What inspired you to be involved with SECCS and SAFE?
I received an abstinence-only sex-ed in school and was always fascinated by sex and sexuality, so discussions and presentations about these topics was very much up my alley. We were one or two SECCS meetings into the year when someone gave the full definition of consent- something only given freely, enthusiastically, specifically, with all the information necessary and the ability to be reversed at any point- and I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. This feeling was recurring, happening again while workshopping a presentation on healthy relationships at SAFE, taking a self-defense course, after a hookup my freshman year, and in examining the “sex” I had had with an ex-boyfriend. There is a reason why so many people who care about discrimination have experienced it, and once I realized that I was a survivor I threw myself into these groups.
Who was your your role model and/or inspiration?
In my formative years I discovered Button Poetry and developed a strong appreciation for the power of vulnerability. There is so much power in telling your story and taking yourself back. The person I look up to most at this point in my life is a sex coach named Demetra Nyx who has written explicitly and unabashedly against her experiences and healing of emotional and physical traumas. I strive to be someone who can be as open as possible about myself and my experiences, because I’ve found that openness can draw out others with their own stories they’ve kept inside.
What is the best piece of advice you have received that has helped you be successful?
To listen to your body. My body remembers things my mind has chosen to suppress. My body makes it clear when I’m making bad decisions for my physical or mental health. I spent years yo-yo dieting and trying to be less, and I spent years in relationships giving more than I needed to to people who didn’t always deserve my time and affection, and I’ve learned by now that my instincts about what I feel comfortable doing shouldn’t be ignored, regardless as to how I’m feeling in the moment.
What motivates you?
Academically speaking, I’m motivated by anxiety and the power of deadlines, but for the work I do, it’s a more complicated answer. From time to time, I see the man that raped me walking around campus, and I’m thrown back to that night, staring at the ceiling, not understanding why my body opted not for fight or flight but to freeze. My subconscious decided that that was the safest thing I could do in that moment, but I still have difficulty accepting this because, in my eyes, I did nothing; I laid there and waited and took it. And I don’t ever want to do that again. I am driven by rage to some extent, rage at specific people, at vague people, at “you people”, but once the rage subsides I find myself motivated by the desire to educate and to provide safe spaces. I told the story of my “first hookup” to my parents and friends for years, and not once did anyone ever indicate to me that what I had experienced was sexual assault and not wild teenagers having hormones, and I’ve found that the more I talk about these experiences, the more I discover that there are people in my life with the same stories. I am so lucky (read: privileged) to be surrounded by people that believe me and allow me to have a voice. So I have to be loud. I want to be loud. Turning taboos into conversation topics helps to destigmatize them, and I love talking to people about things I’m passionate about.
If you could know the absolute truth to one question, what would you ask?
What is my blind spot that I need to work on?
If you had a theme song, what would it be?
At Least It Was Here by The 88. It’s the theme song to my favorite sit-com (Community) and it’s poppy with melancholy lyrics, which is my general vibe.
In your opinion, who do you think is the most impressive person in the world right now, and why?
I wish I could say I found anyone specific impressive right now, but I think I’m more impressed by the collective works of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, survivors, and people who experience discrimination and keep going.
What advice do you have for fellow or younger students?
Find your people. Even if you’re an introvert or antisocial. Even if you don’t know anyone in any of your classes. Even if you live a life or have experiences that you think are entirely unique. Find your people. They’re out there, and they’ll make you stronger.