Before the pandemic reached the US, there was news informing us, pumping fear into our veins as we anxiously tried to prepare. We watched as it moved closer and closer to home until we heard about the first case reported in our state and then learned about the first person we knew who was infected with the virus. It was like a concentric circle moving closer and closer until finally it made a direct hit. Trauma is like this.
As a trauma-informed spiritual director, I have heard countless horrific stories of sexual harm. I have sat with the victims, some of whom came forward for help shortly after the incident and others who have carried the weight of shame in their bodies for decades before finding language and receiving the support they needed all along. I have sat with the parents of the victims who are barely hanging on as they limp through the darkness trying to bear light for their wounded children. I have seen marriages, families, and faith torn apart by the aftershocks of such evil. How is it that it just keeps happening in a country that promises liberty and justice for all?
As a mother of two teenage girls, my body tenses at the thought of sending them to a college campus where they can be among the next victims. I received a call today and learned about another incident, one way too close to home. Everything in me rises up and wants to jump in and fight for justice.
How do we navigate the bind that the unjust “justice” system puts us in?
When a woman speaks up and shares her story looking for justice, she is often met with cruelty and accusation. “What did you do to incite this kind of harm?” the watching world wonders. Often when women file reports, there is a long and painful process that brings no relief. There is a spirit of futility bound to the brokenness of our systems of power.
Something has to change! True change is meant to happen from the inside out. Inside I feel a tempest of anger and fear and profound grief for all that is broken in this world. There is a desperate need to educate and protect my children, yet I feel powerless to stop the evil that is prowling and waiting to kill, steal, and destroy. The fire in my belly is rising up and I want to be an agent of change, but I don’t know where to step and how to stop the beast.
Lao Tzu wrote, “A thousand mile journey begins with a single step.” From the center of my being, I will stand firm on the truth that I have everything I need within me to do what God has created and called me to do, today. If every person everywhere who has ever been impacted by sexual trauma were to stand together in solidarity to stop sexual harm from happening, it would form a mighty fortress. Together we can not only stand up against evil in the form of sexual abuse, but we can also take a step forward to push back the darkness. What does it look like to do this both individually and collectively?
For me, it begins with calming my traumatized central nervous system. Then, by acknowledging that just hearing about this trauma dysregulates me. I pause and find my seat. I breathe in the love of God. I pause in the stillness and allow myself to be enlarged in the waiting. I breathe out the overwhelm. Letting go brings relief. I pause at the bottom of the exhale. At the ground of my being, I know that I am safely held and supported. I am securely attached to love.
Whatever the problem, love is the answer. After sitting and breathing and re-establishing a sense of stability within me, I rise up. As I stand tall and firm like a mountain, there is a deep inner peace that reminds me this is not the end of the story. I seek wisdom and the next right action appears. I begin to write and find language to process all that is swirling within. Writing helps to express and release trauma. Writing heals and integrates the brain and makes meaning of the senseless harm that has been done. Putting this down on paper and into the world is a step. A step that says “Hell no!” to sexual harm and keeping women bound to silence in broken systems.
What are you feeling called to rise up against today? What is one thing you can do to stand against injustice? What is the next right action or step you are willing to take to push back the darkness? Courage is fear with feet. Even though we tremble, we step anyway because this is the way of the warrior.
Jean Masukevich is a trauma-sensitive yoga teacher and integrative coach with over 20 years of teaching experience. Her mission is to guide others to greater mind, body, spirit integration and connection to their authentic self. She cultivates communities of care where individuals and groups heal and share their hearts and stories through movement, writing, meditation, integrative prayer, creativity, and the sacred art of listening. Jean holds an advanced certificate in grief and trauma from the Allender Center of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and is a certified spiritual director through Sustainable Faith. Jean serves both children and adults and is available for in person and remote coaching. Contact her at Sowthatjean@gmail.com.