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.