I am one of millions who love watching Law and Order: SVU. I have a lot of respect for Mariska Hargitay and am so grateful for what she, and others, are doing with the Joyful Heart Foundation, and the #EndtheBacklog and #NoMore campaigns. I am, because they move mountains to help people exactly like me.
I have been a victim of sexual assault and rape off and on for more than twenty years. It was Mariska’s character, Olivia Benson, who gave me courage to speak up about what happened to me. A woman bold enough to look millions of people in the face through a camera and say what the rest of the world is too embarrassed or afraid to say: what happened to you matters.
One day I heard Olivia tell a victim that there was one thing the perpetrator could never take from her: the truth. It didn’t matter who believed her, by speaking the truth she could begin a healing process. Justice could help, time could help, but it all had to start by vocalizing the truth.
The truth is a scary thing, because it means exposure. It means no longer hiding, and hiding often makes us feel safe. Why else does a child run to the closet after breaking a window? Why else does a woman with a black eye, or even tear stained cheeks, put on sunglasses indoors? We need to hide to protect ourselves. The truth, as John says, will set us free, but as exciting as freedom is, it’s also frightening to those who have been harmed by exposure.
Truth means taking ownership, and it means changing our patterns of behavior. the behavior that harms others, and behaviors that harm ourselves. Stop lying - including the white lies. Stop saying you’re fine when you’re not.
What’s so beautiful about Law and Order: SVU to me, is the team’s refusal to let the truth be diminished by convenience, social acceptance or status. The truth is the truth, regardless. Rape is rape, sexual assault is sexual assault, no matter who does it, and no victim is unimportant.
Having been a victim of sexual assault, this challenges me, because there was a crime committed against me years ago that I have wanted to see justice done, and yet have feared pursuing.
The fear, the whisper in the back of my mind, is that because I am smart, kind, beautiful, strong and have made myself into someone others respect, what happened to me all those years ago is unimportant. I am no longer a victim, I am victorious in Christ.
Even so, the sting of the past still has a way of needling me. The crime would have mattered if it destroyed me, but since I refused to let it do so, the crime, the harm, is irrelevant. Even worse is the lie that continues to fester like a wound:
No one will believe you anyway.
How could I, Samantha Means, have let such a horrible thing happen and never speak up? The truth, as powerful as it can be, is only as powerful as others faith in its validity, or it’s ability to be proven as fact. This is a painful thing to process. I know I'm not alone in wrestling with it.
It’s times like this, as I enjoy watching the show - beginning it’s 19th season - that I stop and consider the pros and cons of addressing what should have been dealt with years ago. It's possible to do so, but it'd be a long and painful process. Do I want to open that door?
I know I’m not the only one who has brought her trauma to God and said, “what the hell? What was the point of that? Where were you? What are you doing now?” How many more questions and how much more difficult will they be if I pursue this? Does it matter?
Even as I minister to others, dissect the Word and learn to love others more deeply than I ever thought possible, those questions continue to float in my mind like tufts of cotton on a breeze.
It's in those moments, wrestling with the questions, when we make a choice to stand on the truth. Even if it means we have to close our eyes to the reality of our circumstances. Speak the truth and let the chips fall where they may. The truth is, yes, it matters.
The truth is, all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). All things means all things.
I serve women and teenagers in recovery who have faced the same traumas as I have, and worse, several times a week. I can see part of that "good" when I tell them it's possible to not only survive but to have a life with happiness and joy. It's possible because I've done it. It's possible for the nightmares to dissipate, if not disappear completely, with time and therapy and a relationship with Jesus.
I'm learning faith doesn't mean you don't have questions. Real faith is wrestling with those questions because it takes faith to wrestle with doubt. The trick is not letting fear and doubt win in the end. So to the cast and crew of SVU, thank you for telling me, and millions more, that what happened matters. What I decide to do with that is up to me.
But, the truth matters.