Community Building, Community Development, Empowerement, Personal Development

Positive, Powerful, and Empowering: Standing Up for Compassionate Justice in the Face of Sexual Abuse

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Sahar’s Blog’s editorial calendar is pretty clear: Wednesdays are dedicated to product reviews.  But once in awhile, things happen and plans change.

One of these things is an amazingly powerful post Martha uploaded a little under a month ago.  In it, she discusses how she was affected after being sexually abused by a family friend and fellow community member.  I read her post the day it came out, cried a lot, and knew that somehow, I would share it, spread it, and feature it—it’s a post that needs to be read.

While Martha immediately and graciously accepted my request to share the post on my blog, it’s taken me some time to figure out how to do it justice.  Honestly, I don’t think I have yet managed to do so, but I want this story out sooner rather than later, so here goes nothing.

There are a lot of important concepts Martha’s post touches on.  The one that I chose to address in this “introductory” post is that of maintaining hope in the face of terrible, despairing events.  You see, the thing about personal and community development it’s not all roses and chocolate cake; bad things happen throughout the process.  While some of these things are slightly bad and easy to get over, some others are heart-shattering and can test our very beliefs in humanity’s capacity to be able to build heaven on earth.

Current conversations about these bad things seem overwhelmingly steeped in anger.  While understandable, what does this anger serve only to poison the person feeling it?  And what does this anger do when it comes to creating a better world?

I regularly receive emails and read reviews of my books in which it is stated that I am too positive and that my view of the world is utopian.  But I think there is a difference between being blind to the bad things that happen versus not letting the bad things dictate your attitude and actions.

This is one of the reasons why Martha’s post is so powerful.  Something truly, terribly bad happened to her, and yet here she is, positive, powerful, empowered.  While there no doubt in my mind that the sexual abuse she encountered as a young girl had a deep negative impact on her, it doesn’t define her and her attitude towards life.  She isn’t bitter and negative, and isn’t speaking out of a desire for revenge or justice.  She just wants the topic to be out in the open so that it can be positively addressed:

“A couple of years ago I attended an empowerment seminar and for the second time dealt with my abuse. This time I was aided by a fundamental Baha’i concept that allowed me for the first time to let go of the anger and grief that accompanied that moment in time; the inherent oneness of humanity. I realised that every human being on this planet was a part of me including him. Hating him meant hating a part of myself. I recognised that anyone who sees a child as anything other than the light of the world must be really suffering and I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to live with that kind of affliction. For years I had played in my head what it would be like if I ever saw him again and each scenario ended with me inflicting brutal harm upon him. I wanted to stab this man to death. But in a moment my hatred vanished and in its place I was filled with compassion, sorrow and love. Compassion for the trials that he must be facing every day as he deals with his own soul, sorrow that he might hate himself for what he had done to me and that this must weigh down on him and love for him as a part of myself, as a part of this one human family that we all belong to. I decided that if I ever did see him again I would tell him that I was ok, that I didn’t want him to suffer anymore and I would make sure that he had the support that he needed to deal with his actions.

So for the first time since I was 11 I felt relief and my abuse no longer became this burden that I carried. I was able to talk freely and openly about what had happened to my parents, I shared with my friends and used my experience to assist other young people dealing with similar issues. But the other day something happened that triggered me, I was already at a low after having a few back to back difficult days, I was really missing home and my family and friends and in the midst of this I received an unexpected phone call with regards to the abuse. Suddenly the pain and the agony rushed back and paralyzed with grief I did nothing but cry. My cat’s had never seen me cry before and came rushing into my room, Mushu’s ears pushed back and she stared at me with confusion. I thought to myself why is this happening? I thought I had dealt with this, I thought I was ok. I felt as though I had completely regressed right back to square one again and in that moment a serious thought crossed my mind, did I still feel love for him? And the answer to that was yes, if I was suffering he must be suffering more and I sat up and tried to calm my anxious breathing.”

How amazing is that?

And again, this is not to say that the process hasn’t been and won’t be easy for her; she is quite clear that no, it isn’t.  But the path she is choosing to walk is one of empowerment; it’s one in which she will be slowly stepping into the light of hope rather than dwelling in the darkness of despair.  And it is one in which she will become a pillar of strength for the many others who have gone through something similar.

The full post can be found here.  I can only continue praying that Martha and all other women in her situation can have the strength to balance out justice and compassion; to be compassionate to their attackers while firm in their pursuit of justice.

And now I will go cry some more.

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