My Survival Is My Resistance


By Michiko Bown-Kai | @queerkenosis

Trigger warning: Mention of sexual assault. 

When I was 21 years old, I was sexually assaulted.

Even though I was a proud, self-professed feminist since my early teenage years, it was not enough to protect me from the intense shame I felt after the assault. While I could easily talk about how survivors deserved to be listened to and respected, it was not enough to help me navigate through all of the complicated feelings I was dealing with. 

I wanted to deny that an act of violence could change me. I thought that being aware of the patriarchy was enough to be protected from the shame and the pain.

But it wasn’t. 

The assault changed everything. As a social activist, I had shown up for almost any cause I had been invited to over the past several years — campus politics, the Occupy Movement, student rights and the Maple Spring, environmental justice, Palestinian justice, and more. I had found so much meaning in finding ways to vocally and passionately resist all the forces of evil at work in the world.

But as I tried to deal with the assault, I stopped most of the protesting, educating, and campaigning. It was too much to cope with. I felt a sense of failure around no longer being “enough” of an activist. I felt like I had given in and stopped resisting. 

It was then I realized that the journey of healing required a level of vulnerability and support I had never imagined. Healing required me to fight for survival at all costs, and I would have to figure out creative ways to do so. 

Survival meant creating new ways to understand and trust my own body again. 

Survival meant learning what a panic attack was and planning my day-to-day life with the understanding that I won’t always know when I might break down and how long it would take to put myself back together. 

Survival meant creating new ways to communicate with friends how much I was struggling when it felt impossible to find the right words. 

Survival meant creating a new relationship with the concepts of health and happiness. 

Survival looked like showing up for years of therapy, letting go of friendships that weren’t able to hold my experiences, and embracing the idea that coping is still surviving even when it doesn’t look or feel brilliant or beautiful. 

This is how I heal. This is how I practice radical and creative resistance: I continue to exist in a world that is not made for the thriving of those who experience sexual assault like me. To simply exist is a form of resistance. My healing is how I resist the violence of my own experience, and also the entire patriarchal society that so often fails to create justice for survivors of sexual assault. 

The idea of creative resistance frees me from the urge to seek justice by following the same path that others have, and the assumption that justice only comes from our flawed and broken criminal justice system. 

Creative resistance exists in any of the moments in which I choose to live in a way that doesn’t replicate the norms of rape culture. I practice creative resistance when I believe survivors. I practice creative resistance when I reflect on the ways I can model consent in all aspects of my relationships with others. I practice creative resistance when I continue to learn to value my own boundaries and how best to respect the boundaries of others. 

Anything that creates rather than destroys is a form of resistance. We have endless possibilities for how we make the world a better place. Rather than feeling judgmental or frustrated that we are not all pursuing the same path, I can celebrate the ways in which we use our gifts to resist, no matter how different they are. 

And, from a very special place in my own heart, I can affirm that those who are surviving are a gift to their communities and teaching us more about resistance than we could ever fully appreciate. 

A Blessing for Survivors 

May the support you receive make you feel seen.
May the rage and grief you share be heard.
May your suffering be met by those unafraid of your pain.
May your healing happen on your terms, on your time.
May you always remember that you are not alone.


About Michiko:

MichikoMichiko Bown-Kai (they/them) is a queer person of colour who lives in Toronto, Canada (Treaty 13 – Mississaugas of the Credit, and the land of the Anishnabek, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples). They are currently involved with congregational ministry with The United Church of Canada and a Program Assistant with Generous Space Ministries. You can learn more about their ministry on Facebook at Michiko Bown-Kai – The United Church of Canada, or find them on Instagram @queerkenosis