I named this project after the living bridges of Meghalaya, India. I stumbled upon them unexpectedly late one night, scrolling through the internet and have been captivated by them ever since.
This, I thought, this is what we are trying to do. We are trying to grow a living bridge across the river of violence and abuse that our communities face.
Everything about these bridges moves and inspires me. Everything about them reminds me of our work to end child sexual abuse. The seeming impossibility of both. I imagine the first person to dream of growing a tree across a river and the first time they described the idea to someone else. Yes, we can do this! We will grow a tree across the river. It will take generations, but will last for generations to come.
When I tell people I do work to end child sexual abuse without using state systems (e.g. police, prisons, the foster care system, the criminal legal system, etc.), many people shoot me unbelieving, questioning, incredulous looks. I get lots of, that’s nice or interrogating, how will that ever work?
And I always think of those living bridges.
How, in the beginning, before the bridge takes shape, it looks nothing like a bridge, nothing like our dreams, but slowly—very slowly—it begins to take shape. I imagine the moment that it looks less like a tree and more like a bridge; less like our everyday and more like our dreams.
There are moments like that in this work as well. They are small, but deeply transformative, hurling us into new worlds that won’t ever let us be the same again. These moments come to us once we are submerged in the work; once we have decided to grow a tree across a river, with no map or blueprint, with no precedent that it could ever be done. We move forward out of sheer need and a black hole kind of desire for something more; with only our hungry desperation and focused persistence that fragile roots grow into branches, branches into trees, and trees into bridges that will one day carry us past where we are and what we know.
I imagine the people who came before me in this work and their dreams. Their steadfast determination and moments of defiance at a world that only knows bridges made of steel and concrete, wire and bolts. I imagine the legacy of child sexual abuse survivors that I am a part of who did not want the steel and concrete of cages, but instead longed for the forest and its wisdom.
I imagine those bridges, stretching out through the open air held only by the collective dreams and labor of people who create what they need with what they have.
I imagine those bridges, holding steady as the rivers swell and fall beneath them, their roots digging in deeper and deeper after each monsoon season passes.
This project is a small part of the bridge that we are growing to end child sexual abuse—to end sexual violence. It is documenting the bridges others tried to grow and the people who turned toward the forest in themselves and each other. These stories are part of our collective bridge, they are what I hope we can offer to others who have only had dreams of the forest. Or who have been laughed at or silenced by concrete, steel and cages.
A living bridge.
Ending child sexual abuse.
A world free of intimate and sexual violence. A world free of state (sanctioned) violence. A world free of genocide, abuse, oppression, war and torture. A world without prisons.
Healing. Accountability. Safety. Justice. Home.
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