We are all lightning rods, conduits for that which the Universe wants born into this world. What energies did you channel this year?
I didn’t choose to become a victim nineteen years ago just as I didn’t choose to be a victim again six years ago, but I did make a choice to become a survivor once I determined to confront my rape and sexual assault in order to understand my own mental health. Notice I did not say “in order to move on” or to “get over it”. There is no such thing as moving on from being victimized or getting over it, no matter what some people might say, because who I was before I was raped ceased to exist from the moment my “No!” went ignored. It is impossible to move on from nonexistence, only starting over. And when I decided to start over, I started over on a survivor’s quest.
My husband has always referred to me as a “lightning rod”, someone who is able to ignite important conversations and force people into confronting issues. I had a professor whom I admired call me his “laser pointer”, someone he relied on to cut discussions down into the most important, even if provocative, points. I’ve had enemies call me a “pot stirrer” and even a “political provocateur”, someone who would purposely raise controversial issues in order to stir the minority into action. But this was supposedly all me in the past, how would I utilize all of this into becoming who I was to be? I had to believe that my purpose in life was meant to be more than just survival. I could feel it.
Just as conduits are purposely placed in locations best suited for channeling the strongest currents of energy, it seemed as if I would encounter people who needed to have important conversations at the most critical of times. I listened to a woman in a produce department who had just confronted a family member for sexually abusing her when she was a child. As this woman sobbed while I hugged her, all she could say was, “I hate him!” over and over. And all I could tell her was, “It’s okay for you to hate him.” She wasn’t the only one. My transition from victim to survivor became easier not only because of therapy but largely due to an overwhelming response I had from strangers who began to open up to me.
My calling began to crystalize over this past year, then, as I realized I had moved beyond the role of “only” a survivor but also and advocate. I began speaking up more for victims. Victims like me. I spoke up more for survivors. Like me. I behaved more like and advocate. Like me. I challenged rape culture on social media, especially on Facebook. I called out people on statements and behavior that I would have ignored in years past. I showed solidarity with other advocacy groups like Anonymous when they rallied in support for other rape and sexual assault victims whose perpetrators were being celebrated.
I made people angry. I’ve offended people. And I haven’t cared. I care that I might have hurt feelings, but I don’t believe this to be true. I believe I have challenged the status quo and this makes people uncomfortable. It makes people nervous. And with this agitation comes the perception that feelings are hurt when in reality all this means is that people are so attached to their ideology they become too personally attached to it. And honestly, why wouldn’t anyone argue for women being protected? For children being protected? For rapists having more jail time than computer hackers? Why would anyone sincerely believe a person deserved to be sexually violated? And beyond sexual assault, why wouldn’t anyone want equal protection for everyone regardless of race or socioeconomic status? Or religious belief? Or sexual orientation? Why would anyone be able to look at themselves and accept rights for themselves and not others?
If this makes people angry, so be it. But I will not allow it anymore. Everyone needs a safe harbor even if it happens to be in the produce department of a grocery store. I will never accept the ridiculous notion that it was “God’s will” that I was raped and sexually assaulted (as someone once had the audacity to tell me). However, I can accept the passion and love I feel when I am able to look at someone in the eyes and truthfully tell them, “I know you don’t believe me now, but there will be a moment when you understand none of this is your fault.” Nothing can replace the I feel when I make eye contact with a stranger and my heart recognizes him or her and whispers to me, “Go.”
For every lightning strike that singes somewhere on this earth there will always be someone like me, a victim first. But a survivor and advocate last, who will serve as a lightning rod.