Women’s History Month is usually a time when we honor famous women, female celebrities who have died or women who have made a substantial contribution to the world.
This year, I’d like to do something different.
I’d like to dedicate Women’s History Month to the victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and violence against women and girls all over the world. I want to honor the victims who have passed, but also those survivors living among us in our homes, families and communities. Our sisters, aunts, friends, partners and daughters.
The She who is loving us anyway. I want to honor me and you for dreaming, healing and existing in this world.
The story of victims in the news is not new, but most recently, Amber Rose, Lady Gaga and even Vice President Joe Biden have addressed sexual abuse and domestic violence on national television, making a call to change the culture of violence against women. The goal is to create a world where the victim never has to ask “What did I do?”—because they did nothing wrong.
As I heard this, I thought about all the women I have supported whose internal little girl would have died to hear those words not just from a stranger on TV, but from the people who didn’t believe them or did nothing to help them. Because they didn’t just tell anyone, they told some of the most important people in their lives who should have protected them, chosen them and loved them.
I also thought about the women who are products of rape or have children who came from sexual assault. I thought about the invisible women who will never tell, who thought it was their fault and kept silent.
I thought about the women who feel ashamed because their bodies reacted and they thought they liked it. I thought about the women who think they deserve to get beat and battered because that is the only love they know.
I thought about the women who aren’t comfortable in their own skin, little girls still in bed waiting for someone to save them. And I thought about women who are in relationships, pushing themselves to love, but unable to be intimate or sexual. Women who are always in fear, remembering that their first sexual experience was not their own.
I want to honor the women who live as if the abuse, the violence is happening to them every day, no matter what month or year it is. It lives in their body and psyche, ingrained in their DNA, impacting their mind, body and spirit in ways that professionals haven’t been able to fix and victims themselves can’t describe.
The shame and betrayal is like a stretch mark on the body that no salve can ever remove. It is a reminder that a life-changing event occurred, forever altering their reality.
Today, I acknowledge the courageous warrior women who have survived. I honor the women and girls all over the world who have stood on on the front lines of movement and organizations, who have created families despite the circumstances.
And most importantly, I honor the brave people who live with us and love us. They are the first line of defense in our lives. Their reactions impact our lives—they are the difference between life or death for some.
It shouldn’t take a special month or a life saver to honor the resiliency, courage and spirit of these women though. They deserve for us to know better, to look at our own internal dialogue about women, sex, gender and power. They deserve for us to see their worth and value.
They deserve for us to educate ourselves about violence against women throughout history. They deserve to have us look into their eyes and believe them and demand justice for what happened to them. We need to help free them from the anger, resentment, disappointment, shame, guilt and judgement by gifting them with love, joy, respect, honor, acknowledgement and forgiveness every day of the year.
If we don’t, survivors will remain invisible.
We are already masters at it, as being invisible has become our survival strategy. As survivors, we struggle with allowing others to see us and instead heal individually in the quiet of our home where no one can hear us, in the dark of night where no one can see us. And in the corners of the world where we are invisible.
We become observers and listeners, keeping out of sight and out of trouble. We become bystanders to our own lives, honoring everyone but ourselves. And on months like this, we honor you instead.
So this year, during Women’s History Month, I encourage you to celebrate the women and girls who are both victims and survivors. Take a moment to look around you in the corners of your home, in the playgrounds in your community, in little girls’ rooms, in unslept-in beds, basements and alley ways. Find the women who need you and honor them with these 10 practices:
1. Believe them when they tell you their story.
2. Make sure they have an emergency call list—and that your name is on it.
3. Tell them it is not their fault, they didn’t deserve this.
4. Let them know you love them and they are not alone.
5. Create a safe space of healing release and listen.
6. Remind them they are whole, perfect and complete.
7. Let them know they matter.
8. Remind them they are not crazy—they are the experts of their lives.
9. Encourage them to use their own voice to share their story.
10. Validate, validate, validate all of their feelings as they show up.
Author: Dayanara Marte
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: K. Kendall/Wikimedia Commons