Yet again, one of our amazing volunteers has stepped forward with an insightful and important blog. Becky has a long history as a sexual abuse a rape victim’s advocate. She currently works with the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence. Becky’s voice and perspective on recovering from sexual assault are poignant, well thought out, and extremely astute. We have another blog from Becky that we will be posting in the coming weeks as well. Thank you so much, Becky, for sharing with us your sensitive outlook.
As an advocate for many years, I am intimately acquainted with the concept of empowerment – the act or state of gaining control over one’s life and choices. It is the backbone of efforts to overcome various forms of oppression, including sexual violence. In fact, the history of the rape crisis movement is part of the history of women of color striving to overcome the racist and sexist oppression they’ve experienced, of which rape was (and continues to be) a weapon. As survivors, we are generally empowered when we are believed, informed, and supported in our decisions.
Empowerment is a wonderful thing, but I have discovered that in our desire to re-establish a sense of empowerment in our journey as survivors, we risk failing to honor the very real disempowerment that we feel at various points along the way. For one or more reasons, both internal and external, we often fail to allow ourselves to grieve the innocence, time, peace of mind, and power that have been lost. Sometimes we are all guilty of overlooking the need to grieve in our quest for empowerment.
I’m too busy, I don’t have time, it’s been too long, it’s pointless, I need to be strong for others, I should be over it, it’s in the past, it’s over now, it doesn’t matter, it’s selfish, it’s inconsequential, why bother. Does any of this sound familiar? Have you said these things to yourself, or have others said them to you? If so, you are in good company. But here’s the thing: Grieving is not only powerful, it is also empowering. Allowing yourself to take a time out, to become vulnerable in a safe environment, to feel and release the pain that’s been carried inside – it’s a gift that requires and produces strength.
There’s a child in the deepest part of me whose innocence was cruelly robbed. That child deserves to be honored and her suffering deserves to be grieved as often as needed. Even though I’m an advocate by trade and thus should know better, I still struggle to give myself this permission. At seemingly random moments, I feel the punch in the gut that comes when the realization of being raped washes over me anew, but I quickly shoo it away as though it were a fly. In reality, it is the child in me, the scab over my broken heart, aching to be acknowledged and validated. And that’s okay.
My fellow survivors, you are models of empowerment, and sharing your voices helps to empower other survivors. Within this beautiful community of healing and understanding, let’s not forget to allow each other the gift of grieving. I love my life and I hope you love yours, but what we’ve experienced hurts. On the road to empowerment, don’t forget to honor the power and healing that is found in grieving.