I’ll be honest – launching XIZOZU™ has been among the most rewarding and the most challenging projects I’ve ever undertaken. The times when doubts creep in and I wonder…is this really a thing?…are thankfully few, but the second-guessing does happen. Then I get an email like this…
My XIZOZU arrived yesterday, it was a gift from my mother-in-law and I haven’t taken it off. It’s like a source of renewable energy that I can draw from whenever my grief weakens me…I love that no one else knows its meaning. People just think it’s beautiful. I do too. Thank you. Thank you.
M. in Massachusetts
…and I know exactly where my path is leading. Thank you universe.
Over the weekend I had a wonderful visit with a cherished friend who’s heading into year two of a really rough divorce. Few divorces are without some ugly bits—dismantling a marriage can be difficult and gut wrenching—but her future ex is just being a colossal prick. His narcissistic behavior pushes all of my buttons while breaking my heart—for everyone involved.
Toward the end of the visit the conversation shifted to XIZOZU™ and while showing her a new design, I laughed and volunteered to create a custom medal especially for her that essentially said “Fuck You Husband.” We both lost it laughing over the idea. “I’ m going to do it!” I swore. I mean who would know, right?
An hour or so after she left I realized: I would know. And she would know. Petty and spiteful (though temporarily satisfying!) is not what XIZOZU™ is about and that’s what a cynical medal like that would be—small and diminishing. XIZOZU™ are the very opposite of that kind of damaging negativity.
The medals I make for women are about finding their strength through hard times; they’re about coaxing the positive threads out of life’s challenges; they’re about emotional and physical valor. They’re a place from which to draw strength and direct love.
I am still making her a medal, but it will be a medal that restores her.
What will it say? Something like:
The best revenge is forgiveness.
Get Your Medals
When I was five or six I walked into my grandmother’s kitchen late one afternoon and discovered her holding a large kitchen knife against my mother’s already blackened eye.
“You got to keep something cold on it,” my grandmother said seeing me in the doorway. “Or it will swell.”
Why ice wasn’t the first thing she grabbed I will always wonder, but a lot of things adults did back then didn’t make sense and I was relieved that she wasn’t actually attacking my mother.
It was her son, my mother’s husband, my father, who had just done that earlier. With his fist.
That wasn’t the first nor only time my father had physically assaulted my mother.
It happened with unspoken regularity. When a reason for this brutality could be pointed to, it was always senseless. Once it was because she had rearranged the living room furniture. Another time because he found clothes in her closet that still had the price tags on them, and another because she deposited her paycheck into their bank account without letting him see it first. Those were some of the times when the antagonizing prologue could be clearly heard and deciphered before I closed the door of our upstairs bedroom, trying to distract my younger sister, while shooting don’t-go-downstairs looks to my older brother.
One night while my sister and I were downstairs playing dolls on the living room floor when I caught a glimpse of my father leaning over our mother who was backing up in her chair in the opposite corner of the room. He was speaking through gritted teeth, his face inches from hers. I tried to become as small as I could and stared helplessly at Barbie’s eternal smile. My father managed to punch my mother in utter silence. She made no sound. The next morning, she was wearing her sunglasses. At breakfast. Again.
We knew he was dangerous. To her. My father never hit us, his children. That does not redeem him. Nor does the fact that he never touched his second wife. He terrorized our mother emotionally, verbally and physically through most of their eight or nine year marriage and turbulent two-year divorce.
Back in my grandmother’s kitchen as a little girl sitting quietly on a stool by the cellar door, I listened. I don’t remember much of the conversation or how much I actually understood at the time; the knife still against my mother’s cheek. The only sentence I DO remember comes in my grandmother’s comforting voice: “Don’t make him mad. You just can’t make that boy mad. You can’t give him a reason to hit you.”
Did I know then how insane that statement was? No. I didn’t. I do now. It’s crazy to blame the victim. But back then it made sense to my young mind as it was precisely the approach I took when dealing with my mother—my mother, who beat me. But that’s another story for another day.
But you see the pattern, right? You see the problem?
Have you saved yourself from someone else’s emotional or physical violence? Two XIZOZU™ Medal Pendants that honor getting yourself out of harmful relationships, claim yours:
I Got Out of an Abusive Relationship
I Ended a Toxic Friendship or Family RelationshipYES! I GOT OUT!
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I will elaborate on my personal childhood experiences with this all too common family struggle in future journal posts. Today I’ll end here, asking that if you or someone you love are in a relationship that should be all about love and support and it’s instead filled with control and anger, please reach out.
Resources for Dealing with Domestic Violence
Here’s a place to start: National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE (7233)
More on Domestic Violence Survivors:
What to do to help a victim of sexual assault. And a few things not to.
✨Listen. Listen. And Listen.
Remain silent and still as you can. Give them time and space to speak. Be ready to sit through their uncomfortable news or equally uncomfortable silence. Don’t press for details or specifics about the incident. Let them tell you what they’re ready to talk about.
When you feel they need you to speak. Say things like “I’m sorry this happened to you. I can’t make this better, but I am here for you. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through.” Because you can’t. And when you really don’t know what to say. Say that. “I don’t know what to say.” And just be there.
❌No If Only.
Do not present hypothetical scenarios that might have been different if only something were different. If only you didn’t go to that party…if only you didn’t wear that dress…if only I had been there with you…if only you didn’t work with him alone at night.
❌At Least Nothing.
Do not even whisper a statement that begins with “At least…” Do not try find a light at the end of their tunnel. There isn’t one, and any that you manufacture will blind you to the pain they’re experiencing. There is no bright side to sexual assault.
❌Don’t try to solve or fix anything.
For some people the urge to fix a problem is the first and strongest natural response. That approach has no place here. Actions that appear to be moving things forward often make only you, the helper, feel better and put added pressure on the survivor to return to normal. They have a new normal and it’s not one they want. They’re fragile and traumatized. Let the survivor dictate the pace of forward motion. It’s possible that they will remain physically and emotionally stalled, spinning in place, for some time. Go with that.
❌Don’t judge or blame.
Asking questions like “What were you doing there so late?” “How much did you have to drink?” or comments like “That dress is pretty provocative,” can cause survivors to blame themselves. Inadvertently insinuating, even in the smallest way, that they somehow brought this upon themselves absolves the perpetrator. Nothing a person does or wears—really NO THING—makes them deserve to be raped.
✨Manage Your Own Anger or Denial.
If you know the assaulter you may find it difficult or even impossible to believe that they’re capable of such hideous behavior. Expressing disbelief makes the survivor think you don’t believe them. Again, it turns the blame onto them. It’s equally important to suppress comments like “I’m going to kill them.” Seeing your anger can make the survivor feel as though they’ve burdened you with undue anguish and it does nothing to help ease their trauma. Confronting the assaulter can put the survivor in additional danger.
✨Ask them what they need.
Don’t try to guess. Everyone who experiences violent trauma will need something different. Let them tell you what that is by asking them “What do you need right now? How can I help you?” If they can’t tell you just assure them that you will stay right there with them and that they don’t need to talk. Be with them for as long as they need you to be. Even if the person is not someone you are close to, they chose to tell you. Don’t abandon them.
✨Honor Their Trust.
Whatever information they share with you should be considered sacred. Keep it to yourself and do not share it with anyone else without expressed permission. You can do that.
Have you found yourself in the position of being there for someone who was sexually assaulted? What did you experience? We’d love if you would share in the comments below what you thought was the hardest and/or the most rewarding part for you.
The pronoun “she” was intentionally not used to describe the survivor. While the large majority of sexual assaults are against women, men also experience this horrible trauma which comes with its own set of complex reactions and symptoms.