We Rose for the One Billion on V-Day by Jameelah X. Medina

Jameelah Medina

Every February I gear up to participate in local V-Day 1 Billion Rising events where activists rise up to end violence against women and girls. This year’s theme was the journey to justice, and there were two local events. I delivered a speech at the second event. This is so meaningful to me because it testifies to how far I have come in my journey. Just a few years ago, I would never have spoken what I considered the unspeakable. I have found that with each utterance, I gain more freedom and encourage others to do the same in their own way.

One in every three women/girls will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, and someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the USA. Knowing this and being one of these women, I dedicate this month’s post to my fellow survivors in hopes that you find some healing in it. Below is what the crowd heard from me on V-Day:

Justice is one of those tricky concepts that has many faces. For some survivors, justice is restorative where they are willing to engage in a dialogue with the perpetrator, community, and other stakeholders to attempt to repair the harm that has been done to them. For others, justice is poetic. It comes in the form of retribution and punishment whether it involves incarceration, physical harm or illness, or death by homicide or suicide. Yet other survivors feel that there is no such thing as justice any way you look at it. They feel that there is nothing that can ever be said or done to erase or minimize the life-long effects of the violence perpetuated against them.

Justice has as many faces as there are victims and survivors. One common theme of justice is of it being a journey. For me, justice is all about healing. If justice does not provide some sort of healing, it is not justice in my eyes. Many of us spend years and decades searching for peace and healing through justice. Some of us will find it, while others of us may not. My justice-seeking journey has been a long one, and I am sure many, if not all, of you can surely relate.

V-DayAfter I was able to finally admit to myself that I was sexually assaulted as a child, I had to work extremely hard to silence my inner critic who blamed me for my own attacks and shamed me for not doing more to prevent them or end them sooner. Shifting my perception of myself from an accomplice in my own abuse to a victim allowed me to begin the justice-seeking journey. Initially, I just wanted the person who raped me to die a slow death, be raped in return, be beaten within an inch of his life, be castrated, or undergo some other form of violence.

Sometime later, I realized that I had replaced the self-blame and shame with rage and anger. I soon opened up to my family and shared my feelings of defeat. I felt like doing nothing meant that he was getting away with what he did, but I just did not know what to do since the abuse lasted 6 years but had happened many years earlier. My dad suggested I contact the Sheriff and see what my options were for legal justice.

There I was at the Sheriff’s office with my parents and speaking to a detective in the Crimes against Children Unit. Over the course of an hour, I shared my story with him and asked what my options were. There was no hope of prosecution for his crimes against me, but the detective was interested in interviewing all the girls and women in his life now to find out how many other victims there may be. Months later, I had to digest the reality that my hope of legal justice was no longer an option.

After some time, I began to think about confronting him so that I could possibly find some sense of justice that way. I later decided that there was nothing that he could say that would make any of it better or less hurtful and harmful. Even if he cried and apologized to me on his knees for raping me and violating me for years, it would not erase or even minimize it; it would not give me my virginity, innocence, naïveté, or broken relationships back.

At that point I was afraid that I would never see justice, but then a thought occurred to me: Why did the justice I was seeking have to directly involve him? Why did it have to hinge on what did or did not happen to him? Why couldn’t the justice I sought be all about me and depend directly and only upon me? I embarked on a sort of archeological dig deep within myself to find out exactly what I was searching for. Repeatedly, the answer was that I wanted to find healing, gaping wound-by-gaping wound, scar-by-scar, cell-by-cell, memory-by-memory. This is when I started focusing all the mental and emotional energy that I wasted on him and turned it inward.

I decided to create my own justice instead of asking others for it or sitting around waiting for it, and I am not finished yet. Justice is a journey for me. I can never get my life back from before but I can and do reclaim my life for myself right now. I do it every day. It is a constantly renewing commitment. Living my best life, being my best me, speaking my truth, and defining myself for myself ushers justice my way. Although it is true that such trauma has influenced all areas of my life, it does not define it nor does it decide its trajectory anymore. I have come to see that finding peace and healing does not have to depend on whether he is repentant, in physical pain, behind bars, or under the ground in a grave. I am powerful enough that my justice is whatever I decide it is, and the same is true for you.

Jameelah X. Medina, Ph.D., is an educator, author, orator, and business owner residing in southern California with her husband and daughter. www.jameelahmedina.com She is also a contributor to I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim, a collection of 40 personal essays written by American Muslim women under the age of 40.

Categories: Activism, General, Islam, Justice, Love, Spirituality, Violence, Violence Against Women

Tags: , , ,

25 replies

  1. Blessings on your journey to justice, Jameelah, and thank you for this definition of justice.


  2. I had a difficult discussion with someone this week about not having expectations of victims’ recovery either in timeline and type. I clumsily expressed a “back-off it’s not for you to say” response over some 10 paragraphs combined on FB and then on email. You said so perfectly, so concisely, and so profoundly what I could neither frame nor articulate clearly. How do we get justice? You are absolutely right, it is our justice, how we define, no one else’s. Beautiful. Thank you. I so resonate with your posts. <3


    • Laury,

      I’m glad my posts resonate with you. :-) It really is a journey and people try to help by telling the survivor how one should be seeking justice. It can be quite oppressive.


  3. Thank you for sharing your story, your insights and your self with us. Thank you for being prepared to speak as well as participate. It is a privilege to hear your integrity and creativity in this way. May you find an ever greater measure of peace and healing as you work and speak and live in the world as it is and from your life in all its variety.


  4. Dear Jameelah, what a journey, particularly after you learnt that the Crimes against Children could never make a case against him. But how you’ve rebuilt your identity, reclaimed your self as an honest, honourable, wise and life-affirming woman. I hope that your story inspires thousands of other women to begin that soul work, not framed or diminished by the abuse that was – and is – never their fault.


    • Annette, thank you. I wish so much for other survivors to find healing. So much is so focused on the abuser and the abuse that we can easily forget about Self.


  5. Jameelah —
    What a powerful post! You describe the journey from victimhood to renewed agency in your life extremely well. I’m sure you inspired many in the crowd when you spoke. Your process sounds a lot like the one I went through after I was raped: from denial to anger to pursuing a variety of legal and other options to obtain justice to finally redefining it for myself to find healing. For me the last step has involved good psychotherapy, teaching Women’s Studies, doing empowerment workshops with women, encouraging women friends, and raising a feminist daughter. All of it was healing. And today (many years later), I rarely even think about the rape, but I keep up the good work. Blessings on your healing journey!


    • Nancy,

      You know! Finding good psychotherapy was key for me too. It was not something i could just pray away as some told me to do. How interesting that you mention raising a feminist daughter. My daughter is 2 and I realize so many times how I find healing in filling spaces in her that were vacant in me as a child. Kudos to you! Peace and blessings!


  6. Thank you for sharing your understandings and life affirming journey to your own healing and self – justice… I resonate so much with your story… and as I work in my community with women survivors of Sexual Violence – this week I am sharing how to deal with the inner critic … your views will be so helpful and supportive to share with these women and have helped me to define what I have been gifting to myself these last 10 years a justice filled life! Blessed Be


    • Tess, oh my! That inner critic is the loudest, meanest voice I’ve ever heard and it was just relentless, especially in the beginning of my journey. I still remember the day years ago when I had an epiphany: This inner critic is not my friend or ally, she is not truthful, and she does not have my best interest at heart. It was first time I ever really stopped to question the truthfulness of my thoughts and the validity of my self-blaming. One thing really helped me too when I did not have the self-worth or esteem myself…I would pretend that i had a daughter and I would tell my inner critic to look at my daughter and make those same accusations. it never happened. While I hated myself or even had no sense of self, I had so much love for an imaginary daughter that it let me see the pure absurdity of that inner critic’s voice. I name her “The Saboteur.”


      • Dear Jameelah, Yes Indeed ‘The Saboteur” idle name!!! And the inner wonder child, found in us all, saves the day! Will share your comments and we enjoyed last week’s session where interviewing the ‘inner critic” was a mocking affair and it lost! Much joy and loving hug to you and your own beautiful inner child. Blessed Be


  7. Thanks for speaking out. When I was teaching Women’s Studies, I heard so many stories of sexual abuse told for the first time, that I could not after a while take any more in. Every woman who has been abused needs to tell her story and be heard. Then we all have to change the world so that this can no longer happen to girls. Bless you and every other woman who has spoken out and all the millions who have yet to do so. Here in Greece there is still a great silence. Just this weekend I was pondering whether and how the Green Party can break the silence, given that we believe in social justice and no violence.


    • Carol,

      You know! The more I speak out the more I hear from women with similar stories. It is just awful how common sexual abuse, especially incest, really is.


  8. Takbir! Takbir! Takbir!


  9. Jameela, I was so touched by your courageous journey, and the blessings you have brought to the world. This is the link I have chosen to introduce a group of friends to this blog, for your post speaks so deeply of the spirituality that we all seek.


  10. MaryAnn, thank you so much. I am honored! I’m a work-in-progress but I’m enjoying the journey. :-) peace to you.


  11. To my childhood friend, I always knew u would be some one great! Your story hits so close to home.
    Gives me courage and understanding. Thank you
    Much love!!!!


    • Micaela!!!!!!!!!! Thank you so much, my friend! You are definitely courageous and just remember what they say, “courage does not always roar.” My love to you and your beautiful family. HUGS!



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