Tag Archives: gender based violence

I am an activist to end violence against women: Part 3 – The Rape

How has my personal story been sitting with you so far?  My hope is to help you begin your journey of healing shame, and become the activist you desire to be!  Meanwhile, I’m taking a DEEP BREATH.  What I’m about to tell you will help me “Live-A-Brighter-Life.”  This is the vulnerable place that Brené Brown talks about. This is the place where Indrani Goradia encourages me to be brave.

UntitledSo, in the Part 1 blog I slightly touched on my story of being raped as a young teenager.  As a young girl, I was walking tall, confident, and very secure in myself as I entered into the high school scene.  I was involved in all of the sports, highly regarded in my church, played many instruments in our school band, and never broke “the rules.”  My parents were known as responsible and loving people, who were living the blue collar “American Dream.”  But as we know so often, many of these kinds of families are hiding a secret.  Our secret was I had an older brother who was suffering from his own demons of a mental illness and drug abuse.  This was back in the 70’s and 80’s when families rarely talked about their private lives.  As you can imagine, I made sure I was the “good little girl,” and wanted to make sure I never disappointed my parents, my community, or my church.

In my youth, I was taught that being a “good little girl” meant that you should help people, and do the things God would want you to do here on earth.  I thought that was a reasonable request, so I set out doing my best to do JUST that.  I had found and befriended a teenage boy who was older than me, and living in a challenging home situation.  I continued a friendship with him against my father’s wishes.  You see, my parents had some kind of gut feeling about this boy that I wasn’t aware of.  So (on a rare decision to disobey my father) I decided to go to this friend’s house and invite him to church.  This is where my nightmare began, and did not end for 30 years.

Many of you reading this article right now can completely relate to this story.  Certain feelings are stirring up in you, and you can understand the rush of trauma I was experiencing during and after I was raped.  Some of you have been raped, sodomized, or sexually abused in your life.  You know the feelings of guilt, shame, humiliation, denial, anger, confusion, betrayal, uncertainty, and grief about the loss of innocence that was taken from you.  The nightmares have been haunting you for years, and your entire existence revolves around this suffering.  And then the biggest question of your lifetime…. Do you tell anyone what happened to you?

I made it home somehow that horrific day, crept into the shower, and felt frozen in my body.  I made the painfully conscious decision that I could not tell my parents, or report what had happened.  I had disobeyed my parents, and “this is what I deserved.”  I told my best friend at the time, and throughout the years I have felt obligated to tell my partners.  My parents found out just a few years ago about my rape, and even after a 30-year career in law enforcement and private investigations, I could not NAME my feelings about what had happened to me.

UntitledIt’s been almost four years since I received the opportunity to start REALLY healing from my rape.  When I began to tell my story, the grip it had on me began to release.

What story is gripping you tight?  What story is holding you hostage?  I had not been open to therapy…. Ever!  But through the encouragement and help of people I trusted, I began to see a therapist for my PTSD.

At Indrani’s Light Foundation, we encourage our community to reach out to the people they trust if they need help.  In module 4 of the “Live-A-Brighter-Life” workshop series, we teach about “Finding Resilience.”  Indrani teaches that separating and insulating yourself from others is a petri dish for shame.  Brené Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly,” is my new Bible now, and as I continue to teach Indrani’s “Live-A-Brighter-Life” curriculum, I continue to heal my shame.

Part 4 of my blog series is coming up next.  If you’ve been a victim of discrimination, or have ever been shamed or treated differently because of your race, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or any other situation, I encourage you to keep following my blog series.  I lost my beloved career because I was a woman, and a lesbian.  I will talk about how I coped with this loss, when the grieving process began, and how I have come to understand this trauma.

 

With love & light,

Amy

Have you earned the “look” in your child’s eye?

child-636022_640The look of love
The look of fear
The look of contempt

Those looks you hate?

It may not be their fault.

It may be because of the choices you made, the choices WE made as parents of these incredible children we have been given.

As a child, sustaining repeated and persistent abuse, I had a significant thought…

Why did you have me?

This took many other word forms such as:

Why did you have a child?
Why did you have another child?

I am not blaming the way children turn out on their caregivers; I am reminding caregivers to make better choices so that we can say that we tried our very best when our children have the “looks” that are “cringeworthy.”

We must try our best every minute of every day.

It is on us. Every ONE of us. All the time.
 

Love and light,

Indrani

She was stealing food…

Image terimakasih0 via PixabayI spoke to a social worker when I was in Trinidad in October, and I heard about a child who was brought to her office by her guardian with a bag of clothing. The guardian is the legal guardian and a very close family member. The social worker was told that the child was stealing food. The child was a very young teenager and was emaciated and clearly hungry.  There was no place for the child to go so the child was sent back to the house with the guardian.

A few weeks later, the whole scene repeated itself.  The social worker again sent the child back.

This story really left me feeling helpless.

Often times I am talking about past abuses and guiding the teller of the abuse story through the pain, and into a deeper understanding of their present power instead of a powerless past.

This was so very different.

This is clear and present danger and pain that was being experienced by a young person that I could meet. I could make a significant difference here. Yet, I choose to keep working at the global level and to use my time and energy to try to make changes at a different level.

I will reach out to that social worker to see how I can contribute to the care and feeding of that child, but I must do this from a safe distance. If I get too personally involved I stand the chance of derailing my whole path because I will get way too deep in the problem, and can potentially make the situation very much worse. This is very hard to accept.

Unless I am willing to step in to legally adopt this young teenager in a different country and devote my life to her future, I can only help in different ways.

When we face situations like this in life, we can only really do what we can do. If we need to work from a safe distance, that is the decision we must make.

If we can do something deeper and significantly contribute to the situation we can choose that path. The option is NEVER to beat yourself up about what we “could” have done or “should” have done.  To be this centered in difficult decisions like this we must practice this centeredness in other less difficult aspects of life.

Luckily for us, life gives us many opportunities to practice centeredness …. from ordering from a menu, to choosing an internet provider, to dealing with the technical advisor of said internet provider who has such a thick accent, we just want to bang our heads with the device we are trying to trouble shoot.  You get the picture.

Look around you and attempt to deal with the next small irritant with a deeper level of groundedness and presence.

Maybe it requires you to use your ears more than your mouth. Maybe you get to use your mouth but in the complete opposite way, like whispering instead of yelling, or smiling in the face of the instigator instead of scowling, pouting. Maybe you decide to use your feet and leave a hostile situation instead of staying and begging the others to please, please, please see it your way.

Only you can decide what to do.

Expect to make mistakes and expect pushback. Pushback is really good because it tells you that you are making waves in the status quo.  If you want to quick start this practice, look at the status quo of your life and see what you would like to change then start there.

In my case, the status quo of my life was that of a “stay at home mom,” very little travel and a very confined, albeit very comfortable, world.  These days, my status quo is a far cry from yesteryear.

Take a breath.

Make a small change.

 

Love and light,

Indrani

I am an activist to end violence against women: Part I

UntitledI’ve always had a passion for helping women who have suffered abuse of any kind.  Why did I choose this particular passion?  I am a rape survivor.  As a young teenager, I fell victim to an older teenager who preyed upon my kindness of wanting to help him with his “demons” by inviting him to church.  He disappeared after the rape, and I chose not to report the rape to police, or my parents for many heart-wrenching reasons.  I told my best friend at the time, but my nightmares only seemed to get worse.

I did, however, make sure I got into the front seat of a police car as a police cadet soon after I was raped.  I felt safe, and I believed I could help other girls and women if I was a police officer.

As a police officer, I made every effort to handle the domestic violence calls, the reports of Untitledrape, sex abuse, or teenage girls who were being abused by their parent or guardian.  I investigated every case with a fine tooth comb, dotted every “i,” crossed every “t,” and wanted justice for girls and women who cried out for help.

What I COULDN’T do in my 20 years in law enforcement, was advocate for the girls and women who DID NOT, or COULD NOT seek help.  Police officers must remain objective, and are ethically held by the rules of law.  I did what I could to encourage these women and girls to report their abusers, but that was the extent of my power.

UntitledAfter 20 years in law enforcement, I became a private investigator, and working criminal defense cases came with this territory.  After being a defense investigator during these abuse cases, I became acutely aware of both sides of the stories.  After interviewing and representing multiple “alleged” abusers, many of them told me their family history, the abuse they, themselves, suffered as children, and the demons they fought for most of their lives.  Many of these men admitted their guilt and asked for help.  Other abusive men admitted their guilt, but showed no remorse, and believed the woman “deserved what she got.”

UntitledNow that I’m retired from law enforcement and private investigations, I was left with confusing thoughts, beliefs, and judgments, with no clear answer of why men are so abusive to women in our world.  The latest statistic from the United Nations is that 1 out of every 3 women will suffer abuse on this planet.  This is a staggering pandemic.  This means that YOU, or someone you know … a sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, best friend, or daughter ….. has suffered some form of abuse.  Maybe you are the abuser? Maybe you were a victim of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse as a child? Or maybe you are being abused now. Where do you go for help?  Who do you trust?

In the next “Part 2” blog series, I will share how Indrani Goradia, Indrani’s Light Foundation, and Brené Brown came into play for me.  Meanwhile, I’m feeling vulnerable about sharing my story this way, so I’d love some feedback about how this blog is resonating with you.   Do you have a similar story?  Do you have mixed feelings about becoming an activist?  Tell me your thoughts.

 

With deepest gratitude,

Amy
Director of Education & Training
Indrani’s Light Foundation

 

 

 

 

Going BIG and Going Small

UntitledOn a recent flight from Trinidad, after doing my TEDxPortOfSpain talk in October, (watch my talk here: bit.ly/1OGFcX5) I saw the movie, “Ant Man.”  I am not usually a fan of these superhero movies, but my brain was tired and I decided to watch.

There were tons of great computer graphics, no gratuitous sex or badly behaved teenagers… just an old fashioned action movie with a good old-fashioned ending, where the blended family lives happily ever after.  Okay, it was formulaic and predictable and I do not really recommend it.

Here is what I DID enjoy.  Ant Man can move from “BIG” to “small,” and each size has its drawbacks and gifts.  The best thing about being “small” is that the strengths don’t get smaller. They stay the same.

So just like an ant can lift many times its body weight, Ant Man has amazing strength and can do amazing things even when small so he is still a formidable opponent.
When he is his usual size, his powers are ramped up and he is the hero we want him to be.

Here is what I took away from Ant Man.  We can choose to play big or play small and it needs to be our choice. When we choose to play small we still need to bring all of our skills to the stage.

Recently I was on a panel of six people, all of whom had their specialty jobs. The panel consisted of a judge, a police sergeant, a district attorney, etc.  We were all there acting as one body and we all had small jobs in support of that one body.  We each showed up as one hundred percent of our larger selves even as we treaded lightly, and did not hog the microphone.  None of us felt like we had all the answers.

We had never met each other and I was so proud of how we played nicely together.
Any one of us could have been plucked out from that panel and been asked to do an hour presentation to the audience and we would have stepped up.

I like going from big stages to smaller stages, it helps me to practice my skills in different ways.

While speaking at the United Nations, and on the TEDxPortOfSpain stage, I played to a global audience. My thoughts were more encompassing and I used imagery that could resonate with a more expansive audience. I was introduced in a formal way and some of my achievements were read out loud. The audience in those venues wanted the bigger picture of me.

I also had the great fortune to speak on a much smaller stage at my high school Alma Mater, and when I heard how I was being introduced, I realized that the kids did not need that version of me.  They needed to hear I used to be “one of them.” They needed to know that my “big,” started “small” and they needed to resonate with my small.

When I began to speak I said this to them:  “Those words are things I have done over the past 35 years but I am really just a big eye coolie girl.” I could see them relax. They understood that term. “Coolie” is a derogatory term for people of East Indian descent in Trinidad. That was a phrase they had heard and could digest.

It resonated.

From that small position I began the story …. and I built on it to get bigger and bigger, and told them they could do it also.  I ended with reminding them I was still a big eye coolie girl and I always remember my humble beginnings.

The ability to move between big and small is something we humans can do, and it helps us to stay grounded. It helps us to know that our heroes, whom we hold in high regard, also put on their pants one leg at a time.

My question to you is this… How big are you when you are small?  Stay strong and use your “big” to your advantage, and help people accept you for all the talent you bring to the party.

 
Love and light,

Indrani

Brighter Life Bit #30: How can you use P.E.R.M.A. to manage Self-Care?

ILF_Wtagline_Logo rgbWelcome to this Brighter Life Bit #30.  For this lesson, you can listen to the original teaching at the 31:30 minute mark of the Class 5 recording. You can download the audio from the ILF website here.

What does P.E.R.M.A. stand for?  How can it impact your well-being and give you a restorative practice?

Exercise:Take out your journal.  Please write down what you are doing right now. How does this activity connect to one (or more than one) of the five buckets of P.E.R.M.A?

Examples:

  • Volunteering – Meaining and Purpose
  • Reading a book – Positive Emotions
  • Working on a special project – Engagement
  • Cooking dinner for friends – Relationship to Others
  • Doing art – Achievement

 

Now think of a place in your life where you can introduce P.E.R.M.A.  

Share your experience with us.  What did you choose to do to practice self-care? Share your comments below this post.

Being vulnerable……

ILF_Wtagline_Logo rgbIndrani’s Light Foundation teaches a free workshop series called Live-A-Brigher-Life.  (You can listen to the free podcast series here.) In one of our lessons, “Finding Resilience,” we teach you how to ask for help, and that being vulnerable can free your shame, humiliation, guilt, or embarrassment.  We also teach Brené Brown’s strong belief in the power of empathy, and how you can understand another person’s feelings.

Here is a short story recently told by Indrani that may help you understand.

Indrani was recently in New York City and finally got the opportunity to climb up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty.

Being vulnerable.

“This was the step count up to the Crown of lady liberty.

I sometimes get claustrophobia.

Half way up I could not breathe and started to freak out.

My dear friend, Eva, came down to me and started to help me breathe.
Big deep breaths.

My dear Erik started telling me about the firm construction of the statue.

My new friend Yuki stayed close and was ready to support my ascent.

3 amazing people when I needed them.

I made it with a smile on my face.

I am so grateful.

The lesson?

Ask for help.

Accept the help.

Be grateful for angels around.”

 How does this story resonate with you?  Would you ask for help from trusted friends in this scenario? Or would you have tried to “tough it through” and suffered the entire way up the stairway?  These three friends came to Indrani’s aid with empathy and with no judgment.

Maybe the story is different for you.  Who can you reach out to if you are being abused?

A parent? 

A best friend? 

A counselor?

A religious community member?

A sibling?

A coach?

Who is trustworthy, nonjudgmental, and patient?  Who can you entrust with your story?  Reach out to them today.  Not tomorrow, not next week….. but today.  Speak your shame.  Speak your truth.  It’s time to feel safe again, don’t you think?

If you, or someone you know need resources to get help, have them visit our webpage at www.indranislight.org/resources/helpful-links/

 

 

Brighter Life Bit #29: What is Self-Care?

ILF_Wtagline_Logo rgbWelcome to this Brighter Life Bit #29. For this lesson, you can listen to the original teaching at the 24 minute mark of the Class 5 recording. You can download the audio from the ILF website here.

What is the definition of Self-Care? And what is the intention?

Exercise: Take out your journal. Write down 3 things you can do EVERY day to practice self care.

Examples: Take a walk
Ask a family member to cook dinner
Meditate/pray
Go to tea with a friend

“Doing Self-Care is preventative medicine…”
~ Andrea J. Lee | Indrani’s Light Foundation Goodwill Ambassador

Share your experience with us. What did you choose to do to practice self-care? Share your comments below this post.

LABL Podcast #20: Finding Joy with Andrea Scher

ILF_Wtagline_Logo rgbWelcome to Episode #20 of the Live a Brighter Life Podcast!

In this episode of the Live a Brighter Life Podcast Indrani speaks with Andrea Scher. You will learn:

  • Andrea’s personal story and experience with “hiding her light” as a child.
  • How Andrea practices encourage and compassion to live “big.”
  • What is the difference between joy and happiness?
  • Are you measuring your “joy factor?” Are you “joyful” enough?

Indrani looks at how she can use this teaching to help women live a brighter, more joyful life.

andrea_inherimage_hands_497A little about Andrea Scher
Andrea Scher is the creator of Superhero Life where she believes we all learn together to use our voices, share our superpowers and live life in full color. As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, Andrea redefines what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in her world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.  See more at www.superherolife.com

 

Indrani’s “Orange the World” Video Message: Day 4

Have you heard about the United Nation Women’s “ORANGE THE WORLD” campaign yet? Indrani has joined forces with them for their 16 days of activism to end violence against women and children.

Indrani is publishing a personal video message every day during the UN Women’s campaign, and TODAY, she is sharing an important message about treating ALL of your emotions with respect. When you can do that, you can begin to end violence within yourself and other people. It’s an action that starts with “Self.”

Indrani encourages you to Google, “The Guest House” by Rumi.  But before you do, take a look at Indrani’s “Day 4” personal message.  Watch it here:

Please share this video on social media!

Let’s END violence against women and girls together!

“ORANGE THE WORLD”

Orange the World image 2