Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mmmm

"He who began a good work in you, will complete it...!"
-Philippians 1:6

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Grandmothers Love

I have something very personal I would like to share with the world wibe web. My grandmother (my mothers step-mother) sent me a card last week and in it she wrote me a note. This is what she said:

Dear Diann,

In our bible study we were talking about forgiveness and how some things are just too painful to forgive. Then I remembered what you said in your article - that your family didn't support you. I want to say I'm sorry for not showing how much I cared. I'm asking you to forgive me. It was a different time then and something like that was not talked about - kept a secret - to keep the victim from embarassment and gossip. So we were not completely heartless - just misguided. It was a painful time for us all too. And it is still painful for me to remember.

We see it in a different light now, and see how you must have felt. Please forgive me. You have always been special to me.

I love you,

Grammie

Well, of course I wrote her back immediately and informed her that I forgave her! She was the only one years ago that would call me and let me know when my uncle was in town. That to me was validation. She was the only one that ever gave me validation. And that was how it was done. And now, 29 years later, she sends me this note. I appreciate it so much.

I never looked at the fact that people didn't talk about the abuse "to keep the victim from embarassment and gossip". I never once have ever thought that in my life...

See how important COMMUNICATION is? 29 years have gone by. . .

See how important AWARENESS IS? For both VICTIM and FAMILY!! The RAPE is not the victims fault; so it should not be embarassing for the victim - what does the victims have to be embarassed about? It wasn't their fault. I understand that it is still embarassing for some, it is not embarrassing for me.

If families work together with children on how to be ASSERTIVE, they need not worry about the gossip; instead they tend to be a part of the gossip. Assertiveness will also help with the victims self-esteem.

How to Help

Report It Campaign

A group of sexual assault survivor advocates has begun a campaign called Report IT Now! The idea behind it is to empower sexual assault survivors to break their silence while raising awareness about the huge number of sexual assault cases that occur in this country and go unreported.

If you have been sexually assaulted, please consider filling out this form. You may also fill it out for another person if they are unable to do so themselves (i.e. the survivor is disabled, a child, or no longer living). This is not a police report. But if you’d like to make a legal report, the campaign will forward your report to law enforcement officials. Any sexual assault can be reported, regardless of type, severity, or how long ago the assault occurred. Survivors of every gender may report. Though they will ask for your name, you can choose to not provide it. Regardless of whether or not you choose to provide your name, your report will be used for survey purposes only and your personal information will be kept confidential.

On April 29th, the statistical information gathered from the reports will be used as a part of the protests outside of courthouses around the country for Angela Shelton Day.

The campaign has been put together as a collaboration between PAVE and Angela Shelton. If you’ve never heard of Angela Shelton, check out this page about her book and film.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is the Silence really being Broken?

We may not always know when the Silence is being Broken...don't let that slow you down from all the work that you do!

Trust me. . . day in and day out the work that I do, I know is paying off! I talk to so many students every day and usually I never know if I've helped break the silence. Of course, many of them do disclosure abuse, but often I never know the full outcome of their case. Yesterday was different!

I was informed personally how my presentation helped Break the Silence for one student. She is happy and safe. I obviously am not going to go into full detail here, but just know talking to people, letting them know there is a safe place to go, there are people willing to help, etc., can make all the difference in the world for a LOT of people!

DON'T STOP TALKING!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Stifle It

Being ordered to be quiet about something painful is at times, more painful than the actual traumatic event. The words, ‘stifle it’ still rings in my ears from my early days of childhood. My father was well known to use this common household phrase in my younger years. One example of dad’s habitual use of the words ‘stifle it’ was spoken after a traumatic event in my life. This time listening to my father changed my life forever. ‘Obeying thy father’ wasn’t what was in store for my lesson. What I was about to learn would change my life and others’ lives in the future.

It was the summer of 1979 and school break was in session before my high school years were about to begin. My parents thought a trip to the mid-west by myself to visit our extended family would be a nice way to spend a few weeks. This was not to be the case. During my visit, my uncle raped me. I was silent about the incest for a few months. After informing my parents, they insisted that we not tell anyone. There it is again, ‘stifle it’. Since my parents didn’t want to deal with the aftermath of a young girl’s depression, retaliation and the variances in behavior that had overcome my teenage youthfulness, I was sent to a boarding school.

I remember one of my thoughts being, “Why is my father telling me to ‘stifle it’ when he is supposed to be taking care of me?” My inner voice always wanted to scream and shout, but repeatedly was being hammered down, “don’t say anything”. My uncle who had raped me echoed the same words. Didn’t my parents realize they were re-victimizing me by telling me not to speak about this crime?

After completing my freshman year at boarding school, I went back to live with my brother and newly divorced mother. During the next few years my uncle had been invited into our home on numerous occasions. My inner voice was screaming so loudly during these visits, and I didn’t think I would survive. There were a few family members that my mother had informed about the rape, so I knew that others were aware of the crime. The feeling of being with others that knew what this monster had done to me is beyond describable.

How my family dealt with the abuse, actually molded me into who I am today. It has taken me many years to realize why I have gone through so many negative tragedies in my life. It has been God’s plan. I believe that God will not hand us anything He does not think we can handle. He handed me many ordeals to live through in order for me to now have the job that is so dear to my heart.

Every weekday I educate middle and high school students about violence prevention. The lesson plans are filled with sexual assault, dating violence, assertiveness, healthy boundaries, just to name a few. If by some chance they do not learn about these things at home, they will learn from me. My determination, passion, and wisdom are my driving forces for over 3,000 children a school year. I also speak to the public throughout the year regarding my sexual assault (as well as domestic abuse). I attend conferences and have my own workshops, speak at colleges, churches, civic organizations, etc., wherever there is a need.

I have taken ‘stifle it’ and turned it into ‘speak it,’ because everyone has a right to a voice, even our children. And I let them know.

God gave this Survivor a Big Mouth for a Reason!

I was once asked, "What has being able to speak out done for you?” and “What has it given you that is positive?”

I could sit and write for HOURS! What an incredible opportunity to express a tragic event that I turned positive in my life – along with a lot of other Survivors and Advocates!

First and foremost, speaking out IS positive! Why? My opinion is that there are so many myths about sexual assault and when Survivors speak out, it is twofold. Individuals who have only “heard” or read about sexual assault hear a different side when they put a face with a voice and story. They tend to listen with both ears and their head and heart. When survivors hear other survivor stories, they are being validated – which is by far one of the most important things a survivor needs.

What has speaking out done for me? Not only has it helped with my personal growth and relationships, but it has given me the ability to further myself into a career that I never saw coming, I have a passion for, and I wouldn’t trade for the world. I know I am making a difference in my community!

I started speaking out seven years ago in a community, along with my son. He and I were victims at the hands of my ex of domestic violence sixteen years ago. I was also sexually assaulted when I was a young teenager by my uncle. My son gave me the strength to speak out! He spoke in High Schools, while I spoke at churches, local community gatherings, etc. (How many tissues do you think I needed when we were both awarded “Speakers of the Year” our first year!)

I have continued this work in another state by speaking at local colleges, churches, etc. I also teach Violence Prevention in middle and high schools and educate students about sexual assault and domestic violence. I feel it is so important to reach our children to inform them of the prevention of sexual assault, what sexual assault is, and where they can go for help. For some children, some don’t realize what is being done to them is actually sexual assault. Also, they don’t realize that people in their community care about them enough to let them know where to find help.

I speak to approximately 3,000 children each year about violence prevention and to me, I can’t think of a more positive outcome of such a tragic event in my life! Even if I helped save only one child a year from being sexually assaulted…

To be able to share stories for others have endless possibilities! Not only does it help validate other survivors, let’s them know they are not alone, it may help give ideas for other advocates to help their community and in turn help other survivors! Let’s keep this cycle of sharing continuing!

At one point in our lives (us Survivors) were being controlled and overpowered by the abuser. If all Survivors spoke out we could help control the myths and help prevent sexual assault or domestic violence from taking place in our children and grandchildren’s future!

Be A Voice

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Honor thy Angels - Even with Road Blocks

Even Angels sometimes hit roadblocks...

Some days it feels as if NO ONE is listening....then there are the days that eyes are WIDE OPEN...Remember those days especially - the good days! Remember both are important, however. You will have both my friends, you will have both.

I am so freakin' frustrated sometimes that I just want to give up on spreading the word and educating about awareness of sexual assault. . . but then I remember why I was put on this earth.

We have a job to do, and we are one of many that were chosen to do that job. I have wings and I am going to SOAR until He decides it is time for me to rest my voice. Period. People are going to try and get in our way. People are going to blame the victim. Until they are educated.

We also have to advocate for victims because many of them feel guilty, they feel threatened, or they are children and have no voice! Maybe it's their parents that are their perps...We have to educate children and adults that people care about them, they have safe places they can go, what is being done to them isn't right, they can report it! DON'T GIVE UP!!!

Angels are chosen...there is a reason why they are called ANGELS...Honor it...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

SPREADING AWARENESS - I LOVE MY JOB!

It is so hard for me to put into words how I felt the other night leaving from giving my last presentation. But I will try. . .



As I drove out of the long gravel and dirt hidden driveway, tears started rolling down my face. I was smiling, I felt warm, and I had a sense of peace that overwhelmed me like never before. I had just spent an hour with ten teenage girls that had for one reason or another started living together in a residential home because of needing specialized treatment due to mental, behavioral, or emotional illness that prevents them from productive and pro-social functioning in the family, at school, with peers, and/or within the community.

It was my day to spend some time with them and discuss healthy dating relationships, and healthy relationships in general. As the clocked ticked, our discussions grew intense. These girls were not the typical girls I see on a day to day basis in public high school...no, my energy level was at an all time high! One of the young ladies remembered me from last year (that always makes Mrs. D feel great! ha)

One of the exercises that the group and I were going over, had a particular question on it that became a major discussion, and also became a major breakthrough for one young lady. It was a "Self-Assessment" on knowledge about Dating Violence, so there were no right or wrong answers...

This one particular statement was, True or False - Jealousy is one way to show your boyfriend or girlfriend how much you care for them. . .This young lady marked TRUE. . .Most of the remaining group shared that they stated FALSE. My young Lady X informed quite adamently that she liked it when her boyfriend was jealous because that made her feel special, so she in turn would do the same and at times, at others expense. The girls ranted back and forth about who was right and who was wrong about their answers (I'm sure you can imagine a livingroom with 10 teenage girls)! I continued to let them discuss this issue for about three minutes.

The initiating young lady then looked at me, then one of the staff, and mentioned a quote in the Bible stating, "
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Bible, Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

She didn't quote it word for word, she started the first sentence and said basically, "Doesn't it say in the Bible not to be jealous"?

And we looked at her with a smile and nodded. Then I said in barely a whisper, "Read the statement again that you answered TRUE to". And she did. I reminded her of what she just informed us of above.

It took this young lady a few times to discuss this with us, but it actually sunk in! I also reminded her that showing respect to individuals was just as important. If someone doesn't understand your feelings about something, it doesn't mean that you have to show them disrespect just because they don't understand you; everyone has the right to their own opinions.

She shared with me that she will always "say it like it is" (oh, how she reminded me of me! - probably why the connection) I asked her if she thinks that all individuals "say it like it is". She said "no". I reminded her that since not everyone "says it like it is", they don't all understand or accept those that do. We need to respect others feelings if we deliver messages to them that may not be what they want to hear. Think before we speak! If someone upsets us, we don't need to come down on them and yell and scream...count to five....walk away...it's not worth getting ourselves into trouble or getting into a violent situation because of it.

The look that came upon her face was absolutely priceless. I LOVE MY JOB!