Suni Toor has a multidisciplinary background in sociology, psychology and philosophy, with a PhD in law. Her main expertise is working with female offenders and vulnerable victims as well as governments, NGOs and police officers in developing policies and training to respond to the needs of the vulnerable. Her extraordinary story outlines how, despite any adversity, we can still choose how to respond to the context we are in.
Today’s visit to the one-stop crisis center is as bittersweet as any other day. I love seeing the incredible people who work here, ceaselessly providing a glimmer of humanity for the most needy in our world. What I don’t love is the rising feeling of anticipation for what I will be confronted with.
Suni’s ability to self-calibrate this “rising feeling of anticipation” enables her to prepare herself for how she will respond, in advance.
I’m told about the first case and I immediately have to swallow my emotions rather than become reactive.
The first patient summary goes as follows: Raped by a family member – most likely an uncle/step father/brother. As soon as the pregnancy showed, the mother flew into panic and beat the daughter, probably in the hope of causing a miscarriage, but mostly trying to conceal the abuse.
When no miscarriage could be provoked, the daughter was dumped outside a public hospital. The girl, beaten unconscious, delivers her son, far too many months premature.
The boy is immediately adopted out whilst the emergency staff dealing with the beaten girl prepare her for a life alone, now that her family has disowned her.
The girl’s age: 14 years.
This is just the first story of many Suni will hear and respond to, just that day. As you read the story, and try and put yourself in the shoes of the victim, what sort of emotional response do you find emerging within yourself?
I look at the women who run this place, knowing that they live each minute engulfed in the pains of innocents.
Here, there’s no place to hide from the glaring cruelness of mankind. And in the tired yet still sparkling eyes of this team, I see the best that humanity has to offer.
I feel humbled and inspired by their dedication to help others. The compassion that drives so many acts of kindness seems to come from a place that can only be sourced amongst such need.
Even with my training and resilience, I feel the weight of guilt, responsibility and the need to act.
I shift my attention again, take some deep rhythmic breaths and say out loud, ‘what can I do to help?’
The staff that I’m here to support, all smile and nod. They’re incredibly grateful for the extra support.
Because for them, the work never ends.
Suni does not hide from whatever feeling she had in response to the situation she was in. Instead, she shifts her physiology to help move her state into one that is resourceful for the context. Only when she has done that does she voice an action. Before she takes the step to support those around her, she takes the smallest of moments to make sure she has what she needs to do that, at her best.