I fully intended to begin this year with a message of gratitude about your giving.
In 2014, you gave big and you responded beautifully.
The proof is in every minute of a wildly successful and inspirational year.
However, something came across my desk today that I think you need to see.
A letter. Unsolicited and filled with kind words.
Take a moment and read what you’ve done. Are you ready?
Thank you for all you do for others, but in this instance for what you did for me.
I attended Soulfire and found myself hit in the stomach as I read someone’s story…at the words “I believe you”.
I have long felt something happened to me as a young child, that I told someone, and that they did not believe me.
I have had incidents over the years where feelings have reared their ugly heads but I did not have a specific memory of the event(s?), so I did not feel worthy of bringing it up (also, a therapist once didn’t believe me).
Your event was so very nurturing and I felt safe enough that emotions poured from me afterword. I scheduled an appointment with a different therapist…this time a great one. Maxine Thome (in case you need to refer adults) has helped me face my demon, though I may never know what it looked like. At this point, I no longer care.
Just knowing I have been trusted with my truth, that my experiences add up, that my siblings are now supportive, and that I have a solid resource if I were to need help along the way, has been freeing and healing.
I have been carrying this weight for probably close to 60 years. It’s never too late to get better, but it sure makes me want to help you reach these kids early.
I honor you and the work you are doing. Thank you for helping me on my path to wellness.
You need to know the impact you’re making in your community in real time.
Thank you for creating a community where survivors of any age feel nurtured, supported and believed.
I promise to update you on your year end goals soon. For now, enjoy this goodness.
A major matter of the heart has been brought to my attention and I feel the need to address it.
Please take the time to read to the bottom. This is important.
Every time I share a piece of my story, it is an act of defiance.
I feel stronger. I feel the torch lit in my hand as I pull the secrets of my father screaming from the dark corners of the room. I feel vindicated. I feel relieved that although my father will never know justice in life, death did not grant him protection from my voice.
That is how speaking feels for me.
It can be exhausting. Sometimes in mid-sentence, memories surprise me. It can send me reeling for days.
My story can still scare the shit out of me.
I often feel guilty for sharing it because I know for some of you, it rips into your own fearful places. When volunteers at the Listening Ear told me that they had received crisis calls after my story was featured in the LSJ, it made my heart ache.
Did you miss it? You can read it here: LSJ – Back from the darkness
I whispered to my husband through a few tears that I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.
I know that there is healing in pain but I guess I wasn’t ready to be the one to make the cut into someone else’s scar tissue. As a matter of fact, I’m sure I didn’t realize that I would.
I have now shared my story with many of you publicly, in meetings and sometimes in the warmth of my kitchen over coffee.
I have encouraged you to share your story too because I want you to feel stronger, braver, vindicated…
Some of you apologize for choosing not to.
Here is the important part.(Just in case you were wondering when I would get to it.)
You owe me nothing.
No matter how many times I share my story, how many dollars I raise and how many children we help heal together, you will never owe me an apology for not sharing your survivor story. Not ever.
You will never owe anyone else an apology for not sharing your survivor story. Not ever.
The most important thing, the so-important-I-wish-you-were-here-so-I-could-say-the-words-to-you-while-looking-in-your-eyes-is:
Your healing journey is your own.
It serves no one to compare your path with someone else’s perceived wider, deeper, narrower, easier or more death defying path.
Your story is yours and yours alone.
Heal in silence. Heal in your voice. Heal in your body.
Heal where YOU need to heal.
You need make no justifications if privacy in a place where power was stolen is now your favored act of defiance.
I dig it.
I heal loudly from a stage but I also heal quietly on a yoga mat writing love notes to my own body.
I honor you.
You are one of the reasons I started this foundation. You are one of the reasons we’ll be providing therapy to child survivors of sexual trauma in a few short months.
I hold your story in complete confidence and I ask you to forgive me if ever I made you feel guilty or ashamed for not being as vocal as I.
In all sincerity,
Tashmica ‘Firecracker’ Torok
PS – One single, solitary disclaimer. Again. This is the important part. 1 of 3.
If you or a child you know is currently the victim of physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect, you are most definitely required to report it to the authorities.
To report child abuse and neglect, call 1-855-444-3911. Anytime. Day or night.
The scones came out of the oven just as the survivors in attendance all sat down around my dining room table.
This is a feat for me.
As a host, you can usually expect to be welcomed into my home with warmth and disorganization. As long as I believe deep down in my heart that I have more time than what the clock reports, punctuality will never be my gift.
After some polite conversation with the participants of The Firecracker Calendar Project about where we were from, our children and our jobs, we settled in to get to work.
I explained The Firecracker Foundation and what I hoped it would accomplish. I preached to the nodding choir. I shared a vision that has become my totem and the theme was decided on. We started to brainstorm images, ideas and concepts. We discussed what we’d wear, where we’d meet and other logistics.
The room grew silent and then something shifted.
The sharing began.
It was just the outer rim of the stories but still enough to know we were all in the right place. I watched eyes meet as comfort and understanding was shared. We got up slowly and hugged on the way to the door. It was hard to leave the space where we all knew similar truths.
When I decided to move forward with the idea of a calendar of survivors, I was focused on the children I hoped we would one day serve together. As we work to protect and heal children, we will lean on the strength of adult survivors to champion their cause. We will need their help to express why counseling is so important to those who may not understand.
It occurred to me yesterday that I have never attended or participated an event to honor survivors of sexual trauma. I know they must exist but I have no experience of them. It made me wonder how many times the survivors who are bravely sharing their images and stories in an act of advocacy had been honored.
In a single moment of wondering, I realized that this calendar is not just about the children. It is about sounding the trumpets. It is about streets lined with cheerful onlookers celebrating bravery like Time Square on V-Day.
The Firecracker Calendar Project is about honoring all survivors and their experiences.
As we met this weekend, we all noticed that there was one thing missing from our table of survivors and their family members – men. If you are male survivor or a male family member of a survivor you’d like to represent, please consider participating in this project. We’d love to honor your bravery too.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Volunteers will be contributing snacks for our participants. Heather Jarous of City Salon will be providing hair and makeup as well as a comfortable place for us to meet. Jena McShane of McShane Photography will honor their concepts through her artistry.
Your mission is becoming a reality.
We have raised enough funds to provide 3 children with a full year of counseling. Our goal is to provide 5 children with individual counseling in 2014.
We are so close. It’s a real nail biter.
The yet to be named calendar will be sold on our website for $20.
The experience will be invaluable.
PS – Wanna help? Invest $100 or more before September 19th and I will send you two tickets to the next Lansing Derby Vixens bout on September 21st. I’ll meet you there!
What an amazing couple of weeks. So many firsts to celebrate.
Board. Website. Event. Toast (with or without actual beverages). Snafus. PayPal failure. Press. Investments. Donors. Checks in the mail. Photos. Bank account. Jeans day designation. Birthday party fundraiser. Thank yous. Offers of help, hope and healing.
Firsts of many. Abundance.
Our future is ablaze with possibilities and no, there will never be an end to the fire references.
Thank you all for sharing your time, contacts, expertise and investments with children who so desperately need an advocate. And even though you may not see it clearly, you are also healing a lot of old wounds for adults who hoped for
people like you years ago.
Love yourself and honor your generous spirit. You deserve it.
PS – Did you know you can comment on this blog? I look forward to hearing your thoughts, questions or comments about our progress.