Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Courage of Lisa Marie Iyotte

On Thursday, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010.  Now, this is not a political blog and I generally try to keep direct discussion of politics and politicians out of it, but something happened at the signing ceremony that I think is really important.

President Obama was to be introduced by Lisa Marie Iyotte, a member of the White Clay People and, like one third of Native American women, a survivor of rape.  I encourage you to watch the beginning of the video of the ceremony for yourself:

It's hard to watch this video and not be moved.  Scratch that -- it's hard to watch this video.

What I want to point out is that the rape that Ms. Iyotte talks about happened more than 16 years ago.  She clearly has found a way to deal with it, and now works as an advocate for other women.  At the same time, she is unable even to stand up and introduce herself, knowing that she is going to tell the story.  Of course, Ms. Iyotte was nervous. You would be too if you were introducing the President, regardless of your politics. This was also an emotional day, for something she had worked long and hard for was finally coming to fruition. Even acknowledging all of that, however, I doubt it accounts for her tears.

This was a triggering event. Even if you've done a pretty decent job of processing a traumatic experience, there will still be times when thinking about it, or about something similar to it, upsets you. To his credit, President Obama both tried to be comforting and continued to listen. He could just as easily have told her not to continue, or otherwise taken the attention off of the power of the moment. Survivors of trauma need to be heard, even through the tears, and he is to be commended for modeling that.

The courage of Lisa Marie Iyotte is not only exemplified by the fact that she is a survivor, that she has used this experience to help others, or that she volunteered to tell her story. Her courage is also exemplified by the fact that she started to cry, and stood there, and told her story anyway. That is how we know that this trauma has not defeated her -- she wouldn't let it.


Colleen said...

It was incredible. Lots of credit to go around, with this one! To Ms Iyotte, of course, but also to the White House Blog staff for putting it on the site, in its entirety, and the editor's note to actually watch "the moving introduction", as they put it, instead of just reading the transcript (as I usually do). It's why I watched it! And Obama did a fabulous job, I thought, of supporting Ms Iyotte. Pure compassion, not condescension. How often does one see that?

I hope that the education talked about *helps*!

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