I couldn't bring myself to utter the words; and they were escaping my parting lips, warm tears streamed down my face as I fell to the alter. "Thank you God."
"Thank you for saving me, and keeping me from my end."
Rape was suppose to end me, it nearly was. It shuttered my ideals of a beautiful world. My romanticism around love, relationships, and people shattered abruptly as someone I trusted took advantage of the only body my spirit has known to occupy.
I was broken. I was moving forward in life in pieces. And if I am honest, the only this that could seal those gaps merging my pain into purpose was gratitude. Giving thanks gave back the years, the tears, the anger and confusion that all too often comes post-sexual trauma.
How can one live in gratitude when dealing with so much pain? Some might even call it insensitive when speaking of tragedy and trauma. My response is that there is no perfect time or moment, and there is certainly no short cuts towards healing.Rather, it is a path you walk motivated by choices. I can recall those subtle but impactful moments early on in my journey towards healing. Those earlier years when the choice to forgive or hold onto hostility was a constant daily struggle. There was nothing much I had to hold onto, except the notion that I was alive, and survived. "So...now what?"
Now...I have a choice. I can live with the perpetuation of this painful experience and memory or I change the narrative. The chapter you just lived may not change, but we have the opportunity to turn the page. Turning the page doesn't mean you ignore what has happened. Turning the page is a choice. What gave me the strength to turn the page of a painful past, was gratitude.
At the alter of my church, on the cold floor of my bathroom tile, in the bed buried my head in pillows , in the car approaching my campus, in the conference room of my job, I was thanking God for keeping me. I was thanking God for keeping me in my right mind, for surrounding me with people (that knew of my experience) who were patient, loving and supportive. I began to thank God more frequently for strength I knew I could only receive through Him. I was weaker than I ever felt emotionally, and mentally, but as 2 Corinthians 12 8-10 states, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I look towards exercising gratitude daily as the key component to activating God's strength in my life. There are times I will admit, I was faking it until I made it... There were moments I would say thanks with a hardened heart. But bit by bit, God started chipping away at the pain and mending what was broken. Little by little, the act of giving thanks became more and more genuine. Gratitude filtered the ugly truth I had experienced so that the next chapters I walked into would invite more healing, and purpose beyond the painful stories of my past.
I implore you to begin to thank God for where you are INSPITE of what chapters you've already lived through. The pages will write themselves, and every day you will see gratitude give back to your life what the once tried to take. This is your story, and I'm confident in telling you seven years after my personal trauma, gratitude will help shape that
Welcome back Queens and Kings,
We are continuing the narrative around gratitude post-trauma. Is it possible? And how do we get to a place of sincere thanks amidst struggle and pain? To speak more on her personal experience post-trauma and the journey towards healing through gratitude is cofounder, Cristal Lowe.
People would tell me, “Come to church and He will heal you from the pain, and the diabetes,” but all I could think was "No He won't. " I gave my life to Christ and got baptized after I became diabetic. I often wondered, “How can the God you speak of ‘being a healer’ allow this to happen to me; near death experiences, sexual assault, and now becoming diagnosed as a diabetic?
Months after being raped, I wanted to take my life. I wondered “is living even worth it, continuing to trust a God that in my mind had failed me. It took me about a year after being raped to actually go to church even though in private I never stopped reading my bible. For whatever reason, it just felt like it was right. However, I could not bring myself to be surrounded by people worshiping when I was mad and confused whether or not God really loved me.
Symptoms of my diabetes got so severe, I began to lose my vision. I could only see 20% from one eye and 30% from the other eye. At this point I was convinced God didn't love me, I couldn’t help but feel He hated me at his point.
I wondered, “where is this BIG and mighty God that people say heals the sick, where is this God that people say protects you and covers you? Does this God hate me?
Not long after my vision slowly deteriorating, I went to see a doctor after our consultation, he responded saying, "something is telling me I need to help you, I will get your lenses donated and perform free surgery as long as you allow me to record your surgery for my class demos.” My face must of light up and said "of course you know I don't have money for this kind of procedure or worry my parents with the financial burden especially with my mom being on dialysis. He simply replied, "God is good.”
I remember waiting in the room to get my eyes measured, becoming overwhelmed with gratitude. The moment I got home, I locked myself in the room and prayed to God for forgiveness for ever questioning him and his plans.
The grace shown through that doctor was he catalyst for my praise to a God I was still confused by. I felt the urgency to ask for forgiveness and also forgive others that have done wrong towards me. Matthew 6:14-15 says’s “your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.”
I soon learned that God couldn’t bless me while I cursed and wish wrong on those who hurt me..including my rapist. Yes, what he did WAS wrong, yes you were broken, but as you hold anger and bad towards those that do wrong by you, you are hardening your heart towards loving, healing and ultimately BEING all I have called you to be.
My worship was no longer focused on wishing bad on him or wondering does God love me,. I had began praying by faith, a different kind of “spiritual blindness” that forced me to say “thank you, God for keeping me, though I can’t see what my life will look like or who I will be because of what I’ve gone through.
For me, praise looked like forgiveness before I could muster-up the strength to see God as good again. I would pray God forgive me for all the bad things I wished on rye man who raped me, to cover him with the blood of Jesus, and allow me to truly forgive him so that I may be able to love and be truly happy. Praising God through the pain taught me to honor Him even when I don’t understand what He was doing.
Sometimes God is ready to bless you, but we must forgive those who done wrong by us. I know it's not easy, but it's worth every blessing God has for you and while God never wants you to be hurt He will use your hurt to help others, He has proven In my life that He will turn the bad to good and bless you! Trust God and never for a second think he does not love you.
I’ve heard a lot of people say gratitude is the key to happiness. But for those of us who have been through the trenches, or perhaps are still in them, expressing gratitude sounds deeply insensitive and almost incomprehensible. I can recall looking back on the days right after being assaulted. As a form of survival, I was afraid to feel. I would not let anything come into my life that was new or unfamiliar; not even the good moments. As I continued to build what became an emotional dam around me, I silently concealed my pain. I cried almost daily for years. However, I was overfilling what I meant to keep buried, and it needed to be released. I learned the hard way that numbness was not the key to my freedom or my happiness.
So how did I get to the point of release, where I could begin to live again? I exercised moments of gratitude. I learned to thank God for what I did have, for who I was despite the repercussions sexual assault had on my life. I would thank God for keeping me, and sustaining me, even though I still wanted answers and an explanation for allowing this pain to enter my life.
“He robbed me of my youth, I will forever have to pick up the pieces of my life because of this man, and WHERE WERE YOU GOD...in all of this?” I kept asking.
God revealed who He was when I showed Him everything that I was and was not capable of being. I told God, “I’m not capable of forgiving yet, because I’m still hurt” or “I’m not sure how to talk to You now. I think you only want to show up AFTER my pain.”
When I approached God for REAL, I began to see myself worthy of better days. I was depending on a greater force I was still trying to understand in the mess of my life. I was falling apart while God was graciously putting me together all at once. I stopped using the cookie-cutter devotionals I prayed daily, I stopped seeing God only when I was dressed up for hour-long services, and I met Him in the trenches exposing every part of my broken mind and heart. There were a lot of things I needed to let go of before I could let such a light into my life. That meant me laying my anger down along with my tears, and frustration, loneliness, and feelings of unworthiness at His feet.
Crazy thing is, God already had me, and I felt that deeply as I was moved to thank Him for where I was not. I was still standing. For seven years, I felt like I was in a boxing match with the enemy and though battered and bruised, God revealed to me more of who I was for still fighting. The fact that I chose to fight for my happiness, my peace, my fearlessness, my power, and my voice gave way for me to thank Him. Jesus was legit my boxing coach, so when I the enemy hit, He was in my corner reminding me who I WAS. So, I thanked Him, and I keep fighting every single day.
Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:12 (KJV) Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, where unto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
I wanted to know who this BIG God that I was serving really was...so I stopped focusing on me for a bit and my scars, and started focusing on Jesus. How was it that this same BIG GOD could allow His only begotten son to die a gruesome death He did not deserve? I began to reflect on the life of Jesus, and His selflessness in all of this and how ultimately, He was a sacrificial example of what it means to walk in gratitude. Crazy thing was, Jesus KNEW the pain that He would soon have to face, and bore the cross anyway. Knowing the pain that would soon be in his future didn't stop Jesus from healing people, or showing compassion for the overlooked or undeserving. I suppose that’s what God was trying to teach me through this. In part, God has taught me to praise Him anyway in all my imperfection, in my filth, in my distrust and near hatred for Him in a time of my life I needed Him to be there the most. God’s spirit in me moved me to choose LIFE and not death through the power of the tongue. Giving thanks to God broke the walls I once built up and that became the gateway for healing, forgiveness and my happiness.
Wherever you are in this process, and no matter how deep the wound, God knows pain, and proved that through His son Christ Jesus. Now, understanding why it had to happen to you and me is a personal journey that has no perfect answer. The thing is...it shouldn’t have happened to you. You didn’t deserve to be used, mistreated or taken advantage of—and if those are lies you are hearing that’s nothing by the enemy. God loves you enough to see you through even THIS. It took praises coming forth with tears falling down my face for me to ultimately realize I was never a lone. I am here, I am being sustained and maintained, God is working on my life even as I write this.
Thanking God for keeping you DESPITE of what was meant to kill, steal and destroy you is a miracle. THAT is why I praise, that is why I still keep going, scars and all. I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a King that saw it fit that I make it through this—and you will too! So when all else fails, I urge you to PRAISE through the pain. It confuses every broken spirit into the ushering process of your healing, your love for self, and the beautifully empowered life you still have left to live! You got this, and we will be here every step of the way. <3
DevinMarie for Herstory
How exactly do you start over? What pieces do you leave behind and which are the ones you pick up? When dealing with trauma, we are often faced with the questions of... "Where do I go from here?"
Sis...bro...there really is no perfect way to 'bounce-back.' There is no secret formula (I so wish I could give other survives I speak to) that eases the pain or helps them to understand how or why their innocence, their love, their confidence or their trust was taken away.
I do know this...I know that starting over sometimes means facing the very things we often run away from. It is a form of survival. If you are in a burning house, you find a plan of escape and you get out! Being raped by someone I trusted was my burning house, only I felt like I couldn't leave. I was suffocating in threats, in harassment from my peers at school, and it was very much as if I was being blamed for what prompted the fire in the first place.
I learned after escaping the fire (post-trauma) that it still needed to be put out. I knew that I would have to eventually confront the repercussions of this event, even though this was not my fault, (it is not yours either). The burden of putting out the fire the pain, the evidence of what was lost, meant getting really REAL with that pain. I believe owning up to the pain, the disappointment of that relationship, and who I was because of what happened to me was the moment I reclaimed who I truly am. I didn't feel like a hero, I didn't feel like a survivor, or an advocate. I felt the lies the devil whispered in my ear for a very long time. I felt that I was only worthy of being treated through some time of abuse. I felt the weight of unfulfilled hopes spoken by police officers and detectives who said "We were going to get this guy," I felt the emptiness I later understood that only Jesus could fulfill.
Even after receiving Jesus into my heart only months after the assault, I still needed to face the pain in order to lay it at my Savior's feet. I had to bring the baggage in order to unpack what was deep inside of me still: the hero, the survivor, the advocate, the feelings of joy and confidence and overall peace.
However, I couldn't reclaim such things without facing what was taken from me. I'm not going to make light of something that just might be the hardest thing you've ever had to do. Facing pain, but not living in it requires a type of grace I've only found through a relationship with someone I know who understands. With the help of other survivors like my sister, Cristal, and the love of my savior Jesus Christ, I was able to get to a place that I am at now. Today, I reclaim my past as the catalyst for true happiness I have on the inside of me. I'm not happy it happened to me, I'm not proud that I was once naive to think the world wouldn't hurt me again. But I am grateful that I could endure the fire, something that was meant to consume me, and put it out. I reflect now only on the remains as a way to remind myself I can literally do ANYTHING through Christ...including be happy and claim healing after hurting for so long.
Like the house that was once consumed by pain, I am still rebuilding. Brick by brick, the foundation I am finding through God's word, fellowship with other sisters and brothers in Christ, and mentorship by those who speak life into me daily is another brick. I am getting there, and soon I will make a home of new hopes, dreams, and a whole lot of love for me and those still picking up the pieces in their own lives.
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,
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.