The Memory Dress

I have a dress, which is a deep maroon color and beautiful……….The story of this dress is sad, but there is so much to learn from it for me, that I felt the need to write

“When you sense that your dark night is one of pregnancy and oceanic return, you could react accordingly and be still. Watch and wonder. Take the human embryo as your model. Assume the fetal position, emotionally and intellectually. Be silent. Float in your darkness as if it were the waters of the womb, and give up trying to fight your way out or make sense of it.” Thomas Moore

When I first arrived here in California I started reading to seek answers to the path that would lead me to peace.  I read two books by Thomas Moore “Dark Nights of the Soul” and “Care of the Soul” and I found some profounds dark answers to my question.

“It’s important to be heroic, ambitious, productive, efficient, creative, and progressive, but these qualities don’t necessarily nurture soul. The soul has different concerns, of equal value: downtime for reflection, conversation, and reverie; beauty that is captivating and pleasuring; relatedness to the environs and to people; and any animal’s rhythm of rest and activity.” 

The story starts with a day that  forever will be seared on my soul and heart and be a part of me for the rest of my days.

I have worked as a victim’s advocate for six years.  Two were at a local Safe house  and four years at the local Police Department.

That day I was getting ready to close the office.  A woman came into the door and needed to ask me some questions about a protection order and how she could get one.  I explained to her how to obtain one, and how protection orders can be used as one of many tools to help keep her safe.  They have been together for eleven years, and she wanted to get out of the relationship, but she knew that he would not understand.  I asked her, do you feel like your in immediate danger? She stated no, I don’t think he would go too far.  I went over all safety and security procedures with her and gave her a 911 phone to keep with her at all times.

I was allowed to see her in the hospital because I was her advocate.  This is one of the first scars that started the breakdown.  I walked in and I could not even recognize her as a person, she was in such horrible shape.  She looked up and said, I know her, and she wanted to say something to me.  I walked up to her bed and held what I could of her hand, she did not want to let go.  She said, ‘I’m a survivor Tina,  I’m a survivor’…..

What do you do with all the emotion and pain that she is feeling? How can you share her pain, and help? I felt so little and insignificant compared to what just happened to her, and I did not want to hurt her in any way.

So as my good friend Dory stated,
 Rule of Thumb for Advocacy.  Always take a servants position, if you understand that, then you are a good pick for advocacy. Humility is key for a productive advocate, and keep ears open and mouth shut.

I specialized in domestic violence and sexual assault   I was the sexual assault coordinator for the years I worked at the Safe house.   Truth be told Domestic Violence numbers will not go down until we educate our society, communities, and political officials about the dynamics of domestic violence.  

Times have change and I was so happy to see grants from VAWA that would encourage men to join us women in this arena.  The antiquated views and techniques need to be updated, be more open minded and less judgmental   Since I worked for the Safe house and the Police Department, I was able to see both sides and they desperately needed to find a way to work together.

The question that I got asked the most in the classes I taught to advocates, law enforcement and the local community is, “why does he or she stay”?  and if they go back its thier fault, we tried.  I would answer that question  with, why doesnt he or she  stop batterer?  Blame the abuser not the victim.  

Since society sets the norms and values in which we live, then we all need to look in the mirror. Domestic violence is everyone’s issue, because if affects the community at large.  I have seen people state “those people” like they can not relate, sorry to break your bubble, but domestic violence happens to our sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and grandparents.  We are looking at ourselves. 

In future classes I taught for new volunteers. I always emphasized the importance of being kind, quiet, and  real.  Holding hands, words of comfort and an open ear.  That makes all difference and is real because nobody listens, really, really listens anymore.

I believe that its important to bear witness for victims.  It’s about respect and the importance of all people.  Everyone has worth, a good advocate can feel it, see it and with no words, help them.

So everything I see my memory dress, I pause and  show respect and to bear witness for her because every human being  matters   Peace to you J.

Published by Tina Sun Henderson

I am a Writer, Artist and Human Rights Advocate. I also have a dream about this project. I wanted to hear the voices of my Sisters. Their Voices speaking truth to power, her stories and dreams, and nightmares that she needs/must express.  “A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for everybody else.” – Unknown

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