It’s time to talk about it: Sexual Assault Awareness Month Balloon Release Kick-Off

April 1 marked the kick-off for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), sponsored by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Here in Indiana, the incredible folks at INCASA organized an important balloon release for the Day of Action on the steps of the Indiana Statehouse. Along with another survivor, Jenny Wendt, who is making incredible strides in reducing and possibly even eliminating the statute of limitations for perpetrators with the Indiana General Assembly, I was honored to be asked to say a few words from the viewpoint of a survivor.

As I said to one reporter, “What happened [to the survivor] is valid, what happened is real, and a court of law can’t stop that from being the truth…”

In my speech, I wanted to give survivors hope, and give advocates a renewed sense of empowerment. Here are a few excerpts:

“Not only is it time to talk about it, it’s time to see our faces. I am one of every three women who’s suffered abuse and assault. It’s not easy for me to be here or to talk about it, but I’m here for every person who’s looked me in the eye after a speech, for every survivor who’s sent me private messages and emails, for every silent one, to let them know we do not have to live in fear and shame…

…We can be a society that rebuilds and restores instead of shaming victims so they’re too afraid to come forward. We can be a society that embraces the wounded and binds up there wounds instead of letting perpetrators and enablers tear them wide open again. We can give survivors safety instead of fear, and an outpouring of support that blots out their shame…

…Abuse and incest and molestation and rape are crimes which cause a lifetime of devastation. But I want victims to know they can break free from generational cycles. We can find hope and healing. Beauty can and does rise from the ashes of our pain…”

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You can learn more about what was shared through these links below:

Radio coverage from WIBC: http://www.wibc.com/news/story.aspx?ID=2148033

Video coverage from the local CBS affiliate, WISH: http://wishtv.com/2014/04/01/rape-survivor-rallies-for-change-at-statehouse/

Video coverage from the Indianapolis Star: http://www.indystar.com/videos/news/2014/04/01/7178671/

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What will YOU do to increase awareness, talk about it, and bring survivors hope this month and throughout the year?

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The amazing Anita Carpenter, CEO of INCASA

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Join me in supporting survivors by wearing teal this month, too, would you?

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Let it go!

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Dogs like this special nugget, celebrating the day by sporting teal dyed fur, are being specially trained to be able to sit with children who are victims during intake and questioning sessions.

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So what’s my novel REALLY about? A universal answer.

That’s what folks want to know.

Many of the authors I follow talk about a phenomenon where readers assume everything in a work of fiction must surely be based on real life, the author’s real life, in particular. How else, they reason, could the writing be to true and deep and realistic?

I read oodles of books and blogs, articles and textbooks on writing, by people who are experts on the subject. People who study literature. People who hold doctorates and win prizes and have great followings of readers. One of the threads stringing through most of these is that yes, effective writing comes from deep within an authors heart, his observations, snippets of conversations she overheard in Super Stores and along pee wee soccer sidelines. How each author processes these often daily, sometimes life changing observations depends on the author…and to a great extent, his imagination…

…her ability to take the real and make it more real…

…his skill at morphing the daily into something shiny, glittering, and capable of rising like an orb of hope above the cacophony of those who, rushing to complete tasks from morning until night, miss

everything. 

Authors, writers like me, are often accused of having too-thin-skin, of having their heads in the clouds, having ridiculous imaginations, wearing feelings on sleeves….

Turns out these “weaknesses” are strengths to those who would embrace a pen.

So.

What’s my novel really about?

One day, about four years ago, I sat on my back patio praying, asking God what He wanted to do with my story. I was at a bit of an ends, as the manuscript currently stood, and I knew it needed a major overhaul to turn it into something marketable. The story had bones–a coming-of age plot, an Alabama pecan farm setting. And as the hummingbirds buzzed among the Rose of Sharon blooms, I heard God whisper: Tamar. Re-read the story of Tamar.

And so I did.

How Sweet the Sound is a loose allegory, set in 1980, of the Tamar of II Samuel 13, one of the daughters of King David. Raped by her half-brother Amnon, who was then killed by her real brother Absalom, Tamar’s story ends there, when scripture tells us she was left to live a desolate life.

How can that be? I asked God. Argued with Him.

That’s not the God of the New Testament, the God who promises restoration, the Christ who raises men and women alike.

You’re right, I heard God whisper. Tell the rest of her story. 

And so, How Sweet the Sound is my attempt to do that.

That’s what it’s really about.

Because one out of every three women in America alone have experienced sexual trauma, molestation, incest, rape. I have never been shy about admitting I am one of those statistics. But my story is not Comforts. Nor is my story Annistons. In the end, my personal story is not important.

What is important is that the majority of those one-in-three women feel like their stories end there, that their lives lay useless and dirty, tainted and worthless, at the feet of their abuser–or abusers.

My hope is, after reading How Sweet the Sound, they’ll feel different.

They’ll know different.

They’ll have hope.

The reality?

The story of Anniston and Comfort, Princella and Jed, Ernestine and all the characters in How Sweet the Sound is universal. Early reader reviews which include heartbreaking, “me too’s,” and “hurt people hurt people,” verify this. Families tear each other apart, even with rape and murder. Tamar experienced all of these things thousands of years ago. Pick up a newspaper or listen to the evening news, and these tragedies are rampant, still, today.

The truth is, story has a way of uniting souls around common hurts, common celebrations, common tragedies, and ultimately, common hope.

The truth is, this story is fiction.

And because of that, it holds more truth than a lot of things in this world.

Plain and simple.

And true.

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“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. `- Anne Lamott”

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From silence to slava bogu! More miracles in Ukraine!

“This is why He sent you,” my husband texted me.

And as soon as I saw those words from him, I knew that they were true.

If you read my earlier posts, you know I was fearful and even unsure about why God so clearly sent me to Ukraine. I was more-than-funded in four days, after all.

But aside from the pure joy of holding Little Peter’s hands in mine (see me and Peter, below), and the fact that I could no longer find a good excuse to say no to the persistent asks of the trip leader, I really didn’t have a clue why God sent me.

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Then Thursday afternoon came, and as I considered my husband’s text and looked into the faces of the Ukrainian counselors, I knew.

“Tell them,” my Abba whispered.

“Tell them they and the girls they counsel are not alone.

“Tell them what man meant for harm, God meant for good, even now, and for the saving of many lives.” 

Genesis 50:20 echoed in my head.

What is now being done.

The saving of many lives.

“Tell them,” Abba urged me again.

The Mission to Ukraine (MTU) staff said not to hold back, that in their country, horrific stories are commonplace. They could handle whatever I had to say. And so, after a few minutes of introducing myself, I tossed aside the eleven pages of prepared outline I’d written, a stack of paper which was my feeble attempt to hide what I was sure would be ill-prepared and severely lacking qualifications on my part.

Then I told them everything . . . everything that happened to me, including things shared only with my therapist and husband.

I told them though I may look whole, I am deeply broken.

That though God has delivered me from much, I have scars, indeed a thorn or two of after-effects which linger in my side.

I told them that I am one of every three women in America.

And I told them how God wins.

The shattering of chains was audible, as then they told me everything.

They told me the incidence of sexual abuse there is much greater.

That “maniacs,” as they call them, linger near school yards and in the crowded spaces of public transportation and in the blackened doorways and hallways of the apartment buildings to grope and steal and rape.

“One of my clients, her father raped her. And now her mother hates her, because she thinks the daughter did something to encourage him,” one woman said.

“One of my clients, a young man who was drunk when he came to see me, told me he was gang raped in a room with other teenagers. I did not know how to help him. Tell me,” another implored, “how could I have helped him?”

Still another said, “If you’re saying abuse does not always have to be full-on intercourse to be abuse, then practically all of us have been abused!”

I told them the subject is still very taboo in America.

They said it is even more taboo there.

The more we exchanged stories and facts, and the more the darkness fled and light spilled into the golden-painted room. I could not share enough of my story and the stories of other survivors fast enough. Tears streaming down their faces could not fall far enough. Our arms, wrapped in tight embraces more than two hours later could not hold tight long enough.

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To be sure, great is the work yet to be done.

But last Thursday, a giant was slain for many.

As promised in Genesis 50:20, now, good is being done.

Now, miraculous restoration is happening.

Now . . .

. . . even now . . .

. . . lives are being saved.

We all read Isaiah 61 outloud and in three languages–English, Russian and Ukraine.

We sang “How Great Thou Art” in three languages, too, the music erasing the barriers of the tongue and uniting the wings of spirits set free from chains of silence and empowered by the healing power of Jesus Christ.

We stood in awe, witnesses to a rare instance when the veil between the seen and the unseen is lifted.

Slava bogu means “Praise the Lord!” in Russian.

Slava bogu.

Slava bogu.

Slava bogu.

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Be a part of breaking chains in Ukraine.

Be a part of MTU

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