We are honored to introduce you to Brittney Herman, the founder of We will Organization. She took some time out of her day to answer a few questions for us about herself and her organization. She is also featured on our Unveil your Voice Podcast here.
Why did you start your organization?
I was sexually assaulted as a teenager and felt like my assault could have been prevented. I decided to complete a research paper which focused on whether sexual assault could be prevented through public education and the answer was that it was indeed preventable. Once I had this information I knew that I had to do something with it so I looked for nonprofits which had this goal of promoting sexual assault prevention education and there wasn’t one- so I started one myself.
What would be the best way one could find out more information about your organization?
The best way to find out more information is to visit our website WeWillOrg.com or to visit our Instagram @we.will.organization.
Out of everything that you do with your organization, what would be the first area you would recommend a survivor to turn to.
I would recommend the survivor simply fill out the contact form on our website or to message us on Instagram. Each assault is different and each survivor is different and needs supports in various ways but the number one thing is to tell someone. The first time writing out your experience is so powerful as a survivor and so much healing comes from acknowledging what happened to and acknowledging it was wrong. Additionally, by simply telling me and my organization what happened we can help guide the survivor to the next step that is best for them. My organization is all about listening to survivors so we will listen and help them to determine their next step.
What impact do you hope to make?
We Will is dedicated to the prevention and mitigation of the effects of sexual assault. We will eradicate assault. I believe that making this goal is the only acceptable goal. I will continue fighting until women, men, and children are safe from this horrific social ill.
What advice do you have for survivors?
Tell someone. If you haven’t told anybody I absolutely recommend that you reach out to a trusted family member, friend, or organization like my own to gain support. I carried around the burden of my sexual assault alone for years and it took me to a very dark place. When I finally told someone what happened to me I felt like a physical burden was lifted off of my shoulders. Letting someone else into my story allowed the light to come back in as well. Find someone you trust, talk to them, and let the light in.
What help if any do you offer for survivor’s family and friends?
On our webpage we have a section called “Survivor Resources” which aims to get survivors the help they need. In this section of the webpage we have advice titled “How to Talk to A Survivor of Sexual Assault” which offers tips on how they can best support the survivor and how to avoid making the survivor feel worse about what happened and I recommend taking a look at that webpage now. You never know when a friend or family member will come to you and say something happened so I think it’s critical to be prepared and to support them. We also encourage the family members and friends of survivors to contact us directly to ask for advice and resources for the survivor where needed. We have even worked with survivors and their families to best communicate regarding the assault.
How important do you think it is to establish a support system?
It is absolutely critical. Easing your burden and the trauma of your assault will only come as you talk to others. Your support system could be family, friends, therapist, other survivors, or even communities available in organizations such as We Will and Voices of Hope!
What do you do when your not running your organization?
I am a law student at Brigham Young University in Utah. I will graduate in April with my Juris Doctor degree and I am incredibly excited! I will go to Georgetown in the Fall to obtain a specialty law degree in taxation. I also love spending time working out, trying out new recipes, and swimming.
What inspires you to keep going?
The survivors. I have the opportunity to post a survivor’s story every week and I am often overwhelmed with the responses and support they receive. In turn, the survivor who was featured will often message me and express the comfort they received in the outpouring of love from our community. Other survivors will often then message me and express sentiments that their story was like the one featured and that they took great comfort in reading it. It is these messages that keep me going because I know what I’m doing is making a difference.
What advice to you have for someone that wants to start their own non-profit or business?
Just go for it. If you have the passion for it start now. Take a minute, right now as you are reading this to think about what your first step will be. In the next 24 hours, I want you to take that step. Do it now and let your passion fuel you.
What struggles did you face when starting your organization?
Time is a major constraint but I have also been surprised with the number of people who oppose what I am doing. I can’t imagine why anyone would oppose the prevention of sexual assault and helping survivors, but people have been surprisingly negative about my whole movement. These critics only fuel my fire further and convince me why it is we need to continue working on the mission of not only educating the public regarding the benefits of sexual assault prevention as well as removing the stigma against 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?
One of the most important messages and takeaways that I hope comes through is just for survivors that they are not alone. No one is alone in their experiences. I may not understand exactly how another survivor’s assault felt, and she might not understand mine, but knowing that someone else at least begins to understand the extent of your pain is critical. As survivors learn that they are not alone, and as we talk about assault, we will remove the shame behind assault. Once shame is removed, survivors begin to recover, they can seek help, and they will know that they are not to blame.
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?
I think it’s being addressed but we still have a long way to go until these services are where they need to be. Mental health centers need to distribute information regarding the resources available, communities need to encourage others to seek these resources, and support systems need to support survivors in this manner. Costs for such resources should be reduced and these resources need to be made more widely available. Until then, we are not doing enough.
Now that so many people see scope of the problem, how do we deal with how repugnant our beliefs are?
This all needs to go back to de-shaming survivors. We need to better learn how to listen to survivors, seek to understand them, and start with believing them. As we do so, we will learn from survivors what they need and have the ability to better address the problems survivors face. As communities learn to accept survivors beliefs will change and survivors will know that their communities are behind them.
The #MeToo movement is actually what caused me to tell my story in the first place. I saw the movement taking place on social media so I did the same and decided in that moment that I could serve others by sharing my story and using my story for good much like those who started the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. It took time, but because of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements I was able to recover from my assault and begin working toward building my organization.
One of Voices of Hope's campaign is called #BeAVoice. How can you be a voice for those that feel they are silenced?
I personally choose to be a voice through sharing the experiences I have had. I have unfortunately been through multiple sexual assaults. I have shared each one of these stories. My stories vary in circumstances and in nature. In reading other survivors’ stories, I have empathized with them and sometimes felt my own burden eased. By sharing my experiences, I believe I have been a voice for those in many situations and circumstances and hopefully eased their burdens.
What is exciting and upcoming for your organization?
We have compiled a collection of survivors stories that we are publishing in book form and then we have a children’s book coming out! Also, the research paper that I wrote proving that sexual assault is preventable through sexual assault prevention education will be published in a tier one academic journal this spring so I am really hoping that this will influence policymakers and lawmakers in a profound way.
What is the best way to get in touch with you?
Email email@example.com or message me on social media!
What are your social media handles?
We Will Instagram: @we.will.organization
Personal Instagram: @brittney_herman