In the summer of 2016 I first shared my story, in part, on here. It was so beautifully empowering and frightening to serve these slices of my past with the world, molded and baked into a narrative that I had both felt at peace with, and ready to share with the world.
It was also the moment that I stopped blogging.
I hadn’t fully realized the impact that my words had on other people in my life, or that my story was not solely my own to share. There are so many others who are impacted by my choice to speak up. Their narratives are seemingly peripheral but are entirely central to the reality of that story, and that choice. The fact is, when I tell my story of sexual harrassment, sexual assault, and repeated rape, I also tell my perspective of the other people involved in those moments. I tell my perspective of the perpetrator, their friends and family who were sometimes complicit, and my own network of friends, parents, and loved ones who were apart of my navigation through that experience.
I know that I should, in theory, be able to share my own story when and how I choose, because my story is my own to tell. No one should silence a survivor in the reclaiming of themselves, their narratives, their voices. But when I shared my own story, I realized it wasn’t that simple, because we live in a world that still has not caught up.
I don’t talk about my family because I love them, and I respect that they are private people who desire to remain that way. I have plenty of other friends and loved ones who have asked for the same, and I try to do my best to respect their wishes. I also realize that is in direct conflict with my desire to speak my own truth. And, going back to my original statement, my actions do not exist in a vacuum. These actions impact, directly and indirectly, the people whom I love, admire and respect the most.
When I told my story that summer, I realized it resounded with many other women and non-men; those whom I had contact with, and those I’d never met or heard from before. There were many others who were silent viewers, steadily absorbing my blog and social media who have come up to me in person in the past couple of years to briefly say hi, and thank you. I still haven’t quite figured out adequately express how incredibly humbling that is, other than to say it often brings me to tears, and in the darkest moments, it reminds me surviving has an actualized benefit and purpose.
There were also people in my life, who have become integral to who I am as a person, who expressed shock, grief, betrayal and above all, dismay. More than anything, their reactions caused me to not only take down “My Story”, but to delete it altogether. At the time I became consumed in how the interaction between me and the world had harmed, rather than helped. And every moment afterward, when struck with a concept to deconstruct or a current event to respond to, the words stalled in my mind, blocked by the boundaries that this experience had erected. I’ve started to notice my fire slowly disintegrate over the years, flaring slightly for a moment here and there to only cool to embers once more. Not quite out – not yet – but not nearly as vibrant as before. I burned out, and “My Story” was the catalyst.
I think that’s apart of the evolution of an activist, and honestly, any writer. It began for me as a desire to tell a different narrative than what pollinates the national discourse on what a woman of color is, and what her challenges are. I wanted to share my own experiences, and create a platform for other women of color to share theirs as well. I wanted to dismantle the notion that “it’s not that bad”. It is that bad. It’s always been that bad. I can’t believe there are people in this community, in this state, in this nation who don’t realize that our young Black girls are being targeted. That young professionals of color are still struggling to get in the door, and once there, to stay there. That we are still not given the same grace that white, cis peers expect and are freely given, whether at work, in school, or dare I say it, in our communities and homes. I still have to justify my emotions, and essentially my right to them, to the people who love me most. And even then, I recognize the immense privilege that I have, that allows me the opportunity, resources and environment that gives me the space to be my own advocate in those moments.
Here’s the thing – I cannot remain silent. YOU can’t remain silent. We are our only hope to actualize progressive change. You and I.
At the Women’s Fund of Omaha Lead the Change Luncheon, with Aly Raisman, several moments resounded, but most explicitly the incredible need for you and I to continue to share our stories thoughtfully. There are many survivors, myself included, who cannot share the details. Many more are surviving in silence, unable and/or unwilling to own the moniker. But we know better, and have the capacity to do better. It’s up to us.