extra:ordinary – a letter

I have exciting news to share today: I wrote a letter to the editor of The New Yorker magazine (about this idea of some survivors’ resilience being treated as more extraordinary than that of other survivors) — and they have published the letter!

You can read the letter here (mine is the third letter down); you can also read part of the article (“Gone Girl”) that I responded to — this article inspired our extra:ordinary community story project, which you should also read!

Here’s how the letter reads:


Margaret Talbot’s article about Elizabeth Smart offers a profile of a strong survivor and advocate, who, after what is for many an unimaginable trauma, is now able to extend a nonjudgmental message of hope and strength (“Gone Girl,” October 21st). Her story shows, in part, what trauma survivors are capable of when they are given the resources and support they deserve. The article, however, bills Smart’s resilience as extraordinary. As the founder of Writing Ourselves Whole, an organization that works with survivors of trauma, and as a survivor myself, I believe that this message can undermine recovery. There are hundreds of thousands of people in this country who are survivors of sexual and other intimate violence, and resilience takes more than one form. Many who seek help are silenced or shamed. It is within the context of these additional experiences of violence and hostility that most survivors of intimate violence live out their lives, and most attain a measure of happiness, connection, and personal achievement. That, to me, is extraordinary resilience.

Jennifer Cross
Oakland, Calif.

 Keep writing, and keep on sharing your words with the world: you don’t know how far those words can go.


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