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.