Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hear the Whispers and Roars

I sat in a room with 150 people, mostly women, last night. I had a piece of paper in front of me with a list of names. Amanda. Shannette. Angela. Beth. Ordinary names. Ordinary women. Just like us. They were big and small. They were well-dressed and casual. They had the hair and the make-up, and the natural look. One woman had a masters in psychology. You couldn't tell, scanning the audience, who was going to get up and speak next. You just had to wait for their names to be called and see who stood up and went to the stage.

The stage was small, and in a corner, and had plain black curtains hanging behind it. There was a small podium, and a spotlight, and the women who stood there could say or read anything they wanted. They read poems, and prose. They told stories.

They were all victims of sexual abuse.

Correction: they are all survivors of sexual abuse. Big difference, as I learned last night. It's a moment of triumph, sometimes hard earned, when one starts to view oneself as a survivor rather than a victim.

I learned so much last night, between the tears and the applause. I learned that 1 in 7 women in Missouri are victims of sexual abuse, and that the YWCA Sexual Assault Response Team, of which my friend Deane is a volunteer member, helped over 440 women in St. Louis last year. It's bittersweet: what a fantastic resource for women in our area, and how horrible that there were that many women who needed it. And countless others who were too ashamed to report what had happened to them.

So. I am now in a position to help. I can use my resources and I can do something. I must do something. If anyone wants to come along for the ride, just let me know.


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