By Dajonea Robinson
Ravin Craig, health educator at Humboldt State University, feels that the power of surviving is different for everyone because. Not everyone will feel like a survivor when it comes to sexualized violence. “Survivor” was not a label that Craig used for a long time. It wasn’t until she was much older until she heard that word.
“When I first heard it, I rejected that word completely,” Craig said. “Later the word survivor became to mean a lot to me. I think it’s really powerful to claim that this didn’t beat me, it didn’t stop me from existing it and didn’t stop me from moving on. There’s a lot of power in surviving but it’s not the only way.”
It’s a personal choice to tell one’s truth but if whomever chooses to can it can be incredibly powerful.
Take Back the Night 2017 is a week of events to bring awareness to sexualized violence as it’s meant empower survivors as is dismantles the cycle of abuse among survivors; whether it be female, male, trans or non gender conforming people. Take Back the Night week gives survivors a platform to reclaim self worth as one reclaim control of their life. It allows survivors of sexual assault to feel supported as they stand in solidarity with their allies. Take back the night week is a time where education and deconstruction of internalized culture happens s resistance flourishes.
“The first time I went to Take Back the Night I heard other people talk about things that also happened to me and say them out loud,” Craig said. “It was something that nobody talked about at all, and I couldn’t understand what was happening. I went to Take Back the Night by accident the first time. It is incredibly powerful to be able to have a space where you can say something that you have had your whole life that you couldn’t talk about before. To then have people there to listen and hear you, be compassionate and not judge you based off [your story], for me it was instrumental to my survivorship.”
Craig was not sure why she chose to share her truth at the “Survivor’s Speak Out” of Take Back the Night.
“ I was so emotional and so heartbroken that I felt that I was going to explode if I didn’t say something at that point,” Craig said. “The first time I talked at TBTN it was similar and I kind of hoped to help other people who were like me. [I spoke up] so they can know that there is somebody else like them walking around on campus. Now as a staff member who is not a student I really feel that way.”
Craig believes that it is important to have people in faculty and staff positions who are also survivors of sexualized violence. Not saying that people should be survivors but, mainly representation is important.
Craig says she doesn’t know where her courage came from to speak against her injustices during TBTN.
“I don’t know about the word courage because, mostly I’m terrified especially when I’m talking about it,” Craig said. “Maybe it’s courageous to do something even though you’re scared. It’s really hard for me to identify with the word courageous but mostly I try to do what I can. Sometimes things come out wrong and sometimes they come out well. I think for me, my family [is my] point of courage, my community and myself as I get to know myself.”
Craig believes that reclaiming one’s strength can come in many ways. It’s all about education, and doing the work to resist rape culture through changing people’s minds. Craig does this by telling her story out loud as often as she can. She believes that this courageous act can be reclaiming and extremely empowering.
“I think that for survivors it’s okay to have your survivorship be the way that it is,” Craig said. “It doesn’t have to be the way that other people exist. Your story and your experience is your experience and it doesn’t have to be anyone else’s. So don’t let anyone tell you that you have to forgive, and don’t let anybody tell you you have to be angry. You don’t have to be a certain way or at a certain stage. Get help if you need it because there are people who are willing to support you.”
Oceana Madrone, artist for the Arcata Artisans Gallery believes that it is important to share your story because when someone keeps a secret they’re isolated and alone. That isolation and that secrecy keeps the alone. when they start to tell their story they realize that they’re not alone. Madrone also has confidence that it is also an important part of the healing process because, it’s the beginning of the healing process.
“I wanted to offer a ray of hope to other survivors who are at the beginning of their healing journey,” Madrone said. “I could feel the pain and the feeling of being hopeless as though it’s always going to be this way. Because, I’m older I’ve had so many years to work on my healing process and I know that it is possible and it is so worth it. I’ve gone from hating myself to liking myself and everybody should like themselves. (Insert warm chuckle). I’ve gone from feeling unloved and unlovable to being cared for, and that is a feeling that everyone should be able to experience. When you don’t love yourself you don’t really believe that everyone else should love you, even if they do you don’t believe that you should because you don’t love yourself.”
Madrone says that allies must offer support and try not to take over the healing process for somebody else. Allies can offer love and support while they do it for themselves. Madrone resists by telling her story and by going to counseling for many years.
“I found my voice through art by making quilts, gals and beadwork,” Madrone said. “ I found my voice through that and I could share [it] with other people that also can be helped with my healing process.”
Madrone also found her voice by finding people who believed her and gave their full support without questioning her. There’s a lot about victim blaming without actually hearing the victim. Madrone thinks that everyone can end sexualized violence by standing together and not accepting rape culture as a normal standard. To resist and boycott movies and books that involves sexualized violence. Yet most importantly,
“[We must] hold the people who do [sexualized crimes] accountable, it takes the community to do that. We can’t expect a survivor to do it alone.”
Paula Arrowsmith-Jones, community outreach facilitator and campus advocate for North County Rape Crisis Team, said that the power of surviving can be regaining of some sense of control. This can be done by survivors making their own decisions of how to move forward. It’s also important to have their choices respected because it is their choice.
“Sharing of truth and being believed is important for some people at Take Back The Night,” Arrowsmith-Jones said.” “It can be more private for some people, the thread of it all is being listened to and believed. They do not have to speak out it is their decision. No one asks and no one deserves to be hurt. Survivors are often blamed for their assault. So anyone must not pass any judgement of any choices the survivor made because, that was the best choice for them at the time. The beauty of working at the Rape Crisis Center is being able to witness the healing of survivors as they manifest their own future because, healing is possible.”
North Coast Rape Crisis 24 Hour Hotlines
Del Norte:(707) 465-2851
Humboldt: (707) 445-2881
HSU Women’s Resource Center
Office Phone: (707) 826-4216