A letter to my 23 year old self as I embarked on a life long journey in the movement to end sexual violence.
It's January 2002, you were just offered a consulting job as a Campus Victim Advocacy Coordinator. You have no idea what the hell you are doing. And that is ok. Your major in undergrad did not really prepare you for the work that you are embarking on in ways that you think it should but don't worry about that either. This is the work that God has called you to do. You do not consider yourself to be either a victim or a survivor. But the experiences you have survived as a child and young adult were enough to cause you to cling to rituals, attitudes, beliefs, practices and habits that clearly illustrate your own victimization.
Survivorship is a lifestyle that you did not recognize as your own. You didn't cry hysterically, choose to have evidence collected, turn to prostitution, or alcoholism as evidence that you survived sexual violence. But I saw how you used food to cope. I saw you sneak food, eat fast food in the car on your way to eat dinner or after you've left dinner. I remember the times you binged as soon as you reached home on chips and cookies. And the moments you chose lovers with no strings attached because, sex that you consented to made you feel strong and sexy and normal. I saw you attempt to hide and make yourself smaller because you didn't know you were made in the image of God. I saw you shrink. I saw you not live in your truth because you had no idea what your truth was.
If I knew you as a child and you entrusted me with your story of molestation, I would tell you that you are BRAVE, that YOUR WORDS & BODY MATTER, that even if you experienced pleasure during that assault it was NOT YOUR FAULT. I would tell you that you have every right to be confused, upset, afraid, but that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I would ask you if you wanted help telling your mom & dad. I would encourage you to FIND YOUR VOICE through arts, dancing, sports and/or academic excellence. I would tell you that you are BRILLIANT and talented. I would listen to you. I would ask you about your dreams. I would tell you that no matter what happens that you are one of God's greatest ideas!
I love you,
Your 38 year old self that now serves as a seasoned Victim Advocate
Part 1 of a 3 part series on Victim Advocacy.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence and want to get resources please know there are folks available via 24 hour hotlines and crisis centers. Feel free to contact us if you need specific resources in your city, state or region.
You are invited to RISE Survivor Centered Prayer
this Wednesday at 12 pm