On average, there are 463,634 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States, according to rainn.org. Organizations like Speak Our Truth are working to overcome that narrative and ensure women no longer have to suffer in silence.
Founded by Delashawn Bordeaux, Speak Our Truth, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides educational initiatives that remove the negative connotation of speaking out against sexual abuse in the African American community. Their mission is to raise global awareness of the effects of abuse, mitigate cycles of abuse, and end silence due to fear of retaliation; while providing ways of engaging and interacting with others while embracing differences and learning to heal.
Tomorrow night, Speak Our Truth is hosting Cocktails with a Cause to raise awareness of the organization in the Baton Rouge community. KeShawn Unique is one of the women who will be speaking at this event. Learn more about KeShawn and her inspiring story below.
Q: Why did you decide to be a part of Cocktails with a Cause?
KeShawn: I decided to be a part of Cocktails with a Cause because it’s a voice for so many voiceless victims. Cocktails with a Cause helps victims become victors by speaking with others were relatable experiences.
Q: What is one word you would use to describe yourself and why?
KeShawn: If I can describe myself in one word, it would be victorious because I have overcome so many battles that I am no longer a victim; I am a victor.
Q: Can you share a little bit about your personal SA story?
KeShawn: I was forcibly raped by a stranger who asked me to go out on a date. I met this guy at work, who we considered a regular patron. I worked as a security guard, and he came in two or three times a week for years. He was a handsome, clean-cut guy, well-dressed and well-spoken. I was nervous about riding with him, so I elected to meet him there. On the way to the restaurant, he said the person he rode with was still in the bar drinking. He said he was at the bar close to his house and asked whether I could pick him up to drop him home to change his shirt.
After Hurricane Katrina, many of the streetlights were not working, and many abandoned houses were still due to flooding. He lived in an unfamiliar neighborhood. The guy asked me to come inside while he changed his shirt; I initially told him no, but when I looked around, random men were hanging out. I decided to go inside with him because it was scary outside. When I got to the house, an older gentleman and an older woman sat on the sofa. I stopped behind the door near the entrance. The couple told me to come in, and I could go into his room while he gets changed in the bathroom. I initially said no, staying behind the entrance door near the welcome mat. The couple continued to make small talk; they insisted I wait for him in the room. They were persistent about waiting for him in the room. I felt it was no longer a choice, and against my gut feeling, I went into the bedroom.
A few moments later, the door opened, and he quickly closed the door behind him. He immediately threw me on the bed, ripped my clothes off, and violently sexually assaulted me. I screamed for help, and I screamed the word NO; I screamed the word STOP. No one was coming to help. What happened to the couple who was literally 6 feet away? The person who entered the room was not the mild-mannered, nicely-dressed person I knew; it was demonic. As I cried and begged him to stop, he continued for what felt like an eternity when it may have been 10 minutes. When he stopped, I gathered enough strength to run out of the room, and the couple was no longer there. I ran to my car, trying to get there safely, still crying as these thoughts raced through my mind. I felt shocked, shamed, hurt, violated, angry, mad, and sad. How could I let myself be vulnerable? Why did I go in? Why did I trust him? I was embarrassed; this was all my fault. I can’t tell anyone. Maybe my dress was too tight or perhaps too short. I blamed myself.
Where was the couple? Why did he get dressed in the bathroom and not his room? Why did they insist on me coming to the room? Why did he change his shirt in the first place? I tried to convince myself for a moment this was not my fault because I had never had any inappropriate conversation that could have unintentionally led him on. However, in some way, I still blamed myself, vowing never to speak of this again because the police would blame me, and everyone would blame me.
After this incident, I was traumatized, and I feared he would return to my job to silence me. He attempted to call me several times, telling me he was drunk and that he felt I wanted it. Eventually, I had to change locations because the fear, PTSD, anxiety, depression, sadness, and panic attacks became too overwhelming. In counseling, I started treating the symptoms and not the source. I suppressed the memories and struggled with mental health for years to come. I attempted to un-alive myself several times, eventually leading to a mental breakdown. I was prescribed many medications to deal with the symptoms, but nothing helped me address the source.
You cannot heal what you do not reveal. You must unpack the trauma and forgive others to be able to walk in freedom. One day, I read a life-changing quote: “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting your offender to die.” Forgiveness equals freedom. I started sharing my healing journey one testimony at a time. I have also been connecting to organizations that promote healing. I am committed to becoming better and not bitter.
Q: What is something you wish you could go back and tell your younger self?
KeShawn: I would tell my younger self any lesson not learned must be retaught. Trouble doesn’t always last, and this, too, shall pass.
Q: What three tips can you give anyone struggling to tell their SA story?
- You cannot heal what you do not reveal. Treat the source, not just the symptoms.
- Forgive yourself. What happened to you is not your fault and does not determine your future.
- Forgiving others takes strength. Go and take your power back from those who hurt you. Get up and walk in your freedom. You deserve some peace after all the pain.
Q: What is one thing your life journey has taught you?
KeShawn: My life journey has taught me that you can go from victim to victor. Overcoming molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence, mental health struggles, suicidal attempts and thoughts, self-harm, and psychological and physical abuse. I haven’t had a panic attack or taken medication in over three years. Healing hurts, but hurting heals. You can come back from anything; with God, all things are possible through Christ, who will strengthen you.
Register here to attend Cocktails with a Cause on December 9th in Baton Rouge, LA.