As I write this, it’s a brisk +11F (before the wind chill which brings it down to a nice round zero). We have a pleasant amount of snow on the ground, and it’s less than two weeks to Christmas. So naturally, my thoughts are turning towards the time after Easter, and the 2017 observance of Break The Silence Sunday on April 23rd.
When I dreamed up Break The Silence Sunday, in the summer of 2015, I had hoped that five or six churches would participate. In our very first year we had nearly 50 communities participating! I hesitate to set a goal for a number of participating congregations this coming year, but I shall instead decide to be grateful for every community that, in whatever way they can, lifts up the voices of survivors, opens a little space, allows a story to be told, and stands in solidarity with those who struggle with the aftermath of rape and sexual violence.
These are challenging days to be a survivor, more so than usual. The election of Mr Trump has reopened a lot of wounds survivors thought were healing. His history of denigrating and objectifying women, abusive and misogynistic speech, and inappropriate physical contact with women as young as fourteen leaves me with a lot of questions that have no satisfying answers: how did this happen – that someone with such a history, such an overt contempt for half the population, could be elected to the highest office in our land?
In the aftermath of the election, as a pastor, my phone has been ringing more than usual with survivors trying to make sense of what’s going on, and what might happen next. They’ve got questions about their safety in a country that already doubted, questioned, and ridiculed them, and now doesn’t seem to care about them at all, putting an abuser in power. These aren’t just political questions the survivors are asking, but there are deep faith questions as well – where is G-d in this? Has G-d given up on us? Is it safe to tell my story anywhere, particularly church?
And in the midst of all this, I have personally had people tell me that the concerns of survivors will just have to take a back seat to the “real” issues facing us, primarily racism and the rights of GLBTQI folks. I’ve been told there’s no threat to women in the new administration, and that, in one person’s mind, all rape victims must surely have done something to make it happen, must surely have wanted it somehow. The number of times I’ve been called a b**ch, and other such names has increased in the days since the election, and I live in rural Wisconsin. My friends in larger communities report the same – name calling, unwanted touching by people on public transport and on the street, harassment online and in person. We have failed, somehow, to see the interconnectedness of our struggles, that racism, sexism, heterosexism, and all the other isms are bound up together, and that we need each other, all of each other, to help dismantle the system that has allowed this hatred to flourish.
But, amidst these challenges, I have hope because people are reaching out to find out how to help, to ask how they might support survivors, to make their communities places where survivors can ask questions, tell their stories, and be heard with dignity and respect.
That’s where you come in dear readers.
The time has come to put together the materials that will be distributed (and available on the website) for Break The Silence Sunday 2017.
- Do you have a prayer?
- A poem?
- A litany?
- A sermon?
- A song?
- A work of art?
- A dance?
- A resource for helping talk to children or youth?
- An idea for any of the above you’d like to share?
And specifically for survivors…
- Are you willing to share your story (either with your name attached or anonymously)?
- Do you have a poem, a prayer, anything that tells your story that you might be willing to share (again, anonymously is always an option)
- Would you be willing to share your picture with us for our growing collection of “This is what a survivor looks like” gallery?
So get out those pens, dust off the computer, put on your dancing shoes, polish up the ukulele, sharpen those crayons … whatever you’ve got.
The working deadline for you to submit your materials is Monday January 16th, 2017, a little more than a month from now. You can send your work, and any questions you might have, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
My deepest gratitude for all your support with this work. Together we are unstoppable.