Monday, April 21, 2014

I Have The Power-with a capital P

We have reached the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness month so I wanted to check in. How are you going about spreading awareness?

A few weeks ago, I filmed a documentary with the help of Give Life Media about my experience with Sexual Assault in the very place that it happened. I really had every intention on going to that park and being strong. I didn't want to cry or feel sad but I did. In fact, I cried a few times (if you know me you know I am a huge cry baby) and that's OKAY. I chose to be vulnerable and reminded myself that there is strength in that. There is strength in my vulnerability. Now, I know that for some people that may seem to be a bit much;to go back to the place where something so traumatic happened. For me, that seemed PERFECT. No, it was  IS perfect.  To go back to the place where a man, a stranger who knows nothing of my awesome-ness (yes, that's a word ;-)) tried to violate my Spirit is POWERFUL. I took my Power back and no matter who you are and what you are going through, you have the right and the will to take your Power back, too. All you have to do is DECIDE! I cannot wait to share this journey with you! In the meantime, what are YOU going to do?
Photo is courtesy of Give Life Media. To see more of their work click HERE


There is still time for you to participate. The  National Sexual Violence Resource Center has created fun, interactive and effective ways to spread awareness about Sexual Violence and to show your support. Feel free to join in.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

I am my Sister-Karyn Washington, Suicide and Me

People need us and we need people.

I wanted to take a moment aside from my efforts to raise awareness surrounding Sexual Assault and talk about this.

I just saw a post on Facebook that Karyn Washington, founder of "For Brown Girls" has transitioned. For Brown Girls is a blog that empowers women across the world to embrace their beautiful Black skin. She's also responsible for the #BlackSkinRedLip project. Though I have heard of Karyn prior to her passing through, I didn't know much about her.  I came across Ty Alexander's blog about Karyn and the conversation that they shared via email due to both of their dealings with depression. Both Ty and Karyn experienced the passing of their mothers. You can read the entire blog HERE.

Anyhow, what touched me was that Ty felt as if she could have been more transparent with Karyn regarding her depression and thoughts of suicide.

We deal with this, y'all. Depression. Suicide. We, as a community, experience this but we don't talk about it.

 I can't get too deep into this because I promise you, I'd be all day but I just needed to get this little bit out of my system. My heart is hurting, for Karyn, for her family. My heart is hurting for Ty. My heart is hurting for every woman, man, child that has dealt with depression, thoughts of suicide or feeling that they are good enough or that life is not worth living. I've been there. I've been there a lot more than I'd care to admit. Being a survivor of rape has its ups and it sure as hell has it's downs. And sometimes, I, we, get caught up in portraying to the world that we are so strong that we forget to cut the shit and just be HUMAN. For me, sometimes, being an activist, a role model, a motivational speaker or the friend that listens to everyone's problems can be emotionally, mentally and spiritually draining. And wait. PAUSE. Just so you know, this post isn't for the self righteous folk. This is for the people who can be real with themselves and admit that we, as humans, go through shit. Shit that makes us feel bad an sad. It makes us doubt everything and everyone. We feel, we hurt and we don't always deal with it because dealing with it would require us actually telling the truth to ourselves about our stuff.

Just like Karyn and Ty, I used to think about suicide all of the time. I wondered if people would miss me if I was gone. My heart was hurting so bad after my rape that I often wondered what life would be like if I were no longer in it.  But we don't want to talk about this. Suicide.

Karyn, I am so sorry. I don't exactly know what led to you feeling like this life was not worth living but I can certainty imagine. Thank you for being a gift. Thank you for shining your light and empowering US to see ourselves beautiful. Your passing has inspired me to being even more transparent. I am grateful for you.

Karyn Washington


We have to start being honest about what effects us. We have to be honest with ourselves and with another if we expect to see change.

Iyanla Vanzant often says, " I am not my sister's keeper. I am my sister."



 Click here for suicide statistics

Click here to find a Crisis Center in your area


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

SAAM- Day 1- DAY OF ACTION #SpiritOfCommitment




The month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. During this month, I will discuss a variety of different topics surrounding sexual assault. I will provide education and resources and begin breaking down barriers so that we begin to feel more comfortable talking about how this effects our communities, our homes and the world. . Please join me during the month of April by helping me spread awareness. 

Stand Up. Speak OUT. MAKE A DIFFERENCE. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Letter to you: Rape and Jokes- I Am Not Laughing

I was scrolling down my facebook page a moment ago a came across a picture from a guy who is on my friend's list. This person is a club promoter and often posts pictures that are sometimes inappropriate and that is his prerogative. What I am about to say is MY prerogative.
This is the picture that he posted. This is the picture that pissed me off. The more I stare at this picture, the more disturbing it becomes. I didn't post his name because I don't want anybody else trying to tear him to shreds. This is the my letter to you. 


I have a MAJOR problem with this being that I am a SURVIVOR of rape. I was raped by a stranger in a park on the south side of Chicago. I was with my ex-boyfriend and he approached us at gun point. I tried to fight him off but he beat me in my face until I blacked out for a moment . The left side of my jaw was numb for 5 months. I was on 3 different medications for several months along with having to get tested regularly to be certain that I had not contracted any sexually transmitted diseases, HIV or AIDS from him and I am blessed that I did not.  I am even more blessed that I am alive being that he threatened to kill and leave me in that park had I continued to fight him. I could talk about a host of other after effects that came from being raped but I would hate to take up too much of your time. I have a problem that you or anyone else would think the picture you posted is okay. I have a problem with you thinking that rape, molestation or any form of sexual violence can be made a fun of.  Posting a picture such as this one, to me, means that you are pro-Sexual Violence. Furthermore, until you know what it is like for somebody to violate your personal space in the most disrespectful, shameful and frightening way, you may need to think before you post. People can be so careless these days, especially given that society makes light of Sexual Violence. Oh, and just in case you didn't know, April is Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness month. I didn't expect you to know that. Because I am assuming that if you knew that, along with knowing and understanding the seriousness of rape and the after effects of anybody that has experienced it, you would not have posted this ridiculous ass picture. I understand that you like to make jokes. I get that. But this was taking it too far. I really battled between whether or not I should address the photo. I don't want to be confrontational with anybody and frankly I feel like some people just don't get it anyway. I was going to send you a private message (I'd actually started typing the message) but you didn't post the picture privately so why should I have to be discreet?  This has to stop. People like you need to refrain from making comments about rape and expecting everyone to laugh at it. Making light of it is why it happens so much. Making comments in relation to the government "raping" your pockets by raising taxes is not funny to me and I'm sure it's not funny to a lot of other survivors. You didn't make this comment but I have heard so many people say things like this. From the pictures that I have seen on your Instagram, you have a beautiful baby girl. How would you feel if molestation or rape would ever happen to cross her path. Would you still make light of rape? Would you post pictures like the one above?     
Do you think I am I over-reacting? I don't think so. I am offended. I am upset and this is something that people like me need to stop being so afraid to speak up about. We will talk openly about homosexuality, sex before marriage, infidelity and everything else under the sun. Oh, and God forbid someone attacks our spiritual beliefs, we are ready to quote scriptures, lay hands and break out the holy olive oil. 
Anyway......
The problem is that a lot of people don't care about majority of tragedies happening in the world today unless it directly effects them. We make fun of people with disabilities, until it's our child or family member who is suffering. We laugh and make light of depression until we have lost the life of someone close to us because they decided life wasn't worth living anymore. We make light of cancer, diabetes, STD's and HIV/AIDS until it comes knocking at our doorstep. I'm not trying to say we need to hold hands and sing "Kum ba ya". What I am saying is that it would not hurt for us, you- to have a little bit of compassion, empathy and support for one another-whether we know someone or not. It would benefit us personally and the human race collectively if we would learn how to be more kind and if we can't do that, if that's just so impossible- then maybe we should just lock ourselves in our houses and never come out. And if that isn't an option, simply shutting the hell up would also suffice. I hope that something I have said has resonated with you. If not, that is okay. Save this letter. Hopefully, someday it will.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month below I've listed some statistics. I suggest you educate yourself first the next time you think about posting ignorance.

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).1
17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.1


9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003.2

Lifetime rate of rape /attempted rape for women by race:1
  • All women: 17.6%
  • White women: 17.7%
  • Black women: 18.8%
  • Asian Pacific Islander women: 6.8%
  • American Indian/Alaskan women: 34.1%
  • Mixed race women: 24.4%

Men

About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.1
  • In 2003, 1 in every ten rape victims were male.2
  • 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape.1

Children

15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.3
  • 29% are age 12-17.
  • 44% are under age 18.3
  • 80% are under age 30.3
  • 12-34 are the highest risk years.
  • Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.4
  • 3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.
In 1995, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse.5
  • Of these, 75% were girls.
  • Nearly 30% of child victims were between the age of 4 and 7.
93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.6
  • 34.2% of attackers were family members.
  • 58.7% were acquaintances.
  • Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.

Effects of Rape

Victims of sexual assault are:7

3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Pregnancies Resulting from Rape

In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped.8 According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.
This calculation does not account for the following factors which could lower the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Rape, as defined by the NCVS, is forced sexual intercourse. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by offender(s). This category includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object such as a bottle. Certain types of rape under this definition cannot cause pregnancy.
  • Some victims of rape may be utilizing birth control methods, such as the pill, which will prevent pregnancy.
  • Some rapists may wear condoms in an effort to avoid DNA detection.
  • Victims of rape may not be able to become pregnant for medical or age-related reasons.
This calculation does not account for the following factors which could raise the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Medical estimates of a 5% pregnancy rate are for one-time, unprotected sexual intercourse. Some victimizations may include multiple incidents of intercourse.
  • Because of methodology, NCVS does not measure the victimization of Americans age 12 or younger. Rapes of these young people could results in pregnancies not accounted for in RAINN's estimates.

References
  1. National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998.
  2. U.S. Department of Justice. 2003 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2003.
  3. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders. 1997.
  4. 1998 Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls. 1998.
  5. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. 1995 Child Maltreatment Survey. 1995.
  6. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement. 2000.
  7. World Health Organization. 2002.
  8. U.S. Department of Justice. 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2005.

You can find more information at Rape Abuse and Incest National Network http://www.rainn.org/, Rape Victim Advocates http://www.rapevictimadvocates.org/ or National Sexual Violence Resource Center http://www.nsvrc.org/

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SASSU!

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Today is SASSU's Birthday. Today, my baby is 3 years strong. 

It is almost unbelievable to think that I have come this far. It is almost as if my rape never happened. I say that because of this: There was a time when I did not think that I would live to see my organization launch April 10, 2011 so  April 10, 2013 was the furthest from my mind. It is almost as if I've had a bad dream and now I've awaken. Let me be clear, I am not trying to make anyone feel bad about still healing from their experience with rape, molestation or sexual violence. I am just speaking what holds true for me. Today, I am still healing but I am so much better than I was some years ago. I do still have triggers, I do have moments of sadness but those moments pass and I am okay again. 

Today, my baby is 3 years strong. When I initially launched SASSU, I had NO CLUE as to what I was getting myself into. I knew that I wanted to heal. I knew that I wanted to speak out about what happened to me and I knew I wanted to help others. I wanted to feel like I wasn't alone and I wanted people to know they are not alone. This has been a  journey of many tests and life lessons and I have thought many times about giving up but I am so proud to say that I didn't.

My Baby is 3 years STRONG. I DID IT!!!! And I am going to continue doing it! :-)

I don't have many words today. Just thoughts of gratitude. Today is a day of reflection for me.
 This was SASSU's guest book the day of the launch party. I wanted to do something different so I bought a construction paper book and people signed with color pencils.The launch party was held at Akira Clothing Store- One of my favorite stores in downtown Chicago.



Whatever you want to do, you can do it. You don't need a lot of money and you don't need a lot of people. All you need is desire and the willingness to stick things out no matter what. There are going to be people that doubt you. You are going to have days when you feel like giving up. You will question what the hell you've gotten yourself into but you will stay with it. You will continue moving forward. You will be great.