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  WINDY CITY TIMES

LETTERS to Survivors
2019-04-24

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You are survivors

My name is Ashwini Krishnakumar, and I am the youth anti-violence advocate at Center on Halsted.

As a woman of color and an advocate for the LGBTQ community, I am very passionate about the work I am doing. People deserve to have a voice, and I work to empower people to share their voice as well as creating spaces that listen. In my role at COH, I provide case management, individual therapy, and group therapy for youth affected by interpersonal violence, sexual violence, and community-based violence. Within the last two months, though, I have noticed that a majority of the clients on my caseload are survivors of sexual assault.

In light of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I write this letter to survivors. Society and media tend to focus on the abuser, which is important and necessary to hold people accountable. However, we do not hear or see enough messages intended with survivors in mind. I want to change that. I hope this letter can be a model of how we talk to survivors, and if you are a survivor, I hope this letter makes you feel loved. Because you are.

Dear Survivor,

I am glad you are here. Thank you for being vulnerable with me. I am sorry for the trauma you have endured — you did not deserve it. It was not your fault. It does not matter what you were wearing, if you were drunk, or if your abuser was a friend, family member, spouse, or colleague. I will say this as many times as you need to hear it. This was not, and never will be, your fault. I believe you.

Let's check in with your breath; take a deep breath in and exhale slowly. Repeat as many times as you need.

It is your choice to decide how you want to proceed with recovering from this experience and I am here to assist you every step of the way. This is happening to more people than we talk about. You are not alone. Everything you are feeling is valid. This was not, and never will be, your fault. I believe you. I accept you, and I will not judge you. Be patient with yourself and lean into those emotions. This is how we heal. Take a moment to accept the feeling that is coming up.

Let's check in with your body; move your legs around, move your torso side-to-side and front to back, give yourself a hug, move your head and shoulders, move as it feels good for you.

Right now, you may feel frozen by your experience. Your experience does not define you. You may want to run away. Run here. You might feel angry. You have every right in feeling that way. The effects of trauma affect everyone differently. Your experience could affect your ability to stay grounded and be present. Your mind might drift to deep levels of self-doubt — inviting the effects of fear, which distance you from the support you deserve. You are surviving. You are not broken. You are not defected. This was not, and never will be, your fault. I believe you. It is sometimes challenging to connect and feel safe with others when you feel you are holding your trauma with you everywhere you go. You decide how and when to share your story, and you are not obligated to voice your experience without feeling affirmed in doing so. If you find that substances are helping in managing high levels of anxiety and distress, I am here to help you observe those patterns and develop new ways to cope.

Let's check in with your thoughts; this is not your fault, we believe you, you are loved, you are supported and you can feel safe again. The AVP team at Center on Halsted are here to provide compassionate support during your time of healing.

Once again, this was not, and never will be, your fault. I believe you. We believe you.

With care and regard,

Ashwini

Note: The Anti-Violence Project at Center on Halsted can be reached Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., via its resource line ( 773—871—2273 ) and email ( avp@centeronhalsted.org ). There are also walk-in hours on Monday-Friday at 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Trans healthcare, part I

Dear Editor:

Thank you for publishing Oliver Knight's account ( "Catholic bishops stopped my surgery because I'm transgender" 4/10/19 ) as yet another disturbing example of how homophobia and misogyny are the cornerstones of Catholic "healthcare" delivery by institutions such as Presence Health.

In addition to treating transgender and gender-diverse people like garbage, institutions such as Presence Health also prohibit the use of IVF techniques for those LGBTQ persons wishing to be parents. When it comes to denying reproductive healthcare, no one does a better job than Presence Health in treating women as second-class citizens by refusing to give rape victims access to emergency contraception following an assault, denying women access to prescription birth control, abortion care and tubal ligation. Medical treatment utilizing stem-cell research is prohibited and advance care directives are ignored.

Adding insult to injury is that all of this offensive and degrading treatment of women and LGBTQ people is perpetrated by an insulated clique of men, with no moral authority in the wake of unending cases of child sexual abuse, tethered to an institution that militantly excludes women and many others from any meaningful decision making, all the while supported by many of our local elected officials with OUR tax dollars. The time to put an end to it is now. As long as Presence and other institutions continue to discriminate in the delivery of healthcare dictated by Catholic bishops, they should not receive a penny of public support and should be held accountable by every legal means possible for violating our basic human rights.

Terry Cosgrove

President & CEO

Personal PAC

Chicago

Trans healthcare, part II

Dear Editor:

At the Center for Gender Confirmation Surgery, located at Weiss Memorial Hospital, we congratulate Gov. J.B. Pritzker in recognizing the importance of providing medically necessary and life-saving care to a population in need. We applaud the governor for his support of the LGBTQI and gender-diverse communities. Illinois is now joining the states and countries that have acknowledged the importance of gender-confirming medical and surgical treatments.

Recognizing gender identities that differ from accepted societal norms or expectations is part of an appreciation of gender diversity across the globe. Gender dysphoria is a medical diagnosis that refers to the distress caused by conflict between a person's gender identity and that person's sex assigned at birth; gender-diverse identities exist as an example of the rich variety present in our community. Such diversity should be celebrated.

Unfortunately, the healthcare needs of transgender and gender-diverse ( TGD ) individuals are often overlooked and/or neglected ( witnessed by the elevated rates of suicide and suicide attempts in the transgender and gender-diverse communities ). TGD individuals suffer discrimination on a daily basis, and this expanded healthcare coverage is a substantial step forward. Gender affirmation/confirmation surgery, previously termed sex reassignment surgery, is a medically necessary life changing treatment for many transgender and gender-diverse individuals.

According to recent population statistics, in the State of Illinois approximately 49,750 individuals identify as transgender and gender-diverse. Expanded healthcare coverage is life-altering news to the thousands of individuals who suffer due to a lack of access to healthcare. We, at The Center for Gender Confirmation Surgery at Weiss Hospital, are heartened that Illinois residents will have access to the healthcare they need.

Sincerely,

Loren S. Schechter, MD, FACS, Director, The Center for Gender Confirmation Surgery, Weiss Memorial Hospital

Alexander Facque- surgical fellow at The Center for Gender Confirmation Surgery

Shalyn Vanderbloemen, PA-C

Mira Ebalo, PA-C

Rachael Johnson, PA-C


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