Being heard -
Today, for the first time in a very long time I actually felt like my voice was heard - and not just my personal voice but the voice of a once former victim - was actually heard and made a difference. It came, like most things of importance and significance, in the nick of time.
For the past week or so I've been catching some flack from a couple of people for being so open about my situation - my history - and allowing my name to be out there - out here on the net - with all that "dirty laundry" connected to it.
"People are going to judge you...,make fun of you....think you're looking for the 'wrong' type of attention....you'll get trolled (aka bored idiots will internet stalk you) ...blah blah blah...etc....blah"
But rather than listen to the naysayers....even though I must admit it was starting to bite at me....I listened to my gut telling me I am doing the right thing - that keeping my mouth shut ads to the stigma of child sexual assault, domestic violence..and sexual assault...so I need to keep talking..especially when I know when I've been blessed with this big mouth of mine.
Back in the day....(yeah, I am old enough to say that) ....I was quiet about the things that mattered and chattered about the things that didn't - it got me nowhere except my truth eating away at me knowing that it needed to be heard - it needed to have a voice.
Today - this very afternoon...something happened that convinced me that I am on the right path -
I've been attending my county's coalition against domestic violence and sexual assault for about 2 years now. The coalition is made up of various agencies including law enforcement, human services, probation, and advocacy organizations. Just about every county has one of these coalitions...well, almost.
They're officially known as Coordinated Community Response Teams (CCR) - it's where a dialogue is suppose to occur between the professionals that work with victims and perpetrators of the above mentioned crimes. They network...work on training's, education and community outreach. All very important things that need to occur if we ever hope to lower the numbers of these crimes that occur. All there sincerely, I believe, want to make that impact.
I can say that now - however a few years ago.....going on 4 to be exact....I didn't believe that. The reason for that is because I, at that time, was that victim - a victim who happened to have many years of experience of advocating on behalf other issues under my belt.
Back then I was knee deep in pain and in navigating the very system all those agency people represented. I was angry - hurt - fearful - I was raw - My emotions were surging and battling - the fear and pain of the victim and then the assertiveness of the advocate. - it was as overwhelming as it sounds.
I felt like a ping pong ball being tossed around from one agency to another - one telling me one thing...another telling me something else - and always feeling like that "take a number and when you're called we'll go through the routine."
Now, anyone who knows me know that never sat well with me and it wouldn't take much before that advocate in me would kick in - Like I just said above...overwhelming ....overwhelming for me - and also those professionals.
I knew then I offered a unique perspective and that one day all of it....having to live through that time in my life...surviving what I did...and all those motions ...would one day make sense - a reason would show itself. I held on to that....and hence the reason for this blog - as well as for the reason I fought to attend those CCR meetings.
When I first tried...I was told by a representative of an advocacy organization that I couldn't attend as an individual. I think she was worried about what I was going to say -
Then something happened - I attained a position that automatically made me a person at that table - I can remember the first time I walked in and that one person saw me....I thought she would faint ( btw...Hey "L" remember...I told you to never tell me NO...that just makes me more driven!). But even back then I couldn't share the real voice I wanted - there was a lot going on then within the coalition and it was not healthy for anyone.
I continued to attend those meetings, even when I was no longer in that position - once at that table I wasn't going to leave - I am so thankful I did - I learned a lot - I heard the frustrations that agencies deal with - I knew the people speaking - the human element was starting to shine through - I started seeing them as the person they were rather than that agency person who once did or didn't do something when I was that victim.
For a while I bit my tongue because I knew some weren't ready to 'hear' me - but over the last year or two a lot has happened - changes have been made in the representatives from the advocacy organization sitting at the table....and now the coalition is working once again towards the goal we need to -
It's been a lot of work by all involved - and today...this afternoon was one of those meetings - and it was a meeting that for the very first time at that table I shared the voice of the victim like I never, there, did before. It wasn't easy because I didn't want anyone to think I was pointing fingers at them, but like I said ..I've gotten to know them as a 'person' - I think they were finally seeing me as a 'person' too - and they were ready to hear that voice I had in me - the one that's been bursting to get through in a way that could have a positive impact -
And it's not just my voice - but over the last year and a half I've been the ear to other victims that have made their way to me through Lend a Hand - you'd be amazed at how many people share a common bond of living through domestic violence or surviving sexual assault - it's actually scary to think there's this much pain in the world and so many still refuse to speak openly about it. People still fear that stigma - they still think it's 'dirty laundry' -
Well today I aired that dirty laundry and was blunt in describing to certain people...representing certain agencies...what it is like to be that victim accessing the justice system or their services - and they heard me. A dialogue occurred - there was no pointing fingers but rather active listening.
I can remember that just before I spoke up I took a deep breath in and thought to myself it's now or never - I needed to be blunt - I needed that voice to be heard -
I was able to tell them about things that happen,,,or what goes on in the mind of a victim at the time of crisis and why they act a certain way or why not - or even how frustrating something is, especially when you feel like nothing more than a number.
It was pretty amazing - the varying agencies learned about each other (things they never realized before) and how they could come together for the victim during certain times ....yes....there was an actual dialogue - and ALL voices were being represented.
I tend to be a hopeful person...believe it or not - and today...leaving that meeting - that hope ran deep in me - A hope that from this day on when another case happens and there is a woman in front of one of them who has either been a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault - every person in that room will remember something from today - and maybe life....the process... will just a little bit easier for the that woman and her road to survivor will have a few less barriers to deal with.
After the meeting two women who were there helping to facilitate it and happen to be from a state based agency, came up to me and thanked me for having the courage to be that voice - what they had no idea about was that I was so very thankful to be able to speak it where it could be heard. It wasn't courage - it was meant to be - because...again ...today proved...Everything Happens for a Reason - you just need to believe in yourself to be able to see it. ...