“We better understood isolation after driving nine hours on a two-lane highway passing nothing but cornfields and grazing cows to come to a town of population 1,000,” she said.
The road trip opened her eyes to the great diversity in social patterns that exist from one community to the next.
She learned, for example, that it was often more difficult to break cycles of violence in isolated rural communities where the influx of new ideas is limited and people living there rarely leave town. These are places where poverty and sexism ingrained into the structure of law enforcement can have a particularly devastating impact on women.
Nolan acknowledges that she sometimes felt “overwhelmed” in the face of repeated deep racism, sexism, classism and homophobia. But knowing that she was a conduit for sharing the wisdom that one abuse survivor could offer to another gave her strength to turn her darkest moments on the journey into ones of hope.
Nolan plans to head to the West Coast this fall, moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she will become a doula with a goal to eventually study midwifery.
But she plans to stay involved with the WWI and its next project — creating recovery bags to give to rape survivors when they arrive at the hospital. Each bag will include a traveling postcard, Nolan said.
Ultimately, Nolan hopes her participation in Shelter to Shelter encourages people to question the insidious ways they may be perpetuating violence in their own lives.
“Criticize the violence we see endlessly in the media — for it is destructive in many manifestations, some very subtle and normalized,” she said.
She hopes people will learn to celebrate the diversity of lifestyles around them and embrace “the healing power of honesty, community, service and creativity.”
For more information about Shelter to Shelter, visit www.sheltertoshelter.org.