Content warning: The following story contains references to domestic violence, bullying, violence, and abuse, which may be triggering for some readers.
“All Feelings are Valid,” Katie LaCourse
It was a glass plate shattering and dinner strewn across the floor. Name-calling, threats, and combinations of words I still don’t know the meaning of. Stepping in between or hiding in another room. Mom’s bruises and her numb foot due to nerve damage. When I was a baby, she was carrying me down the steps outside when she got a foot to her lower back. She twisted so I wouldn’t get smashed into the hard ground and she messed up her spine. I blamed myself for that for the longest time. If only I hadn’t been there…
Even after mom took us and left, I watched my dad do this to his girlfriends. One of them put him in jail which was humiliating. As an 11-year-old, I would go with my grandparents to visit him, sit across the table from a line of other inmates, just so he could swear and complain about the situation to his parents. It’s been a few years since then and a few years of trying to rebuild a relationship with him. It’s still very weak and very uncomfortable, but I was sure he had at least changed and become better. Recently, I found that was not the case. I can’t understand how he can look at me, his daughter, and not try harder. Has he ever pictured someone treating me the way he treats women?
I am ashamed to have this last name.
When I heard about Lesley’s Clothesline Project-shirts designed for and by survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault—I felt a strong pull to be a part of this project. I had it all planned out:
For my mom,
My best friend.
But I told myself I didn’t survive anything. My mom did, my sister did, and my best friend did, so why should I make a shirt?
I didn’t want to say that I suffered from any of this. I have never been hit, threatened with my life, or been called a terrible name that affected me other than the moot insults of immature middle-schoolers. But for a while, when I saw a car racing by, I wondered if there was another one behind it trying to stop it, track it, or hit it. I felt sick to my stomach when I pictured kids in the backseat of the first car wanting it to go faster or to know which hotel they would be staying at that night. I felt guilty when people looked at me funny for not knowing the plot of Robin Hood or The Little Mermaid. Maybe I saw them, but I tried so hard to forget those years of bad that I lost a lot of the good.
And now, it’s still jumping at any loud sound and checking to see if it was something like a glass plate or someone being hurt. Or panicking when children do their screechy giggles that sound almost like cries. Feeling uncomfortable walking down a busy hallway, or making contact with strangers on a crowded train, or being in the pit for a concert and wanting to sit in a ball on the ground in the middle of hundreds of people.
Vulnerability, busyness, loudness—I’ll pass on that.
I’m beginning to learn that it’s important to acknowledge my feelings and my struggles. No, I have not been a direct victim of domestic violence, but growing up with violence in the home affects the emotional development of children. It is traumatizing and changes the way the world is viewed. I struggle every day with what I’ve heard, seen, and felt. Most of the women I’m closest to have been directly affected by relationship violence and/or sexual assault. I’m scared for my safety and the safety of other women. I’m frustrated that I can’t fully enjoy a concert or feel comfortable commuting to school. I don’t like that when I hear a loud noise I tell myself it’s probably nothing, but eventually I have to look anyway or I’ll worry about it for the rest of the day.
All feelings are valid. So are thoughts, fears, and everything else that’s a result from trauma. Regardless of what the trauma was or how direct, we’re allowed to feel things. We’re worthy enough to feel things, and we don’t have to tell ourselves to “get over it” because it wasn’t that big of a deal. It was and it still is every day. We are allowed to take care of ourselves, too.
About the art:
With this piece, I wanted to acknowledge the strength and bravery Katie demonstrated by opening up about her experience. It takes courage to share our stories, and to do so without judging oneself can be difficult.
But Katie’s willingness to share, not only for herself, but for others with similar experiences, shows just how significant and powerful these stories can be when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. I wanted to celebrate and validate Katie’s experience and the feelings she shared. With this piece, I hope she will continue to honor her feelings and keep spreading her courageous message to others.