There Was No ‘Other’ Anymore by: Debbie Ackley

Posted by on May 15, 2012 | Comments Off on There Was No ‘Other’ Anymore by: Debbie Ackley

There Was No ‘Other’ Anymore by: Debbie Ackley

On November 17, I read from Born from Silence at two penitentiaries in Gravenhurst, Ontario: Beaver Creek and Fenbrook Institutions during Restorative Justice Week. This year the theme was “Fostering a Restorative World View”. In three of the four readings with inmates and staff (held separately), the reading was done in a circle. I am so grateful to chaplains Harry Nigh, Eusebia da Silva and the chaplains of both institutions: Arn Main; Miles Schell and Abraham Yonas for inviting me to do this.

 It was one more layer of healing for me as the men and the staff listened to my story with attentiveness, openness and a willingness to “make room for my story” in the house of other own beings. I came home knowing something deep had been healed and transformed in me. There was no “other” anymore.  I, too, was able to take in filaments of story that they were willing to share with me. It was the first time my story had been heard in the “criminal justice system” and after four years this was one more necessary step in healing and restoration.

 On November 21, I also read in a circle at a Dismas Fellowship meeting, a support group for men and women released from prison. The experience was similar, but perhaps because I heard two other stories in more detail this time, I came away with their stories in the forefront of my soul. After many years of facilitating dialogue circles, this experience of reading my poetry in circle brought a new depth to my understanding of co-creating “safe containers” for shared story telling. Our world views are carried in stories. This round of story telling did one small thing toward fostering a restorative world view.

Debbie Ackley lives in Toronto where 4 years ago her teenage son was brutally swarmed and beaten by 15 other youth at a party in Rosedale. Only two youth were ever charged (one of whom was drafted to the NHL shortly afterwards) and with mistakes in collecting evidence no one was ever convicted. Debbie’s whole family endured this trauma. Her book of poetry, Born From Silence gives witness to her struggle to find meaning and hope. As she says, her experience of reading in Fenbrook and Beaver Creek was the first time she was able to tell her story within the criminal justice system.