Sacred Spaces, Healing Places

In this bittersweet time for me, I look back to last week and last year. Last week my nonprofit, My CARE (Community, Arts, Research and Education) Initiative launched its second Break Through Silence event which had a lot of firsts. Also last year the opportunity was offered from organization, Blueprint NY and Black Women’s Blueprint to join fourteen women to speak at both the historic Riverside Church in Harlem and the United Nations about abuse and testify to its destructiveness as well as the importance of supportive places and spaces.  I was invited and scheduled to speak again this year, this time the location Atlanta, Georgia but due to illness keeping me from flying, unfortunately I was unable to attend. Though disappointed, the lessons haven’t been wasted. An almost overwhelming amount of feedback, regarding the necessity of emotional and physical spaces of which people can attend, speak or be still and not be judge is an essential component. Not only for the individual working towards healing, but for the community at large to understand the different processes within awareness.

Though I believed it, the last year has emboldened and deepened my resolve allowing me to know for certain, where once operating with somewhat of a question mark, now it has become exclamatory, declarative. This work is about the sacredness of connection, with one another, but most importantly with oneself.

Connection is sacred. It’s one of the things that is obliterated when having been abused. Your whole outlook is tainted, towards people, situations and even yourself. Many who have suffered abuse tend to disconnect from their bodies, their thoughts and emotions because the memories of what happened were so painful. If you were unprotected which is usually the case for various reasons, protection becomes critically important. One of the challenges with this is, protection can look different to many people. If one disassociates from their feelings or reaffirms the messages they are unworthy because they were treated in that way, the result can be a myriad of behaviors. Such can include addictions and to what some may label, promiscuity. Many sufferers from past abuse who interact in this way are just trying to cope and they may not be ready or have felt safe enough to start the work towards healing, because believe me when I tell you this, it is work! It’s painful and soul wrenching to go back and delve into the abuses of the past and the emotions that were associated: “Why did this happen?” “Why didn’t anyone protect me?” “Why didn’t anyone love me enough to stop this?” “Did I deserve this?” “Am I unlovable which is why this happened?” These are only a glimpse of difficult questions that may surface upon this healing journey. You need safe spaces to go deep into these questions because they are vulnerable and scary. It’s addressing the dirtiest things that have happened to you and then daring to have a glimpse of hope there may be a better life on the other side of that pain. Having this potential of hope for a better existence starts as a concept and can shift that space of reconnecting to oneself, morphing from the intangible to tangible reality, one step at a time.

Our Healing Arts Caravan with the Break Through Silence program included an arts showcase, self-care workshops and a panel discussion. It included different sectors within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Governor Baker’s Executive Director on Sexual Assault Council, Tammy Mello; State Representative, Natalie Higgins; Fitchburg’s Chief of Police, Ernest Martineau; Fitchburg State University’s FAVE (Fitchburg Anti-Violence Education) Coordinator, Amanda Sapienza; Worcester County’s Pathways for Change, Inc., Director of Counseling Heidi LeBoeuf and Veteran and Author, Dennis Randall. These panelists spoke of personal reasons why they wanted to participate in the panel as well as why the topic of child abuse and assault were important to them. Not all but many of the panelists revealed their personal experience with abuse.  During the Q&A portion, the audience had questions, a couple revealing themselves abuse from their childhood and their opening up about this for the first time at this event. They felt safe. This is one of the purposes of Break Through Silence. We want to be able to engage people in a variety of creative ways towards healing from abuse and assault. The vehicle we choose is through the arts and blend it with education, local resources and compassion. Supporters and Survivors alike have the opportunity to come into an environment of which they are “cared” for: we make sure there is food, the location is one that many can manage, access to resources and places where you can be still if you choose or interact with others who may be on a similar journey to better health and awareness, transferring that safe space from conceptual, then geographically, to the locale and then that person’s direct internal space. So many times both victim and survivors’ physical space, their body has been violated. Often, it starts mentally and emotionally with being berated. Though those scars may not be as evident, it can take years to heal and that really only happens after recognizing there is in fact a problem. Too many times people bury their feelings or don’t even connect their anger, depression, guilt or other feelings as from the abuse they experienced. This then can be turned inwardly and their hurting themselves and others by reckless behaviors, various addictions and sadly, victimization. It not only affects the individual who was abused, but our society too which is why it is so important for this issue to be addressed and addressed regularly. From our body temples to collectively as a society, we’ve got to nurture and protect our spaces.

The sweetness of this time for me has been a lot of healing within a year. Parts of me that were jagged and raw have become softened and lighter. I’m grateful for the businesses, organizations, individuals who have helped bring this program to fruition as well as my own support network because moving forward requires having support. My personal belief is there is a distinction between victim and survivorship. It’s not to say one is better than the other, just different and both necessary. When you’re in victim status, you’re more in the part of recognition of the abuse forced upon you and in that space of hurt. It’s completely necessary to recognize the pain and all that is associated with being abused, and that you survived. The shift from victim to survivorship in my opinion and experience is when one has accepted this has happened, from there making steps towards overcoming, whatever that may look like for that person. For me, I needed to start with defining what overcoming actually is. What is love, and not the movie, “Night at the Roxbury” but really, how do I define it? I believe you can and will vacillate between the two, but eventually you’ll be more connected towards one and less of the other because they are different parts of the journey, the journey to overall healing within our total sacred space.

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