When I was a senior in high school, I wanted to dance. Not pow wow dancing, not even ballet, but the muscular aggressive style of La La La Human Steps. I was in rehearsals for a musical and had a new dance instructor who encouraged me to do what I loved and to pursue it through serious study. The week before my opening performance, my mom and sister were out of town and I was alone. I woke up later to find a strange man in my bed with one hand in my pajama bottoms and the other over my mouth. I fought him off as best I could and managed -- I don't know how I managed -- to break free and run for the door. There was a small landing at the bottom of my steps, one that turned the stairs to a sharp right. In my haste I navigated badly and felt a wrenching pain from my ankle to my knee. Somehow, though, I ran about a mile away to a convenience store where I called a neighbor to come get me. He took me back home, checked the place, but there was no one there. We never called the police; he just left me. Alone. I was alone for almost two days before my mom came home. My leg was badly swollen and I could barely walk. She took me to the hospital and I lied to everyone about what happened. Just said I was clumsy. It wasn't until almost twenty years later when I finally told my mom the truth.
But that's not really why I am writing. I am telling this story because of VAWA. Because of VAWA, I wanted my husband's son to speak out in support of all tribal provisions for Native women and in doing so, I wanted to make it personal. I wrote to him of my rape. I wrote to him of how my dream to dance died that day and how the path I was on for many years was not a good one. I wrote because of his Native wife and his Native daughters and my prayer that what happened to me would never happen to them, but if it did, through VAWA they would be protected.
And my husband FREAKED. The thought of me telling this story, of telling my truth, was so shameful to my husband, an old-school American Indian activist, that he couldn't bear it be told to his son, couldn't bear that I even suggest such a thing could happen to our daughter-in-law, to our takojas. I realized then, that even in the most politically and socially engaged families, the sexual violence against Native women was too raw, too horrible to be spoken of, especially when it happened to someone you love.
But that kind of silence is not my way. There are many things that have happened in my lifetime. The rape, the way I dealt with it, the way I didn't deal with it. I have enjoyed many of Creator's blessings as well. But good or bad, these stories have shaped me to be the woman I am. Many sisters have stories like mine, even much worse than my own. These stories are our medicine. We will tell them to heal ourselves and to heal one another. And we will not be ashamed.