World Pulse

US: Silence Is a Form of Violence

lauren5848
Posted July 8, 2015 from United States

“I hope I live to see the day that survivors are more than the sumof our traumas. I hope I live to see a world in which survivors aretreated as the sum of our triumphs.

One in three women suffers physical or sexual violence. One in three women will experience a fragmentation of the self. One in three women will be shamed, denied, and further traumatized when voicing her story.

Now add all those who witness violence. Now expand the definition of violence beyond the physical. This tragedy is even bigger than one in three; this is an epidemic that affects us all.

I am among those who have experienced multiple forms of violence throughout my life. I have memories as early as age three of standing in half lit doorways at one in the morning with my sister, watching in confusion as my father thundered verbal abuse upon my half-awake mother. This cloud of anger was a constant storm in our lives and was ready to rain upon us at any moment.

I have distinct memories of belts and hands colliding with skin. I remember consistent threats that my sister and I would be separated from one another in the case of intervention by Child Protective Services. I remember watching my mother as she fled from yet another shouting match. I remember feeling abandoned by our Catholic private school community and by family members who turned a blind eye. I remember wondering if my mother, my sister, and I would ever experience freedom. I find myself reflecting on the same to this day. I have transitioned from victim to survivor, but during these reflections I seem to ask myself the same question: how did we survive?

Recently, after experiencing an incident of sexual violence, I found myself relying on writing to simply get through the day. Physical abuse and sexual violence are mentally and physically taxing. I have experienced entire periods of my life where I felt like little more than a ghost in a matrix of violence. Every catcall, every wandering hand, and every suspicious look become a subtle reminder of the abuse. These subtleties have the ability to feel like daggers. They can dissect you into separate portions of a whole.I have survived through the power of words.

I liken the process of becoming a survivor to the cleaning up of a shattered mirror. Reflected in every piece is a portion of the whole self, but some shards are too small to be recovered. These pieces that may have functioned at one time no longer fit into the final result. They must be discarded to form a completely new reflection.

Becoming a survivor is a process of holding on and letting go. It is the recognition that the reflection will not always be recognizable, but there is power in its continuous existence. We hold on to the reflections of others. We are present, we expand, and we are here.

Survivors are not broken, but we are fiercely protective of our vulnerability. Showing vulnerability in the aftermath of abuse is the most empowering way that I have returned to my body and mind.

Solutions for ending physical and sexual violence must focus on the importance of establishing supportive spaces for survivors to share our stories. I have seen this in smaller classrooms devoted to feminist philosophy. I have also seen this during survivor support events such as Take Back The Night. I have seen this in student groups such as the Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team (S.W.A.T.) who utilize performance for education and healing. I have seen this during spoken word performances.

Spaces where we can be in the midst of our reflections and expand our stories as survivors are the soul of physical and sexual violence prevention. These spaces provide an environment where survivors can share our vulnerability without fear of denial or shame. These are spaces of transformation and not of transaction or exploitation.

Survivors need institutions that treat us as human beings and not as statistics. We have experienced unimaginable trauma, but we are capable of more than existing. Institutions of higher education must be flexible in accommodating the needs of survivors. These needs may include, but are not limited to: organizing academic exceptions; making therapeutic approaches affordable and confidential for survivors (therapy, meditation, support groups, etc); and presenting safe housing arrangements.

We need schools to promote education programs for students on issues of consent, bystander intervention, hegemonic masculinity, and interpersonal partner violence. This education needs to begin before college. Institutions of higher education must stress the sociocultural reasons that survivors may remain with their abuser and they must also stress resources available for refuge and advocacy.

We must expand our definitions as a society of what constitutes violence and the different impacts that violence has on the individual. We must also provide more education on the intersectionality of violence. This includes discussing how rates of violence vary by race, age, class level, sexual orientation, gender, level of ability, etc.

Physical and sexual violence are faced by women, men, and LGBTQ individuals from every socioeconomic background. My ideal world is one in which no individual experiences physical or sexual violence. I want to see the day where every person has the freedom of living in their body and does not have this freedom threatened by outside forces. I hope I live to see the day that survivors are more than the sum of our traumas. I hope I live to see a world in which survivors are treated as the sum of our triumphs.

I believe that an ideal world free from physical and sexual violence is not unrealistic. By providing spaces for survivors to triumph and for collaborative education on the sociocultural constructs of violence, it is my hope that we will expand definitions of violence. By changing perceptions and stigmas of survivors we will humanize legislation.We will begin to see a world in which every experience is valued and provided space to expand within our conscious minds as a piece of shared humanity.

Silence is violence but we have the power to share. Your story is valid.

You are important and we are here.


About this story
This story was written for the World Pulse and No CeilingsPath to Participation Initiative. With this initiative, we crowdsourced stories from World Pulse's global community to helpturn theNo Ceilings: The Full Participation Reportinto a blueprint for action on the ground.Click hereto browse through the126 submissions we received from over 30 countries.

Comments 10

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Ann Forsthoefel
Jul 14, 2015
Jul 14, 2015

Lauren, thank you so much for writing this. Your words are so powerful and moving. May your  voice be shared across the globe and your vision of a violence free society be achieved by 2025.

Bright blessings,

Ann

lauren5848
Jul 28, 2015
Jul 28, 2015

Ann, 

Thank you so much for reading my story and for your blessings. May the world be free of violence.

Best,

Lauren

libudsuroy
Jul 16, 2015
Jul 16, 2015

Dear Lauren,

Thank you so much for sharing your solutions-oriented story. I appreciate the way you have offered concrete, empowering and preventive ways in which gender-based violence can be dealt with at various areas of culture, especially in schools. I agree with you a hundred percent about creating safe spaces for women. You have truly hit the nail on its head, moving from the personal to the collective concerns. Women and men everywhere, not only in the US, will benefit from these solutions.  

lauren5848
Jul 28, 2015
Jul 28, 2015

Dear libudsuroy,

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and for your supportive comment. The transition from the personal to the collective is riddled with obstacles, but it is one that I believe and hope everyone can make. The world will benefit from every voice that seeks to offer solutions for the collective whole.

Best Wishes,

Lauren

RUHEBUZA VUMILIA JEANNETTE
Jul 30, 2015
Jul 30, 2015

Merci pour ce temoigage et sachez que cela existe encore,  vous n'êtes pas les seules d'avoir vécu cela. Que celles-la qui vivent encore dans cette situation trouvent notre soutient tant morale que spirituel. Nous sommes de coeur avec elles

lauren5848
Jul 31, 2015
Jul 31, 2015

Je souhaite que cela se traduit correctement Ruhebuza Vumilia Jeannette. Je vous remercie de vos aimables paroles et de la solidarité . Il est mon espoir que les survivants vont soutenir et plaider pour un autre.

Meilleurs voeux, Lauren

Erna Surjadi
Aug 22, 2015
Aug 22, 2015

Dear Lauren and All sisters in the world,

Violence is crime to humanity! We never asked to be born; so life is precious given by God; everybody must put value on it. 

Your story is touched my heart, particularly when you said since three years old seeing the abuse to your mom. Nobody has the right to colour your life with pain and violence; because God give life as a blessings and we must praise Lord for it!

FYI Gender Harmony was found and published in 2010; to give solution how to prevent gender-based violence. The long research starting 2003 - 2006; 2006 -2008; and 2008 -2010 has proved that Gender-based violence could be prevented; the case is reduced by 56% by implementing Gender Harmony (GH).

In your story, also found in most cases of similar stories confirmed by GH research that the respect to human's rights was missing all of the time. People also missed effective communication; they are loosing trust, symphaty and emphaty.  You are right, we have to start from school to get practice to give respect on other people's human's rights. Nobody wanted to be hurt or being abandoned; all people want to be loved, being spoiled and happy! We have missed the most important thing in life: communication!

GH proved that people can change themselves not being changed by others; as long as they understood the value, they want it and they start doing it. 

Based on GH consultation, many women being helped to manage their communication within proper gender language, body language, sharing with partners and build a better life with spouse. One woman said: I wish that I know GH before so I dont have to waste my time fighting with my husband!

Another woman has almost given up to her husband that she married for about 17 years; she suspected the husband had affairs with another woman. After long hours GH consultation; she took chances to grasp back her happiness living with more open communication with the husband; to tell him what brought her happiness or sadness. Nobody is percect, God promised us to become perfect someday though; thus we need to change and learn to become better and better! 

To err is human, but to forgive is divine! Living with weaknesses and strength together with your loved ones; this is a true journey of life! She got back the husband, who as most of men in the world had minimum talks, demand for discipline or simple matter; however never refused to be loved and spoiled by the wife; and most men are ready to give anything after felt secured, happy, peaceful and satissfied.  GH suggested to stand up for your rights; give respect first to yourself that deserved to be loved ; then give also respect to your spouse and learn to practice how to communicate better with gender language!

GH for this incoming 16 Days of Activism against gender violence campaign shall provide GH Training for Facilitator for international participants during 25 - 27 November 2015 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

GH for Changes!

Let's create peace and harmony; free from domestic violence! Eliminate Gender-based violence with zero tolerance!

For more enquiries, please kindly visit www.genderharmony.info ; www.genderempowerment.com  or write to genharmony@gmail.com; secretariaticge@genderempowerment.com 

God bless...

lauren5848
Mar 02, 2016
Mar 02, 2016

Dear Erna, 

Thank you so much for your words of support and for the work that you do. Please continue to do this important work to make the world a less violent place for all.

Best wishes,

Lauren

Saywan Ibrahim
Dec 19, 2015
Dec 19, 2015

powerful and moving.

lauren5848
Mar 02, 2016
Mar 02, 2016

Hello Saywan, 

Thank you very much!

Best,

Lauren