Hope and the Radical Acknowledgment of the World As It Is

I woke up on that last Friday of June with to-do lists and half-memorized remarks running through my head. I was facing down a morning packed with meetings ahead of attending the Rose Andom Center‘s Summer Connections Gala where I was to receive their Building Hope Award.

I’d been working on my remarks all week. A stack of corny and not-quite-right versions of what-I-might-say littered my desktop as I tried to find an authentic way to talk about hope (it was a building-hope award, after all). Unfortunately, all the drafts seemed to do was showcase that, it turns out, I was quite ambivalent about hope.

I could see across the rejected drafts a deep skepticism about how we sometimes treat hope: as if it is something fluffy, light-hearted. An emotional greeting card or sorts by which we hope so-and-so feels better, has a good birthday, or visits again soon. We bandy hope about, sometimes mistaking the act of hoping for action itself. At a time when we have daunting problems to solve, hoping for a world in which people don’t do terrible things to each other just doesn’t cut it. But is that hope’s fault?

So there I was that Friday morning, fighting with my ambivalence about hope, swimming upstream through meetings when the news broke that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade. A leaked draft verdict weeks earlier meant this day was coming, but the news still hit hard as I tried to keep my head in one meeting agenda after another, aware that I needed to get my hope on (and gala-dressed) by 5 pm.

Around midday, I escaped meetings to shut my office door and reengage my battle with ambivalence, now with the Supreme Court ruling echoing in the background.

All I could see was contrasts and juxtapositions as I tried to imagine the event and what I would say. I pictured a beautiful evening at one of my favorite places – the Denver Botanic Gardens – with incredible people. People with whom the great privilege of my life has been to get to work and learn from; people who have changed the fabric of Denver through their efforts and survival. And yet, the imagined-moment felt fraught with darkness, with a heaviness. So I just started writing, trusting that if I followed the twists and turns of my thinking, I’d eventually get to some sort of solid ground.

And that’s how I realized what may be obvious to others, but wasn’t to me earlier that morning: even if we treat hope as a greeting card, that’s not what hope asks of us. It’s not what hope expects of us. Hope requires so much more.

Hope requires our radical acknowledgement of the world in which we find ourselves so that we can imagine a better one, and build a path to that future.

Imagining into existence a better world? Well that was something I could get behind.

Everything changed when I stopped trying to feel some caricature of hope and instead started with a radical acknowledgement of where we were on that day — a day when Roe v. Wade was overturned and the world became more dangerous for women who lost their right to access reproductive healthcare in many places; in a week when states’ ability to regulate guns outside the home was horribly diminished; in a month when economic insecurity continued to mount; in a year when war continued to wage in Ukraine and places we forget to mention around the globe; at a time when the world is on fire.

Radically acknowledging the world in which we were living on that day reminded me of the better world I know is possible, and spotlighted a path forward — one that passes directly through the work of ending violence against women and girls.

I know that path because it’s the one I’ve been passionately writing and talking and agitating about lately. It’s the path on which we realize that intimate violence is tangled up with the great problems of our time — climate change, healthcare access, education equity, immigration policies, gun violence, and economic uncertainty, and on and on.

With radical acknowledgment of those interconnections, we can discover new ways to move forward. Collaborations with allies we didn’t know we had. Solutions that approach the problem of intimate partner abuse from new angles with new champions.

And so I managed to finish up the final version of my remarks and made it to the Gardens on time. There I had the incredible privilege to share my version of hope in that beautiful place with amazing people.

I invited all those gathered that night to join me in building a better world through work to end intimate violence. In particular, I asked them to engage with the people in their lives — friends, coworkers, neighbors — who don’t see intimate violence as their issue, their problem. I urged that we need to help those folks understand that the things that they do care about — the things that stoke their passions — are also tangled up with violence against women.

After all the people who want to stop mass shootings and gun violence, who want to run thriving businesses, who want to see healthcare or education access for all, who want to build a better world through their passions — they all share a collective interest with us in ending intimate violence. Those are the people with whom we can build a path to a better world — with whom we can do the work of hope.

Connecting our interests and building creative collaborations are at the center of my new book, Every 90 Seconds: Our Common Cause Ending Violence against Women. Turns out it’s a hopeful book. One that radically acknowledges interconnections so that we can imagine into existence a world none of us has ever known: one without intimate violence.

***

Interested in Every 90 Seconds and supporting the Rose Andom Center? For a limited time, copies can be purchased though the Rose Andom Center with proceeds going to them. Check out the link here.

Thank you to Margaret Abrams and the Rose Andom Center for the great honor of receiving the Building Hope Award, and for calling us each to the work of hope.

Published by Anne P. DePrince, PhD

Author of "Every 90 Seconds: Our Common Cause Ending Violence Against Women" (Oxford University Press), Anne is Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Associate Vice Provost of Public Good Strategy and Research at the University of Denver. She directs the Traumatic Stress Studies Group.

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