Bearing Witness

English: The Witness Cairn The Witness Cairn.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about surviving these past weeks. The blind rage I have felt for victims who haven’t survived, the incredible respect I have for those that survive and enter into healing – they have occupied my mind, my heart.

And though I have never been raped or attacked, though I can’t begin to understand that deep agony of body and soul – I have learned one thing. When we bear witness to the stories of those who have experienced the wounds of rape and violence, we help in the healing process.

Conversely, when we dismiss them, we become part of the attack, part of the abuse.

When we hear people’s stories, when we are present through listening to events in their lives, we are bearing witness. Bearing witness to the moment that changed their lives. Bearing witness to why they have pain. Bearing witness to the deep struggles of the soul that come out in stories, not in facts.

Bearing witness means that we are showing by our existence that something is true. To listen to the survivor of rape and abuse without judgment but with love is saying to them – “I believe that this happened. I believe that you bear the cost”. To listen to the refugee with their story of losing home, family members, walking miles to safety, finally arriving at a crowded, disease-ridden camp is to validate their experience.

Bearing witness is more than just hearing the stories. It’s entering into stories. Entering in with body and soul. Entering in with empathy and kindness. It’s entering in, and in our entering offering hope and healing.

Bearing witness is a good phrase.

Whose story will you bear witness to this day? To a friend who has tried a hundred times to tell you of their pain, but you have dismissed them? To your child who longs to communicate something about who they are, but is afraid to tell you? To an old woman who once lit up a room with her dance step and her smile? To a paralyzed young man who is dismissed, ignored because he sits in a wheelchair? To an angry coworker?

Who has walked beside you as a witness to your stories, so that you can move forward with purpose and hope?

Blogger’s note: Might I suggest this excellent op-ed piece from the NY Times: After Being Raped, I Was Wounded – My Honor Wasn’t

Blind Rage

There are times when the bite of anger is so real and so piercing, that my only response is to rant and write.

On December 16th in New Delhi, India a 23-year-old female physiotherapy student was gang raped.

Today she died of the injuries sustained during that rape.

And I am in a blind rage. I rage at the men – the perpetrators of this act. I rage at the police, the collaborators by making the woman feel as though she was in the wrong, I rage at a world that allows this to happen. I grow sick as I think of the event, nauseated as I hear her screams in my mind.

More than anything I weep. I’ve been following the story, desperately hoping for a good outcome, desperately praying for a miracle.

But early morning in a hospital in Singapore where she was flown to receive treatment this woman, this young woman student with her life ahead of her, died, surrounded by her family.

I am caught once again between two worlds – the world I see around me shouts of evil, sin, broken systems, political oppression, power, rape, horror; the other world whispers that we are made for something so much better, created for so much more, made in the image of God to glorify Him.

My Christmas tree twinkles bright lights, Oxford carols are playing on a near broken CD player, I try and shield myself from the horror I feel.

And my blind rage is because I feel caught between these two, knowing I am not innocent myself, longing for wrong to be made right, wishing that this woman was home safe eating a curry with her family. And I wonder did the love of God reach down to her particular Hell?

They say she died “peacefully”.

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