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We Deserve Body Autonomy

Rights are rights, regardless of whether a government recognizes them as such.

abstract painting by Nicole Javorsky

Dearest Doodle Soupers,

Sometimes, I just don’t know where to begin. Have you felt that way, too? That there’s something you need to say, really need to say, but somehow you feel stuck on that first syllable. Where do I start? How do I begin?

Maybe, that’s what I keep searching for, places to begin. At the first brushstroke, the first tap of the piano keys, the first sound of a song, the first line of a new poem, in his comforting embrace, I keep finding places to begin.

Begin, what? Sometimes, I really believe I do not know, but deep down, I do know. Each time I find a place to begin, I find the strength to take that next leap of faith toward healing and the life I choose.

Too many things were decided for me and it wasn’t right. As a kid, I couldn’t prevent my teacher from abusing his power as an adult in a school to abuse me. I did what I could to survive, using anorexia as a way to cope. I didn’t get to choose the treatment and medical system that reinforced the powerlessness I already felt from being abused. Again, I got the message so young that I didn’t get to have body autonomy, that I was wrong to try to understand what was happening to me. I just wanted somebody to make me feel safe enough to truly heal. And until I did, I faced repeated trauma just trying to keep myself alive.

I didn’t starve myself because “I wanted to be beautiful” or “skinny” or “perfect.” I did it because I didn’t know what else to do. It was a subconscious way for me to try to regain control over my body after my body was violated and to cope with the lack of support I had in comprehending what happened.

Maybe, I’m writing this now because of the news that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, making abortion no longer a federal constitutional right. I don’t know. It’s not just the tangible, the ruling itself. It’s something broader. I’ve heard the argument about how messed up it is - how could you prevent even a rape survivor’s right to an abortion? Yet the question weighing on me is why is it up to the Supreme Court?

I know the logical reasoning, sure. But in my soul, the logic, the reasoning, “the way things are” doesn’t change a thing. Rights are rights, regardless of whether a government recognizes them as such. It was my right to be treated with respect at school and to decide who got to touch me and what was and wasn’t okay with me. That right was violated yet nothing changes what I deserve. I deserve to be treated with respect. I deserve body autonomy.

I get that none of this changes the logistics of accessing the rights we deserve to have protected. And we all deserve to feel safe in feeling whatever comes up: sadness, anger, confusion, grief, etc. I guess what I’m trying to express is society, government institutions, and honestly sometimes even just other people in general can have a way of messing with our heads and this can have a profound impact on us. Society attempting to control groups of people, whether it’s women, racial and ethnic minorities, children, indigenous people, etc., is real sh*t. It’s abuse at a different scale. Abuse can involve physical harm, manipulation, gaslighting, trying to control another human being, taking advantage of what are otherwise amazing strengths in humanity like kindness, openness, acceptance toward others.

Abuse is really hard to combat for a reason: it’s an attempt to block us from knowing what we deserve. For example, being abused led me to feel shame, exhaustion, confusion, powerless. Seeing the reality helps me grapple with all this, which many days still makes my head spin. Yet, seeing the reality also leads me to the next questions: how could it be? How could it be that something so awful is so common? What does peace mean and for whom? What does freedom look like? How do I accept the facts and where do they lead me? And these questions lead me to recognize lots of truths, some comforting, some inspiring and empowering, and some still downright awful.

I keep learning that I live in a world full of beauty, cruelty, cycles of destruction, cycles of creation, a world full of joy and a world full of pain, a world full of love and a world full of hate, a world full of abusers and a world full of healers too. Neither fact changes the other and yet, well, neither fact changes the other.

I’m not trying to say that any of this makes it okay or that the hate cancels out the love or the love cancels out the hate. It’s not a silver lining either. It’s the duality of how I feel and what I know and in this moment, I’m not sure quite what to do with it other than to express this and share what comes to me with you, dearest Doodle Soupers.

In truth and with love to you wherever and however you are,

Nicole Sylvia Javorsky


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