When Angelic decided to dedicate the January issue to Sexual Abuse Awareness my heart swam with emotions. Pride at being part of a team who would speak up, and stand up with the those who have been abused. Deep sorrow at the need for an issue like this. A little fear that this would be another “Christian-ese” issue that told people to “just pray” and dismissed the severity of wounds, the time it takes to heal, and sometimes scars that are with some for a lifetime. I myself have not lived through the living horror of sexual abuse or misconduct. Family members and friends; those who make up my heart- have. They have been ravaged by the demon of sexual abuse and all are in different places with their healing.
How can I write about this, something my mind has no reference for imagination?
But maybe I can show.
Maybe with my lens I can show those dark moments.
The ones where my friend told me she was violated.
Where she didn’t have a voice.
Where another tells me she hated herself for a while. “It must be me.” She somehow brought this on herself by her “beauty and scandalously inviting choice of wardrobe.” (As if cotton polyester or another blend of fabric could EVER justify this)
Where yet another invites me to relive the moments of terror. Staring at her door at night. Shaking with trepidation; the fearful anticipation as grating on her heart and mind as the act itself. Wishing and praying the door will stay closed tonight and she can sleep without fear of unwanted hands entering her bed and the forced participation in games she has nightmares about.
Each tale an invitation to enter into their story.
A vulnerable request to be seen and heard.
I become that shivering girl on the bed. Childhood candles blown out by family member’s inappropriate touch. Sexual knowledge thrust at you and your innocence torn out of your hands.
The burn of betrayal as your own parents refuse to acknowledge the horrors going on under their roof and ignorantly allow it to continue with a stubborn refusal to call out the ugly in their own flesh and blood. Your own home morphing into a beast with each encounter.Then the heaviness of why.
Was it me?
Is it my fault?
Where was God?
I have not personally fought this battle. But I stand with those who have.
I wanted to show a little of what I have gathered from these tales. So, when asked to shoot what “freedom” looked like I knew I had to include the darkness. I want people to know that when I shoot or write for “freedom from”…that I first say…”I will go there with you.” I will be with you, judgment free, soft hearted and probably full of anger for the injustice of it all.
That if we as Christians say “pray about it” we first say “I will listen and enter into whatever state your heart is in.” That the word prayer isn’t some code word for, “Make it better and move on.” Or a cheap way to shuffle off from the sometimes uncomfortable process through the murky grey swamps of the shadows.
I wanted to capture an image of the weight I see my friends carry; the undesired garment title of “sexual abuse victim”. And the glory of throwing to the wind. Of standing with solidarity and conviction that they are not alone and they are not to be silenced. Maybe a picture of what it would look like to be seen and heard.
A light into their caged war torn hearts.
Tiny beginnings of hope, for hope.
Hope for healing.
Hope for answers and wholeness in every cell.
Freedom from shame.
Freedom from titles and fear.
Justice for the crime and complete healing from the memory.
These images are not enough and I wish I could do more to stave off the hurt from those I know and don’t. But my wish is that maybe you felt a little bit of their story. That the next time you read about a sexual abuse case it doesn’t get lost in the masses of #metoo’s and grouped into the sometimes unknown sea of those standing.
That if you are a Sexual Asualt Victim you know that this person sees. They hear and they aren’t afraid of the uncomfortable places you hide. That no matter how long it takes, healing is there for you and freedom from all the weight you carry is just around the corner.
Crazy thanks to:
Model: Sydney Petitt
HMU: Kristie Wilson
Secondshooter/Assistant (all around awesome): Candice Utigard
And you can check out Candice’s shoot and some thoughts on this over on her BLOG. I got to assist her on it and I love her take on the assignment.