This is a special week

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May 29 to June 4 is Victims and Survivors of Crime Week in Canada. This year’s theme is The Power of our Voices and will include projects and events to raise awareness across the country. As a Victim Service worker at Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre (WAVAW) we were asked to take this time to reflect on what this work means to us.

At WAVAW we believe we are the women we serve. Only circumstances differentiate us from the women we support. We live in a society where violence against women is persistent and normalized, and where I could very easily find myself in the same situation as the women I serve. That makes the work so much more personal. And the personal is political. My work in victim services has led me to work with other like-minded women, to channel my frustrations into being of service to survivors of crime by supporting women and advocating to hold perpetrators accountable.

The work can be challenging at times when the stories we hear are distressing or when we work all hours of the day. But what keeps me going is the immense strength, hope and bravery I witness in the women even in times of tremendous horror and suffering. As victim service workers we help women within hours of a sexual assault taking place, helping them on their healing journey from trauma to recovery. In 2015 alone, WAVAW support workers answered nearly 4000 crisis line calls, accompanied over 100 women to Sexual Assault Services at Vancouver General Hospital, and spent nearly 200 hours in police interviews and in court with women as they testified against their assailants.

We still live in a society where victim blaming after a sexual assault is almost customary, where a victim must defend their actions in the wake of an assault even when it’s never their fault. After an assault takes place a survivor can easily feel isolated. It is easy to self-blame, self-harm and feel disempowered. An assault is just that – it takes power away from a person. So my focus is solely on supporting the woman. I am there to ensure the woman is treated with respect and compassion while she navigates the various systems. I am there to remind her that I believe in her and that she can move past victimization and start healing. It makes a difference in the life of a survivor to know they are not alone in their journey to recovery.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world where this type of work is unnecessary, to live in a world free from oppression and violence? Rape culture is so prevalent in our society, and it has been made so much more noticeable to me in this line of work. It has made me more aware of the struggles and injustices in the daily lives of women all over the world, while making me blatantly aware of my own privileges. It is a privilege to be working in a field that brings validation and significance in my life. It is a privilege to use the power of my voice to join the multitude of others who work tirelessly to end all forms of violence against women.

#victimsweek

Meditations on Life

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My very first post… So what do I pick to write about first?

Death, naturally.

I want to begin by looking at the end.

Today was a sad day for me. This morning I attended the funeral of my beloved neighbour, and truly one of the greatest men I have had the priviledge to meet in my life.

Our community remembers him as a generous man who always helped other people and had a child like enthusiasm about life. The funeral home was packed with people who came to pay their last tributes to this remarkable man. Even the preacher broke down in tears when he mentioned that this was the hardest funeral he had ever conducted. He had impacted so many lives around him. He was a simple man and there was nothing extraordinary about him. He wasn’t famous or ridiculously wealthy. But he made the effort to connect with everyone he met, and help them when needed.

There was something very profound in the sermon this morning. The preacher reminded us that funerals we organize are not for the dead. They have no use for it anymore. Funerals are for the living, to remind ourselves of what is important. When there is a death of a loved one we forget all our material concerns. We forget to worry about the car we drive, the house we live in, the latest trends in the world and our petty issues. Instead, we get a moment to reflect on our own deaths. Our own lives.

We start to wonder, ‘what will my legacy be?’ What will be said at my eulogy?

When you start thinking about the end perspectives change as well. At least that is what happened to me today.

I have attended many funerals, but this was the first one I had been to where everyone actually mourned the loss of the departed. He was truly a quiet hero. Unassuming, unpretentious, and always looking out for everyone. You could sense a massive loss in the community today.

Steve Jobs famously said that death is the only end result, everthing else is a mile post. There is also an ancient Buddhist practice where they meditate with a corpse for four days to reflect on mortality and to remind themselves not to get too attached to fleeting materialistic things. The Masons follow the same idea when meditating with a skull to remind themselves to achive more with the life they were given.

Of course we don’t need to go to those extremes  to start reminding ourselves to live a life with purpose. It starts with creating a vision for yourself with the kind of life you want to lead. Sometimes it’s easy to forget about what’s important in our lives. We forget to connect with the people that matter to us or spend time on doing things that makes our hearts sing.

So, what will be on you epitaph?