Stolen panache

Blue Ribbon 250x325Last week, on one of the first truly glorious spring days, I wrapped our front yard tree in teal netting adding a sparkly teal bow for a little extra panache in support of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Today however, felt more like a fall day than anything remotely spring. The wind was harsh, knocking and thrashing everything in its path violently to the ground.

My sparkly teal bow was no exception – it too had fallen casualty to the unrelenting force of the wind where I found it on the ground twisted in all of its panache.

The bow was a reminder of how in a split second of unrelenting force sexual assault, violence and rape occur – in the U.S. every 107 seconds. The violence is staggering:

  • 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted
  • 1 in 33 men are sexually assaulted
  • 68% of sexual assaults go unreported
  • 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail or prison

As parents and adults it is our job, as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sing, “to teach our children well.”

Teaching our boys and girls respect for all people.

Teaching our boys and girls that “no means no.”

Teaching our boys and girls by modeling what respect looks like in our own relationships.

It is incumbent upon us to do this teaching in order to end this epidemic of sexual violence and rape.

Everyone deserves to be treated with loving kindness and respect. Every beautiful being who has been victimized deserves to be believed – perhaps the purest form of loving kindness and respect each of us can extend to a sexual assault victim are the words “I believe you.” (Thank you TeamTeal365 for this sage advice.)

For additional resources, visit RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Go. Now. Teach.

Be the loving kindness and respect that honors everyone’s indigenous panache.

 

Statistics provided by RAINN

Standing

10988968_10153079087442250_3659471481402886534_nStanding together – arm-in-arm, shoulder-to-shoulder, side-by-side – speaking up and speaking out about sexual assault, sexual violence and human trafficking.

Standing together we have the power to support one another across communities and across cultures as sexual assault, sexual violence and human trafficking do not discriminate.

Standing together we each have the privilege of boldly voicing a commitment to survivors shouting:

“I stand with you. I stand for you.”

Throughout April, a month dedicated to Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention, Voices of Pearls will share resources working to address the issues of sexual assault, sexual violence and human trafficking.

RESOURCE: Should you need help for yourself or for someone else, RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization, is an excellent confidential resource. https://rainn.org

RESOURCE: National Sexual Assault Hotline – 800-656-HOPE (4673)

Today. Now. Always. “I stand with you. I stand for you.”

Chi-dirt Dandy

Meet Samantha. She is my friend, my mentor and my daily inspiration.

In learning Sam’s story my hunch is she found her north star as a young child. Her lightening bright energy and unflagging resiliency kept her north star in constant focus.

A star not always easy to find when you’re born a black female child into one of America’s toughest crime, roughest drug and poverty stricken neighborhoods in the country: Chicago’s west side.

Samantha on stage this weekend as part of University of Wisconsin Milwaukee's Vagina Monologues. Sam's organization Team Teal 365 is a beneficiary of the proceeds.

Samantha on stage this weekend as part of University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s Vagina Monologues. Sam’s organization Team Teal 365 is a beneficiary of the proceeds.

Over a cup of tea Sam shared her story. As you read Sam’s story you might expect there to be anger and bitterness. While the scars belong to her for a lifetime, it is her tremendous love for her God, her world and humanity that illuminate Sam’s fiery, visible spirit. A spirit that fuels her as she lives her life modeling the change she wants for the world.

With Sam’s permission I’ve attempted to capture her words and her patently “Sam I am” energy.

“You know there’s nothing spectacular about my path – no trips ‘up north,’ no vacations to the lake house, no nothin’ really.

“I come from the dirt. From under the gravel. A place that is never meant to harvest anything.

“No one noticed in-between me being sexually assaulted as a child, the constant gang activity, and the drug addiction of the adults, that I was a dandelion poking up between the dirt and the gravel.

“Growing up I would get really excited about little things – like eating because there never was any [food]. Or the times when there were opportunities to leave the hood to see something new.”

Shaking her head and smiling Sam shares one of her more memorable outings.

“Like the time I was 11 and took the bus by myself out of the hood to be in the Christianity Pageant at my cousin’s church. I knew if I gave it my best I could win the Christianity Pageant. And you know what? I did win. I read the hell out of that Footprints poem. I worked the crowd wearing my sister’s suit that was at least three sizes too big. I knew I had something to share. I wanted people to know I was a dandelion – that I had value, that I had worth.

“With all of the ‘ain’t got,’ ‘don’t haves,’ ‘never will,’ ‘not you’ rhetoric of the hood, it made it easy for sexual assault to seep into the culture. There was no structure.

“Since I came from nothing and didn’t have anything myself, no one felt they were taking anything from me by repeatedly sexually assaulting the child I was. Who was going to stand up for me when they already felt threatened by the gangs and their own poverty?”

From this rough and tumble childhood, Sam began working as a childcare provider to create a life for herself that would allow her to attend college. She chose childcare, “Because no one ever loved on me. I wanted and still want kids, who come from the dirt like I did, to know that they have value. That they matter. That they are loved.”

After college, Sam would again become the victim of sexual assault as an adult. A story she courageously shares as part of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s Be Visible project.

Samantha speaking at the 2015 Marin Luther King rally calling for an end to sexual violence against women and students in Milwaukee.

Samantha speaking at the 2015 Marin Luther King rally calling for an end to sexual violence against women and students in Milwaukee

Sam’s assault as an adult coupled with her abuse as a child, serves as the history she stands on today as the founder of Team Teal 365. A small, grassroots organization with the goal of empowering, educating, advocating and supporting all survivors of sexual assault. An organization that wraps each survivor in compassion and trust that starts with the simple words, “I believe you.” The words Sam knows first-hand help victims move from surviving to thriving.

Sam’s voice is powerful. Sam’s purpose is radiant. She is the Chi-dirt dandelion whose north star destiny is now a beautiful, vibrant, visible constellation of advocacy, social justice, love and the change she wants for the world.

Sam she is!