Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hear Us Roar 2016

I had the honor to be invited to share my story at this event.  Hosted up at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan, a group called Women for Women puts on this speak out every year.  Not only does the speak out raise awareness in the NMU community, it creates a safe space for survivors to share their stories.  I was surprised to be invited since I wasn't a current student or alum of NMU, but that's the amazing part of the event.  It doesn't matter whose story it is as long as it is being shared for the greater good.  I gleefully prepared for the 6 hour drive.

The drive up was boring.  Dead looking trees and slow speed limits.  I was getting tunnel vision which on the highway is particularly obnoxious/dangerous, so I started making lip sync videos.  I was wondering the whole time how emotional this would be for me.  I have written about my story.  I have talked about it in a room full of people I knew.  But I had never talked about it in a room full of strangers.  The performer in me was hoping to bring emotion to my performance.  The genuine nerves kicked that in just fine.

I finally got to meet all the amazing people I had been messaging with for months.  Coming from out of town, I missed all the practices.  So by the time I got up there, I hadn't actually performed it at all.  I figured me having a meltdown on stage would be more sincere *snort.* I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by hearing others share their stories.  You see people every day, and you imagine what their life is.  You imagine the person they are, and how they go about their day.  But you never imagine what horrors they have endured.  Unless you know.  Then, that often becomes the image by which you know them.  I met these amazing women (and one guy, but I already knew him) and I would never look at them somewhere else for the first time and think, "Yeah, I bet she's been raped." Because in the habit of projecting lives onto other people, we don't usually project the bad.  Or certainly that level of bad.

But in reality, the people you see every day are survivors.  They carry that with them.  Usually quietly, or shamefully, because of the society we live in.  Because that's what life is.  Every person I met on this trip has become part of my heart, because I heard their stories.  And I was there to be support for them as they shared it with the room.  And they were there as I shared mine.  The world won't won't change unless enough people stand up, raise their voices, and demand it.

This clip is the opening of Hear Us Roar 2016. It includes statistics and a poem about sexual violence.

This clip is the first half of my story.  It includes alcohol and sexual assault.

I'm so touched to have been able to share my story (especially without vomiting or passing out). I felt so supported by everyone involved, and I hope that they felt supported by me too.  I was honored to hear their stories and share in the moment with them.  I can't say that I'll always want to make the drive up to Marquette, but I hope this continues.  I hope it makes a difference, even if only the mind of one person that people suffer in silence and stigma every day.  The organization I volunteer with, the Listening Ear, is holding their own speak out April 28th.  If you're in the Lansing area and interested in attending, check out our Facebook page here.

Left to Right: Preston Hagerman, myself, Allie Kay, Kaitlyn Tramp, Taylor Blackmore, Liz Sommer, and Sarah Eggleston

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