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Standing Up Against Sexual Violence: Four Women Share their Stories

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We reached out to four brilliant women who shared their stories and definitions of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

As Women’s History Month comes to an end, women continue to make history and educate and stand in solidarity with one another. Now we approach the month of April, where we focus on one of the biggest problems for women and femmes: sexual assault. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and HEREYOUARE stands behind women’s voices and their stories.

 

 

In this video, four creative women speak about their experiences and understanding of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape through their own interactions and experiences with men. I initially interviewed them about sexual harassment in the workplace. The conversation quickly transitioned into the sharing of their deep personal experiences, and why they need to talk about it today.

 

 

Amber is a photographer who focuses her work on talking about these issues of rape in the Black female community. She uses her platform to photograph women with strength, dignity, and beauty, without the male gaze.

Brandy is a filmmaker who has had multiple experiences of men making her uncomfortable in the workplace. On her film sets she makes it priority to hire as many women as possible to create a safe work environment for everyone.

Bethel is a writer and scholar who has helped me clean up a few of my radical essays about sexual and domestic violence. She continues to push borders with her “Black Radical Museum Enthusiasm” Instagram account, highlighting women of color artists and creating space for educational dialogue on the issues that black and brown women face.

Whitney is a woman of many trades, but what stood out to me was her NTS radio show about sex, “Whits & Giggles”. Not only does Whitney and her co-host, Shelley Holcomb, gives us great sex tips, but they challenge us to embrace our sexuality while acknowledging the responsibilities that come alongwith that.

 

 

As women, we have grown to bite our tongues when spoken to inappropriately. In the workplace and the real world, we must constantly question when a man’s actions are inappropriate, and learn to code-switch in order to suppress our own feelings, comfort and truth. There has been no adequate education on the definitions of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape, and furthermore, how to deal with it if the time comes.

In the 21st century, these “taboo” topics are now constant conversations in media, television, and film. Through the power of social media, we are able to share our stories and heal together in real and virtual worlds. Sharing our stories will continue to expand our definitions of consent, and what constitutes as sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.

All four women reinstate the silent fears and feelings that many women have. We keep our mouths shut in fear of making a fuss. We blame ourselves when we are violated sexually, mentally, or physically. We continue to question ourselves and our actions instead of the people who have hurt us.

Let’s start calling it out for what it is. It was rape. It was sexual harassment. It was sexual assault. Let us share the stories that left us feeling wrongfully ashamed. Let us discuss trauma, victim blaming, and the societal structures that force women to sweep trauma under the rug. Let us heal as a community.

We are no longer standing in silence.

 

 

Check out Ciarra Walter’s work on their website.

Ciarra K. Walters is a Los Angeles-based artist, photographer and writer originally from Prince George’s County, Maryland. She is a former writer for Solange’s cultural hub, Saint Heron, Vice i-D, and has had three solo art exhibitions in both Los Angeles and New York. She focuses on the underfed narratives of women and POC, and asks the question why we are the way we are and how we become who we are. Her work is an invitation for viewers to explore the relationship between themselves and the story being presented.
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