By Sierra Frost
Upon reading about the dismissal of the sexual assault case of September 2012 involving several teens and young adults in our community, I was heartbroken and horrified. The message sent is that, as a community, we will be idle and quiet about domestic violence.
All of us are important individuals deserving of safety and support when our rights and bodies are violated. This dismissal sends the opposite message.
While Homer has great strengths in diversity of lifestyles, creative and entrepreneurial endeavors and access to nature’s beauty, one weakness embedded here is now a glaring truth: We have failed at guaranteeing safety for each of us in our community; it cannot be attainable without all of us working toward it. The truth is, we are all responsible for this failure and for how we respond, because we all call Homer our home.
Currently, we reside in the comfort of the saying, “Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t feel.” This is a blind and lazy option. It supports manipulative cycles of abuse and victim mentality that we can never take responsibility for our own healing; to tell the truth and seek help.
When I was a child, my father used to tell me, “Sierra, you can’t save everyone.” I thought this was quite pessimistic, and continued to designate myself as the heroine of the world. As an adult, I have learned that — in fact — the only person I can save is myself. However, sharing my experience has allowed me to shed light for others on how to help themselves or seek refuge in the resources that surround us.
As a child growing up in Homer, I was chronically sexually abused for most of my childhood. I did not feel comfortable telling the truth. I felt guilty, ashamed, unsafe and scared. I can’t recall a time when I was taught how to recognize when I was being violated, or what I could do to reach out while feeling like I was supported and safe. Fifteen years later, I have chosen to press charges for this abuse and I — much like the survivor of the 2012 case — am still waiting for our justice system to serve me. This is not a new issue for Homer, but it is a timely opportunity for us to work for change.
Let me be clear about what this isn’t: It isn’t about searching out and blaming any individuals for these atrocities. This isn’t even about the “whys” and “hows” of our justice system not working. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, sexual assault has decreased by more than 50 percent in recent years. Still, every two minutes in the U.S., someone is sexually assaulted.
And this is just reported victims over the age of 12. It is not feasible for us to continue to rely solely on our justice system to provide a solution to this vast issue. This is about taking responsibility to seek out and act on solutions as a community; to work toward a cultural shift. This is a call for action.
In Wonder Woman No. 170, our heroine states, “If the prospect of living in a world where trying to respect the basic rights of those around you and valuing each other simply because we exist are such daunting, impossible tasks, then what sort of world are we left with? And what sort of world do you want to live in?”
I see compassion in action all over Homer, everyday. We buy coffee for the person behind us in line, help our neighbors change flat tires, donate food to our local pantry. We choose to buy our clothes from the thrift store that benefits women’s services. Collectively, our thoughts and actions are in the right place.
When we come to standing up for nonviolence, it becomes more difficult. It is uncomfortable, scary and hard to know how to intervene. However, we can learn. There is hope for a better future for us, our community and our youth.
I have some ideas and resources on how to teach skills on standing up and speaking out about violence. I’m looking for more input, energy and people. If you are interested in taking action to help make Homer a violence-informed and active community that stands up for the rights of every individual, please contact me via phone or text at 399-3341, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to talking with you.
Remember, superheroes only moonlight in their costumes. By day, they are the journalists, attorneys, scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers, nurses and artists. Homer is full of them. Open your closets and dust off your capes, my friends. What sort of world do you want to live in?
Sierra Frost is a longtime Homer resident.
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