On Being a Survivor-Advocate

I would like to be able to forget what happened to me as a young child, but I gave up on any hope of that years ago. Like everyone, I have forgotten a lot of people and events from my childhood, but no matter how hard I tried to forget, I woke up each day for over a quarter of a century with the same memory of being bound and brutally raped before I was even old enough to know what that word meant. It mattered not each year what I achieved, what goodness entered my life, the number of tears I cried, or the number of times my body quaked through the aftershocks of abject fear. So I have learned that the memory is here to stay.

But no matter that the memory will not fade, the choice to advocate for other survivors each day is a choice that comes with consequences that I know, but I suppose I have accepted.

Each day, I will be reminded of not just the fact that I was raped, but what it was really like to be raped.

Each day, I will face my own pain in the eyes of others and hear it in their voices as they share their stories. And I will see it in their bodies, as they sit twisting in a chair trying to find a comfortable position that does not exist.

Each day, I will become angry, no furious, at an abuse perpetrator, virtually unable to separate my anger at those who attacked me from those who have abuse my clients or my friends.

And each day, I will find myself frustrated, and disappointed, and even bitter, as yet another lawyer, judge, insurance adjuster, business owner, neighbor, priest, politician, family member, doctor, police officer, doesn’t understand what it is like to have survived such horror and what is needed to heal.

And more, each day I will find myself deeply sad, with a pit of loneliness in my stomach, as yet another human being can’t find the empathy my client needs, that I need, and looks away in the face of our horror, unwilling to look at the blood dripping from our wounds.

But I stay on this path and accept the consequences for the moments that give my suffering meaning. For the moment we make a perpetrator answer for their crime. For the moment we make someone answer for giving a perpetrator safe harbor or doing less than they should to protect a vulnerable child because of money. For the moment I can deliver my client into life-sustaining and renewing medical care.

And I stay on this path if for no other reason so my fellow survivor does not walk alone today.

And I stay on this path with but one hope: that my efforts will spare at least one child this walk.

Michael Dolce, Esq.
West Palm Beach, Florida


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