Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Finding my voice...

Tonight I attended UNF's "Take Back the Night" event--I was there as an advocate and a survivor of sexual assault from my childhood.

The event was awesome! We started with a march, all wearing our purple glow bracelets and walking behind a drum line--I didn't even bother to resist the urge to dance...my walls were down and it felt phenomenal.

We made our way to a podium where survivors would gather to share their stories. There was a candle lighting ceremony, a choir and a moment of silence.

Three survivors spoke their truth and I ADMIRED their courage...so much. I've never told my story in that sort of forum...sure, I've trusted individuals along the way but never that many at one time.

After they spoke, the mic was open for anyone who wanted to share--people trickled up and off again. I knew I wanted to speak but I wasn't quite sure I knew what to say...exactly.

I was frozen in place but I REALLY wanted to move toward the stage...that was my goal because then, I knew there was no going back. I play games with myself and sometimes have to move that line I draw in the sand for myself, daring to go forward.


I took the step and another...more still and walked up the stairs of the podium.

The crowd was a little daunting and I still had no idea what I would say.

I pulled the microphone out of the stand, relieved that it was low enough for me to reach...I'm pretty short, not sure if it shows in my pics.

Gave it a quick test... and spoke.

My name is Tina Vaughn--I'm a rape victim advocate and survivor...

I don't really remember what I said after that but I didn't tell my story. I tried to tell the story of the survivors I meet and work with. How they are often told by detectives and the state that they don't have enough evidence to hold their rapist accountable--he will walk.

I tried to tell how the system is failing our victims--of the nearly 500 rapes that are reported in our fair city of Jacksonville, maybe 10 get their day in court.

I hope I said it was shameful...but I can't recall.

I remember putting the microphone back in the stand and walking off relieved...and empowered. My throat chakra has been opening at an alarming rate lately...alarming in that, I find myself speaking up and speaking out like never before.

I find that I am putting myself out there more...taking chances with my words. When I sense fear, I ask myself what I'm afraid of...and then I sign up for it, I jump.

At first, when I was driving home, I was a little embarrassed because I felt as if I had just served a crowd of people a gigantic word-salad with enough for leftovers and left looking like a fool.

But I'm being hard on myself...too hard.

Speak the truth, speak your mind, even if your voice shakes...(author unknown)

The accomplishment, the empowerment was not in what I said...but that I spoke at all because that was my lesson...content comes natural to me; I am often complimented on my speaking skills. Most of the time, I say what I want to say with eloquence but I know who I'm talking to and the common denominator is my comfort--I speak this way when I feel safe and validated.

My lesson last night was getting over fear, speaking out of turn, standing up when I wanted to sit down, using my voice when my instinct was to remain silent.

Baby steps.


CharlotteB said...

Wow Tina, that is doubly courageous. First that you shared your story at the mic when it would have been so much easier to be an observer and second that you shared that experience here on your blog. I was about to get in the shower when I decided to open my Google reader and see what was up. I am glad I did - your story really touched me.

I am not a "speaker" in any way. I really have to think long and hard about what I am going to say, how I will say it and then still think about it some more before actually saying anything at all....! I truly admire you for stepping out and speaking and opening your heart like that.


Thank you Charlotte. This made my afternoon :-)

Pat said...

I so enjoy checking in with your blogs....you have such a neat writing style and it brings back fond memories for me of when we first met at Yoga Den.
I have been moved and motivated by many of your previous comments but this time you were off the charts!!
Tina, you never cease to amaze me!! Thank-you for sharing the journey of your path with others.


Pat--you nearly made me cry, your comments were so sweet AND it was SO good to hear from you...it's been far too long.

Thank you for checking in...