Happy May to all of you!
April was a busy month for many folks working against sexual violence, so May can feel like a breath of fresh air. For many parts of the country, the world is now starting to come back to life after a winter rest. Many of our Tribal communities have teachings about the seasons and stories and ceremonies to mark those occasions.
Something else that often comes with the shift in weather is Spring Cleaning. While I have been airing out and deep cleaning my house, I started to think about how the concept plays a role within the work we do, both within ourselves and our organizations, and in our work with survivors.
- Take stock of your emotions – Are there lingering issues with colleagues or project partners you have held onto? This happens for many reasons. Where possible, use this time as a push to either work through or let go of things. There is cathartic cleansing that comes with open (and sometimes hard) conversations. You may not be about to fix all things, but allow yourself to not hold onto the negativity.
- Wipe it off – Many cultures have ways of smudging or cleansing ourselves, using sage, cedar, sweetgrass, or other local medicines. Those can be wonderful tools for sustainability as advocates and others in this work. There are also times and places though where smudging may not be possible. For those moments, we offer this as an alternative.
- Have a special cloth, maybe a scarf, a washcloth, or something that you can have with your or near your workspace. After moments that impact you, be it a difficult task at work or a tough conversation with a colleague or survivor, take that cloth and wipe yourself down. Even if you don’t have a cloth, using your hand to move this energy down and off your body can feel cleansing and allow you to shift your energy as you move forward with your day.
Cleansing our Organizations
- Organizational Healing – The work we do is hard, and spring is a great time to plan for a staff gathering or ceremony. This could be something small or a time to dive deeper into issues that are holding your program back from feeling healthy and efficient.
- Policies & Practices – Spring can also be a time for us to reflect on the way we do our work in organizations. Are there policies that aren’t meeting the needs of the organizations? Are there unwritten practices that should be looked at? Is the programming you are doing meeting the needs of the community and survivors? This may be things like the annual events you do, the partners you work with regularly, or the outreach you are doing. Take time to evaluate the ways you do your work and don’t be afraid to try something different!
- Offer Ceremony – Some programs regularly hold space for ceremony with survivors. Spring is a great time to engage with Indigenous survivors though individual or collective moments of ceremony
- Expansive services – Many programs are funded to primarily focus on crisis advocacy. Those services are needed right after a sexual assault to support safety, healing, and access to justice. This spring, consider what you can do to help survivors move forward in their lives. Take a look at what you have in your program as well as within your broader community that can support the long-term healing and thriving of survivors of sexual violence. Some ideas may include working with job resources, health providers around dental care, connecting with volunteer activities, or helping folks with expungement efforts. Learn from survivors in your community what is needed and seek out resources and relationships to help provide for the supports needed beyond crisis intervention.
These are just some ideas for how to use a “spring cleaning” mindset to improve and sustain the work to better prevent and respond to sexual violence against Indigenous people!