In my short time so far in my career, people have already told me a lot, “I don’t see how you do it. I could never do that job. It must take so much courage.” And they’re right, it takes a certain level of bravery to put on a uniform and make an oath to serve and protect, to put your life on the line. It also takes a certain level of crazy, too. But that’s for another post. But to me, bravery is so much more than just the obvious. You’d be amazed at the places you see courage if you take a moment to look.
Courage isn’t just the warrior charging the enemy, although that is great bravery and much needed. Sometimes, courage is found in far more unlikely places. Sometimes, it’s the domestic violence victim finally reaching out for help. It’s the child walking into a new foster home after being taken from the only home he’s ever known. It’s the rape victim facing her rapist in court. The worn-out single mom continuing on despite setback after setback. The wife choosing to love her husband after infidelity. The son giving his parent that walked out on him another chance. The friend who notices the signs and reaches out to their suicidal friend. Sometimes, courage for the police officer is just putting on the uniform and going to work after hearing about yet another brother or sister killed on duty and not losing faith in humanity. Sometimes, courage can even be forgiving yourself and moving on after a big mistake.
Courage isn’t some grand display of fearlessness. Courage is putting one foot in front of the other when all seems lost. Courage is being afraid and going anyway. Courage is being heartbroken and still loving. Doing the right thing when everyone hates you for it.
Courage is found in the day to day. In the ordinary when things get tough and we keep moving forward, despite the uncertainty of our future. Courage is doing what’s right when all seems wrong. Courage is hard. Courage is uncomfortable. Courage is within us, a choice, right here in the difficult, unlikely places we find ourselves in.
I’ve had a lot of come to Jesus moments recently. Let’s be honest, I’m always having those moments. Sometimes with God whispering to me and more often with Him knocking me upside the head to get my attention. Recently, He’s been working on me remembering to find my worth in Him. So often, I forget. I forget I’m the child of the Creator of the Universe. I forget that He created me with a direct and divine purpose that only I can do. I forget that I’m made and sustained by the one that parted the seas and raised dead bodies to life. I forget that I’m loved by my big, great Heavenly Father and nothing at all will ever separate me from that love.
Yes, I forget. And instead of stepping out on those truth, sometimes I start trying to find my worth in other things. How well of a job I’m doing, how much stuff I can get done, how fit I can get, how good my decisions are, and especially who loves me and whether or not I feel like I belong anywhere. And on my worst days, comparison to other people and feeling less worthwhile if someone stops loving me or talking to me or even stops commenting on my social media or doesn’t acknowledge me in their life on social media. It’s ridiculous at times I know, and I am definitely not proud of those moments, but they happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I find great satisfaction in it. I strive to make good decisions and hold myself to a very high standard. I love with my whole heart and want to be loved in return. I never want to waste a minute and want to get as much done as I possibly can. I love working out and getting stronger and testing my fitness. And I’ll be honest, it’s really nice sometimes when someone posts about you on Facebook. It’s a nice public affirmation of your place in their life.
BUT, while those things are nice and really good things, when they start to become how I gage my worth, it’s time to refocus my sights back on what really determines my worth. My worth has nothing to do with what I do, who loves me, or how they show it. My worth is in who I am, which is God’s child. That’s it. The Executive Director of a company is no more valuable than the janitor. The girl struggling to bench the bar is JUST as worthwhile as the girl doing endless pull-ups with never ending abs. The child in the foster system going from home to home, not feeling like he belongs anywhere is JUST as important as the child with two loving parents. It doesn’t mean that the janitor can’t work his way up if he wants to, that the girl benching the bar can’t work hard to become strong and fit, or the the child in foster care shouldn’t want to find a place where he is loved or belongs. BUT whether or not they achieve these things, they are still JUST as important and worthwhile as ever before or as anyone else.
I think we all struggle with some aspect of where we find our worth. I know I probably struggle hardest in the area of feeling loved or like I belong. But I’m working on it. I’m reminding myself in those moments that I belong to God and that’s really all that matters at the end of the day.
Monday, I had my first appointment with the gynecologist. That’s right. Gynecologist. At this point I’m sure words like fun, favorite thing to do, and riveting experience are popping in your head. Try not to be too jealous.
I was asked by multiple people beforehand and after if I was nervous or uncomfortable or scared. I mean, let’s be honest… questions about your sex life or lack thereof and menstrual cycles (Both which tend to not be favorite topics to discuss with strangers), stripping naked for said strangers (Well, I did leave my socks on), donning a paper gown than crinkles when you move and screams “I am naked and vulnerable.” (Think about it. If there’s a fire, not only will you be basically naked, but you’re only source of “clothing” is a massive fire hazard.) Then there’s the actual exam complete with lady parts prodding *COLD* and usually a speculum thrown in there, too. Not exactly the most comfortable experience.
But, as I went through the exam, all I could think about was the many brave women (and I say women because that is who I served while advocating) I had sat with during my time as a SARP advocate. Women who had been violated and abused. Women who had been raped and sexually assaulted. Some by strangers but even more by acquaintances, friends, and even family members.
People they were supposed to be able to trust, but instead became the reason they would have to learn how to trust all over again.
Loved ones who were supposed to protect them, but who ended up being the very ones they needed protection from.
And honestly, I couldn’t be afraid. I couldn’t even be uncomfortable. Not because I’m some brave woman of steel that can’t be rattled. Rather, because of the amazing courage I witnessed from them, and knowing this was nothing by comparison.
When a woman reports being raped, she will relive that victimization countless times before she will even have a chance at justice.
I answered questions about my sexuality and periods to two people, the intake nurse and the doctor. A victim will not only have to answer those questions to a nurse and an investigator, but also recount every detail about his or her assault to the nurse, usually the officer who responds to the call initially, the investigator, the commonwealth attorney, and an entire courtroom filled with strangers AND HER ATTACKER. That doesn’t even include if she tells any friends or family members. How invasive, terrifying, humiliating! And yet necessary.
I scheduled my exam when it was convenient for me. A victim will go soon after being assaulted and violated.
I did my exam and put my clothes back on. A victim must strip out of her clothes becoming vulnerable after just being victimized and then searched over with a black light to check for bodily fluids like saliva and semen on her body. Those clothes will be taken from her as evidence and she will likely not get them back.
I was quickly checked over to make sure everything looked and felt as it should. A victim will be checked much more invasively. The forensic nurse working the case (and Lynchburg General Hospital has the very best who are absolutely wonderful with victims) will take swabs in any area on the body she feels there may be evidence. If there are any injuries or bruises, pictures of those will be taken as well. The vagina is swabbed for evidence, and among other things a speculum is used (without lubricant so that evidence is not contaminated. OUCH). Also, pictures are taken of the vaginal area and inside the vagina.
Overall, it’s an extremely invasive and exhausting experience, but again, necessary for even a chance at justice.
I wish you could meet these brave women I sat across from. The truth is, you most likely already have. They work at your grocery stores, your restaurants, your businesses. They sit beside you in your college classes. They teach your kids. They’re amazing and strong and have overcome tremendous obstacles.
I’ve been told countless times that most sexual assault victims are probably lying. I’ve heard all kinds of excuses including that they report to get attention. That it didn’t really happen, or that it was really consensual and they are just feeling regret. And part of me (a large part) gets the urge to punch them in the face for their stupidity. But, I have to remember they haven’t sat where I’ve sat. They haven’t witnessed what I have. They’ve been raised in a culture that teaches rape culture and cowers from the uncomfortable truth.
But, I challenge you. Next time you hear someone say that; next time you say or think that, take a minute to think about the invasive, emotional, exhausting, and courageous road to the slightest hope of justice. And have the courage to take a step towards eradicating rape culture instead of contributing to it.
If you’re interested on the facts, here are some sites you can go to for more information on sexual assault.
If you’re interested in getting involved and have a heart for sexual assault victims (and live in the Lynchburg, VA area), then you too can volunteer as a victim advocate with the Sexual Assault Response Program.