If any of you have read my blogs for any amount of time, I have written very openly of my rape (s) at age 4, 5 and 6. There was however another type of “rape” if you will, much more subtle and it had a different name and guise under the tutelage of Education. It was consider conformity, proper upbringing, and correction. It was done for my own good, the gift being that I would be raised to: fit in, hold down a job, and not be a burden to others, and above all, not a failure. I was raised to become a hearing person or to at least duplicate one as close as possible. While saying that my oral education was similar to rape could be over exaggerations, the violations of my personhood and the resulting damage was the same.
This violation taught me many wonderful things about myself. I learned that I am broken and because I am broken and I cost my family a lot of money, I OWE them to do my very best to learn how to talk. I learned to value the talkers power of thought over my own mind. In doing so, I realized I was a disgusting little twerp and to make sure I was a little girl of goodness, I used to find self destructive ways to beat out my anger at how could I be so horrible to my parents, my grandparents, my teachers and everyone around me? I proudly had scabs and callous running down my arms from playing tether ball in the yard. When that was taken away, if I got hurt, I challenged my toughness by when ever I got hurt or cut, I would pour Listerine over the wound to clean it, and dear myself not to scream. Sometimes I felt so dead inside, I was not sure I was real anymore. Noise babbled around me constantly, noise ringing in my head as well, I never knew silence of any kind, nor did I know solid sensory information it seemed, everything was confused jumbled sounds. I think that why I loved mosaics. They were the first thing I saw that made order of chaos. I remember when snow fell where I lived, I walked outside in my bare feet, I wanted to see if the pain would make me alive. The Sister of the Catholic School came outside and saw me. She simply put her arm around my shoulder and quickly and quietly ushered me into the school. Asking me what I was doing, I had no answer. They knew enough to recognized deep pain, and the teachers took time to be with me, and I took comfort in that. Suddenly, the world started to feel a little bit real, when someone took the time to look and say, “Hi”. Then I begin to slowly, ever so slowly learn, I am a damn strong woman too. We call ourselves survivors.
In college I had several breakdowns and only my nearest and dearest friends kept me from doing something stupid. I said nary a word to any of them, but they knew. I owe them all my life and yes 30+ years later, they are still my rocks. That did not stop me from busting a hand through glass (thanks to God it was thin glass), or breaking things, throwing chairs, and other things, cutting hands with X-acto knife. How did a self destructive person like me have the friends I do? Because believe it or not, I don’t WANT to be that destructive person, I love people. Anger however, the way I was taught about who I was supposed to be as opposed to who I AM, was in deep conflict. I have a lot more peace now, but Goodness to my sweet God, I wish it did not have to take more than three fourths of my life to get it cleaned up.
So yes, I was violated while being taught to talk. It was not rape like I was when I was 4 -6 years of age, instead there was the more now recognized form of power over powerless, Patronizing over pitiful. Objectifying the child in order to manage the sensory neural disorders. On March 3, 2012, in the Heartland of America, on a day of what many think of as a Great man, Alexander Graham Bell, Audism Free America in St. Louis MO, will be having their own party. At this party if you could see the souls with special glasses, you would find many of them shredded as mine. Some still raw, some white with healed scars.
While times have surely changed, there is always my friends those who wish to return to the days when making the child conform to the ideal of Oralism, usually pushed by big Pharmacy/Medical Technology and what they think the child should be, rather than what that child can truly fully achieve when allowed to for-fill who they are.
So you might ask, who do I blame for my shredded soul, my pain, my disabled ability to navigate the pathways of life? Truth? No one, and everyone in the Audistic oral programs of my childhood. I mean, look, they did mean well in their own misguided attempts to do well. What sickens me is the consent belief that those of us (Deaf) who have degrees in the same field they do are still not considered worthy of knowing what the Deaf need in terms of Education, unless they parrot the same oral methods. Why am I so against oral methods when I have clearly benefited from it in some fashion?
Let me be clear, I am NOT against Oral training for the Deaf. I am not against the use of Technology if there is a benefit and the person wants it (noted, the person WANTS it). I am against banning of ASL as the primary language for the Deaf . Oral training can be used as a tool. I mean doesn’t it make more sense to use a visual language to explain how to make the throat and mouth movements to produce sounds than through a sound method that is impaired? I mean, can you teach someone to become a photographer with a busted lens? The cost of having an only oral education is this.
In spite of my M.A. degree, loving marriage, two healthy children raised to adult hood and a very active role in the Deaf community, in many ways I am considered a social failure. Why? I am obese (over three hundred pounds), I have poor health that started with a poor digestive system from years of stress acid eating at the lining of my upper digestive tract, asthma, and migraines. I have serious depression which must be medicated to maintain functionality. I depend on Social Security and subsidized housing to help me have money for the times I can’t work enough to earn enough money to feed myself or my family to keep us off the street and out of soup kitchens (where we have been before). I am in what is called the lower social economic order and my children were considered ‘at risk’ their entire lives because of that label. Add $50,000.00 a year income and the ability to maintain it, and no one would have notice we were all that different. The problem of course is maintaining it. Frequent doctor and hospital visits can kill those opportunities.
I am a very creative (Artist, Writer, Sculpture, Photographer, Cook, Deaf Advocate, Conceptual Thinker, Expressive Language Reader, etc…), I am smart, I love people. I am also someone who unless I take exceptional care of self can get sick. In the last five years, I have finally been able to do that. It has been a very long haul to get to this point. I say it took about a life time. I jokingly said once at my birthday. “The first 20 years I survived growing up. The second 20, I recovered from that, this 20, I am trying to figure out what it means to be alive, I think….” That kind of sums it up. I am an example of an exceptional woman who managed to come out of the carnage with gifts to give STILL in SPITE of what happened to her. Let me tell you however, the slaughter, the deaths from suicide, drugs, poverty related health deaths, and crime, stuff we don’t talk about in polite company. Many of those people were my Deaf neighbors, friends, relatives, and part of the community I live in. Those are lives that would have been here too, if their souls had not been shredded. Why am I here and not them? I have no answer except this, I have a message, we CANT go back, we WONT go back, and we will NEVER forget…
March 3, 2012 Be there in person, heart, mind, what ever way you can. Learn about it, BE about it. You owe it to yourself and Deaf children everywhere. Stop the soul Shredding, and instead, lets be Soul Shining.