Hello dear friends. There have been things happening in this world that have me shaken. Up at night and wondering what the fix is. A fix that will actually work. I’ve wanted to speak out here on the blog but I felt called to really sit and think long and hard about what I wanted to say before making my mark on these topics here on the blog. There has been abuse and hatred and death and destruction unfolding around us, and I think we all need to be aware of two things that occurred in particular. I’m talking about the rape that occurred at Stanford University, recently making news as the one year trial wrapped up and the perpetrator, 20-year-old Brock Turner, was sentenced for his crime, and the horrific shooting that took place over this past weekend in Orlando, leaving 49 people dead and almost as many injured. When I read this letter that the rape victim wrote and read to Turner at his sentencing I almost wept. I must warn you it is gruesome. What happened to this woman should never ever happen to anyone. I couldn’t help but think of how I would have felt if this had been my sister, or friend, or daughter. It is a must read. It sheds light on what it feels like to be a victim who is harassed, doubted, and made to feel guilty after being raped. It is unacceptable what happened to this young woman. Many news pieces that followed the trial talked about how in court this 20-year-old man was repeatedly referred to as an “olympic hopeful” in the swimming world, and his lawyers talked about how this trial was going to ruin his career. Can you imagine? Being concerned about his swim career instead of focusing solely on the destroyed life of the woman who was raped? Instead of worrying if he will ever compete again (Would you want to swim in a pool with someone who brutally undressed and raped a semi-conscious 23-year-old woman behind a dumpster?) why not focus on the mental health issues of a young man who (even when drunk) would consider doing what he did to another person? I understand that the woman who was raped was under the influence of alcohol. She herself admitted to being completely intoxicated when she was raped. That being said – I wholeheartedly believe that consent is not about someone not saying no. It is about consciously saying yes. This woman was unconscious when she was raped behind a dumpster and her body was left cut, bleeding, and bruised. By the grace of God two students saw what was happening and chased Turner, captured him, and called the cops. If they hadn’t stopped him there is a great chance this woman might not have survived. I finished reading the news coverage and felt sick to my stomach.
And then there was the shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando early Sunday. This was the worst attack on US soil since 9-11. It left the LGBT community reeling as it became clear they were targeted purposefully in this attack. The shooter, who was killed by law enforcement only after he had brutally opened fire on hundreds of people, was an American-born Muslim and declared during the attack that he was acting on behalf of ISIS. To me these things (his religion and who he did this in honor of) have little bearing on what I think is the issue at hand. To me this raised red flags about gun control, hatred, closed-mindedness, and the desperate need to pay closer attention to the major mental health issues unfolding around us. Since the attack family members and friends have said they felt the shooter, Omar Mateen, struggled with mental health issues. What if he had sought help? And since the attack many are again calling for more stringent gun control laws. Congressman (and former Marine) Seth Moulton has spoken out to say that assault rifles have no place on America’s streets and I couldn’t agree more.
This can’t keep happening. Hatred of this magnitude cannot continue to see the light of day. When did we forget that we are one big tribe of human beings? It is not about “us and them”. It is about treating other people as you would wish to be treated, and better yet treating each and every person as you would want those you love to be treated. I think far too often I feel my one little voice isn’t strong enough to bring light into the darkness. What does it matter if I speak out? What can my one voice do? Well, in writing this, I am hoping that my one voice can affect just one person. And then that one person may have a conversation with their friend, or husband, or child – and that conversation will change the way they choose to live their life. The ripples will bring these conversations to center stage and that is when real change happens. We are all called to bring these issues to light. Violence, rape, and public attacks on others should have no place in our society.
I know children are too young to hear about or understand the horrific rape that occurred and the mass shooting that sent chills down my 39 year old spine, but they are not too young to hear about the bigger message here. The bigger message is that violence is not okay in any shape or form. When I cry while reading at my computer I tell my girls I am crying because sometimes sad and bad things happen in our world. I then explain to them that there are people in the world who are sick and that makes them do bad things. We even go on to discuss how people are often unkind to others just because they are different than themselves. We talk a lot about respect and how all people, but boys and men in particular, need to respect women and treat them well. Just because you are bigger than someone else that doesn’t mean you can bully them or touch their body in a disrespectful way. And we have and continue to tell our girls that the only people who need to see them naked or touch their private areas in any way are Mommy, Daddy, and their doctors. I hope they remember this message for the rest of their lives. And from the shooting the bigger message is that all people have the right to live their life the way they choose to. They get to choose their religion, who they love, and how they look or dress. Different is okay, and no one should be persecuted or treated badly because of their differences. These are hard conversations to have, but if we neglect to have them, then we too become a part of the problem. Speak up people. It might be your one little voice that brings about big change.