I Invite You to Stand in Sisterhood.
They told you, before it even happened, that it would be your fault when it did. They told you that self-empowered women carry knives, or mace, or handguns.
They told you it’s just smart for women not to walk alone at night. They told you to buy nail polish that turns colors when it’s exposed to GHB. They told you that good women are prepared, responsible, preventative, and therefore, safe.
They also told you that survivors are broken. That no one reports, that police never listen, that rape kits go untested, that if you report you are a pariah, a used-up shell whose vengeful goal is to take down innocent men. They told you that survivors break under this burden. They told you that survivors retreat, put their backs to the wall, drown in psych drugs, stay single. They told you that survivors go silent.
And when you, survivor, choose not to take any of these paths — to prove the false positive by not wearing the nail polish, not carrying a knife or a gun, not avoiding introductions to men you don’t know, and also not going silent, not retreating, and not breaking — when you choose to rise above every pattern they thought they could enforce, I promise that you will not find yourself alone.
This coven has been standing for a long time, survivor. In our ranks are the women of small towns and metropolises, women of the Dark Ages and women of the new millennium, crones and mothers and maidens. The coven is here and has always been here, and we welcome you to our ranks.
We know that your grief has been larger than the mountains, that your pain has been as heavy as granite. We too have known anger as slow and sure as starlight appearing in the early evening; we know that your sadness waxes and wanes. You and I and all of us, survivor, are as rooted as the scrub pine on the face of the cliff: against all the pressures assigned to us by onlookers, we refuse to be precarious.
We are attuned to the elements, anchored in the earth, and we grow stronger with every gust of wind.
This circle will offer you space to grow. You may have learned to hide your scars, but we witness your physical, your emotional, your psychic struggle, and invite you to share your journey with us. There is no stigma here for any of your experiences, or all of the ways you have survived.
The coven calls for your story, for your struggle, for your sisterhood, and our cry rings out over all of the valleys you have walked through.
Survivorship binds us like the cycle of the moon. Your soul can exist in its dark phase, turned away from you, hidden behind a mourning so great it seems planetary. Sometimes we are bound to a grief with gravitational depth: it seems there is no striving that could break us away.
But there are days too when the healing is a bright white beam, a path called forth in collective grief and collective power that helps us find each other, find commonality, find a new humanity. On these days I speak my survivorship. On these days I am called to howl, and I hear the howling of others: we find our pack through the arc of the outcry, carried over wind and water to find your ears tonight.
This community holds space for all the cycles of your life. You and I together will journey under the bright moon, and find again and again the courage to bare our faces to the world. I invite you, beloved, to this ancient coven, and I invite you to stand in sisterhood with the brawn and brilliance of generations of wisdom. We burn as bright as every star in the sky, and we cannot be doused.
Elaine Schleiffer is a community-minded activist, reproductive rights advocate, and intersectional feminist. She serves on the board of Preterm, Ohio’s largest independent abortion clinic, and Guide to Kulchur, which seeks to amplify marginalized voices through literary arts and access to media. Her poetry can be found in publications like Cahoodaloodaling, Stylus, and Pudding Magazine, and her activism can be found in Cleveland, Ohio.