Talking About Boston and Sexual Assault and Helpers

As I watched the news unfold last night, I felt a familiar pit in my stomach – the feeling of horror and anger and being upset and irrationally MAD about small things. I’ve never witnessed a shooting or been on the scene of such medical trauma. But I was alternating between being distraught and hunting down facts on the Internet about the other people who died yesterday and BEING ANGRY AT EVERYONE FOR THE DYING. ALL OF THE DYING. change-the-conversation-2

That’s PTSD, Sue version. And it has taken me most of the day to wrestle with it so I can write my own post for this important dialogue – my contribution to changing the conversation. Last night, I felt this incredible urge to resist the unfolding conversations on social media and scream at people because they weren’t having the right conversations. They weren’t talking about all of the children who died or were hurt or innocent. They wanted so desperately to blame it on a “foreigner” and at the same time make it be an isolated bout of crazy inspired violence.

They wanted the same control that I wanted. This is a new way Americans experiece a culture of violence – tragedies unfolding in our heartland, among the innocent scenarios and simply hard to fathom. We don’t do well acknowledging the culture of violence in our lives – look how long it took for someone to put a stop to former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice’s physical and verbal abuse of his players? Years. Look how we can’t even agree on a gun control background check – a background check that would have prevented John Schick from purchasing a weapon. Am I only person who feels like that would be good?

In spite of overwhelming evidence and information, we refuse to believe facts. People are poor because they don’t try hard enough. People are fat because they are lazy. Women falsely accuse men of rape. Pedophiles are repressed gay men. There are no patterns, no plans, no cover-ups.

I’m not going to delve into my experiences as a sexual assault survivor. I will share that it happened more than once and it happened in very different situations. And that I know what that shell-shocked feeling is like – the world going in slow-mo, the feelings piling up so fast you can’t process them, the unending fear, the unrelenting terror. And the memories.

Another thought that came unbidden to me as I watched the news – the admonishment from Mr. Rogers that we should look for the helpers.

…I think if news programs could make a conscious effort of showing rescue teams, of showing medical people, anybody who is coming into a place where there’s a tragedy, to be sure that they include that—because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope

Today, helpers came forward to help. Lou, Maria, Becky, Jody, Sherry, and more. Thousands of helpers responded in Steubenville. Anonymous helpers rose in outrage at the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons to demand justice. Bartenders and bouncers and servers and teachers and neighbors and   my friend Ian and hundreds of thousands of people are running to the tragedy that is sexual assault.

And those who are talking, who are having the conversations, who are pushing back against the culture of rape that has ensnared these dialogues with themes of shame, punishment, and silence – they are the helpers, too. Let their words and their belief in you wrap around you. We can’t make the media show them, but we can put their words here on the interwebs – immortalized for you to read tomorrow or next month or in 2016.

Mr. Rogers actual words

“What children need to hear most from us adults is that they can talk with us about anything and that we will do all we can to keep them safe in any scary time.”

We hear you.

We believe you.

We know you can thrive.

The helpers are on their way, dear ones. There is hope.


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