Last week I had the pleasure of attending the NASW conference. For those of you who do not know what NASW is, it stands for National Association of Social Work. The conference is a 2 day event when every social worker, counselor, and other social service working professionals gather to network and attend different breakout sessions. It is amazing seeing all the energy and excitement that flows through the room. I believe most of the excitement is due to the amazing amount of water bottles, handouts, and candy one receives from the different vendors all around the room, but who am I to say! Maybe that is just me!
This is a time where we as professionals get the privilege to hear other professionals speak about what they do and how they interact with clients. The best part is getting to hear their stories of achievements and how they followed the gravity pull into social work.
I have to tell you, I was a little worried about the different break-out sessions. None of them seemed to really grab my attention nor did I feel the session would relate to the clients I saw at Community Outreach. All of a sudden, “A Survivors Story” by Jolene Loetscher jumped out at me. I am surrounded by families who are survivors in my eyes and when I saw the title, I knew that I would follow her story in awe.
Jolene’s story was amazing! She was a young girl who fell victim to sexual abuse. It started at a young age and the abuse lasted for a few years. Jolene never told anyone because her perpetrator had her convinced that no one would believe her and frankly, she felt a significant amount of fear that he would hurt her if she told anyone. Jolene kept quiet for years and buried all the hurt and the pain she was suffering deep down in the pit of her stomach. She kept that fear and that hurt there through college, through her first job, and carried it with to her engagement party. It was not until Jolene was applying for a job that a trigger, a memory came rushing back, and knocking her over like a ton of bricks. I remember her telling the story about how she went home that night and decided she could not live with this pain any longer. That night Jolene took a bottle of pills and went upstairs and crawled into bed. She pulled her fluffy white blanket up to her chin and both her dogs where laying right beside her….and then she fell asleep.
The next day she opened her eyes! She looked around the room in disbelief. “I am not supposed to be here”. She looked up toward God and then back down, and at that moment she knew God kept her here for a reason. Jolene had a story to tell. In the state of Nebraska, Jolene was beyond the statute of limitations so her perpetrator is free to walk to the streets. Jolene would not get justice through the justice system. Jolene would get justice by telling her story, by telling other sexual abuse victims that they are not alone and that they too can survive this horrific act of violence called sexual abuse.
Jolene found herself needing closure and since she was not going to get that by knowing her perpetrator was behind bars, she felt she needed to face the child violator, the life stealing perpetrator, the person that took her youth. She wanted to face him and show him that she was still alive and that she was stronger than ever.
It was a hot summer day and Jolene knocked on the front door of this white house with a fenced in yard. Her perpetrator answered the door in disbelief. Jolene looked him right in the face and said “I know what you did,” “I know what you did”. Jolene left that day with a piece of who she was finally intact. She was a survivor. Jolene went on to start Jolene’s Task Force. You can learn more about the Task force on YouTube. Search Jolene Loetscher or Jolene’s task force.
That day I learned that everyone is a survivor of something. Some people just have to climb a higher mountain to overcome the injustices that occurred. Surviving does not always mean that justice has prevailed but it means that someone had the courage, the fight, to tell their story and ask for help. Most importantly to know that God has a plan for each and every one of us. Just remember “to wake even if you were not supposed to” and realize that God is there with every breath and that he knows your pain. He will continue waking you up because he has a plan for us all.