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I Don't Need "I Believe You." I Need "I'll Stand Up For You." - Karen Ra

Photo: Michelle Spollen on Unsplash

The tagline of this article by author and survivor Karen Rain says it all: "When it comes to supporting victims of sexual assault, belief is only the beginning."

She directly addresses the state of belief and disbelief associated with reporting sexual assault, and a culture caught between overt and unknowingly victim-blaming and shaming. Through sharing a number of her different personal experiences, Karen seeks to move the conversation out of a question of belief and into a function of determining action. Quoting the article:

"If I were to post on social media that someone robbed me and people replied, “I believe you,” I would feel more confused and irritated than supported. There will never be a #MeToo movement for victims of robbery, though, because “belief” is not an issue — even if there are no eyewitnesses. People don’t feel pressure to keep it secret; they don’t expect to be shamed and blamed when someone robs them. Meanwhile the knee-jerk reaction to accounts of sexual assault is doubt. Perhaps people don’t want to believe stories of sexual assault because often it’s unbearable to imagine. Or maybe they don’t want to believe it because they don’t know what to do if it’s true. There may be a need to maintain the status quo or to protect the perpetrator. They might feel torn because the perpetrator is a friend or relative or a respected member or leader in their community."

It is easy for conversations to stay in the realm of questioning the authenticity of the testimony - do you believe it or not? It is much more difficult to translate that into direct action, the failure to do so leaving the perpetrator unaccountable for their actions. She makes a powerful point: "The abuser is always responsible for abusing. People don't give up their power. Our hopes and dreams and our personhood can be manipulated through deceit, abuse, and betrayal. No one consciously decides to be deceived, abused, or betrayed; that's the responsibility of the one who abuses."

The article is full of powerful statement and considerations. How can you read this quote:

"Victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse have nothing to be ashamed of. We are not tainted or ruined by something someone else did."

And not be struck by the truth of it?

Perpetrators of abuse within the Shambhala community must be held accountable. No amount of teachings will excuse giving them a pass. No amount of processes put in place will matter if we betray our fundamental commitment to basic goodness; bodhicitta; compassion and equanimity.

We do not need to receive more teachings. We certainly don't need poetry. We need to see the teachings in action. Acharyas, do your part! Adam Lobel, do your part! Judith Simmer-Brown, do your part! Susan Piver, do your part! Pema Chodron, do your part! Karme Choling, do your part! Osel Mukpo, do your part! You show us what that is.

We need to cut through the extreme forms of attachment - to our views, our institutions, our leaders, our concepts of lineage; the status quo - whatever is preventing the suchness the situation rightfully calls for from being realized. I won't claim to know how to create an enlightened society - but following the eight-fold path seems like a good first step. Right View, Right Speech, Right Action, to name a few parts that seem to be missing. Not by hiding behind ambiguity and so-called preservation of the dharma.

Words not backed by practice are empty of meaning and value. As some in the Zen tradition may say - proof is in the pudding! Now, show us your fearlessness! Show us what it means to practice! Without the follow-through of practice, there are no teachings worth perpetuating.

Show us your teachings are worth more than the paper they are printed on.

Thank you, Karen for sharing these words of wisdom.

The article should be read in full here:

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