10 Stories for 10 Years of Incredible Work
Dear Engaged Bystander: Ten stories for 10 years of incredible work by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. I hope that you will join me in wishing the NSVRC a very happy 10 year anniversary.
For me, the NSVRC has done an incredible job in bringing together so many of us from across the country. As someone who has worked to prevent sexual violence from the perspective of working with people who sexually abuse or at risk to sexually abuse, I am incredibly grateful for the warm hearted welcome, the incredible questions and challenges, and the compelling vision that we are all working towards the same goal.
I thought about how to best celebrate this milestone and decided to write about ten stories that hold for me the same inspiration, sadness, complexity and hope that people dealing with sexual violence experience every day. The reason I chose to write ten stories is because of my belief that we need to start changing the stories that we tell about sexual violence. We need to tell our stories so that people can feel hope that they can make a difference and that they have a responsibility to at least try to make a difference. Here is a quote I love about the importance of stories:
"Stories are how people make sense of themselves and their worlds. For this reason, stories are political. Whose stories get told? What can those stories mean? Who benefits from their telling? These are political questions because they... determine how we live together and how laws are created." (Shannon, 1995)
The stories we read about tend to be stories of crazed strangers who abduct the child from the playground, rape and murder a woman in her home, and are forever lost to their friends and families. From doing this work for over 15 years, from conversations with friends and colleagues and from starting and supervising a national helpline for 10 years, I have thousands of stories in my head. And these sensational stories are not like the ones I have heard. So over the next few weeks, I want to share some of the stories I have had the privilege to hear and bear witness to the courage and resiliency of so many people. These are the stories that guide my work and give me hope. I think about:
* a friend who shared with me her concerns about a 6 year old boy in the neighborhood,
* a grandmother who confronted her husband about sexually abusing their grandchildren and is both supportive and vigilant every day since she was told,
* a fraternity who ensures that the young women who come to their party are safe,
* a sex offender who taught me the importance of speaking up when something just does not feel right,
* Sir Edmund Hillary
* And many more
And of course, I welcome hearing from you and YOUR stories as well.