When Life Stops, Shifts, And Changes In A Single Second – The Great Canadian Woman

October 2, 2020

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Barbie Liss

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When Life Stops, Shifts, And Changes In A Single Second

What does it look like when life stops, shifts and changes in a single second? For me, it was slow motion and yet a screeching halt; at the same time, I am the Mom of a rape survivor. In the summer of 2016, my daughter was raped by a stranger, and in an instant, life changed. Hers. And mine. My story is that of supporter ~ an unseen and untold, yet in itself, traumatic story. It holds pain and witnessing, unlearning and learning, healing and transformation. And ultimately, for us, restorative justice and shift. 

My daughter’s case was the first in North America to conclude with a restorative justice outcome. Restorative Justice is founded on the belief of repair over punishment. It is based on the knowing that a crime has a ripple effect. It seeks to create transformation and offer healing for all involved. 

As the Mom of a survivor, I found the journey can be lonely and unguided. Unseen on a path that doesn’t appear to be Yours, with focus rightfully placed on your child, this is a journey with no compass, in a space where everything has changed. My daughter’s struggle to choose survival was my struggle to hold and ensure. Her pain was my pain in witnessing, and it ripped my soul. Nothing that had once been our norm remained. Momming as I knew it to be with her, not working. Our path required a new creation of Mothering; a creation I walked moment by moment, with pain, with agony; with surrender and with trust. I adapted, I altered, I changed. We found new ways of communicating. I learned new ways of supporting; ways of navigating a path that had new definitions of boundaries, support and space. We choreographed our dance of healing, and we rose. 

The shifts I was thrust into, the cultivation of our journey to rising, changed me completely, as a Mom, as a Human, as an individual and as part of a collective. The healing path we created was laid with new stones, fit together on an as you go basis. To ultimately create something beautiful from the absolute ugliest. 

Our justice system is not “just”. There is no healing, for anyone involved. Her preliminary trial (a year post rape) was nothing more than retraumatizing. It led to her long push for a restorative justice outcome, a push met with much judicial resistance, but finally approval! As mandated, her assailant underwent extensive therapy, for transformation, for consent awareness, for accountability. When his therapist felt he was ready, (3 years post rape), we sat in, what turned out to be, an 8 hour restorative justice circle. Myself, my daughter, her assailant and others who had been impacted as well by his actions that night. This was the most brutal, beautiful, agonizing and healing process I have ever experienced. This is what healing looks like. The crime has already caused pain ~ justice is meant to heal. 

Accountability, voice, compassion and even forgiveness, leads to healing. We left knowing we had been changed. We left knowing this was bigger than us. We left having planted seeds for creation from what had once been destruction. 

Today, I am a Life & Empowerment Coach. Working with Women to reclaim Self, working with Mother’s to create the sacred mother-daughter relationship we all desire, working to heal wounds that go back generations, and allow Women to rise in their own truth, working to support those who are supporting. My daughter and I have co-founded the Re-Humanize Movement. A movement whose mission is to create awareness for restorative justice as an option to survivors, as a means of true healing. A mission to bridge the gender gap that has led to rape culture, a mission to create a cultural heart-led shift in the ways we respond to each other and to sexual violence.

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