The Nassar Abuse Case, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina & The Power of Witness

The Nassar abuse case has struck a chord with us. The courtroom exposure this past week was heartbreaking as over 150+ women read their victim impact statements one by one while the American public watched and listened to each excruciating word.

I have a deep and abiding affection for Judge Aquilina who resided as a powerful witness to the women who came forward and I truly believe that what she did and how she did it will be discussed as a landmark event from this moment on, perhaps forever changing the way we think about helping the victims of trauma heal. 

Witness. It's not a noun, It's a verb. 

It's the action of being totally present to someone else without interrupting, needing to relate, take away their pain, offer advice, or fix them.  It's the action of keeping our mouths shut, ears and hearts open and being there for whatever gets revealed. 

The women who were victimized at the hands of Larry Nassar needed a witness.  They needed to feel seen and heard so that they could start the process of healing. I have no doubt that Judge Aquilina consciously made it her business to use her courtroom as a conduit for healing and I applaud her for it. 

To feel invalidated and invisible is at the very heart of our unresolved suffering as human beings. To offer someone the space to feel seen and known (REVEAL) is to allow them the space to process (HEAL).

What Judge Rosemarie Aquilina did.. 

Was to allow each woman a reclamation. She adjusted her schedule and cleared her docket day after day, even as the number of women to come forward more than doubled. She made time and space and then held that space for each of them while they addressed their abuser and did the work of reclaiming their voices, bodies & dignity.

She made their words a priority without rushing, hushing or rescuing and held space over her domain with reverence and compassion as they each had a turn to relay their experience of anguish, heartbreak and reckoning. You could have heard a pin drop as time and space seemed to vanish and I have no doubt that a multitude of victims at home were having their own version of healing as they watched the proceedings on television. 

People ask:  

"What does holding space for someone mean?" 

"Holding space" is to be aware and intentional about making a moment count while also being fully present to the experience of the moment however terrifying and difficult.  It's intending that the space you physically occupy or reside over in those moments have intention and significance for those who might be doing the work of processing or healing.  It's also knowing that you are connected to the source of that which creates safe space for someone to expose and even release their pain and suffering.  When I see a space- holder, I get chills down my spine because I know the work they do is sacred. 

"..and witnessing.." 

"Witnessing" is when we "be with"  another human being and truly see them while allowing them to have their experience without saving them, fixing them, or running away. What you do when you witness someone in pain is you offer them the gift of your presence.  Many of us falsely believe that this is the time to shift the subject or jump in with our advice. Instead what you might offer is encouragement & validation "I value you, I see you, I hear you, I believe you." or  "you are not alone, you are strong, you are brave, you are beautiful." 

If you feel awkward and inadequate at witnessing someone, know that just saying "thank you for sharing that with me" and sitting in silence with them would be just as powerful. 

I noticed that at the end of each victim statement heard in the courtroom, the Honorable Judge addressed each woman by name and acknowledged her courage and pain. She validated her suffering and her right to her feelings of anger and betrayal by those that failed to listen or act and most important she believed them.

She also called them by a new name: Survivor. 

As more and more women come forward to be truth -tellers, more and more space-holders are showing up to create the safe places for healing and reclamation.  We are blessed to be a witness to these changing times.

Thank you so much Judge Aquilina for modeling what it looks like to be the power of witness.
Thank you to the survivors who showed up as the embodiment of courage to break the cycle of silence and violence. 

Keep it coming ladies. Keep it coming.
We are revealing and healing and creating a new space in the world that can only grow in beauty and strength. 

 “Leave your pain here,” Aquilina said on one occasion, in one of the most powerful instructions ever delivered by a presiding judge. “Go out and do your magnificent things.”

For those of you still keeping your secrets, please know that your time is near and that you are more powerful than you know,  I invite you to read a recently published memoir  Meet Laura Parrott Perry and her new book:  She Wrote it Down : How a Secret Keeper Became a Storyteller.

"We live inside our stories, we make homes of them. When we decide those stories are unspeakable, when we attach shame to those stories, they become secrets and those homes become prisons. You know what the difference between a home and a prison is? It's just the ability to walk outside it to freedom.

A lifelong secret-keeper, Laura Parrott Perry began the process of transforming into a storyteller when the dark secrets she'd been carrying around became too heavy and her life began to collapse under the weight of them.

Sexual abuse, eating disorders, alcoholism, perfectionism... Those secrets were all her story making itself known when she was unwilling to tell it. 

Bit by bit, story by story, the author began to shine a light into all those dark corners and tell the truth. She surrendered to the facts of her life and her past, and in doing so began to write a beautiful new future."

A Pilgrimage to Israel in Mind, Body & Spirit

At Midnight on the 2nd of January of this year,  Austin, my Mother and I boarded a flight to Israel where we would eventually meet our larger group. 

I'd received a call from my Mother 12 Months earlier when she had excitedly shared about an opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to "walk the path of Jesus" and I could tell from her voice that the trip would mean a lot to her.  I think she was totally surprised when I agreed to go and then it was my turn to be surprised when Austin agreed come with us. 

My faith has long been a concern for my Mother and I think she always holds hope that I will one day see the light.  It's hard for her to accept that I'm already here, standing in the light right along with her. I do in fact resonate with faith and spiritual practice,  my issue being I don't feel like I belong in any one place and after years of trying ( believe me, it's not been without tremendous effort and soul searching) that I've arrived at accepting myself for where I am.

This said, I absolutely loved the entire experience of exploring Israel as a welcomed guest with a group of 43 other beautiful souls who practice their faith as Catholics.  I loved the beauty of the daily services, the sermons given by Father Simeon Gallagher (an incredibly fun, tender-hearted and charismatic Capuchin Monk whom I'm endeared to for life) the prayers we said at the beginning of each day and at the end of each day, the churches we visited and the historical places that brought us to the very intersection of history, culture & the origins of the Christian faith; Jesus Christ.

To get a sense of Fr. Gallagher's sense of humor and his powerful style of speaking, watch the clip below.  I love this man so much.

Father Gallagher talks about his Irish upbringing, the value of community  & the family pub growing up.  Uploaded by Capuchin Franciscan Friars on 2015-11-04.

The city of Jerusalem was by far the place I loved most on our journey. Jerusalem holds great significance in a number of religious traditions, including the Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which consider it a holy city. Some of the most sacred places for each of these religions are found in Jerusalem and the one shared between all three is the Temple Mount.

Until I visited this territory, it was always confusing to grasp and make sense of how this land is considered to be holy to all three of these major religions.  The historical significance of this land and really all of Israel and much of the middle east is mind boggling. To know this territory is to know that It has been conquered, destroyed and rebuilt time and again, and every layer of its earth reveals a different piece of the past. 

Over the centuries all three of the Abrahamic religions have considered Jerusalem holy. The Jews because it was their capital before the diaspora and the home of the First and Second Temples; the Christians because it was the place where Jesus was crucified; the Muslims because it is where Mohammed ascended to Heaven. They have all built religious monuments there and the area is teeming with people who travel on Pilgrimage each year to pay homage to the origins of their faith.

To say that I was in people watching heaven would be an understatement and our tour guide, a massive 6' 4" Palestinian Christian named Ibrahim (whom I can not say enough about) was an incredible asset to us. This man's intellect and knowledge simply blew me away.  He was a wealth of information on scripture, ancient history, Jewish, Muslim & Christian religions and of course the current political climate. In addition he was a fun and formidable figure,  able to speak five languages and interact with the various crowds, security detail & navigate the streets of each of the cities & towns we traveled to including Bethlehem, Nazareth, Tiberias, Jerusalem etc. without a hitch.

This past year I've met two beautiful Women who hail from Israel, one of them is from Jordan, and one of them who grew up outside Jerusalem.  They too have encouraged me to continue to explore the Middle East as my affection for the history of what I was experiencing truly touched me at a soul level and the part of me that knows spirit when I feel it was completely alive and deeply connected. It's an incredibly special place and will live in my heart forever along with the people I met as one of my #1 most memorable life experiences.  

I've taken the time to write this post not only to encourage those of you that find the idea of traveling to this area appealing, but also to share with you some of the photographs I was able to capture along the way. I do love taking photos and I hope you enjoy them! Also- I cant say enough about the travel company we booked with; Illume, who offers educational academic and religious tours all over the globe.  We stayed in 4 star hotels, ate great food and traveled on the most impeccably clean tour bus I've ever seen. They are a top notch company and I highly recommend using them. In addition, I just learned that if you have a group of 20 people or more, they will assist at planning any type of tour-trip you can think of for your group and you'll get to travel for free.  In fact, I'm working with them now on designing a trip to Europe for The Revelation Project to celebrate women who changed the world through history ( artists, rulers, writers, poets, saints, sages, and revolutionaries) so stay tuned! 




What Gender Inequality Issue?

What Gender Inequality Issue?

I was reading to my twelve year old son in his bed, he pointed out a part in the greek myth where Helen of Troy runs off with Paris. Her "husband" refers to her in the story as his property, and sets off to re-claim her.  

"Is a wife like a house, mom?" 
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