Tag Archives: strength

A Survivor Turns Advocate

Kidnapping Survivor, Elizabeth Smart, Author KOMUnews, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/komunews/7405187850/ (CC BY-SA 2. 0 Generic)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Elizabeth Smart – kidnapped, raped, and tortured over a 9-month period, as a teen – has since become a victims’ advocate [1A].

Now in her early 30s, Smart wrote in a recent Instagram post:

“I never thought I would say that I’m grateful for what happened to me as a 14 year old girl but I can honestly say that I’m not sorry it happened to me because of what it has allowed me to do, the people I’ve been able to meet, and the cause that has become and driven such a large part of my life [1B].”

Smart has spoken with the Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association https://www.fppoa.org/ and the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association https://georgiasheriffs.org/index.php/programs-services/sex-offender-registry on the importance of the Sex Offender Registry.

In 2018, she and her husband, Matt Gilmour, welcomed their third child.

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame
” (Joel 2: 25-26).

[1A and 1B]  Newsweek, “Elizabeth Smart Says She’s ‘Grateful’ For Brutal 2002 Kidnapping” by Daniel Avery, 8/28/19, https://www.newsweek.com/elizabeth-smart-grateful-kidnapping-instagram-1456610.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Heroes

The film The Magnificent Seven is a classic Western about a group of gunslingers who selflessly defend a town against enormous odds.

In the 1960 version (starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen), the men fight off bandits in a Mexican village.  In the 2016 version (starring Denzel Washington), they combat a ruthless robber baron in a frontier town.

Demons 

In both versions of the film, the gunfighters are unquestionably heroes – strong, courageous, and expert at their craft.  In each version, however, one man in the group wrestles with demons from his past.

In the 1960 version, the character “Lee” (played by Robert Vaughn of “Man from UNCLE” fame) fears he has lost his nerve.  Haunted by the enemies he has killed, Lee suffers from nightmares.  He drinks.  His hands tremble.  He breaks out in a cold sweat at the thought of battle.

In the 2016 version, the character “Goodnight Robicheaux” (played by Ethan Hawke) is a former Confederate marksman who now has difficulty taking aim.  Goodnight sees hallucinations that he fears foretell his death.

Both men worry that they will not be able to perform when called upon to do so, that they will let others down.  Both consider themselves weak and cowardly.

A Different Perspective

But the audience does not view them that way.  The audience feels enormous compassion for these characters.

Both men stumble.  Yet they somehow find the courage to face their fears, in defense of others.  That they are flawed is one reason The Magnificent Seven has such a powerful impact.  Their internal struggles make the film more compelling. Continue reading

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Skin Suit

Human skin close-up, Author Montavius Howard, Source https://pixabay.com/photos/skin-brown-skin-skin-up-close-2016480/ (CC0)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

This skin suit that surrounds me, more wrinkled now than any “lawyer suit” I ever owned, is no longer smooth, no longer supple.  It is marred by scars and stretch marks, like the tributaries of some ancient river; has been visited by varicosities, by callouses, hives, rashes, and eruptions too often to count.

But once this skin knew the joy of raindrops.  Once it knew the fever that passion evokes.

This skin suit that envelopes me has been bruised, pierced, incised, and sutured; has been burned by the sun to a poison apple red.

This skin has been stroked and patted, been tenderly groomed, oh so tenderly violated, again and again and again and again – each cell silently screaming in protest, recoiling in horror.

This skin suit of mine has served as a witness to all the best and worst aspects of my life, to the weakness and the strength, the failures and the triumphs; has lain prostrate with pain, overcome by grief, yet risen to see the glory of a new dawn, and lived to praise God for His deliverance.

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God…” (Job 19: 26).

Originally posted 3/5/17

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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BOOK REVIEW – Climbing Over Grit

Image result for wikimedia commons "climbing over grit"

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Climbing Over Grit by Marzeeh Laleh Chini and her daughter Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi is a ringing indictment of child marriage, in the years leading up to and during the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

A moving story of courage, strength, and love in the face of abuse, Climbing Over Grit is a first-hand account of the early life of Laleh’s mother, Najma.

Neglected by her wealthy but self-absorbed parents, Najma is married at the age of 11 to a man thirteen years her senior who regularly beats and rapes her.  Despite horrific abuse, Najma’s spirit is never broken.  She forms a close relationship with her mother-in-law and manages to raise four children (becoming a grandmother at the early age of 30).

In the process – and despite her husband’s vehement opposition – Najma resumes her education, attaining a small degree of independence.  However, history repeats itself when Najma and her husband arrange a marriage for their daughter, Jaleh, at the age of 15.  Continue reading

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Dry Bones

Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel” ‘ “ (Ezek. 37: 12).

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel had a widely known vision in a valley of dry bones.

The corpses there had been scorched by the sun, picked over by vultures and jackals.  God spoke to Ezekiel and asked if the bones could live again, to which Ezekiel replied that only God knew the answer.  God then instructed Ezekiel to prophecy, and life was restored to what was a vast army.

Though Bible commentators agree that the bones were a symbol of Israel, this passage has a highly personal meaning for me.

Many times in my life I have been at the end of my strength.

As an abuse survivor, I have walked lonely beaches at night, and cursed hope for drawing me forward toward another dawn.  As an advocate for the poor and a lawyer responsible for the welfare of clients and staff, I have fought many a losing battle.  As a woman with chronic health problems, I have sat in emergency rooms at 3AM, and more than once lain prostrate in public restrooms, unable even to call for help.

Rarely did God make Himself known to me, in these circumstances.  Unlike Ezekiel, I saw no visions, heard no voices.  But at all times God was present.  It was from God my strength derived, and He that carried me through the worst ordeals. Continue reading

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Surviving the Fire

High Park fire, Larimer County, CO (2012), Author US Air Force, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/usairforce/7462740970/, (PD as work of federal govt.)

Read the blogs of child abuse victims and those concerned for them.  Somewhere along the line, you will find mention of what the abuse damaged or destroyed outright.

Our innocence.  Our childhood.  Our peace of mind.  Our self-confidence.  Our self-esteem.  Our ability to trust.  Our capacity to select loving partners, and sustain healthy relationships.  Our faith.  Our voice.

And from far too many, the abuse took their very lives.

For many of us, what the abuse left behind was isolation, grief, anxiety, depression, rage, and a permanent sense of violation.

Unfortunately, that we will never be the women (or men) we might have been is not helpful information.  We are who we are…marked by these scars.

In some sense, the scars are our badges – if not of honor exactly, then certainly not of shame.  We were the ones sinned against, not the ones sinning, no matter how we were made to feel about the torture inflicted upon us.

As with the veteran who has lost a limb to war or the woman who has lost a breast to cancer, this is simply our reality now. Continue reading

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Skin Suit

“Seated Nude” by Amadeo Modigliani (1909), Source wikipaintings.org (PD – 100)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

This skin suit that surrounds me, more wrinkled now than any “lawyer suit” I ever owned, is no longer smooth, no longer supple.  It is marred by scars and stretch marks, like the tributaries of some ancient river; has been visited by varicosities, by callouses, hives, rashes, and eruptions too often to count.

But once this skin knew the joy of raindrops.  Once it knew the fever that passion evokes.

This skin suit that envelopes me has been bruised, pierced, incised, and sutured; has been burned by the sun to a poison apple red.

This skin has been stroked and patted, been tenderly groomed, oh so tenderly violated, again and again and again and again – each cell silently screaming in protest, recoiling in horror.

This skin suit of mine has served as a witness to all the best and worst aspects of my life, to the weakness and the strength, the failures and the triumphs; has lain prostrate with pain, overcome by grief, yet risen to see the glory of a new dawn, and lived to praise God for His deliverance.

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God…” (Job 19: 26).

With special thanks to Marie Williams and Sandy Meckler for their encouragement and friendship

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Strength

Some abuse victims want as adults only to forget their past. That is an entirely legitimate response, and their prerogative.

By contrast, a surprising number of us want to use our suffering to ease the suffering of others. We want to make something purposeful – even beautiful – out of what was painful and ugly. That is a lofty goal which may or may not be achievable [1].

In either case, a few things should be clear.

A Strong Spirit

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40: 29).

Those who somehow survive abuse – physical, emotional, sexual abuse, and neglect or domestic violence – have a strong spirit. This is true no matter the scars we carry forward from abuse or the fears abuse bequeathed to us. We would not otherwise be here.

To say that we are strong does not denigrate the abuse victims who did not survive. Even heroes are mortal. If anything, we are their witness regarding the horrors inflicted on abuse victims (not to mention the  long-term consequences of abuse).

Layers

Abuse can be multi-layered. While we may consider a single individual responsible for our abuse, many are likely to have contributed to it.

The abuse of a first individual will begin the lesson that we are undeserving of love and concern. As others follow in the same footsteps, we come to believe this untruth.

Then there are those in our lives who could have intervened, but for reasons of their own did not. This is another aspect of the tragedy of abuse. While a non-offending parent may wield less power in the family dynamic than an offending-parent, an adult is always more powerful than a child.

We had every right to look for rescue to the adults aware of our situation.

Excuses

And still we make excuses for the loved ones who abandoned, battered, and raped us.

They didn’t understand the harm they were doing. They led hard lives, were under a great deal of strain. It was our fault. We deserved it. We were disobedient, rebellious. We expected too much. We complained too often. We were too pretty, too flirtatious. Deep down, they “really” cared.

Excuse after excuse after excuse…none sufficient to justify abuse. Continue reading

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Scarred

“Sonia”, age 24, survived an acid attack in Bangladesh after declining the offer of an arranged marriage, Source Narayan Nath/FCO/Department for International Development (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Voice of the Martyrs http://www.persecution.com began reporting some 15 years ago on a growing trend toward acid attacks against women.  One early attack took place in Pakistan against a 17 y.o. Christian girl who had refused the advances of a Muslim man. A striking photo of the girl (“Gulnaz”) showed one side of her face beautiful, the other side horribly scarred.

But acid attacks are not all religiously motivated.

As with Sonia (pictured above), the overwhelming number of attacks are made on young women who have rejected sexual advances by a male or whose parents have refused an offer of marriage [1].  The purpose of these attacks is to enforce gender inequality, and punish perceived transgressions by women against traditional norms.

More recently, acid attacks have been made against children, older women, and men. These attacks have been associated with dowry demands, land disputes, and revenge. Continue reading

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In the Wake of a Tiger

Facial markings on “Sultan” (T72), Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, India, Author Dibyendhu Ash (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

“Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night…
What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil, what the grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?”

The Tiger, William Blake

“How do you do? I’m an incest survivor.” You don’t hear that often. When should abuse victims first introduce the subject of abuse into conversation with friends and acquaintances [1]?

It is, of course, up to victims whether or not to disclose the fact of their abuse. We tend to err in one direction or the other – disclosing to strangers, before a sufficient degree of intimacy has been established to support discussion of such personal subject matter, while keeping the abuse entirely secret from friends (even spouses), sometimes for decades.

Victims can choose the setting, and establish parameters for this conversation. We can speak with one individual or several. “There’s something about me I’d like you to know.” “Let’s take a walk (or sit here for awhile, before the others get back).” “This is hard for me to talk about.” “It would be easier, if you asked specific questions (or didn’t ask questions, right now).”

But the topic of abuse makes people uncomfortable. No doubt about it. Few people unfamiliar with abuse – physical, emotional, sexual or neglect – will know how to respond to such information, at the outset.

Not that any sort of etiquette applies. Still, do they ask for more details? Or would questions be intrusive, insensitive? Should they hide their discomfort, move the conversation along to a less personal topic, as if abuse had not been mentioned? Or should they express shock, reach out to us – appalled that we would have suffered to such an extent?

Keeping silent allows some victims to ignore the painful reality of their abuse. A few will attempt to build a life on this fragile foundation. But the victims of a tiger attack will inevitably reveal their scars. We may as well enlist the aid of friends and relations in dealing with those scars…or, at any rate, attempt to do so. Continue reading

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