-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,
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.