A writing campaign asks domestic violence survivors and their supporters to submit letters
From Lexie Bean, Founder and Creative Director of Attention: People with Body Parts:
With the perception that males are physically stronger, braver, and unreachable, men and those who present as masculine get left out of conversations and resources involving domestic violence. The dichotomy of tough men and weak women leaves out voices of survivors who experience many levels of structural, physical, sexual, and emotional violence against their bodies and within the home. Stories that do not fit the normative narrative, such as women abusing men or abusive relationships involving trans* or queer peoples more often go untold, according to the CDC. A 2010 survey, for example, suggests that 40% of severe, physical domestic violence survivors are men.
Where do these stories go? Where does any survivor (man, woman, normative, or not) carry the questions of “Why don’t you just ____?” or “Why are you still upset?” While speaking is not always empowering, validation is. Nonetheless, this requires space for transforming an experience made heavy and taboo.
Attention: People With Body Parts, a body-positivity movement with an emphasis on movement, letter-writing, and collaborative art projects, has established a space for sharing and reclamation. From now until August 15, we are collecting letters that domestic violence survivors have written to one of their body parts. This anthology of letters entitled Portable Homes, continues to grow with those told or forced to believe that their bodies are not safe-spaces or worthy of calling a home. The space to speak their own stories and speak to their own bodies amongst other bodies breaks down what is normal, what is still there, what is just. These are the parts survivors carry and the pieces they pick up and learn to call home.
Please consider passing news of this book and moving movement to the survivors in your life and those in solidarity with survivors. More than anything, listen with your whole body and continue to make space for stories that go beyond assumptions of strength, weakness, and the ability of anyone to feel or experience violence.
Below is a beautiful and brave letter one contributor of Portable Homes wrote to his eyes:
**please note that the content may have triggering words or imagery.
You’ve seen him, better than any other part of me, be so kind and so gentle and so loving. You’ve looked into his eyes and seen so much love for me.
You’ve seen him. You know he’s not as strong as I am.
You also saw him hit me. You saw him laying in my bed and for a minute taking out his frustrations on me. You saw him continue to lay there, no obvious regard for the pain he had just inflicted on someone he claimed to love.
I know you hate to cry, that you don’t like to feel unmanly. But I understand why you needed to cry so hard that night. And I want you to know it doesn’t make you unmanly. You had had so many conversations with his eyes and you trusted him. Things had been hard between us, but I had trusted him too. I didn’t expect to feel so hurt and betrayed and confused by him.
And the next day he wouldn’t even look at you and you felt so guilty yet you felt manipulated too. You cried again and it all just felt bad, bad about him and bad about me. Later his eyes tried to tell you how sorry he was, but you didn’t trust him because you had seen them so full of anger and aggression. And months later when I tried to bring it up once, his eyes flashed so full of anger at you and you had to see that directed at you again.
You’ve seen so much that hurt us, but I just didn’t want to believe it all was real because I loved him so much. You were the eyewitness to all my worst moments after his betrayal too. I hadn’t felt good about myself before the incident, but it just got worse. You were the only witness to my ensuing violence against my own body in my worst times of feeling lonely and worthless. It’s not that I think that’s his fault since it was my hand that held the razor blade, but also he made me feel just so worthless. The looks he gave you when I wouldn’t cuddle or admitted I didn’t feel like I could trust him were almost as painful as the day he hit me.
I know I should have saved you the tears by not going back to him the next week, even though I still loved him. I know I should have taken time away, so you didn’t have to see him and see the replay of his aggression until you had at least stopped crying. And for that I am sorry.
a kid who’s just trying to move forward in his life
–The movement’s first book can be purchased here on Amazon.com