Sunday, September 6, 2015

There's a Ribbon for It . . . .

Last week I attended the National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) in Los Angeles.  As with many conferences, there were vendors in the hallways hawking their materials that support sexual assault advocates and the programs we work in.  As reminders of the vendor's materials for sale, there were give-away prizes like pens and flashlights and, at one vendor, a ribbon lapel pin.

As a snapped up the "ribbon" pin and put it in the free bag handed to me by another vendor, my mind began to turn.  I am no stranger to the pink ribbon, having relatives and friends who are or have been in active treatment of their breast cancer.  I have even paid good money for the privilege of walking a few miles for breast cancer awareness, all the while making the Susan G. Komen organization a bit richer.  

I have worn the green ribbon for mental health awareness, the red ribbon for HIV awareness, the rainbow ribbon for LGBTQ rights, and the denim ribbon of peace.  I know ribbons!

As the two-tone blue pin with the red heart at the top hit the bottom of the bag, I imagined myself touching the pin on my chest as I explained to people that this particular color supported and honored survivors of childhood sexual assault.  Would they ask if I was the survivor or wonder if I knew someone who was a survivor?  When I told them who it was, would people stop and give me a hug?  Would they share a story of their friend, mother, sister, brother, neighbor, child going through the same thing?

I then started to imagine having this particular colored ribbon tattooed on my shoulder to honor some amazing people.  I imagined buying shoes or a t-shirt or a purse with this particular ribbon imprinted for all to see.  Or, what if I sent out an email inviting my family and friends to join me in a walk to raise awareness and funds to try to wipe out childhood sexual assault?  

If you're reading this, you know how you'd react to my wearing this ribbon and that invite to pay money to walk 2.5 miles.  Thanks to those who would give me a teary hug (asking first, of course) and say thanks for reminding us that many people walk with invisible scars.  And, even, thanks to those who would wonder why I can't just move on.  Thanks to those who just can't talk about it, who say they're fine.  You ALL bring me growth and clarity.

I have not posted on my blog for two months as I was in the process of applying for and beginning the work I will now do in the coming years.  This work, sexual assault advocacy, education, and prevention on our local campus, is rife with triggers for me.  I knew I needed to go inward to make certain I was in a place where I could be a true advocate, a strong voice of statistical reason and non-anxious emotional support.  I'm there.  And, I promise, I'm back here.

Now, be warned.  If you are going to google this ribbon, you will have many options for exploration, including Wikipedia, where you will find this ribbon:
The awareness ribbon used by Gloucestershire Against Badger ShootingBlack and white longitudinally-striped ribbon
  • Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS) are standing up for badgers in the Gloucestershire pilot cull area

Since I did not bring back enough ribbons for all of you, may I suggest that you simply treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, honoring the realities that made them into the amazing people that they are today.  

B, Me, M - a few ACCESS SA Team Members