Today, we our honored to introduce the incredible Dallas, Dallas is the founder of The Survivor's Toolbox. The Survivor's Toolbox provides resources to survivors through a a series of videos. Your can listen to Dallas's Podcast Episode here.
Check out her blog interview below!
Why did you start your organization?
Finding the support and information you need after a sexual assault can be extremely difficult. While there is information out on the internet, it is all based in text, and can be challenging to navigate. Our organization wanted to fill this hole of information, by creating easily digestible short video segments for survivors. Through this web series we hope that survivors will have access to the information they need to make informed decisions about their future.
What would be the best way one could find out more information about your organization?
We offer tools, and resources for survivors and allies through our website: www.survivorstoolbox.com. From there you can also join our mailing list, where we send out updates and important resources for survivors on a bi-monthly basis. You can also find out more about our work through our Instagram @survivorstoolbox
Out of everything that you do with your organization, what would be the first area you would recommend a survivor to turn to. First and foremost we are a video platform. Our short and informative videos offer survivors an insight into tools that could help them make informed decisions about steps to take after an assault. We cover topics from getting a rape kit, to going to the police, to working through trauma. We also fill our Instagram feed with inspiring words to help survivors who are looking for inspiration to get through the day, and feel a little less alone in their healing journey.
What impact do you hope to make? Through our web series we hope that more people will have a better understanding of what steps they can take after an assault. Through understanding their rights and resources, survivors can choose what steps are best for them individually. By offering tools, resources, and uplifting content to survivors we also hope to give people an opportunity to feel less alone, to create a digital and physical community that can grow and heal together.
What advice do you have for survivors? It is hard for me to give any solid advice to anyone living outside of my own experience. I think each individual has to keep finding ways that work best for them to heal and move through their painful experiences. For me it was telling my story. I told my story so many times, to so many people, that eventually it stopped having so much power over me.
The only advice I can offer is to be patient with yourself, know there is no right or wrong way to move through life after an assault. Each day is a new day and all we can do is try what feels best for you in the moment. Find a community of people who you trust, who you can honestly talk to about your experience and fill your world with affirmations of hope, instead of fear.
What help if any do you offer for survivor’s family and friends? The video resources provided by the Survivor’s Toolbox are a great resource guide for anyone who knows a survivor. The more informed we are as a collective, the more present we can be for those who may have experienced assault. These videos are guides for not only survivors, but also their friends and families. If you are supporting someone who is still experiencing trauma and PTSD, or trying to decide what to do after an assault, these videos may help give you a frame of reference for what they are experiencing and offer information that could be helpful.
The more you know, the more you can help the communities around you. It is not always on the victim to seek out the healing for themself, it is necessary for communities to gather around those most vulnerable.
How important do you think it is to establish a support system? For my personal healing process having a support system was incredibly important. I did not build this network quickly. It took me years to develop a sense of solid community. If at first you feel very alone try not to get lost in the feelings of loneliness, know that if you keep searching you will find networks of people who you can connect with. Looking for advocacy groups, and even online forums, can help a survivor to feel they are not alone.
What do you do when your not running your organization? I live in New York, which is the town of the renaissance human. Before the quarantine began I was working as a teaching artists, teaching filmmaking to young adults. I’m a photographer turned filmmaker. Most of my work focuses on queerness, gender and body positivity.
What inspires you to keep going? I was assaulted 10 years ago. For nearly 7 of those years only 3 people knew what had happened. I carried around guilt and shame and unspoken trauma for all of those years. That story is sadly a quite universal tale. There is no reason why survivors should be carrying the weight of the violent actions taken against them. What inspires me to keep going is the faith that through knowledge and open communication we can end cycles of shame and guilt, and develop communities of love and compassion.
What advice do you have for someone that wants to help others heal? Listen. People start to heal the moment they begin to feel heard. If you know someone who is feeling pain, deeply listen to what they are saying. Be open to understanding their truth, and consider the strength of empathy. If someone is in real danger, or you see them turning towards avenues that seem unsafe for them, offer them resources to look into. It can also be helpful to offer to help them find a therapist, or go to a support group. When someone is experiencing trauma, often these small tasks can seem extraordinarily hard. Help them do the little things, these will add up to big steps towards healing.
What struggles did you face when starting your organization? There are still a lot of struggles we face. Mostly we have run into some challenges finding monetary support to continue our work. I know this is true of so many organizations, and we are lucky enough to have a lot of support through people who have offered their time for free. However, as a collective working to produce solid film content, paying for studio spaces, equipment fees, and for film crew has really capped the potential of creating life changing content for survivors.
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? People are finally starting to understand the importance of healing. In this movement some of the most important advancements being made are that survivors are finally feeling the freedom to come out about their stories and look for the help they need to work through their traumas. There are some incredible advocates working on the frontline for new legislation in the government, and this work is incredibly important. But sometimes the most revolutionary act, can be the choice to stay still and do the inner work so you can move through the world without trauma.
I think a lot of responsibility gets put on survivors to be at the forefront of making change. This responsibility should not land on the victim. Working towards these initiatives should be a shared job among the many.
These movements have made it more possible for survivors to speak out about their stories. When #MeToo first hit the internet, a flood of silenced voices were released. These stories of assault and violence had been trapped inside people for years. Now that these stories are out in the open, I believe survivors feel less alone. We now know there is a whole community of others who collectively share similar feelings, and processes of healing. This opening has allowed for
people to ask for help, and for others to be more open to offering resources. Our society can only become better if we collectively begin to heal, movements like the #MeToo movement offer opportunity for that healing.
One of Voices of Hope's campaign is called #BeAVoice. How can you be a voice for those that feel they are silenced? I hope that by sharing these resources to those who may feel silenced that they might learn to understand they do have a voice. My goal is not to speak for anyone, but help others feel the power behind their own words.
What is exciting and upcoming for your organization? What is the best way to get in touch with you? We have a lot of exciting resources becoming available over the next few months. Currently we have a weekly online, event series. Each week we will be hosting a different teacher who will be giving a course on trauma informed wellness.
Depending on how this current world wide crisis evolves, we are hoping to go on the road this summer. We will be hosting large gatherings of advocates and artists sharing their work and local resources. If you live in Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland or New York, we hope to see you out there. Also please let us know if you would like to be involved in helping bring the events together.
The best way to contact our organization is by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
What are your social media handles? @survivorstoolbox
Desdemona Dallas Bio http://www.desdemonadallas.com
Desdemona Dallas is a non-binary photographer, writer, filmmaker and advocate for survivors of sexual assault. Desdemona has been involved in creating media campaigns aimed at raising awareness for sexual violence including the #HealMeToo campaign and "The Rape Tax” which won the Bronze Lion for Change at the Cannes media awards in 2018. Desdemona has worked closely with advocates from the National Organization of Women to amplify the voices of survivors to make change within the legal system. In 2018 Desdemona spoke out against the NYPD’s handling of rape cases in a city council meeting. Their story was covered by the New York Post and Wall Street Journal. Beyond their work as an advocate Desdemona has worked as a photographer for outlets such as BUST, The Village Voice, High Country News and Huffington Post. As a filmmaker they have collaborated on award winning music videos and for a variety of nonprofits, creating media to uplift the stories of those working to create a positive impact.