By Lavinia Masters
I have encountered so many individuals on this journey called life. Some have been loyal while others seem rather distant. I have met those that unite with me for the power of changing the world and then there are those that I have met that thought they should have the power to make a change in me. I have encountered many people and even have been told that I have touched many lives… all from different backgrounds, various lifestyles and numerous beliefs but the most intriguing people I have ever met are those that display the many faces of courage.
Recently a good friend and fellow survivor turned advocate faced her sexual assault assailant in court for the crime he committed against her. While the details and facts of her case and assault are irrelevant at this point know that the abuse that she endured was not only horrific and devastating but it also caused a major disappointment to her religious community for the accused was claiming to be a man of the cloth.
When I first met this young woman (whom we will call Janet to respect her privacy) and heard her appalling story… I was like “wow” this is one courageous woman! Then as I began to work alongside her in the fight to end sexual violence I discovered that this was definitely more than a courageous woman but an individual that displays the many faces of courage.
As I watched Janet gather the remains of her sanity and try to pick up after such a traumatic and horrendous experience that occurred in her life…I looked upon her face and knew that without a shadow of doubt that this lady had the courage to survive. Then to my amazement I watched Janet as she began to seek and continue to glorify God during her time of mental bereavement as she sought to be restored from her mental and emotional brokenness…it was here where she displayed her courage to heal. And despite all obstacles and major disappointments that not only her assailant but the church placed upon her she still presented her case before the courts as well as the church and with great strength displayed to all her courage to stand.
The next face that Janet made visible was a face that is not seen often… for many sexual abuse victims continue to allow the false shame and guilt that sexual trauma brings to cripple them and keep them from displaying their many faces of courage…however Janet decided that she would not only share her story with other survivors but with the entire world and as I stood in awe I applauded her in her openness and courage to speak. Profound and confident, Janet spoke with no hatred in her heart and knew that vengeance was not hers but as for her assailant she desired that he would only be helped and rehabilitated through the justice system and prayed that God would have mercy upon his soul and help him to turn from his wicked ways for preying on the weak and innocent while destroying their virtue… and it was in this instant that Janet showed me several more faces and they were the courage to love, the courage to forgive and the courage to fight!
To some courage is bravery or valor while the dictionary defines it as the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a course of action. Janet however defined courage in many aspects while showing its many faces. Courage is an unparalleled source of power that each survivor has within them and as they walk through the unknown they will discover that the only thing that they had to fear as a victim was fear itself. When a survivor decides that the “victim mentality” will no longer be apart of their way of living and thinking…it is here where they can shed their mask of being wounded so they too can display the many faces that courage has. I watched Janet display her courage to persevere and I knew that being a “perpetual victim” was not an option...I saw with my own eyes that the power that God gives us to heal lies within each of us and I know that as a survivor we all can display our many faces of courage too.
I decided to…will you?