Celebrating Life, Honoring God

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. ~ Romans 12:2

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Confessions of a Victim Advocate

I wrote the following sometime in 2009, during an especially difficult day in my work as a victim advocate for a rape crisis program:

My heart is full, or perhaps about to break, I'm not sure which. Today has not been drastically different from any other day, except that my colleagues are all out of the office for various reasons, and I have no one to talk to. How I do love those amazing women that know the ins and outs of the job I do, the reason I do it, and how hard it is. But sometimes I want others to know, too. I want people to realize the vast ocean of pain and suffering that exists, needlessly, in our little corner of the world. Knowing it serves no good purpose, except that there is some measure of nobility and faithfulness in facing head-on the ugliest atrocities human beings have to offer.

And so I write, as I so often do, to alleviate the burden my heart carries for the hundreds of rape victims I have talked to or sat with over the span of 6 years. Most of them I don't remember, their faces and stories long faded from my working memory. Some I remember if I think hard enough, and a few I'll not forget as long as I live. There's the older woman, dragged through a field and raped, whose long gray hair I freed of burs and stickers. There's the young woman whose hair I held back as she vomited, so traumatic was it for her to speak of what she'd endured. There's the middle-aged woman, covered in blood, whose hand I held for two hours as a gash in her face was stitched up. There's the teenager, sobbing in my arms in the courthouse bathroom, having just given her testimony. And there's the concerned little girl who asked me why her big sister, who had just testified about suffering a gang rape, was crying.

It's not the blood, the bruises or the tears that bother me. Any emergency room nurse would concur that you develop a thick skin for such things if you work among them long enough. It's the cruelty that people inflict on each other that bothers me. It's knowing that there are men (and women) out there who willingly choose to abuse, scar and humiliate people, and then walk away and do it to someone else. It's witnessing over and over the fear, the hurt, the loss of trust, and the shattered faith that victims are left with, to some extent, for the rest of their lives. Certainly, it's the soul-crushing injustice and indifference that are rampant when it comes to this crime. And it's also the total absence of self-respect some victims possess, which render them incredibly vulnerable to manipulative criminals. All of this...this monumental crevasse of intimate and profound pain...lives and breathes among us every minute of every day.

I suppose that one day, it will become too much for me to dabble any further in the sordid and excruciating underworld of rape. Some day, the nobility I trust in will be overcome by the sheer inability to absorb any more evil. But today, though the emotions are knocking hard against the door of my self-made barrier, I will continue in the work God has called me to do. I will kiss my family when I get home, and I will pray, pray, pray. In the end, God's Word will be perfected, and the pain of which I speak will be abolished forever. Be still, my full and aching heart.

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