The news and media continue to unveil more and more stories about different levels of sexual abuse, sex trafficking and or harassment towards women and girls almost daily. Although we know this behavior has existed since the beginning of time, it is time the covers are thrown off and the truth be exposed. I am sensitive to these stories because as a survivor, my heart breaks whenever I hear them and I understand how these women must feel. Women and girls who’ve experienced any type of abuse or domestic violence struggle with self-esteem issues and it oftentimes influences their psyche and future choices. It is a process for us to dig ourselves out and understand that we still can rise.
Recently, Lifetime released the “Surviving R. Kelly” series. Because of the work I do with helping build the lives and self-worth of at-risk girls, some of my friends and colleagues asked me if I saw the series. At the time, I hadn’t so I decided I should at least look at it to see what was being said. As I watched the first episode, my spirit was troubled that such a thing was happening in plain sight. This is a man that refers to himself as the pied piper and yes, he lures people (including minors) with his music. Most of us at one point in time have enjoyed his songs and we’ve even played them at weddings and family gatherings, but once the light bulb comes on, we must decide if we are going to stay in the dark or walk in the light. When we don’t act, it allows for acts of violence against women (and people in general) to continue. I am a proponent of giving people the benefit of the doubt, but when the truth comes to the surface, we are all held accountable for our actions.
Currently, a big story in the news is about Cyntonia Brown who was granted clemency after serving 15 years in prison for killing a man who bought her for sex. When Ms. Brown committed her crime, she was 16 years old and a minor fearing for her life. She has now spent almost the same amount of time in prison as the she was when she was arrested. Some have said she was a teenage prostitute. I read somewhere that is an oxymoron. For a girl underage to daily put herself out on the street for sale and to be repeatedly raped and then give the money to someone else is not a choice. Somewhere lurking is an adult pulling the strings. Everyday women and girls (and boys) are being sold and or forced into a life of sexual violence beyond their control and consent. If they try to get out or escape, they fear for their lives. Statistics share that it usually takes a person 7 tries to leave their abusers before they are successful.
The case of Cyntonia Brown being granted an act of mercy is encouraging to everyone who has ever experienced injustice in similar situations. Over the years many have fought on her behalf, encouraged her, stood for her and never gave up on her case. But there are so many who’s voices remain silent and they have no one fighting the good fight for them. They feel lost and alone. Those of us that can stand up and help and make a difference must do so. One such organization here in Southern California is Forgotten Children led by Tera Hilliard. If you can’t personally do something to make a difference, then support those that are on the front lines every day. Cyntonia Brown said, “I learned that my life was - and is – not over.” She also said, “I can (and will) create opportunities where I can (and will) actually help people.” Her tenacity and belief in herself to never give up is an example of…and still I rise!
Healing Without Hate: It's a choice. It's a lifestyle. Pass it on!