Yesterday mattered. Having worked with girls and young women for decades, I know this.
Girls have been grabbed, groped and assaulted forever. Yet even though every girl’s mother, grandmother or sister can relate to the feeling of being sexually violated, every girl is still made to feel alone in her experience – singularly shamed, isolated, judged, dehumanized, slutty, guilty or bad in some way.
Generation after generation, we let our girls feel alone in their experience of sexual violation.
Yesterday mattered. Millions of women and girls, on every continent – including Antarctica – made anti-grabbing, anti-rape culture signs and took to the streets.
Let that sink in for a moment: Millions around the world took to the streets and proclaimed that a man’s grabbing, groping and assaulting is not okay.
Millions spoke out against all forms of injustice, and wherever there is injustice – sexual violence exists.
Sexual violation of black and brown girls was legally sanctioned through slavery and accepted by their white sisters.
Today, sexual slavery still thrives. FBI statistics tell us that the average age of those forced into prostitution is 12 – 14.
People who are most vulnerable to the whims of those in power – refugees without documents, poor women and girls, black and brown women and girls, LGBTQ youth – are also most vulnerable to sexual aggression on the streets as well as forced prostitution.
Millions of people marched against these injustices yesterday.
I couldn’t be at the march, yet even watching from afar, I could feel the cultural shift. A seismic shift.
Yesterday, grabbing and groping became less culturally acceptable.
Yesterday, girls became less isolated in their experience.
Yesterday, girls learned that metaphorically “grabbing back” is a valid option.
Sexual violation will still happen, and girls will still feel alone – but a little less so.
Who knows what triumphs and struggles the new year will bring? Beyond our individual plans and goals, 2017 is threatening frightening political and social changes, the level of which remains to be seen. Now is a good time to ask what our role will be in the year ahead, both in our personal lives and in our communities.
I’d like to share something that I learned in 2016 which is helping me answer this question.
In early 2016, a close family member landed in the hospital for nearly two weeks after a frighteningly reckless action. That was the beginning of a months-long nightmare that somehow lead to an ideal resolution beyond the limits of my imagination. My loved one is now doing well.
Looking back on how the horrible ordeal turned into a blessing, I see that I had a little control over whether the outcome was tragic or joyous. Very little control, but I never lost sight of it. I could influence my loved one, perhaps expand or contract some of her options, but not control her. Therefore, I packed my little amount of control with clear, focused intention. The rest I let go, which gained me unfavorable judgments by others, but ultimately allowed the ideal resolution to present itself. In other words, I found the balance between acting with intention and being open to unforeseen possibilities.
How did I find this balance? Meditation, prayer and spiritual guidance made my intuitive voice loud and clear, gave me the strength to follow my intuition in an unpopular direction and guided me in the ebb and flow of action and letting go.
My new year’s message is therefore a reminder that you can influence the circumstances of 2017, but you cannot control what will happen. Be decisive about your intentions, use spiritual practices that strengthen your intuitive voice and seek the balance between taking action and being open to the unexpected.
Let’s do this and make 2017 a year filled with peace, justice and hope for us all.