Survivor Activist

My life changed November 8th. It was as if the election result pulled out the rug from under me. I’ve been struggling with understanding its impact and how I want to respond ever since.

The past couple of months have been hard on many of us – those of us who care about respecting other people, honoring other cultures, and valuing plain human decency. Since January 20th, activism has moved into high gear as we defend values that are now under open attack. Many of us are not only learning tools of activism but also how to balance it with our lives.

For those of us who have survived intimate relationship violence, there is another layer to this – and that is the layer that seems to be impacting me the most. A man who bragged about sexually assaulting women was elected. A man whose is bullying people through legal action and his Tweets, whose physical demeanor during a debate was meant to intimidate his opponent, a woman became the most powerful man in the world (and prevented a woman who was far more qualified than he is from obtaining that office). His chief strategist was accused of domestic violence. Then just this week, a man who voted against the Violence Against Women Act multiple times and who dismissed sexual assault just became attorney general.

On top of that are the familiar behavioral tactics. The speed and chaotic roll-out of a slew of policies by decree seems so similar to the environment in unhealthy relationships. You never know what’ll happen next, when the next blow will come. You never know when you’re safe to rest or when you need to be ready for another confusing event. Even the threats are similar. “Lock her up!” always reminded me of my ex-husband’s similarly baseless wish to “throw your ass in jail.” A Tweet with “SEE YOU IN COURT” reminded me of the many times this was hurled at me in an equally angry manner as a threat. (And having at least one other activist, a white male, not understand how DJT’s tweeted threat is different from the ACLU’s promise was also not helpful. In addition to dealing with a trigger, I have to explain why it is one.)

The exhaustion from dealing with all this also has a familiar impact on my life: I often run out of energy for the things I love. I don’t sleep well. I react to what is going on rather than being pro-active in living my life. What I focus on, where I spend my energy is dictated by an outside force.

There might be one area, though, where there is a difference. I can take breaks knowing that there are millions of others out there who are also fighting back. There is so much to do, we can chose the topics we want to work on, allowing individualized activism. Most importantly, for now at least, my home remains a sanctuary. I can go offline and I am away from the chaos and the assaults. That privilege is overshadowed by the knowledge that for many people even this has already been taken away (if they ever had it) as raids against immigrants and hate-crimes have increased.

I am curious how other activists who have experienced intimate relationship violence balance all this. What self-care are you finding helpful? Have you figured out a way to a new balance that is sustainable?

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Survivor Activist — 1 Comment

  1. Although not specifically for survivors, here’s something that just fluttered into my email inbox: An email from on how to stay resilient:

    Meeting these difficult times head on will take creativity and courage by the gigaton — which is why I want to share some lessons with you to strengthen ourselves for the work ahead. You can read the full article (compiled by our dear 350 colleague Daniel Hunter) and sign up to receive occasional tips at These are some simple things you can do right away:

    1. Make a conscious decision about when and where you’ll get news — and what you’ll do afterwards.
    2. Get together with people face-to-face to support each other and make sure we stay in motion.
    3. Pray, meditate, or reflect on those you know who are being impacted by oppressive policies, and extend that love to all who may be suffering.
    4. Read, listen to, or share a story about how others have resisted injustice.
    5. Be aware of yourself as one who creates — to counteract passivity and a belief that we do not help shape the world.
    6. Take a conscious break from social media.
    7. Commit to sharing with others what’s helping you.

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