by Deborah Schiefer
The Little Lawyer.
That was one of my nicknames as a child, given proudly by my Dad when he realized that when I know I’m right, no one can convince me otherwise or force me to back down. When I know I’m right, I’ll push until you also know that I know I’m right (whether or not you’re willing to accept that fact). Sometimes now, spoken sarcastically when he and I go toe to toe.
Growing in a home full of abuse and dysfunction, my voice was all I had. I learned to use it and use it well. And because I was the focused target of abuse by my Mom, I also learned to use it to stand for justice. I experienced so much injustice, I couldn’t stand to see others walk the same. I never shied from an opportunity to use my voice to stand up for someone else and each time I did, I knew abusive people weren’t winning because vengeful bitterness wasn’t being given a home in my spirit. The desire to see goodness overcome took up too much space.
Maybe that’s why it’s taken me so long to process what happened in November. My voice wasn’t stolen. It felt like that, but no. Instead, my voice was weaponized against someone I love. If I spoke, if I didn’t, whatever I chose was twisted like a jagged dagger in Jen’s heart. Speculations that I abandoned her turned into using my presence as an excuse to share things without their context to humiliate her.
“If they can get to you, they know they’ll crush her. They’re trying to turn you or shatter you.”
That’s what I was told by someone very close to the sources.
When I realized the only way to end the manipulation of my voice was to leave entirely, I did.
Well, not entirely. You all know that because I’ve been here, finding my fight, all along.
Maybe it took so long for me to find a way to use my voice again because I came closer than I’ve ever been to allowing bitterness the space to take root. I’ve spent so much time finding my way back while also guarding my heart against the anger and self-righteousness that can so easily consume your soul when you’ve experienced or witnessed something so cruel.
That’s what my journey has been since November. People I trusted gave information about me to an abuser, allowing the abuser the knowledge of how to break me and in doing so, break Jen. I’ve been finding my way back.
My fight back has always been my voice. My ability to fight with and advocate for justice, truth, and a world that is better educated on trauma and abuse. I’ve had to find my fight all over again because the very thing that had been my source of safety and security had, without my consent, become a tool for manipulation in others’ perverse drive to break the spirit of a fellow sexual assault survivor. My voice may not have been stolen, but the only way I’ve ever known to fight for what’s right was being manipulated no matter what move I made. In the time since, I’ve had to learn how to process that. I’ve had to address the trauma buttons that were pushed, the activation, and the anger. I’ve had to find my fight again, but I’ve also had to find my way back to me. And to do that, I needed to see that Jen was going to be okay.
(Spoiler alert: She is. She’s not just a survivor, she’s a fighter, a role model, inspiring, and her Christ-centered heart is still so full of love)
I’m not speaking now to convince anyone of the truth. Those of you willing to see a mountain of evidence have already seen it. Those who prefer or find entertainment in the maliciousness and drama of a public attack on a survivor have chosen where you’ll stand. The latter can kindly see themselves out – I have no time for you.
I speak today because I’m finally finding a strong enough place of healing to know that no matter who attempts to use my words or my presence, my voice is still my fight. My voice is still mine and the way I choose to use it is still in my control. I cannot control how others represent or try to use me anymore than I can control a stranger in a grocery store. But my voice is still my fight and I can use it the way I’ve always known how – to educate, to advocate, and to bring light into dark places.
For those wondering, I’m here. I’ve stood beside Jen from the start. Behind the scenes, Jen, Cassi, and I have been working together to strengthen, encourage, and empower each other. I have my tribe and I’m not stepping away. I have my voice and won’t stop using it. When I know I’m right, no one can convince me I’m wrong.
I know I’m right.
I know I’m strong.
And I won’t be silenced.
I won’t go speechless.
Find your fight – D.S.