I would like to share the work of Rev. Moira Finley, a champion of those who have survived sexual violence and assault. In the United States and in the denomination the United Church of Christ that Sunday happens annually in April, but in many other places in the world your focus and timeframe is different. For example in some places the focus is on violation of indigenous or aboriginal women and in some others it ties into particular faith related seasons.
When, where, exactly what – these can be different. Never forgetting to name the pain, opening faith communities to the conversation, and committing to healing has no season. Someone you know, someone I know, will benefit from an annual remembrance, (amen!) but also actually needs hope and companionship right now this Sunday, maybe this Thursday.
How Breaking the Silence Sunday defines who they are:
What we are about?
Break The Silence Sunday is an effort to open up a conversation within the church about rape and sexual assault. Within the context of our faith communities we hope to
(1) acknowledge the reality of rape and sexual violence in our world;
(2) support survivors by creating a place where they can tell their stories, feel loved and supported,
and find encouragement on their healing journey;
(3) commit ourselves to the work of changing the world, creating a future where rape is a memory.
A sample Clergy pledge for those of my readers who are clergy, and, really it could be a human being pledge:
Break The Silence Sunday Clergy Commitment
As a Christian pastor, as someone who tries to follow in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth, and as a human being committed to working for the dignity and equality of all people, I declare to survivors of sexual violence that:
I am a person to whom you can tell your story of sexual abuse, harassment, assault, violence, and more.
I will listen without judgement, and without condemnation.
I will hold all you tell me in sacred confidence, within the bounds of law.
I will listen to whatever you need to say, and however you need to say it.
I will honor your story, and remind you of the dignity and worth you have as a child of God, created in God’s own image, and I will remind you that you are more than your story.
I will walk beside you on your healing journey, accompanying you as best as I am able, and as you need to counseling appointments, court dates, or wherever else you need me to be with you.
I am here for you, and with you.
I stand with you.
I believe you.
Finally a few words from Moira about handling the aftermath of abuse – personal or communal, societal and in the case of the United States, certainly political. Also, my friends, handling life!
If you’re feeling incredibly on edge please know that is a normal reaction to living in an abusive situation. The way the US administration is behaving is the way narcissistic abusers work. They create drama, blame you, and then solve the problem they created so they can show you how generous and kind they are. I grew up with that from my father. It conditions you to feel like you’re always on alert, defending against their next bait and switch. So please, seriously:
Close your eyes (if you can) and take about five deep breaths, as deep as you are able, listening to your breath, and feeling it moving in your body;
Check in with yourself – Did you eat today? Drink water (and no Dr Pepper and Sun Drop don’t count)? Did you talk (phone, in person, messenger, text, whatever) with someone you care about today? Did you take a shower or a bath or at least change clothes?;
Don’t turn on the video media too early in the morning – written things are different, but the screaming intensity of TV and internet streaming news isn’t helping, it only intensifies by repeating the words and actions of the abuse, give yourself time and ease into that;
Step back and look at pictures of puppies or kittens or snakes or whatever you think is cute and adorable, look at lots of them, and if you share your life with a furry, feathered, scaled creature give them extra love or conversation or crickets;
Find some good news, little kids helping old people, old people teaching little kids cool stuff, strangers working together to rescue ducklings, you get the idea, and if you can’t find some good news go out and make some, buy a stranger a coffee, donate some food to the pantry, walk dogs at the humane society;
Listen to some music, as loud as you like, whatever kind you like, and let your brain rest in the rhythm and the lyrics (supposing your stuff has lyrics), music is good for our brains;
Try to sleep, or at least lie down in a quiet-ish spot and let your body do some healing;
Take your meds;
Listen to your body, and soul, and heart, and remember it’s ok to step away for a bit, to protect yourself, to renew and strengthen yourself;
Remember you’re not alone in this and you are not the saviour of the universe (if you’re a follower of Jesus remember that job is already taken, and if you’re not a Jesus person I’m pretty sure it’s still not your job), there really are lots of good folks working on all the terrible things you’re seeing in the news and on your feed, it’s not just you, and fixing it all does not rest on your shoulders alone, someone else will stand the watch tonight.
We need to be in this work for the long haul, and it’s going to take a lot of work to undo and rebuild and find a new way forward. This is a marathon not a sprint. Please, my beautiful friends, be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with your loved ones. Check on your friends. Share a meal with them. Laugh. Cry. Giggle. Weep. Sleep. And then get up tomorrow and pick the work back up.
Love and hugs (if they’re ok),