If I should have a daughter

I am posting my latest letter, with some removed.

Haven Board,

Well, I have come to quite a bit of closure, acceptance, etc. on my own. However, I do not want to shut the door on actual acknowledgment from Haven. And I want you to know that any peace I have found within myself I have found despite the responses I have received, not because of them… While it may not be your job to look into complaints, it is your job to make sure that Haven can function long into the future, and I believe that the issues I have raised should be key to this. And I think that you should practice what you preach. Other institutions publicly admit that things are not all utopian, and engage in public dialogue about how to best to continue into the future. These are institutions with no central claims about honesty being a core value!

Furthermore, I realize that all contact with the board existed in a time where I was in such a deep pit of shame, guilt and anger over what had occurred that I wouldn’t have got my point across all that well… However, I do happen to know that you invite people from time to time to learn from or engage with. It doesn’t surprise me that I remain out of the circle of people whose input is actually valuable—but why not? Why do I have to continuously fight to be valued?

Being in Phase I at 15, I was treated like a child but expected to engage in adult activities. I was physically and emotionally much younger than 15. Being told by middle-aged men that they were sexually attracted to me was literally my introduction to sexuality, and foreshadowed later encounters with middle-aged men. When you are a teenager, adults are automatically authority figures, which made the whole process more confusing and enmeshed. If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t want that to be her introduction to sexuality, nor would I want her to be taught that a girl getting raped is response-able. Nor would I want pretty much any of what I went through at Haven to be a part of her life…

I think that the desire to take over lives, act as the authority on how people ought to live, play mother/therapist/employer/savior, is so engraved in the very core of Haven that I doubt my speaking out can change it. All value I received from Haven was from being around other participants. My contact with leaders has been nothing but destructive and this list hardly does it justice. I have left out a bunch of things. There are simply too many.

I have calmed down, but after the charge is gone, there is nothing left but a deep hurt… I have gone through utter hell to get here. I am getting better at not paying attention to people from Haven patting themselves on the back while I am shunned. It is not easy. The amount of criticism I have received just for being honest is actually quite unbelievable. Every day I have some struggle over finding peace with what happened, peace with myself, and all that I may have sabotaged by letting my wounds be public. A part of me is surprised that basically no one cares, a part of me finds it predictable… Either way, it has been hell. Being denied to the leadership group on Facebook just added insult to injury.

If I had a daughter, most of all, I would want her voice to be valued. Thus, I wouldn’t want her to have any communication with Haven whatsoever. If that isn’t of interest to the future of Haven, I don’t know what is. I am glad that your complaint process is under review, I really hope this review is done by someone who isn’t a member of the Haven community, for I believe that only someone from the outside can view this objectively.

Of course, I am unlikely to have a daughter at this point. And if I were to, one person not being a participant is hardly of concern to you. However, knowing what I know of people and daughters, I am not the only one who would hesitate to engage a girl to frequent insults, labels, and questionable sexual boundaries. The world is hard enough to learn to have voice as a young woman. Why make it harder? For it was not that these questionable boundaries and insults existed, but that they existed from the people we are taught are the ones to go to for help. Getting back trust after that is much different than if it had been some rando on the street.

I know I can’t seem to resist writing complaints as essays but I really think you ought to listen to Sarah Kay, If I Should Have a Daughter on TED/YouTube. It is everything I missed at Haven. Voice, expression, freedom, acceptance. That is what I would want for my daughter—Sarah Kay, not people to tell her that she’s a worthless narcissist and should not only label pictures in exchange for food but actually be grateful for it and suck up everything inside her. I would want her to always be the authority on her own life and body. And I would want her to love every minute of it. I would want someone to tell her that she’s fucked up just so that she would learn that she’s strong enough not to believe them. But to be that strong, she needs people who tell her those people don’t know shit about who she is.

I never had that person. I have learned to become that person.

Fucked up is a direct quote, by the way.

That is of concern not only to the future of Haven but the future of our young people. I heard on another YouTube video today that hope is a political statement. So I am going to have some foolish hope that you may eventually hear me.

I have been criticized for my honesty but mostly for my hope. it is impossible to hold on to hope for how things could be without acknowledging that how things are simply isn’t sufficient. Hope requires learning to be that person who says, those people don’t know shit about who you are.


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