1. What is the injustice you experience (specifically related to Sexual Assault Awareness Month)?
On a personal level I experience the injustice of being a woman in our culture, at best weathering sexualized comments about my appearance and further down the spectrum having to engage unwanted sexual solicitations. And, this occurs in everyday situations and places- at a restaurant or in line at the grocery store. These experiences are so common for women we tend to not recognize them as injustice, however if we are going to spend a month working to grow in our awareness around sexual assault it is important to remember experiences of sexual harm and violence happen on a spectrum. Anyone who uses sexual undertones that make someone uncomfortable has perpetrated a kind of assault. On a vocational level I experience a myriad of injustices as I engage the stories of individuals through sexual abuse recovery groups. The injustice of parents who failed to protect their children, who set their children up for abuse intentionally or unintentionally. The injustice of abusers' ability to foster a sense of complicity in their victims. The injustice of the abuse itself, namely the experiences of powerlessness, betrayal, and ambivalence we all suffer in the wake of harm suffered in relationship.
2. What is your role or experience?
I facilitate sexual abuse recovery groups using material by Dan Allender and The Allender Center of The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. I have been walking through stories of harm with folks since 2013 when I was first trained through The Allender Center. I have now led around fifteen thirteen week recovery groups locally and I also work as an apprentice with The Allender Center facilitating at some of their workshops from time to time. I am also a survivor of a complex family of origin system, which had significant failures to protect and nurture in the realm of sexuality.
3. How has creativity or art brought reconciliation for you or this injustice?
I often use poetry to process the stories I am privileged to engage. This allows me to ponder stories in a way that is not voyeuristic. Also, at the end of my recovery groups we share a celebration meal together to mark the work we have done and the journey we have been on together. At these meals each person in the group brings a gift for all of the other members. These gifts are always creative. Gifts include paintings, poems, blessings, plants or flowers, reminders of our beauty. When one is able to cultivate beauty in the wake of abuse one is defiantly standing against evil. In essence it is a re writing of the story, a taking back of power, an ownership of voice.
4. What is one practical way you want to see people get involved?
Engage your own stories of harm. You cannot be a good listener to the stories of others if you have not listened well to your own story. Begin therapy, engage the work of Brené Brown, take the Story Sage or Wounded Heart online courses through The Allender Center, join a recovery group if that's an option where you live. We all live in a broken world therefore we have all experienced some level of trauma, which needs to be integrated in order for us to live as whole and alive people. Secondly, begin to disrupt the cultural myth that abuse is an experience of the other. Sexual abuse occurs in all communities, including faith communities. Whether you know their stories or not you know many survivors of sexual abuse, be mindful of this in your interactions with others. And, most of all, remember one survivor you know may be yourself. Offer yourself relentless kindness as you begin your own journey of healing. If you would like help locating resources in your area as you begin to engage your own stories of harm, or are looking for resources, on behalf of others, please feel free to get in touch with me.
As a victim of sexual assault myself, I have experienced (and still experience 10+ years later) the slow and difficult work of restoring a healthy sexuality. I am deeply grateful to know Kellay and her heart for this work. She is the real deal! If you need help, reach out. You can take back your power. Don’t be silent.
Below you will see the art piece I created to represent Kellay’s blog and my own story. I wanted to depict how recovery from sexual assault takes mental strength and a gentle reintroduction to the physical body. It is personal work that takes time.
This print is for sale in our “SHOP” tab. Any profit will be shared with Kellay and her organization/cause of choice. Thanks Kellay!