Believe Women: This Is Our Work

NOTE: This post discusses sexual assault and rape.

Like so many of you, we’ve been listening to the voices of women across our community today—friends, loved ones, and colleagues who have experienced abuse and trauma, who are bravely stepping forward to share their stories in this moment.   

We are broken.

For each of you who sees herself in the story playing out on TV screens right now: we see you. We hear you. We believe you.

This right here—this is our work. If we are committed to unmaking violence, that has to include violence against women. If we are committed to the wholeness of our Yazidi sisters in Iraq who were kidnapped and abused by ISIS, we must be committed to the wholeness of every woman.

If we ignore this, nothing else matters.

If we do just one thing in this moment, it should be listening to the voices of women. So this morning, we spent some time as a team doing just that.

We wanted to share the stories and perspectives that four women on our team were brave enough to share today. We’re publishing them anonymously and with the permission of each person.

Believe women. Listen to their stories. There is no path to peace without this.

As someone who experienced sexual assault and rape more than once, this has been an absolutely brutal time. I had hoped that girls who are young now wouldn’t have to face what I did. I was suffering from a sad delusion.

There are millions of us having flashbacks and nightmares. Every time we read “boys will be boys,” or “he was only 17,” or “it’s her word against his,” the truth we carry with our bodies is confirmed: we aren’t valued. We are worth less. Our safety and security comes far down the list of priorities after someone else’s “pleasure.”

Don’t mistake silence for peace. We have so much farther to go than you might imagine.

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For those of us with assault in our stories, and those of us working with victims and survivors, the both/and is brutalizing:

Hope is leaking out of us that our work matters, our bodies matter, and a future that is safe for us is possible. Yet the collateral damage of today and the words flying around cannot easily be undone, if it can ever be undone.

Thank you for believing violence done against her is violence done against us all.

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For those of us with children we are raising, I hope we can all use this as a moment to teach our girls and boys both how to build a better future.  

I’m not even really sure how to do that exactly, but I know it starts with frank conversations and a lot of listening. They are the next generation to push this along, so we have to make sure they understand how important it is.

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We belong to each other, and our freedom is bound up in the freedom of every other human. Our safety is bound up in one another’s safety, our futures bound up in one another’s futures.

My Equal Justice Initiative calendar tells me that today, in 1958, citizens of Little Rock voted to close the schools (for a year) rather than to integrate them. I can’t help but think of the parallels here.

When one of us suffers, when one community suffers, don’t we all lose?

Violence done against Dr. Ford is violence done against us all. Violence done against black and brown bodies is violence done against us all. Violence done against immigrants is violence done against us all. Violence against the Muslim community is violence done against us all.

We. Belong. To. Each. Other.