These are the words of advice that I offer to every young woman that may approach me with concerns or tips on how to thrive in college or life in general. It may seem like such a short, meaningless, and cliché phrase, but within these three words is so much meaning. Never is an extremely dramatic word. And life can often be looked at as one huge play, with a plot and characters that seem to spiral out of your control breaking all rules of the script.
A young woman messaged me on Facebook the other day telling me that a young man that she knew raped her. She told me a bit about her story and how she was feeling, “I just NEVER thought that something like this would happen to me. I always imagined rapists as creepy guys hiding in alleyways. But every morning for the past week I wake up and the reality of being a rape victim hits me all over again.” These words were so familiar to me, because often times when I wake up and think about the fact that I too am a rape victim, I am shocked and discouraged as if it happened just last week. The young woman on Facebook then asked me, “ When does the sadness, and hurting, and feeling of disgust end? When will people stop doubting me, or talking behind my back about the ‘truth’ of what happened that night?” I simply responded with, “That’s the thing, it doesn’t end, you just become stronger.” And that is the truth, no matter when you were victimized the pain never truly goes away; you learn how to cope. For me it was therapy, support from my family, and learning to love myself all over again that got me over the hump, for others the solution could be different. But it is so important to find your solution. Do not let that bad person who hurt you keep on hurting you. Live every day not in spite of that person but for YOURSELF.
NEVER SAY NEVER. Never convince yourself that something as terrifying, as being raped could never happen to you; no one is invincible and the only way to protect yourself is to be proactive. But also, never think that something amazing may happen in spite of a tragedy. Looking back, I would have never imagined myself becoming a National Spokesperson for an organization such as G.W.E.N., or that I would be engaged to a beautiful man who loves me for me. Bad things happen to good people, but those same good people have the strength to turn those bad things into something AMAZING. Never say Never, and show the world that you are not who you are because of what has happened to you. You are only a stronger you because of it.
Today is an auspicious day for the world of women and GWEN. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that today is the “International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women.”
It is important for this type of messaging to get out in the general public, so that we are aware of people taking a stand around the world. Arab Springs, Million Women March, International Day of the Women etc are a great start, but as Tess Cacciatore comments ” it is imperative that networks such as CCTV America, anchors such as Mike Walter and producers like Joana Godinho become the frontrunners in making sure that media and news cover stories regarding violence against women on a daily basis.”
Great exposure for us to get the news out there and for all the world to be aware of the extreme violences that are taking place in the human race: men, women and children.
There has been a chasm of silence between this moment and my last piece of writing. I have felt overwhelmed with the endless reality of gypsy meandering. The passions, commitments and structures of my former life continue to live on in my heart and soul, and though this physical reality can be dealt with and endured, there are aspects of it which, over time, diminish one’s ability to function beyond survival. This can be distressing and life threatening, as the body takes on the messages and its vitality begins to wobble. And yet, my soul knowing is that giving must be kept alive, as this is what makes us human.
Being taken to one’s knees brings the conscious and subconscious together in ways that are otherwise not possible. What is it about being in dyer distress that propels clarity? When illness, pain or loss land in one’s lap, ultimate truth blinks back.
Whenever we see blurbs on tv immediately after a natural disaster, the common response to microphone in face is ‘We have each other’ or ‘The important thing is that my loved ones are safe’, and then the surge of the masses come help.
The agonies and loss of those in need touch us with life in its purest form and we see, face-to-face, what is real and essential, and this is true of ourselves, as well. Our yearnings, our courage, and our faith rise to the surface and we are all one. Everyone sees and feels and recognizes truth and spirit in these moments and it is here that we know what being human is all about…it is about reaching out and holding hands. It is about giving and receiving.
What if it is oneself that is in crisis? What then? The same and more so. Once one has walked these walks of fire, and embraced the lessons of patience and surrender while the pain is burning deeply, compassion is ignited in a new way. All that one sees is the plight of being human and the immediate recognition of others’ trials becomes the lens through which one filters everything.
Extending one’s heart and sharing a moment of recognition is the most beautiful gift.