I keep coming across this quote that says, “Your only a writer if you write. Once you stop writing you’re no longer a writer.” Well, I haven’t written in a long time, so mostly out of fear of no longer being a writer, I’m writing tonight. There couldn’t be a worse time for me to choose to write because when you come from a writing hiatus you are supposed to write something flowery and cute and easy to swallow. Trouble is, my day was all but that. To be honest, my life isn’t that either. My day and my life are what I like to call a beautiful mess. It spills all over the place. It slips into places it shouldn’t. But somehow, it’s still beautiful.
Today I watched hopelessness and hope crash into one another and winced and prayed as I saw hope overcome in what looked like a reflection of my life: a beautiful mess. Today was one of the hard days at work. I don’t have them often anymore because we haven’t done intake in years. So my normal workday is seeing how the hard work of me and my team (and of course the grace of God) has transformed former child victims of sexual violence into young ladies who are survivors and thriving in their new lives. So when I met B (that’s what we’ll call her) today, my heart was confused. It had kind of forgotten how to shatter the way it did as I listened to B’s story. For the past few years I have been listening to young ladies who used to be my little girls tell me of the extraordinary ways their lives have changed since they became a part of Art and Abolition. I have been watching pieces of the monster that is sexual violence against young girls chip away. So when B walked in the room, the monster that walked in with her jolted me and I sat up a little straighter to listen to B’s story. I realized that the monster was still alive and well and torturing this little girl.
B is 8 years old. When it came time to speak my instinct was to say was any person would say to an 8 year old. “What’s your name? What grade are you in? What is your favorite subject in school? What games do you like to play with your friends?” Questions that 8 year old should be asked. But I asked those questions for as long as I could before my social worker chimed in and asked the question I had been avoiding. “So, tell us what happened on that day”. We all knew which day she was referring to. B’s face immediately changed and she started peeling away at a pink pencil in her hands. The pink specks were falling off the pencil and onto her green school uniform.
“That day” B was playing outside… like 8 year olds do, when a man came and lured her and her friends to his house. He enticed them with the promise of rice and meat, things B’s family sadly cannot afford. What started out as a fun afternoon playing with friends quickly turned dark when the man stripped all the girls naked and instructed them to lie down in a line on the ground. As B is telling us this more more of the pink specks are falling down and her skirt is now covered in them. My social worker asks “And then what happened?” B is silent. She doesn’t cry or make a sound. She just chips away at what used to be a pink pencil. Eventually she says, “Alinirape” which means “he raped me” in Swahili. The social worker that is seated next to me expands on the story and tells me that the man lined them up on the floor and then penetrated them one by one. When B was taken to the hospital his sperm was found in her urine. The room went quiet. The only sound was B chipping away at what was now about half of a pencil. Everyone in the room waited with a heavy silence for me or my social worker to say something. But what do you say? “Thank you. I’ll let you know if you make it into the program?”. I couldn’t say that. My social worker, who is obviously much more experienced with hearing these cases than I am went on to ask her more questions like “What happened next?”etc. But I stopped her, and I put my hand on B’s knee. I tilted my head down so I could look into her eyes which were downcast and I said, “I’m sorry”. That’s all I could say. “I’m sorry”. There was so much behind that short sentence. I was sorry she knew what the word rape meant and felt like. I was sorry that she may never feel safe to go outside and play with her friends again. I was sorry that she was raped. I was sorry she couldn’t save herself from the man. I was sorry she had to tell the story to us. I was just so sorry. But I let all of that out in two small words. Then I let the social worker continue with her questions. This is all necessary to make sure the girl fits our criteria for our program. We do these interviews for intake. We are taking in 11 more girls this November and so we are holding interviews with survivors to see who we will choose.
As the social worker continued to talk to B, I stopped listening and started praying. I asked God “Please, let me see what you see” and immediately hope won. I saw B in the future after receiving the therapy and healing she needs. I saw her educated and well dressed instead of in a ripped school inform. I saw her smiling and confident instead of her head being downcast as she peels away at a pencil. There is a whole process that we go through before we accept a girl, but I made the decision then and there that B was going to be accepted into our program. That little girl changed my life. She was so brave. She didn’t have to come for that interview and she didn’t even have to speak. But she did. And not only that, she goes to school everyday and continues with life after experiencing such hell. What a resilient spirit for an 8 year old.
I would love to say that’s how the day ended, but it wasn’t. We then interviewed more girls with equally heartbreaking stories. But for some reason B has stayed with me. There is something special about her. I believe that God is going to use her for something great.
So after a morning of interviews it’s easy to be depressed and overwhelmed by the immensity of this monster. But somehow, God has lifted me above the problem and allowed me to see hope. Restoration. Justice. God has given me the courage to keep chipping away at this monster until it’s completely dead. Me, along with all the other fierce warriors out there fighting this beast. When I got home today I wanted nothing more than several glasses of wine to drown out all the little girls voices that where echoing in my head “alinirape, alinirape,alinirape” (“he raped me, he raped me, he raped me”). But I resisted the temptation to drown it out with wine as I’m trying a lifestyle change challenge that is alcohol free for 30 days (along with sugar, bread and lots of other things I love). So I went to the pool and swam out the voices. I called my pastor and prayed out the voices. I did yoga and stretched out the voices. I sat in mediation and breathed out the voices. They are quieter now. And as I prepare for bed the overwhelming voice I hear is God’s, and the promise that “there is hope!” I get to be a part of that hope and so do you if you join our movement. I’m taking my example from B. I choose to be brave, a survivor, one who speaks out. For B’s sake, and for every girl who experiences sexual violence I will keep fighting for them. That’s what Art and Abolition is all about. Join us. http://www.theartandabolitionmovement.org