Helpless…Hopeless…Damaged Goods

Recently, I’ve been catching myself “getting all worked up.” There have been times, I’ve noticed anger rising up inside up me causing me to verbally throw around harsh words and comments before I even know they are coming out of me. As the awareness of this emotion has been increasing, I’ve tried to examine the root of it, as it’s not really a norm for me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely opinionated. I have no problem expressing myself. But usually those opinions and expressions come out of an even keel, a place I stay pretty regularly.

On several occasions in the past couple of months, I have worked myself up to a point that I have literally made myself physically sick. On a few of those occasions, I had to set leaned over because my stomach was so upset and twisted in knots.

Considering the job that I do, I can’t just leave myself in that predictament. I’d be a hypocrite. Don’t get me wrong…I wanted to forget about it. I wanted to let the excuses of I’m too busy, it’s just a distraction, or it will pass soon enough play out. But, if I did that, how would I ask the clients we work with to do something more. If I ignored my feelings and emotions, how could I challenge them to explore theirs. So, I started the journey (some might say a little unpolished) into this new dynamic in my life.

What I found was each incident of this ugly, sickly anger was rooted in a form of injustice. Shocking right, considering my career circles in the realm of social injustice. At its depth, though, it was a new level to this idea of injustice.

Now that I have been working with trafficking survivors, I have a new understanding and view of them. I get a rare opportunity to see them at their core. On the flip side, I’ve also become acutely aware of how, in ignorance often filled with good intentions, others see and respond to them.

It started at a community meeting when a woman referred to girls of sexual trauma as “damaged goods.” My guess is that many of you can understand the anger in this one. Although her intentions were not negative and her comment stemmed more out of lack of understanding then out of dark places, my body tensed, my mind spiraled, and an innate drive of protection started to go up.

You see, I realize that in our society at least 25% of us have been assaulted in some way, whether it be physical or sexual and those statistics are from what’s reported and assumed based on those reports. Looking at the women in my life, those numbers probably jump up. When I look at those women, I don’t see “damaged goods.” Damaged goods are things we discard, throw away or forget about. It’s the produce at the supermarket that has gone bad. It’s an item of clothing from junior high worn and frayed and unpresentable, but you keep it tucked in the back of your closet for sentimental reasons. It’s not my friends and family members that are beautiful, overcomers.

Then, there’s the word hopeless. This one is a little bit easier to swallow because who hasn’t felt this way before. But, what bothers me, and again gets me worked up, is when people do the patronizing head nod back and forth, utter the word hopeless, and then aren’t willing to do anything about it. Once you see a need, you no longer have an excuse to set passively by. You can’t ackowledge hopelessness and then ignore it without even offering a glimmer of hope.

But the word that got me worked up this week (and I can admit that this might be a rant) is the word helpless. Helpless…

That word…

It bothers me because I feel like it takes the attention away from the victim…survivor…or any many cases a thriver…and puts it on the well, those who are now viewed as the savior. It infers that without me where would they be.

I know it might be an innocent word, but the clients I work with are strong, resilient, and tough. They are smart, and lovely, and funny. Our conversation revolve around witty banter, the latest movie, and insights they gathered through the week. And that word takes something away from those attributes.

You see…they don’t need me to save them just like I don’t need to say look at what I have done. That’s not what this journey is about. This journey is about them being knocked down by someone or something, and in response to that, us walking over to them offering a hand, helping them up, dusting them off, and asking if they would like for us to walk and do life with them for awhile.

Just like someone did for me once upon a time…

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