Saturday, May 30, 2009

Coming Out: The Emancipation of Artemis

About The Emancipation of Artemis, created by Jennifer Summer, from Jennifer's journal:

i have been blessed in my life with an extremely large extended family -- my friends.

i realized one day that out of all these women, i can count on one hand the number of them who have not had an experience with abuse in some form or another.

i realized that i had spent a large portion of my childhood in hospital waiting rooms, watching a close family member endure numerous operations and countless health problems due to the acts of one malicious, psychotic attacker.

i realized just how widely spread this epidemic has become.

and then i decided to do something about it.

i don't have the qualifications to assist in a professional, controlled environment, but i do have passion and an ability to express myself artistically, and i began to brainstorm a way in which i could combine those two things in order to make an impact.

and now, several years later, that dream has come to fruition. through the efforts of not only myself but my wide circle of kindred spirit chosen family, we have joined our voices together as a chorus for change.

and, thus, the emancipation of artemis was born. right now it is a single benefit that will be held at the york st. cafe in newport, ky on friday, june 5th (7 p.m. - 10 p.m.) and will feature a photography exhibit, live music, poetry readings, guest speakers and an art sale. the talented people in the 'contributing artists' section have all donated their original work to be sold, and the individuals in the 'performers' section of 'the event' menu will be lending their talents during the show.

every single dime raised will go directly to RAINN so that they may continue to do the amazing work that they do for people all over the united states.

but my dream is for artemis to become a global organization; for artists around the world to hold their own events and raise money for groups such as RAINN that help those who need it most. and, in light of what has been accomplished thus far, i believe that dream is an attainable one.

eight women have bravely come forward and opened themselves up -- they've shared their story and shown their face. they are not victims. they are not dreary, they are not tragic. they are triumphant. they are survivors. they are warriors.

they are living proof that we are so much more than just the sum of our experiences.


Since you'd figure it out anyway when you go to the Artemis site and click through the gallery, I'll just tell you: I am one of the eight women whose portrait and story is part of the exhibit. 

I wasn't able to travel to be photographed by Jennifer herself, so she asked me to send her a photo from my portfolio. I selected one taken on my wedding day, by Karen Varnas.  Partly because I didn't get photographed by Jennifer (and therefore, the image doesn't "match" the others), and partly because my story is the longest, I feel like I did it wrong somehow.  It's the anxiety brought on by telling a bit of what happened.  

Reading my own words, my cheeks burn with shame.  I'm afraid for people to know this about me, that it will hang over every time I meet them.  That they will wonder what I did to bring it on myself.  That they don't know that I sometimes want to know that, too; for someone to treat me so badly, there must be a good reason, something terrible that I did.  I used to wonder if there was an invisible sign on me that invited men to try things on me, without my permission. Maybe they could see that I had been wounded while very young, and wanted very much to be loved.  

Please don't misunderstand me.  I am happy beyond what I thought was possible.  I know that the way I was treated was not my fault.  I am lucky enough to love and be loved by my best friend of nearly sixteen years.  I had long since accepted that a gray veil would hang between me and the world -- it's just how my brain works, I thought.  After my diagnosis and thyroidectomy, I knew differently, and I saw clearly that the way I was being treated was wrong, wrong, wrong.  I tried to imagine a good friend in my position, and thought of what I would tell her.  In the end (or is it the beginning?), I did exactly what I would have told my hypothetical friend: called my mom, packed a U-Haul, and got the hell out of there. 

Jenn herself was of immeasurable help and comfort to me while I was struggling with what I wrote about for the exhibit.  I still keep on my desk a photo she took of a single daisy, standing tall in a field. She captioned it: "It doesn't matter where you've been. What matters is where you are now." Looking at it, meditating on it, helps me to re-anchor myself in my joyous present. 

I forget sometimes that the Bad Old Days can never return.  Sometimes, they do still cast long, frightening shadows, but those shadows grow fainter every time I glimpse them.  I am grateful to be out, to be away, to be home.  In the night when I am afraid, I reach out and find my best friend, my beloved husband, sleeping there under blankets beside me.  I feel my own face, my beautiful long hair, the ridge of scar tissue at my throat, and I know who I am, where I am, and I am no longer afraid.  

Getting out, getting away, going home, I had help.  I reached out, and so many hands reached back to me. Among them were Jennifer's hands, loving and fierce.  She is a beautiful soul, a very talented artist, and this work she is doing is of immense importance.

And if you're struggling like I was, or at all, don't be afraid to ask for help.  Or, be afraid if you have to be, but ask despite the fear.  It's worth it, I promise you.

The Emancipation of Artemis:  Artists United to End Violence Against Women
Friday, June 5 2009
7-10pm (music begins at 8pm)
York Street Cafe
Newport, KY

National Domestic Violence Hotline
HopeLine - 1-800-SUICIDE



allisonmariecat said...

You're brave and smart and wonderful and your contribution is lovely and poignant.

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