I have intended to write about this since I first learned of the tragedy….and have honestly not known how to start, what to say. So I’m thinking and feeling my way just sitting at the computer. FIRST, just from a psychological perspective, let’s drop the word victims and go with SURVIVORS! What amazing women to live through this ordeal and move back into the world in whatever sheltered/protected/healing manner they need to for as long as they need to.
I choose SURVIVORS as a result of working with violence against women for many years. In Kansas City we are proud to have MOCSA….the Metropolitan Organization for Countering Sexual Assault. I had the opportunity to work with a handful of amazing women and men to put the organization together in the 70’s and it has grown and expanded into a model for working with survivors, offering a broad range of services to a broad range of women, children, and families.
So what’s the reason for the word change?…. Clearly the three women, and one small child, who have been rescued from a living hell have been victimized — brutally and quite relentlessly and for most of us, in ways unimaginable. However, when we think of women as VICTIMS rather than SURVIVORS, there is a way in which we take something away from them….the COURAGE AND PERSONAL POWER — drawn from somewhere deep within — to survive. When any woman has been victimized, she has to own that. To define it, describe it in order to heal. In addition, I believe that identifying with the word “victim” carries a high risk of being stuck and defined by the word. And since we like definitions in our culture — they create a “manageable psychological space” for us to wrap our brains around — I pick SURVIVORS. It was a survivor mentality — not a victim mentality — that kept those women and that child alive.
I can’t imagine what I would have to call on deep down inside myself to make it through the 10 years of hell we are gradually learning about. But I’ve been reflecting on it. And I’ve been thinking of the dozens and dozens of women I’ve worked with over the years who have been victimized by men in their lives — from total strangers to family members to spouses. Our “seeming acceptance” of violence against women here and around the world is intolerable, and it’s time for paying attention at the deepest levels of our personal and system understanding. If the sick man who held these women captive had been arrested years ago for the reported extreme abuse against his wife, perhaps these women would have been saved….but since that is in the past, let’s think about what we can do NOW to pay attention to what’s happening to women and girls, and to some men and boys that is violent and unacceptable.
The very best thing I’ve heard in just recent weeks is a Ted Talk by Jackson Katz Ph.D. Look for it. He speaks beautifully to the need for men to step up….and other women as well….to pay attention and speak out when we hear or see something we know is not okay……..he says it from a male perspective that gives me hope.
So, regardless, let’s think of ourselves as survivors — and certainly think of these three women and one little girl — as survivors to celebrate. Let’s embrace the power we have within us to be who we are — to be strong, to take care of ourselves, to heal, to move out into the world on behalf of ourselves and for other women and girls, and where relevant, for men and boys.
The trauma, the unimaginable horror these women need to heal from is for another day. I’m still thinking of what the impact of just a few days of abuse does to a woman on multiple levels — physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual…. I will keep thinking, and share my thoughts.
I’d also like to hear yours. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF…. pay attention…..