In February 2014, I happened upon an eye-opening post on SoberMommies.com called, “I Didn’t Trust Women”. I was familiar with the Sober Mommies site, but for whatever reason, this post’s title gave me pause. I immediately reached out to Julie to ask if I could share this post with my fellow advocates, and in our domestic violence support groups for incarcerated women. Thankfully, she said, “Yes.”
I’ve spent nearly ten years of my professional life working with incarcerated women. I can say, anecdotally and in conjunction with our agency’s twelve years of programming, that 90% of the women we work within our county jail and women’s prison have experienced addiction and/or relationship violence at some point in their lives; often at the same time. I currently provide individual advocacy and also co-facilitate a total of four educational support groups each week between the two facilities (which each house between 40-80 women at any given time). Our groups are voluntary, and we generally have anywhere from 15-20 women join us in the tiny classroom within the pod; many of the women are incarcerated for months and come regularly, some are in for just days, and we may see them once and never again.
The women in our groups have both implied and said explicitly that they don’t trust each other. I think they want to, but for their own protection, it seems they genuinely can’t.
So why did this post resonate with me? Because the women in our groups have both implied and said explicitly that they don’t trust each other. I think they want to, but for their own protection, it seems they genuinely can’t. Why? Perhaps because everyone they’ve ever trusted has hurt them (in more ways than one). Maybe they don’t trust each other because they’ve learned that if they do, things they say may be used against them when they leave the safety of group. Maybe they don’t trust each other because they’ve lost the trust of so many others. Maybe it’s because some part of them feels they have to be that, “vindictive bitch,” Rachel refers to in her post. While the reasons—whatever they may be—are understandable, as a woman I find the concept disheartening. When we deny ourselves the ability to be vulnerable and trusting, we may miss opportunities to connect with others. (This is not to say that relationships and connections between incarcerated women don’t happen because they absolutely do.)
As a woman working with women, I see lack of trust present itself as a form of survival, but what I think we can all learn from Rachel’s post is that there is another way to survive. When we feel as though we can’t trust, it may be more about our own feelings about what think we (do or don’t) deserve. So many of the women I work with feel they don’t deserve anything—let alone trust and love—so that’s why stories of hope and recovery, like these from Sober Mommies, are so critical to our discourse.
These stories offer much-needed glimmers of hope and insight into the importance of honoring ourselves and the connections—as women—we genuinely deserve to have with each other.
This wonderfully insightful, touching post was submitted by Amanda from Maine.