Head Over Feels: Anthems of my recovery
*Content Warning: This article discusses themes of violence, trauma, and sexual assault.
The first time I heard a musical artist sing openly about sexual assault was in the song “Innocent Party” by Jetty Bones, the musical project of singer and songwriter Kelc Galluzzo. Galluzzo wrote, “I fell for a trick and fell into the trap of thief’s bed/ Who stole what I’ve known/ Corrupted my bones and left me there for dead.” I heard this lyric during an important time in my life—I was struggling to cope with my own sexual trauma.
I was assaulted in January of 2018, but repressed the resulting trauma until months later, when I finally felt ready to work through it. I found Galluzzo’s music in June of the same year, and my connection with her words propelled my willingness to address what happened to me instead of pushing it down.
“Some things happened that made my brain snap,” Galluzzo said in an interview with Ghettoblaster Magazine about her EP. “I wanted to help people, but I didn’t want anyone to help me, or even really see me for the trash I felt like, which made it impossible for me to let people in and let them connect to any real parts of me.”
After I first heard “Innocent Party,” I listened to Jetty Bones’ whole 2017 EP “Old Woman,” and it topped my most-listened-to Spotify analytics by the end of the year. It became the anthem to my recovery.
I initially saw recovery as a process that once I completed, I would be rid of forever. I journaled, I talked to my therapist, I made art, and I spoke to other survivors. Yet when January arrived, my seemingly perfect healing process started to unravel as the date of my assault approached.
Psychologists call the phenomenon of being re-triggered by a traumatic event around its anniversary an “anniversary reaction.” The National Center for PTSD states that “anniversary reactions can range from feeling mildly upset for a day or two to a more extreme reaction with more severe mental health or medical symptoms.”
In my case, I felt more vulnerable and sensitive. I felt affected more often by things that didn’t usually upset me, like news of sexual assault on television. At the time, I became mad at myself for being unable to stick to my healing process—I felt weak and hated that this event held so much power over my emotions.
Realizing I was still feeling the effects of my assault over a year later angered me—I thought I had finished the healing process and come out the other side, but I hadn’t. The man who assaulted me took so much from me, and I just wanted the mental labor I had suffered through to come to an end. It wasn’t fair that his actions hurt me so much when I wasn’t at fault for them. I mostly felt upset with myself for being too fragile to move on.
As I reconciled with this seemingly never-ending cycle of re-traumatization, recovery, and inner resentment, Galluzzo released a new EP, titled “-”. In the opening track, “better,” she sings “And all I could hear was you telling me I’m only / Good with my back in a bed / While you settle the score / With my face pushed to the floor.”
Hearing these words ignited a fire in me—I felt empowered in a completely different way. While Galluzzo’s first EP comforted me as a victim and uplifted my personal growth, these lyrics were pointed and direct, placing total blame on her assailant. Her use of “you” directly calls out the person who hurt her, placing accountability solely on them. The lyrics told me even though I hadn’t fully healed, I was still strong and nothing was my fault.
In the second track on the EP, Galluzzo sings, “You expected / For all of this to fall under the rug / I bet you never really thought I’d tug at it.” She addresses the fact that women generally remain silent after experiencing sexual violence. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network published statistics stating that in every 1,000 sexual assault cases, only 230 are reported and only 4.6 perpetrators on average actually face incarceration. Statistics like these, among other reasons, discouraged me from reporting my own assault.
Galluzzo exemplifies an incredible amount of strength through this song, even as she ends it by repeating the lines, “Pacing in my kitchen / Pacing in my bedroom / Pacing on my front lawn / Moving to the porch soon.” These words stayed with me, as they reflected the inner conflict I struggled with in terms of reporting or even just talking about what happened to me.
I struggle almost every day with recovering from sexual trauma even a year and a half later. Listening to songs like “Innocent Party” made me feel warm and less alone. I could acknowledge my own personal growth and feel empowered through it. However, the lyrics to “better” and Galluzzo’s entire “-” EP felt so unique they shook me to my core the first time I heard them. They weren’t speaking to me as a victim. They were speaking for me to my abuser. My anger felt acknowledged and justified, and instead of reflecting inward and feeling mad at myself for being unable to fully recover, I was able to look outward at the person who caused my pain.
I shouldn’t have to go through a grueling healing process at the fault of another person. I shouldn’t have to think about my assault almost every day and worry about triggers that pop up everywhere. No victim should because it’s not our fault. Survivors need to know it’s okay to feel angry about what happened to us. It’s okay to sustain that anger over years. It’s okay to put blame on the person responsible. We need popular media that speaks to that rhetoric, and I’m forever grateful to Jetty Bones for creating the space for it.