Sexual Assault Survivors Tell Stories of Resiliency

The mission of the Powerful Voices Project is to educate, empower, and enhance the conversation around sexual assault and its survivors. We create short films illuminating the strength and resiliency that of sexual assault survivors.

The Project is about…

  • Empowering survivors who focus on their personal stories.
  • Preventing sexual abuse by raising awareness and for the first time, revealing the steps to recovery and resiliency.
  • Being grounded in principles of public health and best practices.
  • Our dedication to diversity and inclusiveness regarding gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, age, ethnicity, religion, geography, and class.

Watch our most recently released video:

steph

Stephanie Hamilton-Oravetz experienced very long-term abuse as a child at the hands of her psychiatrist father. As an adult, she has devoted her career to psychology and supporting vulnerable populations through their own trauma, all the while, keeping her own story deeply buried.

In 2014, realizing that she had a lifetime of emotional distance between herself and those she loves most, Stephanie has set out to release her story and express herself as a means to recovery, and her own resiliency. Stephanie is an accomplished photographer and a powerful voice in this movement.

Watch how photography, community, and her ability to speak out has impacted Stephanie’s journey.

Your story matters & you are not alone.

Contact us to explore telling your story and/or supporting our work.

“What do I do if no one believes me?” Healing from rape…

Untitled-1Few people would believe you if you told them there is something worse than rape, but there is: it’s finally finding the courage to speak up – to tell someone that you’ve been raped – only to be called a liar.

“All girls cry rape.”

“Guys can’t get raped.”

How many times have you heard someone say something like this? Dismissive comments hurt, especially when the victim just needs someone to talk to. Because, as they say, talking is the best therapy, so long as you can trust you’ll be listened to. Heard. Believed.

Being disbelieved is a survivor’s greatest fear.

According to Rape Response Services (RRSonline.org), there are “many different ways perpetrators use sexual violence to hurt their victims and there are many different ways in which people respond to sexual violence.” It does not matter if your trauma happened according to the rules that other people would agree upon. It does not matter if they would consider what happened to you as rape.

You know what happened because it happened to you and you were there. Not them. And it’s still bothering you because rape is an enormous challenge to heal from. If you’ve been hurt by someone not believing you, tell them this: according to The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault “false rape reports only happen 2% of the time.” That means 98% of the time someone is telling the truth. You’re telling the truth. You just need someone to talk to who will believe you. It’s the best way to heal.

Call a Sexual Assault Center: it’s a good place to start.

If you’re afraid that no one will believe you – or you’ve already found that the one person you entrusted with your story does not – go to a validated and trusted source of support for sexual abuse survivors. People at national and local sexual assault organizations are trained to not only help you handle the trauma, but also be there for you in support. If you have no one else to talk to, or are too afraid of being shut down by not being believed, start here. Call someone who you know will listen and start the conversation of your healing.

Don’t let the fear that others won’t believe you get in the way of finding the help and support you need.

You need help. You need support. And everyone is different.

Don’t let the fear of someone not believing you stop you from finding that one family member of friend who will. Or don’t let them stop you from seeking out professional help from a trained sexual assault volunteer or counselor. There are people out there, just for you. And they will believe you. Rape doesn’t happen in just one way to just one type of person and they understand that. Once you find someone to talk to who believes you, you can ask them to be involved in helping you talk to others who won’t, if you feel you need to tell all to help you heal. Everyone is different. Heal in your own way.

Don’t let other people’s perception or reaction deter you from speaking up and seeking help.

Out of a handful of people you might tell in your lifetime, some will believe you and others will not. It’s just the way it is. People often times have a set belief system in place, long before you speak up, that inhibits them from understanding, listening or even hearing you when it comes to rape. They will only believe what they believe to be true. But you don’t let their perception of what rape is or their reaction to hearing you speak about your experience stop you from healing. What one person or even a handful of people say of your story is not your story.

Be in control.

You own your story. This happened to you. Someone took away your control and you will get it back, right? So be the one in control of who you tell, how you tell, when you tell someone about your trauma. You pick the time, the place, the person. And you set up boundaries with yourself beforehand of how much information you want to give out and to whom. Some people will be able to hear it all and be there for you. Others will only be able to handle an ounce of what you’ve been through. And that’s okay. That is their reaction. Not yours. Do not allow their reaction – good or bad – be part of how you feel about what happened to you. Keep your story safe with you and only give out what you are comfortable telling. And to whom you are comfortable telling it to.

If there are some people in your inner circle that you don’t trust to believe you, don’t tell them. You do not owe anyone. You don’t have to tell anyone you don’t want to. This happened to you, so take charge in a way that helps you feel more in control over what happened. And even if you can only find one person who believes you and will listen, don’t let that get in the way of your healing. Sometimes all it takes is one person to be there for you to open the door within you that will lead you to a path of better healing. Whatever you chose to do, do what you need to do to stay in control and heal.

It’s okay to wait until you feel safe.

If you’ve just been assaulted or raped, report it ASAP. The authorities will help you find the support you need. But what do you do when it’s been years and it’s still eating at you? You still have the details and emotions rumbling in you?

Or what if you’re like me and you’ve talked until those who were there just don’t want to hear or talk about it anymore. What then? Many of us know what it’s like to still need to talk beyond the limits of what others think is normal or necessary.

Write. Create. Work. Run.

There is more than one way to help release the pain. Talking is one, but doing is another.

I know I feel like talking about what happened to me sometimes, even though it’s been more than two decades since it happened. I think the major reason I feel the need to still talk about it is because I held myself back due to fear. I wasn’t believed at first either. To this day I think some still have doubts and may think I’m still just “crying rape.” But I found that by writing my story and making it into a novel – even a fictionalized version – was just the right dose of catharsis I needed. It’s helped me find peace in ways that would have taken me years of therapy to unravel. It’s also given me just the right outlet to vent and talk as much as I need to. It doesn’t matter that everything I’ve written hasn’t made its way into the novel. It was the simple act of being able to just get it out that helped. And what’s more, it’s helped me feel absolute control over my trauma. In bringing my story out through the act of writing, I have total control over how my story is told and to who. And I get to use my novel as a tool to help others heal! Talk about empowerment.

Of course, there are days when I’m still afraid of not being believed. Surviving from this type of trauma is funny that way. You can be at the pinnacle of your healing and have been in a place of peace and light, free from it all for years and still, once in a while, have a taste of doubt creep in.

But, again, don’t despair.

Through writing my novel Waiting for Paint to Dry, my story and character helped me learn something quite valuable:  Healing may very well be a lifelong journey, but healing isn’t always painful. Some healing is quite fun! Just keep in mind, through the nature of our own creativity, we can find ways to help vent frustrations and emotion. Writing. Cooking. Painting. Running. There are more than a few ways that can help empower us that heal us too.

Healing. It’s not easy. It’s not clean. But if you find it helpful to be in control of who you tell, how you tell and when you tell your story, do it any way you feel fit. It will totally release you.

If you’re about to talk about your trauma with someone who you’re not sure will believe you – or you’ve just talked to someone who didn’t believe you – check this out. It’s a list of what NOT to say to a survivor, along with an extended list of what TO say what will help us all heal.

And good luck. I believe you.

End CSA NOW! EVENT – Save the Date

Join us in bringing awareness, prevention, and dialogue
to end child sexual abuse.

End Child Sexual Abuse NOW!
>>>EVENT<<<

Saturday, April 19, 1:30 – 4:30pm
Oakland Asian Cultural Center
388 9th Street, Oakland

As many of you know myself and 8 community members have been working to create an event that emphasizes the importance of community involvement to end child sexual abuse (CSA) and increase visibility of those impacted by it.

Please SAVE THE DATE. This event will include:

  • Discussions about current efforts being made to address CSA;
  • Community forum to bring voice to those impacted by CSA;
  • Special film screening of preliminary footage from You Me and the Fruit Trees;
  • Resources and information sharing;
  • Healing arts activity;
  • Most importantly, we want to bring visibility to this largely shrouded issue by leading a community march to the local city hall as a call to action!

Parts of the event will be filmed for the documentary my team and I are currently producing. It’s a character driven film that follows several survivors of CSA and includes leaders in the movement to end child sexual abuse as well as other community members impacted by CSA. For more information on this documentary please visit: Trailer

We are also thrilled and honored to share that the City of Berkeley unanimously passed our proclamation to recognize “End Child Sexual Abuse NOW!” as a day in Berkeley. We have a whole lot to celebrate and hope you can be there April 19th to celebrate with us!

Please share this invitation with your networks through social media, tweet it, post it and forward this post to your friends, co-workers and family.  Invite your friends on Facebook here:  End CSA EVENT

Stay tune for a list of speakers and more details.

Together we can end CSA!

Tracey Quezada –info@traceyquezadaproductions.com
&
Danielle Castro – Danielle.castro@ucsf.edu