As much as I’ve come to love all the writers, bloggers, advocates as well as the extraordinary people I’ve met online, there is nothing as sacred as the face to face contact that I experienced this week as I travelled 6 hours from my home to attend a day conference, full of people whom I’d never met, at Safe Space Day. Full of trepidation, I willed myself to take the risk, knowing that this vital step of “coming out” was the obvious next step in my recovery. To say that I’m glad I attended is truly an understatement.
I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of love I witnessed.
I wasn’t prepared for the courage of each women I spoke to, cried next to or shared an auditorium with.
I wasn’t prepared to meet anyone as anxiety ridden as I, anyone else who had travelled the day prior in sheer terror to an unknown destination that called so directly to me, nor was I expecting to feel, once I’d arrived, such a kindred meeting of souls.
Souls who struggle with silence, victimization, depersonalization, isolation, mental illness, physical health issues, anger and gut wrenching sadness.
Yet, these same brave souls simultaneously expressed undying hope not only for their futures but for future generations as they sang bravely, spoke loudly, laughed spontaneously. They offered humor, comfort and a space so special that we, as survivors of childhood sexual abuse and incest, assembled courageously to entertain and embrace the concept of living openly. In essence, we had come to heal.
Dr. Rosenna Bakari is a survivor, educator, poet, visionary and the creator of Safe Space Day and Talking Trees Survivors. She defines living openly as this;
Living openly as a survivor means that survivors no longer deny or hide the fact that they have been sexually abused. They are willing to speak truth about the trauma of childhood sexual abuse from their own personal experience.
This may include identifying their relationship to the perpetrator(s), age abuse started and ended, attempts or non-attempt to disclose and emotional experiences associated with the abuse.
Disclosure never has to include specific details about type of physical contact, degree of physical contact, or frequency of contact. Living openly as a survivor creates space to let go of guilt and shame and walk proudly with other survivors to move humanity forward by shedding light on an ugly issue that plagues our society. The shame of incest and the ugliness of sexual abuse must be redirected back at the perpetrators rather than remain lodged within survivors……Read more
Dr. Bakari has taken the concept of “living openly” to create a safe space for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and created a community. A community where safety replaces fear, acceptance diminishes shame and the groundwork of true healing is established.
The day was filled with oozing love and valuable information. Speaker after speaker empowered us on political and legal issues, healing our bodies and minds, all things related to the specific and unique characteristics of a sexual abuse survivor. For one glorious day, we tossed our shame aside as best we could because in that Safe Space, we weren’t the outcasts or the ones ostracized. We were the ones that were honored.
The absolute icing on the cake was the evening theatrical performance of Talking Trees. I’d felt very content and pleased with the day’s events, as many of us were, and looked forward to an entertaining nightcap with my tribe of new friends. All I knew was that Dr. Bakari had written and directed this theatrical performance based on some of her poetry and writing. I figured we’d have a relaxing evening concluding the day’s events, maybe some poetry or personal testimony. Nope, not even close.
Again, let me say, I was not prepared for this. This was freaking powerfully intense. It was like a poetry slam meets The Vagina Monologues meets Roseanne Barr combined with Madea on steroids. I was captivated and mesmerized that the performers were speaking from me, like me, as me. And judging by the audience response, they were speaking for many of us. I tumbled from silent and spellbound to yelling “yeah”, “testify” and other various words I didn’t know I possessed. My feet stomped as Dr. Bakari preached poetry like I’d never heard it slammed before…she stomped and I stomped. A young woman lurched for the door sobbing. College students were wide eyed. People grabbed out for each other. Sniffling was everywhere. It was an hour of emotions ricocheting throughout the performance space. I thanked God for intermission to go outside and collect myself as many of us did. We stood as we shook off the emotions while mumbling repeatedly…WOW…WOW…WOW.
I left that day feeling more happy tired than I had in a long time. I had a notebook stuffed full of business cards and e-mail addresses of new friends and notes from the day. I’d been hugged on and loved on. I felt a certain glow of acceptance radiating within me. I felt full.
I have no doubt that I will return next year to experience another Safe Space Day. In the meantime, I follow the suggestions of Dr. Bakari to create my own safe space at home, in my community, for others who have had similar experiences. I gratefully extend my hand to others because in their healing I will find more of my healing.
I invite you to visit Dr. Rosenna Bakari on:
Facebook – Talking Trees: Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Website – Talking Trees