Today, Voices of Hope is so pumped to introduce to you Rashonda Wilson the Founder of I'm a Survivor Inc. You will be able to find out more about her and her organization here, and on the Unveil your Voice Podcast which can be found here.
Why did you start your organization?
When I was sexually assaulted, I noticed there weren't many organizations available to adult women, only support groups for children, teenagers, and college kids. Through God's grace, I found the Sasha Center, who offered support services to African American women, who are self-identified survivors of sexual assault. They provided me with the tools for healing, tools for starting an organization, but most significantly, they were there for me during my high and low moments. My support group was my new family. The support group also offered an educational piece for awareness. I remember one particular session that focuses on the myths, stigmas, and stereotypes of Black women and rape. It was a disturbing and uncomfortable conversation. I guess to hear about how society views black women shook my core. There were many stereotypes, but these are a few that pricked my heart:
Black women cannot get raped.
Discussion about rape in the Black family is taboo.
Black women are the cause of the rape (dressing provocative, flirting, acting "fast")
I was disgusted to know that our society still perpetuate these beliefs that has roots from slavery. So, I thought about my slave ancestors. Black women slaves were raped often, if not everyday. If they told, they were threatened with lynching, whipping, or death. They were silenced. The law did not protect them, family did not protect them, or society did not protect them. They had to rely on God for healing, which meant they dealt with the trauma and healing alone. This same narrative followed them when they became freed slaves. Then, they were presented with a new set of issues that involved sexual and domestic violence by their husband and white supremacist groups like the klansman or white officials. Once again, society still did not protect the black woman, family did not protect the black woman, the justice system did not protect the black woman. Again, the were silenced. Many Black women died without healing, without receiving justice, without sharing their stories. This trauma has manipulated the DNA of Black women and the DNA of America. Now, we have a generation of Black Women, who don't know when they have been raped or don't want to tell that they were raped. We live in a society that continues to perpetuate the stereotypes that Black Women cannot get raped or blames Black Women for getting raped. We have a justice system that continues to silence Black women. Along with America, the Black family continues to blame Black women for the rape and continues to silence Black women. I founded I'm A Survivor to encourage and empower Minority women, who are self-identified survivors to tell their stories, provide them with the tools to heal, and speaking up against these stigmas, stereotypes, and myths that Black women cannot get raped. What would be the best way one could find out more information about your organization? www.imasurvivorinc.us Out of everything that you do with your organization, what would be the first area you would recommend a survivor to turn to.
Support Groups. Survivors should join a support group because its made up of other survivors, with a common goal of healing. We are people created out of love. Love is crucial to our healing process. We are also people who need community. When we join a support group, this is a community that encourage one another, love one another, and believes each other's healing is possible. I strongly believe support groups are needed in order to transform into your new identity as a Survivor. What do you do when your not running your organization?
I'm pursuing a doctorate in trauma studies I work full time, as a patent law analyst I run to online boutiques: Aunt Nettie's Boutique and MI Holistic Healing I love herbs, essential oils, and natural healing mechanisms. What inspires you to keep going?
When I open my eyes, God blessed me with another opportunity to encourage and empower women to survivor, as well as, educate the community on sexual assault awareness. Also, as long as we have a patriarchal society, I will always be inspired to do this work. What advice to you have for someone that wants to start their own non-profit or business?
"JUST DO IT" We ALL are on a spiritual journey. We ALL have stories and experiences that will help others in their journey or that may possibly save a life. God entrusted these experiences to us because He knew that we deliver his vision and give him the glory. When we get that burning feeling inside, that's God telling us it's time to give birth to the vision. God will equip us with our needs to be successful, all we need to do is give birth and plan. So, when you get that burning feeling, JUST DO IT. Don't let fear stop you from helping others. I remember returning to church after a two month hiatus. My Pastor's sermon, I'm A Survivor touched my heart in such a way that I knew I was healed. My mind and heart transformed. I felt a weight or grip loosen on my mind and heart. I knew at that moment, I had a duty and obligation to help others while I was still living. We have an obligation to help each other on our journey. What struggles did you face when starting your organization?
Finding dedicated people with the same passion to help run the organization. Time - Working 40 hours and still building an organization was a challenge. Their is no time for sleep. Fear. Currently, I'm struggling with venues because of a fear of safety. With the #MeToo movement and more attention given to sexual abuse, harassment, and assault, what messages do you hope will rise to the surface?
What are the most important takeaways? Viola Davis stated, "Sexual Assault is everywhere." The #metoo movement has proven and validated her statement. The #metoo movement has exposed the ugly truth and has forced America to have these uncomfortable conversations. Most importantly, male privilege has FINALLY been challenged and women's voices FINALLY matter. Do you think is mental health is being addressed, in relation to rape survivors and in general, effectively in the US? Where do you think there's still room for improvement? No, I do not think mental health is addressed properly in the U.S. When people hear of PTSD, they immediately associate PTSD with veterans. Not realizing that survivors of trauma also suffer from PTSD. We see this in the responses of Police officers, attorneys, judges, politicians, media, and everyday people. They commonly ask the following question, "how come they didn't say anything when it happened?" They don't understand how rape changes the brain's activity. They expect for survivors to function "normally." I believe we need to dispel the myth that rape is sex. Also, officials need training on the dynamics of rape and how it affects the brain. So, they can appropriate respond to rape survivors. We need to change these antiquated ideological apparatuses that dictate our social systems, educational and justice systems. We need to recreate systems that are not founded on racism, sexism, misogyny, or xenophobia. Now that so many people see scope of the problem, how do we deal with how repugnant our beliefs are?
We need to continue speaking out against injustices. We need to be a voice for those who can't or won't speak up. We need to educate our communities about sexual assault awareness. Most significantly, all organizations must work together to create the change. With #MeToo and #TimesUp, what impact do you feel they have made and how have they impacted you? One of Voices of Hope's campaign is called #BeAVoice. How can you be a voice for those that feel they are silenced?
#metoo and #timesup has forced America to see the ugly truth and have the uncomfortable conversations about the value of women in this society. I'm A Survivor will continue providing programs that spread awareness and partnering with other organizations with the same mission. Currently, I have been researching rape stories of Black Women who have been forgotten and silenced. I built a virtual museum to reclaim their voice. We are also planning a clotheslines project that brings awareness to the issue of women, men, and children. It is a means of expressing their emotions by decorating t-shirts. I'm A Survivor will continue to offer live and online support groups that focuses on healing and self-care. Last but not least, I'm A Survivor will continue to celebrate Survivors at the Annual I'm A Survivor Conference. What is the best way to get in touch with you?
Via telephone at 248-238-7890, you can call or text.
What are your social media handles?
Twitter: @imasurvivorinc Instagram: imasurvivorinc Etsy: Aunt Nettie's Boutique Bio of I'm a Survivor Inc. I'm A Survivor encourages minority women, who are self-identified survivors of sexual assault, healing through daily prayer and affirmations and weekly bible studies and self-care group sessions - relying on the presence of a Higher Being to heal the mind, body and soul. I'm A Survivor empowers minority women, who are self-identified survivors of sexual assault, to boldly share their stories at "Take Back The Night" ceremonies and speak up against sexual assault in the Detroit Metropolitan. I'm A Survivor educates communities in the Detroit Metropolitan Area on sexual assault awareness with the objective of reducing the 14.8% of completed rapes and the 2.8% of attempted rapes in the Detroit Metropolitan Area. Upcoming Events have been cancelled.