The Power of Collaboration: Our Children Will Have Taught Us Well

Written by: Arthur Lockhart, Founder

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When you are sexually abused you disappear.  Your voice is taken from you, your sense of self is forced off balance.  And, when you start the journey to reclaim your voice, when you set out to reclaim your sense of self, people (wonderfully well-intentioned supportive people) can at times respond to, not so much you personally, but to you the “client”, you the “victim.”
 
The professionals are the good people, but still when I am seen as, a survivor, a victim, a patient, my role is subtly prescribed: as a victim, I am “sufferer”, as a patient I am  to be “composed” –“just calm down and tell us what happened.”  I am now the  ‘sufferer-patient’ forced to wait: in the waiting room at the therapist office; in the waiting room at the hospital; in the waiting room at the court; in the waiting room at the police station; waiting in the office at the school; waiting in n the office—waiting…While the other takes notes, I am witnessing my story, my life being placed in a container so that I can be “helped.” “Tell me what happened.”
 
And, as this swirls all around within me, I ask myself: Can I say what happened?  Not really sure what happened. Who am I? What will happen if I am not seen as the victim? What if it was my fault?” What is a victim? What did I do to deserve this?  What will others think of me? How do I think of others?  What do I think of me? 
 
How does society see people who have been sexually harmed by another person? When we use the word victimized to describe someone, do we see the person as a strong person or a weak person? Do we relate with the person from a strength -based stance or a weakness-based stance? What is our unique role in this unfolding story?
 
The intervenor is to be objective, to paraphrase, as they fit my story into their framework so that they can help me, so they can understand me.
 
All of this turbulence, this trauma, can, however, through the power of collaboration bring to life the capacity to create the space for openness in the sharing of ones’ story; the unedited one that reflects the whole of me. There are essential elements of collaboration: 1) Empathetic Engagement is the expression of authentic connection- which leads to 2) Enablement is the expression of ones’ ‘voice -which leads to 3) Ennoblement which reflects dealing with the whole of me with dignity.
 
And, while there are those of us who may say: ‘truth is, we are all in this together,” there is another profound truth to accept.  And this Truth is: our culture, is not overflowing with empathy. Truth is, despite the staggering statistics of CSA Reports of offenders luring children online up 15%; making and distribution of child sexual abuse material incidents up 27% compared to pre‑pandemic levels.” (1)  our culture still maintains systemic barriers which inhibit the opportunity for our children to learn and develop skills and means to respond to sexual abuse. For example, there is no formal curricula in our public educations systems which deals specifically with childhood sexual abuse despite the reality that 1in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused in their lifetime. If ever there was a clarion call for collaboration these statistics alone ought to be it.So here it is. The Power of Collaboration must be grounded in “teaching our children well” so that in times of great turbulence, they related to as a whole person. One who can move with the subtle power that comes from knowing they are not alone, that when they move, their movement is in unison with others who are along- side them, collaborating with this powerful human being who is willing and so very able to grace us with their unique story. And, as they transform their trauma so do, we all. Through this power of collaboration as a society, we are ever-more elevated to new levels of being because our children, they will have taught us well.
 
Arthur Lockhart
Founder, The Gatehouse
November 8, 2021
 
1. Canadian Centre for Child Protection (2021)