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Answer: What do you think about the Franklin Veaux survivors?

September 26, 2020

Originally posted in response to a now-deleted question on Quora.

As one of the Franklin Veaux survivors, I won’t talk about myself, but I have a few words to say about the others: the 11 other women and nonbinary folks I have had the honour to share space with, work with, and in a few lucky cases cases come to consider my friends over the last two and a half years.

As different as they are from one another, there are a few things they all share. As a group, they are some of the most deeply compassionate, insightful and intelligent people I have ever met. Even when talking about people who have hurt them, people who have done deeply evil things, they still maintain empathy and awareness of the fundamental humanity and dignity of others. They look out for others, care for others, fight for others, and care about fairness and justice. They are strong and courageous, and prepared to make deep personal sacrifices for each other and for the dream of a better world. They show up for each other, and others.

Some of them I have come to know well.

Celeste is warm, grounded, firmly boundaried, and possessed of a profound conviction of her own worth and that of other women. She takes no shit, sees clearly, cares deeply about the people around her and maintains her loyalties through decades. She helped and supported me, a complete stranger, when she had no reason to, even though I had been complicit in harm to her. Many times over the past two years she has had to step in as essentially the designated grownup in the room when I or others have been tempted to engage with Franklin on his terms. She’s held us back and kept us in line, firmly focused on our own path and our own goals. You’ll never find a woman with her feet more firmly planted on the ground.

Rose has—among other things—excellent taste in music, beer and…recreational pursuits, with a great sense of humour. She’s stayed up with me late nights, exchanging songs and playlists or making wisecracks to take my mind off of whatever the latest volley has been. She’s been through far more than her fair share of hardship and trauma in the time she’s been alive, and has emerged from it with an incandescent, righteous sense of rage and commitment to fighting injustice. She’s profoundly compassionate and one of the most courageous people I have ever met. She’s meticulously honest and formidably intelligent, and I have seen her invest in cultivation and care of her communities (including us) over years. I wish she didn’t live so damn far away, and I hope she starts to reap some of the rewards from life that she so thoroughly deserves.

Melanie was the first to help me, holding me steady through the horrific final months of my relationship, and the devastating months that followed. She has an uncanny ability to see straight to the heart of things and find exactly the right words to name them. She was the first to call what had happened to me abuse, long before I was ready to hear or understand the word. Like all the others, she devotes a large part of her life too caring for and speaking out on behalf of others, and has a sharp wit and keen moral sense.

AmberElainePaula and Lauren are thoughtful, insightful, kind and introspective—and it was Amber who first truly opened my eyes to the reality of my situation, was my anchor when my world was falling apart, and in a very literal sense, saved my life. (I’m also discovering I quite appreciate Paula’s musical tastes, too. Unexpected bonus?) Marissa has a unique way of looking at the world, always challenges me, and stood up for me at a crucial time when few others would. Lisa and Joanna were quick to come to the side of other women, and have offered support and insight when it was most needed. And I want to recognize one woman who has not told her story, but who also held my hand through some of the worst parts of Hell.

All of them have had their best qualities—their kindness, compassion, forgiving natures—turned against them by abusive men. All of them have an abundance of that quality that one of those men claims to admire so much: courage, though contrary to what he says, life has not rewarded them for it. Life has taken from them and punished them for their love, care, compassion and refusal to lie down and take what’s dished out to them, and for that they haven’t been rewarded, but punished. But that’s what real courage is. These people have taken risks for each other, stood up for each other, cared for each other, come to one another’s aid and worked together, and all deserve the better world they’ve been fighting for.

Despite what brought us together, I’m fortunate to have met every one of them.

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