hear and see that he IS there and he’s alive. I want that more than I have ever wanted anything.

But I’m not there yet. I’m here, typing to you in an attempt to not lose my fucking mind in the next 16 hours and 21 minutes until I am at the hospital, ready to be called in to find out the fate of this baby that I’ve done everything I could to protect. I am a breathing ball of fear and nerves and palpable insanity. I am a mother, for today at least…

by Ashley Hebner

© All Rights Reserved 2016

DO NOT Touch The Belly!

Pregnancy. The gift of life. The duty and honor of raising a child. Something I believe to be one of the purest, most beautiful things that can happen to a woman. Feeling that baby kick inside your belly, knowing that you’re growing a life within you. That’s something that they just don’t make words for. Even the people around pregnant women tend to get smiles on their faces as they imagine beautiful newborns who smell just like “baby” and Johnson & Johnson shampoo. Pregnancy draws people in, making them curious with questions and leaving them wanting to be a part of something magical. Even if it’s just to ask a woman her due date or the gender of her baby, they can’t help but want to know. But why? I’m talking about complete strangers who are in no way effected by the gender of this woman’s baby or when it’s due. What makes them so curious? We are attracted to the beautiful, the innocent, the pure. We see something incredible and we can’t help but want to be a part of it. This is a magical thing.

But, what happens when the line is crossed? There’s really nothing wrong with asking a pregnant woman when she’s due (so long as you’re absolutely sure she’s actually pregnant). There’s nothing wrong with being curious about the gender of the baby. That does not however make it appropriate to reach out and touch that poor pregnant woman’s unsuspecting stomach. Yes ladies and gentlemen, that is the topic of this post. I realize this has been examined and discussed to death but I can’t help wanting to add my two cents. There’s something about a woman being pregnant that seems to make people think they have the right to touch a stranger. I have read multiple articles and discussion forums about this and to be honest, the comments seriously fucking worry me. You would be amazed how many people, even women, told the person complaining about it to “stop being selfish”, “stop being a bitch”, or to “stop robbing people of the joy of experiencing a baby kicking”. I’m sorry… maybe I missed something here, but that baby that’s kicking? IT’S INSIDE OF ANOTHER HUMAN BEING WHO HAS A VOICE TO EXPRESS WHETHER OR NOT SHE WANTS TO BE TOUCHED!!!!

I realize how excited people (even strangers) get when they see a woman carrying another life inside her. Especially other women who may have children of their own or perhaps aren’t able to have children at all. However, at the bare minimum, you should at least ask. Not only are you touching a complete stranger’s body, you are touching her child. Her literal flesh and blood. How would you feel if someone walked up to your child in the mall and just started rubbing his/her head? Probably a little freaked out, maybe enraged, or perhaps mama/papa bear protective? That’s because we are protective of our offspring. A pregnant woman (especially one who’s close to giving birth) is obviously more vulnerable than she normally would be. She can’t move as fast, fight as hard, or be as aggressive as she normally would be if she felt threatened. So when you touch her (which by the way, is threatening) you are showing aggressive behavior (whether innocent or not) to a person who is already in a vulnerable position. So, should she reach out and smack your hand or start rubbing your belly in return, you had it coming! People do this without even thinking twice and that is the problem, they don’t think! Or worse yet, they see nothing wrong with it. Judging by the number of uncomfortable reactions pregnant women say they’ve gotten when they rubbed a stranger’s stomach in return, I’m going to guess this isn’t too hard of a concept to understand. Pregnant or not, it is not okay to touch a woman anywhere that she didn’t give you direct permission to. It is in no way different from walking up to any woman in a shopping mall and rubbing her very not pregnant belly. A baby makes no difference to the level of inappropriateness. Sure the baby makes you want to touch the woman more, but it doesn’t give you any right to.

The fact that we live in a society that thinks pregnant women are being bitchy or too sensitive because they don’t want a stranger to touch their stomach, a body part that’s very close to their genitals and is inherently a sensitive region, is disgusting. The idea that pregnancy makes a woman public property literally makes me nauseous. The fact that men take part in this uninvited rubbing as well as women is a bit frightening. Even in my wildest imagination I can’t comprehend what it’s like to walk up to a complete stranger and touch not only their belly, but their baby, without any invitation or forewarning. I would simply never, ever do that. It’s just completely inappropriate, wildly disrespectful, and obviously invasive. Have some respect people. Smile sweetly, don’t reach your hand out, engage in a conversation that doesn’t involve questions like “Do internal ultrasounds hurt?”, and MAYBE that woman won’t become immediately defensive just because you walked within 3 feet of her. You never know someone’s history. Even if you completely ignore the fact that its inappropriate to start with you still have to consider that this woman may be a sexual abuse or rape survivor. For all you know that baby exists because she was raped and you just walked up and touched her without her permission. I realize that may be a harsh example but the sad truth is that it has absolutely happened to multiple people.

Think before you act. A pregnant belly is not a “Touch Me” sign. A woman’s body is not your playground. If you’re one of the people who thinks this isn’t a big deal then I challenge you to think about how you would feel if I walked up to you in front of a bunch of strangers and started rubbing your belly whilst smiling at you or maybe talking to your stomach, not your face. Some people would say “It’s different, I’m not pregnant”; to which I would reply “So it’s not okay for me to touch your stomach, a part of you that’s not exactly sexual but you can touch someone else’s child?” A stomach is hardly as grave a faux pas as a child, a human being, right? If you wouldn’t walk up and touch a woman who isn’t pregnant and you wouldn’t touch someone else’s child then don’t touch the belly!

I apologize for the rant but this really disturbs me. It’s not okay and the fact that women are attacked for saying what they are and are not okay with happening to their own bodies just shows another one of the big problems in our society today. It’s just another example of how women are expected to smile sweetly and not object to something that makes them feel violated and uncomfortable. It’s another way that our wants, our needs, and our rights (like to personal space), are not respected. Well, let me be the first to say, should a stranger ever touch my stomach without asking or after I’ve already asked them not to, I can and will punch them directly in the face, promptly.

by Ashley Hebner

© All Rights Reserved 2016

Innocence

At what point in life does innocence die?

The first time we hurt or the first time we cry?

Is it the gradual death of a million forced smiles,

that all eventually build up in their time?

Or is this loss just a thing that occurs,

Another part of life,

with no need for concern?

If that’s the case why can most of us tell,

when someone has crossed into the next realm?

What is it we see, that highlights the difference between innocence and aging?

Is it something under the surface that slowly changes?

Do we recognize that the illusions are fading?

Is it the damage that we’ve all taken,

or the inevitable consequence that comes with aging?

Is wisdom worth this innocence breaking?

And what is the opposite of this innocence?

It isn’t guilt,

just a loss of ignorance.

We become aware,

of all our surroundings.

The good, the bad, the ever outstanding.

Innocence is innocent because it’s ignorant,

with facts come pain,

and recognition of stimulus.

It’s not necessarily always a bad thing,

but once it’s acknowledged, it can’t be unseen.

That’s why that light disappears from our eyes,

To make enough room for the rest of our lives.

I don’t think innocence can be maintained,

Life’s too violent not to taint. 

by Ashley Hebner

© All Rights Reserved 2016

Addicts ARE People Too!

They deserve to die. It’ll teach them a lesson. They have to be held accountable for their actions. They’re all scum bags. They shouldn’t get medications for the withdrawal; let them suffer. Fuck them. Ew. They’re not real people.”

As many of you know, drugs (specifically heroin), are killing more people today than probably ever before. Statistics say that there isn’t one person who isn’t somehow connected to a drug addict, whether by blood or some other relation. The days of thinking drug addicts are dirty junkies living under the bridge with a needle in their arm are over. We (addicts) are your children, your waitress, your accountant, your school bus driver, your lawyer, your tattoo artist, your doctor. We come from amazing homes full of love where we want for nothing. We came from crack houses and lives riddled with abuse and poverty. We went to Ivy League schools. We dropped out in 9th grade. We’re hardened criminals. We’ve never been to jail or gotten so much as a parking ticket. 


We are everyone, everywhere. 

Addiction DOES NOT discriminate. 

Those sentences I wrote at the top are things I’ve heard or read in reference to addicts in the last week. There is still so much stigma attached to addiction that many people think we’re less-than-human and deserve to die. They think Suboxone and Methadone programs are an easy way out. They think that stopping an addict from dying by shooting them full of Narcan is preventing them from “dealing with the consequences of their actions”. I’ve never heard of anyone learning a lesson after they’ve died but hey, certain members of society think it’s possible. 

While this current trend of anger and resentment against the disease of addiction is understandable, it’s also alarming. It’s very easy to forget that that “piece of shit drug addict” is also a human being, someone’s baby, someone’s partner, someone’s parent. They’re another real person who feels pain, happiness, agony, sympathy, fear, and hopelessness. 

It seems to me that the common thread among those who hate addicts is that they also believe addiction is something you choose. I’ve argued this before and I’m sure I will for many posts to come. Does a person make the choice to take that first drug? Yes. Haven’t you? Have you ever smoked a joint in the locker room in middle or high school? Have you ever had a beer with friends? Maybe tried a little coke at a party? See that’s how “that first high” happens 90% of the time. It’s some young person just trying something for the first time. For those of us who have a predisposition to addiction that first high creates a phenomenon in our minds. It’s like we’ve finally found the answer to that hole in our souls. Many addicts report always feeling an emptiness inside them that they just couldn’t find an answer for. Drugs numb that aching hole. Some of us were looking for a reprieve from mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, or bipolar. Some of us were raised by addicts and saw this as the “normal thing to do”. Some of us were looking for a mental escape from abusive homes, bullying, loneliness, stress. Like I stated before, addiction does not discriminate. It happens to every shape, kind, class, and color of person. 

When we act as if addicts are just a cancer to society we dehumanize them. We turn them into the sick or rabid dog that needs to be dragged out back and shot. We turn them into objects, afflictions, things, “less-than-human”. And when we do this, when we strip away a hurting soul’s humanity, we also give away a piece of ours. 

I saw a police officer openly admit on Facebook that when they report to overdoses they would rather hang out and “tie their boots” than administer the Narcan that could save the addict’s life. Their reasoning was that so long as we use Narcan on addicts they are not truly “paying the consequences of their actions”. But I have to wonder, what has happened to us as people, if we’re okay with sitting back and watching someone die? Do some of us only become police officers to help the ones that we like or deem worthy? Do addicts somehow rate as being “less than” or subhuman? I have to wonder what kind of person would sit back and watch another human being die while that addict’s saving grace is literally in their hands. They may be addicts. They may have overdosed many times before and not learned their lesson BUT, that is not our call to make. 

There is no way of knowing if “this time” will be the “last time they use”. Maybe that last overdose will be the thing to push them to get clean. Maybe it will scare them just a little bit more last one. Maybe getting shot full of Narcan by that police officer who hates them will be the one thing that saves their life. Maybe they’ll catch a charge and be put in a jail or institution that gets them clean. Maybe someone saving them will actually save them. Who are we to take that away? Who are we to decide who gets to live and die?

We are not gods. If we were, addicts wouldn’t exist. 

It’s always been easy to judge those who don’t live the same way that we do; it’s the human condition. We can only ever see things from our own perspective. So for a healthy person or police officer it must be impossible to understand why a heroin addict uses. But, we have to consider the fact that all of us have things about us that other people don’t and maybe can’t understand. And we all have an addiction of some kind whether it’s heroin, sex, work, or cleaning. The difference is, no one is going to let you die because of the bad choices that you’ve made. So why should addicts die for theirs? If they die as a natural result of their addiction then that’s on them but someone sitting back and letting them die? Now that is less than human. 



Being mean and saying “let them all die” is not tough love. It’s not the hard choice. It’s the easy way out. It’s swiping the problem under the rug and pretending it will go away. Many of these people who condemn addiction do absolutely nothing to educate themselves or even better, the public at large. They don’t donate money or time to rehabs. They don’t try to reach out and help the next person. They’re just full of hate. 

I understand what it’s like firsthand to be the victim of someone else’s addiction. I know the darkness that that can breed inside of your heart. I know what it’s like to put your faith in someone who disappoints you time and time again. I however chose to blame the drug. The person is sick. I’ve seen people who truly did not want to use drugs ever again use them because they didn’t know any other way and their brains have been rewired to tell them that it’s the only choice. I’ve seen people who knew that they were going to go to jail or lose their children if they got high again and they used anyway, even in the face of those consequences. This is not some logical thing that you can categorize as good or evil, light or dark. It’s a disease. A disease that effects the best and the worst of us. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy and if you’ve read my other work you’ll understand how big of a statement that is for me.


All I’m trying to say here is that we need to stop letting the stigma attached to addiction push us towards being uncompassionate and hateful people. The drunk guy begging for change outside the gas station is no different than your 17 year old popping Percocet to get through the state volleyball championship. The junkie shooting dope under the bridge is no different than the highest powered CEO on Wall Street sneaking away from meetings to hit his crack pipe. We are no different than you. You are surrounded by us, served by us, married to us, parenting us. All we are is a collection of beautifully unique souls put in this place to accomplish something and the addict is just as much a part of that as the priest is. Stop letting the ignorance and fear and pain control you. Don’t let it turn you into a nasty person. Cause I’ll tell you something, I’d let a junkie into my home long before someone who watched another person die when they could’ve stopped it. THAT is in humane. THAT is cruel. And it is outright insane to think that we should have a say in who lives and dies. 

If that addict, any addict, was your child, your sibling, your best friend, or your parent, how differently would you treat them? Would you hope someone said those nasty things about them? Would you be okay with a cop letting them die? Would you view them in the same way you view other addicts? 

WE ARE ALL PEOPLE, so long as we don’t lose sight of that. When we start viewing our fellow human beings as nothing more than wastes of space and sacks of meat we have become savages. 


by Ashley Hebner

© All Rights Reserved 2016