December 27, 2016

Paradigm Shifts

If you think about it, it’s really challenging for us to share our mission via photography. We can’t exactly take photos of fresh water wells we’ve dug or schools we’ve built, like some of our friends at other amazing nonprofits.

When Matt asked me to work with Speak Your Silence, I was ecstatic! Like, over the moon, I-did-a-happy-dance-when-I got-his-email ecstatic! I had been in love with Speak Your Silence’s mission for a long time and had volunteered for months because of how much it meant to me, despite the fact that the cause of child sexual abuse somehow seemed far away. Distance didn’t reduce its value to me because I believed that I didn’t need to experience something personally to be deeply passionate about it. But when I started telling my family and friends about my new job, my perspective began to shift in ways I wasn’t prepared for.

It started when I told my dad. An awkward pause lengthened between us after I told him until he said, “But why? Why do you care about this? Did… did something happen to you when you were a kid?” I was startled that this was the first thought that came to mind, and then I had to convince him that I truly just cared because I thought it mattered, and that there were no dark secrets. It was one of the most uncomfortable conversations he and I had had in years.

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My paradigm shifted drastically through these conversations. Child sexual abuse was not some distant evil that hurt those far away; it was one that had touched those most close to my heart. It’s one thing to hear the statistic that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused, it’s another thing for your friend to look you in the eye as they say that they were that one.

That is why Speak Your Silence matters. The conversations about child sexual abuse need to change and those whose lives have been directly affected need to feel safe to speak, to be able to break the power of that cruelty that made them silent. And why don’t people feel like they can speak of this cause? I believe it is because that while with other causes you can dress it up or make the reality less harsh and more comfortable to speak of, child sexual abuse is a kind of evil that cannot be softened, a shade of black that cannot be lightened. It is a cruelty that cannot be prettied up now matter how many nice words you throw at it. So it is better to ignore it. Better to leave it to molder in the darkness and pretend that it doesn’t exist. I believe however that the light shines brightest not in pastel hued rooms, but in those full of shadows. I want to throw open the shutters and rip down the curtains so the light can flood in and chase the shadows away, and bring hope to the forgotten.