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Inner Peace: 'Shine a Light' yoga for survivors

“I don’t want to become a chronicler of horrors. I want to be right there in the thick of what people call ‘horror’ and still be able to say, ‘life is beautiful.’ ”

These are the words of Etty Hillesum, a Jewish woman who died in Auschwitz in her mid-20s. She began writing diary entries that chronicled her inner transformation during the growing violence of the anti-Jewish measures. In facing these horrors, she discovered peace, resilience and an unwavering determination to support those in need. She took on administrative duties for the Jewish council to help alleviate the suffering for Jewish people.

In a culture of speed and sensationalism, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the bombardment of violence in our media and communities. This can lead to shutting down to life or seeing the world solely through a negative filter. We can also try to push the “bad” away through overly wishful thinking or sheltering ourselves within the comfort of our own dreams and desires in a way that attempts to pacify the high levels of societal violence. What does it take to turn and face the harsh realities of our times while staying connected to the beauty of life?

One of the greatest opportunities to unveil the interconnected beauty of life is through deconstructing in-depth trauma myths and misconceptions that perpetuate cycles of violence. Susan Moen, the executive director of Jackson County SART (Sexual Assault Response Team), offers essential insights into how sexual violence is perpetuated. “With the ‘Me too’ movement, it has become easier for people to have conversations around sexual violence. What hasn’t changed is when someone comes forward and says, ‘This person in our community harmed me.’ They are still met with, ‘There is no way that could have happened. I know that person; he/she would never do that. You must have done something to bring it on. You must be confused. It wasn’t that bad. Just get over it.’ This supports the offender. It is really hard for society to understand that people in their community, who they think are good, well-meaning people can have the capability of intentionally harming others. They also intentionally groom society to see them as people who would never do it. If they hide their offender behavior from us, that doesn’t mean that they are not offenders and the victim is lying. It just means that they are really good at manipulating society.”

These deeply entrenched trauma myths come with an insidious stigmatization of survivors. Survivors are often emotionally dysregulated after an abusive experience or relationship. Perpetrators can often maintain a calm and charming façade. When someone witnesses the emotional trauma from what abusive people can do, attention often gets redirected from the perpetrator and the acknowledgment of the damage that he/she caused. People see the dysregulation of the survivor, and the blame gets redirected toward them. Moen shares, “It is difficult for people to acknowledge that if it could happen to this person, it could happen to me too. We can often look for ways to blame a victim in order to feel safe.” We must be willing to understand the dynamics of abuse in order to become a trauma informed society that prevents sexual violence in our communities.

Truth can be initially shocking, but in the long term it can set us free. There is a joy in illuminating societal fabrications and taking a stand against violence. We invite you to discover this liberating joy at our annual “Shine a Light” yoga fundraising and silent auction event. This event shines a light on the millions of children, teens, women and men who are living in the shadows of sexual violence. Please join us in support and solidarity for survivors of sexual violence. This event will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26, at Ashland Hills Hotel. Tickets are $20 in advance, $30 at the door. This fundraising event supports local organizations, Jackson County SART and the Maslow Project, which offers free education, resources and support for vulnerable populations and victims of sexual violence. You do not need to practice yoga or be at this event to donate toward this cause. Visit iwillshinealight.org for more information.

Courtney Dukelow is a healer, writer and activist. More info at www.courtneydukelow.com. Send 600 to 700 word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan innerpeaceforyou@outlook.com, and save the date of Sunday, Feb. 9, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Ashland Library to join in a discussion on the advantages of inner peace.

A banner made for the Peace Fence in 2007 that is now on a tile in front of the Ashland library.