Two-thousand-nineteen. It was a year. First there was the anniversary. Then, more court dates, motions to dismiss, victim testimonies, even a conviction. The year was full of constant, painful reminders, broken promises, agonizing discoveries, and at times a general feeling of soul crushing disappointment.
This last year might have actually left us with even more questions than we ever had before. And so, so many tears that should have never been cried.
Another year that tried to break us, but instead showed us we are unbreakable.
Another year we weren’t sure we would survive, until we did.
In spite of the grief, 2019 was a year of hope – and change – and coming together. It was a year of community – and healing – and strength. And showing up.
Because while the criminal legal system was focused on getting justice for the state, and Michigan State University worked to absolve themselves and restore their reputation, survivors fell through the cracks and into the arms of each other.
We found out we weren’t alone. We found ways to heal together. We realized we really do matter. And we really can survive. And we really are strong.
I first felt it two Januarys ago, after months of being demonized by the university I had tried to help. My sisters and I, we stood in front of the world and looked evil in the face and poured our hearts out. All for justice. And then we walked out of the courthouse and were greeted by dozens of Lanstronauts (organized by the Firecracker Foundation and Eve), holding signs that read, “We believe you.”
And they have been there ever since.
Because, the thing that a lot of people have forgotten while we try to hold perpetrators and enablers accountable, is the fact that actual human lives are really messed up by sexual violence. And still are. Every single day.
Every 73 seconds another American is sexually assaulted, according to the 2018 National Crime Victimization Survey (released in 2019). And it’s not just the assault that hurts. Reporting it, not reporting it, both options are their own, unique brands of painful. And navigating the system in the pursuit of what our society calls justice can be scary and difficult and traumatizing, too.
But guess what, us survivors, we are still here. We have been beaten down, we have been called liars, we have been used and abused by the very people and institutions that we trusted, but we are still here. Because we have each other.
And we have allies. So many allies.
And the best part of the kind of community we have here is…it’s the kind of community that shows up. At protests and rallies and school board meetings and at your door in the middle of the night when you can’t stop crying and just need someone to sit with.
It’s the kind of community that reminds us, we really are stronger together.
I moved back to Lansing a couple years ago not knowing if I’d be able to stay, but the community held me close and reminded me I am not alone. And that, I just know, is what is going to save us.