My name is Geertje ‘Peer’ Brinkmann. At a young age I was the victim of sexual violence. I have been raped, assaulted and abused. By strangers as well as people I knew and trusted. The first rape marked the beginning of decades-long denying, despising and being disgusted with myself.
After having stayed silent about the abuse for more than 30 years, in 2016 I began the process of coming to terms with my experience. This has inspired me to create this dance performance, Mourning Flesh. Expressing my deepest emotions, insecurities, pain and recovery through dance and word, I allow the audience into my inner world.
I had to work through the pain, experience the raw reality. From here the mourning began, along with acceptance and a subsequent transformation, allowing me now to live in harmony with the past.
My intention with this dance performance is to give insight into the complexity of the problems resulting from sexual abuse, showing the audience what sexual abuse entails, how it is experienced and what the long-term impact can be on one’s life.
I am no longer a victim, no longer raw flesh. I have been through the mourning process and am now ready to share my story − a story in which some will be able to recognize themselves, perhaps giving them the courage to share their own experiences and feelings with others. Also, in this way I want to support them and give them strength. Embarking on an intensive course of therapy has changed my life for the good, whereby I now feel freer and able to live more lightly. My wish is that this dance performance will support and inspire other victims in dealing with their obstructive feelings and emotional pain.
Unfortunately sexual abuse is still happening everywhere on a daily basis. By dancing my story, I invite everyone to look at what we tend to turn away from, because it is too painful to observe. This form may well be confrontational.
Abuse is often kept hidden, particularly by children. They try to come to terms with it, deluding themselves into believing that it wasn’t so bad, or that it was their own fault. Herein lies the possible seed for low self-esteem, a negative self-image or a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) whereby the risk of being raped anew and/or further abuse increases: a vicious circle.
Mourning Flesh engages the complex feelings that are bound up with intense experiences like this. Feelings of betrayal, anxiety, sorrow, shame and insecurity. It is a quest by body and mind to deal with these traumas. The emotions that are released in the process and often kept hidden, usually with destructive consequences, will always try to find expression.
Mourning Flesh, my personal story, forms the basis for incorporation as educational material in secondary schools and in specialist teaching. It offers young people, social workers and counselors a creative and educational introduction to the subject of ‘abuse’. Mourning Flesh facilitates the dialogue by coupling an interactive teaching module to the performance. The dance performance helps in understanding the kind of pain felt by victims, what they go through and how to deal with it, both for the victims as well as those who have contact with them.
Mourning Flesh – the film?
To prevent any misunderstanding: a successful crowdfunding action was launched to realize the film Mourning Flesh. This film has not appeared, which begs an explanation.
In the period of January through June 2017 I developed the idea for the educational dance performance Mourning Flesh. I changed my plan after being given the opportunity to make a film instead together with two filmmakers. Unfortunately our collaboration was a failure.
A project that had promised to be a constructive and beneficial collaboration turned into an extremely unpleasant experience. Particularly on the question of trust, which is essential in the filming of such a delicate subject, the filmmakers and I were unable to reach an understanding. Because we were unable to make agreements on this question, the further development of the project was halted.
The filmmakers went on, without me knowing, to make their own film. This film has no connection with my personal story.