i live a very secure life. i have my moments of personal insecurity–as many as most, a few less than some, a few more than others. i’ve experienced enough cognitive dissonance to spin me into depression that has kept me from fully functioning. but i live a very secure life. i know there are evil people in my world–not the world, my world. i’m sure there are people in my community who have committed unspeakable acts. i may have even encountered them. but i do not fear that evil. that’s not to say that i don’t take reasonable precautions or that i live in a self-generated bubble in which i think i could never be the victim of an unspeakable act. it’s simply to say that such unspeakable acts are not a daily reality i must confront.

on tuesday, as i listened to my usual dose of NPR while getting ready for the day, i heard a story about healing women and children who have been raped as an act of war, followed by a story about an american doctor affiliated with harvard who has tried to help her congolese colleagues. when the story started, my tendency to socially conscious outrage was immediately piqued. as was my academic interest in feminism and women’s issues. but i couldn’t maintain the distance necessary to have those reactions. these stories recounted such unadulterated evil that there was no way i could simply listen in outrage and interest. instead i stopped what i was doing, sat down and cried as i listened to stories about women and girls–little girls of 10 or 11–who had been brutally violated as an act of war. and about people who give everything to help them.

those 15 minutes of radio time forced me to realize how very secure my life is. and how very helpless i feel about making any difference. i don’t know yet what i can do–which organizations i can support, what work i could do remotely, how i can speak up about the cause to my own government. i plan to find out and, when i do, i’ll share what i learn. but in the mean time, i’m asking you to take 15 minutes and listen. it will be hard. these are devastating stories. but please–honor these women and girls, and the people trying to help them, enough to know their stories.

Amelia has recently relocated to Salt Lake City for her new job selling college textbooks (a job she loves). She's a 9th generation Mormon redefining her relationship with the church (the church she both loves and hates). She's passionate about books, travel, beauty, and all things cheese.


  1. Amelia – thanks for this reminder. I watched Ann Curry’s report from the Congo this morning, which showed pictures of these women and girls who have been horribly abused. It was difficult to watch, and then Ann Curry handed things off to Natalie Morales who quickly segued into the Roger Clemens circus about steriods. It’s hard to imagine such pain and suffering in our secure world that we don’t know how to put such suffering in a proper context – and honor it – as you have done in this post.

  2. I remember having a similar reaction when I saw a picture of a Darfur woman who had been raped. Her rapist had hacked both her hands off with a machete. Her toddler baby was balanced on her hip.

    My baby is the same age. I sat and thought about how difficult it must be to take care of that child without hands, and I was filled with horror that a human being could do that to another human being. It’s pictures like that – and stories like NPR’s – that wake me up to the cruelty and evil that is taking place at this very moment.

  3. I had a similar visceral reaction when I read “Left to Tell” a story of forgiveness of the Rwandan genocide. I felt I never again would be allowed to complain about my middle class suburban life without being immediately struck down.

    I am still haunted by the stories. I’ve been paralyzed by the hopelessness of the situation and my apparent inability to effect any real change.

    CS Lewis, interestingly, pulled me out of it. In the Screwtape letters, Screwtape, in his continued attempt to teach Wormwood to thwart goodness, says, “Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.”

    So, while our family continued to support organizations like Heifer and Kiva, for instance, I started to focus more on my immediate neighborhood, and my immediate community. I realized that there is a great deal of suffering right here, especially among the migrant population, and there is a great deal I can do to allay that pain. It has brought me a lot of peace.

  4. I just found, and read this post and others, what a blessing to me to find other people with same and similar concerns as mine. I’m strugling in my crisis wich involves a lot of things together. One of those things is the horror that girls and women have to face in a daily basis arround the world. I live in a beautiful neighborhood,a very safe place, but can’t stop thinking about girls and women that are suffering so much in the rest of the world. Thanks for the post, I’m looking forward to help somehow too.
    I don’t know if I can see the images that you all comented but I’ll do when ready.
    I strugled for many years about sexual abuse even though I wasn’t abused,at least my therapists don’t find why I am so concerned about that topic. I started to think that I have to do something with these feelings, but never found anybody o anywhere to talk about them. I always got comments of content ,don’t find other word to describe.
    Thanks for the post again.
    Thankd for the Exponentii.

  5. Justine, thank you for that perspective! I was wishing I could do something to be helpful, and I really don’t know what it would be. I have renewed motivation to do my part in the community I live in.

    Amelia, thank you for the reminder.

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