Orlando, Vanderbilt, Grief, Outrage & Change

It’s barely Tuesday afternoon and it’s already been a hell of a week.

As many (all?) of you know in the small hours of Sunday morning a man walked into Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL. Armed with guns with ridiculous power, designed only to kill and maim, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, he began shooting. He took aim at some of the most vulnerable members of our society, our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, and intersex (LGBTQQAI) family and friends.

Forty-nine people who had gone out to have a good time, to dance, and laugh, and celebrate with their friends lost their lives. (Many media reports list fatalities at 50, but that number includes the shooter.) Incredible numbers of people were injured: physically in the shooting; emotionally by being one of the police officers or paramedics or fire fighters who responded to the tragedy to tend the wounded;  by learning of their loved one’s deaths; and by being a part of the LGBTQQAI community, in Orlando, and around the world, reminded of their connection, and their vulnerability.

The number of vigils has been amazing, and the hands that have reached out to help, and the voices that have spoken up about love has been helpful to tired, and weary hearts. I am most moved by scenes of Muslims, who are in the midst of their Ramadan fast, and who are sadly called upon once again to defend their faith, lining up to donate blood, and offer water and food to others waiting to do so. And I am grateful for the voice of churches like mine, the United Church of Christ, and their witness of love, justice, and inclusion of all God’s children.

But even amid that, there’s been a lot of awfulness – media outlets attempting to ignore that the victims were LGBTQQAI, hypocrites who in recent weeks had been spewing hate and bigotry now praying for the very communities they were condemning, politicians turning these deaths into talking points for their own agendas, and folks who just can’t seem to understand the scope of gun violence in our country. A lot of my friends are hurting, grieving the loss of what had been safe places, and mourning for people they never met, but with whom they shared their lives. This is probably already too many words from me on the subject, so I stand with them, and listen, awaiting their instructions and ideas about how I can be of help.

Meanwhile, my own community of survivors of rape and sexual violence are reeling.

Stanford has slipped off the radar for most people, gone to wherever viral internet things go when they aren’t viral anymore, but I promise you survivors are paying attention, still reading the articles now moved to page six, listening in the silence for a commitment to change.

And then there’s Vanderbilt University, back in the news with a case from 2013 that caused considerable public outcry, but has since been largely forgotten.

In June of 2013, four members of the Vanderbilt football team – Corey Batey, Brandon Banks, Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, and Brandon Vandenburg – took a woman back to the dorms after a party. There they proceeded to rape her, and videotape the rape, distributing it across various social networks.

Mr Batey and Mr Vandenburg were convicted in January of 2015, but then because of some issues with a juror, a mistrial was declared. Mr Batey was retried and convicted in April of this year and is awaiting sentencing this summer. (Mr Banks and Mr McKenzie are still awaiting trial, and Mr McKenzie is expected to be the prosecution’s lead witness in the trial against Mr Vandeburg.)

Mr Vandenburg is on trial again now. After a difficult process of empaneling an out of town jury which will be sequestered in Nashville during the trial, the trial began on Monday of this week. The defense’s argument on why Mr Vandenburg should not be convicted might sound a bit familiar:

He was a good kid with a promising future who got in over his head, his family was 2000 miles away in California, he looked to the other players as his brothers, his role models, and in the words of his attorney, “he didn’t know that that’s the way these guys did things at Vanderbilt.”

My community – survivors of rape, abuse, and sexual violence – are grieving. And every day 808 more people join us (there is an average of one rape or sexual assault in the U.S. every 107 seconds). Every now and again there’s a vigil, when a big case like Stanford or Vanderbilt break. Sure, there are vigils, and walks, and such in April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but not for the almost 34 people an hour, each and every day, who are violently, and intimately violated in this country (much less the 1 in 2 women around the world who will be raped, abused, or assaulted in their lifetime).

I don’t mean this to turn in to a competition, some sort of grief and oppression olympics of who is more or less deserving of a rally or a vigil, and if I have offended I do hope you’ll comment here with compassion rather than vitriol.

Rather I would hope that this might be a moment for us to understand just how interconnected all these forms of oppression, and discrimination, and bigotry are. The social structures that led to the violence in Orlando, are connected to those that see our young black (and brown and native American) men killed by those who should protect them, and those are connected to the religious bigotry that condemn all Muslims for the actions of one, and those are connected to rape culture which teaches men like Mr Vandenburg that they have a right to use a woman for whatever they want without consequence.

Heterosexism, racism, Islamaphobia, gun culture, and sexism – they’re all tied up together. To solve these problems, to create a better tomorrow, we’re going to have to work together, to recognize the particularities of our own struggles, and the places where those struggles connect with others. It’s going to be hard, and messy, and painful. It’s going to scare us, and shake us to the depths of who we think we are, but it’s all we’ve got. There is no them, there is only us, one people who all desperately deserve to be free to live, and love, and dance, and run, and celebrate, and walk their dogs after dark, and be themselves – at home, at work, at the night club, at church, at the grocery store, everywhere.

I could keep writing, there are so many words, and emotions swirling in my head, a jumble of sad and angry, confused and scared. Instead I’ll leave you with some words about how we might translate our internet outrage and grief (which is wonderful and important) into something more. Kia Groom writes, in an article called “Want To Show Your Solidarity With Victims? Then Actually Take Action”:

Stop waiting until the story breaks. Stop waiting until you feel safe to stand up. Expressing solidarity is not supposed to be easy. It is challenging. It is terrifying. It calls upon us to make difficult decisions, to risk our alliances, our careers, our reputations—perhaps even our bodies—on behalf of others. Not because we have something to gain, but because it is the right thing to do. … The actions you take in your day to day lives matter. Whether you speak up or stay silent. Whether you step in. Whether you take a stand. Don’t wait for a body count. You can make a difference—even if you don’t make the headlines.

For the rest of the article, click here.

My hope and prayer friends, is that the tragedy, the grief, the heartache of this week might move and change us, might bring us together, might unite us to strive together for a more perfect world.

For more information about the Vanderbilt case, click here, and look for the link at the bottom of that page to follow updates.

 

Yes you have…

The world, or at least the internet, is up in arms about the paltry sentence given out by a judge in Santa Clara county, California last week. We could call it the Stanford University Swimmer case in which Brock Turner, age 20, raped an unconscious 23 year old woman behind a dumpster. The judge, Aaron Persky, sentenced Mr Turner to 6 months in jail (not prison) and three years of probation (which could be three months based on good behavior). The survivor wrote a stunning victim impact statement and authorized its release to the media. You can find it here, but be prepared as the statement has graphic descriptions of rape and medical procedures. To make the situation all the more complicated, Mr Turner’s father wrote a pre-sentencing report to the judge in which he laments, not his son’s actions, but that “these verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways. His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life. … He has no prior criminal history and has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of Jan 17th 2015.”

The internet’s comment sections are not places for the faint of heart on a slow news day, and that is doubly true with anything revolving around the Stanford case. While many people are outraged, others are taking Mr Turner and his father’s side arguing that since alcohol was a factor it should mitigate responsibility, and that this promising young man’s life is forever ruined by what the survivor accused him of (not what he did). Still worse are the people hoping that Mr Turner will be raped in prison so that he can experience first hand what he did to someone else. Let me be perfectly clear … that is NOT ok. It is never, ever, ever acceptable to advocate anyone being raped, ever. It’s not a joke, it’s not a punishment, and acting as if it is perpetuates rape culture just as much as anything the judge, or Mr Turner’s father have said in this case.

Meanwhile, over in Texas there’s another storm brewing at Baylor University. Several players, and at least one coach, of the university’s championship winning football team have been accused of violence, and sexual assault. The allegations are that the university knew about what was going on, and covered it up, silencing victims, and working with the Waco, TX police department to make sure nothing was “leaked”. You can read a summary of the case from the Dallas News here.

All of this, plus the case against Mr Cosby, the brutal gang rape of a young woman in Brazil, and more, can leave you sick to your soul. It has made me want to scream, and cry (both of which I’ve done), and resort to some violence of my own (which I haven’t done and won’t do). And more than anything it has made me wonder a bit why I bother with all this Break The Silence Sunday work. The problem is so overwhelming, so big, that my little drop in the bucket seems utterly pointless against the ocean of rape culture, and violence.

But then, there’s the gentle, unexpected moment that reminds me what you can do with a bit of compassion, and one voice.

I have a friend who runs for fun which is something I do not understand at all, but she runs in all kinds of charitable events, and I go along to cheer her own, hold her jacket, time her races, and make sure she eats her pre-race banana.

On Saturday last, in the midst of a drizzly rain, we went off to one such race in Green Bay to benefit the Tourette’s Foundation. After my friend and the other runners set out I sat on a bench with another woman who was there to support her family members who were running. When the drizzle intensified we took to the nearby shelter where they had the pre-race bananas, and coffee, and rather delicious rice krispy treats. We talked about a whole range of things, and discovered that we knew several people in common, and then it was time to go to the finish line to cheer on the returning racers.

After the race we were standing around talking – the woman and her family, my friend, and I – and that’s when the woman noticed my “This is what a rape survivor looks like” button.

She was visibly stunned and said, “I’ve never met a rape survivor before.”

A slew of responses ran through my head, from frustration, to outrage, to anger, to laughter. A huge part of me wanted to shake her and scream.

Instead, as calmly and evenly as I could, I said, “yes you have.”

It wasn’t a moment to rail at her in outrage. It wouldn’t have accomplished anything.

It wasn’t the time to scream statistics at her. She wouldn’t have been able to listen just yet.

Instead, it was a time for one calm, even voice offering her the truth in a way she might be able to hear. “Yes you have.”

You’ve met a rape survivor because we sit next to you at church, and work in the next cubicle, and shop at the same grocery store. We’re on the PTA, the soccer dads, and the moms who bake cookies for the little league.

As we stood there, after the race, this woman and I, something in her heart changed. I don’t know where it will lead her, or what she will do with her new information (she was eventually open to the most basic statistic … one in six women in the U.S. in their lifetime will be raped or assaulted). But I do know that something changed in her. She has had an invitation to open her heart, and her mind to an entirely new way of looking at the world, and the people around her. She has my card, and the link to this blog, and I imagine some challenging days ahead of her as she re-evaluates what she used to believe.

Sometimes I wish that BTSS was moving faster, making a bigger change, ending the universally damaging system of patriarchy and rape culture overnight. But I am enough of a student of history, and just enough of a realist, to understand that’s not how lasting, true social change happens. It’s the relentless persistence of one conversation, and then another, of one heart being opened, and then another, that eventually moves mountains.

One of the most amazing things about the survivor’s statement is the final paragraph which I quote here. She writes to girls, but I would remind us all that men and boys are victims as well…

And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats dos ave; they just stand there shining. Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you.

Her courage, and her solidarity to stand with all survivors, is what BTSS is about. And yes, this work is agonizingly slow at times, but it is the only way, to stand with my feet firmly on the ground, trusting in the hesed (unfailing love of G-d) that I cannot see, and saying:

“Yes you have, you have met a rape survivor, because I am one.

Yes you have, you have met a rape survivor,
now let’s do something together so no one else ever has to wear this button.

Yes, you have.”

Pictures

Thank you to everyone who has sent in feedback about their experience with the first Break The Silence Sunday. I’m grateful to see the things you did, the changes and interpretations you made to the liturgy, the ways you integrated the themes into things you already had going on. If you haven’t sent anything, I’d be grateful for a few lines by email as that will help formulate ideas for next year.

Now, on to newer things.

Break The Silence Sunday will have a display booth at the 2016 Wisconsin Conference UCC Annual Meeting (June 10-12). We hope to increase awareness of the movement, and perhaps reach churches that weren’t sure about participating this year, and churches that somehow missed the invitation.

As part of the display, I would like to include pictures of survivors.

I know this isn’t something everyone is able to do, but if you’re feeling up to it, I would ask for you to find a piece of paper and with a nice big marker write “This is what a rape SURVIVOR looks like #BTSS” on it. (#BTSS is our snazzy hashtag … look how hip to technology we are.)

You can send the pictures to me by email at breakthesilencesunday@gmail.com, or on our Facebook page Break The Silence Sunday Facebook.

If you do send a picture, please note:

  • You have the choice to include your name, or not;
  • You’re giving me permission to use it in both print and online media (Facebook, this blog, and other places as appropriate) for purposes of promoting and increasing awareness about Break The Silence Sunday;
  • I will do my best to notify you of when, and how, your picture is being used.

As an example, here’s my picture…

Moira Finley clergy collar
Moira Finley

Thank you for thinking about participating.

What happens next?

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is over. Our collective attention turns to things to remember in May  – brain cancer awareness, lupus awareness, and mental health awareness month to name the ones that are closest to my life.

Sadly, SAAM came and went without a word from the national leadership of the UCC. Not a facebook status (on the national page, or the justice & witness page); not a blog post; not a mention in the keeping you posted emails. There were a few pictures of the national staff wearing black on Thursdays (#thursdaysinblack – a campaign to end violence against women), but even those stopped being posted about mid-April.

It’s left me sad, and more than a little disillusioned, unsure where I fit in my denomination, one that proclaims enthusiastic welcome of all, who talks the talk about embracing us all wherever we are on life’s journey, and yet … there is silence about something that affects so many of the people who sit in our pews, and do the work of our churches. It breaks my heart to see all the justice issues we lift up (which we surely should be doing – all of them incredibly important, and interconnected), and to see no mention of something that affects about 1/4 of the world’s population. I don’t know what to make of the silence of the national church, but I have to be honest with myself (and with you dear reader) that it hurts my heart, and my soul.

I am trying, however, to find focus and hope with the good news of courageous congregations that opened their worship spaces, and their hearts to Break The Silence Sunday this year.

The Wisconsin Conference of the UCC has been fabulous, thanks in large part to the enthusiastic support Break The Silence Sunday has received from our conference minister, the Rev Franz Rigert. Word is still coming in from congregations that participated, or will be soon when it fits their liturgical calendar. The feedback has been incredibly positive, and life-giving. (There’s still plenty of time to send in an evaluation, a few notes about what you did, how you did it, how it was received, and so on … drop us an email please.)

And there have been other places where BTSS has found a listening reception – Congregational UCC in Decorah, IA; Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO; Rincon Congregational in Tucson, AZ; and more.

I am grateful to each and every congregation, and pastor, and lay leader who took the brave step of opening up this conversation that matters so very much.

As we look ahead, it will take some time to gather information, worship bulletins, and evaluations from congregations that participated. Then the work begins – of writing new materials, adapting what we did this year, gathering prayers, and artwork, and music, and resources for congregations. New materials will be produced every year until rape is no more.

We will have a display at the Wisconsin Conference UCC annual meeting at Green Lake Conference center, June 10-12. You won’t be able to miss our very purple display. You’ll be able to get your BTSS buttons, and stickers, and order a t-shirt or twelve. You’ll be able to look at materials from congregations that participated in 2016, consider statistics and ways to integrate the ideas from BTSS into your worship and education programs throughout the year.

If anyone reading here is interested in creating something to be included in the 2017 materials, the deadline will be sometime in early December, but there’s no need to wait – get out the paint brushes, the dancing shoes, the banner making materials, the composition paper, the pens, and pencils. You can send materials via email at anytime.

And for now, let us pray together that the silence of the church about rape and sexual violence, which we have successfully broken in small, but meaningful ways, might continue to be broken, and that the perhaps deliberate silencing of survivors might come to an end.

Arundhati Roy

BTSS 2016 ~ In The Books

Well, we did it. The first Break The Silence Sunday is done. It was an important day in the life of our parish, a hard day for many, but one where we opened up space for the holy to come in and renew us with grace and mercy.

Word is starting to trickle in from other congregations, and communities that observed Break The Silence Sunday. My deepest gratitude to everyone who helped plan, and lead worship in these places, and to everyone who even read the materials that they might be useful in the future.

If you, or your community, used the resources for 2016 in any way (or are planning to in the coming months), please help by filling out the survey at the end of the packet, or emailing your notes about what you did, creative ideas you employed, hymn changes you made, and all those things. You can send it by postal mail to the address in the packet, or just drop us an email.

I took a few days off after months (years really) of working on BTSS. I had some nice naps, and read a novel, and let someone else cook for me. Now, back at my desk, a kitten sleeping nearby, I’m reminded that it’s time to pick up the work again, to start thinking about BTSS 2017 and what kind of materials we might need to create, new prayers to write, new songs to sing, and so much more.

Save this date now – Sunday April 23, 2017

New materials will be available in mid to late January (if you’re interested in writing a prayer, suggesting a hymn, offering an idea for story telling, designing a banner, or contributing in any way, please drop us an email … it’s never too early to start).

In the meantime, several people have asked what I said as a sermon reflection during worship in our parish so I include it here for you.

Reflection for Break The Silence Sunday 2016The world suffers because of the silence
Rev Moira Finley
Tri-Jo Parish United Church of Christ

I desperately wish we were not gathered here today for Break The Silence Sunday. I wish it was something we didn’t need to do, to honor the stories of survivors of rape and sexual violence; to admit that the church has often failed to stand with those survivors, to help them through their pain, accompany them in their grief, and offer them the promise of G-d’s incredible grace. But we need to be here, gathered together as G-d’s people, facing our fears, letting the tears flow, and opening ourselves up to the work before us that someday a day like this will not be necessary.

The work of Break The Silence Sunday is something that I have been trying to get to happen for nearly fifteen years. My hope that the church, in every place, could be a place of healing and hope for survivors, a place of advocacy and social change has been met with resistance, and hostility. I am too stubborn to stop sometimes and so I kept pushing, even though it felt like the door to even have a conversation about rape in the church was firmly shut. That was, until our conference minister, the Rev Franz Rigert, offered to help me open the door. And so Break The Silence Sunday was born, and today with churches in Wisconsin and a few other places, we are experimenting with this idea of committing ourselves to listening to survivors; to facing the pain, and heartache without judgement or pity; and to working for a change in our society, and around the world, that rape might someday be a thing of the past.

I thought about telling my story of being a rape survivor this morning, but I have done that in this place, surrounded by your great love, before. I did, for those of you who may not have heard it, print a few copies of my story, or at least part of it, and you can take those home, and ask me questions about it later.

But what I realized I really wanted to say today is why this matters so much to me.

I have these buttons that say “This is what a rape survivor looks like”, and I wear them on most days. They are quite something, and they engage people in ways I would never have imagined.

There was the woman in front of me in the check-out line at the grocery store. I smiled and said hello, and then she paused for a rather long time and read my button. She looked at the button, and then at my face, and back to the button, and back to my face and then she said, “you should be ashamed of yourself.” I was confused, so I asked for some clarification. She said I should be ashamed of advertising that I was broken, damaged, and a loose woman. It took about every ounce of patience, and faith I had to not start screaming at her that I have nothing to be ashamed of, that the only ones who bear shame are the men who raped me.

But then there was the woman at the Fleet Farm. I was browsing in the candy and nuts aisle, and a woman was there stocking the shelves. I said hello, and she stopped to read my button. Then she started to cry. She sat down on the floor, her head in her hands, and managed to whisper, “I’ve never told anyone what happened to me.” So I sat down on the floor with her, and held her hand until she caught her breath, and there, in the candy aisle, for the first time in her life, a beautiful woman named Carol told me what happened to her nearly forty years before.

Those things, like what happened with Carol, are far more common than things like what happened with the woman at the grocery story. I have found that the button is a little bitty opening of the door for people who have lived for so long in silence, carrying within them the stories of pain, and heartache, and violence that the world thinks we should be ashamed of. And every time I encounter one of those angry, shaming, hateful people, I remember Carol and so many others who need today to happen even if they aren’t here with us this morning.

I have heard stories from people who were abused as young as three and four, from people who were raped in their sixties and seventies, and everything in between. I’ve heard from people who knew their assailants, because they were members of their family, or a trusted friend, or a member of their church, or a romantic partner, and people who were assaulted by strangers, and those who were somewhere in between, someone they kind knew was the one who raped them. I’ve heard from women, and men, from people of all races, and faith traditions, and economic status. I’ve heard from people who prosecuted, when through the struggle of the judicial system to try and find justice, and from people who never told anyone what happened.

And over, and over again what I have heard, and what I know from my own experience, is how hard the stories are to carry alone, in shame, and in silence. A story that we are afraid to speak, or ashamed to share, or one that we have told and it has been met with disbelief, doubt, and scorn – those stories, inside of us, given no voice, receiving no true compassionate listening, those stories have the power to destroy us.

But a story told, and heard, and listened to; a story met with gentleness, and love, and grace; a story that is honoured, and respected, and believed – those stories, even if they continue to haunt our dreams, even if they sometimes still overwhelm us nearly almost thirty hears later, they have still lost some of their power over us because now it is a burden shared.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said that there comes a time when silence is betrayal. The church around the world has, for far too long, betrayed survivors with their deafening silence. Survivors have been offered platitudes at best, and bad theology at worst, told that their suffering is making them stronger, or more faithful, or that they have to forgiven quickly and unconditionally, and that they should endure whatever has happened to them quietly, because this is a private issue, it’s personal, it makes people uncomfortable, it’s about sex and we can’t talk about that.

But none of that is true. Rape and sexual violence are not about sex, but about power and control, and yes, what happens to an individual survivor is private, and personal, but it’s also corporate, and happens to all of us. The body of Christ has been broken, and torn, and beaten, and raped, and abused. But it can be healed, made whole, renewed with G-d’s love, and the courage of congregations willing to do what we are doing here today, willing to Break The Silence. Amen.

SAAM Days 13 & 14 – Rape Culture

A few days ago I got into a discussion with someone about rape culture. That’s a phrase used to describe the ways in which society blames victims of rape and sexual violence, and normalizes that violence (particularly male violence against women). It comes through reporting and discussion on rape cases, through jokes that perpetuate the idea that women should learn to expect violence, and through anything that sexualizes women to the point where they don’t exist as human beings, and that which makes coercion seem acceptable.

The person I was talking with (online) about rape culture denies that it exists, or at least not in the United States and other, in her words, developed countries. It might be, she conceded, a reality in the third world, or in places where women aren’t valued, and don’t have equality. (Again, all this person’s words, not mine.)

Eventually, tired of beating my head against a wall, I gave up trying to persuade this person that rape culture is real. I had more efficient ways to spend my time, like trying to persuade my kitten that she doesn’t need to knock everything off the dresser at night.

Meanwhile I offer you these two amazing spoken word poets on the question of rape culture & consent.

First, “I’m Sorry Poem” by FreeQuency

 

And then, “Word Choice” by Imani Cezanne

 

And if you would like to read more about the reality of rape culture you can start here:
What Is Rape Culture – Women Against Violence Against Women

 

SAAM Days 10 to 12 – Weary

I’ve been feeling a little off these past few days. Some of it is a lingering cold, and now the fun of allergies since spring is really (maybe, hopefully) coming to northern Wisconsin.

But there’s also a feeling of vulnerability with having my story out there in the world, out of my hands where others can read it, and analyze it, and criticise it without consulting me. That’s something every survivor who tells their story faces – letting go of control of their story; and if there’s one thing all the survivors I know hate it’s not being in control because once, when we were raped, we had no control. It’s a scary thing, and at least to me, a necessary thing, but it does leave me feeling like a turtle without a shell sometimes.

And then there’s the sense that I’m not doing enough. If I don’t post here every day, I’m letting my survivor sisters and brothers down. If I don’t speak up about every case of rape and sexual assault that comes across my news feed, I’m not doing enough to advocate for change. If I let a joke go by, or don’t correct someone’s language, or … it goes on and on, the sense that there is never enough I can do.

So I’m going to go and do some painting, and watch “Iron Jawed Angels” about the women’s suffrage movement (most appropriate today because President Obama announced a national women’s equality monument at Belmont-Paul House … if you don’t know about it, please go look up Alice Paul, and Alva Belmont, and Inez Milholland, and Ida Wells, and so many more).

I’m going to leave you with two pictures that sum up my current mood. The first is an unknown man I found on the internet. I know this might be tiring to some of you who aren’t survivors, but this is my every day…

IMG_3559

And this is a reminder to myself, and to every other survivor out there…we matter, our stories, our lives, our fears, our hopes all matter, and we are worth the “trouble” we cause the world by speaking up.

IMG_1728