By Lindsay Gullingsrud
Ten years ago, I was finishing my college degree, working full-time and volunteering full-time as a AmeriCorps member. I remember being part of a conversation when other volunteers were talking about their time at the local rape crisis center. I thought “NO WAY.” No one wants to talk about “that” and I do not know whether I would want or know how to tell people that I was doing that kind of work.
Now, as a proud activist in the anti-sexual violence movement, I wish I could say this was always a calling—but that would be a lie. I decided to go through the mandatory 40-hour training and volunteer my time because I was behind in volunteer hours. I was encouraged to apply for a part-time position and decided to apply because, after 10 years of working in retail, I was ready for something different. Ten years and a number of different advocacy positions later, I am working for MNCASA and get to focus 100% of my time on the primary prevention of sexual violence across the lifespan.
So what happened?
I had the privilege and honor to be witness to the strength of the human spirit. As I walked with victims through their healing process, I was able to witness that moment in time when the feeling of despair turned into a place of strength—a place where they took back their lives and started healing. This blog, my thoughts, and this exposure to my truth is dedicated to every survivor with whom I had the privilege to have a conversation, as well as the individuals who I didn’t personally reach. It is because of them that I needed to focus my efforts on primary prevention because every single one of them wanted their experience to be the last. They all wanted no one else to have to endure what they did.
I also get to work with people who understand the importance of prevention. For instance, one of my coworkers and I had a conversation about one of her family members who is currently dating a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. During the conversation, she spoke about how talented this survivor is. Yet, they are still spending a great deal of energy on healing. My co-worker said this, “Imagine the talent and skills the world is not seeing because of the energy that is needed to put toward healing—to put into surviving.” This is the point of prevention, and this is why Leaping Forward for Prevention is just the beginning.
I also have many personal reasons for working on prevention. The other day, I asked my daughter what she wanted to be when she grew up. Knowing that she was a big fan of super heroes, I expected to hear, “A super hero!” Instead, she surprised me by saying she wanted to be a butterfly. When I asked why, she said, “Because I want to fly and be able to sleep on flowers.” She wanted to fly! As a parent, as an auntie, as a caring adult in many children’s live, I want to see every child fly. Imagine the possibilities in this world if every child could fly instead of any of them having to spend their energy surviving child sexual abuse. What could they do with every little bit of potential they hold?
Professionally, I can talk about all of this with ease with anyone. I can talk about the harm, and I can talk about the possibilities. Personally, it is a little different. I don’t want to be “that” person and I don’t always know exactly what to say. But, I do it anyway because if I don’t, who will?
Even if you don’t know exactly what to say or what to do, today you have an opportunity to do something. You can “like” Demand the Change for Children on Facebook and join the Minnesotans who are searching for solutions. You can sign up as an individual or as an agency to be a partner on the website. You can follow us on Twitter and tweet your own reasons for why you want to Demand the Change for Children.
The urgency is now. Do we—do you—really want another generation of children experiencing sexual violence? Together we can find the solutions. Together we can let this generation of children learn how to fly.