Reflecting back to the days after being sexually assaulted had me thinking a lot about I chose to cope. Really, how I chose to survive the worst night of my life was followed by a lot pretending. Pretending I was happy, and that I was okay to avoid the questions. I spent more time making sure I looked happy to show no evidence of hurt and sadness when hiding the truth from the people who love me. However, as years passed by I’ve come to realize that in fact it is okay to mourn the person I was before.
When a loved-one pass away we take time to mourn their loss, when a child falls and gets hurt they cry for a little bit because they are physically hurt; same goes for us survivors. It is okay to cry, it is okay to miss the person we were before that pain ever entered our life. I have made it a point now to just sit back and think about how much effort and dedication people that DO love us who pour into our lives to make us confident strong women/ men. These seeds of love are not in vain, and require watering, even at the expense of our tears in order for us to grow. The word says in Ephesians 3:12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
I know sometimes it is easier said than done, but let us pray and ask God that through our faith we may be free and regain our confidence in all things we do and walk into.
Looking back to the days I was overwhelmed by pain, I realized that rape affected me in more ways than I possibly thought. For example, I still dress more modestly today because I'm not comfortable in certain styles like spaghetti strap top, off shoulder top and even dresses I rather cover up or wear clothes that would not attract the wrong attention—or my fluctuating weight. When I was raped I had just lost so much weight I was finally a size I wanted to be; but as soon as I had that experience, I blamed my new physique for what happened and I began to regain weight thinking that gaining some weight back would now become my protection. But the way I dressed, or the size I wore had nothing to do with someone’s inability to respect me. I was unhappy with the experience I endured and specially unhappy with the new weight I gained because of this debilitating mindset.
Yes I'm still a survivor....in progress! The reality is that for the rest of my life I will be a survivor in progress because each day I work harder in becoming a happier me just because we sometimes hurt it does not mean we are not survivors; it means I'm taking a moment to mourn who I once was. It’s me taking a moment to reclaim the confidence I still have or the freedom I still have yet to fully possess.
We WILL get to the place where we don't have to re-think what we will wear or places we will go but it all takes time and we will share a few tears here and there just like you would when you reflect on times you had with your love ones that are no longer here. Nevertheless, remember we are SURVIVORS.
Everyone may have the same story but not everyone heals at the same rate, and that’s okay too! Do not judge your walk on someone else’s timetable, even another survivor’s.
I’ll leave you with this scripture. Because though our journey may take a while, God is not finish yet!
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
I cried this week. I knew what was inside, and I tried my hardest not to give into the overwhelming emotions that this week stood for. See, I have been looking at this all wrong. It's okay to be angry, confused, frustrated, or want to escape from the chaos that is in this world. This week forced many of us to look pain straight in the eye through the story of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. I had to stop looking at this as a defeat. I had to pause and understand that regardless of the result, the culture remains divided, and that solves very little in the bigger picture. I had to recognize the intention and not simply the result. Truth is, whether or not Kavenaugh was appointed, Ford still has her story. Ford still has her healing, her truth,. her pain, her triumph, and we have to be the ones to carry survivors like her into the next step.
I wanted justice for her, like I wanted justice for myself when I was told my sexual assault case wouldn't go to court. I too wanted the DA to ask for a further investigation, I too wanted to be heard, and believed and supported by our justice system; but that expectation was not met. So what do you do with what is left? What do you do with what was meant for bad? Genesis 50:20 says: But as for you, You intended evil against me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.
As I spoke on the phone with my partner, and tears fell over prayers for strength, I heard one thing; these tears are not of weakness, they are of acknowledgement. I adjusted my perspective on the notion that it is okay and healthy to mourn the person that I was, and pour out joy into the person I am today.
Acknowledging your pain, or disappointment in any given situation, or person doesn't automatically create this dichotomy of win or lose, victim or perpetrator. It is the moment that you claim pain to be the foot-stool not the giant left for you to fight. God has shown me time and time again that I have won this fight. My worth was not determined by other's opinion of my truth. I won because I survived, not because twelve jurors could prove without a reasonable doubt that I was sexually assaulted by a peer. Would I have liked to see him behind bars...Hell YES--but even if that was the end result, that would not be the end to my story. I wanted a deeper change beyond putting someone behind bars. Justice meant healing for not only myself but the world that fosters this disease in the first place.
It is enough for me to know that my victory is in hearing more and more stories of overcoming, of strength and of resilience from the Queens and Kings I interact with. My victory is in my purpose and the tears that I now cry are shedding the old to water what has been made new. This territory I'm walking on is vast, and is in need of other's testimonies to water too. That is how we heal ourselves, and each other; we can continue to grow in great lengths to change a culture whose weeds need some major uprooting. In turn, I am hopeful that we too can continue tell our stories with strength and kindness. <3
With love and solidarity,
Devin Marie for Herstory
October is a big month for us here at Herstory. It has also been a big month for this country in the light of the Ford and Kavanaugh hearings.
Being completely honest, it has both both equally empowering as it has been emotionally-demanding for Cristal and myself. I have had to double up on the self-care the past week, stopped watching the news, and have been consuming myself in prayer, God's word, and fellowship with some of my favorite people.
I am grateful we can grow together, I am grateful we have this platform and this space where we can channel our frustrations, our hopes and goals for ourselves and other survivors. This month we wanted to revisit moments of empowerment in our journey and invite other survivors to “take back the night."
We will be covering what it means to take back that day/night we were assaulted and what it means to take back “the control”, your peace, and ultimately finding ways to live out your BEST life! (Yes, there is better, and a light post-trauma. There are avenues of pain, but know this is a path of triumph we can walk out together.)
You’re not alone in this, and this is the month we remind you that we’ve got this—and we’ll be here every step of the way!
To share a brief but powerful reflection is lie co-founder, Cristal Lowe, as she shares her story and her moment of reclaiming her past in this month’s new series.
a poem written by Cristal Lowe
Running away would of been ideal
One drug, one cup of wine
I should have followed my intuition
"It's just wine with a pretty strawberry"
Still I felt something was wrong
"Your still holding to that cup?"
One sip is all it took
Not old enough to buy my own drink
trying to figure out why I was being pressured by a friend
Why questioning thoughts kept circling my mind "is he putting something in the dink"
running through my mind
but thinking "no I’ve known this guy for almost 5years"
But it happened. I took that one sip and woke up to the act.
Part of me is hoping for help but no one could hear me
My friend is knocked out on the other side of the bed
No one can hear me.
I’m stuck on this bed left only
To think because I could no longer move
“God can't be real--God does not care.”
He’s having his way and all I can do is cry in silence
Resisting didn't work, thinking there is not much left I can do
Fear finally took over and I feel paralyzed in my mind as much as my body
I have finally run away but I still feel the pain.
I have finally left the pain behind. What a journey it has been to be able to give God a chance and ultimately give myself one after that night. That night changed everything. That night forced me to look at the world differently. That night resulted in my loss for self...but I was found. Finally found, I choose to seek after His guidance and move forward.
God was telling me
Don't walk in silence I see what you are going through. I know you think you are hurting alone but I'm right here.
You don't have to hurt anymore; if you
let Me in and I'll make you whole.
I'll teach you to smile and take your joy back
The devil has NO AUTHORITY over you
Let me in and I will teach you the way
I will teach you to smile.
I will teach you to LOVE again.
I will teach you to stand before your enemies.
I will teach you to take authority over dominion and principalities
Trust me daughter and I will make you the HEAD AND NOT THE TAIL.
-This month we are highlighting the strength and courage of women and men who have come forward, sharing their inspiring stories of survival. Surviving a traumatic experience, like sexual assault, is an up and down process towards self-love and self-realization.Creating a space with Herstory is based on the foundation of such bravery, and we are incredibly honored to share it with those who wish to utilize this resource.
It is stories like Sherbie's that keep co founder's Cristal and Devin inspired and motivated to keep sharing, and healing out loud!
Accepting your truth, and not letting it defeat you is another form of bravery we hear through the words of artist, and this week's survivor feature, Sherbie Dordines. We commend you for speaking your truth with such boldness and honesty for the woman you have become. We pray continuously for your strength to reach bounds and touch hearts like ours.
We at Herstory are honored to share this platform with you!
*Trigger Warning for those in their healing process, wishing to read on*
You can read more from our interview with our sister-survivor and Queen, Ms. Sherbie below:
Herstory: Hi Sherbie, How are you? Can you tell our readers, a little bit more about yourself?
SD: Hello my name is Sherbie Dordines, I am 30 years old and a single mother of a beautiful eight year old daughter. I am the youngest of four children, and I was born in the beautiful islands of the Philippines but raised in Southern California. On my spare time, I enjoy writing poetry and writing music. Music and poetry has played a major part in my life because it was my way of expressing myself and allowing myself to be vulnerable when I couldn’t express myself to people. I also enjoy reading, spending quality time with people that are very dear to me and I love to travel.
Herstory: We at Herstory want to thank you for being so receptive and supportive of our blog. How has this passion project impacted you on your personal journey?
SD: Reading about the stories on your blog has made such an impact in my life because it has given me the courage to finally talk about the experiences that I went through at a very young age. I was afraid to speak on it because I didn’t want to re-live those nights and it was always such a sensitive topic for me that I couldn’t get myself to completely open to those closest to me.
Herstory: We wanted to give you the opportunity now to share your story of surviving sexual assault. Can you describe that experience?
SD: I first experienced my sexual assault when I was around 6 or 7 years old when one of my cousins molested me when my family and I were still living in the Philippines. My cousin was living with us at that time and my parents basically helped raise him. My parents had asked my cousin to watch me while they went out. I was upstairs taking a nap in one of our guest rooms when my cousin came in the room and sat next to me on the bed. I felt his presence but I pretended like I was still sleeping because I thought that he only came in to check on me... but I was wrong. My cousin slipped his hands under the blanket and slid my underwear down and touched me in my private area. A place a child should never have to experience at such a young age. My whole entire innocence was stripped away and taken from me by my cousin. There was nothing I could do but lay on that bed and let my tears fall. I didn’t know what he was doing and I was afraid to kick him because I thought that he was going to hurt me more. After he was done he told me to get up to go downstairs so I could eat my snacks. He told me not to ever say anything to anyone about it or he would hurt me. So for years I kept that secret to myself and never said a word to my family because I was afraid of what else my cousin would do to me. Whenever my parents would go somewhere I would beg them not to leave me with my cousin or I would ask them to take me with them. They just thought that I didn’t like my cousin at all.
The second time I was sexually assaulted was when I was 20 years old, while I was living in New York. I moved to New York from California after I graduated from high school in 2007 to live with my girlfriend at that time. She was a lot older than me and I was very young and naïve at that time so I didn’t know any better. That whole entire relationship was very toxic from the very beginning but I was “in love” at that time so I didn’t care. I wanted to make my partner happy so I would literally do anything to make sure that she was happy. It got to the point where she had convinced me to start massaging men for money while I wore lingerie. She used to take me to meet up with my clients and she would wait around the area until I was done massaging the clients.
It was around the year of 2009 when I started massaging in lingerie for money so that I could give the money to my partner at that time. Then one particular night I had a new client that I massaged but he took it the wrong way. He thought that there was more to it than just a massage. And I kept telling him that it wasn’t so I was starting to put my things away so I could leave his hotel room but he got very angry and aggressive and that is when he raped me. He grabbed me by the arm and threw me to the bed and tore my lingerie off. I fought as hard as I could to get him off of me. At that point, my life flashed before my eyes and I thought he was going to kill me afterwards. After he got done he left me in that hotel room by myself and I all I could do was cry. I wanted to kill myself and I hated my partner ever since then because she was the reason why this happened to me. And that is how I got pregnant with my daughter. I wanted to get an abortion but my ex convinced me not to so I didn’t; but I was so sure that as soon as the baby was born I was going to give the baby up for adoption because I couldn’t face being a mother and raising a child because of what happened to me.
But the very moment that my daughter was born, I changed my mind. I knew in my heart that I couldn’t give her up because none of this was her fault. My daughter did not ask to be born in this world so ever since then I promised myself to always protect my daughter. So at the end of 2010 I packed all of my belongings and took my daughter back to the west coast and told myself that I would never look back or think about that night of the rape.
Herstory: How has the experience affected you as a woman? What are some of the challenges you faced or are still facing today?
SD: Those traumatic events that happened in my life changed me drastically. It affected my relationships with my family and friends. I was very insecure and I felt like I wasn’t good enough. For a very long time, I didn’t tell anyone about it not even my family. I was very distant from my family and I was told that I was very nonchalant and didn’t care for things. They couldn’t understand what was going on with me.
The biggest challenge I faced was not being able to be myself. I felt very embarrassed and ashamed about what happened to me so I ended up telling white lies to those that I care about. I would avoid certain situations or questions because I hated looking back to those times in my life. I kept running away from my problems that it affected my relationships with my past partners. I constantly was in a cycle with toxic people.
Herstory: Have you opened up to anyone about your experience. What was that experience like?
SD: The only person that I told about the sexual assaults to was my ex fiancé that I was recently with for 4 years. She was the only person that I allowed myself to be completely vulnerable to. She was the only person that I really trusted about my secrets and I prayed that she would never tell anyone about it until recently when we had a falling out and she used my past against me and went behind my back and told my brother. I eventually ended up having to tell my parents and my siblings everything that I went through. I felt very betrayed by my ex fiance because these are things that only I trusted her with.
Herstory: What is something in your journey towards healing you think has aided you in your walk towards healing?
SD: After recently going through the break up and separation from ex fiancé, I realized that I had to stop running away from my past and to really face it and deal with them in the right away. I started to see a therapist which has truly helped me talk about it to someone that is a complete stranger to me. I also started going back to writing poetry and started doing music again. I finally sat down with my family and told them everything. These have been helping me get through my healing and to truly accept my past and forgiving myself because I didn’t choose any of those events to happen to me. I have been taking my time day by day and praying and meditating more and truly getting in touch with my higher and deeper self.
Herstory: If you could give one piece of advice you would like to give to another survivor of abuse or sexual assault what would you like to share?
SD: Advice that I would like to give to someone is to seek help; whether it is seeing a therapist, talking to a close friend or family members, expressing yourself through music, art or poetry or anything that you think can help you talk about it. Realize that none of this is your fault. Forgive yourself for what happened to you and learn to completely be vulnerable to yourself and to love yourself all over again.
Herstory: Do you consider yourself a survivor, and if so, why? What does the term mean to you personally?
SD: I definitely consider myself a survivor because the things that has happened to me could have made me turn into someone completely different. I could have ended up being an addict, an alcoholic or even worse I could have ended up dead. Being a survivor to me means overcoming challenges and events that I never thought would have ever happened to me. I have been beaten emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually but in the end of it all... I came out as a survivor and as a warrior.
Herstory: Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. Is there anything we didn’t discuss that you would like to share?
SD: I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak and tell my story and I pray that anyone who has experienced or are going through this will find their courage to leave and seek help before it is too late.
Herstory: How do you continue to empower yourself after everything you have experienced?
SD: Every day I wake up thanking God for giving me another opportunity to better myself. I have positive affirmations by my bed that I read in the morning before I get ready for work. I continue to go to therapy and getting back in things that use to matter to me the most; like writing poetry and doing music again.
I am finally accepting who I am as a woman and finally loving myself again and giving myself the time and energy that I gave to others. I continue to keep God in my heart and always give nothing but positivity back out to the universe.
To our sister-survivor,
After hearing your story, I am rattled with emotion. I want to cry, get angry, and ask God why... Why her, why us?
But I am encouraged by your strength sis, I am strengthened by I am sure some of the most vulnerable words you have ever shared. I am grateful to have crossed paths with you during fashion week... I am grateful you are here with us today. I am honored to know you and your resilience. Thank you for standing up for you and LOVING yourself again and again and again. Your daughter has a Queen for a mother, and a warrior role-model.
Thank you for sharing your incredible story of what resilience, prayer, and love can do for someone undeserving of such trauma. You truly are a phoenix on the rise... <3 We love you sis, and we stand with you in solidarity.
Welcome back to another feature for our "September to Remember" series! This week we will be acknowledging the incredible actress and singer, Tisha Campbell. Some of you might know her from popular American television shows like My Wife and Kids, and classics like Martin, or classic films like Boomerang and House Party 1, 2, and 3, ( just to name a few). As much as her charisma and incredible work-ethic has paved the way for many actresses that come after her, she is also lighting the path for survivors like ourselves. As you will soon learn, there is so much more to her story than her features on the big screen.This is a woman of kindness, strength, and bravery worthy to be recognized. Read more on this beautiful reflection of God's grace bellow!
Broaching the conversation about surviving any form of trauma comes with an array of challenges. It takes survivors a great deal of to muster up the strength to utter the words, and rehash a moment most would honestly rather forget. That being said, when more DO come forward, it is our hope as survivors to not only be heard, but to be equally respected (regardless of time past).
Respect the fact that our truths are often more than not, covered in guilt, shame, and lack of closure. When we choose to speak of our truths, whether in the public eye, like our sis Ms. Tisha Campbell, or to our loved-ones in private; it is the scariest and most empowering thing we can do for ourselves. Scary--because we often feel like we have to pacify someone else's response while protecting our hearts. Empowering--because we recognize in that moment, how strong we feel in the midst of shattering the mask we place over our internal wounds.
Ms. Campbell bravely shared her experience of being raped at the incredibly young age of three on live television back in 2014. This candid moment was bravely shared to another survivor she was interviewing on air in hope of connecting to the hidden challenges many survivors often face when learning to heal. It was a shock to not only Devin and myself, but to the other millions of people who re-watched her testimony on- line. It is almost incomprehensible think such of heinous crime, especially one inflicted on an innocent three year old child who has no idea what sex or physical intimacy entails.
They are utterly helpless, an innocent bystanders that provokes so much pain in myself as i reflect in the innocence of my own five year old daughter, Faith. A simple peck on the lips between my husband and myself is followed with an automatic "eww' from the eyes of an innocent child like my own. So to think, that the innocence of a child is taken away by force is without a doubt utterly heart-breaking.
Though Campbell's words were brief, they didn't lack on their overall impact; even for viewers like ourselves. "You can't be a victim you have to be victorious." To expand on this more, I can only assume that she means that we must take ownership of ourselves and our healing. Ultimately, that is the only thing we truly have control over. Yes, it will take a while, years for some, but I promise you we will get there. As Tisha mentioned, we can't let the person who abused us and took our trust or our voice to have dominion over your present or future anymore. Regardless of where you are on your journey of healing, I encourage your to say these words out loud:
YES, I WAS HURT, BUT I AM SURVIVING. YES, I WAS BROKEN BUT I AM HEALING FROM THIS MOMENT FORWARD. I HAVE CONTROL OVER MY LIFE AND MY FUTURE EVEN IF I COULD NOT CONTROL MY PAST.
Like our Queen, Ms. Tisha Campbell mentioned "Forgiveness is not for the other person it is for you!"
Deuteronomy 20:4 “…for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory!”
I was particularly moved by Crew's story for a multitude of reasons. For those unfamiliar with his story, Crews described unwanted sexual conduct and harassment at a Hollywood party, from well-known and successful agent to the stars, Adam Levint back in 2016. Without going too much into detail of his encounter (we've included links to his testimony), I couldn't ignore the frustrations he must have felt. Many survivors, like Crews, are often questioned and blamed for their abuse. The typical cultural norm to 'victim-blame' remained a true sentiment in this case as well.
Men like Crews, who have been sexually assaulted or harassed face another added obstruction towards healing because society continues to tell us that men like Crews, or men in general adhere to certain expectations. These expectations include men being strong, the protectors, leaders, non-submissive, men are never the ones who actually need the protecting. So what happens when a man or young boy drifts from these expectations, or falls victim to an experience that calls his manhood into question?
Like countless other survivors, sharing our stories comes with great risk. We risk being ostracized by society, our peers, friends/family, for others, our very livelihood is threatened. We risk being blamed, humiliated, and worse of all, unsupported. Not to mention our reputation, credibility, are often called into question. But for Terry Crews, sharing his story was worth the risk. Making the decision to use his platform to hold other men accountable for their actions, like Adam Levint, is the type of masculinity we applaud. In my opinion, it is this type of bravery that supersedes any role he has ever played, and perhaps will play in the future.
Crews mentioned in one of his interviews regarding his testimony that "life is limitless, but it doesn't mean it shouldn't have boundaries." I believe it is time that our culture not only acknowledges such boundaries, but comes to RESPECT them.
Mr. Crews speaking out about his experience of sexual abuse from another man, was not only brave, but demanded a cultural shift in the way we frame our language and cultural biases around topics regarding sexual misconduct. I cannot reiterate enough how profound Him sharing his testimony truly is. According to societal norms/expectations, Crews doesn't 'fit' the role of "victim." We cannot gloss over the fact that this is also a black man speaking on subject matter that is riddled in cultural taboos, not to mention, the homophobic undertones projected on individuals sexually abused or harassed from someone of the same sex. It is stories like this that further reinforce the need to continue sharing, learning and ultimately, healing together! For these reasons, we at Herstory, wanted to say:
Thank you Mr. Crews; for standing in the front lines, for standing up for yourself being a black man in this society, and for standing for accountability and a necessary change in both Hollywood, and beyond.
With love and solidarity,
Welcome readers, this new month we are acknowledging the women and men who remind us why we do what we do here at Herstory. It is easy to breeze past statistics that are incredibly alarming but sometimes difficult to empathize with because human nature doesn't connect as readily to numbers. Beyond these statistics are stories worth sharing so we can better identify and support those whose faces we often forget survive similar battles as our own. This month we are highlighting such stories from some individuals you may or may not be familiar. In either case, we acknowledge their voice and pay tribute to their bravery. We call this series: September to Remember, and it is through these stories we hope to reminded to learn and heal graciously together
To kick things off, we would like to highlight the work and voice from a familiar actress whose roles made you laugh, cry, and applaud, with non-other an actress and author Mrs. Gabrielle Union.
Gabrielle Union was always an actress I admired for her longevity in the industry. but after reading her
book, We're Going to Need More Wine I developed a high level of respect for her as a woman.
What struck me the most about her story, was her ability to preserve in spite of the internal battles she had to deal with being a survivor of rape. Union spoke candidly of her experience of being sexually assaulted in her book, and it amazed me how no one ever noticed. It is not necessarily something we as survivors parade around shouting from the rooftops. Survivors everywhere are becoming much more vocal today as we can attest in our media, but many are still in the shadows of the traumatic experience.
As a high profile actress like Union, I can't even imagine what battles she faced amidst the day-to-day demands of her profession. People might think "oh she must be used to the attention, cameras, and media, what's the big deal?" After experiencing something as traumatic as rape, the residual internal damages are still very much a part of the healing process. Survivors deal with a whirlwind of emotions and backlash, insecurity, and fear. There are simply some days that seem too hard to face. Many survivors have to have their guard up at all times, regardless of the extent of one's healing journey.
Union also mentions in her book how someone mentioned to her "she must have gone through something because it shows in her performance/actions."
In a lot of ways, I believe this to be true for others dealing with life and post-trauma feelings. As a survivor, you made it out of the war, but the battle replays in your head and the anxiousness of it happening again or their being potential trauma in the future stifles many of us in our walk.
Speaking from personal experience, even today, when I am out shopping and I notice a male spotting out a young girl who appears to be alone is in a vulnerable situation, I hold my daughter's hand even tighter and scope out the surroundings to look for that young child's guardian. I will go to the extent of shopping around that male until I notice the young girl is near and/or with her guardian.(I know it might sound a bit possessive or even creepy, but child abductions happen more than we'd like to admit.) I think I am generally more aware of my surroundings and the potential for danger happening making me more sensitive to things like that. I don't consider this a flaw in character as much as I do, a strength that shows in my "performance" as a mother and advocate.
I read stories of other survivors of rape and assault, and think..."how do you go about life after something like that...?" Union's story was very much life or death, as she was held at gunpoint at her job before being assaulted; a place that should have been safe, and familiar. A place we go to make ends meet for our families, to pay for school, and our daily expenses a place we would want to imagine is safe, but in her case it became her worst nightmare, of course, we can't hold a place of work responsible for other people's actions, yet instances like these continue to happen. What's worse, many survivors who cannot be vocal or defend themselves are forced to return because they can't afford any other options for sustainable living.
In addition to hearing of Mrs. Union's story of survival, I was also able to identify with some helpful points she suggested to further support survivors in our day to day interactions.
According to Mrs. Union:
* "Please don't just grab us and hug people. Many of us, naturally have guards up; so please ask for a hug. I know it might sound petty, but when our trust or self-right to choose when and when it is not okay to be touched or embraced is taken advantage of, we will do everything in our power to defend ourselves. Something so small as asking for a hug makes a big difference."
I was a "hugger" before being raped, and even now as a survivor, I still feel some type of way about hugs at random.
* "Don't mistake our need to be safe than sorry automatically means we think you're going to hurt us. Double checking things, and making your environment feel safe is a productive way for us to feel we have control over our situation."
For example, don't take it personally if you ask for my children to sleep over and I say no I'm just playing the "rather be safe than sorry." Setting up boundaries is a major priority in the healing process, and was evident in me dating my husband. I never went on a date without someone else there or a double date not that I thought something would happen, I just chose situations that felt comfortable enough for me until I felt okay to be by myself with him.
* "Lastly, please understand that it takes time to heal. It takes time to be ourselves. It might take months to step out the house," as Gabrielle Union mention it took her time to go out other than for the needed things like going to school or work; but understand healing takes time and it can't be rushed. For some, it might take a day, a week, or a month but for others, it takes months even years--so please be patient with yourself.
Nevertheless, we acknowledge Gabrielle Union for her bravery to speak and share her story with the world, for not staying silent as society would like us to, and for being the voice for many still trying to find the courage to say something. We applauded you, and stand by you in your strength.
"At the end, we are our stories some share and some live alone." --Gabrielle Union
With love and solidarity,
As we close this series for the month of August, Cristal and I would like to thank the men in our lives who bravely shared their experiences of manhood in relation to rape culture. We wanted to leave you with these lasting thoughts for you to reflect on as we continue to move forward with laws and initiatives around human conduct in the work place and beyond. We must heal--together. We can no longer let "boys be boys" if we expect them to become men. I mean REAL MEN, the type of men that not only see women in compromising situations, but DO something about it.
We must equip our young kings with the knowledge that their privilege comes at a price; that it is something that can be used for good in order to equalize the relationship between genders. When we speak about sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence, we understand that these grievances in society are deeply written in the fabric of our history. This is going to take a lot of undoing and reconditioning of what TRUE standards are for both men and women. As survivors of sexual assault, we are empathetic towards the reality that these things take time.
We will continuously revisit this subject on what masculinity means today, and how its fragile facade is not only harmful for women but men who are expected to adhere to compromising and limiting ideals of manhood. Our focus here at Herstory is ALWAYS on healing; but that must also expand beyond the ones that are hurt. This conversation must also include the ones that are doing the hurting.
We hope you are enjoying this series as much as we are! This month, Cristal and I have learned we are not only passionate about advocating for those who may feel alone on their journey towards healing from sexual assault; but other voices as well. As much as we focus on the importance of survivor's strengthening their voices, it is also incredibly important for us to include the other voices critical to a survivor's walk, that of their allies. Cristal and I are blessed enough to have supportive individuals in our walk; including the men closest to us. Last week we heard from Cristal's husband, James, on his response to Charlemagne's interview (see previous two posts) and this week I will be sharing the interview conducted with me and my boyfriend/best friend, Michael. :) We hope you enjoy their insight as much as we have!
Devin's Thoughts Pre-Interview:
My initial response to the podcast was obvious sentiments of disgust, anger, and disappointment. I was deeply saddened by the light-hearted tone and joking manner when Charlemagne shared his accounts of a sexual interaction with a woman from his past. But like Derrick Jaxn, who commented on the ordeal, it begs the question why conversations like these continue to happen in our culture without regard to accountability? Where is the accountability in upholding men for actions and behavior that compromise another person’s well being, in this case, the well-being of women?
To discuss our thoughts on similar topics related to the Charlemagne podcast is my partner and supportive boyfriend Mike; someone I am grateful is always open to listening and speaking from the male gaze on sensitive issues like rape culture.
Devin: What is your immediate reaction to the Charlemagne interview?
Mike: I never really had a lot of respect for him and what he represented. which might leave a lot of my responses biased.
Devin: Do tell...
Mike: He has built his personality and job on promoting a culture that exploits the very thing he was talking about during the interview. His privilege allows him to say whatever he wants to whomever he wants--and he's made a decent living off that. But his credibility was never in good standing with me.
Devin: Why do you think there hasn't been much media attention calling him out as @DerrickJaxn has on youtube?
Mike: His audience and the people listening to him regularly, expect him to say what he said and how he said it. So there won't be a lot of accountability for the foolery he was displaying for that reason. He’s a clown for that. unfortunately, his clownish antics will probably gain him added publicity.
Devin: Why do you think accountability is difficult in hyper-masculine spaces?
Mike:It comes down to respect. If "Tom" doesn't like "Larry" or respect him, and "Larry" calls him out for saying something demeaning towards another woman, Tom isn't going to hear it. Tom might just be saying whatever he is saying to show off his manhood. Respect=Masculinity/ Manhood even if it means at the expense of disrespecting someone else.
Devin: Why is it difficult to call out other men if women are objectified or are being harassed in public?
Mike: Some dudes don't want to get involved because a guy who is willing to be disrespectful to a woman is also the same dude who thinks he has something to prove. Unfortunately, some men don't speak up because there is sometimes a fear behind another man checking another man in public for his poor behavior. It often leads to physical confrontation. If you are willing to say something, be willing to defend yourself if it gets that far.
Devin: Why is violence the immediate jerk-response for guys who act like this?
Mike: The type of masculinity we're talking about...you know the one that is blatantly disrespectful and dudes just being 'mouthy' is soft. That type of guy now has something to prove to society and anyone who questions his remarks. He'll be like, "Oh you're questioning who I am," and he'll most definitely have something to say about it.
Devin: How do you feel hearing about or being around 'men' like that.
Mike: I don't voluntarily put myself in situations like that like these are not the men I kick it with. But dudes like that are just and try to get some laughs and attention. If it's not about cars or money, they'll belittle women-- they're gross. period.
Devin: Is it possible to see more forms of accountability for men's actions in the future? If so, what would that look like?
Mike: I think it is possible. But men need more examples...better examples and healthier examples of masculinity. The reason a lot of dudes act out, and get away with it like Charlemagne is that of their privilege, society EXPECTS that out of them!
Devin: like that whole "boys will be boys" sentiment.
Mike: Yea--boys will be boys because we LET THEM. If we had better role models, mentors, and fathers, there would be less of this garbage going around and being popularized.
Devin: Gracias, mi amor! <3
After the interview, we continued talking over dinner, because my mental wheels were obviously turning!More often than not, the only image of masculinity displayed in our society is compartmentalized in the most rigid categories; of being "tough", "aggressive" or powerful. Not showcasing other forms of masculinity, like the kind expressed by @DerrickJxn, limits the options of choosing better for men who listen and observe this type of content. There is so much more to be discussed and called into question. But one thing is for certain, our ideas of what being a man means in today's society is needing some serious male-grooming (see what I did there) and we at Herstory, are determined to present more examples of this in future posts to come!
Thank you for reading, supporting and healing with us!
With Love and Solidarity,
Devin Marie and Cristal Lowe
Preparing myself to interview my husband, James, on sensitive subject matter, like rape presents a different dynamic to our relationship. We both understand rape and sexual assault on a personal level, from my own experience, and he has supported my efforts in empathizing the experiences of others as well. The interview in itself made me feel rage in a way that I can't even begin to explain. Internally, I was hoping that my husband's answers are not against how I feel or reveal too much honesty in reality through the male-gaze I may not have been prepared to hear. However, pushing my feelings aside, we sat down, and watched the reaction video of Derrick Jaxn on Charlemagne's insensitive reflection on a sexual assault experience.
Cristal: What is your immediate reaction to the Charlamane interview?
James: My thoughts are deep and in some way raged that grown man would just simply laugh at the fact and thought that someone was potentially raped/ or raped abuse of trust. It seams that think just think because of there status of who they may apparel to be to a public eye anyone and everyone would just want to sleep with them but as Charlamane told on him self she was pass out drunk basically not knowing what was going on there for that is raped.
Cristal: Have you ever been in a hyper-masculine setting if so what is the environment like?
James: Thinking back yes I have in my early teen years at school, a couple of male friends would hang out together and talk about females and who they had sex with of course those they talk about was consented sex, so I never understood if they both chose to have sex why some males would talk down on the girls they called girlfriends or chose to have sex with. Although I knew it was wrong at such a young aged I was told by older man, gang members in the neighborhood that females are worthless and are only to please man there for I would laugh at there comments even though I knew it was wrong. As I got older I understood the truth from what I was though to think and I would not let those conversations come across me and simply correct what wrong and what right.
Cristal: Why do you think accountability is difficult in hyper masculine spaces?
James: I believe it all goes back on how you where raise and was told to believe weather it right or wrong, Most man care about there pride and ego thinking that the more women you sleep with the more you will be admired within your circle and calling you a man bc of such thing that men are though simply man are player its all about pride and seen what man slept with more woman, but the truth is that it starts at the home any how they chose to raise you at a young age if you raise your boys to respect and constantly tell them right from wrong and no means no no matter what the next boy might say then you have planted a seed that can only continue to grow and eventually that boy will hold accountability to his peers from wrong.
Cristal: Why is it difficult to call out other men in women are objectified or are being harassed in public?
James: Aging I believe it all starts at such a young age and how people raised there boys. often boys/ men are called soft/week for standing up for a women as if women are less worthless than any other human (men) for example Terry Crews coming out man bash him some may had laugh and made memes about him that just shows that other men have a mind state that man are supposed too be taught and not soft or week there for I believe some man just stay silent in order not to be call names or look at in a certain way.
Cristal: Is it possible to see more forms of accountability for men's actions in the future? If so, what would that look like?
James: I think it is possible for forums of men to talk about the importance of protection of women but it would take some time to achieve. I think it would be a large amount of men who have in some way physically or mentally hurt a women they love wanting to hear ways they can change and be better there ways and relationship or make a difference to help those man be more accountable in preparing themselves to begin in a relationship.
After the conversation I had with my husband; I learned a bit more of the way he was raised and was able to understand how one's upbringing shapes a lot on how we respond and relate to women in our society. I can't be upset at something that he went though, but I definitely felt some kind of way hearing of how his past influenced so many of his beliefs. We both could agree that it is our responsibility as parents, to raise our son to respect women. To teach him what consent means. I have always expressed to my daughter that no matter what anyone says she can trust and tell me anything and that I would not be mad; that she does not have to have fear in telling me anything she may witness or go through. Likewise, this experience has taught me to express this same sentiment of importance to my son, and that my experience as a survivor of rape is an example of pain that should never be repeated. It is our responsibility to condition our kids in love, and respect for themselves as well as others they interact with throughout their lifetime.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.