Speak Your Truth

Two friends turn a painful common thread into a call to action.

  • Category
    Health, People
  • Written by
    Tanya and Lenora
  • Photographed by
    Kimber Brown

It was a night out in mid-November of last year. A few of my local South Bay girlfriends decided it was high time to have a girls’ night out of “the bubble.” We Ubered to Venice Beach, where our lighthearted conversation quickly turned to all the Harvey Weinstein allegations that were top of mind in the wake of the powerful force of the #MeToo campaign.

The four of us sat down at the dinner table, and a heavy conversation ensued. We were talking about the fact that everyone has a story, and it was at this moment I chose to share mine. I must first begin by saying that I never thought in a million years that I would ever share this story so openly with them, let alone all of you reading this. But I have had lots of therapy (in my later life), which has helped me get to this point. So I opened up, and I told them my truth.

I was 6 years old when I was sexually abused by someone my family knew. I had held onto that secret because of the immense shame I felt, but through a lot of hard work and loving support, I moved through it. I do not feel the weight and silence of that shame anymore. I have freed myself from it, and it does not define who I am.

My friends at the table responded lovingly and with support. They are wonderful people. But at the same time, I sensed a very heavy, quiet energy from my friend Lenora seated to the right of me. She said she had a story but wasn’t ready to share at that moment. I told her I understood and would be there when she was ready.

A few days later she called me, and we met for dinner. I could tell she had to unload, and I just told her to start. She read me a letter she had written to the perpetrator of her abuse, describing what had happened and calling him out for what he did to her.

At the end of that letter, she signed off, “Your daughter.” I had no words. I was shocked to the core. I looked at this stunningly beautiful woman, felt her pain, and we cried together right there in the restaurant.

It was in that moment that we created a sisterhood. By opening up about our story more and more to others, we came to find out that most of our friends had a story as well. This fueled in us the need to speak our truth even wider, so our example could perhaps help others speak theirs.

The reason sexual harassment and sexual abuse are so endemic in our society is because we as abused women or men feel powerless. It’s the shame that takes away our power, and it is silence that supports that shame. But we are victims—the shame belongs to the perpetrators of the abuse, not us.

So it is by sharing our truth out loud that we break the silence and start to lift the shame. Sharing removes the power from the perpetrators and reclaims our own. People are finally starting to speak up against all this evil. The only way to break the cycle is to break the silence.

Victims like us often feel powerless and ashamed. We feel like we don’t have a voice. But together we can change that. We DO have a voice, and we DO have our truth. Oprah recently said, “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

So our hope is that in saying this publicly, we can help someone who feels alone, someone who is hurting, someone who feels powerless, someone who has been silent. Our message to you is that it is NOT your fault, you are NOT alone, and there IS help. The time is now. Speak up. Speak out. Speak your truth.

If you or someone you know has been abused and needs help, please contact the National Sexual Hotline: 800-656-HOPE.