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the girl cell

August 11, 2010

This TED Talk, pilfered with thanks from No Longer Qivering, is a must see. In it Eve Ensler, anti-violence activist and author of The Vagina Monologues, discusses what she calls the ‘girl cell’ – that compassionate, emotional, vulnerable inner entity that is, she says, the best and most valuable part of us as humans.

It put me in mind of the story of one of my oldest and dearest friends, L.

L was picked up by a dominant older man when she was just 17 and spent the following 30 years trapped inside an marriage which functioned at the extreme end of conservative Christian patriarchal fundamentalism. The psychological abuse to which she and later her children were subsequently subjected was pretty horrific.

Marrying before her adult personality was fully developed and being the victim of such extreme and prolonged abuse, L accepted her lot and struggled even to see that her children were being harmed by this man. She had fleeting moments when she could glimpse the truth and entertain the terrifying prospect of single-parenthood, but her husband, aware he was losing his grip at these times, would redouble his efforts and drag her back in. L’s spirit had been so brutally crushed, I guessed it might be another 10 years before she found the strength to make her move.

And then, all of a sudden, she found it! First, it was little things like defying her husband in some small matter. But once she was on a roll there was no stopping her. This thing, this amazing, unbroken, powerful force that had perhaps been huddling somewhere deep inside L rose to its feet and announced it wasn’t going to let that man abuse her or the kids any more. Ever.

I was awestruck as this former paragon of submission threw the ratbag out. I continued to be astounded as L found the courage to pack up the kids, move interstate, enroll in uni and begin a new life. This week L filed for divorce.

It seems plain that the longer you’ve been in, the harder it is to come out – and the tougher it is to find your way when you do. And as L had been dominated for the entirety of her adult life, she had few reference points to assist her in starting over. But she’s doing it. And she’s making a fabulous job of it too.

L’s story is so inspiring I’ve invited her to write a guest post here. She’s considering it. I suspect there are many, many women out there in similar situations. L and I would like to play a wee part in opening the door to the place where the Girl Cell is hiding. We would like to call to her – and encourage her to come out shouting.

Watch this space…

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