Exhibit: A Dress Speaks
Exposición: Un Vestido Habla

Profane Sacrement

Adult molested by her father from ages 4 to 8

A sacrament is an oath made before God. In an incestuous relationship, the secret that is held in suspension between the two participants has a power over them greater than almost any force. People who cannot believe (or who feign disbelief) of the prevalent rate of sexual abuse among our children participate in the well-orchestrated, collective secret.

The child’s body is a sacred space, with sacred but not infrequently disappointed rights to protection, the most basic duty of a parent. To be profane is to injure or violate something sacred. Between them, then, the oath is profane, yet upheld like a sacrament.

The red awl represents the pain of violation, and the memory that arose from exploring the ashes of her abusive relationship patterns, of her father torturing her with a screwdriver.

The communion tray represents our common plight, and the partaking of bodily nourishment as a form of salvation. It also represents resilience. For to the incested child, partaking in the ritual is a way of survival, and leads to her salvation for one more day. Too inexperienced to know that this is not a normal expectation, she fails to inform others of any wrong. The disparate messages that are sent to her confuse her and make her doubt her own reality. How could she ever comprehend the complexities of such a power driven relationship, with a father that practices religion daily? There was no category for this experience in her language.

The candles represent the enlightenment that is required to take on the unwelcome memories of betrayal that emerge and integrate the originally repressed pain into a new creation story. Many lights of acceptance, knowledge, anger, and support were required. In the center, the old creation story, with Father as God making the daughter, and Adams blame of Eve in the garden. For the story goes, the child (woman) is responsible for the father’s (man’s) behavior. And she is the reason for fall from grace. Though in this child’s case, she alone is being thrust from the garden.

The pigs and cows walk along the communion lid, fellow creatures daily sacrificed, as a matter of course. As the favorite burger shop is far, far away from out thoughts of the slaughterhouse, our trips to the school play or the little league team take us back to the world of normalcy, and far from thoughts of abuse occurring daily in many children’s lives. The Mary figure is the saving grace. Standing on the communion lid, she knows the meaning of sacrifice. Red, from her god presence through the shame and anger of reliving those moments, the old perceptions of religion lose meaning in her light. On the way to enlightenment, untruths are obstacles, and true forgiveness is not rushed. Releasing the sacrament of the profane through acknowledging the truth of the child’s experience, the adult discovers what is for the human spirit sacrosanct (inviolable to profanity), and returns to a presence in the body that has not before been fully inhabited.

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