Faces of #Metoo 1.3: Elaine "She's Still Standing and So Can You"
This week I sat down with Elaine M. Grant, author of She’s Still Standing: A Journey of Transformation (buy your copy here: https://amzn.to/2ZGeJpW). She also happens to be the woman who graciously wrote the foreword to my ebook A Cloud of Witnesses: Poems for Survivors (buy your copy here: https://amzn.to/3haVBGs).
Molested by a close family friend as a child, Elaine grew up in a strict home. After a series of events between herself and her father, she decided to run away from home in her teens. She ended up as a dancer in the sex industry. It was the birth of her daughter Tasia, which opened up the road of redemption for her.
In our conversation, we spoke about Elaine’s survival story, what she is doing in her community to bring about lasting change, and what the Church can do to change the conversation and treatment of women who are experiencing or have experienced sexual abuse. Despite the ups and down of her journey, Elaine is still standing. If she can do it, so can you. Find our discussion below:
Serwaa: Let’s talk about cultural and social silence. When you first began sharing your story and became a voice for the voiceless, how did your community and loved ones respond to this?
Elaine: The community along with my family were very supportive after they found out about my sexual abuse by reading my book. Others were supportive when I did speaking engagements as well. At the time it happened, I never spoke about it to my family or others because I was ashamed.
I have others who have contacted me to share how they have brought their experience with sexual violence to the forefront with their family, and how by sharing my story it inspired them to do the same. What touches my heart most is when I share my story with teenage girls/boys and their response-- especially with the young girls who would just hug me. Some just cry, and I wonder what’s behind it. Has it happened to them? Or are they simply just empathizing with me?
Serwaa: Comparing when you first spoke out to today, has there been a change in response to your activism?
Elaine: Not really, I am focusing now on sharing my story with the youth, as more of a preventative measure, and to pass on the importance of not keeping secrets. I find their response encouraging. It makes me push more to do what I can to bring awareness.
Serwaa: Why do you think that the black (African, Black, Caribbean) community still wrestles with silence surrounding sexual violence at an unprecedented rate? How do we contend with the stigma attached to “tradition” and conservative circles?
Elaine: We won’t talk about it! I think the black community has had so many other negative things going on surrounding this issue because it’s such a painful subject. We don’t want to face it, so we place it aside. We pretend it is not among us, and sadly it’s usually someone that is close to us and part of our community, who has done the violation. Therefore the woman of colour is faced with not betraying that person in her community. This has been part of our community for decades.
Not acknowledging that it’s in our community does more harm than good. It keeps the cycle going. We become enablers who condone the action(s) of sexual abuse. We end up with generation after generation going through the cycle which damages our community. People react to this silence by expressing their inner pain by “rebellious behaviour,” or acts of violence, and are forced to find ways to medicate themselves using drugs, alcohol, eating etc. to mask and push down the pain. Silence is a much greater killer when it comes to sexual violence.
Serwaa: If we analyze a brief overview of responses to sexual violence in our churches, what is your opinion of the current landscape, and do you have any tips or solutions to bring about change within this situation?
Elaine: It’s a great shame that the Church as the body of Christ has allowed the world to take the lead on dealing with individuals affected by sexual violence, instead of the other way around.
As far as I know the church ought to be a place you come and receive healing for whatever ails you. We like to pick certain topics that we will talk about, and others we simply pretend do not exist. I think the bottom line is the church through the years has become a place where any form of dealing with sexual topics is taboo; they don’t want to talk about it--that’s why we have so many struggling in areas that the church won’t acknowledge. They are not equipped or prepared to deal with topics like sexual abuse, and that’s why we can have people in the church who have, or are experiencing it... and they don’t know where to turn.
I have always had a problem with the lack of transparency in the church. It makes me want to scream sometimes, because the church is intended to be a safe healing place, Until we address serious topics like sexual abuse instead of focusing on material possessions, we will continue to have problems.
The church should not just say “pray about it” but instead; point the individual in the right direction, and connect them with resources (that should be in place). That’s what we do at the community health centre, when someone needs help, be it housing, counsellors, food-- we are a source to point people in the right direction. The church ought to be one resource, a health centre. Pray yes, but there are other things needed to be done in addition to that.
We need to speak more about it. Stop burying the subject. Speaking about it breaks any of the stigma. Those affected will know there are counsellors available/accessible, people will be more open to speak about it. Churches should use those who have lived experience with sexual abuse to minister to those coming in. Have a group you can connect with, set in place, and have counsellors.
Serwaa: What advice would you give to young women and young men who have been sexually violated, but are afraid to speak up due to concerns of shame or backlash from loved ones?
1. Number one: the shame is not yours to carry. The person that did the violating should be left to carry the shame
2. Don’t be afraid to speak about it because you fear backlash. That fear will only keep you in more bondage. Seek out someone you believe in your heart you can trust; be it friend, family member, or counsellor. You can even just to start by writing it down on paper as a step in the right direction. But get it out! It’s the process of keeping it a secret that holds power over us.
3. Release it. Not only will it break the hold, and free you but it will allow you to take your power back. I found the more I spoke about it, the more freedom and power came my way. My faith in God knowing how He felt about me also made a major difference, but it was a process.
Serwaa: Is there anything else that you would like to add to this dialogue topic?
Elaine: Sexual violence is a powerful thing. It took 40 + years for me to speak about being sexually abused and violated as a child. It robbed me in so many ways. It changed me, which changed my life...and not for good. I suffered greatly by holding on to guilt and shame that came with being abused. Now that I’m free, my desire is to help free others, especially the youth who may experience sexual violence. I want to let them know not to allow the experience to rob them of a joyous life. Do not let it steal any years out of your life, get help right away.
More about Elaine:
Author, and transformational speaker, Elaine Grant is passionate about helping the next generation. With a bachelor's degree in Evangelism, Elaine is a passionate advocate in raising awareness and putting an end to child sexual abuse in her community and beyond. She hopes by sharing her truth it will help prevent other youths from taking the same path as she did. She knows the journey from youth to adulthood can be challenging. Elaine desires to reach as many youths to speak life into them. Her top priority is to bring love, hope, and inspiration wherever she goes to speak. Elaine believes each youth should have a mentor, someone to help them on the journey of life, therefore she wants to mentor as many youth, and pass on encouragement, letting them know how precious they are, to never give up on themselves, or their dreams no matter the obstacles on their way to success.
To learn more about Elaine’s transformational story, pick up a copy of her book today: https://amzn.to/2ZGeJpW