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A Moment or a Movement: Sustaining the Momentum of #MeToo

The applause had subsided and the 1200-person standing ovation had morphed into a 1200-person exodus. I could sense a level of emotional exhaustion in the crowd as the air became thick with small talk to compensate for the discomfort. A kind gentleman, the donor and physician with whom I shared a table leaned over to me and whispered, “I’ve been attending these for 20 years, and this was the best by far.” I breathed a deep sigh of relief as I heard an unexpected voice come through the speaker. Mira Sorvino, the keynote speaker at this year’s MOCSA Community Luncheon, had returned to the front of the room with a microphone. Her voice wavered, the way one does when it is holding back tears of pain, joy and relief. Her voice contained the myriad emotions shared by survivors everywhere when justice occurs in a culture so fraught with injustice.

“Cosby was just found guilty.” It took me a minute to process the words and I looked around to realize that most of the crowd hadn’t heard her. I searched for a coworker, but was surrounded only by strangers. It was in that moment that I realized I wasn’t alone. These weren’t strangers, but hundreds of fellow members of my community who all took time out of their day to support survivors of sexual violence. And they hadn’t just supported us through their donations. On this day, at this event, they had listened to survivors. Whenever a high-profile sexual assault case is decided, we try to surround ourselves with other folks who ‘get it’, and on April 26, 2018, we had done exactly that.

So often in our field of work, there seems to be a disconnect between victim services and the fundraising efforts that sustain those services. This doesn’t happen because our donors are unaware of what we do or because our development staff is uncomfortable with it. I think it happens because it’s difficult to invite a large group of people to pay high dollar prices, only to hand them a serving of vicarious trauma alongside their salmon and salad. So, it is fitting that the theme for this year’s luncheon was “Flip the Script”. Not only did we ask our supporters to help change the way our community and our culture talks about sexual violence, but we also changed the way we talk about our work.

The luncheon featured two survivor speakers this year. Mira Sorvino talked about a lifetime of experiences with sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood and the impact abusers had on her career. She disclosed experiences with violence which she hadn’t previously discussed publicly. What was most impactful about her speech wasn’t her inspiring call to action (which was pretty fantastic), but her unscripted demeanor and her willingness to let us feel her pain. Her words were raw and powerful, and her vulnerability was breathtaking. Mira was followed on stage by Patricia Mitchell, a survivor and MOCSA volunteer. Patricia spoke with ease and grace about her struggle after sexual assault. She led us down the path of her healing journey and reminded us that survivors’ journeys never really end. When Patricia asked the attendees to take out their checkbooks and make a donation to MOCSA, I knew immediately that the event had been a huge success.

I have always loved the work we do at MOCSA. I’m one of those annoying people who talks too much about my job. I love the support we provide to survivors in times of darkness. I love seeing kids clad in superhero capes and ear-to-ear grins as they leave a therapy session. I love talking to teenagers about how to support each other and prevent violence in their community. On April 26th, as we cleaned up the ballroom and gathered the donation envelopes stuck under linen napkins and coffee cups, I didn’t just feel love for my organization and the work we do; I felt an overwhelming sense of pride. We are a part of a movement that must be centered on the voices of survivors. Embracing that part of our movement alongside 1200 supporters and donors is remarkable and I am so grateful to have witnessed it. 

 

This guest post is authored by Victoria Pickering. Victoria is the Coordinator of Education and Outreach Services at the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, where she has combined her passion for advocacy and education to address violence in the greater Kansas City community. In addition to her work at MOCSA, she serves on the MCADSV Membership Committee and is the Kansas City Regional Liaison for the Coalition. Victoria started her work in the anti-violence field 14 years ago working overnights at a local domestic violence shelter while she pursued her BA in Philosophy. When she’s not at MOCSA, Victoria can be found practicing her skills as an amateur chef or volunteering with the Midwest Innocence Project as a member of the Next Generation Advisory Board.

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