I use to think “Well... if I just fixed myself already...then the love would come, the career would show up, the pain would go away...”
Luke 8:43-48 King James Version (KJV)
You remember it vividly. Down to what you were wearing, who you were with, the feeling in the atmosphere--and the pain. The part in the story you try to skim over in your mental database in hopes of tricking your mind it was all made up, (because let's face it, we need to get a grip because it been weeks, months, even years now since it happened.)
The tricky thing about trauma is, it was never invited into our lives, but once it has made itself known, it is now our job to escort it out of our lives. Trauma changes you deeply. It is felt mind, body and soul...so you can bet that there are some major layers to peel off when we refer to the healing process.
Whether you are forced to recover from a broken arm, a surgery, or even a breakup; we know that these things take time. We have all heard it.... "time heals everything." But we would argue that if you do not actively pursue healing, and get out of your comfort zone you'll be waiting a long time for your miracle. Reference back to the scripture we shared in the beginning of our post, depicting the immediate moment a brave woman who had been suffering for twelve years received her healing from Jesus Christ." It doesn't say whether she attempted to get help for her issue before, but it took this moment of bravery to go beyond the crowd, and by faith, reach out to the man whom she heard could do miracles.
Sometimes reaching out is the first step towards your healing process, and though it might not happen over night, Cristal Lowe shares her journey in accepting time as an ample part towards her healing after rape.
As I went on about my days post-rape I can remember feeling more confused than anything else. I asked myself, "did this really happen?" I pretended that everything was okay and went on with my work in the fashion industry. Fashion week in Las Vegas still brought back memories of the night I was taken advantage of; but I returned the next year. For a very long time after, I buried myself if my work and hid my tears behind silence and a smile. I knew I had to be strong, yet it felt like I would never get past that day. I felt like I never wanted to date anyone and thought for sure I would never get married after this because I felt so ashamed to imagine if I would even tell anyone what I had experience.
Every day felt like healing was pulling away from me. I simply pretended nothing happen; I didn't talk or think about it. I would lay in my bed in the dark with my door closed and cry as I would try to come up with solutions that would heal me from this broken heart. I cut off all friends that knew him (the man who raped me) and eventually distanced myself from all friendships I had. I thought, if I start over then no one will no my story before I was raped, I wouldn't have to share this shameful story of pain and sorrow.
Healing really began by forgetting the crowd like that woman with the issue of blood. I need to find myself at that state of desperation, looking at myself honestly for who I still was after being raped. I needed to be alone in order to learn to love the new person I was becoming with this new pain I had endured. It may not seem like the smartest thing to do, but it helped me understand who I was becoming in life. Although, I credit my healing to the moments I accepted what happened to me was not my fault, and when started loving myself again, my true healing started when I gave my life to Jesus Christ and got baptized. In doing so I began my real transformation. I was finally leaving the old behind and learning that trials are part-time but my victory is eternal.
I don't look back now as a victim. I'm able to speak and write about the trauma from being raped without hurt, or tears, and a smile knowing GOD did this for me and He can do it for someone else reading this too. I don't do anything to monitor my healing other than continue to pray and just living life in gratitude and with love. It is as if the hurt never crossed my path...that is what is so supernatural about healing. I am living in such as state of peace and assuredness now for what God has done in my life. If you asked me today, I can honestly say, I don't remember the hurt I once felt, it is like giving birth-- you are in so much pain but the moment you hold your bundle of joy you forget all the pain you had and as time goes by you can only remember the pain as a memory all that is left is the joy and feeling like love has finally made it home in you again. --Cristal <3
Until next week, we encourage you to continue to carry out your bravery, and be patient with yourself in the process.
With love and solidarity,
Cristal Lowe and Devin Marie
Last month we spoke on “Standing up and Speaking Out,” and we wish to continue to inspire and encourage you in this month's series as we speak on “Honestly Healing.” In this series we will expand on what healing looks like for us, and how you can claim healing for yourself. Stay tuned as both co-founder DevinMarie and Cristal Lowe share their stories in hopes of encouraging yours to be of victory and no longer victim hood post-trauma.
Over the years, I have learned that healing takes shape in many forms and even has phases. There is no real blueprint for this kind of thing, no twelve steps I could follow, no drug or person that could fill a void that had once been my self-worth. I questioned everything, including where I placed my trust. I continued denying the fact that being raped really did effect me & my interactions with others including my view of myself. I ran as far from the truth that that pain did indeed exist, almost convincing myself it never happened.
But it did happen; and I was hurt. I was crying myself to sleep, suffering from chronic panic attacks, failing 2 semesters worth of classes at the university and getting harassed by associates of my attacker. Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to be honest with the one person who was suffering the most and choosing to put a bandage over an infected wound. I avoided the truth that my soul was broken. I was spiritually and emotionally devastated to the point the pain of being violated was nearly numbing.
It wasn’t until the pain I felt began to affect the ones I loved, did I really see that experience’s impact on my life. I isolated friends, family, and blamed every one for having even the slightest association with the man who raped me. I did well at projecting my pain instead of healing it...and sis/bro...it was exhausting!
More exhausting than taking the time to meet with a pastor who advised me to seek help from a counselor, more exhausting than hours with a trusted therapist, or the hours spent on my hands and knees laid out at the alter of my church, or the months spent fasting and or asking Cristal for prayer in the late hours of the night.
Honestly healing, or healing honestly simply meant that I began my journey pinpointing my pain—Head on. There was no more running, no more denying, and no more self-hatred for something that was ultimately out of my control. Regardless of what the police report said, or the DA’s thought, or the student body believed....I didn’t need to heal for them—my life was on the line and I needed to reclaim it FOR ME. Admitting I needed help and that I needed JESUS to take this burden from me was THE MOST difficult and yet most vital part of my healing process. To this very day, I seek God for restoration and renewing because pain has a funny way of wanting to show it’s ugly head again; when God would rather have you feel victorious over the scars you survived; not fall victim to its repercussions. I’m learning still...growing still, and healing because no one ever said there has to be an end point to this healing stuff, I believe Jesus CAN heal and has healed me...and I also believe that it’s up to me to agree with that healing every single day I am blessed to see.” —DevinMarie 🏽
Until next week, may you continue to be honest with yourself in every step of your journey...
With love and Solidarity,
DevinMarie and Cristal Lowe
We can’t believe how quickly this month seemed to have flown by, and hear we are! We are incredibly grateful for those of you have reached out to send support and share your stories with us, “thank you” really isn’t enough...
As we conclude our “Stand Up and Speak Out” series, we hope you continue to encourage yourself through God’s word, and be around people with speak life and love into your life as you cultivate your own voice. To speak more on finding her voice is cofounder, Cristal Lowe.
We have been speaking a lot about of “speaking out” about personal traumas and experiences of sexual assault. Regardless if you’re a public figure or a college student concealing this ‘ugly truth’ is a heavy burden to bare. The fear of coming forward is a difficult sentiment to push through, and I wanted to share my journey in doing just that.
Of course there were thoughts of doubt. “Will they believe me?" or “Will my family look at me with shame etc.?” In addition, to the enemy entangling my mind with thoughts to keep me silent, there were others fear-led sentiments about me ultimately sharing my story, for example, .
I was fearful of my own story not being believed as well as my family’s response. As mentioned before, I feared my father’s set back in his faith, as he just started a new walk in Christ. I continuously battled internally with the fear of people’s reaction and judgements of me because of what I went through. Lastly, I feared the violence and anger that would ensue (the kind that could leave one behind bars) if my loving brothers ever found out who raped me.
As much as I feared these potential outcomes, I couldn’t live with the pain I had endured all these years in silence. When I told my story to my parents and brothers I remember one of my brothers first question was "Do you know where this guy is?" (Even if I had an idea on how to find out I wouldn’t have shared with the) instead, I replied, "It does not matter, what matters is that God is healing me and has seen me through.
As I spoke those words, I imagined how the situation might have been different had I told my story from a place of hurt and anger; and how happy I was knowing what God was doing despite my pain.
When asked now if I would change anything, I would say no. I don’t ever regret keeping silent for seven years and it does not matter what people said or thought about my silence. The point is that sometimes— healing takes time. Individuals going through a situation like mine have to take that time because there really isn’t “a right time” to talk about hurt, pain or loss. I personally got through a lot of silence with only Jesus; and pressed pass the fear of speaking out with Him too. I had to learn to forgive my rapist in order to not to put my love ones in a situation that I would later regret. More importantly, I had let God show me how to love myself through my storm in order to share my story and say in order to love out the testimony that ” GOD is still God.”
I truly had to let God be my rock so I could stand on a firm foundation and speak out about a truth that could have been buried with me. Yes, it was hard, I feared for my life every day because this awful truth. I had become my worst enemy and judge, ready to sentence myself to a shameful death and end things all together because the pain of living with my secret was too difficult to bare alone. BUT GOD! every single day I say “Thank you Jesus,” for His love and mercy who saw me through and restored my once broken soul.
We pray your soul continues to restore in the precious love of God, His love abounds every dark and deep pain you have ever faced, and is there to cleanse us from every disappointment and heartbreak. Giving our hearts to God was the first step to healing, and we haven’t looked back since!
Stay tuned for more testimonies and encouraging words from survivors like us, for brave souls like yours!
With love and Solidarity,
Cristal Lowe and DevinMarie💕
The room seemed a lot smaller then. My hands were sweating, shoulders and neck grew tense as the weight of that ugly truth hovered over my head... Making eye contact with them was nearly impossible not to mention uttering the words I had been avoiding for years. You know—the words that sound ugly no matter how I told the story.
“I just have to say it...straight to the point, and be done with it.” (I would say to myself). I practiced in front of my bedroom mirror, at times I would recite a made-up script of how to better say that “I was raped.”
Whether it was expressed to my parents, siblings, close friends or significant other....this was always the hardest part of myself I had to face with any of my existing relationships. It took seven years for me to tell my family, and the rest have only read of my experience through this blog.
After being rejected by the justice system (my case was dropped after I decided to press charges), ignored by my university, I couldn’t bare to face the same type of rejection and judgment from the ones closest to me. However, by God’s care and grace...I was one of the lucky ones. My family hurt with me, whether in person or in silence; but their hurt never exceeded to their judgment of me. Unfortunately, there are so many people who WANT to speak up, but because of circumstances, they cannot. I know women who have been harassed at work who have not told their employer because they fear they might lose their job. I know survivors who fear being rejected from their own families because the person who assaulted them is considered “a man of God, or it will break up the family.” The uglier truth behind surviving sexual assault and abuse are the potential societal repercussions for speaking up in first place.
When I decided to tell my immediate family about being raped my freshman year of college, I felt emotionally complacent. I was stuck in the decision of moving on with my life like nothing ever happened or disrupting the facade I had presented in front of them for years.
I made my decision because God told He was doing a NEW thing in me...He was taking me “out of my Egypt” and I couldn’t be enslaved by the shackles of my past or what my past told me about myself. I had to cross over...and I had to do so in the new season of my life God was now taking me into. It was a month prior to me graduating from college, when I knew I had to tell them. Deep down I needed them to know why this was more than me receiving my diploma. I hurt by myself for years, and I wanted to heal with them by my side. It was a moment I needed to receive in my most honest state, flaws, imperfections, and all!
I told each one of my four loving brothers one by one, I spoke to my grandmother, Godmother, and parents face to face. And once I did, a little bit of me came back. It didn’t erase the pain, it didn’t keep the man who raped me in jail, it didn’t take back the semesters of harassment I received from the football team or give me back the hours of therapy, tears or moments of self-hate. I wore my scars and I knew them by name. This time, I could show them to the ones I loved and let them know I was okay...I could show them that I did something despite my fear, and graduating in front of them was the greatest honor I could receive; the honor of graduating in front of the individuals who (whether they knew it or now) helped me get to that moment by loving me before, during and after my experience.
Love set me free to speak my truth. God loved me enough to survive the pain, and I loved myself enough to tell it; because for me, my story wasn’t just for me to know...and I knew in order to tell you all, whoever you may be, I had to face the ones who knew me best.
Having done so I will say that today, I am happier, I am set free, I no longer hide behind lies or torment myself for what I had no control over. I have my moments when my mind would rather fall victim. I too, experience those moments where I want to be completely isolated from the world. I am just grateful that God placed the right people in my life to respect the moments I do, and know when to pull me out.
Be patient in your process. Standing up and speaking out doesn’t have to look like my story or anyone else’s you hear in the headlines. Your truth is yours; and you can heal past it. We pray and hope you know you can always find space to share your story here, if you so choose. Regardless, know that we are here supporting you and inspired by who you are—a SURVIVOR.
With love and solidarity,
Hi Queens and Kings, we are back with a new blog series! With more and more testimonies being heard, the climate in our culture is shifting. The manner in which we know and discuss offenses like sexual assault and gendered violence within four communities is changing. We say this with positive undertones because the negative is being exposed. The ugly truths we have been victim-blamed to believe are better left unspoken; are now in our headlines. These truths can no longer be ignored; and it is our intent to bring our audience content that proves the prevelance of these human rights abuses deserve our attention. Click the link in our bio as we share the testimonies of our brave hero’s near and far, starting with cofounder, Cristal with her story.
Happy Thursday! And happy second week of June. With so many voices and testimonies of survivors booming unapologetically, we wanted to pay homage in this month’s blog series. It is a topic we have visited before; but it’s one that deserves more coverage. So without further ado, our Stand up and Speak Out series begins with a reflection on Cristal Lowe’s “Speaking Out story,” via a poem she wrote for a creative writing class. We encourage you to express your stories in a space that feels safe even if that is simply through pen and paper. 😉💕📝
Also, stay tuned for more announcements via our Instagram as we will be highlight other testimonials there as well! ;)
I was going to speak about it--
that thing that was hurting
how it happened and how I
Today I thought I would
speak, but the fear took
Tomorrow I will speak.
Everyday I said I would speak;
but all these thoughts running through
my mind won’t let me speak.
Today like any other day when I thought I would speak,
Seven years later... I finally spoke.
I spoke my hurt , I cried my pain
Seven years later...I finally told my love
ones that seven years ago I was raped.
I finally spoke to set my self free.
Our lasting message to those of you who may be struggling on whether or not you should speak out and to whom...
Please know, that speaking out about sexual assault is entirely your choice. Our intent behind this serious is to simply encourage those who have survived or are perhaps going through the healing process right now, that you are not alone in that internalized battle. More importantly, it can be done, on your time, on your terms! Our voices matter; collectively, we are even more powerful knowing we share in a similar strength. When you feel safe, and you don’t have to question whether you are brave...facing the day Can be hard enough, just know that you are the bravest of them All! So whether you have told 1,000 souls, or one...or if you’ve never spoken up before about what happened to you, we at Herstory, celebrate you equally. We welcome you to share your story anonymously whenever you are ready, just know we are here through it all!
The month of June is a very special one for both Cristal and myself. We wanted to cover not only a new series at Herstory, but also share a special message with all of our visitors!
Around this time, two years ago, the Herstory blog was launched; also making today our 100th blog post!
It’s shocking even as I figure out the right words to convey my gratitude for this journey. Herstory was created with the intent of assisting survivors of sexual assault and abuse while also educating our communities on the prevalence of gendered violence. This intention has gracefully transitioned into a service healing initiative founded by two survivors who once met on the premise business in the fashion industry. Although, we understand solutions revolving the prevalence of rape culture require a change in legal/political backing; we also believe that communities need a space to better understand its affect on the women and men who survive these traumatic experiences.
There are many milestones we still have left to make to fulfill this vision. We know we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the healing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the direction of the Holy Spirit
connecting us with the countless survivors we have encountered since starting this blog.
Back in November 2017, cofounder DevinMarie was honored as Central Coast’s Philanthropist of the Year for her contributions to Herstory, and this week we wanted to share the open letter she read upon accepting that award.
Hello. Thank you National Philanthropy Committee for honoring me with this humbling award.
I'm here today to offer my sincerest gratitude to the countless people without whom this experience wouldn't have been possible. "I'd like to thank my alma mater, Santa Catalina School, for the nomination, for the opportunity I had to receive an inspiring education, and for the invitation to be with you all today. With me today is my mother, Olivia, as well as cofounder of Herstory and my best friend Cristal, two women to whom I am truly indebted for graciously guiding me to bravely live out my life as a survivor of sexual assault.
As grateful as I am, I cannot help but feel such recognition is a bit premature considering all that we aspire to do over the next two years to fully launch HerStory. I cannot help but feel the need to do more, especially at this pivotal point in time, when echoes of survivors grow louder each day in the media, through currently trending #metoo hashtags, and all around us.
I cannot help but feel for the countless other stories that have yet to be told of survivors, not only in Hollywood but from our work spaces, within academia, and other areas deemed progressive by society. It is evident that the door has been opened: sadly but bravely. As much as I appreciate this award and as grateful as I am for it, the greatest reward I’ve ever been given is discovering my purpose, which I've found through Jesus Christ; perhaps the greatest philanthropist I know! One who saw a need, and met it without hesitation, even at the expense of his own life.
I would like to leave you with this last thought, inspired by Luke 12:48 which simply states:
“To whom much has been given, much will be required."
For years I asked God "why was I given this burden to bear?” But through faith, love, and through the voice of a brave young woman who shared her story of survival with me 7 years ago, I found my answer.
I have NOW realized what is required of us all is simply genuine and intentional action when we see a need that needs to be met, and I have every intention to continue to pursue that need one story at a time. Thank you.
Our greatest prayer is that one person is changed and encouraged to heal from wounds we know run deep. To those who have suffered in silence and have watched the one’s they love suffer in their unexplainable pain—this space has and always will be for you!
We love you and support you in your journey—thank you for supporting us in ours!
With Love and Solidarity💕,
DevinMarie and Cristal Lowe
Hi Queens & Kings!
We are nearing the end of May—if you can actually believe it?! There is still quite a bit we’d like to share, as we conclude our Mass Media and Sexual Assault Series (a topic we will continue to revisit).
Part of what we wish to continue to promote with our content is a hope for a more respectful and empowered world seen within our own communities. Here at Herstory, we acknowledge the power and influence mass media has on furthering this agenda. It is our goal to share content and experiences that will progressively move us in a more empowered world where RESPECT for one another is never out of fashion. To speak of her involvement in the fashion industry and its relation to rape culture is cofounder, Cristal Lowe.
From Cristal Lowe:
“I initially began writing for this week’s blog post on a different topic; but instead thought, maybe I should continue the conversation from my sister’s last entry, only this time, from a designer’s point of view.
I too had a unique experience working in the fashion industry as a designer and being a woman of God. I often internalized conversations with myself in regards to the woman’s position in fashion both as a creator and subject. I was always curious as to why more sales were made when women wore less, and questioned the motive behind an industry that is suppose to be selling fashion clothing, not just the bodies that wear them. I always wondered why some models resorted to taking jobs that would expose themselves in a light that GOD would not be well pleased. More importantly, I wondered why the world who consumes these advertisements settle for compromise for the sake of exposure? All in all, making the experiences of sexual violence and harassment in the “real world” more difficult to accept as being true. However, like my sister said, maybe the motive isn’t so much of empowerment as it is for the sole purposes of profit? Maybe we have exchanged what we so desperately want to mean “power” in today’s society for the sake of filling up our bank accounts?
As creatives of any industry, I hope we can offer more options for the meaning of success. I hope that creatives consider their art as an extension of influence and its implications on how we treat each other. It is a big feat, but together, I believe we can see a collective change.
This isn’t to imply nudity or artistic expressions of sexuality are wrong; but rape is; harassment and prejudices are...I’m merely suggesting we adopt a more critical eye of the intent behind our art especially when it comes to consumerism.
As a designer, I have a responsibility in what projects and visions I provide for my models. I set the standard for how I want my models to be portrayed because it’s an extension of my brand and my personal morals.
Having worked in this industry for ten plus years, I made up my mind on the nature of the interactions between myself and the models I worked with. I am very much aware of the type of misconduct that occurs in this industry. Therefore, I always offer the option for my models to bring a friend or parent to a casting, or a fitting. I recall the time our co-founder Devin Marie contacted me for auditioning for a fashion show I was producing. Still new to modeling, she asked if she could bring someone with her. Now I can only imagine what was going through her mind (meeting a perfect stranger in a big city) but I quickly replied, “Yes, of course, you can come bring someone to accompany you.” I felt a sound of relief, and we had conducted our casting where we both felt comfortable and respected.
At that time, I already endured the most painful experience of my life, being raped. It is because of my experience, I was most certainly relieved that someone would come with her, even though my intentions were strictly professional.
Involving myself in the fashion industry after my experience, made me even more aware to implications of sexual misconduct. I can recall at my previous job, a male ex-colleague involved in the model-fitting process. (Fit-modeling involves using the selected model as a garment-tester before mass manufacturing.) They give us feed back on any uncomfortable seams/or give us suggestions like "lower the armhole 1/2" and raise the neck a bit.”)
During the casting process this man would go out of his way to make the models wear these white intimates he provided, instead of the company’s standard black panties and bra when photographing them during the selection process. Now for some, many would say, “they’re just little white shorts, it’s part of the job to get undressed for proper measurements, no big deal,” but those little white shorts will expose parts of a woman’s body that the black shorts would not; and in instances like this, I’m always questioning people’s intent/motivation for doing certain things. Taking advantage of your position by using manipulation masked as standard protocol is an abuse of power! In today’s day and age, I have to call things like that into question. It is unfortunate to say, but as much as there are honest, and respectable people in the fashion industry,(like in any profession) there are also individuals who abuse their power.
I too agree, that models should get far more respect for what they do. No model should be expected to just undress or put on any kind of clothing they don’t feel comfortable wearing. No model should be made to feel fearful or intimidated when speaking up about their level of comfort in fear of being reprimanded or being seen as “difficult” to work with.
At the end of the day they are people, just like you and me, these are mothers, sisters, and aunties. We need to protect and support another human being’s right to say yes or no to something; especially in the work place. It should be okay to say "No, I will not fit that bodysuit without leggings underneath,” just as much as it’s a person’s right to say “yes”!
My personal message to all upcoming designers in this world:
“Trends fade...and there are options for us to make all creatives feel respected in their artistic environment. On my journey, I have learned, you don’t have to expose a woman’s body to make an impact with my designs. God gave you that talent, what God has for you—IS FOR YOU and no one can take your place because GOD has made you UNIQUELY talented to stand out not become another carbon-copy artist.” -Cristal Lowe
It is our hope that the industries we occupy consider us human beings first. We have a responsibility with the power and positions we have been given. It’s time to hold each other accountable; for the sake of art, and more importantly for humankind.
As an artist, creator, or consumer, how will you challenge the world around you despite trends or popularity? We sincerely hope you consider these things, until your next return! Stay tuned for a brand new series, we look forward to growing and healing with you!
With love & solidarity,
Have you ever seen your pain through other’s eyes? We have all experienced the relatable pull towards someone else’s truth or experience whether that be represented in a scene of a movie, lyrics to a song, or perhaps an image or novel. That relatability often provokes personal emotions to arise, be it positive or negative sentiments. There is something to be said about experiencing trauma first-hand, furthermore, it’s even more thought-provoking when hearing of
someone else’s similar testimony. Years after our experiences of sexual assault, we consider these truths to be self-evident, that our survival-hood is an ongoing process open to ushering in more stories of triumph; while healing from the repercussions of pain, anger, and loss felt by others. Mass media has played a pivotal role is sharing stories similar to my own; forcing me to become even more sensitive to the reality of my own personal experience being shared by so many others.
If I am speaking transparently, I am often overwhelmed with a lot of emotions when hearing other sexual assault stories in the media. Emotions range from anger to displaced pain I personally internalize from my own experiences of abuse. Much of my frustration is only amplified in a justice system that does very little to empathize with survivors like ourselves. When you strip away the victim-blaming, and get to the truly upsetting problem; the prevelance of sexual violence, the pain often becomes riddled in helplessness.
Sexuality and sexual expression is not as much of a taboo, in our society. We have been conditioned to believe that the only way to sell art or obtain success is through the use of sex. Almost everyone has heard the saying “Sex Sales.” They aren’t wrong either.
“The sex industry alone accumulates $150 BILLION a year for traffickers; $99 billion is made from sexual exploitation alone. “ (https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/human-trafficking-numbers)
“By 2025, adult content is forecast to be a $1 billion business, the third-biggest virtual-reality sector, after videogames ($1.4 billion) and NFL-related content ($1.23 billion), according to estimates from Piper Jaffray.”
This is only further enforced in the industry that I work in as a model/actress, where I see this all first hand. I know actresses who get paid thousands more for exposing themselves nude or partially nude for film than other extras or principle actors. I’ve been offered payment for implied or partially nude shoots from photographers and even pressured by some designers to “expose more” all for the sake of art. I have turned down a lot, but have found myself in compromising situations that are accepted as being “normal” and just part of the industry. It is an industry that is in charge of not only selling to the culture, but influencing as well.
As much as sex has become normalized in our society, it becomes even more challenging to accept the pain behind the profit of such industries. The truth in the stories of survivors that come forward arelte often than not, questioned before they are believed.
Society is forced to question how something that is was made for entertaining turn into a human rights offense. Sexual assault offenses disrupt the system’s marketing ploy against its consumers. Forcing consumers to question their participation in a culture than desensitizes sexually explicit acts for the purpose of profit. But at what cost? These REAL life testimonies must then be sifted through the facade: that the purpose for sex is solely for entertainment. Sex is also used as a form of power and control; and when manipulated, it can lead to damaging repercussions.
On the other side of pain and heartbreak from a broken system and mislead culture, I still have a passion to change the content in our culture that influences such acts. As a survivor and advocate for other survivors, I have made it my responsibility and passion to choose projects and work with people who are conscious of the power that media has on our culture. I don’t get it right all the time...I too have been conditioned to believe that images like these or roles that sexually degrad women of color fill up my bank account quicker, that success is one half-nude shoot away to a MAJOR campaign. I am however, very mindful of my influence. I can no longer ignore the realities that so many continue to face. We as consumers of brands, and mass media in general have more power than we think. We have the right to call ads and content into question, we have the right to demand more from creatives, advertisers, and our media. I’m still hopeful and I believe that overtime we can undo the conditioning that has made our world insensitive to issues that affect us on both a personal and global level.
With love and solidarity,
Have you ever seen your pain through other’s eyes? We have all experienced the relatable pull towards someone else’s truth whether that be represented in a scene of a movie, lyrics to a song, or perhaps an image or heart-string-pulling novel. That relatability often provokes personal emotions to arise, be it positive or negative. There is something to be said about experiencing trauma first-hand; then hearing someone else’s testimony closely relatable to your own.
Years after our experiences of sexual assault, we consider these truths to be self-evident, that our survival-hood is an ongoing process open to ushering in more stories of triumph; while healing from the repercussions of pain, anger, and loss felt by others. To speak more on her own reflections of media’s portrayal of sexual assault and it’s effects on survivors, is cofounder, Cristal Lowe.
A rapist doesn't have to be a stranger to be legitimate. Someone you never saw. A man with obvious problems. But if you been public with him, danced one dance, kissed him goodbye lightly with a closed mouth, pressing charges will be as hard as keeping your legs closed while five fools try and run a train on you. These men friends of ours, who smile nicely, take you out to dinner, then lock the door behind you...--For Colored Girls, 2018.
Speaking transparently, I am overwhelmed with a lot of emotions when exposed to other sexual assault stories in the media. Emotions range from anger to displaced pain I internalize from my own experiences of abuse. Much of my frustration is further amplified in a justice system that does very little to empathize with survivors like ourselves. Women of color are often marginalized from these discussions, making the topics we discuss here even more important for us to continue to share. When you strip away the victim-blaming, and get to the truly upsetting problem; the prevelance of sexual violence, the pain often becomes riddled in helplessness. However, years later, I’ve accepted that on the other side of pain and heartbreak from a broken system, is a passion to change our culture that influences such acts from happening.
Content that has influenced me to see the beauty beyond my triggers were movies like For COLORED GIRLS. Like any well-written film, I was rocked with emotion, being brought to tears. One particular scene drew me to an uncomfortable place, where I flash-blacked to my own experience of assault. My tears no longer belonged to the characters in the scene, but my own. They were tears I couldn’t afford to express openly in public, which made watching this with others I loved, even more profound. I recall my husband saying, “Lets just turn it off..." in response to my obvious emotions.
While I accept my healing has taken place, my passion to change the culture has only increased. I find it easier now to speak about my experience without breaking down or without mumbling my words. However, my discomfort when seeing such scenes in movies or TV shows forces me to understand my feelings about what I went through that much more. I hate watching someone going through a pain even more so, I hate that I know that pain so personally. These however, are our truths. As more and more testimonies are shared and portrayed throughout mass media (fiction or not), I am too, learning to exchange my pain for empowerment. Stories like the ones shared in For Colored Girls empower me as much as they do challenge my own sentiments of sexual assault. They keep pushing me to consistently grow with my sister through working on HERSTORY because these stories only reaffirm the statistics that report sexual assault in America afflicted upon "1 out of every 6 American women.” (www.RAIIN.org) (14.8% completed rape, and 2.8% attempted). If you ask me, 1 out of 6 is one too many.
My wish would be for there not to be another single soul affected by sexual violence or harassment of any kind. While we work on diminishing the rampant occurrences of sexual assault in our world, let us draw closer to the stories that are shared in the media. Let us critically analyze how these stories are portrayed and become more sensitive to the realities of characters and real people we interact with on a regular basis. The more we humanize the people afflicted, the more our culture grows in more empathy and less blame. We can actively empower ourselves and others by supporting media outlets and forms of entertainment that speak to the empowerment of survivors through real stories, as uncomfortable as they make us.—Cristal Lowe
Regardless if you share in similar stories expressed in the music you hear or the films you watch—these are stories that are speaking to someone’s truth; a truth, we hope we can all gain a bit more empathy from however we second-handidly experience them.
With love and solidarity,
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.