Most survivors, myself* included, want to know that we matter. That our stories are heard. That our pain is acknowledged. That our spirit is honored. That our joy is encouraged. Most survivors, myself included, listen to other survivors, but we wait for everyone else to hear us.
There are so many amazing women I am proud to stand beside. Somehow, I find strength in our fatigue - the collective determination and a resounding "no, can't even, not gonna". Because, though we are strong, we are also wounded.
For far too long, we've had to hide our wounds to care for the people who wounded us. We've had to whisper instead of yell and cry instead of punch. We've had to pull it together instead of tear it apart.
As survivors, we are vulnerable and raw and strong and real. We are not cushions for your fear, doormats for your anger, or keepers of your shame. We are strong when we're alone, and stronger when we're together.
But ... we are an army with too many enemies. We are soldiers without a home. We fight battles without a battlefield. We win without a victory. We don't know when it's safe to disarm. The places you say are safe - our homes and schools and churches - are the very places that should shield us. But sometimes they trap us. The people you say are our allies - our partners and colleagues and healers - should protect us. But sometimes they betray us.
History teaches us about war, and it teaches us about soldiers. Wars are won at the expense of soldiers - the more soldiers we have to lose, the more battles we are able to win. Soldiers pay the price, so that others can reap rewards. Others win. Soldiers, when they survive, are traumatized.
As we celebrate a win for Michigan State University (i.e. their new leader and their willingness to create a new Healing Fund), please do not forget the toll it took, and the lives that have been literally lost. Please do not forget that the soldiers are still battling.
Unfortunately this war is not over. MSU's general (John Engler) was never our leader. The victory will never be shared. And the loss can never be measured.
The children are not safe enough yet. And neither are we.
Lauren Allswede has been working in the field of trauma since 2004, beginning as a volunteer at a crisis center and as an advocate for sexual assault survivors. She received her Master's Degree of Social Work in 2007 and worked at the MSU Sexual Assault Program from 2008-2015. Since 2015, she has been in private practice and opened North Star Wellness Center LLC in Lansing, Michigan in 2017 with other trauma specialists.
* Lauren is a survivor of sexual assault, but not by Larry Nassar.
Twenty-one year old Morgan Valley is a quiet young woman who is studying elementary education at Baker College in Owosso. And she's in a bit of a bind.
Back when she was 15 years old, Morgan was abused by Larry Nassar*. Because of the abuse, this normally shy and quiet girl for the first time started to experience feelings of insecurity, depression, and anxiety. She even struggled with suicidal thoughts.
Thanks to a good therapist, a devoted family, and time spent with her dog Bubba, she is now on the road to healing. But the road has turned out to be a bumpy one.
Initially, Morgan's therapy was covered by insurance, but new insurance coverage recently obtained by her parents requires higher co-pays. Thankfully the MSU Healing Assistance Fund covered the cost of those co-pays ... until it didn't. When the Fund was suspended in July 2018, her therapist generously agreed to let her defer the co-payments, but they have been adding up. And now that the Fund has been cancelled**, the Valleys owe a significant amount of money to the therapist. It seems that MSU's broken promise resulted in another betrayal, and this one came right in the midst of the healing process.
You could say that Morgan is "lucky" because she's been able to keep up with her therapy, and she is finding it helpful. The expenses are unexpected and significant, but her therapy continues. Her parents are finding ways to juggle the expenses. But other survivors haven't been so "lucky". And it concerns Morgan to know that some of the sister survivors have had to delay or cancel their therapy work completely. Without the Fund, they're simply unable to find a way to pay for it.
Morgan is grateful that she has a supportive family and a flexible therapist, but Michigan State University's broken promise has been frustrating and disappointing. Reinstatement (or replacement) of the Healing Assistance Fund would remove at least one concern and point of uncertainty for Morgan and her parents.