An invocation for women

June 28, 2013

This is how I opened and closed the Wellington Rape Crisis AGM last night.

 

Before we start I would like us to just take a few moments.

just to center ourselves

Kale blooms

Kale blooms

to take a deep breath

to close our eyes if we wish

let’s presence ourselves

here

in this space

in this chair

with these people

in this moment

 

and I ask that we think of the women

who have been part of our lives

and the journey that has led us here

the women we love

the women we’ve lost

the women we have laughed with

the women we have cried with

the women who we have fought alongside or just fought with

even the women for whom we hold no affection but who may still have taught us lessons that we carry with us

the women we have defended and those who have defended us

The women we nurture and those who have nurtured us

 

Let us bring their presence

in to the room

To surround us

let us fill our hearts and minds with their memories and warmth

let their wisdom guide our speech

their experience guide our decisions

let their resilience fortify our resolve

let their love infuse our cooperation

let us keep them here with us in the room during our time together

as we pull our attention back to the business at hand

Thank you

 

 

 

(closing)

As we close our time together, let us take a moment to presence ourselves once more

with a deep breath and a calm mind we reflect on what we have discussed and decided here

and the work ahead

Let us turn our attention again to the women we have brought into the room with us and thank them

Let us be grateful to them for their contributions

Let us appreciate them for their love, their pains, their strong backs and backbones

May we realise that we are among greatness

May we come to know that we are greatness

These women are us and we are them

May we appreciate ourselves

 

Thank you for being here tonight.

Mighty Hearts

April 11, 2013

Tomorrow I will be out on the streets collecting funds for a well-deserving agency that provides front-line services for people who are perhaps in their darkest hours.

Wellington Rape Crisis is an inspiring wee agency, with a mighty heart. They provide free counseling and support to woman and their support people, who have experienced rape and sexual abuse. They work hard to create a welcoming and safe environment for all women-identified survivors.

This work is hard work.

Some days I speak with the staff there and they are fiercely angry because of what their clients have experienced.

Some days they are filled with tragic stories and brimming over in tears.

Some days they are literally roaring with activist energy, marching on the streets, speaking to crowds of people and taking political action.

But every day, every single day, they come to work, they take a deep breath and they open their doors and lives to people and their heart-wrenching stories.

On days when I feel like my job is hard and I’m whining at work about my workload, I remember these women and how everyday their work is, quite literally, saving lives.

And all of this, on a shoestring.

Like so many essential social services, Wellington Rape Crisis operates on a very small and very lean budget. Trust me, I’ve seen their books. There is no fat to trim, there is no budget line that has ‘some room’ in it.

They make every single dollar go further than I thought possible. Nothing is wasted. Wherever possible, volunteers supplement paid work and donated time and goods make a big difference.

You would think that an agency that is literally saving lives, healing hearts and keeps people safe, sane and, incidentally, able to continue in (paid and unpaid) work would be fully government funded. That as a society, we have decided these vital services are indispensable and therefore funded sustainably.

But they aren’t. Barely a third of their annual budget comes from the government. Now I could go on about how that just is not cool, not ok, not one bit, but that’s a different post for a different day.

The short story is that we need to all be part of the solution to this.

Here is how you can help: (not in order of priority)

1. If you can, please donate. It makes a difference, honestly.

Firstly and perhaps most obviously, it helps pay for stuff. Important stuff, like staff time, rent, insurance, comfy couches for clients to sit on, pencils, anything the agency damn well needs.

Your money might pay directly for counseling time, but it might also pay for decent computers for staff because that’s the kind of thing that people need to do this job.

Yes, it pays for stuff, but it also demonstrates in a really tangible way that you appreciate these women like I do.

2.  Collect some money. If you can’t donate money, you could ask other people to donate their money. Do this by volunteering at the next annual appeal. You could ask around, in your office, your neighborhood, on facebook, wherever you socialise and encounter people and ask them to donate.

Collect on behalf of the agency. You could donate twenty bucks or you could ask twenty people to donate twenty bucks. Or both, or ask 20 people to ask twenty people to donate twenty bucks…. you get the picture. Tell them about the agency, the amazing work they do. Convince them that the work is important.

3. Raise some money. Run an auction, bake some cupcakes, make art, grow your beard (honestly, that really did happen), sell something, host a party (they’re fun!).

Do something that in exchange people will give you money for. Give that money to Rape Crisis.

(Ok, I know that point 3 and 2 are really just slightly different versions of point 1, but go with me here)

4. Raise awareness. Tell people about the agency, how awesome they are, the work they do. Remind those around you that agencies like this exist, because the crimes of rape and sexual abuse exist.

This isn’t the only agency out there in Wellington. Sadly there is more demand than one agency can copy with. Most areas have a crisis agency like this. Support them. Wherever in the world you live and you are, find your local group of might hearts and support them.

5. Raise some hell. Challenge rape culture wherever you see it or hear it. As a community we need to STOP turning a blind eye and STOP accepting behaviour and speech that normalises and condones rape, assault and abuse.

We all need to STAND UP for one another.

Join a campaign, educate yourself, get involved.

Do something, you choose what will you do, but

do

something.

Please.

I’m trying to track the media storm following announcement by Wellington Rape Crisis that it is reducing it’s services by 20%. Please let me know if I’ve missed something.

Apparently through the magic of the internet, the more links, the higher the ranking of the hits. Please let me know if I’ve missed one.

August 22nd
Capital Time – The power of bad press
August 21th
Wellington Rape Crisis – Wellington Rape Crisis Announcement
Ideologically Impure – Wellington Rape Crisis is okay for now
August 20th
Wellington Rape Crisis – Wellington Rape Crisis able to open doors again due to donations
NZ Herald – Wellington Rape Crisis to restore all services
The Dominion Post – Hell of a week for Wellington Rape Crisis
The Hand Mirror – We’re voting with our wallets for now
August 18th
Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand – $55,000 is peanuts
August 17th

The Hand Mirror – Rape Crisis, brought to you by Hell’s Pizza

August 16th

No Right Turn – Donate to Wellington Rape Crisis

New Zealand Herald – Rape Centre to benefit from Hell Pizza PR disaster

Wellington Scoop – Hell Pizza apologises for Facebook mistake, offers donation to Rape Crisis

New Zealand Herald – Rape Crisis accepts Hell Pizza offer

Wellington Rape Crisis – Wellington Rape Crisis training Hell Pizza staff

TV3 News – Hell tries to make amends for ‘sexual assault’ jibe

Radio Live – Hell Pizza in strife again

Jezebel.com – Pizza Company Tries to Make Everyone Forget it Promoted Sexual Assault By Donating to Rape Crisis Center

Voxy.co.nz – Women deserve better advocacy – Moroney

Radio Live – 4:45pm

August 15th

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand – Wellington Rape Crisis and the failure of Government

New Zealand’s Rhema – Rape Crisis Centre Loses Funding

Ideologically Impure – Wellington Rape Crisis needs your help

Shakesville – Wednesday Blogaround

Coley Tangerina – Hell Pizza and Wellington Rape Crisis

Capital Times – Jitterati #3742

August 14th

Relationships Aotearoa- Concern for reduction in Rape Crisis Service in Wellington

Public Service Association – More than cake stall needed for Rape Crisis funding shortage

New Zealand Labour Party – One Step Forward, Two Backwards For Rape Crisis

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand – Wellington Rape Crisis forced to cut services

Wellington Rape Crisis – Amazing community support for Wellington Rape Crisis. Government funders notable by their absence.

August 13th

Wellington Rape Crisis – Wellington Rape Crisis forced to cut services

Wellington Rape Crisis – Wellington Rape Crisis Announcement

Coley Tangerina – This is no country for women

The Hand Mirror – An announcement from Wellington Rape Crisis

Last year was my first time serving as a street collector for Wellington Rape Crisis. The first time someone put money in my bucket I almost cried. Sure I’m a bit of sap (standing ovations and other examples of rising group-energy make me cry) but I am also continually touched by voluntary gestures of kindness.

This year the annual appeal bowled me over all over again. There were people putting in $5, $10, $20 dollar bills (a couple of $100 turned up too!) But there were also people stopping and literally emptying out their purses of every coin they could find.

I was particularly struck by how many men donated money. (Which was a good reminder for me to check my assumptions.) By my estimation they represented at least, but possibly more, than half of the people donating. I don’t recall that we had the same volume of men last year.

There were people who looked like they didn’t have much who would empty their pockets. People would walk past, pat their pockets and come back to donate. People who would withdraw money from ATMs deliberately so they could give.

As was the same last year, people would disclose to us. Some out loud, saying ‘that happened to me’ as they put their money into our tins. Some wordlessly as they lingered by our tables with haunted eyes.

Some would say ‘keep up the good work’, walk past and smile, or just give you the good old ‘chur’ head-nod.

Those gestures were equally validating. Every time I saw a purple Rape Crisis sticker on someone’s jacket I felt a sense of kinship with that person.

They care. My inner voice would whisper. They care about the work we do. They care about people who have been raped.

It was as if the usual lines of human connection shifted for a day. Instead of primarily identifying with other people of the same gender/age/ethnicity/socio-economic class/shoe-colour, for a short while we were realigned and connected through lines of a shared compassion for rape survivors and shared interest in seeing rape and, sexual abuse and violence end.

Because let’s face it, working with rape survivors and advocacy is hard work, not just because of the depth of trauma involved and extent of emotional support provided but because its loaded with stigma.

Some people don’t even want to acknowledge that rape happens, they would be happier if the word just went away.

The work of the Wellington Rape Crisis Annual Appeal helps make rape visible. Being on the streets that day with bright purple bibs with the word RAPE across our chests was just as much a public awareness campaign as it was a fundraising effort.

The work that surrounds making rape visible is political. Rape happens and it won’t go away if as a society we are silent about it.

Let me be clear that some individuals rightly choose silence because that is their very legitimate way of coping. Survivors may not want to be reminded of events which they are working hard to overcome.

That is why I, along with many other collectors, was on the streets that day, to help lend a physical presence to the reality of rape for those who can’t.

a gendered war

September 24, 2011

Today I co-presented to a small group of young(er) woman who are the administrators of the Wellington Young Feminist Collective. (Check them out on tumblr and facebook). My co-presented was Natalie the Manager of Wellington Rape Crisis where I sit on the Governance Group. We had been asked to talk about how to support a survivor of rape and sexual violence and discuss ways of dealing with disclosures.

Because apparently, they’ve had to deal with this a lot. I mean a lot.

There is this thing that happens when women start creating spaces where we can talk about the hard stuff. We start talking about it. We start listening, sharing, listening and we cry together, get angry together and sometimes, like this group and many others, we get political together.

I love the good men in my life, I really do. But I feel a kinship and solidarity with women that men may never understand. That feeling of kinship comes from a deep unspoken knowing that on some level, many of us have been injured, many of us are angry and many of us feel like we are in some kind of war. A gendered war*. One where the fact that we are women means we start out with a target on our backs and empty ammo cartridges. It’s not a fair fight.

This next paragraph was supposed to be positive and optimistic about how much progress we’ve made but I keep thinking about the fights we are still fighting on so many different fronts. We are still battling for full and undisturbed rights over our reproductive health, body image related problems are getting worse, rates of violence are still terrible and not a week goes by where I’m not outraged by some disrespectful and degrading headline in the news.

Yes, great strides have been made, I just hope in ten, twenty years time we can claim even more successes.

 

*Just want to point out that men are abused too, in shockingly high rates. I mean that overall, on top of sexual violence there are many additional problems faced by women, which men don’t face, or face much less.

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