I say truly that the legacy of violence, shame, and silence in our lives is unbearable.
This week there was the news of the outrageous and inadequate judicial response to Brock Turner’s conviction as a rapist. Also, this week there was news of the bad-ass impact statement made by the woman he raped. The world seemed to erupt and respond.
And in my little corner of the world, scores upon scores of women dear to me shared story after story of surviving sexual transgressions, assaults, violations, rapes – so many names for this cruel damage and still not enough — a breaking open of silence that was energizing and troubling, electric and heart-breaking, political and spiritual, collective and deeply personal.
Unbearable is not a metaphor. Some of us die – from the direct act of violence or from its aftermath.
Those of us who survive in body — mostly women but yes, too many men as well, too many people of all genders — find our way through the chaos and trauma, through a culturally-endorsed dark maze designed by patriarchy and reinforced by misogyny, and we are ever moving towards wholeness.
The path is by no means a straight line, neither is it evident or quick. Often it is an unkind path, a confounding one that brings us – and those who love us — into deeper levels of pain, some of our own apparent crafting.
I affirm (and declare and proclaim and cajole and shout from the hilltops and whisper tenderly) that there is a path towards wholeness.
Sometimes we find our own way along this path, but this is rare. More often than not, we find it with the help of others who have found it before us and shine a light of possibility, of righteous rage, of healing.
We find it by boldly laying claim to that which is ours – our bodies, our autonomy – despite deeply embedded cultural messages and institutionalized structures that not only resist our efforts, actively battle them.
We find it through a counter-intuitive process of surrender that allows us to receive support, healing energies, and the possibility that the jagged edges are not signs of our brokenness, but are the breaking open of toxic secrets.
We chart our way through the false territory of victimhood thrust upon us by the violence visited upon our bodies and create a map that leads to a lush, complex wellspring of survivorship: creativity, empathy, truth-telling & bold ass-kicking in the spirit of justice-seeking. In other words: wholeness.
Too-late blessings to those of us who did not find healing before they left this life. We tell the truth in your name and we resolve not to forget and to hold your memory in the light.
Blessings to those of us who are on the survivors’ path of healing. We add our names to yours that our strength will be in our numbers, in our voices, in our solidarity with one another, chanting that another world is not only possible, she is on her way. You are a source of light and strength for others, even in those times when you cannot see or feel it yourself.
Blessings to those brave and bold ones who speak out against sexual violence, especially to those men who hold themselves and other men accountable. We praise your name, giving thanks for your presence among us as friends, lovers, colleagues, allies, leaders, wise ones.
So this is the messy life of humans: laced with cruelty and injustice.
So this is the messy life of humans: breaking silences and telling our truths.
So this is the messy life of humans: the possibility of justice, healing, and wholeness.
By all that is holy, for all that is good, I offer my gifts to the liberation of all from sexual violence. May our prayers be answered, our actions find their reward, and our vision be affirmed.
Dear ones reading this, I leave you with this poem, “The Low Road,” from Marge Piercy:
It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again and they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.