What Comes Next

The last four days have been a whirlwind. In an unfortunate twist of irony, I had my worst night of sleep last night, AFTER everything was all said and done. So in case I wasn’t going to be feeling it today anyway, I definitely am now after my whopping two hours of “rest” before my early morning wake up call to make it to the airport on time. I am already on my second set of tears for the day and I doubt they are my last.

The IT I am feeling? It has many forms.

For start, I am exhausted both in the physical sense but also, clearly, in the emotional, too. I moved mothering mountains to make this DC trip happen and the effort of trying to hold my shit together for so many days as I traveled and trained and lobbied (and pumped) was intense. Even all the yoga I know and do couldn’t keep tension from settling in to my jaw and shoulders (& also, how did I get shin splints?).

The “it”ness of emotions has been a roller coaster. I have been anxious, proud, determined, nervous, sad, pissed off, empowered, grateful, shocked, loved, hurt, bolstered, undone, hopeful, disappointed, and hangry (which I will argue belongs on this list), and often I have moved from one to the next and the next and then back again through this list and all the other emotions I can’t even name right now.

Whatever comes of the vote in the Senate, I can remain proud of the fact that I came and shared my experience, strength, and courage not only in those Senate offices but will all the amazing survivor sisters that I met. I have a forever place in my heart for all of them and all of you who reached out to share stories of your own with me. I hope you know I carried you in my pocket, in my heart, and in my prayers.

I also hope you all can see how the real effort here was in humanizing our experiences. Yes, we had a goal of encouraging our Senators to pick another judge. I’m not saying that the judge who fills this SCOTUS seat has to share my political beliefs, but I am saying that I don’t believe Kavanaugh is the right judge for the job. It is in that spirit that I hope everyone reading this can understand that at the core of it, many survivors like myself want to be seen as human beings worthy of respect and this nominee and how the situation has been handled feels very disrespectful. You do not have to agree with my politics to support what I did this week. It was an act of courage and that alone was a remarkable feat for each of us on this trip. We are worthy of being seen for our efforts, no mater the outcome.

If you know a survivor, and I am willing to bet you know several, even if they haven’t been as vocal as I have been lately, reach out. Don’t tell them what you need. Ask them what they need. We are raw right now and we all have our own way to process; please ask your people what you can do to support them and then do you damndest to make that happen. You humanize us when you give us choice and power like that. You help IT feel just a little bit lighter when you do that.

Yesterday, during our second meeting, I found my eyes wandering at times around the beautiful conference room in which we sat. I mean, do you see this chandelier? It is gorgeous. In seriousness, though, I had to remind myself in those moments to stay present, stay focused on the intensity. As I move through the coming days I hope to stay present for my family and for myself as I allow all of this – all of it – to become a little less intense. A little more settled. May we all find little ways to feel just a little more peace. If you can, be that for each other.

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How It Went

Friends, I cannot tell you how moved I am right now. Today I watched these women, myself included, speak their truths with courage, compassion, honesty, and strength.

All of you who reached out to share support prior to our meetings? We felt that. You wrapped us in love and with the help of the ACLU and each other, we went forward to the offices of BOTH our Senators today to meet with their staff members. As I said in a post or two ago, this is not a political party thing for me. So I am not going to berate the elected officials from my state here, but I am going to tell you that we were received differently by the two groups of staffers and that it was in the second meeting with Sen. Sasse’s office where we felt seen and maybe, just maybe, heard.

{OK, I am going to go political for a moment. As many of you know Ben Sasse likes to speak and loves rhetoric. It would be super, super great if he would take his words from the Senate Floor from last night and apply them in action to his vote on Kavanaugh. You can call him and tell him that (please).}

When we left the second meeting, which began just 10 minutes after the end of the first one (so, hello whirlwind), there was a collective sigh of relief that we had just done that. We shared our stories. We shared our views. We asked questions. We carried all our sister survivors with us, including the ones who have not been given an opportunity to speak.

And it. Was. Powerful.

I am in awe of the fortitude I saw in those women today. There were moments of intense emotion, yes, and there is no need to apologize for that. What we brought was real and what we shared touches so many of our lives because what impacts a survivor impacts everyone around them.

My part was both short but of value and meant the world to me in terms of using my voice, even in small ways.

Several of us agreed to start off the whole process by shaking the staffer’s hand and saying something of the following:

“Hello. My name is Jennifer Welsch. I am a constituent and a sexual assault survivor. I request a meeting with the Senator.”

I was the first one in line to do this for both sessions.

In the Fischer meeting I did not speak another word. In the Sasse one I did.

Y’all, it was beyond empowering to take back my power and give a face and a voice – my face and my voice – to this movement. I have been keeping myself small in public spaces on this trip but after we finished today, I walked out of the Russell Building with my head held freaking HIGH.

I was given shitty circumstances by being assaulted. All of the women in my group were, too. But from that dust and ash, we rise, and we will continue to rise until we are seen and heard and believed by all.

Our pictures taken afterward (seen above) were full of power. The hands in the air? All the better for you to see us, my dears.

And because I adore Nahko and his song “Love Letters to God” (see lyrics below) I kept my palm open because, yes. Yes I can fight with an open fist, a loud voice, a brave heart, and a peaceful purpose.

“Don’t believe all you’re told/and open/open up your fist/ it’s a misconception, you can fight like this/and praise/with the power of prayer/if God’s on our side we can take the stairs/to the heavens” – Nahko & MFTP “Love Letters to God”

Late Night Update

Y’all, today has been intense. I hope to sleep soon. We had an incredible meeting with the ACLU and all the women from the five (?) states who are here. Over 20 of us are from NE.

We made our plan for tomorrow but as of now, Senator Fisher does not plan to meet with us, nor does Senator Sasse. Senator Fisher’s staff will see us. I will have a small speaking part in tomorrow’s events and will leave a copy of this letter behind when I go (see below).

Please feel free to call our Senators or email them or tweet them or whatever you can do to help support survivors. There are plenty of good judges out there (& no, I don’t believe they all have to agree with me politically, although judges are supposed to be a bit above politics (& so I digress)).

Senator Fisher,

My name is Jennifer Welsch. I am a constituent from Hastings, NE and a sexual assault survivor. I would like to request a meeting with you to discuss the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

As a survivor it troubles me greatly that you are not representing my voice when you say that you will vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for a lifetime to the Supreme Court, or the voice of any person in Nebraska who has been affected by sexual violence.

Sexual assault is not a political talking point or battle; it is a humanitarian crisis, and how we – how you – respond in this particular moment speaks volumes about our values and our support for Nebraskans and all Americans. Survivors have no choice but to live with the ramifications of their attacker’s actions for the rest of their lives. But you, Senator, can make the choice to stand up for all survivors, all people, who do not wish to see someone with the temperament and accused history of Brett Kavanaugh, who, if appointed, will make choices that will impact all of us for the rest of his life.

Best,

Jennifer Welsch

On a Wing and a Prayer (with a Pump)

Do you have rituals when you fly?

Although I have taken some long flights in my life (getting to Tanzania takes time, my friends), my frequency isn’t terribly high, especially in recent years. I bet I can count on one hand the times I have flown since kids.

That being said, at some point in my life, I started a take off and landing ritual that to this day, I do every time. Every leg of a trip.

I say the Lord’s Prayer.

I’m not saying I am a terrible flyer but traveling is stressful and repeating those familiar words in my head as we leave and return to earth grounds me (pun very much intended).

On today’s flight, the added stresser to an already intense trip is the need to pump as I am flying for the first time while still having a breastfeeding baby at home.

Because my friends kick ass, I was able to borrow a pump much smaller than mine for the next few days. Never mind the fact that my first time using it while waiting for my first flight to leave took me just as long to figure out as it did to pump (& made me very sweaty in the process, but thank goodness for small blessings like no one in the seat next to me). I still got it to work and that is winning. And now that that learning curve is done (whew), I should be good to go from here.

On a (literal) wing and prayer with hope for the days to come to be of purpose (& with time to pump)…the journey continues.

Called to Action

So sometimes, when you put yourself out there in big ways, you are presented with big opportunities in response, and such is my experience this week.

First of all, let me begin by saying thank you for all the love, support, and kindness that you all showed after my last post. Your comments and private messages made me cry – in the good way – and filled my heart to the brim. Thank. You.

One of the messages that floored me the most came almost 24 hours after the posting and was from a friend I know via the yoga world here in Nebraska. In it, she asked me if I would be willing to share, via the ACLU of NE/ACLU national office, my story with our state’s Senators, Deb Fisher and Ben Sasse. At their offices. In Washington, DC.

To be perfectly honest, I had to read the email more than once to comprehend what it was asking of me. Fly to DC? Meet with members of Congress on The Hill? THIS WEEK?!

But of course it is this week when such meetings are needed, and because my support system here at home – Ben, my friends, my family – is amazing, I said yes.

Even though I have never done anything remotely like this before.

Even though I am 99.9% sure that I will cry at some point during the meetings.

Even though I have to leave my still nursing, Velcro baby for 48+ hours.

Even though I don’t think much will change because of my doing all this.

I am going to go.

If my horrible experience and anger can be turned and channeled into a force for good at a time when the ACLU is willing to help me do that (weighing in on judiciary nominees is not their normal tendency) in the hopes of effecting real change, the change I want to see for my children, then my answer had to be YES. There was no doubt.

I will be honest when I say that I am nervous and I will be honest when I say that I don’t believe sexual assault is a political divide, even though our country seems to be trying to make it into one here recently. Survivors come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and political parties; that much is clear. So, no. I am not traveling to DC as a member of a political party, even though it is a political action I seek. I cannot speak for all survivors when I speak out against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh because like all other categories of humanity, we are not all the same. But given the opportunity to use my experience and my voice to speak out for those who do not wish to see that particular judge confirmed for a lifetime to the highest court in the all the land? I am taking it.

Of course I cannot control the responses or words of others, so how people choose to react to my choice is up to them. I would ask that if you’re going to comment, you do so in kindness or please keep it to yourself. My bags aren’t packed yet, but we’re working on that and I am going where my heart is called to go. As always, for those willing to extend it, your support is greatly, totally appreciated. After all, it is for their future that all this is worth it:

Welsch-8806

#WhyIDidntReport

Although I wonder more than ever if I will hit publish on this post, I have to remember that I write this blog for myself and my own memories, so what others have to say to it, if anything, is secondary to why I feel the need to write.

I feel the need to write because lately I have been pissed as hell at the world in general and you need only look at the national news to figure out the why of that.

So much of this “talk” about sexual assault in the last two weeks since the Christine Blasey Ford allegations came out against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been literally painful to observe, both on TV and social media.

Why didn’t I just turn it off? Tune it out? Because I am a sexual assault survivor and triggering as the recent days have been, I can’t turn it off in my brain, so why should I or anyone else be able to ignore it in the news?

In fact, for those who are sick of hearing about this headline and would rather hear something – anything – else, imagine being raped or assaulted and living with THAT the rest of your life. And then, imagine the nation turning in on itself and making jokes and memes at the expense of survivors and having opinions on reporting shared when they themselves have never been faced with the tragedy of needing to report….

You, too, might be pissed as hell.

I know, I am supposed to be all yoga. All peace, love, and namaste, so why all the anger? Because I can be all those things AND be mad and sad and ready to stand up and scream: ENOUGH. For the sake of my children, ENOUGH. And I fear that if more of us don’t start screaming, the change we all desire and deserve is never going to come.

You see, this is me:img_1685I am 21 in this picture, the age at which I was date raped by someone I thought cared about me, someone I trusted and put myself with repeatedly, both before and after the assault.

Why didn’t I report it? Because for TEN years, freakishly almost to the date, I had no words for what happened to me. I couldn’t call it rape because I blamed myself for being in his proximity. For wanting to be with him. My brain, my memory, could not attribute the correct language to what he did to me until I was thinking one day about another incident at a house party where a male friend kept another male from following me into a bedroom and doing God knows what to me while I was drunk.

Yes, you read that right. It was my relief of “Oh my God, I could have been raped!” that made me realize that rape actually was a part of my story anyway, because I did not want to have sex the night I lost my virginity to the boy who took it.

Yes, you also read that right. My first time having sex was not my choice.

Imagine how I felt telling my husband that. Imagine what it was like to sit in my therapist’s office and lose it over what happened to me and how my brain hid it from me for so long. Imagine telling my family and friends. And imagine how I feel when I think about talking to my children about sex someday. About consent. About waiting for “the one.”

For me, that’s a shitty bag of emotions and just like it is hard to see sexual assault so flippantly discussed online right now, I know it is going to be incredibly hard to have that conversation with my kids someday. To lay my shame before them.

But again, I say ENOUGH. Enough hiding, enough pretending, enough bullshit. If we do not lay words and language to this, we will never correct it. We will never heal from it. And if it takes a bunch of anger to get us, collectively, to a point where we can have these awful conversations, with each other and with our families, then so be it.

I will take my anger and I will channel it in such a way that brings about what matters most to me in all this – a different outcome for my children, and yours.

To the Melting Mamas amidst Meltdowns

By the end of church every Sunday, I am undone. I am sweaty. I am covered in drool and Goldfish remnants. I am also usually so taxed from sitting through 1 hr and 15 minutes of controlled time with my herd of children in the pews that by the time we get home, I am cranky and/or want to curl up in Child’s Pose and not move for at least 1 hr and 15 minutes (which, PS, is never, ever possible).

I am a literal and figurative mess on Sunday mornings.

And you know what? I attend a church that loves kids. They and their noises and their antics are welcomed on a regular basis and often I get mad props and big love just for being there with my five.

The last couple weeks, though, when I have had to wrestle a baby who can’t be put down and won’t go to anyone but her daddy (& even then only for short bursts of time) and monitor four other Littles who are busy, busy, busy in the balcony where we sit (and because summer won’t die, sweat), I find myself questioning why I bother.

Wouldn’t it be easier to stay at home with the baby? To watch the service on FB and let Ben take the kids to Sunday School? To only go to service when one of our crew is singing or playing bells?

Well, yes. That would be much easier. But we started attending this church as a family and we feel that the church is part of our family, so bailing and watching from the sidelines doesn’t feel like a real option. We want our children to be part of this community and they aren’t going to get that if we ourselves are not part of it.

That being said, an innocent enough comment got tossed my way after service today (ironic giving the sermon on “Taming the Tongue”) that took a self-deprecating joke I had made and shot it down with the message of: nope. not good enough. you’re not doing enough. And I lost it.

Not in immediate response. I held my tongue in the moment and bailed out a side door so no one would have to see my tears, but I share it now because are you kidding me? Even in jest or innocent jokes? Just as the sermon said today, words matter. And I am literally sweating my way through every service like it’s a gym workout to make sure my kids are there but not too distracting, that we are a part of it all, and the absolute last thing I need is to be made to feel like I am somehow failing. Because trust me, it’s easy enough to think that on my own.

So, please: mad props and big love only, OK? I’m doing my best to extend grace, to others and myself, and if you are one of the mamas melting and trying to tame meltdowns every week at church, I see you. No jokes about it. You are enough and your efforts are of value.