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ONE BILLION RISING: Why I Rise, My Story
“One Billion Rising” is a worldwide campaign launch of V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls because 1 in every 3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten during their lifetime. I rise because I am 1 of the 3 women to experience this violence and now have the opportunity, inner strength and collective support to end the silence and share my story. I rise because it will help me and others continue the healing process. I rise with 200 countries signed up to participate along with world leaders, celebrities, organizations and activists ready to Strike, Dance, and Rise because it’s time to say, “Enough! The violence must end.” (The “V” in V-Day means Victory, Valentine and Vagina).
I love the fact that dancing is involved in the “One Billion Rising” campaign because from the time I was a child, dancing helped me diffuse anger and stress. If I was upset, I would go to my room, put on some music and dance until the music and movement generated a sense of calm that overshadowed the negative emotions. Music and dance have also become a source of great joy, during my adult years. They empower me to encourage myself and always shift and lift my emotions, spirit and attitude from low to high gear.
While a 17-year old naïve college freshman, I went to a dorm party at a neighboring school where I over-drank and had to be escorted by 'friends' to a dorm room until they were ready to travel back to our dorm facility. I had made several mistakes that night- not sticking to one type of drink, not eating enough to absorb the alcohol, and not knowing my alcohol limit. I was nauseous to the point of vomiting and fell into a drunken sleep. The last thing I remember about the evening was being whisked down the stairs by my roommate’s boyfriend, who assisted me from the dorm room to his car. I experienced the rest of the night as a dream:
In the dream, I was still at the party, but the room was empty of people with the exception of an unknown guy who kept pushing up on me. I was in an intoxicated stupor, stretched out on this wooden wall bench, pushing the guy away from me saying, “No! Leave me alone, I just want to sleep.”
I woke up the next morning in my own bed, feeling discomfort in my vaginal area. I asked my roommate, who was across the room in bed with her boyfriend, “Did something happen last night, my body feels strange?” Her boyfriend responded, “I’m going to leave, I think y’all need to talk.” After he left, she proceeded to tell me that once we returned to our dorm facility, she helped me undress and get in bed. Then she allowed her boyfriend and a known friend of his come into the room. Her boyfriend got in bed with her and they neglected to stop the 'friend' from getting in bed with me. I guess the dreamstate was my body’s way of processing the experience in a manner that would help me maintain my sanity.
THE SILENT RAGE
Prior to college, I had lived a sheltered life growing up book smart, but ignorant to the ways of the world and the dark nature of people. I did make out some during high school, but maintained certain boundaries and had never been penetrated before this incident. The rape created my first experience with feelings of hate. Ironically, I never blamed my roommate or processed her part in it during my time in college. She was a few years older than me with three young children that visited occasionally on weekends.
After the rape, she would let him come by the room to watch television as her alleged way of helping me confront him and deal with my emotions. He was always nonchalant, acting as if he never did anything wrong or at all for that matter. I would fume whenever he was in the room, feeling as if my head would explode from the rage bottled within my being. However, word had gotten out around the school and I withdrew into an emotional shell, internalizing the shame and suppressing the hate. I remember getting off the campus bus one morning to attend class and felt like I was in the scene from the cult classic movie "Carrie" when she said, "They're all gonna laugh at me." It seemed as if people were looking at me and talking about me knowingly, so I turned around and got back on the bus, returned to my room and hid under the covers.
I never spoke up to him, her, school administration or the police. But, I was eventually able to release the intense emotion that was eating me from the inside out through reading the Daily Guideposts devotionals and soul cries to a God I hadn’t personally met yet. It took 20-years before I could fully comprehend what transpired because I had experienced it as a dream and buried it in silence. A spiritual writing assignment in 1997 triggered the memory, resulting in a mental and emotional meltdown as if the incident had just happened. I wept uncontrollably for hours.
I have been doing the internal work to forgive and heal myself from the damaging experiences I endured throughout my life, but it is thanks to the One Billion Rising campaign that I am compelled to finally tell this story in its entirety at such a time as this. I’ve been releasing bits of it over the last few years of telling my truth out loud and have found that in sharing my life experiences from a position of power and healing, it helps to heal others and gives them permission to do the same.
I am grateful for V-Day’s 15th Anniversary event on February 14th and the opportunity to join in this collective effort of love, awareness and power to educate and protect all women and girls from becoming a statistic of violence. I rise in support with my articles, video, promotion, poem and truth.
I choose to Strike/ Dance/ Rise!