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april is sexual assault awareness month

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

It was ten years ago, when I was a tenth grader, that I found myself a survivor of sexual assault. Six years later, during my college years, it happened for the second time. I didn’t always consider myself a survivor, though. There was a very long time that I considered myself a victim, often feeling suicidal because I couldn’t cope with the trauma. For a while, I blamed myself and hated myself for it, especially because it happened twice. How could I find myself in this position more than once?

In college, I saw the perpetrator almost daily. I began to fear coming to campus; every time I had to join my cheerleading team at a game, I felt sick to my stomach, knowing I would see him at one. I had a favorite spot to sit in on the yard and felt that was taken from me too because I’d always see him there. It got to the point that I stopped going to campus all together. Forget that I was a cheerleader, I had an internship, I had work study, and a full time course load. Forget it all. I completely stopped going. It wasn’t until I was accepted to be a contestant in a pageant that I felt like I could manage.

The Miss Black and Gold Pageant was a lifesaver for me. I had never been in a pageant before (and till this day, can’t believe I was). With this new experience ahead of me, I decided I had something to say and I was going to say it. I based my platform around women on campus that have also experienced sexual assault, naming it “Black Women, Gold Life”, to represent the healing that can happen. On April 20, 2017, I stood in an auditorium full of strangers and said I had experienced sexual assault the year before. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The following Monday, I reported my rape to the Title IX office on campus. I felt like I had my power back.

The following semester was a lot better for me; I ended up producing a thesis-level project about the topic. I’m Still Here: Surviving Assault on a HBCU Campus is my proudest creation. It’s a documentary featuring Howard students discussing the rape culture on campus, as well as two brave women bravely sharing their stories. The film screened at a couple film festivals the following April.

Also, the following April, I was a featured speaker in the National March Against Rape Culture. I felt honored to tell my story of survival to a park full of strangers. It reminded me that I’m not alone in this fight.

If you’re reading this and have faced something similar, trust me when I say you’re not alone either. When I was in undergrad, I found myself in an unexpected sisterhood of survivors supporting each other. I now attend a therapy group that gives me the same feeling of support. I pray that if you feel alone, you find your support system too.

In the near future, I plan to produce a feature-length documentary featuring more historically Black colleges/universities about sexual assault and rape culture on their campuses as well. I’ve noticed that when it comes to national media about college campus sexual assault, Black colleges are forgotten about. My continuing healing journey has made it difficult to do this project but I am keeping hope alive.

To all my fellow survivors, keep hope alive too.

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