Category Archives: My Story

Surviving sexual abuse is about taking your power back one moment at a time.

I sat in the courtroom with my heart pounding.  I had been fidgeting for hours.  When my name was called I felt like I might vomit, or pass out, or both.

By W.S. Gilbert (d. 1911) - Gilbert, W. S. (1920), The Bab Ballads, with which are included Songs of a Savoyard, MacMillan and Co., Limited, London., Public Domain,
By W.S. Gilbert (d. 1911) – Gilbert, W. S. (1920), The Bab Ballads, with which are included Songs of a Savoyard, MacMillan and Co., Limited, London., Public Domain,

It started out as a day of jury duty.  No big deal.  I sat down in the jury room and saw that I had been quoted in Cosmopolitan online.  I was flying as I reposted the article with all the excitement of a week starting out perfectly right.

They called my name to go to department 10 on the 7th floor.  I’ve gone through the process of jury selection before.  It’s long and tedious so I smuggled in a book for the really slow parts.  I was only half paying attention until they read the charges.

The people of the state of California vs. X person, charged with lewd acts upon a child.

Oh. Fuck.

My leg starts to shake as my past comes flooding back, and  suddenly this courtroom is the last place I want to be.  

I breathe deeply and move a little  in my chair so I stay in my body; the pull to let myself zone out is insistent and strong, but I know I need to stay aware.  I force myself to stay aware.

.. I feel trapped while the lawyers ask questions of the first 14 prospective jurors.

  •      Who are you?
  •      What is your occupation?
  •      Do you know any police officers?
  •      Have you ever been the victim of a crime?
  •      Do you think you can be impartial?
  •      Can you trust the word of a child under 14?
  •      Do you think children are sometimes mistaken?
  •      Can you believe testimony of only one witness when there is no other witness to back them up?
  •      Do you think people are sometimes wrongly accused?

The questions go on, and on, for hours.  As each new person and new question is asked I start to see the case unfolding.

The panic is rising.  I am pretty sure I can’t sit through much more of this.  The energy is heavy and murky and my body wants to run. I watch the clock tick in agonizing slowness.

The final question, “can you be impartial?”  

–I snort quietly in my seat. Oh hell no. I am not impartial.  My sympathies are fully with the child who will take the stand in the coming days.

I know how hard it is to come forward, to say the words out loud.  I know how few people I have said the words to myself.  I am 39 and I usually talk in euphemisms and half statements because I don’t want to say the sentence.  I know what the silence does to me, and I do it anyway.

They dismiss another potential juror and I hear my name.  Seat #7; Lisa Kan

I stand up and I hear myself mutter, “Oh god…”

I walk towards the jury box.  The adrenaline starts flowing and the courtroom shrinks into a narrow tunnel as they hand me a microphone and the sheet of questions to answer for the judge and lawyers.  My hands are shaking so hard I have to really work to steady myself and hold the microphone in place.

My voice amplifies across the room and I cringe. I know I cannot sit on this jury.  I have no choice but to speak the words into a microphone, in a courtroom, on record. I force myself to breathe.  I focus on the paper in my hands. I begin to answer from the top.

“My name is Lisa Kan.”

Fuck this is so loud.

“I work as an elementary school science teacher and I also am a sex educator.”

Keep going, do not stop talking.

“My husband has been a police officer for 13 years.”

Deep breath, just say it.

“Have I been the victim of a crime?”….. You can do this.  You have to say the words.

“I am a survivor of long term sexual abuse, from a family member… when I was a child. I really don’t think I can be impartial in this case…. with my history…..”

Even though I am shaking my voice is loud and clear across the courtroom.  The court reporter is typing all my words. I am on record.  I never thought this would be officially on record anywhere, ever, and yet here I am.

I never thought this would go on record.

My throat is so terribly dry. The abuse has been over for more than twenty years and still, in moments like this, the emotion is so brutally raw.

The judge turns to me and apologizes and said he is going to have to ask me a few questions.  I swallow hard and nod. I prepare myself to answer whatever is asked of me.  I am strong enough to do this.

The prosecutor interrupts, “Your Honor, the defense and I both agree to let this juror be excused for cause.”  I am certain that the whole room can hear me exhale in relief.

The Judge says something I cannot quite hear with the blood pulsing through my ears and then tells me that I am excused.

I stood up and forced my hands to remove the juror badge from my shirt.  I dropped it in the box by the door like it was contaminated and lunged for the door.  I wanted out of that room and its endless debate over the trustworthiness of a kid who has probably been through hell and back.

I could barely see through the adrenaline as I hit the button for the elevators.  I left, down seven floors, through security, blindly heading for my car. Somewhere down the first block I realized that I was wobbly and I wished I had someone with me.  I knew that if I stopped moving I might fall down so I kept walking and breathing and focused on finding my vehicle.

The remaining three blocks down and one over to the parking lot was a hazy blur of people and sounds. I could feel the tears coming and I had an overwhelming need to find a place to be safe.  Curl up. Hide. Cry.

I made it to my car and as soon as I slid behind the wheel I burst into tears.  Years of my own shame, and fear, and guilt dissolved into sobs in a ratty parking lot in downtown Oakland California.

It took me an hour to pull myself together, to make my eyes focus and my brain come down from the fight, or flight, or freeze that had been pumping through my blood for hours.  I texted a few people and told them.  And breathed.

I just owned my story. Out loud, amplified by a microphone, in a courtroom of strangers, and on record.

Holy fucking shit!

I sat there and realized how proud I was to have done it.  

There were 80 people in that room.  Statistically, that means about 16 of us had a history of sexual abuse/assault.  That is massive.  I was the first one in that room to say out loud: I am a survivor, it happened, and no I am not impartial.

As I wiped away the tears, I hoped that it had helped.

I hoped someone in that room, some stranger I never spoke to, felt less alone because I took the microphone and spoke my truth.  The thought helped me begin to calm down, and my body slowly returned to normal.  I took a fuck-ton of power back today.

I’m not impartial.

From the moment I heard the charges, I was rooting for that kid: when they take the stand next week and say what happened to them,   I don’t know how many people in that room will believe them, but I will.

Even if I won’t be there, I believe them.

I got a gift that most survivors don’t get. The court didn’t make me justify my claim or prove anything. They believed me and I got to go home.  I cried, I let go of another layer of shame, and I felt better.  I felt heard. I felt validated.

It was everything.

 

Being heard.

Being believed.

 

It is everything.

 

Q & A: Is Bodysex LGBTQ inclusive?

I want to run a bodysex circle that I makes me feel comfortable as a fat, butch, dyke. I don’t exactly blend in among the usual women’s-circle-sisterhood-of-the-peasant-skirt-wild-woman-embrace-your-inner-goddess-tribe.  I tried, but I had my floral prints confiscated early in my journey on this planet as a woman and I was never again able to travel among the world as a regular girl. Not that I didn’t try.  

I tried very hard for many years and each time I’d try to enter a typical group of women I could feel the invisible wall. I thought I was “normal”.  I thought I was straight.  I thought I could just blend in.  And yet, with the Sesame Street tune in my head I knew that the thing that was not like the others, was me.  There is a hum in the air that groups of women create, that my body doesn’t fully resonate with. No matter how hard I try, I am always half a beat off.

It used to bother me a whole lot to see what seemed like everyone around me embrace this thing called female that I could only put on like a costume and never seemed to sink all the way into me the way it did with my sister and mother. Gender is complicated for me.  My experience does not seem to reach the full spectrum of what the world defines as female.

I didn’t have words for this feeling when I first came to Bodysex. I knew I was different but I assumed everyone felt that way and I was therefore a “normal woman.”  …and I knew I needed to be there. I knew this was the place that could change things for me.  I was right.  The circle was very healing for me in how I related to my body and how I accepted myself as sexual.  It also showed me how different I was in my sexual orientation and in how I related to gender.

I needed this transformative work in order to heal my fear and shame around sex and, ultimately I needed it to come out. The magic in the circle requires the participants to relax and see themselves as more alike than they are different.  The irony is that if I had I already been out for many years, and if I had a better understanding of my gender, that original circle would have had too many embedded assumptions that all of us are straight, femme, women, and I wouldn’t have been able to relax and feel fully at home.

In all likelihood I would have missed a body of work that I desperately needed because I didn’t see myself reflected in its design enough to trust that it was truly for me.

I know I am not alone.  I have talked to a number of my LGBTQ family who are interested in the concept of what Bodysex does, but once they look at it they know they cannot go to this place.  No matter how much it has the potential to help, they don’t want to be pushed against that invisible wall of difference.  The distance would be too great to be overcome.

Bodysex was designed to go deeply into how vulvas and vaginas work, to explore the participants relationship to their bodies, and their sexuality, and build a community around sexually empowered and supportive adults.  There’s nothing in it that requires femme identity, femininity, or even womanhood.

So I’m going to bridge that gap.  Women are welcome and important in these workshops.  But the workshops, and Betty Dodson’s  work, are bigger than that, and I’m claiming all the space available.  I am creating a Bodysex circle that expands to include more than just those that identify as women and use the pronoun she.  The work deserves it.  The people deserve it.  But most of all, we need it, all of us.  We all benefit when the room and the diversity of experience is as broad as it can be.  I am passionate about this work, and its ability to change lives.  Everyone who needs it should have access to it, without having to wonder if they will fit in.

 

This is the first step.

 

If you have a vulva, you’re welcome here.  

 

I outed myself on the internet!!

Holy Shit I outed myself on the internet yesterday.

For Two years I have been thinking about what this would be like.  What it would feel like to not look over my shoulder anymore and wonder who knew and who didn’t.  As of a few hours ago, everyone knows.  It’s done.

There is such relief and such anxiety.

My whole life I had a great big story about how awful and bad it was to be gay.  No one would love me, not even God. I would be rejected and outcast like all those awful coming out stories I saw and heard.

I live outside San Francisco. If I had to pick a place to come out as an upper middle class white lady in 2016, this is a good one. People have been really supportive of me and I have gotten a lot of, “Go You!” commentary.  Someone offered to bake me a rainbow cake and throw glitter at me.  That one is my current favorite response.

Then I got a message from my husband.  “I’m getting a lot of texts… I’m guessing today was the day.”

I felt my stomach knot and I could barely breathe.  I replied, “How bad is it?”

I am hearing from the supportive side of the fence, the ones that already knew or who are the kind of supportive tribe everyone wants around them when you come out.  He is getting the confusion, the how can this be, and why???   It feels like there is an invisible jury out rendering a verdict and I have to wait in the weird cafeteria to be called in for the decision.

Accepted and supported, or not.

Or both.

Yesterday I fully stepped out of that old identity as a straight, conservative, married, stay-at-home mother in the suburbs I so carefully crafted and lived inside for nearly forty years; that identity I wore because I was terrified of getting a “no,” verdict. I was so scared of being denied acceptance from those around me that I denied acceptance to myself.  Coming out has been a process of choosing myself. There is freedom in that decision, but not a guarantee of anyone cheering for you.  There is no going back and there is no safety net.

“Apparently your reach is bigger than we thought.  At least it’s done.” I am so glad he is in my life.  Few spouses would field those phone calls and be this amazingly supportive.

It was dinner time but I had no appetite.  I got my daughter some food and ate a few bites myself and pushed the rest around.

It takes hours for the jury of public opinion of family and friends to say their piece. This is like a town hall meeting where everyone chooses sides and they line up with messages and phone calls.  It’s not news to them all.  Some have known for a while and have been waiting for the public announcement.  They sat with me and held my hand while the others said what they needed to say.

By the end of the night I was wrung out.  The world didn’t end and the dust will settle, and everyone gets to have their feelings and their opinions.

Now, I get on with the business of living a healthy and happy life. No more tiptoeing and no more carefully crafting words or excuses and half-truths.  I am me.  Finally.  That feels so damn good!!

 

The Lies You Tell Yourself

I am a really good liar.  I spent most of my life lying.

 

I lied in middle school when I spent the summer having sleepovers with my best friend.

–Our all-night makeout sessions were just an experiment.

 

I lied when I stared at the models in Seventeen magazine.

–I was a normal girl interested in fashion.

 

I lied when I said I was saving myself for marriage.  

–I was “picky,” and “shy.”

 

I lied in high school when I decided I should not have female friends.  

–They were dramatic and annoying.

 

I lied in college when I said I loved the boyfriend I wasn’t attracted to.

–He’s a good guy and I want a family.

 

I lied when I graduated and took that job, and that cute lesbian used to come by my desk a few times a day to have a friendly chat while she leaned on my cubicle wall.  

I pretended I didn’t know we were flirting, or that I looked for her as I passed her office. I convinced myself that telling her I was dating a guy was friendly conversation instead of a way to make her go away before we got too close.  I was not like her. Nothing like her AT ALL.

I told myself that all girls did this.   I had promised God I would wait until marriage. I was a good girl, not one of those other girls my age.

So what did it matter if I didn’t make friends? I wanted a family and the only way I knew to do that was to get married and live happily ever after as a good Christian wife.

When I finally married my husband, we would sit together and I’d point out pretty women as they went past.  I was such a fun wife. Every woman should be as easy going and not jealous as I was. There was no harm in looking, right?

…right?

I lied and I lied and I lied until I was numb and robotic in my perfect life behind a white picket fence with a sweet Christmas card photo complete with baby makes three and the dog and cat on the floor. Smile, and you can almost believe it.

When you lie to yourself and everyone around you long enough you can justify anything, explain away anything to maintain an image of yourself.  I wasn’t depressed, I was tired and a little stressed out lately.  Don’t worry, everything is fine.

One day I was so fine that I was driving down the freeway staring at overpasses and steep embankments wondering just how fast I would have to hit one in order to ensure I died quickly and didn’t end up on machines in a hospital somewhere.  I didn’t want to be in a wheelchair, I wanted to be dead. I could hear the bumps rumbling under the tires as the car moved just out of the lane.  This is probably fast enough….

The noise woke up the baby in the backseat and the crying snapped me out of my thoughts, and I drove home shaking at the idea that I would think these kinds of things.

That night I lay in bed sobbing and begging God to tell me what to do.  “Help me!!” I cried, “what is wrong with me?”

I heard the still small voice of God in my ear as my prayer was answered.  “You need to get a vibrator.”

If you wanted to scratch the record of my life, have God tell me to get a vibrator.  

“I’m sorry… what?”  The crying had stopped as I fought to understand the words I was hearing.  That couldn’t be right. God would never tell me that.

The voice repeated itself, “Get a vibrator.”

He might as well have asked me to fly to the moon with popsicle stick wings.  Wasn’t God supposed to be dignifed and holy? These are not the topics a woman like me discussed, least of all with the almightly, as if I should get some milk on my next trip to the store.  I had no idea what my suicidal feelings needed with a trip to the adult novelty section.  Was I losing my mind?

When I woke up in the morning I decided I had already been ten kinds of reckless so if God wanted me to get a marital aid I would need to know more about them. I asked Google to help me. I found a woman on the internet named Betty Dodson.  

I loved Betty the moment I saw her videos.  I watched them all and realized that she was fearless and larger than life and I wanted to be just like her.  She had all kinds of advice for me and it all started in one place.

I needed to masturbate.

This pissed me off.  It had been months since I had masturbated and I could barely remember the last time I had been in the mood for anything besides oreos. I had never touched my vulva with my hands during sex and I fully resented the idea that what I truly needed in the world was a good come.

I was also scared and desperate and God had told me to get a vibrator and there is nothing to do with a vibrator except have an orgasm so it was worth a try.  It wasn’t going to hurt. Betty insisted I get some oil and set a timer.

I huffed as I laid myself down on the bed. As my head hit the pillow, my irritation at being required to be sexual at someone else’s request gave rise to a barrage of thoughts.  I was mad, and all of my good Christian upbringing was balking at the audacity of the challenge that had been laid before me.  

Masturbate!!  Who does this old woman think she is?!?  I stomped and raged and threw my fit and finally decided to get it over with…but she couldn’t make me like it.  I raged at God, “Betty has ten minutes, then she can go fuck herself.”

I had an orgasm in eight.  

Shit.  

Lisa 0: Betty 1.  

I relented.  A little.  “Fine, you have my attention.  I’ll give you have a week to make me a believer. “

Like a surly old cat needing medication, I forced myself to masturbate every day for a week. I hated to admit that I felt better after seven days.  At this point my new vibrator had arrived and decided I might as well give it another week and try out my new toy.  You know… for science.

By the end of week two, my libido was so big I was starting to worry that something was wrong with me. After a nearly twenty year hibernation my body seemed to be in a continuous state of arousal and I hadn’t thought about sex this much since I was a teenager.

A few months later I arrived in New York City to take Betty Dodson’s workshop, and I was petrified.  I took deep breaths when I opened the door.  I reminded myself that I wanted to believe I could have more, that I deserved more.  I wanted more than this desperation for intimacy.  Walking through that door was the scariest thing I had done in a long time.

In two days I got myself back.  I had gotten naked and faced not only myself but the big, scary, serious business called sex. I walked out of that weekend with permission to be sexy on my own terms, and permission to find out what I wanted and to experience it for myself. I was no longer afraid. I was worthy of pleasure and for the first time, I was free.

Betty gave me my life back.  She taught me about my body and gave me permission to be my truest self. It took a few years to peel back my awful body image and layers of shame to find myself again.  By the time I attended the first bodysex certification group and I had come out to myself, and my family.  I went from a 37 year old women who had never had a sex talk with anyone in my life to teaching women how to reclaim their pleasure no matter what road they took to get there.   I became the first woman in the United States to become a Betty Dodson certified Bodysex instructor and Orgasm coach.

I talk loudly about what used to be my biggest fear and heaviest shame.  No longer do I drown in self-hatred and disconnection from my body and my emotions. I am happier than I have ever been, and my life is filled with incredible passion and honest self-expression.

I know what is possible when you take the journey back to yourself. I won’t tell you it’s easy, but you won’t regret a single second.