Hi Queens and Kings!
It’s another amazing day, and another blessing unfolding right before our eyes made up in the present—what’s behind us was meant to make us greater, stronger versions of ourselves. So on today, we stand STRONGER than ever, campaigning along with millions of others who choose to stand in solidarity with us and other countless survivors.
What is the Denim Day Campaign?
“Peace Over Violence has run its Denim Day campaign on a Wednesday in April in honor of Sexual Violence Awareness Month. The campaign was originally triggered by a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Peace Over Violence developed the Denim Day campaign in response to this case and the activism surrounding it. Since then, wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault. In this rape prevention education campaign we ask community members, elected officials, businesses and students to make a social statement with their fashion by wearing jeans on this day as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault.” (www.denimdayinfo.com)
How can you get involved?
Share in love and solidarity by wearing denim today. We stand in solidarity with organizations like Peace Over Violence in hopes of drawing more attention to the ongoing epidemic of sexual violence and assault around the world. This week we wanted to dedicate our blog posts to the stories lived and survived by countless survivors whose voices were questioned before believed. We believe you. We stand with you, and will continue to fight for you by sharing our stories while helping to supporting others in their own walk.
To share more about her story in dismantling common misconceptions of sexual assault, is cofounder, Devin Marie.
There...in a large brown paper bag, secured with red tape that read evidence were the contents of a night I wish I could easily forget. However, no matter how much busy-work I occupied myself with or relationships I got lost in, I couldn’t forget the evening that flipped my world inside out. Inside that brown bag were my personal belongings confiscated by CIA while processing my rape case. The DA assigned to my case decided not to pursue the charges against the man who assaulted me, due to “a lack of sufficient evidence.” Yet, there I was, a year later; signing off my authorization to retrieve my personal belongings at the police station from the night that changed everything I knew about myself and the world I lived in.
The case was dropped, and everyone from the DA, the man that assaulted me, the officers that pulled me in for questioning, the nurse that processed my rape kit, the CIA officer that took personal samples of my DNA, all carried on with their lives. The world continued on and I felt stuck, with no real anwsers, no understanding, no ounce of self-love left, and certainly no real will to live... I felt defeated...and all I had to claim of my truth was that brown paper bag, and the contents inside.
One item at a time, I pulled out my white vneck, grey jeans, intimates, and my favorite vintage brown Doc Martens. I looked at them all laid out on my bedroom floor thinking We were the only ones that new the truth. Before I got too engrossed in that moment of what was soon becoming a negative head space, I scrambled to collect my things and find a place for the literal baggage I had left over. I shoved it in the deepest part of my closet, and like my case, it was left dismissed and ignored as I too, tried to continue on with my life.
I held on to that baggage because then I could reassure myself that the pain I was living with wasn’t all in vain. Everything around me seemed to go back to normal and I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t. The contents in that bag had more than just the truth from the evening I was assaulted, they contained a lot of pain too. It was a type of pain that was absorbed in the cotton fibers of my T-shirt and stained the threads that made up the jeans I wore that night before they were removed off of my unresponsive body.
And to my defense, and to the defense of all the countless cases where victims were questioned about the legitimacy of their assault...it didn’t matter that I wore that day. It wouldn’t have mattered if I dressed more provocatively or conservatively. The arguement that a woman’s way of dress provokes nonconsentual sexual advances( i.e assault, rape, harassment, molestation) is simply illegitimate and quite frankly, insulting. The way someone dresses should not warrant behavior that compromises their well-being. When women clothed from head to toe are frequently subject to gendered violence in their own homelands.
No matter how many times I examined the contents in that bag, the only thing that mattered was the truth that I wore ever since that night.
A truth that branded me a victim and that I would have to fight to change into a survivor by the renewing of my mind, and by surrounding myself with love.
Through counsel and prayer, I got up the courage to throw away that bag... because my truth was mine regardless of who believed it or who dismissed it. My truth was something I had to begin to live with and find a new normal in. And the truth is, I’m more of survivor now that my past is my past. I’m survivor because that is the story I tell myself AND believe.
So today, regardless of what story you’ve lived, you have the opportunity to reclaim it. You don’t have to carry the baggage of your past as the only means of validation. You’re very existence is all the proof you need for someone else to witness and say...”I’m a survivor too.”
With love and deepest admiration for those reclaiming their own stories...
We believe you; and your story matters!
Wear your Denim & your story PROUD!*
We can no longer turn a blind eye to the realities or survivors and their stories of sexual assault. Whether you’ve heard of these stories via mass media or from someone close in your life; the truth hurts and is all too often concealed. Surviving such an experience, fosters feelings of fear, shame, guilt, or self-blame(sentiments Cristal and myself know all too well). Without the immense support from loved ones and the healing from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our stories wouldn’t have been shared; and Herstory may not have been created. We are grateful to share in a platform that allows us to share stories and ask questions including the question we are presenting for this week’s blog post.
How was the term sexual assault introduced to you? It goes without saying that many cultures and societies fixate a lot of their media and marketing around sexually implied rhetoric and images. The whole “sex sales” sentiment says a lot about the way mass media outlets feel towards the subject. Hence, why rape culture is so prominent and easily dismissed in conversations for having any influence on the way we interact as human beings. Generally speaking, the general populace can acknowledge rape, assault, abuse, and harassment are “bad”...yet these acts continue to happen; and at an alarming rate.
A recent article from the Huffpost speaks on 30 shocking statistics the general populace may not be familiar (https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_58e24c14e4b0c777f788d24f )including; the 13% of female rape survivors who will attempt suicide.
“I was that 13%...more than once. I experienced moments of complete helplessness, whether it was sitting at my bedroom desk with pills I collected around the house, contemplating whether I should take them or sitting on my bathroom floor with a broken razor thinking a body with no oxygen would be better. That is only a broken piece of the days I lived thinking my breath was not worth taking if I had to feel broken, alone, abused, and unworthy, every single day.
I opened up to a few people in my life I trusted about what happened, but I always ended the conversation with "PLEASE DON'T TELL ANYONE." Until one night, when I could no longer breathe, feeling like I was gasping for my last breath and crying my eyes out thinking "this is it... I'm going to do this" when suddenly a good friend of mine, Mr. Bell reached via telephone.
It was in that moment, on the verge of me completely giving up, I knew it was GOD; and that there was a GOD who cared about me who wanted me alive for His glory." I broke down and told him of what I had endured and what was about to happen. Even though he was miles away, I felt his support even after I said "DON'T TELL ANYONE.” He replied, “Stop! You are beautiful, anyone would be so lucky to be with you, rape does not define who you are. Instead, you will define what you make rape to appear." A flow of tears fell from my eyes as he continued to speak, offering to call my house and talk to my parents. Although, I asked him not to because I was not ready to tell them, GOD used him to help me realize someone does care, and I wasn’t crazy.
"What happened to you was serious, but You can make a difference," he said. “...you would just be another girl who committed suicide without a story to tell; without people knowing the true reason of what happen to you." That was the night my friend saved my life, when I made the decision that some how, some way, I need to find recovery, and relief from this burden and not just cover it up or run from it. My story didn’t end there.
More than anything, I needed GOD to help me overcome so I can help other victims become victors. The moral of this story is that we can be solution to someone else’s problem; even if the matter doesn’t concern you. We can help a victim by saying "I believe you" or simply just saying "I stand with you through all of this, the best way I can."
The subject of sexual assault breeds many questions, including ones, survivors ask of themselves like “What did I do? What did I say? Or other victim-blaming questions like “was it because of what I wore?"
We are often asked what the “right thing” to say or ask in a situation like this, especially if it’s in response to someone close to you. Honestly, there are no “perfect or right” answers to such questions, but some that have helped us include loved one’s asking: "How can I help you, how can be a better support system for you? Is there any thing you need? Tell me how you feel? What are your thoughts/ how is your mind? Do you feel safe to go back to work/ school? How can I help you feel more safe? Or Statements like...”I believe you, and you don't have to stand alone or I'll go with you to make a report or help you do research on filing a restraining order,” have encouraged Devin and myself throughout our journey towards self-actualization and loving ourselves towards our healing.
I could easily carry on about statements or questions I wish weren’t asked of me after being assaulted, but I thank God for the one friend Mr. Bell who had the courage to speak value into my life. Someone who stands out to this day as being an ally, and a friend when I didn’t have anyone to turn to in one of the most difficult seasons of my life.
Sexual assault doesn’t have to be the end of your story. We encourage you to continue to follow ours as we learn, reshape, mold and grow into the women God intended us to be, no longer victims but SURVIVORS.
If you feel this series or blog could help to encourage someone you know and love. Please share in the love and encouragement that can always be found here at Herstory.
With love and solidarity,
Cristal Lowe and Devin Marie 💕
Welcome back to another week of growth and healing. How is April treating you thus far? Okay for some...and by some we mean us included, it’s had its challenges.
“To be honest, I’ve had moments of weak-mindedness. I watched a film that spoke about sexual assault loosely—as if it its just a thing that happens. In brief, some characters laughed the matter off while others bragged that a man took advantage of young woman while she was intoxicated.
I unintentionally felt super irritated the rest of the evening (not knowing the exact source of my frustration at the time). I felt partially guilty for still feeling the way I felt. I felt defeated that I still cared that deeply; that even in a fictional movie I am brought back to thoughts of bitterness and less of empowerment. I say all that to say, we all have our moments...we all have stronger days than others. Please know, “feeling” strongly about something is not weakness; it’s a mirror to where we can allow healing to ensue, if we are brave enough to acknowledge its presence in our lives.” -DevinMarie
The same night I watched that film, I was on the phone with my friend. My silence suggested my feelings of discontent to which they asked, what it was that I needed. To be honest, I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure if I was overreacting or if it was even worth discussing. (Deep down, I knew what I was feeling was real, and if I wanted to invite REAL healing...I had to be real about the emotional pain I felt) as minuscule as it may seem.
After that conversation my friend asked if I wanted to pray. To which I replied with a stern “No,” only to feel immediately convicted. This feeling wasn’t God’s fault. The enemy was creeping up on an opportunity to hurt me where healing had the potential to be... my friend insisted we pray anyway. I agreed, and though I still remained silent, hand over my heart, I agreed with that prayer as we concluded in a heart-filled “amen.”
This week, we wanted to speak a little bit about what we can do to help someone who has been a victim of assault or how we can be stronger allies to anyone who is emotionally wounded from their past.
The frequency of sexual assault in our lives is unprecedented. As if the media hadn’t eluded enough, statistics provided by organizations like RAINN confirm that for every three women, one will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. One out of three; and these are only of the reported accounts! Imagine grouping the women you love all in a room together and have them stand side by side. Bring your aunties, mom, primas, best girlfriends, grandmas and imagine them standing shoulder to shoulder. Now imagine picking out one woman out of three; over and over again —those women you pulled out of line would have survived sexual assault...This isn’t even including the one out of eight men in our lives who are victims of this violence as well.
We must take into account the many others who don’t or who can’t speak out due to fear of retaliation, judgment, or isolation. The culture we have created normalizes sexual violence and sexual content of all kinds and seems it excusable so long as it’s for our entertainment. If someone has the courage to speak to you about their experience, you’ve been invited to a space of complete vulnerability. Listening is such a powerful gift; listening without judgement is even more reassuring to a survivor or anyone speaking on a sensitive matter such as sexual assault.
There is no “perfect way” to respond. Some responses that have reassured me were:
“That was an awful thing to have gone through, but thank you for sharing your story with me.”
“In the future, if you need someone to speak to, I’d like to be that listening-ear or support you in finding other helpful resources that can relate to your story.”
“I love you, and I’m glad that God kept you to get you to this point where you can actually talk about it.”
“I would have never imagined you going through something like that; but I’m grateful you survived; your bravery is commendable.”
Sometimes survivors just need to share their story. Sometimes they just need to be heard because at one point in their life, their experience and their voice held no merit in the eyes of the justice system, or another human who took advantage of them.
The enemy constantly attacks even after the attack. Many survivors have to fight off thoughts that warrant low self-esteem, lack of self-worth, and dark days. Never underestimate the power you have when the opportunity arises for a survivor to open up about something they’ve been shamed to conceal. Understand, that you don’t have to understand...we just ask that you be there when we show up.
With love and solidarity,
DevinMarie and Cristal Lowe
Wow...it’s kind of unbelievable that we have already greeted Spring, and we are in the month of April! (Especially considering that it snowed last night here on the east coast and looking like a winter wonderland.)
Regardless of whether life is putting you through a snow storm or you are embracing more sunny days, we encourage you to join us on another month of encouragement and shared testimony from survivors like Cristal and myself.
If you didn’t know, April is recognized nationally as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We will be featuring collaborations with some great organizations looking to spread awareness throughout their own communities and globally. We at Herstory hope to do our part by sharing the voices of survivors and allies supportive of the cause. An important objective within our service-healing blog is to not only affirm the voices of survivors, but also educate our community on the prevalence of rape culture. We want to call into question patriarchal agendas within our mass media. We want to make our voices not only heard but believed in a society prone to victim-blaming. So...how can we help? Where do we even start when attempting to dismantle an agenda that perpetuates gendered violence and cultivates a culture built on foundations of fear and injustice?
We may not have all the answers or the perfect one, but we hope our personal experience of sexual assault and education in the field of gender studies will aid us in building a community with new ideals and stronger voices of survivors everywhere.
When you hear or see the words Sexual Assault, what does it mean to you? Does it speak volume? Or is it just an another overlooked phenomenon. At the very least, we all understand the basics...it’s been funneled in most every school orientation, in section blah blah blah of your student/employee handbooks and may or may not have come across through conversation about sex ed. Whether at school or at home. Plainly speaking, the whole "someone that was forced to have sex without their consent,” seems a bit barbaric. I mean, If we can assume the majority of society understands this, and more can agree that “being forced to do anything outside of your own will is ‘wrong’ why does it still occur?
Again, BIG problems with even BIGGER questions. Similar questions can be asked of society when questioning why people kill innoncent lives, or wish/act in harmful ways against others due to their sex, sexual orientation, race creed, etc.
A lot can be said as to why these things happen amidst the sinful nature of the natural world. Some may blame the individuals out their who are just “bad people”. So what about the “good people” how can that argument hold any weight what bad things happen to “good people”.
The bigger lie we continue to perpetuate is that individuals are not impressionable. They say “it’s takes a village to raise a child” but if that village is torn about due to immoral or unjustified opinions of how a human should be treated; then we would argue that that child has a skewed view of how she/he will navigate these interactions in their future.
This month, we want to place more of an emphasis on te community; and what we can actively do right now
to foster a healthier, more supportive, loving, and equalized village of our own! Stay tuned as we discuss ways you can support a cause that has everything to do with those who’ve survived, as it does the community and culture we inhabit.
Thanks for sharing your stories with us, for your bravery and your support!
Till next time; with love and solidarity,
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.