It’s a horrible word and a horrific act. Rape is violence, without a doubt, and yet it is confusing to those of us who have never had to deal with it or its after effects. Confusing because the violence is sexual in nature and, in my mind anyway, violence and sex are polar opposites.
To my knowledge no one close to me has ever experienced such violence. But clearly a large percentage of rapes are never officially reported or prosecuted, so I’m sure that a large percentage are never told. Survivors who speak of their experiences do so with great courage and emotional strength. There are issues of “fault” and “blame” and “shame” that quell the telling. There are men who are abused as well as women. There are family members who perpetrate crimes on family members. Such things are hard to speak of.
Sunday’s Plain Dealer had a special section (now online) which detailed the rape of a Cleveland woman–a reporter, in fact, who tells her own story. I saw the section in the Sunday paper and set it aside to read later, but not really sure if I’d get around to it or not.
On Tuesday I picked it up. Author/survivor Joanna Connors walked me through the thoughts, the fears, and the pain of her own experience while exploring the life of her attacker as well. The writing is compelling. The sharing is an outpouring of the trauma and fears and hopes of this gifted writer and survivor. The photos helped share the story too, in a way that aided the story without being too graphic in themselves. It’s a story I would commend to your reading.
That night, I went to the first rehearsal for “Sing Out! For the Rape Crisis Center”. It’s a fundraising event, a concert of Cleveland area leaders who form a choir for one sell-out performance. I’m in it because a church member invited me, and I thought “eh…why not?” But, having read the first hand story of brutality and survivorship, I now think of it as a very good way to make a difference.
It felt good to use my voice to offer songs of hope on behalf of those who may feel little hope. The concert will raise a lot of money for the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center which uses the funds to provide free care and counseling to those in need. Fourteen thousand persons were served last year; two thousand more than the year before. There’s a lot of pain out there, and it is pain that lasts for a lifetime. Somebody’s got to give voice to hope. I’m glad I can help in a small way.
The singer across the pew from me was Joanna Connors, using her own voice in new ways to offer hope for others.
[photo via Cleveland.com]