Morning Pages: Sexual Violence, Advocacy, and Spiritual Endurance

There is it. The word, the “A” word: advocate.

In my early days of being an advocate and educator for survivors of rape and sexual violence, I thought it primarily described my role as being a voice in times of silence. ?Silence during invasive rape examination kits, I would be an advocate with my eyes and head, never breaking the gaze of a survivor who needed me to hold her stare while doctors did what they had to do for an investigation. ?In the dim lit corners of trials and courtrooms, I walked beside survivors and often their crumbling family members who could not keep their emotions contained. ?Advocacy, I learned, was not about supplying my voice in the place of silence. ?It was much more body focused. ?Knowing where to stand, and what presence to carry into each situation. ?Mostly, though, it meant developing a profound understanding of the voices of others. Knowing when and how to help them shape it, use it, attend to it. ?There are so many ways to advocate for survivors. Speaking for them, however, is usually not what’s needed though.

I wonder if these same qualities I learned in the field of sexual violence could be applicable to the spiritual world. ?Who doesn’t need to learn when to listen, how to listen, undoing years of learning that responding is equivalent to saying something of worth? ?Advocacy is the highest call to presence for another human being. ?Who else have I been an advocate for? ?Who else in my life needs me in similar ways, just not in those conditions? ?If I look into my life, I’m sure I will find others who also feel abandoned by everyone – including God – and violated, betrayed, broken, and bewildered. ?Perhaps I can begin to stop focusing on the whorl of my life, and fixate on being that for others. ?I have been an advocate for survivors of sexual violence nearly all of my adult life and it has sensitized me beyond comprehension to the world of survivors. ?But what survivors of violence need overlaps with what we all need: radical compassion, a loyal friend, honesty, and fellowship of anger at the injustice of the world.

Today is Memorial Day weekend, and I remember all the women who have been lost in the war of violence. I uplift all the women who were killed, raped, tortured, held captive, enslaved, beaten, manipulated, used, and dismissed purely because of someone’s misogyny and unconscious spirit.

For what I believe about women in the world, I am prepared to be “kicked out of the synagogue” and, in terms of advocacy for women, killed.

They will expel you from the synagogues;
in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.

A Poem on Not Understanding: “God’s BiPolar”

God’s bipolar.
weeping in our losses
laughing a second later
savoring our whispered prayers
all the while
maintaining a deep secret
of identity
shroud in possibility
shouldering the accusations
and disbeliefs we hurl at It.
nodding
shrugging
dipping Its fingers
in the ocean
–holy schizophrenia–
From a distance, yet next door
It voyeurs wars and indifference
and celebrates
a built bridge
across nations, or even streets
while
the rivers wash the stones anew
–Bless me —
with your manic depressive tears,
share with me your ability to be Here
and There.
So I
–so fragmented and lost–
can feel
Your undivided fullness