As we near the end of spring semester, students in both my “Contemplative Writing” and “Writing for Social Justice” courses are pulling together projects to make interventions in some way. Several students are addressing rape culture, and one student is compiling a book of letters by and for survivors of sexual violence. She hopes that others at our university will read the letters, write additional ones, and add threaded response—facilitating healing through storytelling and solidarity-building.
I agreed to write a letter for her book, and I share that letter here with the hope that it speaks to others engaged with similar healing, storytelling, and solidarity-building work:
Every semester I’ve taught, students have shared with me stories of sexual violence and survival.
Every semester I’ve taught, I’ve experienced everyday enactments of rape culture.
Every semester I’ve taught, I’ve seen sexual violence create new wounds and rip open old ones.
Every semester I’ve taught, I’ve raged at limited and lacking response.
Every semester I’ve taught, I’ve been encouraged by incredible resilience and creative healing.
These words are too few and do too little, but with a commitment to justice, I say to readers and to your friends-colleagues-peers who have experienced sexual violence:
I hear you. I see you. I believe you.
I hurt with you. I learn alongside you. I speak and write UP for you. I advocate for change. I call violence violence. I build critical imagination to envision more equitable ways of being.
I write as a professor who carries with me story upon story of sexual violence that I’ve been called to witness. I carry my own #metoo stories alongside those of family, friends, colleagues, and students. I’m learning how to hold these stories as gifted memories rather than weight holding me down, and I’m learning to leverage these stories toward collective healing, truth-telling, reckoning, and liberation. These stories matter, and so do we.
With fierce love keeping hope alive,
A Feminist Educator
Blogging is often always a process of countering perfectionism and sharing words that feel not-ready, not-right, and not-refined. Writing this letter, however, twisted me in knots, as there are never ready, right, or refined words to speak into the violence I know many students are experiencing and even perpetuating.
May these words do some good.
May what’s still unsaid be heard and healed.
May this offering reach those who desire/need it.
This post is written by Beth Godbee for Heart-Head-Hands.com. For more posts like this one, you might try “Me Too: Standing Against Sexual Violence,” “Revealing the Cultural Patterns of Rape Culture,” and “What Is Justice?” Please also consider following the blog via email. Thanks!