Fistula is a problem that affects many women around the world. Usually due to difficult, prolonged labor and childbirth at a very young age, women are left incontinent after damage to their bladders and rectums. Then they are shunned by their families and villages. A small hut is built outside the village where the woman must live. She is not allowed back into the village because she smells and leaks. No one visits. She is alone.
After praying, “How can I be sure, in a world that’s constantly changing, where I stand with you?”, I turned the channel and found a Nova special on PBS about women in Ethiopia who receive surgery for fistula problems and are usually but not always cured. Sometimes when the problem is “fixed”, woman refuse to go home, saying there is no one there for them. The Nova special covered that too and what the hospital community does to help.
They had me from the beginning, with this story of brave and shunned women. Holy Cross has shunned me, retaliating in many ways, and I have to stay outside the gates. They must think I am contagious or smell or don’t belong. It has become a sacred place. Many other women and men know this story too. Using your voice is costly. Using your intelligence is dangerous. But in my life I have not yet encountered a problem that cannot be fixed, and for some reason this problem has called my name. I belong in this place.
And then the college started focusing on my bathroom breaks, when I leave my signs, the signs that are so dangerous and frightening. It really is a sacred place, that place outside the gates. When I set up the Loveable Loo, and poop and pee outside the gate, my heart will be with women who endure much worse, who light the way for me.
Sometimes when I pray, I sing, out loud or in my imagination. And sometimes I am doing it before I recognize that I am.
A couple hours ago, I was singing in my mind, “How can I be sure, in a world that’s constantly changing? How can I be sure where I stand with you?” I didn’t know I was singing and praying until my prayer had the answer. Grandma.
Loads of academic recognition, loads of awards, genius IQ — taken out of class for special testing beginning when I was 5. It means nothing and never really has. There is only life and people and I am not special. I don’t want to be. With two older mentally disabled siblings who are super bright, I know these tests don’t mean much.
I cannot be the only person who prays in song. The question to God: “How can I be sure, in a world that’s constantly changing, where I stand with you?” And the answer is Grandma, and that makes a load of sense.
The College of the Holy Cross is very intent on noticing when I am away from the Vigil for Justice in order to go to the bathroom. It’s very peculiar. The College created this situation by banning me from campus just because I have a protest — which is a FLAGRANT violation of the college protest policy – and then trying to create trumped up bogus allegations of trespass. All this time and for many years, the College never did anything to have the Jesuit perpetrator face federal criminal charges for sex crimes. Bogus trespass allegations against me — and no arrests of the Jesuit for federal sex crimes.
I decided if there is a THIRD year of the Vigil for Justice in 2014, then I will bring a humanure toilet. I own one. They are especially useful in mountain cabins in the winter when the water is shut off. This is what they look like:
There is more information at this website: http://humanurehandbook.com/ Many people paint humanure toilets, so perhaps mine should be purple and white, to honor Holy Cross and my commitment to the Vigil for Justice. Since there are no walls or a curtain, just a toilet, I am thinking I should get a large purple cape to wear when I use it. The Caped Crusader for Justice using the Loveable Loo!
The third year of the Vigil for Justice, if there has to be one, will be lively and fun and new. EVERY time the College harasses me, I will have fun with it. So if the College still wants to focus on my bathroom breaks and time away from the Vigil, I can tote the humanure toilet along and use it right there by the main gate.
Posted in College of the Holy Cross
Tagged Board of Trustees, harassment, humanure toilet, Kevin Condron, P. Kevin Condron, Philip L. Boroughs SJ, retaliation, Robert Hart, the vigil, Vigil for Justice, Vincent F. O'Rourke
A professor at the College of the Holy Cross stopped to talk to me early this morning at the Vigil for Justice and then told me, “You’ve become an icon.”
People are recognizing me in other places in Massachusetts and even two hours from Holy Cross in another state, and there is loads of ongoing support on the sidewalk. An icon? A shy public school kid?
Rev. Joseph LaBran, SJ, provided words for these times during the Spiritual Exercises at a retreat house in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Like these words on a card he gave us on retreat when I was a sophomore at Holy Cross (that I saved for a long time):
“For all that has been — Thanks.
“For all that is to come — Yes.”
- Dag Hammerskjold
I don’t know what is next on this road, but I am keenly aware of the path. All I knew when this Vigil for Justice was planned two years ago is I could not stay silent when the college ignored serious problems for years. Just had to speak up and take a stand for justice when nobody cared about fixing problems. People are surprising me every day with the light they give. I’m not yet grateful for the past, but for all that is to come — okay. It’s an adventure.
I am asked this question every day I am at Holy Cross now. Sometime in early November, the question went from being asked occasionally to being asked daily, every day I am there. And today – - all the people who stopped to talk to me asked me this question: What is the college doing to work this out?
There seems to be an expectation among people at Holy Cross that the college WILL make an effort to work this out. I don’t know where that expectation came from. For my part, I know that I will stay with this Vigil for Justice for as long as it takes. I will stay forever if that’s what it takes for the board to take responsibility and address the many problems I told it about. Since the board of trustees hasn’t even contacted me or asked for more information, I don’t see this ending any time soon.
The college made half-hearted efforts in 2012. Almost 600 days ago, in April 2012, the college agreed to engage in settlement talks. In September 2012, I had a meeting with college officials, and those officials said they would get back to me about going to mediation to work it out.
And that is it. There were no more efforts by the college. College officials never got back to me as promised about mediation. There was no effort toward resolution in all of 2013 — instead, there was plenty of retaliation. College officials haven’t acted like people who want to work it out.
I don’t know why the question is being asked so often now, why the expectation has grown that the college will do something to work it out. Maybe this expectation comes from the hope that grows during holiday times and the beginning of a new year. Who knows. I can go the distance, however many years it takes. I am doing the right thing at the right time in my life. I have plans for when this is finished, but the plans will wait until this is over and I see the board of trustees take responsibility.
It took awhile to dawn on me, but it finally did. The Vigil for Justice at the College of the Holy Cross is a prayer. It is many things — a public declaration of the many problems with reporting sexual assault at Holy Cross, mostly — and it is also a prayer.
I am a public school kid, the daughter of very deeply prayerful Catholic parents. I went to Holy Cross and majored in philosophy and later got a graduate degree in ministry at another Jesuit place. Many, many times in my life I have been asked to lead a public prayer service, a liturgical service, and I declined, because I am a public school kid.
So many times when I met with my spiritual guide (a Jesuit) he would tell me what I was doing was a prayer. Praying isn’t only about words and images. Prayer can be actions.
Today it just fell into place and became a lot clearer. The Vigil for Justice at Holy Cross is many things, and it’s also a prayer.
I’ve written often this year about how thankful I am for many things that happen on this little Vigil for Justice. I am fortunate my little vigil is at Holy Cross — where I’ve had such great experiences talking to people and where I have constant reminders of the wonderful teachers I had.
Today I am grateful again for neighbors — people in the Worcester area who stop to talk to me. People stop on their way to work, some people drive to Holy Cross just to meet me, people stop when they are simply driving by. I’ve had so many interesting and helpful conversations. It “normalizes” things. We talk about our dogs, about trees, about hardships, about deaths, about sexual assault in the military, about genital mutilation, about sexually abusive priests and the power structure that protects them — we talk about anything!
But something new began to happen recently. When I am out walking, miles from Holy Cross and not “vigiling” and not carrying signs, people wave and honk at me. It blew me away the first day when it happened many times. Yesterday it happened again — drivers tooting friendly hellos and waving at me – several miles from Holy Cross where I have the Vigil. One driver tooted his hello for a quarter mile down the road when I was out walking — it was hilarious! People know me from the Vigil!
I really never predicted so much of what I have experienced on this road. All I knew was that I could not be silent or walk away after my letters to Holy Cross were ignored for years. I knew I had to take a stand and make this ordeal public. All the rest — nice people, unexpected support, good conversations — it’s all wonderful and totally not imagined ahead of time. I am a very blessed and fortunate woman to have this experience — and to have this experience in the midst of exposing how poorly Holy Cross handles sexual assault — well, sometimes the world works in a sweet way.