Last week a friend and I were able to volunteer with the YWCA’s Santa Store. It was a good day. In addition to the fun of helping people wrap up and select presents we had a bit of time to visit with some of the staff members.
While it was really encouraging to hear about the good work they are doing, the way their services are available at crucial times, it was also really discouraging to hear a recent stat. Already this month, by December 12th they had served 22 survivors of sexual assault. Yes, you read that right, 22 hospital visits in 12 days.
Back in 2010 when I started volunteering with Threads of Compassion OKC they served an average of 30 people a month. That seemed like a lot. But, to hear that number has increased so significantly sure hurts.
15 years ago I sat with a group of other survivors and listened as we each shared a bit about how we were doing at that time. I remember looking around at others who were like me trying to process their traumatic event and find a way to not feel crazy. It hit me then that I sure wished we did a better job of teaching people not to hurt others. Instead of all of us having to learn how to move forward, it just made sense to teach everyone from a very young age to be respectful of others and to not hurt each other. I know that’s a simplistic view, but really, if each parent, teacher, and other adult that interacts with kiddos intentionally focused on respect and boundaries, if we’d all teach that “no means no” no matter what preceded it, then fewer people would need to do the hard work of healing from assault. Because, there’d be fewer assaults.
So, here I sat 15 years later with tears starting to run down my face as I thought of all that faced these 22 brave survivors that have started a journey to healing. And, I remembered that moment years ago looking around a room of strong women and thinking “why don’t we teach the guys not to do this?”
So, I guess that’s my Christmas wish this year, that each of us will look out for those around us, that we’ll teach our sons and daughters to love one another, that we’ll model and teach respect, that we’ll start in simple ways like when we’re tickling a toddler who laughs out a “stop” we’ll stop. Instead of teaching self-defense to our girls, let’s teach all the kiddos to keep their hands (and other parts) to themselves. Let’s listen to one another and teach each other what respect looks like from the very early days. Let’s let consent be real in every situation and stop the violence. We can do it together.